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R E A D E R.
THE "HE Christian religion is best known and distinguished by the
God, proposed in it, as the object of our faith and obe dience: and as there is no true religion, but the religion of Christians, so is there no true God, but the God of Christians.
Before the coming of Christ, and the fulfilling of the Law, God was known by the name of Jehovah, the God of Abraham, and of Ifaac, and of Jacob. The Israelites, who were the feed of Abraham, and drew their whole religion from a divine revelation, had the knowledge of the true God; and the people of every other nation, who were “ aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, “ and strangers from the covenants of promise, were also “ without God in the world'.” Though they talked much of God, and wrote much of him, and offered him many facrifices, yet they knew him not; the being they served, was not God, but another in the place of him, falsely called by his name. And though some modern Christians have forgot there was any difference, yet the very heathens themselves, upon fome occasions, were ready enough to allow it. Naaman the Syrian, when he was cured of his leprosy by the prophet Elisha, made a public confesfion of it." Behold, now I know that there is no God in all
the earth, but in Israel ?." The fame is affirmed by the inSpired Pfalmift--" All the gods of the heathers are idols;" and God himself declares them all to have been vanities *
The case is now with the Christians under the Gospel, as it antiently was with the Jiws under the Law: they believe in the only true God; while the unchristian part of mankind, who are by far the majority, either know him not, or wilfully deny him ; as Pharaoh did the God of the Hebrews when he was told of him. And we are now got to such a pitch of indevotion and ignorance, that among those who profess and call themselves Chriflians, there are too many who are almost come to be Heathens without knowing it. For there is a fashionable notion propagated by most of our moral writers, and readily subscribed to by those who say their prayers but seldom, and can never find time to read their Bible, that all who worship any God, worship the same God; as if we worshipped the three letters of the word God, instead of the Being meant and understood by it. The Universal Prayer of Mr. Alexander Pope was composed upon this plan ; wherein the Supreme Being is addressed as a common Father of all, under the names, Jehovah, Jove, and Lord. And this humour of confounding things, which ought to be distinguished at the peril of our souls, and of coinprehending believers and idolators under one and the same religion, is called a catholic spirit, that shews the very exaltation of Christian charity. But God, it is to be feared, will require an account of it under another name; and though the poet could see no difference, but has mistaken Jove or Jupiter for the fame Father of all with the Lord Jehovah; yet the Apostle has inftru&ted us better; who, when the Priest of Jupiter came to offer sacrifice, exhorted him very passionately to “turn from those va" nities unto the living God' ;" well knowing that he whom the Priest adored under the name of Jupiter, was not the living God, but a creature, a nothing, a vanity. Yet the catholic spirit of a moralilt can discern no difference; and while it pretends some zeal for a sort of universal religion, common to believers and in, fidels, betrays a fad indifference for the Christian religion in partiçular. This error is so monstrous in a land enlightened by the Gospel, and yet so very cominon amongst us at present, that I may be pardoned for speaking of it in the manner it deserves, And let me beseech every serious person, who is willing to have his prayers heard, to consider this natter a little better, and use a more correct form; for God, who is jealous of his honour, and has no communion with idols, will certainly reject the petition that fets him upon a level with Baal and Jupiter.
* Eph. ii. 12.
2 2 Kings v.
3 Psal. xcvi. s.
4 Jer. xiv. 22.
The true God is He that was “ in Christ reconciling the world to himself;" there is none other but He; and if this great characteristic be denied, or any other assumed in its stead, a man is left wibout God; after which, he may call himself a Deill, if he wili; but his Gud is a mere do of the imagination, and has no corresponding reality in the whole universe of beings,
1 Afts xiv. 15.
The modern Jews, by denying their God to have been manifef in the flesh, are as effe&tually departed from the true God, as their forefathers were, when they danced before the golden calf, and called their idolatrou's service « a fealt to the Lord.” For the being of God is not an object of sight, but of faith; it enters first into the heart; and if it be wrang there, the first commandment is broken: if a figure of it be set up before the eyes, then the second is broken likewise. The first forbids us to have any other God; the fecond, to make any graven image of him. Now though we make no image, yet if with the heart we believe in any God different from the true, the idolatry indeed may be less, but the apostacy is the same. And this seems to be the case of the Jew.
The Mahometans are another fet of infidels, who abhor idols, but have in express terms denied the Son of God, and set up an idol of the imagination, a God in one Person. They inveigh bitterly against the Christians for worshipping three Gods ; for so they state the doctrine of a Trinity in Unity, as some others have done beside them.
In answer to all these abominations of the Deif, the Jew, and the Mahometan, and to Mew that no unbeliever of any denomination can be a servant of the true God, it is written" whosoever « denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father' :" and again“ whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of « Chrift, hath not GOD?." And let the Socinians, who have not only vindicated the religion of Mahomet, but preferred it to the Christianity of the church of England, which with them is
no better nor other than a sort of Paganism and Heathenifm *," let them consider what a share they have in this condemnation.
And to bring this matter home to the Arians ; it is to be observed, that every article of the Christian faith depends upon the doctrine of a Trinity in Unity. If that be given up, the other doctrines of our religion must go with it, and so it has been in fact, that the authors who have written againit the Trinity, have alfo disputed away some other essential parts of Christianity, partiçularly the doctrines of the satisfaction and of original fin,
1 1 John ii, 23:
2 2 John g. * See Leslie's Theological Works, Fol. Vol. I. p. 218, where the reader may find a great deal more to the same purpose; and particularly an Epistle of the Socinians, to the Morocco Embassador, in the time of Charles II. a great curiosity, wherein theis whole scheme is laid open to the bottom by tbemfolves.
The whole Bible treats of little else but our creation, redemption, sanctification, resurrection, and glorification, by the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit : and the reader will find hereafter, that there is neither name, act, nor attribute of the Godhead, that is not
shared in common by all the persons of the Trinity. If, there; fore, the persons of Christ and the Spirit are not God in the Unity
of the Father, then the prayers and praises we offer to them, as the authors of every blessing, will not be directed to the supreme Lord and God, beside whom no other is to be worshipped, but to his creatures and instruments: which overthrows the sense of our whole religion ; and drives us upon a sort of second-rate faith and worship, which, beside the blasphemy of it, can be nothing but confusion and contradiction. It is no wonder then, that the Arians and Socinians, with their several under-sects and divisions, who have fallen into this snare, and departed from the divine Unity, while they pretend to be the only men who assert it, have never yet been able to agree in the forms of religious worship. Some of them allowing that Christ is to receive divine worship, but always with this referve, that the prayer tend ultimately to the person of the Father. So that Christ is to be worshipped, only he is not to be worshipped: and if you should venture, when you are at the point of death, to say with St. Stephen-" Lord Jesus, “ receive my spirit"”—and confess the person of Jesus to be o the God of the Spirits of all fileth ?,” by committing your own spirit into his hands; you are to take care not to die without throwing in foine qualifying comment, to assure him you do it only in hypocrisy, not meaning him but another. Others, again, knowing this distinction to be vain and indefensible, and the same for substance with the Latria and Dulia, by which the church of Rome excuses her adoration of the blessed Virgin, &c. have fairly got rid of it, by denying to the person of Christ any divine worship or invocation at all; which is the case with our Socinian Unitarians here in England; for those of Poland are quite of another mind.
- How far such differences as thefe must needs affect a Liturgy, it is very easy to foresee: and that it will for ever be as impossible to frame a Creed or a Service to please all those who bear the name of Christians, as to make a coat that shall fit men of all fizes*, Prayer and divine worship and religious confession, are the. fruit and breath of faith; and “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth Speaketh' :” so that until we are agreed in matders of faith, there is neither hope nor possibility of our agreeing in any form of worship. God is the fountain-head, and religion the stream that descends from it. Our sentiments as to religion, always flow from the opinion we have formed of the divine nature; and will be right or wrong, sweet or bitter, as the fountain is from whence they are derived. It is the having a different God, that makes a different religion. A true God produces a true religion ; a false, God, a false religion. Jews, Turks, Pagans, Deifts, Arians, Socinians, and Christians, all differ about a religion, because they differ about a God.
1 Acts vii, 59;
2 Num, xvi. 22.
These few observations will be sufficient, I hope, to raise the attention of the reader; and persuade him, that a right faith in God is a much more serious affair than some would make it; that it is of the last concern, and hath a necessary influence upon the practice and holiness of our lives, that as no other devotion is acceptable with God, but that which is seasoned with love and charity and uniformity, the very mark and badge whereby his difciples are to be known from the men of this world, it is the principal duty of every Christian to know in whom he ought to believe, that " with one mind and one mouth we may glorify God? :" for a right notion of God, will as surely be followed by a found faith and an uniform profession in all other points, as a false faith and a discordant worship will grow from every wrong opinion of him.
All that can be known of the true God, is to be known by Revelation. The false lights indeed of reason and nature are fet up and recommended, as neceifary to allift and ratify the evidence of Revelation : but enquiries of this kind, as they are now managed, generally end in the degradation of Christ, and the Chrif
? Matt. xii. 34• * Hales of Eton, in his farcastic and malicious Țraft upon Scbifm, proposes it as a grand expedient for the advancing of Unity, that we should " consider all the Liturgies, " that are and ever have been; and remove from them whatever is scandalous to any
party, and leave nothing but what all agree on.” He should have closed this fentence a little sooner; and advised us fairly and honestly to leave norbing ; for that will certainly be the event, when the objections of all parties are suffered to prevail; there being no one page of the Liturgy, wherein all, who pretend worship God as Cbriftians, are agreed.