« 前へ次へ »
saith he, hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. And he spoke with such demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that three thousand persons were converted at one time.
Notwithstanding, therefore, our adversaries must be allowed to plead, that the apostles were, naturally, frail and fallible; notwithstanding it must be admitted, that they shewed marks of this human infirm. ity, during the whole period of our Lord's public ministry; yet it must be maintained, that they did not carry their infirmities into their evangelical testimony, or into the du. ties of their sacred office.
These men, fore-ordained of God; diļigently instructed by the Son of God, and solemnly appointed to the charge of superintending his church; were not au. thorised to take this sacred charge in hand, or to proclaim the Gospel, till they had received the plenary inspiration of that divine Spirit, which guided them into all
truth. It is not they that speak; it is God that speaketh in them. Their word, therefore, is the word of God: and woe to that man who shall add to it, or diminish from it: for, in so doing, he offendeth not against fallible men, but against the Holy Ghost. Wherefore our Lord saith to his apostles, He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me. (Luke, x. 16.)
Hence St. Paul, recognising this divine authority, and maintaining the dignity of his apostolical character, 'declares . to the Thessalonians-He, therefore, that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit. (1 Thess. iv. 8.)
Let us, therefore, my brethren, révere the records, and receive the precepts and the doctrine of the New Testament, wholly, as they are given to us, without prevarication, without wavering; being fully assured, that our faith in the testimony of the apostles and evangelists stands not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.
SERMON III. OF APOSTOLICAL AUTHORITY IN MATTERS
II. COR. I. 24. Not for that we have dominion over your faith ; but are helpers of your joy : for, by faith ye stand.
It is an obvious and common remark, that the good things of this life derive their principal value from their proper application, and a temperate forbearance in their enjoyment. Thus a moderate and seasonable use of those provisions with which a kind Providence has supplied our tables, is conducive to our comfort, to the preservation of our health, and the support of our frame; but an indiscreet or excessive indulgence in the use of these very blessings, produces inconvenience, disease, or death.
The same remark may be transferred from natural to moral subjects; and it will admit of a most important and forcible illustration, in regard to that principle of re
ligious freedom, and toleration, which is recognised by the laws of our land.
The proper object and design of this lenient spirit, is to discountenance, or prevent, persecution, and to secure to those who, by salutary admonition, cannot be brought and preserved within the pale of the established church-that portion of benevolence and forbearance which, from a Christian people, is due to all mankind.
It has also this good effect upon the regular members of the church, that it gives them the credit of submitting to the laws of order, not by compulsion, but from a willing mind; since they have the power of departing from us with temporal impunity, And thus, those that are approved amongst us are made manifest.' Toleration, there. fore, is a thing right in itself, with regard to those by whom it is conceded. Persecu: tion is utterly forbidden in the Gospel, where we are commanded to be gentle to, all men, to love even our enemies, and to serve God with a pure conscience.
But when men view this same toleration as authorising them, no less in a religious than in a civil sense, to withdraw from the
unity of the church, to profess what tenets they please, to frame their own faith, their own form of worship, their own rules of discipline, under the influence of private speculation, and the presumed sanction of the rights of conscience and Christian liberty, it ceases to be a blessing with regard to them ; it becomes detrimental to the harmony of society, and subversive of the very foundation of Christianity.
Notwithstanding, therefore, the tolerance of our laws arises from a true Christian principle, it behoves every professor of our holy religion seriously to consider, how far he is warranted by the Gospel to indulge in the use of that liberty which these laws have granted; to take care, that he does not construe, civil permission into sacred authority, or make the laws of the land the rule of his faith, and the measure of his profession. For we must all remember, that we shall be called to a strict account at a higher tribunal; and that the act of toleration does not constitute the code by which we must be judged. If, in compliance with our Lord's direction, it permits the wheat and the tares to grow together till the