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tian religion *: till it can be shewn therefore that the Scripture neither does nor can shine by a light and authority of its own, the evidence we are to rest in, must be drawn from thence ; and as we all have the fame Scripture, withont doubt we ought all to have the same opinion of God.
But here it is cominonly objected, that men will be of different opinions; that they have a right to judge for themselves; and that when the best evidence the nature of the case will admit of is collected and laid before them, they must determine upon it as it appears to them, and according to the light of their own consciences : so that if they adhere as closely to their errors after they have consulted the proper evidence as they did before, we are neither to wonder nor be troubled at it.
This very moderate and benevolent way of thinking, has been studiously recommended by those, who found it necessary to the well-being of their own opinions, that not a spark of zeal should be left amongst us. And surely it is no new thing that the advocates of any particular error, next to themselves and their own falhion, should naturally incline to thofe who are softest, and stand least in the way. Hence it is, that however magisterial and infolent they may carry themselves in their own cause; they always take care to season their writings with the praises of this frozen indifference : calling that Christian charity, which is nothing but the absence of Christianity: and any the least appearance of earnestness for some great and valuable truth, which we are unwilling to part with, because we hope to be faved by it, is brow-beaten, condemned, and cast out of their moral system, under the name of heat, want of temper, fire, fury, &e. They add moreover, that articles of faith are things merely speculative; and that it is of little signification what a man believes, if he is but hearty and sincere in it: that is, in other words, it is a mere trife whether we feed upon bread † or poison $; the one will prove to be as good nourishment as the other, provided it be eaten 'with an appetite. Yet soine well-meaning people are sa puzzled and deceived by this sophistry, that they look upon concord among Christians as a thing impracticable and desperate ;
You may have a proof of this from the Essay ex Spirit, by comparing the book with its title, which runs thus-Tbe Doctrine of tbe Trinity considered in the Light of Realog and Nature, &c.
+ See and compare Deut. viii. 3. Amos viii. 11. Acts xx. 28. # James iii. 8. 1 Tim. iv. 1.
concluding a point to be disputable because it is disputed ; and so they fall into a loose indifferent humour of palliating and thinking charitably, as it is called, of every error in faith and pradice; as if the church of Christ might very innocently be turned into a Babel of confusion.
Now that men do maintain opinions strangely different from one another, especially on subjects wherein it most concerns them to be agreed, is readily confessed: we are all witnesses of it: and, allowing them to be equally informed, there are but three possible fources from whence this difference can arise. It must be.either from God, or from the Scripture, or from themselves. From God it cannot be, for it is a great evil; it is the triumph of Deists and reprobates, and the best handle the enemies of Christianity ever found against it; and God is not the author of evil. Nor can it be from the Scripture : to draw it thence, is þut another way of imputing it 10 God, The Scripture is his word; and he is answerable for the effect of his words when written or reported, as when they are suggested at first hand by the voice of his Holy Spirit. It remains, therefore, that the only source of this evil must be the heart of man: and that it really is so, will be evident from the Scripture, and the plainest matters of fact. The account we have of this affair is, in short, as follows-Ever fince the fall, the nature of man has been blind and corrupt ; his “ understanding " darkened "," and his affections polluted : upon the face of the whole earth there is no man, Jew or Gentile, that “ understandeth " and seeketh after God ? ;” the natural man, or man remaining in that state wherein the fall left him, is so far from being able to discover or know any religious truth, that he hates and flies from it when it is proposed to him; he “ receiveth not the things of “ the Spirit of God'.” Man is natural and earthly; the things of God are spiritual and heavenly; and these are contrary one to the other therefore, as the wisdom of this world is foolish
ness with God," so the wisdom of God is foolishness with the world. In a word, the sense man is now possessed of, where God does not restrain it, is used for evil and not for good : his “« wisdom is earthly, sensual *, devilish 5;" it is the fagacity of a brute, animated by the malignity of an evil spirit.
1 Ephes. iv. 18.
4 Ibid. üi. 19.
1 Rom. iji, II.
3 1 Cor, ii. 14.
This being the present state of man, the Scripture does therefore declare it necessary, that he should be “ transformed by the “ renewing of his mind",” and restored to that “ found mind?," and “ light of the understanding ?,” that “ spiritual discern
ment“,” with which the human nature was endried when it came from the hands of God, but to which it has been dead from the day that evil was brought into the world. And where the grace of God that Mould open the eyes, and prepare the heart to receive inftruction, has been obstinately withstood and refifted; this blindness, which at first was only natural, becomes judicial; from being a defect, it is confirmed into a judgment; and men are not only unable to discern 'the truth, but are settled and rivetted in error: which is the case with all those to whom “ God sends strong delusion that they should believe a lie, and “ have pleasure in unrighteousness 6." It is then they sit down in the “ seat of the scornful,” as “ fools” that “ make a mock “ at fin?,” and “ despisers of those that are good ;" hating and railing at their fellow.creatures, only because they are endued with the fear of God! This is the last stage of blindness; and it is referred to in those words of the Apostle" If our Gospel be « hid, it is hid to them that are lost' :” as also in that lamentation of our blessed Lord over the city of Jerusalem-" If thou “ hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things “ that belong to thy peace! but now they are hid from thine “ eyes'.”
The absolute necessity of God's grace to lighten our darknefs, has often been largely and faithfully insisted upon by the writers and preachers of the church of England: but since a spirit of Deism has crept in among us, it has been openly slighted and contemned by some, and too much neglected by others; which has given an opportunity to several sorts of enthusiasts to make a wrong use of it : such as our Quakers, Methodists, and particularly the Reverend Mr. Wiliam Law, who, after writing so excellently upon the vanity of the world, and the follies of human life, (on which Subjects he has no fuperior) has left us nothing to depend upon but imagination, and reduced the whole evidence of Christianity to fancied impulses and inspiration ; so as to render the Scriptures useless, and the appointed means of grace contemptible. I have
1 Rom. xii. 2. XX. 12. and xvi. 1. 92 Cor. iv. 3.
2 Tim. 1. 7.
7 Prov. xiv, 2
8 2 Tim. iii. 3 i Luke xix. 42.
obferved the like to have happened in many other instances; that where any effential point of doctrine has been dropt by the writers of the church, or at least not brought out to view so often as it should have been, it has been taken up by others, (as all tares are fown while the husbandmen are asleep) and employed, under some false state of it, to the no fmall difadvantage of the church and the Chriftian religion.
To illustrate this fubject a little farther, I shall make it appear by a few plain examples, that where inankind have been divided in their opinions with .regard to any divine truth, it has not been owing to the ambiguity of its terms, or the defect of its evis dence, but wholly and folely to the Itate and temper of the hearers. And thus Christ himself has instructed us in his parable of the Sower ; that where the good seed of the word perishes, it is to be imputed to the ground and not to the feed. How else can we account for it, that when St. Paul laid the evidence of the Gospel before a large assembly of Jews at Rome, “ some believed the “ things which were fpoken, and some believed not,” though the same things were spoken to all ? Such in general was the success of the apostolical preacking; some few “ receiving the “ word with gladness,” while others opposed themselves and blasphemed. And though it be supposed, that words are more easily misunderstood than facts, and may admit of a greater latitude ; yet here we shall find, that the same spirit which has divided mankind in what are called the more speculative points of faith, will also divide them in the plainest and most striking matters of fact. The resurrection of Lazarus was a matter of fact, seen and attested by a competent number of witnesses : but how different was the effect of it upon different persons ! for while it had its free course with many of the Jews, and inoved them to believe on Jefus, it only moved the chief Priests to hate him the more ; and they consulted how “ they might put Lazarus also to “ death?.” When Jesus cured the blind, and calt out devils, some rightly concluded---" Rabbi, thou art a teacher come from God; “ for no man can do these miracles that thou dost, except God be « with him ? :" yet there were not a few, and they of the most learned and knowing too, who concluded far otherwise, that he “ cast out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.”So likewise, when the Holy Ghost descended on the Apostles, and
1 Ads xxviii, 24.
2 John xii, 10, II.
3 John iii. 2.
4 Matt. xii. 24.
inspired them with the gift of tongues, fome devout men were amazed and confounded at the miracle ; plainly feeing the hand of God in it, and asking what it meant, what was the end and design of it? and being informed by St. Peter's discourse, that it was to confirm the million of “ Jesus of Nazareth, received his “ word gladly, and were baptized ";" while others, to avoid the conclusion, “ mocking, said, these men are full of new wine ?." Here is a great multitude afsembled together; all of them witnesses to the same fact : yet, in their opinions of it, they are as far asunder as drunkenness is from inspiration. But in this case no Christian will raise a doubt about the real inspiration of the Apostles, or deny the power of God to have been fufficiently manifested, because some were so profane and senseless as to ridicule it, under the name of drunken nefs.
This self-deceit always operates by the affiftance of some false principle contrary to the Scripture ; which gets possession of the heart by ministering to the passions. And till that be difpofseffed, no truth will be suffered to enter which can in the least affect of destroy it. A man in such circumstances may see the truth staring him in the face; and the clearershe sees it, the more he will be enraged at it. He may be convicted, and left without a word to fay, but what will expose the hardness and perplexity of his heart; but till it be emptied of its evil treasure, and he becomes as a little child that has nothing of its own to oppose to the revelation of God, he cannot be converted; but will either shut his eyes, and deny the evidence that is offered to him, or pretend it is a nice point, very difficult to be understood; and fo give a perverse turn to it, though it be ever so plain and intelligible.
Till the disciples of Christ resigned themselves up to be led into all truth by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, they were in the state of mind I am now describing ; dull of hearing, and doubtful, and flow of heart. They were often warned of it, particu. Jarly in the following words :-" I have yet many things to say “ unto you, but ye cannot bear them now". And as the divine wisdom made choice of such men for the good of those who should come after, so these things are written of them for our admonition. They had laid it down as a first principle, that their master's kingdom was to be of this world: and formed all their reasonings and expectations accordingly. One was to fit at bis