Imágenes de páginas

naturally tends to obstruct Men's Improvements in Virtue, and by that Means to bin-' der their Salvation. Our Saviour might possibly foresee, that some few among the Rejectors of Christianity would, in the Event, be good Men; and a Good Man cannot be con-' detuned. He might know, that many of the Heathens, both before and after his Appearance in the World, had done all that a Good God could ever require at their Hands. But he also knew that their Proficience in Virtue was owing to other Causes than Ignorance or Infidelity, which, considered in themselves^ have, in all possible Cases, a very bad and pernicious Tendency.—Either this is the true Meaning, or the Word Infidelity must taker in Disobedience to the Laws of the Gospel. Which seems to me less natural. But it makes po Difference upon the whole, whether we ex^tend the Sense of this Word, or restrain thd Sense of the general Assertion. What I con.tend for is only this, that both Parts- of the Text should be treated alike. I think it highly unreasonable to put in Exceptions to the former Part, and to deny these Exceptions to the latter. The Form of the two- Clauses Is exactly the same: and the Reason of the Thing is the fame also. If Faith may fail of making Men virtuous, Infidelity may fail of mak»ing them vicious. 4If in the former Cafe Believers

lievers cannot be saved j in the Jatter Unbelievers cannot be damned.—Nay the Interpretation of the latter Clause is, of the two, less forced: because the Exceptions,. I fear, are less numerous. It is not for us to determine the Number.; but we cannot help judging it probable that vicious Christians are far more, in Proportion, than virtuous Heathens.—I conclude upon the whole chat the true and intire Meaning of our Saviour's Words is no other than this. He that believeth, and is baptized, becomes intituled to my Kingdom, because qualified for it. He is excited to his Duty by the .strongest Motives, and supported in it by the most powerful Assistance and is therefore, on both Accounts, in the high Road to Happiness and Salvation.But be that believeth not, having rejected those Means, and that Mediator, by which alone he can be saved; will still continue under the Dominion of Sin, and thereby, fall into Condemnation. - j I Would endeavour to contract" the Doctrine maintained, under this and the preceding Interpretation, that it may appear to the Reader at one View.—Faith then may justly be considered as accessary Condition of the Gof pel-Covenants in these two Respects: either \flt As it naturally follows, or idly, As it naturally produces Evangelical Obedience. It Wits peculiarly necessary in those Persons,whey ther Jevn or Gentiles, to whom the Gospel was adiually preached by the Apostles themselves: fanes their Infidelity was both a stronger Presumption, and a more probable Means of Bad ConduBt. It was a stronger Presumption, on Account of the superior Strength of the Evidence which was then granted; it was a more probable Means of bad Conduct, on Account of the lost and deplorable Condition of almost the 'whole World, at the Time of our Saviour's Appearance in it. When Idolatry and Immorality were become in a Manner universal, Belief in Christ was the only Way left, for the Recovery and Salvation of Mankind. Whoever therefore rejected this, unavoidably continued in a State of Condemnation. ~~It was at all Times true, that, if they who bad not the Gospel, did by Nature the Things contained in the Gospel, they hid a sure Title to Gospel Reivards. as Things were then circumstanced, they who refused to own the Misfion of our Saviour, had no Chance for obeying the Laws of his Kingdom. And they who disobeyed the Laws of his Kingdom, could have no Claim to Eternal Lift.—-Faith. then and Obedience being so closely conneSed, the Necessity of the former immediately results from the Necessity of the latter.

The Reader will observe, that I have thus far confined my self to a general Belief of

Chrijl's Christ's Mission. If it be asked, how far the Belief of particular Articles may be esteemed a necessary Condition? I answer, just as far, as Men's Capacities and Opportunities extend. If a Belief in Christ be not literally and univerJally necesiary, much less a Belief of any Jingle Doctrine, I know it has been generally supposed by Protestant Writers, that there are in the Gospel a few plain Things, the Belief of which is indijpenjably required of every Christian. But should it not be considered, that what is plain to fome, is not plain to others f and that hardly any Thing is plain to all? It cannot indeed be imagined, that a sincere Christian mould misunderstand every Thing in the New Testament: it can hardly be imagined that he mould be generally mistaken. But it does not follow, that, because we all believe some Part, or even the greater Part of the Doctrines of Christ, we must therefore believe the very same Doctrines. What is hid from one Man, may be known to another; and yet this latter shall be ignorant, in his Turn, of what is most obvious to the former. These Inequalities and Varieties of Judgment, may either be owing to Constitution, or to Education, or to Men's peculiar Circumstances and Situation in Life. But whatever be the Cause of them, of this we are very sure, that they cannot possibly endanger our Eter-,

\ nal nal Happiness. Let us but honestly endeavour to believe and obey, in Proportion to our respective Abilities, and our Condition

must be secure. On the other Hand, it

is equally a Mistake, to suppose that no religious Doctrines, except those which are peculiarly called pra£licaly can be of any considerable Importance to Mankind. It cannot surely be thought that God would reveal any Doctrine to his Creatures, merely for Amusement and Speculation. Whatever He thinks fit to teach, it is our Duty and our Interest to learn. Nor is it possible to name any one Proposition made known to us by Christ and his Apostles, the Belief of which may not be greatly beneficial^ and either directly or indirectly influence our 'Practise,

Upon the whole, I have endeavoured to shew that, notwithstanding different Appearances, the Scripture Doctrine of Faith is only this; That it firings from virtuous Dispositions of Mind,- and gives Birth to others of the same Sort; That it is a great and excellent Means of preserving us in our Allegiance to God, and improving us in true Virtue; that, by this means, it Jecures our Title to a happy Eternity, and renders

that Eternity still more happy. On the

other Hand Infidelity may indeed be intio

1 cent%

« AnteriorContinuar »