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ING DOWN HIS LIFE FOR US.
redemption, will induce us to love the most, or produce in us the greatest degree of gratitude and obedience.
It is to no purpose to say, as Dr. Priestley does, “ Every thing that Christ hath done, is to be referred to the love of God.” For, be it so, the question is, if his system be true, What hath he done ; and what is there to be referred to the love of God? To
the most, it can be but little. If Dr. Priestley be right, the breach between God and man is not so great, but that our.repentance and obedience are of themselves, without any atonement whatever, sufficient to heal it. Christ, therefore, could have but little to do. But the less he had to do, the less we are indebted to him, and to God for the gift of bim : and, in proportion as this is believed, we must of course, feel less gratitude, and devotedness of soul to God.
Another important motive with which the scriptures acquaint us is, THE LOVE OF CHRIST IN COMING INTO THE WORLD, AND LAY
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus ; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.-For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became
ye through his poverty might be made rich.-Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil.-Verily, he took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham.-The love of Christ constraineth_us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead ; and that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.- Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering, and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.- -To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Such is the uniform language of the New Testament, concerning the love of Christ; and such are the moral purposes to which it is applied. It is a presumption in favour of our system, that here the above motives have all their force : whereas, in the system of our opponents, they have scarcely any force at all. The following observations may render this sufficiently evident.
We consider the coming of Christ into the world, as a voluntary undertaking. His taking upon him, or taking hold, not of the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham ; his taking upon him the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men, and that from a state of mind, which is held up for our example ; and his becoming poor, though previously rich, for our sakes, and that as an act of grace; all concur to establish this idea. For this we feel our hearts bound, by every consideration that love unparalleled can inspire, to gratitude and obedience. But our opponents, by supposing Christ to have been a mere man, and to have bad no existence till he was born of Mary, are necessarily driven to deny, that his coming into the world was a voluntary act of his own; and consequently, that there was any love or grace in it. Dr. Priestley, in answer to Dr. Price, contends only that “he came into the world in obedience to the command of the Father, and not in consequence of his own proposal.” But the idea of his coming, in obedience to the command of the Father, is as inconsistent with the Socinian scheme, as his coming in consequence of his own proposal. For, if he had no existence previous to his being born of Mary, he could do neither the one nor the other. It would be perfect absurdity, to speak of our coming into the world as an act of obedience : and, on the hypothesis of Dr. Priestley, to speak of the coming of Christ under such an idea, must be equally absurd. *
We consider Christ's coming into the world, as an act of condescending love; such, indeed, as admits of no parallel. The riches of deity, and the poverty of humanity; the form of God, and the form of a servant, afford a contrast that fills our souls with grateful astonishment. Dr. Priestley, in the last mentioned performance, f acknowledges, that “the Trinitarian doctrine of the incarnation, is calculated forcibly to impress the mind with divine .condescension.” He allows the doctrine of the incarnation, as held by the Arians, to have such a tendency in a degree: but he tells Dr. Price, who pleaded this argument against Socinianism, that "the Trinitarian hypothesis of the Supreme God becoming man, and then suffering and dying for us, would, no doubt, impress the mind more forcibly still.” This is one allowed source of gratitude and obedience, then, to which the scheme of our adversaries makes no pretence, and for which it can supply nothing adequate. But Dr. Priestley thinks to cut up at one stroke, it seems, all the advantages which his opponents might hope to gain from these concessions, by adding; “With what unspeakable reverence and devotion do the Catholics eat their maker !” That a kind of superstitious devotion may be promoted by falsehood, is admitted : such was the voluntary humility of those who worshiped angels.' But, as those characters, with all their pretended humility, were vainly puffed up with a fleshly mind; so all that appearan
* Defence of Unitarianism, for 1786, p. 103.
† Page 103.
of reva erence and devotion which is the offspring of superstition, will be found to be something at a great remove from piety or devotedness to God. The superstitions of Popery, instead of promoting reverence and devotion, have been thought, by blinding the mind, and encumbering it with other things, to destroy them.* There are times, in which Dr. Priestley himself “cannot conceive of any practical use being made of transubstantiation :"t but not now it is put on a level with a doctrine which, it is allowed, “ tends for. cibly to impress the mind with divine condescension."
Once more: We believe that Christ, in laying down his life for us, actually died as our substitute; endured the curse of the divine law, that we might escape it; was delivered for our offences, that we might be delivered from the wrath to come ; and all this, while we were yet enemies. This is a consideration of the greatest weight : and, if we have any justice or ingenuousness about us, love like this must constrain us to live, not to ourselves, but to bim that died for us, and rose again! But, according to our adversaries, Christ died for us in no higher sense than a common martyr, who might have sacrificed his life to maintain his doctrine; and, by so doing, have set an example for the good of oth
* See Mr. Robinson's Sermon, on 2 Cor. iv. 4 entitled. The Christian Doc. trine of Ceremonies.
+ Defence of Unitarianism, for 1786, p. 33.
ers. If this be all, why should not we be as much indebted, in point of gratitude, to Stephen, or Paul, or Peter, who also in that manner died for us, as to Jesus Christ? And why is there not the same reason for their death being proposed as a motive for us to live to them, as for his, that we might live to him?
But there is another motive, which Dr. Priestley represents as being “ that in Christianity which is most favourable to virtue ; namely, a future state of retribution, grounded on the firm belief of the historical facts recorded in the scriptures; especially in the miracles, the death, and the resurrection of Christ. The man,” he adds, “ who believes these things only, and who, together with this, acknowledges a universal providence, ordering all events ; who is persuaded that our very hearts are constantly open to the divine inspection, so that no iniquity, or purpose of it, can escape his observation, will not be a bad man, or a dangerous member of society.”* Dr. Priestley, elsewhere, as we have seen, acknowledges, that “the love of God, in giving his Son to die for us, is the consideration on which the scriptures always lay the greatest stress as a motive to gratitude and obedience ;” and yet he speaks here, of
a future state of retribution, as being that in Christianity which is most favourable to virtue.” One should think, that what the scriptures always lay the greatest stress upon, should be that in Christianity which is most favourable to virtue, be it what it may. But, waving this, let it be considered, whether the Calvinistic system has not the advantage, even upon this ground. The doctrine of a future state of retribution, is a ground possessed by Calvinists, as well as by Socipians; and, perhaps, it may be found, that their views of that subject, and others connected with it, are more favourable to virtue, and a holy life, than those of their adversaries.
A motive of no small importance, by which we profess to be influenced, is, The thought of our oun approaching dissolution. Brethren, if you embrace what is called the Calvinistic view of things, you consider it as your duty and interest to be frequently conversing with mortality. You find such thoughts have a tendency to moderate your attachments to the present world ; to preserve you from being inordinately elated by its smiles, or dejected by its frowns. The consideration of the time being short, teaches you to hold all things with a loose hand; to weep, as though you wept not, and to rejoice, as though you rejoiced not. You reckon it a mark of true wisdom, to keep the end of your lives habitually in view ; and to follow the advice of the holy scriptures, where you are directed to go to the house of mourning, rather than to the house of feusting ; where the godly are described as praying, So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom ; and God himself, as saying, O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end !* But these things, instead of being recommended and urged as motives of piety, are discouraged by Dr. Priestley; who teaches, that it is not necessary to dwell in our thoughts upon death and futurity, lest it should interrupt the business of life, and cause us to live in perpetual bondage.f
* Letters to Mr. Burn, Letter V.
The scriptures greatly recommend the virtue of heavenly mindedness. They teach Christians to consider themselves as strangers and pilgrims on the earth; to be dead to the world, and to consider their life, or portion, as hid with Christ in God. The spiritual, holy, and happy state, which, according to the Calvinistic system, commences at death, and is augmented at the resurrection, tends, more than a little, to promote this virtue. If, brethren, you adopt these views of things, you consider the body as a tabernacle, a temporary habitation; and when this tabernacle is dissolved by death, you expect a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Hence it is, that you desire to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord. There are seasons in which your views are expanded, and your hearts enlarged. At those seasons, especially, the world loses its charms, and you see nothing worth living for, except to serve and glorify God. You have, in a degree, the same feeling which the Apostle Paul appears to have possessed, when he said, I am in a strait betwixt two, hav
* Eccles. vii. 2. Psalm xc. 12. Deut. xxxii. 29.
† Sermon on the Death of Mr. Robinson, pp. 7, 22.