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But he turned to the governor and said, “ This I confess unto thee, that after the way, which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers ; believing all things, which are written in the law and the prophets.” Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, which he preached, nor afraid to profess his belief of its great and essential doctrines, though he knew they were called, by the greatest men in the nation, an absurd and fatal heresy. Hence we conclude,
That those, who preach the true doctrines of the gospel, are not afraid to avow their religious sentiments, though they know, that they are called heresy by others.
I. I shall show, that the true doctrines of the gospel are very often called heresy ; And,
II. Show why those, who preach them, are not afraid to avow their religious sentiments.
I. I am to show, that the true doctrines of the gospel are very often called heresy.
The gospel was essentially preached to Adam, and from Adam to Abraham ; and from Abraham to Moses; and from Moses to Christ. But through all that long tract of time, it was generally misunderstood and misrepresented by all the heathen nations ; and by many who professed to acknowledge its truth and divinity When Christ came and preached the gospel, with greater purity and plainness, not only the Gentiles, but the Jews disbelieved, misrepresented and rejected it. Both the Pharisees and Sadducees hated and opposed him and finally put him to death, for preaching the plain and important truths of the gospel. And wherever the apostles preached the same doctrines, they were generally represented, by Jews and Gentiles, as a mean and contemptible sect, who propagated gross heresies and delusions. Tertullus, in his plea against Paul, said, “We have found this man, a pestilent fellow and a mover of sedition among all the Jews, throughout the world ; and a ring-leader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” As Christ was brought up in Nazareth, an obscure place, his enemies reproachful
ly called him, a Nazarene, and his followers, Nazarenes; and Paul, a ring-leader of that despicable sect. And when Paul came to Rome and called
Christians to come and see him, “They said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren, that came, shewed, or spake any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest : for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.” James and Stephen were early put to death, by the Jews, for preaching the gospel in Judea ; and the other apostles, who went round the world preaching the gospel to Jews and Pagans were every where opposed, abused and finally persecuted unto death. The primitive Christians suffered no less than ten bloody persecutions. And ever since those times, such Christians, as have embraced and maintained the pure doctrines of the gospel, have been more, or less opposed and persecuted by heathens and by multitudes, who professed to believe the gospel. The Sabellians, Arians and Socinians were the earliest sectarians, that arose in the church in the third and fourth century, who disbelieved and denied some of the essential doctrines of the gospel. Since their day,a flood of sectarians have sprung up in the Christian world, who have opposed, misrepresented and denied some, or all of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Among nominal Christians, at the present time, there are Antinomians, Arminians, Methodists, Universalists and Unitarians, besides a number of minor sectarians, who unite in calling the pure doctrines of the gospel, which Paul preached, gross heresies if not blasphemies.--Though the ministers in New England generally profess to believe and maintain the same doctrines, which their fathers who planted these churches, professed and maintained ; yet many of them do not preach the same doctrines, nor approve of others, who do preach them. There are indeed some, who preach the same doctrines, plainly and fully, that Paul preached and that the first ministers in New-England preached; but they are eve
ry where spoken against in names and terms of reproach; and represented as an ignorant and bigotted sect, who ought to be rejected and avoided by every religious society. It appears from the whole current of sacred and ecclesiastical history, that the prophets, Christ, the apostles and their successors in the ministry, who have preached the same pure doctrines of the gospel, that they preached, have always been considered and represented, by the great majority of mankind as propagators of error, delusion and heresy.
But though the doctrines of the cross have been so generally hated, opposed and misrepresented ; yet the faithful ministers of the gospel have never been afraid to avow their religious sentiments; and to preach them, plainly, before an unbelieving and frowning world. Paul was not afraid to acknowledge before the Roman governor and the whole Jewish council, that he embraced and taught the pure doctrines of the gospel, though he knew that they were every where spoken against and called heresy. He said to the elders of Ephesus " Ye know from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons ; and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Peter and the rest of the
apostles never shrunk from avowing their religious sentiments, though they knew, that both Jews and Gentiles viewed them as teaching most false, absurd and pernicious doctrines. And all faithful ministers, who imbibe their spirit and embrace their doctrines, are not afraid to avow their religious sentiments, though they know the world will reproach them for it. This leads me to show,
II. Why those, who preach the great and essential doctrines of the gospel are not afraid to avow their religious sentiments, which are so generally stigmatized with every approbious epithet.
I. One reason is, because they know they are true.
Paul knew, that his religious sentiments were true, because they were founded on the infallible word of God; and this knowledge gave him confidence to avow his sentiments before Felix, the governor, and the grand council of the Jewish Sanhedrim. “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way, which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers ; believing all things, which are written in the law and the prophets.” The law and the prophets contained the whole of the Old Testament, which was the whole Bible, that God had then put into the hands of the Jews ; and which they, as well as Paul, acknowledged to be of divine inspiration. He told them, that he built his religious sentiments upon the Bible ; and therefore knew them to be true : and he was willing to avow them before the world. He said to the Galatians, “I marvel, that ye are so soon removed from him, that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel : which is not another ; but there be some, that trouble
and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, than that, which we have preached unto you ; let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God ? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel, that was preached of me, was not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” to the Corinthians, “ Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty ; not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully ; but by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every wan's conscience in the sight of God.”
The apostle knew, that he had derived his religious sentiments from the Old and New Testaments; and therefore he was not afraid to avow them and to preach any and every doctrine of the gospel, however displeasing to the human heart. Though the heart might hate them, yet
he knew that the understanding and conscience would
On this ground he confidently said, “We also believe ; and therefore speak.” He was not afraid to speak what he believed and knew was divine truth. The apostle Peter also was not afraid to avow his religious sentiments, because he knew they were true. He says, “ We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his glory.” The great and essential doctrines of the gospel may be as certainly known by ministers at this day, as they were by the apostles ; and those who do certainly know them, are not afraid to profess and preach them, plainly and fully, though the offence of the cross has not ceased. Those, who know that the doctrines of the gospel are divinely true, know that they are no heresy; and therefore are not afraid to avow and preach them without the least hesitancy, or reserve, in their full latitude and extent.
2. Those, who preach the pure doctrines of the gospel, are not afraid to avow their religious sentiments, because they feel satisfied, that they may be completely maintained against all, who dispute, or deny them. Truth can be maintained and defended, but error cannot. Those, who know, that their religious sentiments are founded on the word of God, know, that they can be maintained and defended against all the learning, sophistry and subtilty of those, who dispute, or deny them. Plain and infallible arguments may always be drawn from the Bible, in support of the doctrines contained in it and in refutation of every false scheme of religion. Christ forewarned those, who embraced and preached the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, that they should be brought before kings and rulers, for his name's sake: but he told them for their consolation, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom,
“ which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay, or resist.” By faith in this promise and by confidence in the truths of the gospel, they preach, the apostles