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worship of God, and to frequent the amusements of the theatre. And in proportion to the singularity of such cases, such is the surprise, indignation, and disgrace, which accompany them. Similar observations might be made on public executions for robbery, forgery, tumults, assassinations, murders, &c. It is not among the circles professing a serious regard to Christianity, but among its adversaries, that these practices ordinarily prevail.
Some have been inclined to attribute various differences in these things to a difference in national character: but national character, as it respects morality, is formed very much from the state of society in different nations. A number of painful observations would arise from a view of the conduct and character of Englishmen on foreign shores. To say nothing of the rapacities committed in the East,whither is our boasted humanity fled when we land upon the coast of Guinea? The brutality with wbich millions of our fellow-creatures have been torn from their connexions, bound in irons, thrown into a floating dungeon, sold in the public markets, beaten, maimed, and many of them murdered, for trivial offences, and all this without any effectual restraint from the laws, must load our national character with everlasting infamy. These same persons, however, who can beguilty of these crimes at a distance, are as apparently humane as other people when they re-enter their native country. And wherefore ? Because in their native country the state of society is such as will not admit of a contrary behavior. A man who should violate the principles of justice and humanity here, would not only be exposed to the censure of the laws, but, supposing he could evade this, his character would be lost. The state of society in Guinea imposes no such restraints; in that situation, therefore, wicked men will indulge in wickedness. Nor is it much otherwise in our West-India Islands. So little is there of Christianity in those quarters, that it has hitherto had scarcely any influence in the framing of their laws, or the forming of the public opinion. There are, doubtless, just and humane individuals in those islands; but the far greater part of them, it is to be feared, are devotees to avarice; to which, as to a Moloch, one or other of them are continually offering up human victims.
Vicious practices are commonly more prevalent in large and populous cities than in other places. Hither the worst characters commonly resort, as noxious animals to a covert from their pursuers. In places but thinly inhabited, the conduct of individuals is conspicuous to the community: - but here they can assemble with others of their own description, and strengthen each other's hands in evil, without much fear of being detected. Christianity, therefore, may be supposed to have less effect in the way of restraining immoral characters in the city, than in the country. Yet even here it is sensibly felt. The metropolis of our own nation, though it abounds with almost every species of vice, yet what reflecting citizen will deny that it would be much worse but for the induence of the gospel ? As it is, there are numbers, of different religious denominations, who constantly attend to public and family worship; who are as honorable in their dealings as they are amiable in domestic life; and as liberal in their benefactions as they are assiduous to find out deserving cases. The influence which this body of men have upon the citizens at large, in restraining vice, promoting schemes of benevolence, and preserving peace and good order in society, is beyond calculation. But for their examples and unremitted exertions, London would be a Sodom in its guilt, and might be expected to resemble it in its punishment.
In country towns and villages it is easy to perceive the influence which a number of serious Christians will have upon the manners of the people at large. A few families in which the Bible is daily read, the worship of God performed, and a Christian conversation exemplified, will have a powerful effect. Whether characters of an opposite description regard their conduct, or not, their consciences favor it. Hence it is that one upright man, in a question of right and wrong, will often put to silence a company of the advocates of unrighteousness; and that three or four Christian families have been known to give a turn to the manners of a whole neighborhood.
In fine, let it be closely considered, whether a great part of that sobriety which is to be found among Deists themselves (as there are, doubtless, sober characters among Deists, and even among Atheists)
be not owing to Chrisitanity. It has often been remarked, and justly too, that much of the knowledge which our adversaries possess, is derived from this source. To say nothing of the best ideas of the old philosophers on moral subjects being derived from revelation, of which there is considerable evidence, it is manifest that so far as the moderns exceed them, it is principally, if not entirely owing to this medium of instruction. The Scriptures having diffused the light, they have insensibly imbibed it ; and finding it to accord with reason, they flatter themselves that their reason has discovered it. .“ After grazing,” as one expresses it, “in the pastures of revelation, they boast of having grown fat by nature.” And it is the same with regard to their sobriety. So long as they reside among people whose ideas of right and wrong are formed by the morality of the gospel, they must, unless they wish to be stigmatized as profligates, behave with some degree of decorum. Where the conduct is uniform and consistent, charity, I allow, and even justice, will lead us to put the hest construction upon the motive: but when we see men uneasy under rersraints, and continually writing in favour of vices which they dare not openly practice, we are justified in imputing their sobriety, not to principle, but to the circumstances attending their situation. If some of those gentlemen who have deserted the Christian ministry, and commenced professed Infidels, had acted years ago as licentiously as they have done of late, they must have quitted their situation sooner, and were they now to leave their country and connexions, and enter into such a state of society, as would comport with their present wishes, their conduct would be more licentious than it is.
On these principles that great and excellent man, WASHINGTON, in bis farewel address to the people of the United States, ac knowledges the necessity of religion to the well-being of a nation. - Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,” he says, “religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it be simply asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in the courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.—Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of a peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Upon the whole, the evidence of this chapter, proves that Christianity is not only living principle of virtue in good men, but affords this farther blessing to society, that it restrains the vices of the bad. It is a tree of life whose fruit is immortality, and whose very leaves are for the healing of the nations.