Abbildungen der Seite

actions are drawn only from the fitnesses of things; and the motives, from the beauty of virtue, and the deformity of vice. So much for the sanctions.


In the last place, We look on the subject-matter of these doctrines as of too little importance to make either them, or their contraries, fundamental articles of faith. We think it of no great consequence to the salvation of any man, which way he thinks on these points, provided he is sincere ; that is, provided he is really of his own opinion; for we do not believe the arbitrary governors of churches have any right to know his real sentiments, by his answers, his subscriptions, his declarations, with whatsoever farcical so. lemnities they may endeavour to pump out the secrets of his heart. We have two creeds, a short and a long one. The short one is this ; Christ is the Messiah. This we believe to be fundamental; but will not be held to any consequences, excepting such as we draw ourselves. And the long one is the Bible whereof we will admit of no interpretations of other mens devising, having a peculiar method of our own, which we find answers better than any other hitherto found out. But although we differ widely with the generality of Christians about the object of worship, the unity of God, the Trinity, the necessary means of salvation, and the like speculative points; yet we love all men, we anathematize none, we endeavour to lead moral lives; and are ready, as often as we think it may be turned to good account, either to ourselves or others, to hold communion with Christians of all denominations.

Such is the system set up against that I have been labouring to defend, when openly expressed, without the shuffle of ambiguous words, and double meanings. And such is the effect, in perverse, and overweening men, of holding the Scriptures, to be the word of God, and yet denying the doctrines, that are most. plainly, and most copiously, insisted on, in those Scriptures. Whether ever there hath appeared, in any age of the world, a system of any kind so big with blasphemy and absurdity, is hard to say. This is the body of divinity preferred to the Athanasian creed, as more intelligible, more consistent, and more scriptural. This is the scheme of ethics preferred to that of Christianity, which terminates in the 'judgment of the great day.

The word of God, however, vouches for the one, and the vain philosophy of men would advance the other. It is our business to choose which we would adhere to.

Although there should be no necessity for believing, either in what I have been labouring to prove fundamental, or in the contrary; yet it must be necessary, at least, to know, whether such belief is necessary or not. The subject does not seem to be of so little consequence, as not to merit even this preliminary attention. Can it be less than absolutely necessary to salvation, that we should know whom we are to worship, and by what means we are to be saved? The Holy Ghost tells us, over and over again,' That we are to worship God, the one only eternal God, alone; that we are justified by faith ; and that the just shall live by his faith. If we resolve to be concluded by the word of God, we must leave all our own opinions, prejudices, and preconceptions, behind us, that our faculties may have nothing else to do, but to receive the dictates of divine wisdom, which, in that case, we shall easily apprehend, and clearly understand. Where God hath been pleased to be silent, it becomes us to be dumb. So far as he hath vouchsafed to reveal himself, it is our duty, our highest wisdom, to believe, and to adore; not choosing to be of them, who draw back unto perdition, but of them who believe, to the saving of the soul;' not choosing, that 'our faith should stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God;' not choosing that wisdom of the wise, which God will destroy; nor that understanding of the prudent, which he will bring to nothing ;' because ‘it lieth against the truth ;' because ‘it descendeth not from above; but is earthly, sensual, devilish;' but choosing that wisdom which is' really' from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy ;' that ‘sound wisdom which the Lord layeth up for the righteous, which is with the lowly, who ceaseth from his own wisdom,' and like “Solomon, asketh of God that wisdom which is better than rubies. so that all things that may be desired, are not to be compared to it. To conclude, we can in nothing so safely consult our own happiness, as in avoiding the example of that man,' who,“through desire, or vain curiosity, having sepa

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

rated himself from the true teacher of his church, ‘vainly seeketh, and impertinently intermeddleth with, all wisdom,' though ever so foreign to his purpose, though ever so high above his reach; Prov. xviii. l. Nor can we, after renouncing the wisdom of the world,' and emptying our understandings of vain refinements, do any thing so pleasing to God, or so highly beneficial to ourselves, as to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom ;' Coloss. iii. 16.

But whereas the true wisdom or religion is thy gift, O God, alone; so, in a deep sense of our own blindness and folly, we most humbly beseech thee, of thy infinite goodness, to bestow on us thy Spirit, ‘that we may know the holy Scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith, which is in Christ Jesus;' to whom, in the unity of the ever-blessed Trinity, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.

[ocr errors]




2 Tim. 1. 13, 14 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith

and love, which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee, keep by the Holy Ghost,

which dwelleth in us. Although there is sufficient reason to doubt whether what we call the Apostles' Creed was the form of sound words here spoken of, or not; yet there is no room to question the general persuasion, that it was some such form, or brief summary of articles, necessary to the belief and practice of the church. That the apostle did not mean the instructions at large which he gave to Timothy, is plain from the word in the original, rendered by form, which properly signifies the sketch or outlines of a picture. This form he charges his favourite disciple to hold fast in a firm faith,' as to himself, and in love or charity towards others, who are



[ocr errors]

united to him in Christ Jesus ; that, by the first, he might

; ensure the salvation of a true believer to his own soul; and, by the latter, be moved to propagate the same saving faith, and no other, among the people committed to his care. The matter of this form he calls a good or excellent deposit, requiring Timothy to keep, or, as it is in the original, to ' guard it safely,' that is, to preserve it pure and entire, by

‘ the grace of the Holy Ghost,' which alone can enable us to stand fast in the faith,' in that faith which is not of ourselves, but the gift of God.'

Two things merit our observation in regard to this faith; its unity, and its necessity. As to the first, the Holy Spirit assures us, that, as there is ' but one God, and one Lord, so there is likewise but one faith ;' Eph. iv ; and, in the same chapter tells us, ‘God gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, for the edification of Christ's body,' or church, ‘that we may all come,' by the sound and uniform instructions of those teachers, ‘to the unity of the faith.' And, as to the necessity of this one only faith, it is set forth to us in the strongest terms: Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin,' Rom. xiv. Without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him ;' Heb. xi. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ;' Rom. v. 1. Our Saviour saith, John iii. 18, 'He that believeth on him, is not condemned: but he that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the only-begotten Son of God.'

As, then, there is bụt one faith, and that faith so necessary; and since the Scriptures were given us by God purely to instruct us in the matter of that faith, and to convince us of its truth; we cannot, without blaspheming the wisdom and goodness of God, suppose this faith, either obscurely or imperfectly declared to us in those Scriptures ; for, if it were, how could his Spirit, taking occasion from differences that arose on subjects of far less consequence, 1 Cor. i. 11, 12. than such as related to the faith, exhort us to uniformity in all things ; and, ver. 10, so earnestly beseech us, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we should all speak the same thing; that there should be no divisions among

[ocr errors]


us; but that we should be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and the same judgment?' It is in regard to faith especially, perhaps only, that revelation is so often called light, the great, the marvellous light, the day,' and the dayspring.'

This being the case, it may seem astonishing, that such infinite diversities and oppositions should have risen among Christians about the articles of faith, about their number, their meaning, their necessity; whether we are to be justified by the righteousness of Christ, or by our own; whether the torments of hell will be eternal, or temporary; whether we may worship and pray to any being but God; whether there is only one God, or three, &c. Who, that ever looked into the word of God with open eyes, could conceive it possible for the readers and believers of that word to be in doubt about such things?

The odium of this wonder might, with some colour of justice, be thrown on the Scriptures, had not men differed as widely, according to their prejudices and passions, about other branches of knowledge sufficiently plain. There is nothing so plain in the whole circle of science, as to have been always undisputed. Neither is there any thing so remote from right reason, as not, at one time or another, to have been the favourite opinion of some uncouth head, or even of some party. If any one should take the pains to write, with freedom and impartiality, a dogmatical history, it would be no easy matter to distinguish it from a history of Bedlam. Its true character would be a vast mass of subtle reasonings, screwed and distorted, to support a proportionable variety of wild, whimsical, or wicked notions. To say nothing of logics, physics, metaphysics, &c. is it possible for the lodgers in Moorfields to think more differently, that is, in effect, more wildly, than the learned in morality and politics have both thought and written in those practical sciences wherein mankind are most concerned, and, of consequence, one should imagine, ought to be most clear and determinate? As to religious matters, which are often high and spiritual, and, in some measure, incomprehensible in their very nature, that they should, although ever so clearly revealed, afford room for difference and dispute among mankind, who are more tempted to deviate from reason in this

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »