« 前へ次へ »
gion may coincide with those Christian forms, and the case may be otherwise with the Mahometan form. As to vice, a man may
make the practice of it easy to himself, under all external forms of religion. Thus, under the several forms called Christian, it is but for a man to apply to himself the words of St. John, and the practice of vice is made easy to him.
1 John ii. 1, 2. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we (Christians) have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our fins ; and not for ours only, but also for the fins of the whole world. These words of St. John may not unnaturally be paraphrased thus. My little children, fin, or disobedience to God's laws, is disreputable and justly blameable, I, therefore, write these things unto you, that ye sin not ; nevertheless, if any of you fin, let him not be troubled, let him not be affli&ted; for (or because) we Christians have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation, attorement, and satisfaction for our fins. This, then, may be supposed to bespeak Jafety, to bespeak comfort, to a wicked Christian ; that is, to a wicked man,
who is a believer in Jesus Christ, and professes discipleship to him ; whatever St. John, or any other writer of the new testament, in opposition to this, may elsewhere have said, or intimated to the contrary. For if Jesus Christ is a propitiation, attonement, and satisfaction for all the fans of Christians, then the most wicked Chriftian must needs be in a safe and comfortable state ; because he may fairly presume, that God will not be fo unreasonable, so unjust, as to take double satisfaction for the same offences. And this may also seem to befpeak safety to all finners, as well Pagans and Infidels as Christians, as well impenitent as penitent offenders; because Christ is not only an advocate with the father, in the behalf of, and is a propitiation, attonement, and satisfaction for, the sins of all penitent believers or Christians, but he is also, (according to St. John) such an advocate for all finners, and such a propitiation, attonement, and satisfaction for all fins, even the sins of the whole world. Tho'possibly, in this, St. John may seem to be a little bordering upon heterodoxy. But to return.
If it should be said, that Chrift did not intend his disciples should rigorously comply with such precepts as those above mentioned,
but left them to put such a sense
upon his words, as their reasoning faculties (hould point out ; then the questions are, how do we know this to be the case ? Or how does this appear? seeing those precepts themselves do not admit it. Besides, such a liberty as this is not allowed; the Bible is declared to be the revealed will and word of God, and all that we are permitted to do, with regard to it, is only to examine the evidence by which it's divine Character is supported ; and when we are satisfied of that, we are not to enquire into the truth of it's doctrines, nor into the propriety of it's laws; but humbly to believe the former, and obey the latter ; every thing, beyond this, being declared to be great presumption, and prying into secret things which belong only to God ; so that what is urged, above, is only to serve a turn, and will be recalled at pleasure. If, indeed, mankind are to be under no other guidance than the original and primary law of nature, and if Christ's business with men, was only like that of Noah, to be a preacher of righteousness and a kind monitor to them, by pointing out, and prefing obedience to the aforesaid law, then all his precepts must be brought to the forementioned test, and
be tried by the standard of human reason, as it is called : but then, this totally finks Christ's authority, as a law-giver, and makes Christianity and Deism to be the very same thing, which is not admitted, or, if it be, it is only occasionally to get clear of a present difficulty, and will be discarded again, as foon as that turn is served. And if Christ is to be considered as a law-giver, whose authority is to be the ground and measure of obedience, which I apprehend to be currant Orthodoxy; then, in all laws, grounded on mere authority, the express letter of the law is the law, there being no other way to come at the will and intention of the Legislator, than in, and through, those very words by which that law is expressed. I say, in all such cases, the express letter of the law is the law, and not any sense that may be put upon it by the subject, or those who are to obey it, how reasonable soever such imposed sense may appear to be ; because, to interpret any law by reason, in opposition to it's most obvious sense, is to make reason the ground of that law, and of the obedience that is paid to it, which finks the authority of the law-giver, and reduces obedience to bare or dry morality, as it is called. Now, if
this be the case, viz. that Christ is to be considered as a Legislator, whose authority is to be the ground of obedience, then, as the express letter of his laws are his laws, and not any imposed sense which may be put upon them ; so, by a just consequence, all swearing, as well religious as prophane, and all resistance of evil, whether the injury
be great or small, are manifest violations of the laws of Christ. But then, this is not only contrary to the currant practice, but also against the currant and generally received opinions of Christians, and this must needs be greatly perplexing to an attentive mind.
Perhaps it may be said, that we are happily provided with a body of Clergy, men of learning and penetration, of diligence and industry in their callings, whose proper bufiness it is, and who have been trained up, and set apart for that purpose, viz. to guide men aright into the paths of truth, righteousness and peace; and that if we attend upon their ministry, and rely upon them, we may be sure not to miscarry, That we have a body of Clergy is true, but then it is equally as true, that all bodies of Clergy endeavour to support and mainlain that particular system of religion, that