« PreviousContinue »
there remains nothing to be believed, and no duty to be done.
Hence it appears, how contrary to reason and scripture, and to common sense, that position is, which has been espoused and maintained by many, either expressly or by implication, viz. That it is of no importance what men believe, or whether they believe the truths contained in divine revelation, or not, if their external conduct be regular and good. This position is of the most danger. ous and evil tendency : For it wholly sets the gospel aside, and excludes that as altogether needless, which Christ says he came into the world to establish and promote. According to this it is of no importance whether christians act from principle, or not, or from what principle they act, if they act from any ; or whether they believe or understand one truth contained in the gospel ; or disbelieve and reject all. This makes all creeds and confessions of faith, or bearing witness to the truth, entirely useless and vain : And according to this, no candidate for admission into a church, or to the work of the ministry, ought to be examined as to his understanding and knowledge, or belief of any doctrine contained in divine revelation, as any qualification necessary in order to his being admitted : For however ig. norant he may be of the principles of Christ, or whatever he believes, he may be as good a christian, and as fit for an officer and teacher in the church, as any other
And the directions and commands which the apostlePaul gave to Timothy and Titus, respecting the sound doctrines of the gospel, were highly improper ; or, at least, are out of date now. Such are the following : " I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine. Take heed to thyself, and to thy doctrine. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. The things which thou hast heard at me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to
faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."* “A bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God, holding fast the faithful word, as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince gainsayers, whose mouths must be stopped. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works : In doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity; sound speech that can not be condemned.”+
The consequence and evil tendency of the sentiment now under consideration appears from fact. That which is now called liberality of sentiment, and catholicism, which is spreading far and wide, and is celebrated by multitudes, as a most excellent, noble way of thinking, has its foundation in this. This liberality and catholicism discards all attachment to any particular system of truth, or belief of any distinguishing doctrines of the gospel, as useless and hurtful; and holds that it is no matter what a man's religious creed or practice is, or whether he regards any, or not; as he may be a good man, and go to heaven without any thing of this kind. This really renounces the Bible, and paves the way to infidelity : And this leads on to the darkness and horrors of atheism itself.
IV. From the foregoing system of truths and duties, which is contained in the Bible, and taken wholly from it, arises the most clear and satisfying evidence that it is a revelation from God, and no human invention : “But holy men of God have spoken and written it, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
The evidence that the Bible contains a divine revela. tion has been in some measure exhibited and considered, in the first chapter of this System : especially what is called the external evidence. And some of the internal evidence was mentioned: And it was observed, that this would be made to appear in the clearest and most advantageous light, by prosecuting the inquiry concerning the doctrines and duties revealed and inculcated in this book ; which was then proposed. This is now • 1 Tim.i. 3. iv. 16. vi. 3, 4. 2 Tim. i. 13. i. 2. Tit. i. 7,9, 11, 13. ii. 1,7, 8
finished. And upon a careful review of the whole, must it not be evident to every attentive, honest, candid mind, that in this book only is to be found such a system of truth, which could not be contrived, or even thought of by man; but must be from God : That it contains a system of doctrines and commands, which man's wisdom does not teach, and never can; but which the Holy Ghost alone teacheth ?
Here the true God is represented in his glorious character, subsisting in a manner infinitely above our comprehension ; yet suited, so far as we can conceive, most perfectly to accomplish his revealed designs, and to raise creatures, the objects of his love, to the highest happi
He is clothed with unlimited power, wisdom and goodness, absolutely independent, self-sufficient, and all-sufficient; and has fixed on a plan of operation, which is wise and good, like himself; including all his works, and every event that shall ever take place, suited in the highest degree to glorify himself, and effect the highest good and happiness of the creation : And they must be blessed who love and trust in him. His law is perfectly right, wise and excellent, and expresses the moral character and perfections of God; is infinitely important, and must stand forever, as the only rule of moral rectitude : And every one must be happy so far as he is conformed to it. Here rebellion against God, and violation of this law, is represented in the infinitely evil and malignant nature of it; and all the dispensations and works of God, and his conduct towards his creatures, are suited and designed to make the clearest and most lasting display of this. Here is revealed the way in which mankind are become universally sinful, mortal and miserable ; and the infinite guilt and misery of their state is discovered ; and that they are totally ruined and lost in themselves. This lays the only foundation for the discovery of infinite benevolence and sovereign grace in the redemption of man; and is the ground of the existence and revelation of the person, character and works of the Redeemer, and salvation by him. And every thing relating to redemption, is in the highest degree suited to make the brightest and most glorious manifestation of the power, wisdom, righteousness,
goodness, truth and faithfulness of God, and his infinite displeasure with the sinner, to humble man, and shew his absolute and entire dependance on God, consistent with the infinite vileness and criminality of the least devi. ation, even in heart, from perfect obedience to his law; to discover the infinite evil of the just consequence of sin ; and set before creatures the reasonableness and importance of obedience, and the strongest motives that are possible, to avoid every sin, and fear and obey God. And every truth of divine revelation is levelled against the sin and rebellion of man; and every thing included in redemption, is perfectly suited to form the redeemed to the most beautiful, sweet, perfect holiness, and to raise them to the highest happiness and glory. And while eternal happiness, on the one hand, and endless misery on the other, are set before men, and one or the other must be the certain portion of every one, according to his conduct in this life, in embracing the gospel and obeying the Redeemer, or rejecting him, and living in sin ; this tends to solemnize every mind and fill every one with the greatest concern, and awaken him to the utmost exertions to escape the one, and obtain the other ; and “ work out his own salvation with fear and trem. bling.'
And the exercise and practice of piety, righteousness and benevolence in all the branches of religion and christian morality, which consist in conformity of heart and life, to the doctrines and precepts contained in the scripture, is the only way to render every man happy in this life, in their various connections, and proper business, and in the use and enjoyment of the things of this world. And were this to take place universally, it would necessarily form men into the most happy society that can take place in this state ; and at the same time rectify and enlarge their hearts, and raise their pleasing hope and prospect of glory and honour, and immortality, in the favour of God, and the society of all his friends, in the everlasting kingdom of the Redeemer, in consequence of their patient continuance in well doing:
When all this, and more, which might be mentioned, and will naturally come into the view of him who properly attends to the subject, is well considered, together
with the external evidence, that the scripture was formed by divine inspiration, mentioned in the first chapter, it must produce a conviction and fixed persuasion that the Bible contains a divine revelation of a system of important saving truth, which is not to be found any where else, and never could have been known, or invented by the reason of man, in his present corrupt state, had it not been thus revealed from heaven ; unless the mind be greatly biassed and prejudiced against the truth by the false taste and evil propensities of the heart, by which the reason of man may be so perverted and abused, and the mind so greatly blinded, as to reject the plainest, most consistent and important truth, as gross error and absurdity; and imbibe the most inconsistent and erroneous sentiments, in opposition to the truth.
It is true, indeed, that in order to discern the internal evidence of the truth of the holy scriptures, and see it in its true, clearest and most convincing light, the mind must possess a right taste, and be friendly to true wisdom ; for the great and leading truths of divine revelation are more objects of taste, than of mere speculative reason, and cannot be discerned in a true light, in their true beauty, excellence and importance, without the former, and by the latter only. Wisdom is seen and justified only by the children of wisdom ; and not by the children of folly and vice, who are under the power of a false taste and disposition of mind, which necessari. ly blinds the mind to the beauty, excellence and consistence of the things and truths of the highest concern in the moral world. But he who has a true and proper moral taste and discerning, whose heart is disposed to be friendly to heavenly wisdom, is prepared to see the divine original of the Bible, from the system of truths it contains, and the exercises and duties there required, conformable to the doctrines revealed ; and to perceive, with a peculiar satisfaction and pleasure, the all convincing evidence, that what the scripture reveals is divine, and comes from God. He believes, and has the witness within himself, that this is the testimony of God. He has an understanding to know him that is true; and that this is the true God, and eternal life. * This is expressly asserted by Christ, “ He that is of
• 1 John y. 9, 10, 20.