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fues his Apostles. Has the changed her weapons? Hear St. Stephen charged with speaking blasphemous words against Moses and against God. Hear Paul and Silas accused at Thyatira, as exceedingly troubling the city, and teaching unlawful customs. , When they had escaped to Thessalonica, hear them again accused as men who had turned the world upside down. Behold St. Paul dragged before the judgement seat of the Governor of Corinth, on pretence that he persuades men to worship God in a manner contrary to the law. Behold him afterwards prosecuted before Felix as a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition throughout all the world. Examine his epistles. Do not you read many incidental proofs, that the preachers and followers of Christ had incessantly to contend with malicious falsehood ? Observe him in one passage defending himself and his brethren against the flanderous imputation of holding the abominable maxim, that it is lawful to do evil that good may come. Mark him in others describing them as defamed, as labouring under dishonour and evil report, as accounted deceivers, as made a gazing-stock by reproaches, as reproached for the sake of Christ. · Our Saviour had E 2
forewarned his disciples, that men should' falsely speak all manner of evil concerning them for his sake. Contemplate the punctual accomplishment of the prophecy. The anxiety with which St. Paul and St. Peter admonish and enjoin their hearers to provide things honest in the sight of all men ; to walk honestly in wisdom toward them that are without, towards the unbelieving Jews as well as Gentiles; to put to silence by well-doing, the ignoranca of foolish men; to fhew themselves patterns of good works, that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no, evil thing to say of them; to maintain a good conscience, that whereas their enemies. speak evil of them as of evil doers, all may be ashamed who falsely accuse their good conversation in Christ-Do not these earnest, these reiterated admonitions and injunctions exempt the Apostles from all sufpicion of wilfully provoking the tongue of calumny? Do not they evince decided folicitude, by patience and meekness, and the light of an irreproachable life, to guard Christianity from obloquy, and by the manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit to lead men to glorify their Father who is in heaven through faith in the Lord Jesus?
Peruse the records of the early ages of the Church. You discover that there is fcarcely any crime, however enormous, however improbable, with which the Christians are not charged by their enemies. Pursue the enquiry lower. You discern, whenever any Christians have distinguished themselves by opposition to prevailing corruptions, and by earnestness in genuine religion, an undeniable propensity in others to blacken their characters by misrepresentation and reproach. Now what has been the main source of that hatred to Christ and his followers, which has never ceased to vent itself, among other methods, in slander ? Hatred to the doctrine of Chrift: hatred to that self-abasement which it inculcates : hatred to that holiness which it exacts. They who have resolved to love darkness rather than light hate him who molests them in their darkness, because they abominate the light by which their deeds would be reproved. They who supinely slumber on the couch of security endure not the man who disturbs their repose, and torments them with warnings of the necessity of that exertion which they abhor. They who have sheathed themselves in self-righteousness detest the man who strips them of the
armour wherein they trust, and shames them with the humiliating conviction of their nakedness. Hence also it is that the determined votaries of iniquity calumniate not only the servants of religion, but' religion itself. Sometimes, like the Jews, who through averson to the doctrine of John the Baptist denominated him a morose fanatic, they describe the restraints which Christianity imposes on the evil inclinations of men as a yoke of intolerable bondage. They declaim against the Gospel as a system of hardship and rigour; as making no allowance for human infirmities; as prohibiting the indulgence of innocent desires, and the enjoyment of the ease and consolations of social life. If they are not thus open in their censures, they betray their secret thoughts by invectives, against every one who delineates the corruption of human nature, the guilt and consequences of sin, and the import and extent of human duty, faithfully and zealously according to the Scriptures: and by their own representations of religion as neither unfolding those views of the depravity and helplessness of man, nor urging those demands of constant watchfulness and stedfast purity, which the persons whom they deride as righteous
overmuch discover in every page of the Word of God. At other times, as the ene. mies of Christ reviled him as addicted to finful indulgences, they misrepresent fome of the leading doctrines of the Gospel as virtually affording encouragement to immorality: and with singular eagerness set themselves in array against the fundamental principle of redemption, that man is to be justified in no respect or degree by works of his own, but entirely by faith in Christ, as though it rendered good works unnecessary, and subverted and swept away the ground-work of holiness. It is thus that, by multifarious and contradictory flanders, wicked men labour to render true religion absurd, contemptible, and odious, in order to provide an apology for their own disobedience and unbelief. If you discover in your own bosom those dispositions, which you perceive to have always prevailed in the breasts of the wicked; are you not con-' strained to infer that your mind exhibits a substantial resemblance to theirs ? If you discern a lurking inclination to be disfatisfied with the doctrines and precepts of the Bible; if you detect a secret pleasure in raising or hearing objections against parts of the Scriptures; if you perceive