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believed and reverentially obeyed it, to maintain sentiments, and adopt practices, erroneous and evil in themselves, and of fatal consequence to mankind!
We might, therefore, previously have expected that a revelation from God should illustrate, confirm, and enforce such things, as seem more level to our natural powers : and that it should make known to us many important matters, which we could not have otherwise discovered, and which would be found exceedingly different from all our notions and imaginations; seeing that our contracted views, and limited capacities, fall infinitely short of the omniscience of God. So that it is most reasonable to conclude, that the doctrinal truths, which more immediately relate to the divine nature, perfections, providence, and government, the invisible and eternal world, and the mysteries of redemption, constitute by far the most important part of revelation; as discovering to us those things “ which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, “ neither have they entered into the heart of man;" and which are at the same time essentially connected with our present hope, worship, and duty, and with our future happiness or misery.
He therefore cannot, according to the common use of language, be called a believer, who only holds those doctrines which he regards as the dictates of reason as well as of revelation; whilst he rejects the testimony of God, whenever he deems it unreasonable. And we may hence learn what judgment to form of those who affirm without hesitation, that the moral precepts and sanctions, with the more evident truths of the Bible, are the only
important part of it; that it is of little consequence what men believe, especially concerning those things which are in any degree mysterious; and that none but narrow bigots, and weak and ignorant people, lay any stress upon 'speculative opinions.' « He that believeth not maketh God a “a liar;” especially he that believeth not the testimony which God hath given of his Son, and of eternal life bestowed on sinners through him. This is the uniform doctrine of scripture ; and to contradict it is equivalent to a total rejection of divine revelation. Can it be supposed that the prophets and apostles were commissioned, and that the Son of God was manifested in the flesh, died on the cross, and rose from the dead, merely to inform mankind, that the Lord approved honesty, temperance, truth, and kindness, and disapproved the contrary vices ?
Or that the unnumbered testimonies, which the scriptures contain, to the mysteries of the divine nature, the person of the Redeemer, the work of redemption, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, may without any criminality, be disbelieved, derided, or reviled; provided men are moral in their conduct towards one another? and that God is equally pleased with those who thus affront his veracity, as with those who implicitly submit to his teaching, and credit his testimony? If this be the case, in what does the difference between the infidel and the believer consist? All, except avowed atheists, will allow the propriety of many precepts, and the truth of some doctrines, coinciding with those of the scrip
! John, ii. 12-21, 31--36.
1 John, v. 9–12.
tures : but the infidel admits them as the dictates of reason, not as the testimony of God; and the pretended believer rejects all, without hesitation, that appears not to accord with the same standard. Thus both of them believe their own reasonings, “ lean to their own understandings,” and “ make “ God a liar," when his testimony contradicts their self-confident decisions. It appears, therefore, that the prevailing notion, of the comparatively small importance of doctrinal truth, is subversive of revelation ; and in fact is only a more plausible and a more dangerous species of infidelity.
If we believe the scriptures to have been written by inspiration from God, and have any suitable apprehensions of his omniscience, veracity, and other perfections, we must be convinced that it is the height of arrogance for us, short-sighted erring creatures of yesterday, to speak of any
doctrine contained in them as false or doubtful, because it does not coincide with our reasonings or conceptions. Surely a small portion of modesty and humility might suffice to induce a confession, that we are more likely to be mistaken than the only wise God! In rejecting the doctrines evidently taught in the Bible, we must either arrogate to our own understanding a superiority above the omniscience of God, or impeach his veracity, or deny a part of the scriptures to be a divine revelation; reserving to ourselves the infallible determination, what part is of divine authority, and what is not. But, if we think any part of the scriptures, though true, to be of little or no importance, or of bad tendency, what do we but affront the infinite wisdom or goodness of God, as if he did not know what truths were proper to be revealed to man; or as if he purposely discovered those matters, which it would have been better for mankind never to have known? And, since it is evident that the Lord has, in the Bible, required the belief of certain doctrines as absolutely necessary to salvation; to insinuate that these doctrines are either false, doubtful, or of no value, must involve in it the grossest and most affronting blasphemy imaginable.
We do not indeed maintain that all the truth's of revelation are of equal importance, because they are not stated in scripture to be so: but none can be wholly unimportant; and we are not always competent to decide upon their comparative value. Some things are more obvious than others; and such as are more hard to be understood are not so well adapted to those who are unstable, and un“ learned” in the school of Christ: yet we are not authorized to reject, or even to doubt, any of them. We may
indeed demur as to what are the doctrines revealed in them, while in humble reverent teachableness we wait for clearer light upon the subject: and we must remain for some time in partial ignorance or error; because we cannot at once become acquainted with all scriptural truths, even when we have a disposition implicitly to believe them. There are some things which relate to the very life and essence of true religion; while others are necessary rather to our stability, comfort, and holy conduct : these we must by no means reject, or treat with indifference ; but it is possible that, to the last, we may be mistaken or ignorant about some of them, and yet be found among the heirs of salvation.
The importance of revealed truth may be shewn in another way; as it is the seed, or principle, in the soul, from which all inward or real holiness proceeds. Our Lord prays, “ Sanctify them by
thy truth: thy word is truth.”! And the apostle says, “ Beholding as in a glass” (namely, in the doctrine of Christ) “ the glory of the Lord, we are “ changed into the same image.”? And again,
, “ Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh.” This doctrine was, in the judgment of the apostle, “ the “great mystery of godliness ;” and indeed all the holy dispositions and affections towards God, all the genuine spiritual worship, all the willing obedience of filial love, and all the cheerful acquiescence in the divine will, and affiance on the divine truth and mercy, which have been found in the world since the fall of man, have arisen from a proper perception of this great truth, and the doctrines connected with it. Spirituality, or supreme valuation of the holy excellence of spiritual things, and disposition to seek pleasure and satisfaction in religion, is intimately connected with a believing dependence on the promised influences of the Holy Spirit: and that view of the worth of the soul, the evil of sin, the justice and mercy of God, the vanity of the world, and the believer's obligations to a Saviour“ who loved him, and redeemed him “to God with his blood,” which the doctrine of the cross communicates, is essentially necessary to deep repentance, genuine humility, gratitude, patience, meekness, forgiveness of injuries, love of
? John, xvii. 17--19.
2 Cor. iii. 18. iv. 3-6.