« AnteriorContinuar »
ordinary qualifications of Ministers we do stedfastly believe.
Is it necessary to add, that, it is the duty of the Church universally, to withhold her sons, from those literary institutions which are hostile to the doctrines of grace? It is ludicrous to pretend that“no doctrines in particular are taught” in such institutions; and that no influence is exerted to bias the minds of young men against the evangelical system. We might as well speak of a sword with no edge in particular, or a book containing no ideas in particular, as of religious instruction without any religious doctrines in particular. Besides, what shall we think of Churches associated on purpose to train up youth in the doctrines of Christianity, sending them where sono doctrines in particular are taught?" And is it true, can it without a miracle be true, that no influence is exerted in such institutions to pervert the minds of young men? Will the faculty, whose opinions are known and revered as they are wont to be by their pupils, and having in their hands the distribution of literary honors, have no influence in forming a popular sentiment hostile to the doctrines of the Reformation? Will this atmosphere of opposition and ridicule, in which a youth, whose previous education has been evangelical, is sent to live and move and have his being, exert no influence in unsettling his opinions? Possibly he may not make shipwreck of the faith; but is this a justification for exposing him to temptations which to nineteen in twenty will prove fatal? How many pious parents already weep over blasted hopes? How many children of the Church have, through the perversion of their talents and acquirements, become her most powerful adversaries? Were the evils confined to the unhappy victims, it would be deplorable: for what shall it profit a man if his son gain the highest point of literary attainment and renown, and lose his soul? But many parents of evangelical opinions, influenced by the example of Christians, may send their children who are not themselves beyond the reach of perversion. And all may have brothers, and sisters, and companions, and relatives, on whom they may exert a fatal influence, and thus be
come the instruments of an extended diversion of the public opinion.
4. The faith delivered to the saints, is to be contended for by a faithful exhibition of its sanctions.
These, are contained in the punishment threatened to the rejection of truth, as a crime; and the calamities inseparable from the rejection of it, if it were not a crime. The doctrines of revelation are not articles of speculation merely, but principles of moral government. They disclose the law, the Gospel, and the providence of God. They are declared also, to be so plain, that they can no more be misunderstood, innocently, than darkness can be mistaken innocently for light, bitter for sweet, thorns for grapes, thistles for figs, tares for wheat, or ashes for bread. But if there were no criminality attached to the rejection of the truth, the calamities of rejecting it, would be the same, as if its rejection were criminal. If we could separate criminality from sin, it would still be a principle of misery. Enmity against God, malevolence, envy, revenge, intemperance, and lust, are sources of misery, if they were not crimes; and thus it is with fundamental error in doctrine. The character, law, Gospel, and providence of God, are realities, as unmodified by human opinion, as the laws of the natural world: and the calamity of adopting false opinions on these subjects, and of opposition of heart to the true character and government of God, is the same in its consequences as a calamity, whether it be criminal or not. To be carnally minded, in either case, is death. He that goes into eternity, in a state of opposition to the character and government of God, is undone, whether guilty or not guilty.
It is an admitted fact, that, repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, are some how, indispensable to render it consistent for God to pardon sin. But this repentance, and this faith, are definite realities, and if a mistake were not criminal, that which is not repentance, cannot have the effect of repentance, and that which is not faith, cannot have the effect of faith, in rendering it consistent for God to pardon sin; however innocently the mistake may come to pass. Beside, men as sinners, must be sanctified, as well as pardoned, to fit them for heaven. But their sanctification must be accomplished, not by physical power exclusively, but by the instrumentality of the truth. It no more belongs to omnipotence to give to error, the effect of truth, on the minds of free agents, than to cause a thing to be, and not to be, at the same time. A law without rewards or punishments, cannot be made as influential on moral beings, as a law with sanctions, at all more than vacuity in the scales, can be made as weighty as lead. Thou shalt kill cannot be made to have the same effect, as the prohibition, “thou shalt not kill.” And the soul that sinneth it shall not “die,” cannot be made to affect the mind of a sinner, like the denunciation “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” In like manner, the declarations, “The carnal mind is” not “enmity against God;” (if a man be” not “born again, he shall see the kingdom of God;" "he that doth” not "repent and believe, shall be saved;" and he that is" without “holiness, shall see the Lord;" "and he that doth” not deny himself, shall be a disciple of Christ;" cannot be made to have the same effect in exciting fear, or producing conviction of sin, or repentance, or faith, as the contrary declarations. It is idle to talk of the power of God, or of the goodness of God, or of the mercy of God, or of his paternal character; we may as well rely on these attributes to prevent the effects of fire, or water, or poison, on the natural body. We may as well play with the adder, or meet the hungry lion, or leap the precipice, or stand before the cannon's mouth, confiding in God's goodness and our sincerity to prevent harm, as to disregard or oppose all the great laws of his moral government, and our moral nature, and expect that his power and goodness will avert the consequences, and save us without the truth, or by the instrumentality of error. Believing, then, as we do, that the evangelical system is the faith delivered to the saints, the very gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: and that the rejection of it is fatal, on the ground of crime, and fatal in the nature of things, as moral beings are constituted, we are bound to preach this gospel, as, in our opinion, indispensable to salvation.
We are bound to do this, because to do otherwise, would be to preach the gospel without sanctions: which would render it of none effect. We are bound to do it also, because, as men are constituted, opinion has influence, and we owe its efficacy to Christ, and to the souls of men. The gospel, if it had been preached without sanctions, by Christ and his Apostles would have excited little opposition, and have done little good. The Scribes and Pharisees would not have been offended at Christ, but would have admired his Catholic spirit, if to his doctrine he had subjoined; “These are my opinions but those who differ from me, are doubtless honest and sincere, and will be mercifully accepted by our heavenly father.” Idolaters, also, would have added Christ, as a God, to their thirty thousand gods, if he in return, would have given to each, and his worshippers, the right hand of fellowship. So it is, precisely, in respect to the doctrines of the evangelical system. “Charity” would "suffer long” and be as “kind” to us, as to Mahommedans, or infidels, or the diversities of liberal men; if the concession could only be made by us, that those who reject these doctrines, may be innocently and safely wrong. It is holding them as essential to salvation, and all opposite systems as fatal, that overcomes the patience of charity itself, and bring upon us, the retribution of invective and obloquy. All this however only discloses the efficacy upon the consciences of men, of preaching the truth with its sanctions: and increases our obligations, and our motives, to do it faithfully.
I would not incumber the subject here, with the question, what will become of the heathen, if the faith delivered to the saints be essential to salvation? For if it were true, that those to whom it has not been delivered, may be saved without it; it would not follow, that those can be, to whom it has been delivered, and by whom it has been rejected.
Nor is it needful to adjust the seeming, or real differences, of those Christians, who hold, some to more, and others to less of the system. For the question is not, how much of this system may be misunderstood, consistently with sanctification by that which is still embraced—but can it be re
jected entirely, by those who possess the Bible, and they who do it, be sanctified without it, and saved by the instrumentality of error. Nor is it a question of any consequence whether it be possible for a man to be saved, who rejects this system, if it be in fact, as we believe it to be, the Gospel. For what if it were possible for a man who rejects it, to be saved, does that prove that he will be saved? And do we need no higher evidence that we shall be saved, than is implied in the fact of its bare possibility?
Nor is the duty of preaching this faith as indispensable to salvation, affected at all, by the consideration that we are fallible, and may possibly be mistaken in our opinions: For, so long as we believe, whether correctly or not, we must act according to our belief. Nor is this setting in the judgment seat, and dealing damnation round the land,”
tions to be the laws of the state, and that some men have transgressed them, and will be punished, is dealing damnation round the land.
Nor is it bigotry. Bigotry consists in a blind attachment to opinions, from inclination, passion, and prejudice, and may be manifested in as high a degree, in the avowal and propagation of liberal, as evangelical opinions.
Neither can I perceive in what respect it is uncharitable. For what is charity? Not a decision of the understanding, but an affection of the heart. It is lovegood will—benevolence.--But while it leads us to hope, as long as there is room to hope, that a fellow creature is not guilty, and in danger, it does not lead us to resist competent evidence of the fact, or to conceal from him, our opinion of his character, or our sense of his danger. The more we love him, the more plain will be our note of admonition, the more earnest our intreaty, and the more vigorous our exertion, to save a soul from death. Charity, does not consist in creeds of strict, or liberal import: but in the temper of heart, with which they are adopted, and propagated. It is very possible, that a liberal creed, may be associated with a haughty and vindictive temper; and what is called a severe creed, with the meekness and gentleness of Christ.