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comparitively lefs moment, in relation to Chriftianity, which excites our concern. If it were a "" queftion of "words and names," you might refufe to "judge of fuch "matters." It is especially with refpect to fundamental articles that we claim your attention. And, "if the "foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
Many of you have feen, and others have heard of a treatife lately published by a minifter of the church, entitled, A Practical Effay on the Death of Jefus Chrift. It is on account of this publication that we give you any trouble; because it contains not only an undifguifed fyftem of Arminian and Pelagian errors, but a fyftem of the most refined and fpecious Socinianifm, that was ever offered to the world. Many of you know, that thofe are by way of dif tinction called Socinians, who deny the great doctrines of the Deity of Chrift, (making him a mere man,) and of a real fatisfaction for fin by his infinitely precious blood. But it may be neceffary to obferve, for the fake of the unlearned, that Socinianifm is a gangrene which diffufes its fatal influence through almost every member of divine truth, and contaminates the whole mafs. It is a fubtle poifon, which univerfally extends, and unhinges the whole frame of revelation. It does not, like fome erroneous doctrines, merely aim at the superstructure. It affects the very foundation. Its batteries are not levelled at the outworks. At first it affaults the very heart and foul of Christianity, nay, of all religion. The denial of the two doctrines already mentioned, might be fufficient to awake your zeal, if you have any zeal for God. But that you may be a little better acquainted with this fyftem, we fhall give you a glance of fome of its moft ftriking features. Socinians, as well as others, profefs to receive the holy fcriptures as the only rule of faith: But they blush not to declare that the Spirit, which guided the prophets, hath not altogether exempted them from error; that prophecies are not certain and infallible; and that reafon is the only ftandard of divine truth; or, in other words, that we are to believe nothing as contained in fcripture, which our reafon does not fully comprehend. They maintain that God is not omniprefent, but limited to a place*; that he is uncertain as to future events; that the matter of which this world was made exifted from eternity ‡;
Crel. de Deo, cap. 27. † Cap. 24. Volkel. lib. ii. c. 1. 5.
that God is fubject to real paffions; and that he is more limited than matter itself. They teach that angels and the fouls of men are merely a certain modification of matter *; that man was created without what is commonly called original righteousness, and from his conftitution naturally prone to fin; and that he was created mortal +. Their doctrine directly tends to the denial of providence. They exprefsly refufe a Trinity of perfons in the Godhead, and the incarnation of the Son. They difbelieve the immortality of the foul, and the reality of hell: For they hold that the fouls of the wicked perifh with their bodies; fome pretending that this is the cafe at death; while others inaintain, that, at the day of judgment, the bodies of the wicked fhall be raised to a temporary union with their fouls, that, in confequence of the final fentence, both may be reduced to annihilation. Even when they admit of a refurrection, they deny that of the fame body §.
I am far from faying that our author holds all these dreadful tenets. But forry am I to add, that it appears plainly from his Effay, that he holds too many of them. And when one adopts the capital errors of any system, there is great reafon to fear, that he is no enemy to the reft.
Other writers of the church of Scotland have clearly acceded to the school of Arminius. But our author is the first who hath boldly made the trial, whether this churchi be yet ripe for denying "the Lord who bought" her. Some may be apt to think, that it is the safest way to let fuch treatises die away in merited obfcurity; that writing against an author is the most effectual way to make him be read; and that the intention, however good, defeats itself, as the means used tend to diffeminate, in a more extensive manner, the principles oppofed. But from the taste of the prefent age, it is by no means likely, that a book written by a learned Doctor of the church, under the pretence of avoiding controverfial subjects, in a flowing, eafy, and engaging tile, fhould pafs unnoticed; efpecially when attempts are made to palm it upon the unlearned as an admirable performance. The manner in which this treatise is written, renders it a very dangerous prefent to the public.
* Crel. cap. 19.
Socin. præl. theol. cap. 1.
Actor. Col. Racov. ap. Hoornb. Soc. Confutat, t. 3. lib. 5. c. 2.
lic. The author affumes a great appearance of modefty, which is naturally alluring to the mind. This is more dangerous than the most avowed attack. When a man bluntly and honestly tells you, that he denies the Deity of Chrift, and any real atonement for fin by his blood; you are at once on your guard, you need nothing more to convince you that he is the determined enemy of your dearest interefts. But when a writer fteps forth into the world, apparently with all the meeknefs, fubmiffion, and love of a genuine difciple of Jefus, and fays, "Hail master," and kiffes him; one cannot eafily believe that it is with a design to betray him" into the hands of finners."
He allo infinuates himself into the good graces of the reader, by claiming a very confiderable fhare of Chriftian. charity and moderation. "Why," fays he, "fhould "we hate or think ill of one another for differences of "that kind?" Of what kind? About the nature of the atonement made by Chrift, whether it was real or nominal. We ought not to hate even our enemies: But we have very little reafon to think well of thofe, who would ftill retain us under the bondage of fin.. I would not wifh,, by any thing that may be faid, really to infringe the facred law of charity. It belongs not to us, to pretend with certainty to judge the states of men. To his own master every one ftandeth or falleth. We ought to think charitably of all who hold the foundation in doctrine, and do not habitually decline from it in life. In matters of indifference or uncertainty, we ought to bear with each other.. But true fcriptural charity doth not forbid us to call perfons or things by their own names. Our Lord hath fet us a perfect pattern for the exercife of this, as well as of every other grace; and yet we fee how plainly he speaks of the Pharifees. The apoftles eminently followed his example: and yet, even in their infpired language, they give the fevereft characters to thofe who perverted the gospel of Chrift. Did Paul account thofe to be "enemies of the crofs of Chrift," who urged the neceffity of obferving the law of Mofes, as well as of faith in the righteoufnefs of Chrift for juftification; and can we reasonably think more favourably of those who deny the truth of his atonement, that they may go about to eftablish their own ""righteousness, as it were by the works of the law?" Thus
*Page 505. note.
far we ought to judge charitably of the author, that he believes what he writes; that he is actuated by a deluded confcience, under the direction of an understanding not yet enlightened by the Spirit of God; and that he has a zeal for what feems to him true religion, although not according to knowledge. Even Paul once thought that he "ought "to do many things against Jefus of Nazareth." But he "did it ignorantly, in unbelief."
It would be unjust and unhandsome to deny, that there are many native and excellent obfervations in this Effay, efpecially in the hiftorical part; obfervations which would do honour to any author, were they detached from the errors that are unhappily blended with them. In the fecond, there are alfo many good reflections, many warm exhortations to Chriftian duties. While one reads thefe beautiful paffages, one wifhes to believe him found in the faith, is almoft afraid to difcover the contrary, and can fcarce be perfuaded of it, although the evidences be undeniable. But there is ftill a dead fly, that "caufeth all" his "precious ointment to fend forth a ftinking favour." The author, indeed, feems at times to glow with fervent piety, and to be warmly engaged in ftirring up others to the exercife of holiness. But this very circumftance makes his treatise more enfnaring to the reader. For the direct tendency of it is to deftroy the only foundations of gospelholinefs, in its meritorious, and in its efficient caufe. This book is ushered into light, as being entirely a practical Effay. Never, perhaps, did any enemy of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity hit upon a more infidious method of propagating his tenets, or of inftilling them into the minds of the unlearned and unstable. For, while he would perfuade the reader that he is not to trouble him with nice queftions and learned controverfies, and that
it is the benefit of plain and well-difpofed perfons, "though unlearned, which is chiefly aimed at*; the evident tendency of the performance, notwithstanding all the apparent zeal for virtue difplayed in it, is, under this artful veil, to undermine the whole fabric of our holy religion, as established in the word of God. But this needs not appear ftrange; for Paul tells us of "falfe apoftles, deceitful
workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of "Chrift; and no marvel," faith he, "for Satan himself
* Page 7. l. 18.
is transformed into an angel of light; therefore it is no great thing, if his minifters alfo be transformed as the minifters of righteoufnefs." And remember, my brethren, that Satan is far more dangerous when thus transformed, than when he appears in his natural character, as “a roaring lion." In this cafe, he gives you warning of his approach; but in that, he may " tear in pieces" before you know him for an enemy. Befides, he difcovers his opinions only in a gradual manner. Thus, they appear not with fo great a deformity, as if they were collected in a group; efpecially, as they often feem to flip out, as it were, by accident, without any defign to establish them. At the very time that he is recommending the exercise of some eminent virtue, when he would appear only to be roufing the foul to the highest acts of devotion, he fecretly overthrows fome capital doctrine of faith. While the mind is clofely engaged in attending to the oftenfible process of the compofition, and perhaps admiring the skill and fervour of the workman; all at once fome fatal poifon is conveyed into the draught. But, my brethren, ought this to surprise you? Was it not "while men flept," that "the enemy fowed his tares?” He also endeavours to lull the reader, by trying to perfuade him, that the points on which he may differ from others, are minuter or lefs important." Such, as appears from the Effay, is the eftimate which this liberal gentleman forms of the fupreme Deity of the Son, and of his real fubftitution and atonement for fin.
In many inftances, indeed, he does not exprefsly deny doctrines acknowledged by the church. This would not have answered his defign. But, although of a fundamental nature, he paffes them over as doubtful difputations; and often expreffes himself in ambiguous language, that will admit of a double conftruction, like the oracles delivered in heathen temples. You may perhaps be ready to think, that we mistake his meaning, becaufe, when you read his performance, you find him ufing the expreffions of faith in Christ, which are used by all who believe his Deity and atonement, and adducing those very fcriptures which contain the most striking proofs of both. This is true indeed. He calls him " our divine Mafter, our great Lord and Master, "the Son of God, the Son of his love, the only Son of God,
† P. 8. l. 11.
* 2 Cor. ix. 13, 14,