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essential articles, which are necessary to be believed, in order to be saved, though they are not stated in the text. It is added, (ver. 13.), for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. No real Christian can be so ignorant of the Gospel, as to suppose, that no more is necessary, in order to be saved, than to call upon the name of the Lord. In this text, it is evident, that the apostle mentions only a principal part of what is meant. Now, from the context may be gathered the following particulars, as implied, though not expressed. First, in the ninth verse it is affirmed, that in order to be saved, a man must believe in his heart. Secondly, he must confess with his mouth; If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Confession implies more than profession. A true believer in Jesus Christ openly, and of his own accord, professes the articles of his belief; and when he is persecuted, and examined concerning his religion, he readily confesses the truth, as an evidence of his sincerity and faithfulness. Even this is not all that is necessary, in order to be saved; for it is added in the tenth verse, with the heart man believeth UNTO RIGHTEOUSNESS, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Faith acting on the heart, is productive of a righteous life, and thus the believer becomes a sincere worshipper of the Lord; for whosoever will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (ver. 13.) In these different passages, it is evident, that a part is mentioned for the whole; and implied, the several parts must be collected and in order to understand all that put together. XXI. No article of faith can be established from metaphors, parables, or single obscure and figurative texts.
The metaphorical language of the prophets, and figurative expressions which abound in the Scriptures, are calculated to promote the purposes of godliness by acting on the imagination, and by influencing a believer's conduct; but never were intended to be a revelation of Gospel principles. Instead of deriving our knowledge of Christianity from parables and figurative passages; an intimate acquaintance with the doctrines of the Gospel is necessary, in order to be capable of interpreting them.
The beautiful parable of the man who fell among thieves (Luke x. 30-37.) is evidently intended to influence the Jews to be benevolent and kind, like the good Samaritan. Some writers have considered that parable to be a representation of Adam's fall, and of man's recovery, through the interposition and love of Jesus Christ. But those, who embrace this opinion, did not learn these doctrines from the passage itself. No person, who is wholly ignorant of Adam, and of Jesus Christ, could ever learn any thing concerning them, from what is related in this parable. The same observation is equally applicable to every other parable, and typical subject; in which the doctrines of the Gospel cannot be discovered by any person, who has not first learned them from other texts.
XXII. Lastly, although commentaries, both antient and modern, may usefully be consulted in studying the doctrinal parts, in common with the rest of the Bible, yet they are to be consulted judiciously, and with caution.
As particular suggestions have already been offered concerning the most beneficial mode of consulting commentators on the Scriptures generally, it is not necessary to subjoin any remarks on the above canon :-its propriety will be obvious to every reader. He who is sincerely desirous of studying the word of God, that he may both know His mind and do His will, cannot greatly err; while he prosecutes his studies devoutly, and with humble supplication, that the Spirit of Truth may teach him all things, and guide him into all truth. (John xiv. 26. xvi. 13.)2
1 See pp. 567-569. supra.
2 The Scriptures contain numerous admirable supplications for divine teaching; but, of all merely human precatory compositions, we have seen none, which, for comprehensiveness and brevity, for simplicity and beauty, equals, much less sur passes, the Collect for the second Sunday in Advent.
ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE MORAL PARTS OF SCRIPTURE.
HAVING already discussed the interpretation of the historical, typical, prophetical, and doctrinal parts of the sacred writings, it now remains that we consider the Moral Parts of Scripture. These, indeed, are to be interpreted precisely in the same manner as all other moral writings; regard being had to the peculiar circumstances of the sacred writers, viz. the age in which they wrote, the nation to which they belonged, their style, genius, &c. For, being natives of the East, they treat moral topics, after the oriental manner, in a highly figurative style, and with similitudes and figures considerably more far-fetched than is usual among Greek and Latin authors, or even among the moderns. Again, being for the most part persons in the common walks of life, they generally deliver their precepts in a popular manner, adapted to the capacities of those to whom they were addressed. In the examination of the moral parts of Scripture, the following more particular rules will be found useful.
1. Moral propositions or discourses are not to be. urged too far, but must be understood with a certain degree of latitude, and with va rious limitations.
For want of attending to this canon, how many moral truths have been pushed to an extent, which causes them altogether to fail of the effect they were designed to produce! It is not to be denied that universal propositions may be offered: such are frequent in the Scriptures as well as in profane writers, and also in common life; but it is in explaining the expressions by which they are conveyed, that just limits ought to be applied, to prevent them from being urged too far. The nature of the thing, and various other circumstances will always afford a criterion by which to understand moral propositions with the requisite limitations. In order, however, that this subject may be better understood, and applied to the Scriptures, we will state a few of these limitations, and illustrate them by examples.
1. Universal or indefinite moral propositions, often denote nothing more than the natural aptitude or tendency of a thing to produce a certain effect, even although that effect should not actually take place.
Thus, when Solomon says that a soft answer turneth away wrath, (Prov. xv. 1.) the best method of mitigating anger is pointed out, although the obstinacy or wickedness of man may produce a different result. In like manner, when St. Peter says, Who is he that will harm you if ye be followers of that which is good? (1 Pet. iii. 15.) this expression is not to be understood as implying that good men shall never be ill-treated: but it simply denotes the natural effect which a virtuous life will probably produce, viz. many occasions of irritating men will be avoided, and on the other hand, their friendship and favour will be conciliated.
2. Universal or indefinite propositions denote only what generally or often takes place.
As in Prov. xxii. 6. Train up a child in the way he should go : and when he is old he will not depart from it. Here the wise monarch intimates not what always takes place, but what is the frequent consequence of judicious education. To this rule are to be referred all those propositions which treat of the manners, virtues,
or vices of particular nations, conditions, or ages. Thus Saint Paul says, that the Cretans are always liars. (Tit. i. 12.) Again, when the same apostle, portraying the struggles of an enlightened but unregenerate person, says - I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing, (Rom. vii. 18.) he does not mean to say that there is nothing morally good in man; but that no man is by nature spiritually good, or good in the sight of God.1
3. Universal or indefinite propositions frequently denote duty, or what ought to be done, not what always does actually take place.
"It is the way of the Scriptures," says a late writer, "to speak to and of the visible members of the church of Christ, under such appellations and expressions as may seem, at first hearing, to imply that they are all of them truly righteous and holy persons. Thus the apostles style those to whom they write, in general, saints; they speak of them as "sanctified in Christ Jesus, chosen of God, buried with Christ in baptism, risen again with him from the dead, sitting with him in heavenly places ;" and particularly Saint Paul (Tit. iii. 5.) says, that they were "saved by the washing of regeneration," &c. The reason of which is, that they were visibly, by obligation, and by profession all this; which was thus represented to them, the more effectually to stir them up, and engage them to live according to their profession and obligation."
By this rule also we may explain Mal. ii. 7. "The priest's lips should keep knowledge" which passage the advocates of the church of Rome urge, as asserting the infallibility of the priesthood. A simple inspection, however, of the following verse is sufficient to refute this assertion, and to show that the prophet's words denote only the duty of the Jewish priesthood, not what the priests really did perform. The application of this rule will likewise explain Prov. xvi. 10. 12,
4. Many precepts are delivered generally and absolutely, concerning moral duties, which are only to be taken with certain limitations.
For instance, when we are commanded not to be angry, we must understand, without a cause, and not beyond measure: when we are forbidden to avenge ourselves, it is to be understood of privately taking revenge; for the magistrate beareth not the sword in vain, but is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (Rom. xiii. 4.) Public vengeance, or punishment, thereOnce more, though we are commanded in the fore, is clearly not prohibited. Scriptures to swear not at all, (as in Matt. v. 33.) and to forswear ourselves, (Levit. xix. 12.) yet they do not forbid the use of oaths in cases where they can be made subservient to the support of truth and the interests of justice. Moses says, Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shall swear by his name. (Deut. vi. 13.) Thou shalt swear, says the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord liceth in truth and in judgment, and in righteousness. (Jer. iv. 2.) Our Saviour himself, when adjured by the high priest, in the name of the living God, to declare whether he was the Christ the Son of God, (Matt. xxvi. 63, 64. Mark xiv. 61, 62.) did not refuse to answer the question, thus judiciously proposed to him: but he "O
1 Similar to this is the language of the Liturgy of the Anglican church: God, because through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no -"I have only good thing, without thou grant us the help of thy grace." (Collect for the first Sunday after Trinity.) On which the Bishop of Lincoln remarks to observe, that the good thing here mentioned, must mean good in the sight of God: such an action our weak and unassisted nature will, unquestionably, not allow us to perform." (Refutation of Calvanism, pp. 67, 68. 1st edit.) To the same -"The human mind is so weakened and purpose, in another place he observes: vitiated by the sin of our first parents, that we cannot by our own natural strength prepare it, or put into a proper state, for the reception of a saving faith, or for the performance of the spiritual worship required in the Gospel: this mental purification cannot be effected without divine assistance." (Ibid. p. 54.) Again; "The grace of God prevents us Christians, that is, it goes before, it gives the first spring and rise to our endeavour, that we may have a good will; and when this good will is thus excited, the grace of God does not desert us, but it works with us when we "It is acknowledged that man has not the disposition, have that good will." and consequently not the ability, to do what in the sight of God is good, till he is influenced by the Spirit of God." (Ibid. pp. 60, 61.)
2 Bishop Bradford's Discourse concerning Baptismal and Spiritual Regeneration, p. 37. sixth edit. See also some excellent observations to the same effect in Dr Macknight's Commentary on 1 John ii. 29.
certainly would have remained silent if he had disapproved of all asseverations upon oath, or all such solemn invocations of, and appeals to, the name of God, in cases where the truth is doubtful or the testimony is suspected. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews says, that an oath for confirmation is an end of all strife. (Heb. vi. 16.)1
II. Principals include their accessaries, that is, whatever approaches or comes near to them, or has any tendency to them.
Thus, where any sin is forbidden, we must be careful not only to avoid it, but also every thing of a similar nature, and whatever may prove an occasion of it, or imply our consent to it in others: and we must endeavour to dissuade or restrain others from it.
Compare Matt. v. 21-31. 1 Thess. v. 22. Jude 23. Ephes. v. 11. 1 Cor. viii. 13. Levit. xix. 17. James v. 19, 20. So, where any duty is enjoined, all means and facilities, enabling either ourselves or others to discharge it, according to our respective places, capacities, or opportunities, are likewise enjoined. See Gen. xviii. 19. Deut. vi. 7. Heb. x. 23-25. Upon this ground our Lord makes the law and the prophets to depend upon a sincere affectionate love to God and man (Mark xii. 30, 31. Luke x. 27.); because, where this prevails, we shall not knowingly be deficient in any duty or office which lies within our power; neither shall we willingly do any thing that may either directly or indirectly offend, or tend to the prejudice of mankind. See Rom. xii. 17, 18. This observation will leave little room for the "evangelical counsels," or "counsels of perfection," as they are called by the Papists, who ground upon them their erroneous doctrine of supererogation. Again, in whatever commandment we are forbidden to do any thing in our persons, as sinful, it equally restrains us from being partakers of other men's guilt, who do commit what we know is thereby forbidden. We must not therefore be either advising, assisting, encouraging, or in any shape a party with them in it: nay, we must not so much as give any countenance to the evil which they do, by excusing or making light of the crime, or by hiding their wickedness, lest by so doing we incur part of the blame and punishment, and thus deserve the character given by the psalmist When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst unto him, and hast been partaker with the adulterers. (1. 18.)
III. Negatives include affirmatives, and affirmatives include negatives:in other words, where any duty is enjoined, the contrary sin is forbidden; and where any sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is enjoined.
Thus, in Deut. vi. 13. where we are commanded to serve God, we are forbidden to serve any other. Therefore, in Matt. iv. 10. it is said, him only shalt thou serve and as honouring parents is required in the fifth commandment, (Exod. xx. 12.) so cursing them is forbid
1 The reader will find some additional observations illustrative of the canon above given, in Archbp. Tillotson's Works, vol. ii. pp. 62. 158. (London, 1820.)
2"These counsels of perfection,' are rules which do not bind under the penalty of sin, but are only useful in carrying men to a greater degree of perfection than is necessary to salvation. There is not the slightest authority in Scripture for these counsels of perfection: all the rules there prescribed for our conduct are given in the form of positive commands, as absolutely necessary, wherever they are applicable, to the attainment of eternal life; and the violation of every one of these commands is declared to be sin. We are commanded to be perfect even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect,' (Matt. v. 48.); and so far from being able to exceed what is required for our salvation, the Gospel assures us, that after our utmost care and endeavours we shall still fall short of our whole duty and that our deficiencies must be supplied by the abundant merits of our blessed Redeemer. We are directed to trust to the mercy of God, and to the mediation of Christ; and to 'work out our salvation with fear and trembling,' (Phil. ii. 12.) that is, with anxie ty, lest we should not fulfil the conditions upon which it is offered. Upon these grounds we may pronounce that works of supererogation are inconsistent with the nature of man, irreconcileable with the whole tenor and general principles of our religion, and contrary to the express declarations of Scripture." Bishop Tomline's Elements of Christian Theology, vol. ii. pp. 281, 282. (8th edit.)
den. (Matt. xv. 4.) Stealing being prohibited in the eighth commandment. (Exod. xx. 15.) Diligence in our calling is enjoined in Eph. iv. 28.
IV. Negatives are binding at all times, but not affirmatives; that is, we must never do that which is forbidden, though good may ultimately come from it. (Rom. iii. 8.) We must not speak wickedly for God. (Job xiii. 7.)
Such things, however, as are required of us, though they never cease to be our duty, are yet not to be done at all times: for instance, prayer, public worship, reproving others, visiting the sick, and other works of charity and mercy, will be our duty as long as we live; but, as we cannot perform these at all times, we must do sometimes one thing, sometimes another, as opportunity offers. Hence, in the observance of negative precepts, Christian courage and Christian prudence are equally necessary; the former, that we may never, upon any occasion or pretence, do that which in positive precepts is pronounced to be evil; the latter, that we may discern the fittest times and seasons for doing every thing.
V. When an action is either required or commended, or any promise is annexed to its performance: such action is supposed to be done from proper motives and in a proper manner.
The giving of alms may be mentioned as an instance; which, if done from ostentatious motives, we are assured, is displeasing in the sight of God. Compare Matt. vi. 1—4.
VI. When the favaur of God or salvation is promised to any deed or duty, all the other duties of religion are supposed to be rightly performed.
The giving of alms, as well as visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, (Jam. i. 27.) may be noticed as examples: such promise, therefore, is not to be so understood as if one single Christian virtue were necessary to salvation; but that the particular virtue in question is one of several necessary and momentous virtues. The application of this rule will illustrate our Lord's declaration concerning a future judgment (Matt. xxv. 34-36.); where, though charitable actions only are mentioned, yet we know, from other passages of Scripture, that every idle word, as well as the secret thoughts of men, besides their actions, will be brought into judgment.
VII. When a certain state or condition is pronounced blessed, or any promise is annexed to it, a suitable disposition of mind is supposed to prevail.
Thus, when the poor or afflicted are pronounced to be blessed, it is because such persons, being poor and afflicted, are free from the sins usually attendant on unsanctified prosperity, and because they are, on the contrary, more humble and more obedient to God. If, however, they be not the characters described (as unquestionably there are many to whom the characters do not apply), the promise in that case does not belong to them. Vice versa, when any state is pronounced to be wretched, it is on account of the sins or vices which generally attend it.
VIII. Some precepts of moral prudence are given in the Scriptures,