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of others, let him preach his own religious faith - not essays on morals—but his religious faith, as the foundation of all morality.
If, as a religious teacher, one is to reach the consciences of men, or to move their feelings, it must be mainly done through the prominence and force with which he can present these great affirmative doctrines.
Nay, even if the sole purpose were to convert men from what we think to be doctrinal error, we believe this to be the true course. We are not likely to make many converts to our views, except among those who, whatever their lives. may be, feel the importance of religious truth and a religious character. It is not sufficient for such men that you show that the doctrine of Election or Total Depravity is not true. They feel the want of a positive faith, and if they are led to a change of views, it will be because a positive faith, which better accords with Scripture and better meets the religious wants of their souls, is presented to them. They want truth to believe, and not merely error to reject. And the preaching that furnishes that, though errors are never referred to, will more than all controversy remove these
And not only are they to be preached affirmatively; but to be rested upon as first and fixed principles. They are the foundation, Jesus himself being the chief corner-stone. Do not apologize for them, as if ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. Do not think it necessary always to defend them from the light of nature. Let them rest on the words of Christ; and let it be the preacher's business to unfold and enforce and apply them to human duty and human trials.
Have confidence in their power. Have faith in Jesus Christ. If the preacher believe that Jesus spake with a Divine authority, let him speak as if he so believed. If the doctrines of Jesus are of God, do not think they need elaborate defences. Their truth, like the sun, is revealed by the light which they carry with them. If they are from God, they need only to be fully stated, to commend themselves. They will have such an adaptation to the real wants of the soul, will so describe its dangers, so awaken its reasonable hopes and fears, and so solve its great problems, that they will never he listened to by heedless ears. Let the preacher trust in them-trust in their efficacy-be
lieve that they are the power of God unto salvation, and that in them is a living force to move the world.
If the religious instruction of the pulpit leave out of view the great doctrines on which Christian morality depends — if it be half philosophy and half Scripture - if we think that no express revelation of Christ can stand firmly until we have fortified it by vague arguments of our own drawn from the light of nature, it will be as it is with "one that beateth the air." Other things being equal, that preaching will be most effectual where there is most reliance on Jesus Christ, and where the superstructure is built on the solid foundation of his great doctrines.
The importance of inculcating the doctrines of Christianity will be obvious, if we consider what they are. We have but to look at them for a moment, to see that they concern the highest interests of man and take hold of his deepest feelings. The doctrine of a God, the moral Governor and righteous Judge, the present Providence and universal Father, this doctrine establishes duty on a foundation stable as the throne of the Almighty, and at the same time touches her sternest requirements with hues of love. The doctrine of Immortality, it explains why man is so endowed, and subject to such varied discipline. It solves the awful mystery of death and repeats at every grave the promise of the resurrection. The doctrine of Repentance and of Forgiveness on repentance, so long as the world was ignorant of this truth, every remorse-stricken man sat in despair. This doctrine has broken down the Heathen altar, for it has taught that what God would have is righteousness, and not sacrifice. We need not refer to any other doctrines, to show that they touch on every point of human experience, and give an infinite meaning and value to what else were finite and all but worthless. It is not that the doctrines are unimportant, but that we do not appreciate their importance.
All this becomes more evident when we consider the vital connection between the doctrines of Christianity and the morality of Christianity. And this point deserves especial attention, because of the tendency so often manifested to separate them, and even to put them in opposition, one to the other. The morality of Christianity, how often is it said, is admirable, divine; but its doctrines we do not understand. Let preaching concern itself with the duties
of life; but dismiss doctrines from the pulpit to the schools and the dark ages.
But it is a wretched and dangerous mistake. You cannot rend apart Christian doctrines and Christian morals. As well might you separate the light from the sun, and expect the former to illuminate the heavens after the latter was annihilated. The preacher who should attempt to enforce the morality of religion without its doctrines, would find that he had cast aside all that gave life and force and authority to that morality. Whatever it might be at first, he would make it a dead morality, without hold on heart or conscience.
This is true, in the first place, because the precepts of Christianity are but the application of the general principles contained in the doctrines to particular cases. The duties grow out of the doctrines, as the shoot and the full and ripened ear out of the root. Duties are but the human and practical side of the doctrines. Thus the duty of doing to others as one would be done by, grows out of and is the practical application of the great doctrine of the brotherhood of men. From the doctrine, the duty derives its whole support. So true is this, that nearly all the benevolence which the world has seen, beyond that of instinct and impulse, has owed its existence to the reception in some degree or other, in some form or other, of this doctrine. In the ancient world men were by nature as kindhearted as now. But stranger and enemy were equivalent words. In the great cities of the Roman and Grecian world were altars and temples raised to Victory and Fame, to every selfish passion and every form of self-indulgence. But no hospitals, no retreats for the insane, the poor, the wretched, reared their walls amid the melancholy wastes of sorrow and misery which those cities enclosed. Men travelled to gain wealth or learning, but no one dreamed of a mission of any kind whose purpose was to communicate good. The different nations and races of men had as little sympathy for each other, as if they had been different orders of beings. It is the doctrine that all are children of one God, and thus brethren of one great family, that has bound the world together. Where it is really received, oppression and wrong must disappear before it. To whatever people Christianity has brought this doctrine, there has been seen among them an immediate change and elevation
in the character of their benevolence. And any more just estimate of the duties of man to man has been preceded and caused by a fuller appreciation of this doctrine. Thus slavery has existed from the earliest times, and from time to time, in one part of the world or another, the rigors of bondage have been relaxed. But always fear has extorted this increased freedom, or the hope of greater profit has bribed the masters to grant it. It is not till almost our own day, that slavery has been seriously protested against as a wrong. We need not go to the Heathen world; go back but a few centuries among Christian nations, and the idea that the serf or the slave should be liberated because it was a violation of duty before God and man to hold him in bondage, would have been met with scoffs and jeers, or utter indifferNow, so wonderful is the change, it is the idea of the moral wrong involved in the institution, which is shaking and subverting its foundations over the world. And yet the whole force of the moral argument and appeal against slavery as a violation of the duty which man owes to man, is derived from the increased and growing appreciation of the doctrine of human brotherhood that all are children of one God. It is this doctrine that makes clear and enforces the duty. Annihilate belief in this doctrine, and the duty expressed in the words, do to others as you would be done by, would be empty of meaning. The religious doctrine is the root of the moral duty, and you cannot cut away the first, without destroying the second. As well might you expect the aged elm that overhangs the streets, and which with every spring bends over the dusty way its cool arch of leaves, to flourish, if the roots below are cut away, as that society should rest under the shade of a living morality, after respect for the doctrines of religion is gone.
Nay; if a preacher were compelled to confine himself to one class, the development of doctrines, or a mere didac tic enforcement of the moral duties of religion separate from its doctrines, it can hardly be doubted that he should choose the former. The doctrines include its duties, and if they be really understood and felt and yielded to, the duties will follow, just as the rains among the hills cannot flood the fountains without making the streams in the valleys below swell within their banks. Why is it that there is need of such repetition of the claims of a thousand minor duties? Because we do not properly estimate the foundations on
which they rest. Were the great doctrine of religion, that God is a righteous moral Governor, who loves goodness and abhors evil, under whose reign sin is always evil and the only evil, really received-were our minds thoroughly penetrated with it did we feel the overawing solemnity of the truth, we should hardly need further instruction. Who would go greatly astray whose soul was adequately filled with this truth? One great doctrine becomes the suggester and enforcer of a thousand duties. One great principle contains in itself a thousand rules, and, well understood, is better than all the rules. In fact, we need the formal rules, chiefly, because the principle is absent. In a city, in the darkness of night, a myriad of lamps are lit. They stand at every corner, and their feeble glare shines and helps on the passenger from square to square. Yet all together but imperfectly light up the dark length of streets. And when the dawn breaks and the sun rises, these myriad lamps grow dim and worthless. In the fuller light of day, they not only are not needed, but, thin and pale, they disappear. Such is the relation between particular rules and great principles. There are a thousand wise maxims and proverbs, useful in their place and not to be neglected, but we need them, chiefly, because we do not appreciate the great truths in which they originate. Let these great doctrines be estimated aright and let the mind and heart be penetrated with them, and the mechanical guidance of maxims shall not be needed, for the living direction of principles will take their place.
Again; you cannot separate doctrines from morality, for the motives and sanctions of Christian duties are to be found in the Christian doctrines. Strike away the doctrines of religion, and you annihilate nearly every motive for any virtue that involves any real sacrifice of worldly interest or personal gratification. During the reign of terror, the French Convention passed a decree that terror and virtue should be the order of the day. It was easy enough by a simple decree to let loose a wild and grisly terror over the fair realm of France; but virtue to a people who have really and generally given up their belief in God, in immortality, in accountability, the word has no meaning. Among such a people, if the existence of conscience be acknowledged at all, it will be regarded as a disease of mind. Without any belief in God, retribution, immortality, why