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endeared companions, I may, so often at least, look towards heaven; and whilst calamities here draw off my heart from things below, thy grace and thy love may draw it kindly to things above.
“12. Why should it seem grievous to me, that the world hates me? Am I the more out of the way to heaven for going through much tribulation? Do I not find, that affliction and ill usage has been the portion of the most, and the most eminent, servants of God? When I reinember Joseph in bonds, Elias and Job, Jeremy and Daniel in all their troubles, that the holy Jesus was a man of sorrows, and the holy Apostles the offscouring of the world, when I find how many Saints were afflicted, destitute, and tormented, when I read the inventory of St. Paul's sufferings, and of those, of whom the world was not worthy; then I think, who am J, that I should think through my conduct or innocence to escape the world's batred ? Shall I not rejoice to be the companion of such excellent persons ? I remember, God supported them in all their trials, that they were not forsaken, though persecuted, and that they had at last a glorious deliverance. Well then, I will hope in the God of my salvation, and though cruel men devour me, though they tear my name and my substance, though they tear my family, and tear my body, yet thy grace is sufficient, and thy rewards liberal; I will acquiesce in thy providence, which permits it, and wait for the gracious issue. Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."
A DIALOGUE ON SALVATION.
AZARIAH AND BARNABAS.
Azariah. I have recently been meditating much on the subject of salvation. It has been, you know, my opinion heretofore, that none are saved but those who embrace ihe opinions usually denominated orthodox; but of late I bave doubled the correctness of my former opinion. I find that many who dissent from these doctrines have at least the appearance of genuine piety and Christian benevolence. I also find, that many who assume the name of Calvinists, discard a number of the doctrines which were formerly deemed essential. They indeed profess an adherence to the Westminster Cathechism, but it is in "general,” and not withont a number of exceptions, and various modifications. New Series-vol. I.
Barnabas. I have been aware of your former sentiments, and have often been grieved to find your good opinion of others confined to such parrow limits. But the modes of education and the manner of preaching have heretofore been adapted to prepossess the minds of Christians of different sects one against another, and to prevent a mutual discovery of those evidences of goodness, wbich otherwise might have been per. ceived, and have been sources of mutual comfort. A more enlightened and liberal spirit has been for many years gradually gaining ground among the several denominations of Christians; but there is perhaps still much room for amendment. The more ben indulge and encourage a spirit of impartial inquiry, the more they will be convinced of their fallibility; and this conviction will be likely to extend the circle of hope and charity.
A. From your remarks I should infer, that, in your opinion, there may be good people in each of the denominations of Christians.
B. I hope it is so, and this bope is to me a source of happiness. There are indeed many denominations of Christians, with whom I bave bad no opportunity to become intimately acquainted : I am, therefore, not in a situation to form a correct opinion respecting them. I have however been so often agreeably disappointed, op forming an acquaintance with persons who dissent from me id opinion, that I dare not censure the people of any sect by wholesale. I think I have found some of the best of men among those sects, which have been the most reproached.
A. Slanderous reports, or reproachful accusations from one sect against another, are not much to be relied on. we not safely form an estimate of moral character from avowed opinions—especially opinions wbich relate to the great and essential doctrines of Christianity?
B. If I should answer in the affirmative, another important question would immediately occur. What are the great and essential doctrines of Christianity ? To this question very different answers would be given by persons of different sects; and you are aware, that the sect to which you belong would now give in some respects a very different answer, from what would have been given by their predecessors, who lived a bundred years ago
A. It is even so; still there must be some essential doctrines. B. Another question now occurs.
In wbat sense do you use the term essential ? Every gospel truth is essential to the
But may perfection of the Christian system, and important in its connexion. It may also be a truth which no one, with a good beart, would reject, knowing it to be what it really is. But to doubt the truth even of a gospel doctrine, while a person has not evidence that it is contained in the scriptures, and while he apprehends that the doctrine is dishonorable to God and injurious to man, is no certain evidence of a depraved heart. In this way, I suspect, many important troths have been rejected by good wen, from the want of correct information, and through the influence of prejudices of education.
A. By essential doctrines, I mean those, a belief in which is essential to salvation.
B. Do you mean essential for every person, and in every supposable case ?
A. I do.
A. I will. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus Christ came into the world to save singers. He died the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.
B. These I regard as sacred and important truths. We will now proceed on the supposition, that a belief in these three doctrines is essential to salvation, in all cases, and to every child of Adam. What are the consequences? Must we not, in the first place, suppose, that the souls of all who lived before the flood have gone to perdition? Wbat knowledge bad any one of them of these truths? In the second place, this principle must exclude from heaven every individual that dies in infancy. In the third place, it dooms to destruction the whole of the heathen world in every age. In the fourth place, it will be very doubtful whether Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, or any one of their posterity, who died prior to the birth of the Messiah, bas gone to heaven. From the spirit of prophecy they had an expectation of a Messiah ; but we have, I think, no evidence that any of them bad a correct understanding and belief of the three propositions which you have stated. It is very certain, that the apostles of Jesus had not a belief in the third proposition till after his resurrection ; and they perhaps bad as much information in respect to the objects of the Messiah's mission as almost any of their ancestors; for they had long been the dis. ciples of Christ, and attendants on his ministry.
A. These consequences are indeed shocking. But does not the gospel, or rather the Messiah bimself, say, “He that believeth not in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him ?”
B. Truly. But “what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law;" so whatsoever things the gos
pel saith, it saith to them who are under the gospel, and who have some knowledge of its doctrines and its requirements.
A. It may be so, and I hope it is.
B. Where much is given, much is required; where little is given, a righteous Governor will require the less. a belief in the doctrines of the gospel is not required of infants, who are incapable of understanding them; nor of the heathen, who have no knowledge of them.
A. This is a consoling doctrine, if it be true; yet I believe there must be the spirit of love and obedience to qualify men for heaven; and how can this take place without a particular knowledge of Christ, and a belief in him who is “the way, the truth, and the life ?"
B. Cornelius, the centurion, was “a devout man, one who feared God with all his house, and gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway;" and his “prayers and his alms came up for a memorial before God," prior to his knowledge of Christ as the Saviour of sinners. Ì'bat Divine Spirit which wrought in Cornelius, prepared him to embrace the messages of the gospel by Peter, as soon as they were made known to him. In the same manner, and by the same spirit, thousands may have been prepared for heaven, who never heard of Christ till they saw him in glory at the right hand of God.
A. How is this consistent with the opinion which many good people entertain, that there can be no true love or acceptable obedience, without a belief in certain mysterious doctrines, which have been termed orthodox?
B. I do not say that it is consistent with that opinion; nor do I believe that opinion to be correct. On the contrary, I believe that there have been thousands wbo never heard of those mysterious doctrines, who have been as good men, as those who entertain such an opinion of their importance. Some of those doctrines I suspect were unknown to Enoch and Abraham, to Moses and the propbets, and even to Christ and bis apostles, unless they were foreseen by them as the inventions and errors of late times.
A. If you believe that men may be saved who never heard of Christ or his gospel, on what principle can you justify the modern missionary exertions to spread the gospel, or even the labours of Paul, among the Gentiles? If we may judge of his views by his conduct, in bis opinion it was of great importance that the Gentiles should be brought to know and obey the gospel.
B. That was doubtless his opinion, and I am of the same mind. But can there be no motives for exertions to spread the gospel, except on the supposition that every soul will be lost who has no opportunity to hear it? Some men are recovered from dangerous diseases without the aid of well-informed pbysicians, or the application of the best means : does it bence follow that there is no notive for improving the science of medicine? Every dispensation of divine mercy may have been in some measure adapted to the benefit of mankind, and to the salvation of the soul. Yet one dispensation may have been far more favourable than another. The posterity of Jacob were a peculiar people, highly favoured, when compared with the Gentiles. The Gospel dispensation is far more favourable than the Mosaic. Suppose that in proportion to the number of people in the several countries, there are ten times as many saved from under the light of the gospel as from heathen lands; would not the obligations and encouragements to spread the gospel be very great ?
A. They certainly would; but not so great as on the supposition, that all are lost who have not the gospel.
B. Be it 80; still they are sufficient to justify all the benevolent exertions that ever have been made, or will be made. We have no occasion to represent God as unjust or unkind in bis conduct towards the beathen, in order to magnify the riches of his mercy in sending his Son, or in sending to us the news of salvation by him.
A. God is a sovereign in the dispensation of his favours. He gives to one and withholds from another, as seemeth good in bis sigbt. All men are bis creatures, and he has a right to do wbat be will with bis own. We should be still, and know that he is God.
B. Amen: still it should be understood that this sovereign God has the heart of a tender parent; that he is wise, just, and merciful, in giving or withholding his favours. It never seercs goud in his sight to require the improvement of any faculties or privileges which he has not bestowed. He may justly do what he will with his own, because he is invariably disposed • to do right. We should therefore be still, knowing that God
is as good as ke is great, and that his tender mercies are over all his works.