Sivut kuvina

the Gospel teaches the Divine Unity so decisively as to force every Christian to acknowledge it, however inconsistent with his other opinions his acknowledgment of it may be.

But farther; the Gospel teaches us, with perfect clearness, that this one God is possessed of all possible perfection; that he is infinitely wise, powerful, righteous, and benevolent; that he is the moral Governour of the world, an enemy to all wickedness, and a friend to all goodness; and that he directs all events by his Providence so particularly, as that the hairs of our heads are all numbered, and that a sparrow does not fall to the ground without him. It teaches us also to imitate, to serve, and to worship him, and to put our trust in him; and comprehends the whole of our duty in loving him with all our hearts, and in loving our neighbour as ourselves. It declares to us the necessity of repentance and a holy life; a future state of rewards and punishments; and a future period of universal retribution, when all mankind shall be judged according to their works.

There are no doubts about any of these particulars among Christians; and they include all that it is most necessary for us to know. But the doctrines which most properly constitute the Gospel are those which relate to Jesus Christ and his mediation. Here, also, there is an agreement with respect to all that can be deemed essential; for there is no sect of Christians who do not believe that Christ was sent of God; that he is the true Messiah; that he worked miracles, and suffered, and died, and rose again from the dead, as related in the four Gospels; that after his resurrection he ascended to heaven, and became possessed of universal dominion, being made head over all things in this world; and that he will hereafter make a second appearance on this

earth, and come from heaven to raise all mankind from death, to judge the world in righteousness, to bestow eternal life on the truly virtuous, and to punish the workers of iniquity.

These are the grand facts of Christianity, which Calvinists and Arminians, Trinitarians and Unitarians, Papists and Protestants, Churchmen and Dissenters all equally believe. More especially; with respect to the purpose of Christ's mission, we all equally hold that he came to call sinners to repentance, to teach us the knowledge of God and our duty, to save us from sin and death, and to publish a covenant of grace, by which all sincere penitents and good men are assured of favour and complete happiness in his future everlasting kingdom.

But to bring all nearer to a point.

The information which most properly constitutes the Gospel does not consist of many particulars. It may be reduced to one proposition. The word GOSPEL, I have said, signifies GOOD NEWS; or (as the New Testament calls it) glad tidings of great joy to all people. And the New Testament, when it thus describes the Gospel, has one particular information in view. An information which is indeed completely joyful. I mean, the future coming of Christ to destroy death, and to reinstate us in a happy immortality; or, in other words, the glad tidings of pardon to penitents, and a resurrection from death to eternal life through Jesus Christ. It is impossible there should be any information so important as this; and all Christians believe it; and maintain that the truth of it has been demonstrated by signs and miracles, and, particularly, by the resurrection of Christ, and his consequent ascension and exaltation.

This information includes all that we have any reason to be anxious about; and we should regard

with indifference all disputes that leave us in possession of it; and there are no disputes among those who take the New Testament for a rule of faith which do not leave us in possession of it. A deliverance from death, through the power of Christ, to be judged according to our works; and, if virtuous, to enter upon a new and happy life which shall never end: THIS is the sum and substance of the Gospel; and, also, the sum and substance of all that should interest human beings. The evidence for it which the Gospel gives, removes all doubts about it; and is sufficient, whether we believe any thing else or not, to carry us (if virtuous) with triumph through this world. What then signify the differences among Christians about other points? Or of what consequence is it that they have different ways of explaining this point itself? Give me but the fact, that Christ is the resurrection and the life, and explain it as you will. Give me but this single truth, that ETERNAL LIFE is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, and I shall be perfectly easy with respect to the contrary opinions which are entertained about the dignity of Christ; about his nature, person, and offices; and the manner in which he saves us. Call him, if you please, simply a man endowed with extraordinary powers; or call him a superangelick being, who appeared in human nature for the purpose of accomplishing our salvation; or say (if you can admit a thought so shockingly absurd) that it was the second of three co-equal persons in the God-head, forming one person, with a human soul, that came down from heaven, and suffered and died on the cross: Say that he saves us merely by being a messenger from God to reveal to us eternal life, and to confer it upon us; or say, on the contrary, that he not only reveals to us eter

nal life, and confers it upon us, but has obtained it for us, by offering himself a propitiatory sacrifice on the cross, and making satisfaction to the justice of the Deity for our sins: I shall think such differences of little moment, provided the fact is allowed, that Christ did rise from the dead, and will raise us from the dead; and that all righteous penitents will, through God's grace in him, be accepted and made happy for ever.

In order to assist you in forming a just idea of the nature of the differences among Christians, I will dwell a little on some of them.

The chief of these differences have been those which I have just recited with respect to the person and offices of Christ; some maintaining his simple humanity; others his superiority to man, and preexistence; and others his supreme divinity. And, again; some maintaining that he saves us only by his instruction, and example, and government; and others, that he saves us by being the procuring cause of our salvation, and paying down an equivalent for it. Is it not obvious, with respect to these differences, that they affect not the doctrine itself of our salvation by Christ; and that however they are determined, the foundation of our hopes remains the same! I will endeavour to illustrate this by putting a similar case.

Suppose a man to have lost a rich inheritance, and to be languishing under a distemper which will soon cut him off for ever from this world. Suppose, in these circumstances, a benefactor to appear, who brings with him, at the expense of much trouble, a remedy for the distemper, and administers it to him, saves his life, and at the same time restores him to his inheritance, and to riches, splendour, and happiWould he, in this case, be very anxious about determining whether his benefactor was a


native or a foreigner, a private man or a prince? Or whether the toil which he had gone through to save him was derived from his own spontaneous benevolence, or from an instrumentality to which he had submitted, in order to convey the benevolence of another? Though such inquiries might engage his curiosity, would he reckon them of great importance to his interest? Would he not, whatever the true answer to them was, have equal reason to rejoice in the service done him, and to be thankful for it?

Another subject of dispute among Christians has been the origin of that state of sin and mortality, in which we find ourselves, and which gave occasion to the coming of the Messiah. All agree in deriving it from an event called the FALL of man, which happened at the commencement of this world. But very opposite accounts are given by divines of the nature and consequences of this FALL; Some taking the history of it in Genesis in the strictly literal sense, and maintaining the doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin to all his posterity; and others denying this doctrine, and believing the account of the fall to be in a great measure allegorical. But, in reality, it does not much signify whether we are able or not to satisfy ourselves on these points. This is of no more importance in this case, than it would be in the case just mentioned, that a person dying of a distemper should be able to account for it, and to trace events which brought it upon him. We find ourselves frail, degenerate, guilty, and mortal beings. The causes under the Divine government which brought us into this state lie far out of our sight; and, perhaps, were a naked representation of them made to us, we should be only perplexed and confounded. It is enough to know, that a deliverer has heen provided for us, who has shed his blood for

« EdellinenJatka »