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129 To the Reader: right hand, another at his left; and they were ever difputing which should be the greatest. Any occurrence that flattered this notion, was gladly received, and made the most of ; and every thing that could not be reconciled with it, was thrust out of sight.
« When “ the Son of man began to teach them, that he must suffer many “ things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests and “ seribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again;" all these things were so destructive of their principle, that Peter began to rebuke him, as if he had heard blasphemy. Christ took an opportunity of inculcating this doctrine afresh, when they were in a late of conviction at feeing him perform a miracle ; endeavouring, as it were, to surprize them into a confession of its truth: but the time was not yet." While they wondered every one “ at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples, let “ these sayings fink down into your ears: for the Son of man “ shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood "! not this saying; it was hid from them, that they perceived “ it not ?." The termns were clear and intelligible enough ; and the ideas conveyed by them were all common and familiar : but if that saying were admitted, they must part with their beloved principle: therefore it follows, that they were afraid to ask him of that saying ; left he should carry on the subject, and leave them no way to escape. They had already heard more than they would believe, and therefore, as to any thing farther, thought it beft to remain in the dark.
In short, where there is a taste and relish for “the things that “ be of men," more than for “the things that be of God," and some principle is imbibed wherein the passions are strongly engaged, men are to be persuaded of any thing, and of nothing : ready to take up with every despicable pretence to prop and support their favourite opinion ; and deaf to the plainest words and most infallible proofs, if they tend to establish the other side of the question. For example ; that a Mefiah was to deliver their nation, was allowed by all the Jews; and they were well agreed as to the time of his coming, and the place where he Thould be born. It was to be shewn, that Jesus of Nazareth was the person : and for a proof of it, they were bid to compare the Scripture with the things he did and taught. " But though he had done so many mi. “ Macles before them, yet they believed not on him ;” and as if se proof of his mission obscure and defective, they Ármally to him to ask a sign of him, after they had seen igns; and called out to the very last for better evi
! Mark viii. 31
Luke ix. 43, 44
3 John xił. 3%
dding him “ come down from the cross,” that they mign see and believe "," One would take these Jews to have been Sceptics, who would persevere in their doubtings against every proposition that could be offered. But if we judge from their behaviour upon some other occafions, there never was a more credulous generation upon the face of the earth. They could receive full satisfaction from the most childish and inconfilterit - tales; that ever were invented. The self-contradiction of Satan cafting out Satan; or the report of a few Heathen soldiers, who witneiled what was done " while they were alleep,” could pass for good gospel ; while the most evident miracles, and the clearest prophecies, were all nothing to the purpose, where they did not like the conclusion. And for the same reason, the whole Gospel itself, while it is the favour of life to fome, is a favour of death to others ! as different as life and death! yet nevertheless oné and the same Gospel. It is like the pillar that stood between the camp of Israel, and the host of Egypt; which was a cloud 10 the one, and light to the other. But who will deny that the light was clear to the Israelites, because the Egyptians saw nothing but a cloud of darkness ?
Behold then the true source of all our religious differences: they proceed from the blindness and corruption of the human heart, increafed and cherished by fome false principle that suits with its appetites: and all the prudence and learning the world can boast, will exempt no child of Adam from this miferable weakness : nothing but the grace of God can possibly remove it. Where that is suffered to enter, and the heart, instead of persisting in its own will, is surrendered to the will of God, the whole Gospel is sufficiently clear, because no text of it is any longer offensive.
Of this happy change we have the best example in the Apostles of our blessed Saviour ; who, when they first entered the school of Christianity, had a veil upon their hearts like the rest of their countrymen, and were strongly posessed by a spirit of the world, promising itself the full enjoyment of temporal honours and preferments. But the sufferings and death of their Mafter having
i Mark xv. 32.
2 Exod. xiv, 20.
Mewed the vanity of such expectations, and served in a great meafure to beat down this earthly principle, they were ready for conviction; and then “ their understanding was opened, that they “ might understand the Scriptures".” The evidence that before was dark and inconclusive, became on a sudden clear and irrefiftible; and they who had lately fled from disgrace and death as from the greatest of evils, could now rejoice that they were found worthy to suffer. Their opinion was altered, because their affections were cleansed from this world : that mire and clay was washed off from their eyes in the true waters of Siloam, and now they could see all things clearly.
What has been here said upon the conduct of our Saviour's dirciples, and the unbelieving Jeu's, may be applied to all those who dispute any article of the Christian Faith ; and particularly the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity, as revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. For we shall certainly find that some false principle is assumed, which flatters the pride of human nature. It abhors restraint and subjection ; and is ever aspiring, right or wrong, to be distinguithed from the common herd, and to “exalt “ itself against the knowledge of God?” What this principle is, we shall very soon discover : it is publicly owned and gloried in by every considerable writer that of late years has meddled with this subject. I shall instance in the learned Dr. Clarke ; because he is deservedly placed at the head of the Arian disputants in this kingdom.
He affirms in his first Proposition, that the one God, spoken of in Matth. xix. 17. and elsewhere, is only one PERSON; and then adds, “ This is the first principle of Natural Religion *.”
So then here are two different religions ; by one of which it is proved, that the one God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: that he is therefore three persons. But it is the first principle of the other religion, that he is but one person : though how that can be reconciled with the practice of the whole Heathen world, who were so far from discovering this one perfon, that they held “ Gods many, and Lords many ?," is not very easy to determine. And whence comes this religion? it is confessed to be drawn from nature ! it is the Gospel of the natural man, unsanctified by divine grace, and urinAtructed by any light from above; and owes its birth to that foun1 Luke xxiv. 45.
2 2 Cor. X. 5.
* See Script. Doctr. p. ii. j. s.
3 i Cor. viii. 5. VOL. II.
tain of darkness and self-conceit, from whence has sprung all the confusion and imagination that ever was introduced into the religion of God. And what wonder, if nature should operate as strongly in an Arian or a Socinian against the mystery of the Trinity, as it did in the Jews against the Law and the Prophets, and in the unconverted disciples against the doctrine of the Cross? If it be laid down as a first principle, that God is but one Person, then it will be utterly impossible, so long as this principle keeps pofseflion, that any person, of comınon sense enough to know the meaning of words, should quietly receive and embrace a revelation in those parts of it, where it teaches us that God is three Persons : these two principles being so diametrically opposite, that while he holds to the one, a voice from the dead will not persuade him of the other. Therefore, I say again, we ought not to wonder if that man should remain for ever invincible, who BRINGS to the Scripture that knowledge of God, which he is bound, as a Chriftian, to RECEIVE from it.
What then will be the consequence in this case? The practice of the Deift, who carries on this argument to its proper issue, is 10 deny the Scripture-revelation, because his natural religion is contrary to it; ard they cannot both be true. But the partial unbeliever, who allows the Scripture to be supported by such external evidence as he cannot answer, while his reason objects to the matter contained in it, nust follow the example of the Jews, and reconcile the Scripture where he cannot believe it. Thus they treated the law of Mofos. “We know,” said they, “ihat God “ fpake unto Moses' :" therefore they readily granted his law to have a divine au:hority: but as it would not serve their turn in its own proper words, they put a false gloss of tradition upon the face of it, to hide its true complexion; and then complained that the Scripture was not clear enough : and if you used it as a testimony to Jesus Christ, they would stone you for a blasphemer.
What shall we say then? that the fews were of a different opinion from the Christians ? and that this was their way of underfranding the Scripture ? No: God forbid. For if we will believe the Scripture itself, it was their way of denying it. “ ye believed Mofes," says our Lord, “ye would have believed “ me :” and he gives us upon this occasion the true grounds and reasons of their unbelief ; because they “received honour one of “ another, and had not the love of God in them ?." Every hypo. 1 John ix. 29.
2 See John v. 39. ad fine
thesis of human growth, which was pretty sure to agree with their complexion, and reflected some honour upon themselves by exalting the nature of man, that can make a religion for itself, and comes in its own name ; that they would gladly receive. But if any thing was offered to them in the name of God, to be received for the love of him, and the spiritual comfort of a pure conscience, and the hope of a better world : it was rejected, as an encroachment upon their natural rights, and an invective against the innocent pleasures of a carnal Jerusalem. And so it is with us at this time: for if an author does but hang out the sign of Nature and reason in his title-page, there are readers in plenty, who will buy up and swallow his dregs by wholesale: but if God, of his infinite mercy and condescension, shews to them the way of salvation, his words are to be abstracted from the evidence upon which he requires us to believe them, then put into this alembic of reason, and demonstrated to be no poifon, before they can be brought to taste them. And if they should happen to be a little disagreeable to flesh and blood, and the operation fhould miscarry, the fault is charged upon God, and not upon themselves, who ought to have gone another way to work; as they will certainly find.
We conclude, therefore, because Christ has affirmed it, that every degree of doubt and disputation against the words of God, is just so much unbelief : proceeding not from the head or understanding, but from the heart' and affections. And the world is filled with the vain jangling of uncertainty, for this short reason
.~ all men have not faith ?."