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“ an honest and good heart.” Thus, by the divine goodness, under the directing influence of the holy spirit, the knowledge of the truth is placed within the reach of our understanding, and the observance of its laws is subject to the power of our will: Whence our Lord addressed this pressing question to his unbelieving hearers: “ Yea, and why even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right?”*
But notwithstanding the plain and obvious doctrine of the gospel, what unhappy dissensions prevail among christians, with regard to the interpretation of the sacred text? Divisions which are daily increasing, and which seem more likely to terminate in the breach of all charity, than in reconciliation and brotherly love.
In this state of religious discord, it becomes the express duty of every christian, to separate, as far as may be, the truth which is in Jesus, from the errors which overcloud it. To compare the terms and conditions of salvation promulged by Christ, with the tenets which are taught by those who now profess themselves exclusively the preachers of his gospel; and to distinguish him who speaketh of God, from him who speaketh of himself. This mode of treating a subject so important in its nature and its consequences, seems the more necessary: First, because nothing but the word of truth, contained
* Luke xii. 57.
in the New Testament, can satisfy a sincere christian in the discussion of such a subject: Secondly, because, strange as it may appear, the simple and positive declarations of Christ and his apostles, have been too much overlooked, if not absolutely disregarded; where their authority, and that alone is decisive. This error, it is well known, has been occasioned by a misinterpretation of some passages in the epistles of St. Paul. In those epistles, as'another great apostle 'observed, immediately after they were written; “ there are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest, as they do also the other scriptures unto their own destruction.”* And in these days it is too evident, that certain tenets, which have been imputed, and falsely imputed to St. Paul, are so much insisted on, that the writings of the four evangelists are almost superseded by the commentary of Calvin.
Let it not, however, be supposed, that to disapprove of the imputed meaning is to dispute the undeniable authority and genuine doctrines of that apostle, whose inspired eloquence, whether it be applied to refute the errors of judaism,to convince the unbeliever,-to illustrate the gospel of his blessed master, or to enforce those moral precepts with which he concludes every epistle, has all the characters and energy of truth. But his earnest expostulation with the Corinthians deserves to be very seriously considered in the present distracted state of religious opinions: “ Is Christ divided ? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul ?” *
* 2 Peter, iii. 16.
That the tenets he inculcated are indisputably true, and evangelical, who will deny? And if this be the case, how can his epistles be considered otherwise than as being in perfect unison with the whole tenor of the gospel, delivered by the four evangelists? In regard to the terms of salvation, strictly the same; in regard to occasional points that occurred between him and the churches, which he addressed, in perfect harmony. “ Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man ?" + Such is the modest language of this inspired writer : being the minister of Christ, he could inculcate only the word of Christ, as necessary to salvation. Whatever is contained in his epistles must be construed therefore agreeably to the purport and intent of the gospel; or, if interpreted in a different sense, must be false, because truth is uniform and consistent; a supposition which an infidel may cherish, but which it would be blasphemous for a christian to entertain.. Yet the unhappy
* 1 Cor. i. 13.
+ 1 Cor. iii. 5. | The epistles may contain additional doctrines, but doctrines that are perfectly accordant with those which Christ schisms which divide the church have generally arisen from an exposition of the doctrines insisted on by St. Paul, in contradiction to those delivered by Christ himself. This fruitful source of error
himself promulged. This is the amount of all that can be truly said with regard to any apparent difference between these writings and the gospels. And to such farther enunciations of his word by the mouth of his inspired apostles, our Saviour directed the expectation of his disciples in his last valedictory address, recorded by St. John :~"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he the spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear that shall be speak, and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew. it unto you."* Had, Lord Bolingbroke chosen to consider this, and examined the real argument of St. Paul, he might have spared the malignant sarcasm, which exposes his own ignorance, while it calumniates the apostle as a preacher of new doctrines, contrary to those of Christ.' “ St. Paul,” he says, “ might very well talk of his gospel, even in contradistinction to that of Christ ; since he taught several doctrines which had no foundation in that of Christ; and others, as I have said, that were directly repugnant both to the word and example of the Messiah."-Essay IV. vol. iv. 4to: edition. : .:''
Notwithstanding this, Sir Richard Hill refers to the noble writer, as authority in favour of Calvanism : , “ Even Lord Bolingbroke says, Paul taught Predestination, and then arraigns his impudence for teaching it. However, fas est et ab, hoste doceri.”+ .. ositta. .
Now if Lord Bolingbroke's premises were true, his conelusions would be just; if St. Paul did really deliver those
* St. John xvi. 12, 13, 14.
would be cut off, if one fixed standard of interpretation were admitted, viz. that the plain, indisputable sense of many passages in the New Testament being certain, other passages which are more obscure should be explained by a reference to such clear and explicit declarations. When, for instance, it has been expressly asserted, that “ God will have all men to be saved,''* it cannot be supposed that the author of this assertion would say elsewhere, he willeth certain persons to be damned; and thence, such texts as these, “ What, if God willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long suffering, the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction!” † and, “ therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” | Such texts as these evidently impart a very different meaning
doctrines, which this infidel writer, and the Methodists say he did, they certainly were repugnant to the word and example of the Messiah ; and the apostle subjected himself to that curse which he so solemnly denounced. 1 Cor. ix. 16. Galat. i. 8, 9.
But wisdom is justified of her children. St. Paul did not contradict his divine master, whatever his mistaken friends may say for him, or his bitter enemy against him. By Lord Bolingbroke he is scandalously misrepresented ; and by the Methodists he is exposed to the slander of malevolent revilers. Such is the defence of christianity furnished by these zealots! Alas !-Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis tempus eget.
They must not venture to take up the weapons of infidelity, • in order to protect our holy faith.
* 1 Tim. ii. 4. + Rom. ix. 22. | Id. ix. 18.