The morality of the gospel.
Is stating the morality of the Gospel as an argument of its truth, I am willing to admit two points; first, that the teaching of morality was not the primary design of the mission; secondly, that morality, neither in the Gospel, nor in any other book, can be a subject, properly speaking, of discovery.
If I were to describe in a very few words the scope of Christianity as a revelation,* I should say that it was to influence the conduct of human life, by establishing the proof of a future state of reward and punishment,—“to bring life and immortality to light.” The direct object, therefore, of the design is, to supply motives, and not rules; sanctions, and not precepts. And these were what mankind stood most in need of. The members of civilised society can, in all ordinary cases, judge tolerably well how they ought to act: but without a future state, or, which is the same thing, without credited evidence of that state, they want a motive to their duty; they want at least strength of motive sufficient to bear up against the force of passion, and the temptation of present advantage. Their rules want authority. The most important service that can be rendered to human life, and that consequently which one might expect beforehand would be the great end and office of a revelation from God, is to convey to the world authorised assurances of the reality of a future existence. And although in doing this, or by the ministry of the same person by whom this is done, moral precepts or examples, or illustrations of moral precepts, may be occasionally given and be highly valuable, yet still they do not form the original purpose of the mission.
* Great and inestimably beneficial effects may accrue from the mission of Christ, and especially from his death, which do not belong to Christianity as a revelation: that is, they might have existed, and they might have been accomplished, though we had never, in this life, been made acquainted with them. These effects may be very extensive; they may be interesting even to other orders of intelligent beings. I think it is a general opinion, and one to which I have long come, that the beneficial effects of Christ’s death extend to the whole human species. It was the redemption of the world. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the whole world;” 1 John ii. 2. Probably the future happiness, perhaps the future existence of the species, and more gracious terms of acceptance extended to all, might depend upon it or be procured by it. Now these effects, whatever they be, do not belong to Christianity as a revelation; because they exist with respect to those to whom it is not revealed. _________