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filled the world with divers doctrines, perplexity and doubt. All versions, and all expositions according to the obvious meaning, of whatever country or age, do substantially agree in the evangelical system; and agree with the understanding of mankind at large who read the Bible. The Bible, for the most part, was written also by men, who understood language only according to its obvious import;-and for the use of men, to whom it must have been a sealed book upon any other principle of interpretation. Add to this, the testimony of the Bible to its own plainnéss: that it can be read by him that runs; and understood by the wayfaring man though a fool; that it is a lamp to the path; that it furnishes the man of God thoroughly; that it is profitable for doctrine; that it is able to make wise to salvation; that it creates obligation to know the truth and renders error inexcusable. Now if the obvious meaning of the proof texts be not the true one; and if the true meaning be one which can be seen only by men of classical and philosophical vision; then the common people have no Bible. For the book itself teaches them nothing; and the critical expositions of uninspired men are not a revelation. The character of God is also implicated, as hay. ing practised on his subjects a most deplorable deception; as having taught them falsehood in their own tongue, and the truth in an unknown tongue; as having required them to abhor, upon pain of his eternal displeasure, what he has taught them, by the only import of terms which they can comprehend; and to love and obey what he has not taught them, by any import of language, which they can possibly comprehend. Was the glorious God ever more scandalised than by such an imputation? We have heard of his having made a great part of mankind on purpose to damn them, and of his sending to hell helpless victims for the nonperformance of impossibilities; and, if such were indeed his character and conduct, I know not what other Bible we could expect, than one impossible to be understood and framed to deceive. But on this subject, we adopt the language of a distinguished advocate of the liberal system. “It is impossible that a teacher of infinite wisdom should expose those, whom he would teach, to
infinite error. He will rather surpass all other instructors in bringing down truth to our apprehension. A revelation is a gift of light; it cannot thicken and multiply our perplex
2. It is the uniform testimony of the Bible, that the righteous love the truth; and that the wicked are opposed to it.
If then, we can decide who are the wicked, in the Scriptural sense, which system they approve, and which they oppose; we have an inspired decision which is the faith delivered to the saints. But the Scriptures have decided that irreligious and profane persons are wicked men;—and that all persons of confirmed vicious habits, liars, drunkards, thieves, adulterers, and all the impure are wicked men. They have placed in the same class the ambitious, who love the praise of men more than the praise of God; and the voluptuous, who love pleasure more than God. Now that some of this description of sinners are found under both systems, is admitted; but which system do they, as a body, prefer; and against which do they manifest unequivocal hostility. It requires no proof but universal observation to support the position, that the irreligious, immoral and voluptuous part of the community prefer the liberal system, and are vehement in their opposition to the evangelical system.t If this assertion needs confirmation; assemble the pleasure-loving and licentious community of the world:—the patrons of balls and theatres and masquerades:—and let the doctrines of the evangelical system be preached plainly to them. Would they be pleased with them? Would they endure them? Do this class of the community, where their numbers or influence preponderate, any where, in the wide world, settle and support an evangelical minister; and if they support the preaching of any
* Channing's Sermon, second Baltimore Ed. pp. 12, 13.
+ The reader will observe, that we do not say, nor do we believe it to be true, that all, or even the majority, who professedly embrace the liberal system, are wicked in the sense explained. We know, and we gladly embrace the opportunity to acknowledge, that there are among them many whose talents and learning, whose amiable and generous dispositions, and whose devotedness to the public good, on many accounts deserve our respect and commendation. There are, in this class of the community, many whom we not only respect and esteem, but whom, as connexions and friends we tenderly love. Our assertion is that those who are wicked, in the Scripture sense of that term, do, as a body, whatever preaching they attend, and with whatever denomination they are classed, dislike the doctrines of the evangelical faith and prefer those of the liberal system.
system of doctrines, is it not substantially the liberal system? Go to the voluntary evening association, for conference and prayer; and which system will you hear breathed out in supplication? Then go to the voluntary evening association for gambling or inebriation, and which system with its patrons, will you hear loaded with execration and ridicule? When a division is made in a town or parish, by the settlement of a minister of liberal or evangelical opinions; which side do a majority of the pious take, if there be on earth any such thing as piety manifested by credible evidence; and which side do the wicked take, if there be on earth any such class of persons as wicked men-proved to be such by their deeds. If a majority is obtained against evangelical opinions, was it ever known to be done, by the most pious and moral part of the community, in opposition to the suffrages of the most irreligious and flagitious? There is, then, some powerful cause, of universal operation, which arrays the irreligious part of the community against the evangelical system. But, according to the bible, of two opposing systems, one of which must be true, that which the wicked approve is false, and that which they oppose and hate is true;"for he that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
3. The Evangelical System produces the same effects universally, as were produced by the faith delivered to the saints.
The maxim, that the same cause, in the same circumstances, will produce the same effect, is as true in the moral as in the natural world: the laws of mind, and the operation of moral causes, being just as uniform as the laws of matter. The Gospel, the greatest moral cause which ever operated in the world, is the same now as in the apostolic age; and the heart of man, civilized or uncivilized, is also the same. So that this great cause is operating now, precisely in the same circumstances as it did in the primitive age;-for the heart of man is the moral world, and is the same now as then. If there be a system of doctrines then, at the present time, whose effects universally are the same with those produced by the faith once delivered to the saints; that system demonstrably, is the faith which was once delivered to the saints. Identity of moral effect, proves identity of moral cause.
The illustration of the argument from effects must consist of many particulars, and of matters of fact The argument, therefore, can only be stated concisely, without attempting to answer every possible objection. The facts, too, may be regarded by some as invidious. I have only to say that no fact will be stated, as such, which is not believed to be notoriously true, and, if denied, capable of unequivocal proof; and as to the invidious bearing of matters of fact, or of arguments, I am persuaded it is both a false delicacy and an unsound cause, which would shrink from this test, and shield itself under forms of alleged decorum. But I must be allowed to believe, also, that no real decorum is violated by the statement of facts or the pressure of arguments, where the object is important, the design honest, and the manner sober and respectful. Systems of religion, as well as of natural philosophy, may be brought to the test of actual experiment. "By their fruits shall ye know them.” But if the moral world were by the laws of decorum closed against us; and we might only theorise without, upon practical tendencies, and not enter it to collect and appeal to facts; we might contend earnestly, but certainly should contend to very little purpose. To the word and testimony of God and to matters of fact we appeal.
We observe then that the evangelical system occasions the same objections precisely now, which were occasioned by the faith once delivered to the saints.
Such an exhibitiion was given of old of the particular Providence of God, as occasioned, on the part of thieves, and liars, and adulterers, and idolaters, the extenuating plea, “We are delivered to do all these abominations."* God governs the moral world by such irresistible influence, that crimes are as much a matter of physical necessity as rain and sunshine. Do I need to say to this audience, that the charge constantly urged against the Decrees of God, as an article of the evangelical system, is, that it destroys accountable agency, and makes men machines, and all actions necessary by an irresistible fatality. The faith of the saints then and the evangelical faith are perverted in this article exactly alike.
* Jer. vii, 10.
The ancient faith included an article which led the wicked among the Jews to extenuate their crimes by the allegation, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge;"* i. e. Sin in man is a physical property, transmitted from father to son, as bones and sinews are, and alike inconsistent with choice or blame.
And is not the objection, urged against the doctrine of Original Sin, as contained in the evangelical system, the şame? The inspired answer to the objection of old was, That children are accountable only for their own voluntary exercises and deeds; and this is the reply returned now by the patrons of the evangelical system.
The degree of human Depravity as taught in the Bible, led the people in a time of great wickedness, to say, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them and die, how should we then live?”+ i. e. If we be dead in sin, to the exclusion of all spiritual life, how can we be free agents, and how can we help ourselves, or be to blame?and as if they had been told by the prophet, that their death in sin was voluntary and criminal, though entire and certain in its efficacy; they seem to say, Well, if we are so wicked, then, that we certainly shall pine away and die in our sins, how can we be to blame? If we shall not turn of ourselves, how can we turn; and of what use is ability, that will never be exerted. Now are not these precisely the objections which are at this day alleged, constantly, against the doctrines of man's entire Depravity, and moral Inability, as articles of the evangelical system.
Our Savior asserts the necessity of some great change to qualify a man for the kingdom of heaven; which, to a ruler
* Ezek. xviii, 2.
+ Ezek. xxxii, 10.