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differs from others. They all rest on their own peculiar and distinct foundations.
The foundation of natural religion, is the belief of a supreme Power, who made and who governs the world. That of the Jewish religion. is a belief, that the God, who made and governs the world, spoke to the people of Israel, and dispensed the law to them by the ministry of Moses. The Mahometan religion has this for its foundation, that there is one God, and that he has communicated his will and purposes to men, in a revelation to Mahomet, his prophet. Christianity, also, has certain general principles that are peculiar to itself, which make it a dispensation essentially different from all others.
As the foundation of natural religion is a belief in God, as the Creator and Governor of the world, it appears manifest, that Christianity rests on this truth, that God has manifested himself to the world by Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son. In this manifestation, he is revealed to us in a relation which was not known before the publication of that revelation which we have in the Scriptures. Besides the relations in which we stand to him as a Creator and Governor, in this manifestation he is a Redeemer and Savior ;- for the Son of God was manifested to take away sin.* This makes the Christian scheme essentially different from every other religion.
1. John, iii. 5.
If Christianity rests on this foundation, it is necessary that we believe that Jesus Christ has made such atonement and satisfaction to the divine law, that God can pardon the returning sinner consistently with his holiness and justice, and reinstate him in the privileges and blessings which were forfeited by transgression; and that there is no way of pardon and life but through a faith which is the effect of a divine operation.
But the nature of this mediatorial work of Jesus Christ makes it necessary that we receive and treat him as God over all. The reason is obvious. No created being can perform more than the duty which he personally owes to God. Let his powers be ever so great and ample, as they are the gift of God, he owes the exercise of those powers to him. Much less can a'created being make satisfaction to a law of infinite purity and extent, which will prove effectual to atone for offenders. None of them can, by any means, redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him ; for the redemption of their soul is precious and it ceaseth forever. Therefore
a proper atonement for sin rests on the supreme Deity of the Savior. And as the Gospel is a manifestation of Jesus Christ, who is the propitiation for sin, through faith in his Hood; and further, as this faith is the gift of God, and the immediate effect of his operation; it is with the greatest propriety called a dispensation of Grace. It offers salvation to sinners, as the effect of divine Grace through the , redemption that is in Christ Jesus. If this be the spirit of the Christian dispensation, it is
manifest that whatever takes away that from the Gospel which is peculiar to it, or which makes it any other than a dispensation of Grace, is Heresy.--He is an Heretic, in the Scripture sense of the word, who adheres to those opinions which encourage him to hope for salvation in any other way than through the merit of a perfect atonement, and by a vital union with Christ. He receives another Gospel than that which offers salvation as the effect of divine Grace alone. At least, he perverts the Gospel, and embraces sentiments that counteract those effects which it was intended, and is calculated, to produce. That must be a perversion of the Gospel, which alters its spirit and tendency, or takes away that peculiar character which distinguishes it from other systems of religion.
1. A distinction is to be maintained between an error in judgment and Heresy. Not every one who is in an error is an Heretic, though every Heretic embraces essential error. Ito is a possible case, that persons may be in such situations that the truth is concealed from them while their hearts are not opposed to it. Therefore the temper of the heart comes into consideration in determining the nature of Heresy
That person, whose heart is not opposed to the spirit of the Gospel, tho' he may embrace error through wrong instruction, will receive the truth when it is fairly exhibited with proper evidence. He is ready to receive information. He is open to conviction. He is not an Heretic, even while he is in an error.
But he who, with means and opportunity to know the truth; rejects it, because he desires to rid himself of doctrines which oppose the prevailing disposition of a corrupt heart, and embraces sentiments which pervert the true design of the Gospel, because they are agreeable to a carnal mind; if that person persists in his error, he is doubtless an Heretic. It is evident, that an evil heart of unbelief has in-, fluenced him to depart from the living God, . and from the essential truths of his word. He embraces an error which destroys the soul; "for by rejecting that Grace which is the only proposed ground of pardon and salvation, he excludes himself from its saving benefits.
All Heresies are known by the same general
character, though they have appeared under diferent names.
It has been ho inconsiderable occasion of scándal, and reproach, that the religious world has been so divided in opinion. That so many religious sects pretend to receive the articles of their faith from one source, and that such various constructions are given to the doctrines of Scripture, has been, at orice, matter of grief and wonder to good men, and of triumph to
infidels. The latter inquire, and it would seem that they consider it an insurmountable dificulty,' if God has communicated to men a system of divine truth, in which their everlasting interest is concerned, would it not be reasonable to expect that the essential doctrines of this system should be so obvious that all men would be agreed in them? This objection, to the divinity of the Scriptures, is plausible only in appearance. Those who make it, are careful to conceal the true cause of this disagreement, respecting the doctrines of Scripture. They would have it considered, that the temper of the heart has no iaaterial influence on the judgment of inen, in view of divine truth. If it were said, we might reasonably expect that all inen, 'whose hearts are well disposed towards the holy nature of the Gospel, would be of one mind respecting its essential doctrines, there would be much truth in the remark. } puitwa
herr - The writer would not consider all goodness as confined to one sect of Christians, sensible, that from various causes, inen who are not in heart opposed to the truth, may embrace errors which, in themselves, are pernicious. Still there is reason to believe, that good men have been, and still are, agreed respecting those doctrines which are essential to the Cospel, When they have enjoyed proper means of information. It is a truth well known, that there are several distinct denoininations of Christians who differ in no essential article of faith. the opinions of good men, there will be some slight shades of difference, wit.cut affecting