Abbildungen der Seite


should ever so strongly encourage it. Of all passions, pride is the greatest enemy to faith ; because it is always too wise to be taught; too sagacious to rely on reports; too wary to believe what it does not see; too sufficient to need assistance; so conscious of its own merit, as to need no Redeemer; so satisfied with its dignity, as to need no intercessor; and, in a word, so every way capable of directing itself, and dictating to the whole world, that if it hath not chanced to be born to Christianity, that religion must not presume to expect the honour of its assent. Our Saviour was well aware of this, when he spoke thus to such as despised his mission, notwithstanding the evidence of his miracles, wrought before their eyes to prove it; 'How can ye believe, which receive honour of one another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?'

If our religion is from God, the arguments which support it must be sufficient to convince the rational, the candid, and the well-disposed, who, in case he closes with it, closes in opposition to all the corruptions and sinful dispositions of his nature; and, even in him, these may be enough, to make his faith a high and noble instance of virtue, in the sight of that Master, who will receive and reward every thing as such, that does honour to his Son.

If our religion is from God, its evidence must be sufficient; for God knew what was sufficient, and was too wise and good to leave the proofs of a religion defective, which cost him the life of his Son to introduce. If, nevertheless, any one shall resist this evidence, where are we to look for the source of his infidelity? Is it not in his will, corrupted and perverted by a bad heart, which either suffers him not sensibly to consider that evidence, or so blinds the eye of his judgment, as to leave him but a very faint perception of its light? St. Paul tells us, the Israelites, ' who fell in the wilderness, could not enter into the promised rest, because of unbelief,' Heb. i. 18, 19; and, making use of them as an example, he says, ver. 12, Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief.' Hence it evi. dently appears that the inspired apostle charges infidelity on the obliquity of the heart. Since this is the case, it is not without good reason that God threatens unbelief with damnation, thereby giving that sin a very high rank in the catalogue of immoralities; and no wonder; for all that God hath done to prove, and thereby to introduce and perpetuate, his religion, is trampled on by the infidel, who biassed by his corrupt dispositions, will neither be guided by his own reason, nor suffer it to listen to the word of God; and therefore is answerable for all the revelations communicated in order to his instruction, all the miracles performed for his conviction, and, what is more than all, for the blood of Christ spilt, in order to his pardon and salvation.

The objection thus answered, it will be now worth our while to consider, as life eternal is annexed to faith, and as faith is of different degrees, whether any degree might be sufficient. We may easily regulate our judgment on this point, if we know what is the end of faith. The end of faith is twofold; first, To call us to repentance and newness of life, by placing strongly before our eyes the great things of another world, that we may' walk by faith, and not by sight,' 2 Cor. v. 7. as men who expect to appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,' ver. 10. Secondly, To entitle us to salvation, through the sacrifice of our Saviour's blood. In respect to the first end, faith is the only efficacious instrument of our reformation, whereby a good life for the future may be secured. And, in respect to the last, it is

, the only means of applying to ourselves the benefits of Christ's death, in order to pardon for what is passed. Now if faith be not strong and operative, it can never reform our lives; because it hath the world, the devil, and the flesh, enemies not easily subdued, to contend with. And yet, if it fails as to the first end, it must, of consequence, fail also as to the second; because we can have no title to the benefits of Christ's death, but through the covenant, whereof repentance is one condition. ' As the body,' says St. James, ' without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also,' James ii. 26. This divine grace, when it rises to a sufficient height and strength, never fails to reform the manners of him who is blessed with it; and then, as soon as it hath done this, ripens into a comfortable hope, which can never be well founded, but on reformation, the only fruit and proof of a saving faith. But in case this grace is de

2 G


fective, as it works no amendment, so it degenerates into fear and despair, which, if the person thus unhappily circumstanced can reflect at all, are in him the natural result of faith, and sin unreformed. The former is the faith of saints, which fills them with bright expectations, and heavenly raptures; the latter is the faith of devils, who believe and tremble,' James ii. 19.

Since it pleased Almighty God to bestow on us, who live under the light of the gospel, sufficient means of faith, we are guilty of a great and horrible sin, both against God, and our own souls, if we pass our days in ignorance of its fundamental articles; or even if, ascending a little above a state of mere ignorance, on a slight inquiry, we stop short in the region of doubts; because, in either case, the whole of divine revelation, with the blood of Christ, and eternity, are held by us at so low a price, as not to be deemed deserving of even a less anxious search, than we should readily enough bestow on a yet dubious title to a very inconsiderable estate. Nothing can be more indispensably our duty, than carefully to examine into the grounds and reasons of a religion, which, for aught we can possibly know, before we fairly try it, may give sufficient evidence of its truth, and prove itself a matter of infinitely higher concern to us, than all we can hope for, or even desire, in this world. But if, on examination, Christianity should appear to be the true religion, it will be then our duty to inquire as carefully after its fundamental articles of faith and practice; because on them our attention ought chiefly to be turned, in order to secure the titles, and reap the benefits. therein proposed to us by its author. Nothing we can do will so much contribute to the establishment of our faith, as inquiries of this nature, provided they set out with a hearty and honest desire to know the truth, and are conducted with due diligence and candour. However, as, on our own strength, we can proceed no farther than to a rational conviction, and as the Holy Spirit only can raise us to an active saving faith, it is our business earnestly to solicit his assistance, that we may neither in our researches miss the truth, nor, when we have found it, 'hold it in unrighteousness,' like men who carry a light that serves for no better purpose, than to shew others, that the bearers are out of their way.

Having seen what ought to be the degree or strength of an effectual saving faith, let us now so far inquire into the object-matter of this faith, as to find out, if we can, the fundamental articles necessary to be believed by all Christians, in order to their eternal salvation ; observe, I say, Christians, because I am speaking only to such, and endeavouring to shew, what ought to be the fundamentals of their faith, who agree in this, that the Scriptures are the word of God, but differ widely as to the articles made necessary by those Scriptures to the eternal salvation of believers. For this reason, although to believe, that the Bible is the word of God, is a primary fundamental, I shall say nothing more of it here, but that, as we all believe in this fundamental, we are to make the sacred books the rule of our faith, and, by the use of that rule, to trace out the other fundamentals, so as, if possible, to remove the unhappy disputes concerning them, that no rational and well-meaning Christian may be at an uncertainty about a matter of such infinite consequence to him.

As the holy Scriptures, then, are the word of that infinitely wise and gracious God, who gave them to us for our edification, that we might know what we are to believe and practise, we must take it for granted, they are sufficiently qualified to answer this end ; for, if otherwise, they must argue a defect either in the wisdom or goodness of their author. He was surely wise enough to know what was necessary to our instruction, and too compassionate to leave us in the dark about that which was necessary.

Whatsoever obscurity therefore there may be in some parts of Scripture, yet the revelation therein given must have been in vain, if there are not other parts so necessary as to be plain, and so plain as to be intelligible in the same sense to all, who are disposed to believe God, rather than themselves.

If now the word of God plainly sets forth any thing to us as necessary, it must so set forth these two things:

First, What we are to worship.
Secondly, How we are to be saved.

Yet, absolutely necessary as these points undoubtedly are, we have, to the reproach of Christianity among half Christians, a world of disputes about them; so that even, in respect to them, either the Scriptures must be as obscure and defective, as the open enemies of Christ, on account of these very disputes, insist they are; or they, whoever they may be, who hold the wrong side in such disputes, are in fact his worst enemies, though they call themselves by his name.

As to the first head; if idolatry, or polytheism, is a damnable sin, insomuch that no one, who hath an opportunity of knowing there is but one only God, can be saved, if he worships any other, or any more gods; the worship of the one only true God must be a fundamental.' Now, that there is but one infinite Being, or God; that worship consists in dependence and prayer; and that this worship is entirely restrained to him alone; I have, in a former discourse, fully proved, by the express words of Scripture.

The Antitrinitarians, however, as well as we, worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, believing them to be three distinct persons. But whereas we believe them to be of one nature and substance, whereby we sufficiently defend ourselves against the charge, at least, of avowed, intentional, polytheism; they deny the sameness of their nature and substance, affirm the two last to be creatures, and call each God, but say he is only a delegated god; by which it is evident, they avow the worship of three gods; and are therefore, to all intents and purposes, actually intentional Polytheists. They will not indeed admit the appellation; because it is, among Christians, a name of the highest reproach; but such is the notoriety and flagrancy of the fact, as any one may see in the writings not only of their private authors, but of public bodies, that no name can more properly fit the sect it is given to, than that of Polytheists does the Antitrinitarian, or Trinitarian, as it falsely and impudently calls itself; I say falsely, because it worships a Trinity of three gods; and therefore judge ye whether I wrong them in adding impudently also.

If the worship of one only God were not a fundamental, why is the worship of all other gods absolutely forbidden in the first commandment, which is the basis of all faith and duty ? Why does our Saviour say, 'Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,' pursuant to what is written in the law? If this were not a fundamental,

« ZurückWeiter »