Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

ţion, for that body of doctrine which God hath given us in the holy scriptures—Hence so much obstinacy in maintaining, after so much rashness and presumption in advancing such phantoms. For, my brethren, of all obstinate people, none excel more in their dreadful kind, than those who are prejudiced in favor of certain systems. A man who does not think himself capable of forming a connected system, can bear contradiction, because, if he be obliged to give up some of the propositions which he hath advanced, some others which he embraces will not be disputed, and what remain may indemnify him for what he surrenders. But a man prepossessed with an imaginary system of his own has seldom so much teachableness. He knows, that if one link be taken away his chain falls to pieces; and that there is no removing a single stone from his building without destroying the whole edifice : he considers the upper skins which covered the tabernacle, as typical as the ark in the holy place, or the mercyseat itself. The staff, with which Jacob passed over the Euphrates, and of which he said with my staff I passed over this river, seems to him as much designed by the Spirit of God to typify the cross on which Jesus Christ redeemed the church, as the serpent of brass which was lifted up in the desart by the express command of God himself.

But if infatuation with systems hath occasioned so many disorders in the church, the opposite disposition, I mean, the obstinate rejection of all, or the careless composition of some, hath been equally hurtful : for it is no less dangerous, in a system of religion, to omit what really belongs to it, than to incorporate any thing foreign from it.

Let us be more explicit. There are two sorts of truths in religion; truths of speculation, and truths of practice. Each truth is connected not only with

other truths in its own class, but truths of the first class are connected with those of the second, and of these parts thus united is composed that admirable body of doctrine which forms the system of religion.

There are in religion some truths of speculation, there is a chain of doctrines. God is holy: this is the first truth. A holy God can have no intimate communion with unholy creatures : this is a second truth which follows from the first. God, who can have no communion with unholy creatures, can have no communion with men who are unholy creatures : this is a third truth which follows from the second. Men, who are unholy creatures, being incapable as such of communion with the happy God, must on that very account be entirely miserable: this a fourth truth which follows from the third. Men, who must be absolutely miserable, because they can have no communion with the holy, happy God, become objects of the compassion of that God, who is as loving and merciful as he is happy and holy: this is a fifth truth which follows from the fourth. This loving and merciful God is naturally inclined to relieve a multitude of his creatures, who are ready to be plunged into the deepest miseries: this is a sixth truth which follows from the fifth.

Thus follow the thread of Jesus Christ's theology, and you will find, as I said, each part that composeth it depending on another, and every one giving another the hand. For, from the loving and merciful inclination of God to relieve a multitude of his creatures from a threatening abyss of the deepest miseries, follows the mission of Jesus Christ; because it was fit that the remedy chosen of God to relieve the miseries of men should bear a proportion to the causes which produced it. From the doctrine of Jesus Christ's mission follows the necessity of the spirit of God: because it would have been impossi

ble for men to have discovered by their own speculations the way of salvation, unless they had been assisted by a supernatural revelation, according to that saying, Things which eye hath not seen, nor car heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, God hath revealed unto us by his Spirit, 1 Cor. ii. 9, 10. From the doctrines of the mission of of the Son God, and of the gift of the holy Spirit, follows this most comfortable truth, that we are the objects of the love of God, even of love the most vehement and sincere that can be imagined: for God commended his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Rom. v. 8. And, as we are objects of that love which God hath commanded to us in his Son, it follows, that no bounds can be set to our happiness, that there is no treasure too rich in the mines of the blessed God, no duration too long in eternity, no communion with the Creator too close, too intimate, too tender, which we have not a right to expect ; according to that comfortable, that extatic maxim of St Paul : God, who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ? Rom. viii, 32.

This is a chain of some truths of the gospel. We do not say it might not belengthened; we do not pretend to have given a complete system of the doctrines of the gospel ; we only say that the doctrines proposed are closely connected, and that one produceth another in a system of speculative gospel truths. , In like manner, there is a connection between practical truths. The class of practical truths is connected with the class of speculative truths, and each practical truth is connected with another practical truth.

· The class of practical truths is connected with the class of speculative truths. As soon as ever we

are convinced of the truth of the doctrines just now mentioned, we shall be thereby convinced that we are under an indispensible necessity to devote ourselves to holiness. People, who draw consequences from our doctrines injurious to morality, fall into the most gross and palpable of all contradictions. The single doctrine of Jesus Christ's mission naturally produceth the necessity of sanctification. You -believe that the love of holiness is so essential to God, that rather than pardon criminals without punishing their crimes, he hath punished his own Son. And can you believe that the God, to whom holiness is so essential, will bear with you while you make no efforts to be holy? Do you not see that in this supposition you imagine a contradictory God, or rather, that you contradict yourselves? In the first supposition, you conceive a God to whom sin is infinitely odious : in the second, a God to whom sin is infinitely tolerable. In the first supposition, you conceive a God, who, by the holiness of his nature, exacts a satisfaction : in the second, you conceive a God, who, by the indifference of his nature, loves the sinner while he derives no motives from the satisfaction to forsake his sin. In the first supposition, you imagine a God who opposeth the strongest barriers against vice; in the second, you imagine a God who removeth every obstacle to vice: nothing being more likely to confirm men in sin than an imagination, that to what length soever they go, they may always find, in the sacrifice of the Son of God, an infallible way of avoiding the punishment due to their sin, whenever they shall have recourse to that sacrifice. Were it necessary to enlarge this article, and to take one doctrine after another, you would see that every doctrine of religion proves what we have advanced concerning the natural connection of religious speculative truths with truths of practice.

· But, if practical truths of religion are connected with speculative truths, each of the truths of practice is also closely connected with another. Al! virtues mutually support each other, and there is no invalidating one part of our morality, without, on that very account, invalidating the whole.

In our treatises of morality, we have usually assigned three objects to our virtues. The first of these objects is God : the second is our neighbor : and the third ourselves. St. Paul is the author of this division. The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men ; teaching us, that denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Titus ü. 11, 12. But all these are connected together : for we cannot live godly without living at the same time righteously and soberly: because to live godly is to perform what religion appoints, and to take that perfect Being for our example, to whom religion conducts and unites us. Now to live as religion appoints, to take that perfect Being for our pattern to whom religion conducts and unites us, is to live righteously with our neighbor, and soberly ourselves. Strictly speaking, we have not one virtue unless we have all virtues ; nor are we free from one vice unless we be free from all vices: we are not truly charitable unless we be truly just, nor are we truly just unless we be truly charitable : we are not truly liberal but as we avoid profuseness, nor are we truly frugal but as we avoid avarice. As I said before, all virtues naturally follow one another, and afford each other a mutual support.

Such is the chain of religious truths : such is the connection, not only of each truth of speculation

« EdellinenJatka »