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tioned in the sermon on the mount. Assuming then, as he does, that Christ's model of preaching is to be sought only in this sermon, he is in this plain dilemma; either first, Christ did not mean "sto inculcate the truths" of his own Gospel, nor to have them insisted on” by others: or, secondly, the above named doctrines do not belong to the Gospel.
This dilemma is not to be avoided by saying that the Apostles preaching was alluded to in the close of the last quotation; for, it seems, it must be difficult to be conceived” by Dr. Porter, bow whe, who was divinely anointed to preach the Gospel to the poor," should have been #silent” respecting doctrines, which it was proper for apostles to "insist on.” Nor can the escape be made under such saving clauses as are several times repeated doctrines expressly taught, or clearly implied.” Though we have no difficulty in admitting the principle of legitimate construction and inference; it badly comports with the object of the preacher in this case; for when he has fairly opened the door of implication and inference, who can promise, that some of these odious five points" will not thrust themselves in?
Besides, in the sermon on the mount, notbing is said of baptism, or the Lord's supper, or of praying in Christ's name. Shall we say, theo, that Christ taught nothing, respecting these? Apply the saine principle to the sermon of President Edwards won eating with an excommunicated person;" and how soon is it proved, that this great preacher observed a “profound and continued silence” respecting justification by faith, and the general resurrection? Apply it to the life of Christ as the pattern of his people; and his exainple, according to the time fixed upon as the standard, will show that it is the duty of Christians to pray "all night”-or will show that it is their duty never
We are aware, that the writer of this sermon excused himsc)f, at the commencement, from the attempt to illustrate the whole character of our Savior as a religious instructor. This he had a right to do; but having done it, his sweeping conclusions should have been cut down in the same proportion, with the narrow ground of his premises.
In his introduction, the preacher had very justly remarked, as to the effect of Christ's public discourses on his hearers, that they were pleased, or offended, or astonished.” That they were "astonished" we are told at the close of the sermon on the mount. That some of them were "offended” too at that sermon is quite probable, though this is not declared. But if Dr. P. had seen fit to devote one of his thirty pages to this purpose, be miglit have alluded to many striking instances, where the hearers of Christ were “offended.” To notice only two or three. When he preached in the synagogue at Nazareth, he was listened to with wonder for a season, but at length all they in the synagogue were filled with wrath; and rose up and thrust him out of the city, &c.” What was the reason of this resentment? A plain exhibition of a doctrine, which has filled many "with wrath."-to this day,--the doctrine of divine sovereignty.” In another case, the Jews sought to kill Christ, because he said, in his preaching too, “that God was his Father; making himself equal with God.” In another case, they took op stones to stone him”-because he said in a public dis
course, in the temple; "Before Abraham was I AM." If the Jews had been as learned and liberal as some modern critics, instead of being angry at this declaration of his immutability and self-existence, they would have understood biin only to say, that he existed before Abraham, in the decree of God, and so to aflirm nothing of himself, but what was true of Judas, and of all other men.
During another long discourse, which Christ delivered in the synagogue, at Capernaum, we are told that the Jews murmured;" that bis disciples murmured;" and finally that «many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." Among the offensive doctrines of this sermon, were the following: “Al that the Father giveth to me shall come to me.” “And this is the Father's will, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing." "I am the bread, which came down from heaven.” “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him." Surely this sermon bad “points;" if not exactly five," it had the same points," that have always penetrated and pained the human beart. Dr. Priestley's expedient to blunt one of these points, is not a little curious. Concerning those words of our Savior; What and if ye stall see the Son of Man ascend np where he was before?” this champion of liberal Christianity says, though not satisfied with any interpretation of this extraordinary passage," yet "I would not build an article of faith of such magnitude, [as the pre-existence of Christ] on the correctness of Johi's recollection and representation of our Lurd's language: and so strange and incredible does the hypothesis of a pre-existent state appear, that sooner than admit it, I would suppose the whole verse to be an interpolation, or that the old Apostle dictated one thing, and his amanuensis wrote another."*
Now these Jews, if they had been adepts in the refinements of modern criticism, could not so well have explained the evidence of their own ears into an interpolation: but in all cases of this sort, they had a shorter expedient;-to accuse our Lord of blasphemy.
During another discourse of Christ, which was delivered in the temple, at the feast of dedication, the Jews "took up stones to stone him,” and accused him of blasphemy." The immediate cause of their anger, may be seen in his declaration concerning his sheep,-"I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father who gave them me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." Here again were "points;” and the hearers were provoked to resentment. The accusation preferred against the preacher was, thou being a man, makest thyself God." If they had inistaken his meaning, he could have corrected their mistake by a word; and he was boand as a Prophet, nay, bound in common honesty to do it. But his reply left their first impression with unabated strength, for “they sought again to take him."
We might cite other passages in which the doctrines of universal providence, the atonement, the new birth, and the endless punishment of
* Letters to Dr. Price, p. 57, &c. + If any of our readers wish to see this whole passage ably discussed, we refer them to Magee and Wardlaw,
the wicked, were taught in the public discourses of our Savior. Indeed, we will not dwell on the apparent disingenuousness of Dr. P. in attempting to restrict the range of Christ's doctrines, by the recorded length of his discourses, or the number of his hearers. The foregoing instances are sufficient to show how easily it might Wave been proved, that the sermons of Christ often gave offence; and, at the same time, all the circuit of inference and insinuation, w make oạt what Christ did not preach, would have been saved,
In regard to the preaching of the Apostles, our remarks must be more brief, as they have already been extended far beyond our desigu. And here again, we must refresh the minds of our rcaders, with a specimen of the fair and impartial" mode of argument adopted in the sermon under review.
"On the other hand, let us take the five points," as they have been called, and which are stated in the “View of Religions," as the principal tenets of a well known system of divinity, and there might be added to them several other most prominent doctrines of the same scheine; and then tell me where, in all the above mentioned discourses of our Savior and his Apostles, to which only we now extend our inquiries, any one of them is clearly taught, or even ventioned. Tell me where any traces of them are to be found. For myself, I can find none."
p. 35. On a preceding page, the writer, having given notice that his argument is confined to the scriptural examples of preaching," adds, with a very discreet and significant caution; What might be learnt from the epistles, or any other part of the sacred writings, would be a distinct inquiry.” Alter the preceding remarks, our readers need not be reminded, that the above inentioned discourses," include one of our Savior's; and that if the preacher bad seen fit to glance at the long list of other discourses from the same divine Teacher, as they are recorded in the Gospel of John, “without extending his inquiries" farther, he miglit have found at least some straces" of ducurines, wlrich he has happened to overlook.
But there is one sentiment implied in a remark just cited, which ought not to pass unnoticed. Any plain man must understand the language to suggest, that the preaching of the Apostles might be found ou examination to be inconsistent with their epistles.
When we consider how important it is to the cause of Unitarians, tu disencumber themselves of the epistles, we need not be surprised at the distinction which they go often attempt to make, between what the Apostles taught orally, and what they wrote. Dr. Priestley, speaking of the doctrine that Christ made and supports the world, snys, • dir not see that we are under any obligation to believe it, murely because it was an opinion held by an Apostle.” Again, on account of the manner, in which epistolary writings are commonly composed, he says, "we cannot infer that such was the serious opinion of the Apostles. But if it had been their real opinion, it would not follow that it is true, unless the teaching of it should appear to be included in their general commission."*
Again; the prophecies of the Old Testament, he supposes Christians have been erroneously led to attribute to Christ, by following too closcly the writers of the New Testament."
llist. Early Opinioos, yp. 63, 70..
What then could our Lord mean when he promised to bis Apostles, «the Spirit of truth, who should guide them into all the truth;" and when he said, “neither pray I for these alone, but for them also, who shall believe on me, through their word.” Did Christ expect his church to become extinct with the death of those Apostles, to whom, in their successors, he promised his presence to the end of the world?” Have none believed on him, “through their word,” except those who heard them preach; or who have been converted by reading the few and brief sketches of their sermons? Did these holy men, in their epistles, exhibit the pure religion of their Master, or did they not? If they did, their writings, are as much the word of Christ, and as infallible as their preaching? If not, a great part of the New Testament is useless to its readers, till a new revelation shall enable them to distinguish the truths from the errors it contains.
Besides, who can read these epistles and not perceive that it was their great design to establish the churches in doctrines, which the apostles had preached to them? And if we give no other credit to these men, than what is due to other witnesses, it is no great stretch of credu. lity to believe, that they had preached the great doctrines contained in the epistles, when they expressly and often declare in these epistles, that they had done so.
Indeed, that we are to learn how the apostles preached, more from their epistles than from the narrative contained in the Acts, seems evia dent, when we consider the character of this latter book. Here we havo a history,concise as a whole, and yet containing a vast variety of facts illustrating the fulfilment of ancient prophecy, as well as the declarations of Christ to his apostles, respecting their labors, sufferings and triumphs in the first promulgation of the Gospel. Here we must look for the organization of the Christian church, its primitive officers. and ordinances, its dangers and deliverances. Here, in short we have the record of transactions relating to churches widely dispersed, embracing a period of about thirty years; and yet the whole is comprised in about the length of two modern sermons. Nearly one half of this. narrative, too, relates to Paul; the history of whose labors, while he travelled thousands of miles, and preached probably hundreds of times, is sometimes comprised into a few sentences. The book of Acts, instead of giving a detailed account of the sermons delivered by the Apos. tles, does not once mention the names of more than half of them, alter the first chapter: and concerning most of them, little is said after the day of Pentecost. The sermon of Peter, on that day, scems to have been recorded as a select specimen of the Apostles' preaching. The remarks of Dr. Porter on this sermon, require a moment's attention, Having mentioned the five points" in a subsequent page, as our readers will recollect, he says; "Tell me where any traces of them are to be found in the above mentioned discourses?"
Now we hope, in these circumstances, it will be no obtrusive freedom to point the eye of Dr. Porter to a sentence, which he has quoted indeed, but which, notwithstanding, he has overlooked, in this sermon of Peter.
The apostle in bringing home the charge of guilt to the Jews, for crucifying Christ, says; Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and by vicked hands, have crucified and slain." Three things are implied in this language. First, the erucifixion of Christ was an event foreknown by God, and therefore certain beforehand. Secondly, this certainty was according to the determinate counsel," or purpose of God. Yel, thirdly, be was crucified by wicked hands." ir Dr. Purter can look steadily at this passage, and not perceive “any traces” of those doctrines, which he wishes to proscribe, we can only say, that his vision is quite peculiar. If he needs a commentary on this passage, he may look forward a little, and find the whole church, and that in the solemn language of proyer, speaking of Herod and Pontius Pilate, as being gathered together, "for to do whatsoever thy hand, and thy counsel determined before to be done." We will not inquire how it should come to pass, that sentiments uttered by such men in such circumstances, are now deemed, by many Christian ministers, unfriendly to practical godliness. We will not ask, by what strange transition, a doctrine, which was preached by an inspired Apostle, should now be exploded from so many pulpits, as a useless dogma of technical theology, or even as approaching to blaspbemy. Let those, who are offended at those “points,” in the Apostle's sermon, by which his hearers were «prick ed in their hearts," solemnly inquire why it is, that so sew are added to ttie Lord,” under their own preaching.
While we must beg pardon of our readers, for the length, to which these remarks have already been extended; we cannot forbear to notice the following passage, in the conclusion of this sermon.
"We see in what estimation we ought to hold those reproaches which are so commonly cast on some preachers, as being mere moralists, and as teaching nothing more than heathen philosophy, or natural religion. Do those who are sa ready to bring these accusations consider on whom their censure falls? If to be silent, or not to insist, on those doctrines which some call essential, and make the test of a Gospel preacher, be a culpable defect, our Savior and his Apostles, as I believe, will be found wanting; and that even in the opinion of the friends of those doctrines, so far as they form their judgment from the scriptural examples of preaching, to which we at present confine our views." p. 20.
With whatever defects this sermon is chargeable, we think it can hardly be censured for too much “point.". Instead of tasking our invention to spell out who these men are, and when they lived, who have been thas unjustly accused, let us gravely ask whether there have not been some preachers," in every age and country, who deserved such accusations. Certainly in our Savior's tin: there were some, against whom lie preferred similar charges. And to name only two examples in modern times; Mr. Belsham wishes to be regarded only as a moral teacher of Christianity.” And that we may not mistake what he means by Christianity, he says of those avowed infidels, the Theophi. lantropes of France, that their professed principles comprehend the Essence of the Christian religion."*
Now, though it would not be true to call Mr. Belsham a “moral preacher," it would be no slander, for it would be more than the truth.
• Review of Wilberforce, 217, 227.