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constitution required the delivering up all the surplus of a man's fortune to the apostles and clergy, for the church's use, or, at least, this was the general practice, and therefore must have been expected; and disenting from such general practice must have been greatly disreputable, else how came so strict a scrutiny to be made in Ananias's case ? And how came he and his wife to join in a lye, to save a part for themselves, if the case was otherwise ? but this, I think, is a case too plain to be disputed. Whether the apostles, or Mr. Whitfield, had any worldly advantage in view, when they carried on the work of their respective ministries, I am by no means a judge, and therefore will not presume to determine any thing about it ; but this I say, that they may have had such views; that their cases did not exclude such views; but rather naturally led to them and consequently, it was a very possible cafe, with respect to either of them.
But to return. As we gain but little afijtance from the history of the ministry of the apostles, towards the discovering and settling the grand point in question, viz. what is strictly and properly the christian revelation ? so, if we call in to our aid the
epistolary discourses of the apostles, I fear the case will not be much mended ; because those epistles furnish out materials for wrangling and endless disputations, so that not any thing with certainty can be concluded from them, when all the parts are taken into the case. Besides, the subječt matter of those discourses, for the most part, will not admit of being considered as parts of Christ's message ; because a great deal of them is altogether irrelative to that message, or else, upon some account or other, plainly appears not to have been contained in it. Thus, a great part of St. Paul's epistles conlift in Thewing the weakness and unprofitableness of the Jewish law, and in persuading the people not to submit to it; which, surely, cannot be conceived to be any part of that gospel which Christ preached to the Jews, in his own person; because, according to the history, he was so far from discharging men from paying obedience to that law, that, on the contrary, he seems rather to bave pressed their obedience to it. Nor can what St. Paul has said upon this point be any part of that gospel which Christ
gave in charge to his apostles to publish to the world ; because, if that had been the case,
then, surely, the apostles and first Christians would not have maintained the contrary, as we find they did, for some time, viz. 'till after the converson of St. Paul. Were I particularly to examine the subject matter of these epistolary discourses, I could thew that a great part of what is contained in them can be no part of Christ's melage ; and consequently, that those epistles, in the gross, cannot with any propriety, be considered as the Christian revelation ; but as this would be tedious, so it would also be useless, as the case is exceeding plain without it: Moreover, there are doctrines grounded, or pretended to be grounded upon these epistolary discourses of the apostles, such as that men are rendered acceptable to God, and that finners are recommended to his mercy, either through the perfect obedience, or the meritorious sufferings, or the prevailing intercession of Christ, or through one or another, or all of these ; which doctrines are, by men of letters, said to be plainly and fully contained in, and founded upon the express declarations of the apostles; as in Ephesans iv. 32. forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's fake bath forgiven you ; and in many other texts of like import.
But then, as those doctrines are plainly repugnant to our natural notions of things, to the eternal rules of right and wrong, and represent the Deity as acting contrary to the moral rectitude of his nature; so they cannot possibly be true ; and therefore, surely, may fairly be presumed to be no parts of the Christian revelation, whatsoever book they may be contained in, or whomsoever they may have been taught by. I am sensible, it is maintained by some learned men, that the above doctrines were not taught by the apostles, nor any of like kind; and that their writings have not been justly rendered into our language ; and that Ephef. iv.
32. if justice was done to the text, it would be read thus [forgiving one another, even as God declared, by Christ Jesus, he hath or will forgive you ;] this, I say, is averred by some learned men, tho' others aver the contrary ; but then, this is what I am not a judge of, nor am I sollicitous about it, being satisfied that I cannot in reason be obliged to receive those discourses as a guide to my judgment and behaviour, but under the forementioned limitations; and under those restrictions I can receive them all with-, out running any risque ; that is, without exVOL. II. I
posing myself to any dangerous and hurtful errors thereby. The epistolary discourses I have now under consideration, are said to have been wrote by several of the apostles ; but whether those apostles were their real authors, or whether those books have been truly transmitted down to us, or whether they have been juftly rendered into our language ; these muft of necessity be points of uncertainty to me, and to all others, who, in point of learning and reading, are upon a foot with me; and seeing the reputed authors of those books, and all those through whose bands they have passed, were fallible peccable men, who were liable to err, and to impose and be imposed upon ; at least, they were such for any proof that can be given to the contrary, and therefore they are to be considered as such ’till the contrary is proved ; this being the state of the case, with respect to the forementioned books, the question is, how are we illiterate perfons to act, so as to behave properly, and as we ought, with regard to them? Are we blindly to admit them all in the gross, as guides to our judgments and actions, without taking any farther thought about them? this, surely, cannot be right in any view,