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this, it appears, (by the writings of those who first planted Christianity, writings which no man in his wits can question to be theirs; being through a continual uninterrupted course of times, from the beginning, by general consent of both friends and adversaries, acknowleged and attested to as so; all characters within them imaginably proper for that purpose, confirming the same; as also by the current tradition of their disciples, immediate and mediate, extant in records unquestionable, and by all other means conceivable,) this, I say, it most plainly appears, was one grand doctrine and pretence of Christianity at first, which the Mahometans acknowleging originally true and divine in the gross, must consequently grant itself to be an imposture.
And thus much seems sufficient to demonstrate that religion not to be of a divine extraction. I shall next proceed to consider the pretences of Judaism, and to show that neither it was such a perfect revelation as we proved it probable God would vouchsafe to make. But that shall be the subject of another discourse.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XV.
EPHESIANS, CHAP. I.-VERSE 13.
THE plea of Judaism examined. This religion we acknowlege to have had its birth from God: its truth and goodness we do not question: but we find it in many respects defective, and without the conditions due to such a revelation as we require; for it was not universal; nor full and complete; nor designed to be of perpetual obligation and use.
1. It was not general, nor directed to, or intended to instruct and oblige mankind: itself expresses so much; its whole tenor and frame shows it: so do all the circumstances of its rise and progress. This illustrated by the words of Scripture; by divers of its laws; St. Paul calling the whole law a partition wall; by the covenant made between God and a particular nation; a covenant in formal terms declaring this. In the body of the law there is often a distinction made between them who were bound to observe it, and others that were not; there are duties enjoined, which others could not properly or decently perform: these stated: the same inference drawn from the peculiar rewards of obedience, and punishments of disobedience, &c.
It may be added that, as the laws and rites of this religion were designed only for the Jews; as they did only agree to their circumstances; so they were only suited to their inclinations and capacities: this topic enlarged on. From which and many other obvious considerations it may appear that this dispensation was not, in its nature or design, general; but
was designedly restrained to one peculiar people and place, &c. : it is not therefore in reason to be taken for such a revelation as was argued to be needful for us, or to be expected from him, who is good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works: this enlarged on.
2. Farther, as this revelation was particular, so was it also partial; as God did not by it speak his mind to all, so did he not therein speak out all his mind. The Apostle to the Hebrews charges it in this respect with blameableness, imperfection, weakness, and unprofitableness: (Heb. viii. 7. vii. 18.) This charge made good by a consideration of the parts thereof which direct, and those which lead to practice; also the aids and means facilitating obedience to the laws or rules enjoined. Neither in discoursing thus do we lay any unseemly imputation on God, the Author of that religion; the making so imperfect a revelation being nowise at variance with his wisdom, goodness, or justice: reasons for this given; in particular the character of that people, to whose disposition and capacity its laws and institutions were adapted: this character fully developed, as well as the institutions themselves; whence it is inferred that such a dispensation could not be convenient for the rational nature of man generally, and for perpetuity.
It may be objected to our line of argument, that God did afterwards annex some labels, as it were, to this deed; that he imparted by degrees farther manifestations of light and grace to the Jews, through prophets and holy men, &c.; but that may be taken as a good confirmation of our argument: this explained.
It may be added that Judaism did not serve, in effect, sufficiently to better men's lives; to qualify a competent number of men for God's favor and their own happiness: this fully shown. Now the tree which has always borne such fruits, so unsavory and unwholesome, we cannot admire as excellent and perfect, though it might be good for those early times, &c.
3. We proceed to the third defect which was observed in this religion, that it was not designed for perpetual obligation and use. As it was particular in respect of the persons to whom it was directed; as it was partial and incomplete in its frame; so it was, according to its design, temporary and mutable.
This conclusion indeed might be inferred from what has been said concerning the narrow extent and intrinsic imperfection thereof; but we have another more convincing sort of evidence, in many pregnant intimations, many express remonstrances and predictions, that God did intend in due time to introduce a great change and reform, and enlarge the bounds of his dominions, and to receive all nations into the fold of his special care and love; in fine, to dispense a general and full revelation of his mind and will, of his grace and favor to mankind, &c. This fully shown and illustrated by quotations from holy Scripture. And what God declared by verbal testimonies, the same we see in real effects: his providence has made good his word; he hath not only released men from that religion, but ath manifestly discountenanced it: present state of the Jewish nation considered. Thus is the second step of these discourses concluded. Two others still remain. Conclusion.
And in Jesus Christ, &c.
OF THE IMPERFECTION OF THE JEWISH
EPHESIANS, CHAP. I.-VERSE 13.
In whom ye also (trusted), having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
THAT it is probable God should vouchsafe to mankind a full and clear declaration of his mind and will concerning their duty and their welfare, I did show: that Paganism and Mahometanism, without reason and truth, did or does pretend thereto, I also briefly discoursed: I now proceed to examine the plea which Judaism puts in, and to make good that neither it is well grounded, (which, as the cause deserves, I shall do somewhat more largely.) The Jewish religion we acknowlege had its birth from the revelation and appointment of God; its truth and its goodness we do not call in question: but yet looking into it, we shall find it in many respects defective, and wanting the conditions due to such a revelation as we require. For it was not universal, (neither being directed to, nor fitted for, the nature and needs of mankind;) it was not full and complete, it was not designed to be of perpetual obligation
1. First, I say, this revelation was not general; not directed to, or intended for to instruct and oblige mankind: itself expressly affirms so much; the whole tenor and frame thereof shows it; so do all the circumstances of its rise and progress.