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can we better determine whether the definition of faith, as a rational persuasion, may be admitted, or must be rejected; as also whether any man is able, or not able, to do any thing towards obtaining a true and saving faith?—Let every one answer these questions to himself.—We will now, from the same highly applauded author,* collect a few sentiments relative to obedience; not with a design to criticise upon a sincere and truly pious writer, but to examine what the Christian cause gains by tenets,f " something new and out of the common road."
"I Some, says he, are so near the kingdom of God, whilst they continue in a natural state; they are convinced of the spirituality ef the law, that it bindeth us principally to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves, and to perform universal obedience to God, in all our inward thoughts and affections, as well as in all our outward actions, and to do all the duties that we owe to our neighbour, out of this hearty love. And they struggle and labour with great earnestness to subdue their inward thoughts and affections to the law of God, and to abstain, not only from some sins, but from all known sins; and to perform every known duty of the law, with their whole heart and soul as they think, and are so active and intent in their devout practice, that they overwork their natural strength; and so fervent in their zeal, that they are ready even to kill their bodies with fastings and other macerations, that they may kill their sinful lusts. They are strongly convinced that holiness is absolutely necessary to salvation, and deeply affected with the terrours of damnation; and yet they were never so much enlightened in the mystery of the Gospel as to know, that a new state in Christ is necessary to a new life; therefore they labour hj vain to reform their natural state, instead of getting above it in, Christ."
This is a very striking description; and from the terms of it, could never be intended for the reprehension of those, who depend upon outward acts, ceremonies, and forms, or the opera operata: such as the lip-labour of a certain number of pater-nosters, or pilgrimages, processions, penances, and the like. If therefore the meaning of it be, that we are none of us able to dd any thing towards the great work of our salvation, without the grace and assistance of God, it is unquestionably good and sound divinity; but the mysterious and obscure manner of delivering it, may lay a stumbling-block in the way of many sincere and painfuHabourers in the vineyard of Christ: more especially, if they attend to this which follows:
* Marshal on Sanctification.
f Mr. Hervey's prefatory recommendation to Marshal, p. 11.
i Marshal on Saacuikatiou, pp. 79, 80.
"There are many false opinions, whereby such ignorant zealots encourage themselves in their fruitless endeavour*. Some judge that they are able to practise holiness, because they are not compelled to sin, and may abstain from it if they will. To this they add, that Christ by the merit of his death hath restored that freedom of will to good, which was lost by the fall and. that if they
endeavour to do that which lieth in them, Christ will do the rest, by assisting them with the supplies of his saving grace: so they trust upon the grace of Christ to help them in their endeavours. They plead further, that it would not consist with the justice of Cod to punish them for sin, if they could not avoid it, and that it would be in vain for the ministers of the Gospel to preach to them, and exhort them to any saving duty, if they cannot perform it."
Many candid and charitable men, may possibly think it too assuming to brand all these as false opinions, and the maintainers of them as ignorant zealots; more particularly when, a little further, upon the subject of original sin, they find these assertions:
"*Thosc who account their impotency a sufficient plea to excuse themselves or others, show that they were never truly humbled for that great wilful transgression of all mankind in the loins of Adam. Inability to pay a debt, excuseth not a debtor who hath lavished away all his estate; neither doth drunkenness excuse the mad actions of a drunkard, but rather aggravates his sin; and our impotency consisteth not in a mere want of executive power, but in the want of a willing mind to practise true holiness and righte. ousness. Naturally we love it not, we like it not, but lust against it, and hate the light. If men in a natural state had a hearty love and liking to true holiness, and t a desire and sincere endeavour to practise it out of hearty love, and yet failed of the event, then they might under some'pretence plead for their excuse, (as some do for them,) that they were compelled to sin by an inevitable fate. But none have just cause to plead any such thing for their excuse, because none endeavour to practise true holiness out of hearty love to it, until the good work be begun in their souls: and when God hath begun he will perfect it, and will in the mean time accept their ready mind, though they fall short in performance. How abominable then and filthy is man that drinketh iniquity as water, that cannot practise holiness because he -will not? This is their just condemnation, that they loye darkness rather than light," &c.
Let us once more ask, whether the poor ignorant zealot, who has encouraged himself in fruitless endeavours from the opinions above described, may be able to collect, with greater clearness and certainty, from the doctrine and positions here
* Marshal on Sanctification, p. SO. | Compare these with the description
kid down, how far he is obliged to, or capable of obedience; and consequently how far he is accountable or punishable for the want of it?—Innumerable quotations equally dark, perplexing, and unintelligible to many, might be made from the same work, (which charity obliges us to suppose was wrote with a truly religious zeal for the good of mankind:) but such are generally the supports of a peculiar system, how well soever intended; and these had not been inserted, were it not that a person of such distinguished piety and meekness as the recommender of it, has declared, that " *were he to be banished into some desolate island, possessed only of two books besides his bible, this should be one of the two, perhaps the first that he would choose."
But we return to this admirable explication of the design of Christianity now republished, which we hope will not be less acceptable or useful to any unprejudiced and sincerely pious Christian, on account of its being clear, rational, and demonstrative. From this treasure of sound divinity, the doubtful may be informed, and the ignorant instructed. With the blessingof God assisting our endeavours, we may all of us from hence learn, so to order our f ' conversation, that it may be as becometh the Gospel of Christ, and to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel.' We may from hence be instructed, so to steer our course, as happily to avoid the two most dangerous rocks which lurk under opposite extremes, and endanger the wreck of souls. That is to say, on the one hand, the presumptuous and groundless claim of merit to ourselves from the performance of any duties; and ascribing to any works or endeavours of our own, what proceeds from the free gift and grace of God:—<On the other; the absurd supposition that there are no faculties or powers imparted to us by our Creator, which we have the freedom orpower of using; but that all our actions, inclinations, and affections, are determined by supernatural impulse, absolute necessity, or an unchangeable decree. The pernicious consequences which follow from either of these persuasions, carried to their utmost extent, need not be enumerated. Indeed the warmest disputants on each side, whilst they labour hard to support their respective systems; and, to serve that purpose, scruple not to tear any text from its place, connexion, and context; still, would gladly drop the most flagrant, though necessary consequences resulting from them. As few are hardy enough to adopt or maintain these, he is accounted the ablest
• Hervey's prefatory discourse to Marshal on Sanctificatjoo, p. 13.
casuist who can best conceal or evade them: but little does this savour of the simplicity, or design of Christ's Gospel. Most happy would it be for us all, if in our holy religion, we were rather solicitous about the substance than the form; less intent upon speculation and theory in dark and disputable matters, than upon obedience and practice where our duty is no less evident than important. In these, the pure word of God without human comment or refinement, will clearly and sufficiently instruct us. It will teach us that we have natural faculties, but those since the disobedience and fall of our first parents, extremely weak, and of themselves insufficient to produce such obedience, and holiness of life, as our Christian profession requires: that we also have supernatural assistances, and those most powerful, and efficacious unto salvation. That both the one and the other are the gift of God: neither of them to be denied or deemed useless, but both to be gratefully acknowledged, used, and improved. 'That if we ask we shall receive; if we seek we shall find; and if we knock it shall be opened unto us.' That a very great and important work is set before us, which we are called upon to perform. 'That to every one that hath,'(and useth, what is bestoweduponhim,) 'shall be given,' and he shall have more abundance; but from the unprofitable servant who hath not, (doth not use or employ what is bestowed upon him,) 'shall be taken away even that which he hath.' Instead therefore of disputing about the measure of each talent, which can only be known with certainty to the great Lord and Giver of them, it highly behooves us to be intent upon the use of them: and, according to the apostle's advice,' *Iaying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as new born babes, to desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby.'
FROM DR. MAGEE ON THE ATONEMENT: &C.
On the Divine origin of Language and Alphabetical Letters.
"THE first use of words appears from scripture to have been to communicate the thoughts of God. But how could thi6 be done, but in the words of God? and how could man understand the words of God, before he was taught them?" The apostle has told
us, that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; thus clearly pronouncing all knowledge of divine things, and consequently all language relating to them, to have had its origin in revelation. But it is not only with respect to things divine, that revelation appears to have supplied the first intimations of language. In terms relating to mere human concerns, it seems to* have been no less the instructress of man. For in what sense can we understand the naming of every beast of the field, and r.very fowl of the air, brought before Adam for this purpose by God, but in that of his instructing Adam in the manner whereby '.hey were in future to be distinguished? To suppose it otherwise, And to imagine that Adam at the first was able to impose names on the several tribes of animals, is either to suppose, that he must from the first have been able to distinguish them by their characteristick marks and leading properties, and to have distinct nodons of them annexed to their several appellations; or, that he applied sounds at random, as names of the animals, without the intervention of such notions. But the latter is to suppose a jargon^ not a language: and the former implies a miraculous operation on the mind of Adam, which differs nothing in substance from the divine instruction here contended for.
Indeed, even abstracting from the information thus given in scripture, those who have well examined this subject have been utterly at a loss to conceive any other origin of language than divine institution. Whitby considers this so completely evident, that he thinks it forms in itself a clear demonstration, that the original of mankind was as Moses delivered it, from the impossibility of giving any other tolerable account of the origin of language. (Sermons on the Attrib. vol. ii. p. 29.) Bishop Williams, in his second sermon, (Boyle Lect. vol. i. p. 167.) affirms, that though Adam had a capacity and organs admirably contrived for speech,, yet in his case there was a necessity of his being immediately instructed by God, because it was impossible he should have invented speech, and words to be spoken so soon as his necessities required. Dr. Beattie endeavours to prove the human invention of language to be impossible. (Theory of Lang. 8vo. p. 101.) And Dr. Johnson is so decidedly of this opinion, that he holds inspiration to be necessary to inform man that he has the faculty of speech, " which I think, says he, he could no more find out without inspiration, than caws or hogs would think of such % faculty." Mr. Wollaston contends, (Relig. of Nat. pp. 122, 123.) that language is the indispensable instrument of thought: and even Herder, who has laboured to prove language not to have been of divine appointment, admits that without it reason cannot be used by man.
New, if language be necessary to the exercise of reason, it clearly cannot have been the result of human excogitation: or, as >t is put by Dr. Ellis in his Inquiry, 8cc. language cannot be contrived without thought and knowledge; but the mind cannot have thought and knowledge till it has language; therefore language