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It also appears that the Christian redemption is throughout a work of love. “God so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” * In this point of view, we contemplate this interesting and important subject; and not as the effect of implacable wrath, as some represent it. Christ was and is the Gift of God. Thus the Holy Scriptures represent the subject to us; and surely, the greater the gift, the greater the love. “God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." + He co-operated with the Father in this gracious design; and though He was of the same Divine nature, He condescended to take upon Him our human nature, and “ was made flesh and dwelt among us,” Ş until He had, by his life and by his death, as man, completed the work that was given Him to do; after which He ascended to that glory, which He had with the Father before the world began.
Here we are led to consider the Divinity of our blessed Saviour, in which we, as a people, do most surely believe ; but, as every thing relating to the Divine Being, which is not expressly revealed, is far above the reach of human comprehension, we are desirous of avoiding all such particular disquisitions, as lead beyond the clear expression of Holy Writ. We can indeed say on this, as on every other occasion, that we believe all that the Scriptures have spoken and inculcated : we believe that the Evangelist was clearly speaking of Jesus Christ, and of his Divinity, or Godhead, when he said : 6 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was
* John üi. 16.
+ Rom. v. 8.
$ John i. 14.
made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."* 66 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." + Here we have a clear and full testimony, both to the Divinity and the humanity of Christ; and we have, ever since we were a people, borne testimony to this Scripture doctrine.
We likewise believe in the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, which is frequently united in Scripture with the Father and with the Son; and whose office, in the instruction and salvation of mankind, is set forth in divers passages of Holy Writ. See Matt. xxviii. 19. John xv. 26. Acts xxviii. 25. Heb. ix. 14.
This belief in the Divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, induced some of the teachers in the Christian Church, about three hundred years after the personal appearance of Christ, to form a doctrine to which they gave the name of Trinity ; but in our writings we seldom make use of this term ; thinking it best, on such a subject, to keep to scriptural expressions, and to avoid those disputes which have since perplexed the Christian world, and led into speculations beyond the power of human abilities to decide. If we consider that we ourselves are composed of an union of 66 spirit, and soul, and body,” ş and yet cannot determine how even these are united; how much less may we expect perfect clearness on a subject so far above our finite comprehension, as that of the Divine Nature !
After expressing our sentiments on what is called the Trinity, it will be proper to explain our views of the doctrine of justification, concerning which so much diversity of sentiment prevails : some imputing it wholly to faith, and others principally, if not wholly, to works.
* John i. 1--4.
+ Ibid. 14.
Thess, v. 25.
So far as remission of sins, and a capacity to receive salvation, are parts of justification, we attribute it to the sacrifice of Christ; “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”* But when we consider justification as a state of Divine favour and acceptance, we ascribe it, not simply either to faith or works, but to the sanctifying operation of the Spirit of Christ, from which only living faith and acceptable works proceed ; and by which we may come to know, that 56 the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the Children of God.” +
In attributing our justification, through the grace of God in Christ Jesus, to the operation of the Holy Spirit, which sanctifies the heart, and produces the work of regeneration, we are supported by the testimony of the apostle Paul, who says : “ Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but of his mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Ş Again : “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” I
By this view of the doctrine of justification, we conceive the apparently different sentiments of the apostles Paul and James are reconciled. Neither of them say, that faith alone, or works alone, are the cause of our being justified ; but as one of them asserts the necessity of faith, and the other of works, for effecting this great object, a clear and convincing proof is afforded that both contribute to our justification ; and that faith without works, and works without faith, are equally dead.
The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, is so connected with the Christian religion, that it will be proper to
* Eph. i. 7.
+ Rom. viii. 16.
I 1 Cor. vi. 11.
Titus iii. 5.
say something also on this subject. In explaining our belief of this doctrine, we' refer to the xyth chapter of the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians. In this chapter is clearly laid down the resurrection ,of a body, though not of the same body that dies : “ There are celestial bodies, and there are bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. So also is the resur. rection of the dead..It is sowo a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body : there is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God ; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.”* Here we rest our belief in this “ mystery,” without desiring to pry into it beyond what is revealed to us ; remembering that “ secret things belong unto the Lord our God ; but those things which are revealed, belong unto us and to our children.” +
Many are the arguments and evidences which might be brought forward in favour of the Christian religion ; but none appear to be more forcible, than the purity of that morality which is inculcated by it; and which is most effectually adapted to the promotion of the happiness of mankind in this world, as well as in that which is to come. A just test of principles, as well as of men, was laid down by our Saviour in these words : 6 By their fruits ye shall know them.” Ş It is the conduct to which principles lead, by which we are to judge of their rectitude ; rather than by the actions of men, who may profess these principles, but whose weakness may often cause a violation of them. Now, . to apply this test to Christ and his religion, let us first attend to that angelic song, with which his birth was in. troduced into the world : “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”I Next, let us
* I Cor. xv. 40, 42, 44, 50.
Matt. vii. 20.
+ Deut. xxix. 29. I Luke ii. 14.
consider how his precepts and his example corresponded with it. Read that most excellent sermon on the mount ; look at the example He has left us, under all the temptations and trials which, for our sakes, were permitted to assail Him! With what firmness did He reprove the vices and hypocrisy of the Jews! With what meekness did He bear their insults and persecutions ! Truly, indeed, was it foretold of Him : " He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter ; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not his mouth.”* And when this people had executed upon Him all that their malice could devise, He, consistently with the precepts which He had inculcated, in return for all their injuries, put up this most affecting prayer : “ Father! forgive them ; they know not what they do." +
But this example and these precepts were not confined to our Holy Head and High Priest. In that part of conduct which is the most difficult for human nature, the forgiveness of injuries, we find the proto-martyr, Stephen, followed his Lord's example ; and when expiring under the cruelties of the same people, thus poured out his soul unto God : “ Lord! lay not this sin to their charge.” What other religion is there, that inculcates a conduct like this! that teaches not only to forgive injuries, but even to pray for those that are the cause of them !—Precepts which alone give a decided preference to Christianity, above all other religions in the world !
Let us next look into those epistles, which the apostles addressed to the Christian converts, both among the Jews and gentiles; and there we shall again find, in addition to the doctrinal part of Christianity, such a spirit of pure
* Isaiah liji. 7.-This whole chapter is a remarkable prediction of the coming and sufferings of Christ. + Luke xxiii, 34.
Acts vii. 60.