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and it would be unreasonable to expect perfection in any human being; but if, after we have done our best, we fall short of what we ought to be, there is a Saviour, Christ has died for us, and He will supply our deficiencies ! Thus the perfect standard of the law of God is lowered to meet the short-comings of man; his holiness and justice are neutralized by false views of his mercy, and then the adorable Redeemer is introduced as a sort of SUBSIDIARY Saviour, to make up the weight in the scale of moral excellency; and the deluded sinner is taught to believe that God will accept him partly by virtue of his own meagre obedience, and partly by the merit of Christ: thus the great distinguishing doctrine of the gospel is corrupted by the vain glosses of man.
And if salvation by Christ alone without works be an unwelcome truth, how much more the principle of DIVINE INFLUENCE! If it must be admitted that we can be saved only by Christ, the power and merit of coming to Christ will be contended for; and we are often told that to deny to man this power, is to reduce him to a mere machine without free agency or volition ! Nothing more affronts his dignity than to be taught that he is as helpless as he is guilty, and unable of himself to repent and seek after God, and therefore they who would please man ever make him the proud agent of his own salvation, having always in himself the power to turn to God, to conquer his sins, to amend his life when he chooses, as easily as he could change his profession or his residence! The influences and mighty energies of God the Holy Ghost are but little referred to; or if they be, it is ever in the same subsidiary character as that in which the atonement is introduced; and the renewing, converting, sanctifying, and consoling graces of the Spirit are nearly lost sight of. This is a point by which “ another gospel,” or a deficient ministry, may most certainly be detected, viz. by the omission of the work of the Spirit on the soul, branching out into all the interesting and important varieties of Christian experience.
But it is not alone in the more deep and spiritual doctrines of the faith that this kind of preaching is defective; it is equally so in the inculcation of Christian conduct. Vice is indeed condemned, and virtue recommended, and the relative duties of life are minutely enforced ; and in such precepts many heathen philosophers have anticipated the Christian preacher. Dissipation too, when carried to excess, may be reprobated—but there will be a caution added to this effect, “Do not carry things too far—be not righteous over muchthere can be no harm in a little innocent recreation and agreeable society—we are not to be hermits or ascetics;” and by general language of this kind every person is left, not to say encouraged, to enjoy that part of the world which is after his own taste, whether it be the ball-room or the cardtable, the theatre or the race-course. Such preaching as this has ever pleased men, and will always be agreeable to those “who say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things; speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits.”* _“They are of the world : therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” +
A cursory glance at the true gospel will be sufficient to prove that in all these cases“ another gospel” is preached, delusive, dangerous, and ruinous to immortal souls. Let us therefore proceed, II. TO CONSIDER THE CHARACTER OF THAT PREACHING WHICH IS PLEASING TO GOD.
And here we can have no sure, no infallible guide but his own inspired word: “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”To this test, then, let us refer each of those leading points which have been already
WHAT IS THE DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE, AND WHAT, WE MAY ASK, IS THE DOCTRINE OF OUR CHURCH UPON MAN'S FALL AND CONSEQUENT MORAL AND SPIRITUAL DEPRAVITY? Is it partial, or is it entire? Has he utterly lost the moral image of his Maker, or is it only in a degree effaced ? A whole chain of passages may be adduced,
* Isa. xxx. 10.
+ 1 John iv. 3. Isa. viii. 20.
from the book of Genesis to that of Revelation, to establish the truth of his utter ruin, his total moral and spiritual depravity! See him under the displeasure of his Maker at the moment of his fall—the very ground he treads on is cursed for his sake! he is driven out of Paradise--a flaming sword forbids his return thither. begets children in his own image and after his own likeness”—sinners, fallen and guilty like himself. They multiply on the earth. What is their condition? " God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."* But that was confessedly a wicked generation; they were swept off the earth for their sins. But were their successors any better than they? What said the Lord after the flood? “I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake: FOR THE IMAGINATION OF MAN's HEART IS EVIL FROM HIS YOUTH.”+ Read the subsequent history of successive generations; consider the builders of Babel, the cities of the plain, the falls and errors of the best of men, and the abominable wickedness of the rest; and let history, both sacred and profane, tell her sad tale from that time to this, and we shall see but too plainly man's real condition.
Attend to the testimony of successive prophets: to that of David in the fourteenth psalm, quoted by St. Paul in the third chapter of Romans, to prove the universal sinfulness of Jews and Gentiles : where all are described as “filthy;” and it is declared that “there are none that do good, no not one." Or listen to David's lamentations respecting his own heart, in common with that of others, in the fifty-first Psalm ; “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me!"* Hear Isaiah complaining of the men of his generation, “ that the whole head was sick and the whole heart faint;" and that “except the Lord of hosts had left them a very small remnant, they would have been as Sodom, and like unto Gomorrah.” † With which should be coupled the declaration of the prophet Jeremiah, “ The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"! None can doubt that this is the same heart to which the unerring teacher himself referred, when he said, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things that defile the man.” § To which all his apostles give witness.
+ Gen. viii. 21.
* Gen. vi. 5.
These are truths which our scriptural church is not backward to receive. “ Original sin standeth not (saith she) in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians vainly talk,) but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that na
* Psal. li. 5,
+ Isa. i. 5. 9.