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busying himself with I know not what uncommanded and frivolous expiations, or in torturing others with the rigours of a fruitless pe

nance.

From these rank passions, sprung up wars in abundance among Christians. The Apostles themselves could not prevent their followers from fighting with each other, in the cause of circumcision. The superstition of days, and of inages b, grew so fierce, that the whole Christian world was, at different times, thrown into convulsions by it.' And the dreams of monkery excited every where the most implacable feuds; which had, commonly, no higher object, than the credit of their several Rules, or the honour of their Patron-saints.

2. When superstition had thus set the world on fire, a godless Policy struck in, to encrease the combustion.

The Christian religion, which had TRUTH for its object, could not but require an assent from its professors to the doctrines, it revealed ; and, having God for its author, it, of course,

a. The dispute about Easter, in the second century. b The dispute about Images, in the eighth century.

exacted a compliance with the few ritual observances, which he saw fit to ordain. But the wantonness, or weakness, of the human mind, introducing a different interpretation of those doctrines, and a different ministration of those rites, the policy of princes would not condescend to tolerate such unavoidable differences, but would inforce a rigid uniformity both of sentiment and ceremony, as most conducive, in their ideas, to the quiet and stability. of their government.

Again: the honour of prelates and churches seemed to be concerned in all questions con-. cerning place and jurisdiction ; and, when these questions arose, was to be maintained by every artifice, which an interested and secular wisdom could contrive.

The lust of dominion, was plainly at the bottom of these infernal machinations; and the fruit, it produced, was the most bloody and unrelenting wars, massacres, and persecutions ; with which the annals of mankind are polluted and disgraced. But,

3. To work up these two pests of humanity, superstition, and intolerance, to all the fury,

of which they are capable, unblessed SCIENCE and perverted Reason lent their aid.

For the pride of knowledge begot innumerable portentous heresies : which not only corrupted the divine religion of Jesus (obnoxious to some taint from the impure touch of human reason; because divine), but envenomed the hearts of its professors, against each other, by infusing into them a bitter spirit of altercation and dispute.

In these several ways, then, and from these causes, has our holy religion been abused. The lusts of men have turned the Gospel of peace itself into an instrument of war : a misadventure, which could not have taken place, had Christians but recollected and practised one single precept of their master - Learn of me ; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your

souls e

But the perversity of man could not be brought to learn this salutary lesson ; and so has fulfilled that memorable saying of our Lord, who, foreseeing what abuses would here

• Matt. xi. 29.

but a

after be made of his charitable system, declared of himself - I came not to send peace, swordf. This prediction, at least, the enemies of our faith are ready enough to tell us, has been amply verified, in the event. It has been so: it was therefore inspired, because it was to be fulfilled. But let them remember, withall, that not the genius of the Gospel, but man's incorrigible passions, acting in defiance of it, have given to this prophecy its entire completion.

I come now to represent to you,

II. In the second place, how the lusts of men have perverted Civil Justice, as well as Religion, into an instrument of contention and hate.

The object of all civil, or municipal laws, is the conservation of private peace, in the equal protection they afford to the property and persons of men. Yet, how often have they been employed to other purposes, by those, who administer the Laws; and by those, for whose sake they are administered !

f Matt, x. 34.

1. In reading the history of mankind, one cannot but observe, with indignation, how frequently the magistrate himself has turned the Law, by which he governs, into an engine of oppression : sometimes, directing it against the liberties of the state; and sometimes, against the private rights of individuals. ' It were å small matter, perhaps, if he only took advantage of a severe law, or drew over an ambiguous one, to countenance his iniquitous purposes. But how oft has he embittered the mildest, or tortured the plainest laws, by malignant glosses and strained interpretations! gratifying, in both ways,

his

revenge, his avařice, or his ambition ; yet still in the forms of Law, and under the mantle, as it were of public justice!

Such abuses there have been in most states, and, it may bę, in our own. God forbid, that, standing in this place, I should accept the persons of men, or give flattering titles unto any". But truth obliges me to say, that there is, now, no colour for these complaints. The administration of justice, on the part of the Magistrate, is so pure, as to be the glory of

n Job xxxii. 21.

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