« AnteriorContinuar »
their doubtings against every proposition that could be offered. But if we judge from their behaviour upon some other occasions, there never was a more credulous generation upon the face of the earth. They could receive full satisfaction from the most childish and inconsistent tales that ever were invented. The self-contradiction of Satan casting out Satan; or the report of a few heathen soldiers, who witnessed what was done while they were asleep, could pass for good gospel ; while the most evident miracles, and the clearest prophecies, were all nothing to the purpose, where they did not like the conclusion. And for the same reason, the whole gospel itself, while it is the savour of life to some, is a savour of death to others ! as different as life and death! yet nevertheless one and the same gospel. It is like the pillow that stood between the camp of Israel and the host of Egypt, which was a cloud to the one, and light to the other.p But who will deny that the light was clear to the Israelites, because the Egyptians saw nothing but a cloud of dark. ness ?
Behold then the true source of all our religious differences : they proceed from the blindness and corruption of the human heart, increased and cherished by some false princi
p Exodus xiv. 20.
ple that suits with its appetites: and all the prudence and learning the world can boast, will exempt no child of Adam from this miserable weakness : nothing but the grace of God can possibly remove it. Where that is suffered to enter, and the heart, instead of persisting in its own will, is surrendered to the will of God, the whole gospel is sufficiently clear, because no text of it is any longer offensive. Of this happy change we have the best example in the apostles of our blessed Saviour ; who, when they first entered the school of Christianity, had a veil upon their hearts like the rest of their countrymen, and were strongly possessed by a spirit of the world, promis ing itself the full enjoyment of temporal honors and preferments. But the sufferings and death of their master having shewed the vanity of such expectations, and served in a great measure to beat down this earthly principle, they were ready for conviction ; and then their understanding was opened, that they might understand the scriptures. The evidence that before was dark and inconclu. sive, became on a sudden clear and irresistible ; and they, who had lately fled from disgrace and death as from the greatest of evils, could now rejoice that they were
found worthy to suffer. Their opinion was altered, because
q Luke xxiv. 45.
their affections were cleansed from this world: that mire and clay was washed off from their eyes in the true waters of Siloam, and now they could see all things clearly.
What has been here said upon the conduct of our Saviour's disciples and the unbelieving Jews, may be applied to all those who dispute any article of the Christian faith ; and particularly the doctrine of the ever-blessed trinity, as revealed to us in the holy scriptures. For we shall certainly find, that some false principle is assumed, which flatters the pride of human nature. It abhors restraint and subjection ; and is ever aspiring, right or wrong, to be distinguished from the common herd, and to exalt itself against the knowledge of Godor What this principle is, we shall very soon discover; it is publicly owned and gloried in by every considerable writer that of late
years has been meddled with this subject. I shall instance in the learned Dr. Clarke ; because he is deservedly placed at the head of the Arian disputants in this kingdom.
He affirms in his first proposition, that the ONE GOD, spoken of in Matt. xix. 17. and elsewhere, is only one PERSON; and then adds, "this is the first principle of natural re
ť 2 Cor. x. 5.
* See Script. Doct. p. ii. $ 1.
So then here are two different religions ; by one of which it is proved, that the one God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost : that he is therefore three persons. But it is the
first principle of the other religiou, that he is but one person : though how can that be reconciled with the practice of the whole heathen world, who are so far from discovering this one person, that they held Gods many, and Lords many,s is not very easy to determine. And whence comes this religion ? It is confessed to be drawn from nature! It is the gospel of the natural man, unsanctified by divine grace, and uninstructed by any light from above ; and owes its birth to that fountain of dark vess and self-conceit: from whence has sprung all the confusion and immagina- . tion that ever was introduced into the religion of God. And what wonder, it nature should opperate so strongly in an Arian or a Socini. an against the mistery of the trinity, as it did in the Jews against the law and the pro. phets, and in the unconverted disciples against the doctrine of the cross? If it be laid down as a first principle that God is but one per. son; then it will be utterly impossible, so long as this principle keeps possession, that anv person, of common sense enough to know the meaning of words, should quietly receive
8 I Cor. viii. 5.
and embrace a revelation in those parts of it, where it teaches us that God is three per. sons : these two principles being so diametri. cally opposite, that while he holds to the one, a voice from the dead will not persuade him of the other. Therefore, I say again, we ought not to wonder, if that man should remain for ever invincible, who BRINGS to the scripture that knowledge of God, which he is bound, as a Christian, to RECEIVE from it.
What then will be the consequence in this case? The practice of the Deist, who carries on this argument to its proper issue, is to deny the scripture revelation, because his natural religion is contrary to it; and they cannot both be true. But the partial unbeliver, who allows the scripture to be supported by such external evidence as he cannot answer, while his reason objects to the matter contained in it; must follow the example of the Jews, and reconcile the scripture where he cannot believe it. Thus they treated the law of Mo. ses. We know said they, that God spake unto Moses :t therefore, they readily granted his law to have a divine authority: but as it would not serve their turn in its own proper words, they put a false gloss of tradition upon the face of it, to hide its true complexion; and then complained that the scripture was not clear enough:
t John ix. 29.