« AnteriorContinuar »
then can he be approved and followed by the well-meaning disciples of Christ?
Yet, after being thus detected, must he still wear the fleece, and pass for a Christian? Must he even shrowd himself in the simple and seamless garment of Christ, for which he hath cast lots with the more avowed enemies of that master, whom it is his part to hail, as it is theirs to buffet; while the whole of his teachings exhibits, to a discerning eye, nothing better than a manifold patchwork of deistical shreds, artfully tacked together with a scriptural thread ? Will not you, who know, but in part, the truth of what I have been saying, look a little closer into the principles of such teachers, lest you should give yourselves up to the guidance of such an artful deceiver, under the mask of an honest and faithful instructor.
Or, if these are too short-sighted or careless to examine any part of the way before their leaders, will not you, at least, who know both the way and the leaders, who are sensible every thing I have said is founded on truth and experience; will not you disdain the very thoughts of suffering your better understandings to be imposed on by the arts, already seen through, with no wiser view than that a loose heart may have loose opinions to countenance its corruptions ? they who choose deceitful teachers, knowing them to be such, are deceivers of themselves.' Now, by choosing, I mean, not the electing of this or that person into a parish or congregation, but the lending a favourable ear to one teacher rather than another, and reading his published performances preferable to such as recommend the contrary principles. That there are many pretenders to free-thinking, who thus open their minds to one set of religious notions, while they shut them against another; and that they often do this, in order to a greater liberty of indulging their passions, and pursuing their worldly designs, is too evident to be disputed. These men are intentional imposers on themselves; and only single out a leader for their purpose, to aid them in the goodly work of self-deception.
But pray consider seriously, you, whose conscience says to you, Thou art the man,' where this disingenuous way of quacking with your understanding, and giving yourself
up to such undertakers of the soul, as I have been pointing out to you, is to end. The wolf has no sooner got possession of your mind by means of his specious disguise, but he enters into a close alliance with his relations, your passions and desires, encouraging these, and relaxing the strictness of the religious tie, till at length, without the least alarm to your now stupified conscience, he drops the fleece of innocence, and stands confessed, a beast of prey. Here now commences the reign of the wolf in all the arts of rising to wealth and grandeur, by fraud, force, oppression, and in an outrageous riot of sensuality ; which forbid your mind, once to fear or forbode a change. But, O, how soon does that change arrive? Nature cannot long support, nor will God long spare, a course so violent, and so contrary to true religion. The wolf that was permitted, nay, invited, to deceive, is now employed to torment you. While infamy, sickness, pain, beat heavily on you from without; your wolfish principles and passions tear you within ; your anger blown up to rage for want of vent in revenge; lust burning in the oven of your impotence; jealousy driving your understanding to distraction; and envy eating, like a viper, into your heart, shew you what fruits are to be expected from the thorn and thistle. This, however, is but amusement to the fury of your returning conscience, which reddening her iron scourge in the furnace of your enormous guilt, and raising her hand as high as heaven, at every stroke lashes and stares your soul into despair. This, too, is but a trifle, compared with that which death and judgment bring along with them, wherein all conception, and therefore all description, are left far behind.
Thus have I laboured, God is my witness, in the bowels of charity, to rouse you, and bring you with an open ear and feeling heart, to the admonitions of our blessed Master, • Take heed how you hear; beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Do men hope for better than insipid and unwholesome haws from that thicket of their own bewildered understandings, and the perplexity of those interfering passions, whence their new teachers invite them to pick up a meal of mere morality, by far less nutritive of real goodness, than of
licentious and irreclaimable irregularities ? They may be assured, if here only they look for instruction, they shall be left of God ' to eat the fruit of their own ways, to be filled with their own devices,' and to be taught with the thorns' of their own wilderness in a severer manner than the men of Succoth under the hands of Gideon. Is it their choice to feed themselves from the thistles of human invention and corruption, covered, indeed, with the intricate leaves of Arianism, but ripening, at the head, into the flying seeds of deism, which carried by every wind of doctrine,' spread a crop of pernicious opinions, as often as they fall into a soil suitably predisposed ? What is their judgment ? Nay, what is their taste, if they prefer the product of these plants to the fruit of the true vine, that 'tree of life, whose very leaves heal the nations ?'
God of his infinite goodness, teach us all here to seek the nourishment of our souls, that we may have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life, and that both • he who soweth, and he who reapeth,' may rejoice together in Christ Jesus, to whom with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now and for evermore.
STAND FAST IN THE FAITH.
1 Cor. xvi. 13.
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit ye like men, be strong. These words breathe a spirit so truly military, that, had we not found them in an epistle, we should have been apt to imagine, the apostle must have uttered them at the head of an army, at a time when the enemy was near at hand, and a battle very soon expected.
This now was really the case; and every Christian who reads them, in part mistakes their meaning, if he does not consider the faith here mentioned, as the cause of God and his own soul, and that soul, hereby roused to vigilance, fortitude, and vigour, in the maintenance of a cause so infinitely important, against an enemy, seldom absent, inconceivably artful, and implacably imbittered.
Although we should have perfectly understood the apostle, had he only exhorted us to stand fast in the faith,' yet we should not have so clearly conceived, how this was to be done, if he had given us this precept by itself. On the other hand, had he only said, 'watch ye, quit ye like men, be strong,'his words must have been, in a great measure, unintelligible to us, and we should have been wholly at a loss to comprehend, why, or to what purpose, our vigilance and resolution are thus called up, as it were, to action.
But, on viewing the whole text together, we find the inspired writer considers us, in respect to the principles of our holy religion, as men carelessly sitting, or lying fast asleep, whom he therefore rouses with a 'watch ye,' and calls us to our feet with a stand fast in the faith. After this, he speaks to us as if we were already in a posture of defence, and had the weapons of our warfare in our hands, • quit he like men, be strong.'
Being thus called up, as it were with a trumpet, to contend for the faith, and to guard it against the enemy and his attempts, we ought to know what the faith itself is, who is the enemy, and what is the nature or method of his attack, .
First, As to the faith, it is a firm belief and trust in the Holy Trinity, for into this were we baptized, with a promise, that whosoever believeth shall be saved,' and an assurance, that whosoever believeth not shall-be damned. But whereas to say, we firmly believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but do not entirely believe in all, these three divine persons have revealed to us, nor submit to all, they have enjoined us, would be gross absurdity and contradiction; our faith therefore necessarily extends itself to the whole of God's word, so delivered to us, as to leave no room to doubt, whether he himself was the author of it, or not.
If then believing in God, we must of consequence believe in his word, it will naturally follow, that our perusal is to suit itself to his revelations, so as to give the closest attention to those things, whereon he hath laid the greatest stress,
firmly believing all he says, but meditating chiefly, and applying our faith more especially, to that which he is pleased to repeat most frequently, to explain in the greatest variety of lights, to urge in the strongest terms, and support with his most engaging promises or most dreadful threatenings.
Every ordinary reader of the Scripture will perceive, I mean no more but the doctrines of one only God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, of deliverance from the guilt and punishment of sin, and admission into the joys of heaven, on the terms of the new covenant; namely, a deep and sincere repentance in regard to all sins past, a lively faith in God's mercy through the saving merits of the great sacrifice Christ Jesus, and that ardent love of God and our neighbour, which the holy Scriptures set forth as the comprehensive perfection of all Christian duty.
He can see nothing, who cannot see that these are the points chiefly insisted on in holy Scripture, nay, that the whole was written principally, if not only, clearly to teach, and firmly to establish the belief of these points; and that therefore, without a settled faith in them, it is in vain to talk of being a Christian.
This therefore is the faith, into which we are by baptism enlisted, wherein we are 'to stand fast,' wherein however it is impossible to stand at all, without attending to, and believing those other doctrines that lead to, follow from, or are otherwise necessarily connected with, these; such, I mean, as relate to the attributes of God, the natural blindness and weakness of man, the divine ordinances or sacraments, the resurrection of the dead, whereof Christ was the first-fruits, a judgment to come, and endless happiness or misery to follow.
And this is the faith, wherein that we may stand fast, we are to watch, to watch and pray, lest we enterinto temptation,' that particular kind of temptation, which proceeds from, or at least always works in, “an evil heart of unbelief;' to‘quit ourselves like men' of resolution and sense, who are no longer children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine;' and to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.'
And surely no other thing, we can possibly be possessed