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tainty, that we learn the opinions and laws of any legislator, we may learn the doctrines and precepts of the chriftian legiflator. Men may and do form different opinions, and fo they do concerning the writings of Plato, the conftitution under which they live, and the laws made the prefent year. Though there may be oppofite opinions, the majority will think effentially alike. Should a malefactor, to excufe himself, plead oppofite opinions refpecting the law, would this be accepted in a judicial court? Will fuch an excufe be accepted in the fupreme court of the universe ?
God has given men power to
examine and decide on the fub ject of religion; this renders religious skepticism criminal. Any man of common fense and honeft inquiry may fatisfy his mind refpecting all effential doctrines. The laws and doctrines of chrif tianity are as eafily understood, as the laws of any community, as the doctrines of any religion. We have only to open the facred volume, and truth is vifible before us; we have only to look, and the path of life is feen. All may know, what is truth; "the wayfaring man, though a fool, need
oufly believes these things? Will he, who makes convenience his law, and his own pleasure the higheft object, conduct as the man, who loves the law of the Lord, and feels the charity, which feeketh not her own? No dream of enthufiafm is more wild, than the indifference refpecting relig ious opinions, which fome perfons avow. Their religion indeed is "made of fuch ftuff, as dreams are." Doubts and uncertainty will inevitably render morality inconftant, devotion languid, hope wavering, fortitude feeble, and the character fufpicious.
The infinite importance of relig ion preffes an immediate decifion on the mind. Is it important for a phyfician to entertain those views of chymistry, anatomy, and medicine, beft calculated to guard against contagion, and to heal the difeafes of the body? But what is the body, what is life, compared with the immortal foul? Yet, fhould we not deteft, as a murderer, the physician, whofe mind was not decided refpecting the different fyftems of these sciences? What fhould we think of a prince, prefident or ruler, whose mind was not stored with political knowledge, whofe opinion was not decided refpecting the best mode of government? Yet what are the bursting bubbles of human gov ernments, what are nations and empires, compared with the gofpel of JESUS, the crown and throne of glory, prepared for the children of GoD?
Religion's all; defcending from the fkies To wretched man, the goddess in her left Holds out this world, and in her right the next."
Thefe remarks fhow how improper and wicked it is for any man or party of men to complain of oth
Men ought immediately to form their opinions on religious fubjects, because their opinions influence their moral and religious conduct. Though the paffions of men often impel them to actions, which their judgments difapprove; yet nothing can be more abfurd, than to fuppofe that opinions have no influence on actions. Will he, who denies the divinity of the Saviour, the holiness of the fabbath, the divine appointment of baptifm and the Lord's fupper, conduct like the man, who feri
ers for adopting theological opinions for themselves. If it be duty for all men to be determined for themselves on religious doctrines; then it must be duty for every individual. It is his duty to adopt just opinions; if he do not, I may withdraw my influence and fupport from him; I may by fair means endeavour to prevent his propagating his bad principles; but him I may not affail with any weapon, but found argument, drawn from the fcripture maga. zine. It is duty for every man to form a creed for himself, but not for others. Every man has an equal right; therefore I am as liable to the inquifition of my neighbour, as he is to mine.
If it be duty for all men to form religious opinions; then are they accountable to GOD for the manner, in which they perform this fervice. GoD requires men to believe according to a known ftandard of truth, his word is truth. He, that believes according to the opinions of his fathers or ministers, or his own wicked wishes, does not perform his duty, does not obey any command. Human tribunals have cognizance of actions only; at the bar of God thoughts, and wishes, and defires, and opinions will be judged, for the Judge knoweth the heart. Not only condu&, but belief will be examined in the judgment of the great day; not only actions, but opinions will be judged, and punished, or rewarded. In that awful moment, when all mankind fhall stand before GoD, voluntary errors refpecting religious truth, pride of philofophy, and obftinacy of opinion, will be placed on the left hand of the Judge: therefore it is of infinite importance, that we take heed, how and what we ear, and read, and believe.
For the Panoplist.
OBSERVATIONS ON HEB. xiii. 7.
Whofe FAITH follow, confidering the end of their converfation. THIS is understood to be an exhortation to remember departed ministers. For although the first claufe, as it ftands tranflated, feems to forbid this conftruction, there is nothing in the original to forbid it; but on the contrary every thing feems to require it. The ftrict reading is this; Remember your guides, who have spoken to you the word of God; whose FAITH follow, confidering the end of their converfation.
We are here instructed, I. That the virtuous lives of christian men are to be specially remembered, as being more interefting than any natural qualities, any thining talents, or fcientifick attainments. Nay, if they have · been preachers of the firft eminence, their general conversation is as much to be remembered, as any thing they have fpoken, and perhaps more; because a truly christian life is a continual lecture; more luminous, in fome refpects more perfuafive, and more edify. ing than all other preaching.
II. Here is a farther intimation that it is of particular confequence when we call to mind the converfation of fuch men, to confider the end of it. Inftructive and alluring as it is in the abstract, it is yet more fo, it feems, when we fo trace it, as to obferve where and how it terminates, or what is its refult; for this is the idea conveyed by the original term.
There are two ideas, indeed, which go to explain the end of fuch a converfation. One is, the point in which it did terminate in the firft inftance. This is refult, in one view. And if this was in
cluded, the words which follow will appear to have a clofe connexion with it. "Jefus Chrift the fame yesterday, and today, and for ever." To hold him up in that view was the point, it seems, in which the converfation of thofe holy men terminated. All truly chriftian converfation terminates in the fame point. It holds up JESUS CHRIST as invariably worthy of perfect efteem, homage and confidence: the fame complete image of the invifible GOD; that he ever was; the fame allfufficient Mediator and Reftorer of fallen men; the fame gracious Mafter, incomparable Teacher, and Pattern for all to copy after; as true a Friend to his true followers now, as he was to his firft disciples, and the fame unalterable friend for ever. This is the refult which Saint Paul brings to view, when he fays, For me to live, is CHRIST.
The other view of the refult of true christians' converfation, is a peaceful death; the beatifick approbation of their Divine Mafter, and the crown of life which he hath promised to the faithful. And thus a well known expofitor comments on the place. "Confider how comfortably, how joyfully, they finished their course."
First, if we are to imitate their faith, we must have a care to receive the fame word of revelation which they received: instead of leaning to our own understandings; inftead of grounding our faith on the wifdom of men; inftead of being content to have no more information from heaven than the light of nature gives; or no more of fcripture than the pride of philofophy will admit. We must look to it that we receive the divine fyftem entire, and that none of its effential parts be rejected, Otherwife, though we may feem to have faith, we have not the truth, but fomething elfe in its place. We must watch against those prejudices, those habits, and connexions, which make men unwilling, or afraid, to receive the whole truth; and which often induce a difowning of important parts of it. We must embrace with particular folicitude, the peculiar things of divine revelation, which it was the fpecial defign of the blessed gospel to unfold: thofe new inftructions which our fallen condition rendered most deeply interefting; and which no finite being, without immediate direction from heaven, had either authority to give, or invention to conceive. It is here that the faith of true chriftians, from age to age, is moft emphatically expreffed; and finds a moft rational fatisfaction in relying fimply on the authority of God, and not on the conjectures and reafonings of men.
The piety and the virtues of thofe holy men we are here called to remember, did not grow out of human philofophy. Nor were they mere natural religion, or common morality. They grew out of the doctrine of CHRIST, and the glory of GoD manifefted, and heavenly grace displayed, by and
The infpired writer feems to intimate that a due contemplation of fuch prefent result, and final iffue of a christian life, muft excite in others a ftrong folicitude how they fhall attain to live in that manner and this is the question which is here answered. Confidering the end of their converfation, imitate their faith. This, it feems, is the way to live as they lived, and to live to the fame effect.
'This important exhortation, FOLLOW THEIR FAITH, divides itflf into two parts.
through him. They grew out of the fublime myfteries, fublime precepts, tranfcendent examples, and exceeding great and precious prom. ifes, which it is the peculiar glory of the gofpel to declare, and which, they by faith familiarized. From hence fprung their enlarged views of divine things, their high fentiments of duty, and their exalted devotion. From hence their deep humility, their glowing love and gratitude, their ftrong afpirations to the glorifying of their God and Redeemer, in their bodies and fpirits. From hence their "love to all faints," and wonderful benev, olence to their very perfecutors; with all thofe relative virtues, which attend on fuch a fpirit. Their kindness was copied from Chrift; whofe love, paffing knowledge, had touched and expanded their hearts. From the fame fource fprung their fpirituality, felf denial, and other diftinguishing traits of chriftian character.
And hence their fidelity as minifters, who acted in that character! Their interefting and impreffive manner of delivering their meffages; their fervency of fpirit in the whole of their Mafler's work. They fet HIM before them, who came to feek and fave that which was loft. His love contrained
thankful nor humble, in due manner; nor will they be merciful, in any extenfive or uniform measure. If the free grace of God, or the infinite condefcenfion of the Lord Jefus, to us finners, be not recognized, we know but little about goodness or condefcenfion; and our most generous fentiments will be comparatively ungracious.
But there is another particular included in following the faith of true chriftians. We must fee
In vain do we expect to exhibit a chriftian converfation without christian ideas. They who be hold not the glory of God in the face of Jefus Chrift, that is, through the medium of his wonderful character, and the redemption by him, will of course be greatly deficient in their divinity, their religion, and morality. Thofe who have not feen their need of mercy as being wretched, and miferable, and poor, and blind, and naked, will be neither
Secondly, that we have "the fame Spirit of faith." That is, that we not only acknowledge the fame gospel, but receive it as they did with the fame enlightened and heartfelt perceptions of the ftamp of divinity on the face of it, the wifdom of God, and the power of God; the fame fenfibility to the free love and grace of heaven, to the great falvation, and our infinite need of it; the fame confidential submission to mercy and to duty; and the fame union of heart to the Divine Redeemer in every branch of his great character.
Without fuch faith as this, there is fometimes, indeed, a regular form of religion and morality; but it wants the fpirit and the genius of chriftianity. The faith we now contemplate is an animating foul. It is a "lively faith." It purifies the heart. lt affimilates the fubject to what he beholds in the great object of faith. It conforms his views to the pure and heavenly nature of the gofpel doctrines: it fublimates his affections and it carries him in a chriftian way to all incumbent duty.
characters are formed, and holy converfations produced. It was by faith, he tells us, that Abraham, and Mofes, and other worthies of ancient time, lived as they lived, and died as they died. It was by faith in gofpel realities, he here teaches us, that thofe holy men whom he bids us remember, exhibited fuch virtues, and finished fo happily. "Live by the fame faith then," he indirectly fays to us, "and your converfation and your last end, fhall be like theirs. AS JESUS CHRIST is the fame yefterday, and today, and for ever; fo a living faith in him, will ever, and invariably, according to its measure, have the fame refult. While it changes you into his own image, from glory to glory, it will affimilate you to all thofe holy men who are gone to glory, and will raife you to the fame high condition."
We have thus confidered the two particulars fuppofed to be included in following the faith of eminent chriftians. And it is of ferious importance that both be kept in view.
Let no one fuppofe then, that mere orthodoxy in religious things, is all that is neceffary; for certainly that does not come up to the faith of ancient chriftians. It can neither produce a converfation like theirs, nor have the fame refult. Inftead of inferring fafety to the fubject, it places him in a yet more critical fituation; and no perfon has more reafon to be alarmed than the mere orthodox He fees where the truth lies, but he does not truly embrace it. He is convinced, but not brought over. He knows his Lord's will, and yet does not " prepare him felf" and do it. He ought to exhibit a fublime piety, a tranfcend. ent virtue; but he exhibits noth
ing which is genuine. He is therefore emphatically without excufe.
But on the other hand, Who can, with this facred paffage in view, think it proper to fay, It is of little confequence what a man believes, if his life is right.Change the expreffion and it is juft this: It is of little confequence whether we have the faith of the first chriftians, provided we live their lives. And this implies, that we may live their lives without following their faith.
But infpiration, we plainly fee, is against every fuch idea; and this is more than ten thousand arguments for its confutation. If any perfon nevertheless will venture upon fuch a fentiment, and expect that it will carry him fafe, let him prepare to give a reafon of the hope which is in him. Let him fhew, from the nature of things, how fuch a fpirit and life, as marked the primitive chriftians, can poffibly be exhibited upon principles quite different from theirs, or upon any principles, without fuch a faith in the Son of God, as they lived by, and without the help of thofe gofpel truths, which they kept in view.
It is true that, with chriftian heads, men may have pagan hearts; and in practice fall below many unbelievers: and this is fometimes made an objection to fetting up faith fo high. But it ftill holds good, that having the faith of true chriftians, in both particulars, will unfailingly produce a fimilar preeminence in life. It ftill holds good, that living by thofe truths of revelation, which they lived by, and believing in them continually, as they believed, will and must do for us all that has been faid. Let us therefore have full confidence in the exhortation here given