The Scriptures are a mirror in which we see not only individual characters, our own and others, but the state of things as they move on in the great world. They show us the spring-head whence all the malignant streams of idolatry, atheism, corruption, persecution, war, and every other evil originate; and, by showing us the origin of these destructive maladies, clearly instruct us wherein must consist their cure.
It has already been observed,* that Christian morality is summed up in the love of God and our neighbour, and that these principles, carried to their full extent, would render the world a paradise. But the Scriptures teach us that man is a rebel against his Maker; that his carnal mind is enimity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; that instead of loving God, or even man, in the order which is required, men are become “lovers of their own selves,” and neither God nor man is regarded but as they are found necessary to subserve their wishes.
This single principle of human depravity, supposing it to be true, will fully account for all the moral disorders in the world; and the actual existence of those disorders, unless they can be better accounted for, must go to prove the truth of this principle, and, by consequence, of the Christian system which rests upon it.
We are affected in considering the idolatry of so great a part of the human race, but we are not surprised at it. If men be destitute of the love of God, it is natural to suppose they will endeavour to banish him from their thoughts, and, provided the state of society will admit of it, from their worship; substituting gods more congenial with their inclinations, and in the worship of which they can indulge themselves without fear or control.
Neither are we surprised at the practical atheism which abounds among unbelievers, and even among nominal Christians, in European nations. If the state of things be such as to render gross idolatry inadmissible, still, if, aversion to God predominate, it will show itself in a neglect of all worship, and of all serious conversation, or devout exercises; in a wish to think there is no God, and no hereafter; and in endeavours to banish every thing of a religious nature from society. Or if this cannot be, and any thing relating to such subjects become matter of discussion, they will be so explained away, as that nothing shall be left which can approve itself to an upright heart. The holiness of the Divine character will be kept out of sight, his precepts disregarded, and morality itself made to consist in something destitute of all true virtue.
We are not surprised at the corruption which Christianity has undergone. Christianity itself, as we have already seen, foretold it; and the doctrine of human depravity fully accounts for it. When the Christian religion was adopted by the state, it is natural to suppose there were great numbers of unprincipled men who professed it; and where its leading characters in any age are of this description, it will certainly be corrupted. The pure doctrine of’ Christ is given up in favour of some flesh-pleasing system, the holy precepts of Christian morality are lowered to the standard of ordinary practice, and the worship and ordinances of Christ are mingled with superstition, and modelled to a worldly temper. It was thus that Judaism was corrupted by the old Pharisees, and Christianity by the papal hierarchy.
The success with which evil men and seducers meet, in propagating false doctrine, is no more than, from the present state of things, may be expected. So long as a large proportion of the professors of Christianity receive not the love of the truth, error will be certain to meet with a welcome reception. The grossest impostor has only to advance a system suited to corrupt nature, to assert it with effrontery, and to flatter his adherents with being the favourites of heaven, and he will he followed.*
Fuller, A. G. (1988). “The Harmony of Scripture with Truth Evinced from its Agreement with the Dictates of an Enlightened Conscience, and the Result of the Closest Observation,” Chapter II in The Gospel Its Own Witness. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 2, pp. 64–65). Sprinkle Publications.