Imágenes de páginas

repentance, they suppose, will supply the place of uniform obedience: they will repent, but not yet; there is time enough, and fitter for that purpose, when passion cools, and the heat of life is over: or, they fancy to themselves an inexhaustible fund of goodness in their religion; the terms of it may not be rigidly insisted upon; the promises may not be so conditional as they seem to be; and the threats, without doubt, will not be punctually executed. At the worst, there is no need to despair of mercy, considering the frailty of man, and the infinite merits of the Redeemer.

Such reasonings as these argue a depraved mind, and tend, further, to deprave it. But your good sense prevents me in the confutation of them. I would only observe, that this vice is, as I said, a complicated one: for, together with the unfairness and disingenuity (which belongs to all sophistry, as such) we have here united (what is too common in religious sophistry) a great deal of unwarrantable presumption.

The remedy in the case is, To cultivate in ourselves a modest and ingenuous love of truth; an awful reverence of the revealed word,

and that simplicity of heart which excludes all artifice and refinement.

From these so pernicious vices of the spirit, then, that is, from a fluctuating faith, an inconsiderate levity, an inapprehensive deadness of heart, and a perverse sophistical abuse of the understanding, let us emancipate ourselves by a firm, attentive, vigorous, and ingenuous dependance on the promises of the gospel; from these defilements, I say, in particular (having shaken off the other more sordid corruptions of the flesh and spirit) let us anxiously cleanse our minds, with the view of perfecting holiness, as the text admonishes, IN THE FEAR OF GOD.

This last clause is by no means an insignificant one; as ye will see by recollecting, that the true temper of a Christian is, hope mixed with fear; hope, to animate his courage, and fear, to quicken his attention. For, unless this principle of fear, not a servile, but filial fear, inform the soul and invigorate its functions, we shall be far from PERFECTING HOLINESS; we shall at best exhibit in our lives but some broken, detached, incoherent parcels of it. A steady, uniform piety, such as begets that hope, which maketh not

ashamede, is only kept up by a constant watchfulness and circumspection; which our probationary state plainly demands, and which nothing but the fear of God effectually


ε ἡ δὲ ἐλπὶς εἰ καταισχύνει. Rom. v. 5,



1. TIM. iii. 16.

Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh; justified in the spirit; seen of Angels; preached to the Gentiles; believed on in the world; received up into glory.

THE inspired writers, sometimes, dilate on

the articles of the Christian religion; pursue them separately, and at length, for the fuller and more distinct information of the faithful. Sometimes, again, they give them to us, as it were, in clusters: they accumulate their awful doctrines and discoveries, to strike and astonish the mind with their united force.

This last is the method of the text, which I shall a little open and explain; but so as to conform myself to the Apostle's purpose in giving a brief collective view of Christianity, that, the whole of it being seen together, we may be the more sensibly affected by it.

1. This great mystery of godliness opens with-GOD MANIFEST IN THE FLESH.

When the scheme of man's redemption was laid, it was not thought fit that an Apostle, a prophet, a man like ourselves, no nor an Angel or Archangel, should be the instrument of it; but that the word of God, the Son of God, nay God himself (as he is here and elsewhere called) should take this momentous office upon him that heaven should stoop to earth, and that the divine nature should condescend to leave the mansions of glory, inshrine itself in a fleshly tabernacle, should be made man, should dwell among us, and die for us.

- If you ask, why may not a man, or angel, have sufficed to execute this purpose of man's

f For which reason it is not necessary for me to enter into the controversy, that divides the critics, concerning the authentic reading of this part of the text.

« AnteriorContinuar »