O THE ECESSITY OF SETTLED PRICIPLES I RELIGIO.

BY REV. THEODORE DEHO, D. D.
St. John, vi. 67, 68.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away ? Then
Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou
hast the ivords of eternal life.
From the first promulgation of Christianity, there
have been some who were dissatisfied with its evi-
dences, and offended at its doctrines. Pride has
always started at sentiments, which its short sight
could not comprehend. Depravity has spurned at
precepts, which would restrain its evil propensities.
Man, so vain of his self-sufficiency, has deemed the
necessity, even of the Almighty's aid in effecting, his
salvation, a false and silly notion. In the chapter
from which the text is selected, we find our Saviour
stating some of the peculiar principles of His reli-
gion. They related to His pre-existence in heaven ;
to the value of His flesh as " the bread of life'';" to
the supremacy of His Father in the distribution of
spiritual favours ; and to His own future ascension
to " the glory which He had before the world was".*.'
To Jews, who gloried that their fathers did eat
* John yu .'ir>. ^ Ibid. xvii. r>.
VOL. II. ,, . Re
418 O THE ECESSITY OF
manna in the desert ; to men who measured truth
by its coincidence with their prejudices, and its
comprehensibility by their finite minds, these were
hard sayings ; they could not hear them ^ Though
they had witnessed the miracles of Christ ; though
they had followed Him as a teacher sent from God ;
His doctrines clashed with their feelings and opi-
nions, and '* from that time many of His disciples
went back, and walked no more with Him''." It
was then, that our Saviour said to the twelve, whom
He had selected to be the foundation of His church,
" Will ye also go away?" To this affecting ques-
tion, St. Peter gave that excellent, all-expressive
reply, " Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the
words of eternal life."
This passage of Scripture is capable of very va-
luable improvement. So long as the human mind
continues a tenant in a tabernacle of flesh, till the
period arrives when imperfection shall not bound its
knowledge, but it shall see with expanded powers,
all that through faith it now believes : there will,
there must be, some things in revelation, hard to be
understood. So long as human nature is averse
from spiritual truth, till clad in humility the mind
can receive any instruction from the Most High,
these mysteries of religion will be made " a stum-
bling block %" and used to prevent men from follow-
ing Christ. So long as there are infidels in the
world, and vehicles for diffusing their sentiments,
till the promised time is realized, when no man shall
need say to his neighbour, " Know the Lord^:" the
ambassadors of Christ will have occasion to say to
His disciples, in behalf of their Master, " Will ye
also go away ?" Happy for them, if their hearts
always dictate the answer of St. Peter ! Let us, my
' John vi. 66. "^ Ibid. ver. 36.
' 1 Cor. i. ^3, Jer. xxxi. 3«i.
SETTLED PRICIPLES I RELIGIO. 419
brethren, consider what it implies, that wo may see
its force, its fuhiess, and its beauty. " Lord, to
whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal
life."
The first thing here implied is, that man must
have some fixed principles; that if he relinquish
Christianity, he must have some other system of
opinions ; that if he leave Christ, he must seek some
other instructor. Whether we consider it as affect-
ing the dignity, or the happiness of man, this senti-
ment is just. He who has a mind and uses it, can-
not be easy, much less positively happy, while wan-
dering in the vague fields of conjecture without any
definite and determinate opinions. It were as easy
for a vessel destitute of anchor and ballast, to ride
safe and stately upon the waters amidst the commo-
tion of the elements, as for him to act with propriety
and satisfaction, amidst the commotion of occur-
rences upon the ocean of life. Would I paint a
scene of ignobleness, perplexities, and inconsisten-
cies, it should be the mind of one, who thinks and
has no settled principles. It argues adisuse of the
most honourable prerogative of men. It exposes tcf
all the wildness,. and weariness of uncertainty. It
must be less at ease than even scepticism itself, de-
termined to be led by its own blind and maimed
offspring.
But in general, some religious system will be ne-
cessary. Some; sentiment of this kind, man has ever
possessed-; His mind cannot divest itself wholly of
the idea of a supreme Being, It is found with laim
in the woods of nature, and it follows him to the
seats of civilization. Accompanying this, is the
c(iDSciousness of his moral nature, and the faint
sentiment of immortality. These grand principles
are the foundation of religion, and, possessed of
them, he is naturally led to devise a worship, and
E e 2
4^20 O THE ECESSITY OF
define virtue. He may produce very rude and coo"
tradictory schemes ; but till he can eradicate from
hisr. nature the deeply engraven sentiment of an in-
visible ruling power, he will, he must have some
religious principles. If he be unacquainted w^ith
the true God, he pays his homage to the sun, the
inoon, the departed hero, or the hallowed idol. If
he be ignorant of the pure Christian worship, he
seeks to honour and please his deity with temples,
sacrifices, and holy gestures. If he have not heard
the lectures of Christ, he listens to Confucius, to
Plato, or to any one who tells him what is right, and
discourses upon his chief good. In short, the prin-
ciples interwoven in his constitution are such, that
he will possess some sentiment of duty, and seek
some system of right. ature inclines man to reli-
gion. Atheists alone can feel wholly indifferent to
it, and of not one of them is she the parent. All
other characters must wish to know how they may
acceptably worship God, and rightly regulate their
conduct. There can be little doubt in the mind of
any one, who has studied the history, and observed
the nature of man, that if every vestige of Chris-
tianity could be swept from the world, he would
soon devise for himself some other, and far more im-
perfect system of religion.
This brings me to observe another thing implied
in -the answer; namely, that no one can leave the
religion of Christ, and better himself by the ex-
change. Another system so perfect, so consistent,
so promotive of virtue, so conducive to public and
private felicity, is not within his reach. If he turn
back from following the Messiah, he_niust listen to
tha less perfect teachers. Upon the most important
su.bjects, -tliey can give no instruction, "To whom
shall: he go.'- for. a satisfactory account of his own
origin, nature, and destination ? ''To whom shall
SETTLED PRICIPLES I RELIGIO. 421
he g-o" for a discovery of the character and will of
the Most High ? " To whom shall he go" for rules
of conduct, which will ensure him virtue, peace, and
"joy ? *' To whom shall he go" for support in the
moment of grief, of pain, and of death ? " To whom
shall he go" for a history of death, and instruction
about the final state of the soul ? In each, and all of
these points, he is deeply interested : but where, if
the Gospel is not satisfactory, where shall he ^Qt
information about any of them? Shall he go to the
heathen oracles ? Long since they became mute, and
when they spake, far from instructing, they per-
plexed inquirers. Shall he go to the Pagan Philo-
sophers ? They cannot speak to him with certainty
upon the most important topics, and best show their
wisdom by owning their ignorance. Shall he go to
Mahomet ? His heaven is not rational, his morality
is not divine. What there is good in him, is evi-
dently taken from the Gospel, and with it much vile
matter is incorporated. Shall he go to the goddess
of modern invention, to reason ? She frankly avows
her inability to teach mankind, and declares that
it is only in seasons of insanity, that she has been
deified. There is, indeed, none to whom he may
go, that can meet and satisfy his inquiries, feel and
solace his sorrows, know and confirm his hopes ; if
he turn his back upon that Messenger from heaven,
in whom " all fulness dwells ^."
" The words of eternal life" are with Jesus Christ.
He hath come from the Father to sinful men with
the overtures of everlasting mercy. That atonement
for our sins, which we could not make for ourselves,
this Son of the Highest hath accomplished with His
blood. That aid of the Holy Ghost, by which our
spirits, " dead in trespasses and sins''," are quick-
« Col. i. 19. " Eph. ii. 1.
4^2 O THE ECESSITY OF
ened. He hath obtained for us by His obedience and
sufferings. Those shackles of death, witl^ which our
nature was bound, He hath dissolved, aud hath
' opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers'
To you, and to me, and to all who will come unto
Him, He is authorized, in behalf of the Everlasting
Father, to offer the remission of sins, and everlasting
life. By His miracles and doctrines ; ' by His cross
and passion ; by His death and burial ; by His glo-
rious resurrection and ascension; and by the coming
of the Holy Ghost;' He hath provided the means
whereby we may live ; and hath established the
assurance of rest and immortality, to the people of
God.
This brings me to remark, further, as implied in
St. Peter's answer, that an assurance of eternal life
is the object of the highest import to man's happi-
ness : and that it is enough to attach one to the re-
ligion of Jesus, that in it this most interesting as-
surance is credibly revealed. And what, indeed, to
"the unfortunate inhabitants of this region of sin, and
mutability, can be so valuable as this doctrine?
Such is the condition of society, that a belief in a
future retribution seems necessary to secure its in-
terests, and give efficacy to its laws. Such are the
circumstances of our present being, that the doc-
trine of immortality seems almost necessary to give
worth to life. Indeed, what without it can explain
to our minds the promiscuous distribution of good
and evil ? What without it can support suffering
virtue, or console bleeding affection ? What without
it can compose the agitated conscience, and convey
to the bosom of the penitent sinner the cheering
beams of hope and peace ? What but the assurance
of a resurrection of the dead can stay our tears,
when our friends, the dear objects around whom we
have entwined our heart-strings, are turned to dust ?
SETTLED PRICIPLES I RELIGIO. 423
What, but the blessed hope of a future existence,
with certain knowledge how the transgressions of
life may be pardoned and our futurity rendered
blissful, can strengthen our steps, when we descend
to the grave, and preserve our spirits from despon-
dence ? Were we left to sorrow under the conscious-
ness of sin, under the pressure of afflictions, and
under the knowledge of our mortality, without any
voice to whisper mercy in our ears, or any hand to
point our eyes to heaven: how deep the gloom which
would hang upon life, how awful the darkness which
would envelope the grave ! The assurance of another
world is the soul's only amulet, amidst the ills of
this. It was the want of this assurance, which ren-
dered the best of the heathens dissatisfied with their
attainments. Could they have received the Gospel,
in which are " the words of eternal life," they would
have pressed it to their bosoms, and wetted it with
their tears. Well, then, might this doctrine alone
attach St. Peter to the religion of his Lord. He
beard it taught by Christ. He was convinced of the
credibility with which He spake. He believed the
grand doctrine, attested by all the evidence which
the case would admit. What then, should induce
him to leave the teacher of a truth, which yielded
the highest satisfaction of which man is susceptible ?
It is a truth, Mdthout which no system would reach
the wants, and quiet the anxieties of human nature.
In vain would he recur for it to any other source.
It could be found only in the religion of Jesus Christ.
There was wisdom, therefore, as well as fidelity, in
adhering to his Lord ; for He, and He only, had
** the words of eternal life." And though the good
Apostle was afterwards shaken from his stedfastness,
it was only for a moment ; and let it be remem-
bered, as an instructive lesson to all who are tempted
424 O THE ECESSITY of
to apostasy, that when he thought thereon, he " wept
bitterly'."
This leads me to observe, lastly, that this answer
of St. Peter implies a full satisfaction in the religion
of Christ. This is in the highest degree rational.
Here all is expressed which it is necessary for man>
on earth, to know. There can be no reason, there-
fore, to expect any further dispensations from Hea-
ven. Compared with this, no system is so consis-
tent, full, and adapted to man's desires* If the
evidences which support it be examined, they are
such as the nature of things requires, and broad as
any foundationof belief and practice. Are its rules
of life studied ? They reach every case, and are
approved by reason. Is it important what prize is
proffered ? It is the greatest felicity that can be con-
ceived or desired, — *' eternal life." Such being the
satisfaction which Christians may feel in their reli-
gion, we wonder that there should ever be occasion
for the question, " Will ye also go away ?" We
cannot but unite our voice with St. Peter and say ;
" Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words
of eternal hfe."
We see then, my hearers, that man ever has had,
and will have some religious principles : that it is
impossible for any one to leave the Gospel of the
Redeemer, and find a system of opinions so suited
to his nature and happiness; that ** the words of
eternal life," the object of our highest concern, are
with its Author, who alone " hath brought life and
immortality to light \" Contemplating these things,
it should seem cause for surprise that, among those
who had known " the truth as it is in Jesus V there
should be any occasion for the question, " Will ye
' Matt. xxvi. 75. ^ 2 Tim. i. 10. ' Eph. iv. 21.
SETTLED PRICIPLES I RELIGIO. '425
Ttlso go away ?" But pride has ever turned from
humbling truths, and depravity spurned at precepts
which would restrain its propensities. We live in
an age, in which, alas, the dereliction of Christianity
must excite deep regret in the bosom of every friend
to truth and mankind. Was the Saviour now upon
earth, how often and how anxiously would He re-
peat the question which He put, in the text, to His
beloved twelve ! A philosophy has appeared in the
world, whose evident object is to raise itself on the
ruins of Christianity. It is specious in its appear-
ance, lofty in its pretensions, and addresses itself
to those dispositions and properties of men which
are most easily deluded. God grant, that in this
young and happy country none may be so infatu-
ated as to approach this philosophy, which, like
some deleterious plant, covered with luxuriant fo-
liage, and flowers of lively hue, carries in its veins
a virulent poison, and sheds a deadly influence upon
every thing within its reach. Let us, rather, learn
to estimate justly those " words of eternal life,"
which we have in the Gospel ; and to ask ourselves
what will be our prospects, to whom we shall go, if
we neglect our Redeemer? Lovers of virtue, anxious
to elevate your nature by adorning it with the qua-
lities which are " pure," " lovely," and of '* good
report";" is not your way made plain, and your
strength increased by the instructions and influences
of Christianity ? Children of sorrow, whose day of
life is overcast with gloom, are not your sighs sus-
pended, and your bosoms composed, when the
Angel of the Gospel descends through the cloud,
speaking peace to your perturbed spirits, and open-
ing to you a state in which, with your friends, you
shall be for ever removed from trouble and death,
™ Phil. iv. S.
426 O THE ECESSITY, &c.
*• and God shall wipe av/ay all tears from your
eyeSn." Followers of the Lamb, encumbered with
the frailties and imperfections of nature, yet con-
scious of responsibility, and fearfully looking for-
ward to the ** judgment to come";" is it not your
choicest felicity to know, that ye *' ha,ve an Advo-
cate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,
and that He is the Propitiation for your sins p." Will
ye then go away? Alas, to whom wiUye go? Will
you leave '* the Rock of ages''," and throw your-
selves upon the unbounded, confused, and perilous
ocean of uncertainty ? Cleave, rather, to the only
hope of this ruined world. Abide in the Lord Jesus.
Prize, above all price, the knowledge of His grace
and faith in Him. Let the language of your lips and
souls in every hour of distrust or temptation be,
" Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words
of eternal life."
" Rev. vii. 17. " Actsxxiv. 25.
P 1 John ii. 1, 2. ^ Is. xxvi. 4.
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