Page images
PDF
EPUB

semble the difference þetween truth and error, righteousness and iniquity, obedience and disobedience; or to palliate, in the ears of men, the severity of that account which they must render of their deeds in the last day.

The apostles of Christ, with equal frankness, recommend Christian charity under its just and necessary limitations.--Now the end of the commandment, saith St. Paul, is charity. (1 Tim. i. 5.). But what charity? Does he mean an easy concession to the opinions and optional practices of men, such as the liberality of our dayşa charity which ab; stains from reproof, and marks neither error nor corruption? Far from it. It is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience and faith unfeigned. And to shew us that this charity is not a principle of indiscriminate forbearance, it is immediately added From which some, having swerved, have turn. ed aside into vain jangling, desiring to be teachers of the law, 'understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm. That charity, then, which is the end of the commandment, is not blind to the vain conceit and ignorant presumption of these false teachers, nor does it abstain from an open reprehension of their proceedings. St. Paul goes further he uses active means to restrain their pernicious practices: for we are told, in the preceding verses, that he has left 'l'imóthy at Ephesus, for the express purpose that he

that he may charge some that they teach no other doctrine. į In another place he proposes to the same Timothy, his own apostolical character as a model for his imitation :- But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long - suffering, charity, patience, (2

Tim. iii. 10.)

Here let us pause - Long - suffering, charity, patience! Vhere these good qualities in the apostle's own character are points ed out for the imitation of those ministers who are to succeed him in the government of the church, we might expect to find, if anywhere in the New Testament, i that accommodating spirit which resolves the essentials of Christianity into sincerity of devotion, under the sole direction of private judgment, and takes the profession of men as a sufficient credential of that sincerity,

With what surprise, then, and disappointment, must the advocate of modern libérality peruse the context !—This know also, saith the apostle, that, in the last days, perilous times shall come ; for men shall be lovers of their ownselvés, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleašures more than lovers of God. : The characters which are here exhibited with all this selfishness, arrogance, contempt of every virtue, relative and personal, and violation of every law, sacred and human, public and private--such characters cannot surely be recognised in civil society, unless it be amongst the thoughtless and profane, who live without hope, and without God in the world. So it might be thought; but this is not the apostle's meaning. The men are professors of religion in their wayhaving â FORM of godliness, but denying the power thereof.--Not producing those fruits which necessarily spring from true godliness: or even worse than this-denying that godliness ought to produce the fruits of righteousness.

But how was the great principle of cha: rity to operate in behalf of such professors ? Was the faithful minister of the Gospel to acknowledge them as dissenting brethren to connive at their irregularities—to make allowance for the tenderness of conscience, the freedom of opinion, and the rights of private judgment ?—those general pleas of disorder and insubordination ! No! The commandment is-From such, turn away!

Let us, then, consider their character more attentively, that they may be distinctly known in order to be thus avoided: for as we now live in those last and perilous days, we must suppose that some such characters have already appeared.

We find that they are not only nominal professors, but pretended teachers also, though separatists from the church. Foras the apostle continues his bold but accurate sketches-For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women--persons of weak minds and little reflection-laden with sins--amongst some sectaries we have heard as a maxim, " The greater the sinner, the greater the saint;* led away-that is, seduced from the apos.

[ocr errors]

tolical church with diver's lusts—with a variety of irregular desires and visionary fancies---ever learning-professing a continual reform and improvement in the system of religion--but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth--never apprehending the pure truth of the Gospel

. Now as Jannes and Jambres—the Egyptian wizards--withstood Moses—the authorised minister of God-so do these also resist the truth-their mind is always fruitful in cavils and trivial objections.—Men of corrupt minds-heady and self-conceited--reprobate concerning the faith-void of judgment, as to the immutable faith of the Gospel.

But-the apostle adds--they shall proceed no further—they may resist, but they shall not overthrow the truth; the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church ;- for their folly shall be manifest to all men, as that of the Egyptian wizards also was.

Notwithstanding this general exposure of their folly, they discover no marks of a salutary reformation : they return not to the bosom of the church: for evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse ; deceive ing and being deceived.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »