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SERMON 1.
CAUTION RECOMMENDED IN THE USE AND APPLL-

CATION OF SCRIPTURE LANGUAGE.
Erven as our beloved brother Paul also, accord-
ing to the wisdom given unto him, hath written un-
to you ; as also in all his epistles, speaking in theni
of these things ; in which are some things hard to
be understood, which they that are unlearned and
unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures,
unto their own destruction.—2 Pet. ii, 15, 16.

It must not be dissembled that there are many
real difficulties in the Christian Scriptures; whilst,
at the same time, more, I believe, and greater,
may justly be imputed to certain maxims of inter-
pretation, which have obtained authority without
reason, and are received without inquiry. One of
these, as I apprehend, is the expecting to find, in
the present circumstances of Christianity, a mean-
ing for, or something answering to every appella-
tion and expression which occurs in Seripture;
Or, in other words, the applying to the personal
condition of Christians at this day, those titles,
phrases, propositions, and arguments, which be-
long solely to the situation of Christianity at its

I am aware of an objection which weighs much
with many serious tempers, namely, that to sup-
pose any part of Scripture to be inapplicable to
us, is to suppose a part of Scripture to be useless ;
which seems to detract from the perfection weat-
tribute to these oracles of our salvation. To this
I can only answer, that it would have been one of
the strangest things in the world, if the writings
of the New Testament had not like all other books,

SERMON I.
CAUTION BECOMMENDED IN THE USE AND APPLI-

CATION OF SCRIPTURE LANGUAGE.
Even as our beloved brother Paul also, accord-
ing to the wisdom given unto him, hath written un-
to you ; as also in all his epistles, speaking in theni
of these things ; in which are some things hard to,
be understood, which they that are unlearned and
unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures,
unto their own destruction.—2 Pet. iii. 15, 16.

It must not be dissembled that there are many real difficulties in the Christian Scriptures; whilst, at the same time, more, I believe, and greater, may justly be imputed to certain maxims of interpretation, which have obtained authority without reason, and are received without inquiry. One of these, as I apprehend, is the expecting to find, in the present circumstances of Christianity, a meaning for, or something answering to, every appellation and expression which occurs in Scripture; or, in other words, the applying to the personal condition of Christians at this day, those titles, phrases, propositions, and arguments, which be

long solely to the situation of Christianity at its I first institution.

I am aware of an objection which weighs much i with many serious tempers, namely, that to sup. i pose any part of Scripture to be inapplicable to

us, is to suppose a part of Suripture to be useless ; which seems to detract from the perfection weattribute to these oracles of our salvation. To this I can only answer, that it would have been one of the strangest things in the world, if the writings of the New Testament had not, like all other books, been composed for the apprehension, and conse quently adapted to the circumstances, of the persons they were addressed to; and that it would have been cqually strange, if the great, and in many respects the inevitable alterations, which

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USE OP SCRIPTURE LANGUAGE. 275 Scripture by titles of great seeming dignity and import; they were “elect," " called,” « saints;"* they were « in Christ;"1 they were “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." # That is, these terms were em ployed to distinguish the professors of Christianity from the rest of mankind, in the same manner as the names of Greek and Barbarian, Jew and Gentile; distinguished the people of Greece and Israel from other nations. The application of such phrases to the whole body of Christians is become now obscure ; partly because it is not easy to conceive of Christians as a body at all, by reason of the extent of their name and numbers, and the little visible union that subsists among them; and partly because the heathen world with whom they were compared, and to which comparison these phrases relate, is now ceased, or is removed from our observation. Supposing, therefore, these cxpressions to have a perpetual meaning, and either forgetting the original use of them, or finding that, at this time, in a great measure exhausted and insignificant, we resort to a sense and an application of them, easier, it may be, to our comprehension, but extremely foreign from the design of their authors, namely, to distinguish individuals amongst us, the professors of Christianity, from one another : agreeably to which idea the most flattering of these names, the "elect," “called," "saints," have, by bold and unlearned men, been appropriated to themselves and their own party with a presumption and conceit injuri.

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ous to the reputation of our religion amongst
"them that are without," and extremely disgust.
ing to the sober part of its professors; whereas,
that such titles were intended in a sense common
to all Christian converts, is well argued from ma.
ny places in which they occur, in which places
you may plainly substitute the terms convert or

e Rom. viii. 39..6 7.

11 Pet. il, 9.'

om, vill, li

Scripture by titles of great seeming dignity and import; they were “elect,” “called, « saints;"* they were or in Christ;”+ they were “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.”+ That is, these terms were employed to distinguish the professors of Christiani. ty from the rest of mankind, in the same manner as the names of Greek and Barbarian, Jew and

Gentile; distinguished the people of Greece and * Israel from other nations. The application of

such phrases to the whole body of Christians is become now obscure; partly because it is not easy to conceive of Christians as a body at all, by reason of the extent of their name and numbers, and the little visible union that subsists among them; and partly because the heathen world with whom they were compared, and to which comparison these phrases relate, is now ceased, or is removed from our observation. Supposing, therefore, these expressions to have a perpetual meaning, and either forgetting the original use of them, or finding that, at this time, in a great measure exhausted and insignificant, we resort to a sense and an application of them, easier, it may be, to our comprehension, but extremely foreign from the de

sign of their authors, namely, to distinguish inlabor dividuals amongst us, the professors of Christian

ity, from one another : agreeably to which idea is the most flattering of these names, the select,".

“called," " saints,” have, by bold and unlearned men, been appropriated to themselves and their own party with a presumption and conceit injuri. ous to the reputation of our religion amongst " them that are without,” and extremely disgust. ing to the sober part of its professors; whereas, that such titles were intended in a sense common to all Christian converts, is well argued from ma. ny places in which they occur, in which places you may plainly substitute the terms convert or

* Rom. viii. 33. i. 6 7.

t1 Pet. il, 9.

† Rom. viii, 1.

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USE OF SCRIPTURE LANGUAGE. 277
ing another community into their place, compo-
sed, whilst it was carrying on, an object of great
magnitude in the attention of the inspired writers
who understood and observed it. This event,
which engaged so much the thoughts of the apos-
tle, is now only read of, and hardly that--the re.
ality and the importance of it are little known or
attended to. Losing sight, therefore, of the pro-
per occasion of these expressions, yet willing, after
our fashion, to adapt them to ourselves, and find-
ing nothing else in our circumstances that suited
with them, we have learnt a: length to apply them
to the final destiny of individuals at the day of
judgment; and, upon this foundation, has been
erected a doctrine, which lays the axe at once to
the root of all religion, that of an absolute appoint-
ment to salvation or perdition independent of our-
selves or any thing we can do; and, what is extra-
ordinary, those very arguments and expressions
(Rom.chap. ix, x. xi.), which the apostle employ-
ed to vindicate the impartial mercies of God,
against the narrow and excluding claims of Jewish
prejudice, have been interpreted to establish a
dispensation the most arbitrary and partial that
could be devised.

Fourthly; The conversion of a grown person
from heathenism to Christianity, which is the case
of conversion commonly intended in the epistles,
was a change of which we have now no just con-
ception : it was a new name, a new language, a
new society; a new faith, a new hope; a new ob-
ject of worship, a new rule of life; a history was

pect of futurul of discovery and c; a history was

disclosed full of discovery and surprise; a pros-
pect of futurity was unfolded, beyond imagination
awful and august; the same description applies,
in a great part, though not entirely, to the con-
version of a Jew. This, accompanied as it was with
the pardon of every former sin, (Rom. iii. 25.),
was such an era in a man's life, so remarkable a
period in his recollection, such a revolution of
every thing that was most important to him, as
might well admit of those strong figures and sig.

of those

important solution.

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