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THE GREAT QUESTION.
SERMON X X XVIII.
Acts xvi, 30.
WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
This has been the inquiry, ever since the world was made, What must I do to be saved ? This is still the inquiry of dying man, scattered and grouped over this vast earth into various peoples, and kindreds, and tongues, from the burning tropics to the arctic ices; of all, who feel something swelling within their dissolving nature, which speaks of an hereafter ; What good thing shall I do, to inherit eternal life?
It is a melancholy sight, to look over the world, and see the different means used by the creature to gain the almighty favour of the Creator ; the imperfect, the deluded, the unworthy means used to propitiate the Deity, and to clothe this frail mortal with a hope of a blessed immortality.
Look at the Mussulman ; the devotee of the great military apostle. Hear him cry, "There is no god but God; and Mahomet is his Prophet.' Hear him declare, “The sword is the key of heaven and hell.? See him purify his body by washings, and leave his soul uncleansed. Hear him pray his five times a-day, except when he has prayed enough on the day before, to lessen his number to-day. See him fast through all the month Ramazan ; fast all the day, and feast all the night. Behold him make his weary pilgrimages to the distant shrine at Medina, one at least of which is necessary to salvation ; see him also walk his seven times round the house of Abraham, and with reverence kiss the black stone, which descended white out of heaven. And hear him boast of the brighteyed Houris, which await the faithful in his sensual paradise. Thus does the Mussulman expect to be saved.
Look at the Chinese. His moral guide is the great Confucius, who lived about five hundred years before Christ ; and to whose memory each town in China has a place consecrated. But if this great philosopher could point out the way of life in this world, can he point out the way
of life in another ? The Canonical book of the empire is called “The King ;' which, however it may every where foster the belief of a Supreme Being, does no where inculcate a spiritual worship. Thus, by believing in the doctrines of The King,' and by obeying the wise maxims of Confucius, does the China man hope to be saved.
Look at the Hindoo. If not, like the ancient Persian, bending before the rising Sun ; behold him bowing before the image of his chief god, Brahma, and his two aids, Vishnu and Sheva ; and offering a polluted, degrading worship to the innumerable inferior deities, the works of their own hands, that cover and infest the land. Each man has his god. See the mourning widow ascending the funeral pile of her dead husband. See the immortal human soul destined to run the gauntlet through the bodies of the brute creation, before it can arrive at happi
Thus, by a multiplied series of groveling, and sometimes excruciating ceremonies, grounded upon a faith in polytheism, and in the metempsychosis, does the Hindoo expect to be saved.
Look at the Indian; the red man of our own forests. He worships the Great Spirit. But how limited must be his revelation of a future state, when he directs his hatchet and his bow to be buried with him at his death, thinking he shall want them in another world, Thus does even the
poor and untaught, but proud Indian, pay homage to some Being above himself
, in expectation of being saved. Look at the Jew ; the believer in one half of the Bible. Here stands a Jew of one sect, who admits of no religion but the law of Moses ; there stands a Jew of another sect, who adds to the Law of Moses the traditions of the two Talmuds. See the Rabbi unrol the parchment of the He
brew Pentateuch, and hear him expound from the Chaldaic Targum. He is still looking for the Messias to come, to rebuild the temple, and conduct his chosen people back to the promised land. The Jew believes in a Saviour yet to come, and thus he hopes to be saved.
Look even at the Monk ; the believer in more than the whole of the Bible. He kneels, and prays over his rosary ; he invokes the whole calendar of saints ; he fasts often ; and performs his long and severe voluntary pen
Thus, by mortification of the flesh, instead of humiliation of the spirit ; by adhering to the uncertain traditions of the church, instead of following the certain injunctions of the Bible ; does the austere Monk expect to be saved.
Thus do we behold a great portion of the world, the Mussulman, the Chinese, the Hindoo, the Indian, the Jew, and the Monk, all employed in doing some imaginary good thing, in order to inherit eternal life. Perhaps now some inquisitive mind, some mind yet unstable in the faith, may ask, And why is not the hope of these men as well grounded, as the hope of the Christian? They have their holy books, their Korans, their Vedas, their Shastahs, their Talmuds, their Traditions ; and how know we, that these are not as sure guides, as our holy book, the Bible ? Why is not the religion of the Mosque or the Pagoda, of the Synagogue, the Temple, or the Monastery, as good as the religion of the Church? This is a reasonable inquiry, and to such as are sincere in the question, and whom ignorance or negligence has left unfurnished with a reason of the hope that is in them ; and some such we fear there always will be in every mixed assembly ; to such, it demands a sober answer. therefore, we reply, that if we support the divine revelation of christianity, of the Bible, all other religions, all other holy books, fall to the dust ; for the Bible declares, that there is no other name given under heaven, whereby we can be saved, than the name of Jesus Christ. And to support the credibility of the christian religion, our arguments are very many-fold. To these, however, we can here only advert to the heads of the most prominent, all
of which can be most amply, and incontrovertibly substantiated. These evidences form a nine-fold cord of unbroken strength.
1. Vast numbers of wise and good men, through many generations, and in distant countries, have agreed in receiving the Bible as a divine revelation.
2. The agreement of the sacred writers among themselves, is another cogent argument of their divine inspiration.
3. The miracles, by which the writers of the scriptures confirmed their divine mission to their contemporaries, afford us also a most convincing proof in this matter.
4. The prophecies contained in the sacred scriptures, and fulfilling to this day, fully demonstrate that they are divinely inspired.
5. Only the scriptures introduce the infinite God speaking in a manner worthy of himself, with simplicity, majesty, and authority.
6. The tendency of the scripture constitutes another unanswerable proof.
7. The actual effects, produced by the scripture, evince their divine original.
8. Brevity is so connected with fulness in the scriptures, that they are a treasure of divine knowledge, which has never been equalled, or exhausted.
9. Lastly, He that believeth, hath the witness in himself.
This Novenary of Proof should be studded in stars in the blue baldrick of heaven.
You may now say, perhaps, that these evidences of the divine inspiration of the Bible appear to us manifold, and conclusive; but have they thus appeared to men not only of strong and learned, but of unprejudiced minds ? Have any men, except the clergy, whose business and livelihood it is to support this belief; any men eminent in science, in literature, in jurisprudence, in metaphysics, deemed the Bible a sacred book, as the only sure guide to salvation? Hear then the testimony of some such great,
and good men ; men of different professions, of different sects, of different ages ; men high in society, as in reputation ; men profound in the investigation of truth, and in the detection of error:
There never was found, said the great. Lord Chancellor Bacon, in any age of the world, either philosopher, or sect, or law, or discipline, which did so highly exalt the public good, as the christian faith.
There are no songs, said Milton, comparable with the songs of Zion; no oration equal to those of the prophets ; and no politics like those which the scriptures teach.
In his own Bible, thus wrote the learned Sir William Jones : I have regularly and attentively perused these holy scriptures; and am of opinion, that this volume, independently of its divine origin, contains more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, more pure morality, more important history, and finer strains of poetry and eloquence,
than can be collected from all other books, in whatever age or language they may have been written.
In his last moments, when his penitence was as great as had previously been bis infidelity and his vices, Lord Rochester, laying his hand on the Bible, exclaimed with emotion: Ah, here is true philosophy. Here is the wisdom that speaks to the heart. A bad life is the only grand objection to this book.'
There is no book, said Selden, who, on account of his extensive acquirements, was called by Grotius the Glory of England, there is no book upon which we can rest in a dying moment but the Bible.
Edward VI, seeing a person once in the council-chamber, take a Bible and stand upon it, for the purpose reaching some paper then wanted, was much displeased with him for making such a use of so sacred a book; and rising from his seat, the king took up the sacred volume, and having kissed it, in a very reverent manner, put it in its place again.
And the great Sir Isaac Newton, who thought it no dishonour to write a commentary upon a difficult part of Scripture, is said never to have read the name of God in the holy volume, without a sacred pause.
The Bible is a matchless volume, said the learned