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are increasing. It is no uncommon thing for persons of all perfuasions to meet in the same church to hear the same preacher ; many of whom have no communion with one another at any other time: how is a preacher to please such a mixt multitude of hearers, but by leaving the church of Christ out of the question, and preaching a loose sort of religion, which will fit them all? Perhaps, if he were to speak the plain truth, and, from a sincere, regard to their souls, give them such information as they stand most in need of, many of them would leave him with indignation: as there were those who would walk no longer with Jesus Christ, because they were not able to bear the things that were spoken by him. There is a fashion of inviting people to come to Christ, without telling them where and how he is to be found. Besides, it is a great miltake to suppose, that the whole of religion consists in our taking of Christ; it is beginning at the wrong end: for Christ is to take us, as he took the little children in his arms, and gave them his blessing *. He said to his disciples, “ye have
not chosen me, but I have chosen you." There is a covenant between us and God, into which God, of his infinite grace, takes us; we do not take him, neither can we: and this confines us to the ordinances of the church, which are not of us, but are the gifts of God's free grace to us miserable sinners: and Christians are united to God, and to one another, by the services of prayer, and the participation of the sacraments, more than by the hearing of the word of God without them ; which many hear for reasons of vanity and uncharitableness. Who are the best friends every minister hath in his parish? They who attend the prayers and sacra. ments with him ; who are edified by his priesthood as well as by his preaching; and are adive in the great work of their own salvation.
3. As the latter times of the Jewish church were very corrupt, ' and the doctrines of God were rendered of none effect by the inventions of men, it is agreeable to the prophecies of the New Testament, that offences must come amongst us; that men must
* Mr. Locke, in his Reasonableness of Christianity, (a strange piece of divinity) in the same mistake. He makes baptism a visible act, whereby those, who believed Christ to be the Messiah, received him as their king. So again in the fame style, he fays, that by baptism men enroll themselves in the kingdom of Jesus; which is but to say in other words, that they write their own names in heaven. From such language as this, it is too apparent that Mr. Locke's ideas of the Christian priesthood and facra.. menti, were exceedingly low,
arise, out of the church, “ speaking perverse things, to draw away “ disciples after them :” also that many will not “ endure sound “ doctrine, but heap up to themselves teachers, having itching
These, and many other like passages, give us notice that there must be a falling off from the faith, with confufion and disagreement in the Christian society. If we look at our own church, we have but a melancholy prospect ; and cannot help observing, that it approaches too near to the state of the Jewish church before its destruction. As they had corrupted the doctrines of Moses and the prophets, and in consequence of it were divided into sects, (for as truth unites, error always divides men) so have we corrupted the doctrines of the Gospel, and are miserably divided in consequence of it. I could name some doctrines, which if our Saviour were now to deliver in the metropolis of London, with the same freedom and authority as he did at Jerusalem, I verily believe he would be persecuted and put to death by people called Christians, as he was of old by those who were called Jews. The church of Jerusalem was infested with temporising and philosophising Jews, who were farthest of all others from the faith, while they affected to be wiser than all the rest of the people. The Sadducees believed neither angel' nor spirit, and said there was no resurrection. The Herodians were politicians, and men of the world, who flattered Herod that he was the Melliah. The Pharisees were a proud fanctified fect, very godly in outward fhew, but full of hypocrisy within. They justified themselves, and despised others, as not good enough to stand near thes, or belong to the same church with them. Of the sect of the Essenes, we have no particular acsount in the New Testament; but from all we can learn, I take them to have been the Quakers of that time, who had thrown off all external rites of worship, and affected a religion perfectly pure and philosophical. The Sadducees were the Socinians of Judaism; who had nothing spiritual belonging to them, and had reduced their law to an empty form. The venality and avarice of the Jews of our Saviour's time, were notorious, and provoked his indignation. Their temple, filled with buyers and sellers, was turned into a den of thieves: ard, God knows, there is too much of a worldly traffick amongit us; which is too far gone to be reformed, and too bold to be censured-venduntur omnia !
* "CHURCH LIVING. *Two thousand pounds ready for the next presentation to a rectory of adequate
4. But whatever abuses there may be in the church, it is our duty 10 make the best of it. The church is our spiritual mother; and we may apply those words of the wise man, “ despise not thy mother when she is old;" not even if she should be in rags and dotage. The doctrine of the church of England is, by profession, still pure and apoftolical ; and, whatever faults it may have contracted, it cannot be worse than the church which our Saviour found at Jerusalem : yet he still recommended to the congregation the duty of obedience to their spiritual rulers. “ Scribes and the Pharisees fit in Moses' feat; all, therefore, “ whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do." Bad as the church then was, our Saviour never forsook it, but “ taught “ daily in the Temple ;” and his Apostles attended upon its worship at the hours of prayer ; and probably continued so to do, till they were dispersed. Neither Christ nor his disciples ever considered the doctrines of church authority, and succession, and conformity, as vain words and idle dreams, as our Socinians have done of latc years; and after what hath been said, their views want no explanation.
5. In our behaviour toward those who have departed from us, let not us, who honour the church, fall into the error of those who despise it. Let us not betray any symptoms of pride in censuring with severity, but rather, with hearts full of sorrow and compassion, lament the differences and divisions which expose the Christian religion to the scorn of its enemies. Infidels are delighted to see that Christians cannot understand one another; from thence they are ready to report, that there is no sense amongst them all, nor any reason in their religion ; for that, if there were, they would agree about it. In this also the Papists triumph ; they boast of their advantage over the reformed, in that they are preserved in peace and unity, while we are torn to pieces with factions and divisions. Hence they reflect upon the whole reformation, as a natural source of confusion; that they belong to Jerusalem, and we to Babel; that when we leave their church, the city upon the hill, we never know where to stop, till we get
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to the bottom : that is, till we have run either into the madness of enthusiasm, or the profaneness of infidelity. How shall we stop this wide mouth of scandal, while appearances are so much against us? However this reproach doth not reach us of the church of England ; who, in doctrine and profession, are where we were two hundred years ago. Let those who have left us, try if they can answer the Papists upon this head : it is their business to account for the confusion which they only have introduced.
If the clergy of this church have any desire to preserve it, they must consider for what end the church is appointed. A Christian church is a candlestick, to hold forth the light of the Gospel. When it ceases to answer that end, it is of no use as a church ; and the world may do as well without it. Great things have been attributed of late times to moral preaching: but there is no such thing as telling people what they are to do, without telling them what they are to believe; because the Christian morality is built upon the Christian faith, and is totally different from the morality of Heathens. Deism, so called, is a religion without Chriftianity; it has neither the Father, the Son, nor the Holy Ghost, into whose name Christians are baptized. It has no facraments, no redemption, no atonement, no church communion, and consequently no charity ; for charity is the love and unity of Chrif. tians as such. Natural religion is but another name for Deism; it is the same thing in all respects; and I may challenge all the philosophers in Europe to thew the difference. Therefore, to recommend moral duties on the ground of natural religion, is to preach Deism from a pulpit: and we should ask ourselves whether God, who upholds his church, to declare salvation by Jesus Christ alone, will preserve a church, when it has left the Gospel, and holds forth the light of Deism in the candlestick which was made, and is supported in the world, only to hold forth the light of Christianity? What else is it that hath made way for the enthusiastic rant of the Tabernacle? When the wise forsake the Gofa pel, then is the time for the unwise to take it up; but with such a mixture of error and indiscretion, as gives the world a pretence for never returning to it any more: and then the case is desperate.
Deisin, properly so called, (faith a certain writer) is the religion essential to man, the true original religion of reason and nature. It is in Deism, properly so called, that our more disBerning and rational divines have constantly placed the alone excellency and true glory of the Christian institution.'
- The Gospel (says Dr. Sherlock) was a republication of the law of nature, and its precepis declarative of that original religion which was as old as the creation,'~ If natural religion' (says Mr. Chandler) · be not a part of the religion of Christ, it is scarcę worth while to enquire at all what his religion is: from whence it seems very natural to infer, that the other parts of the religion of Christ are scarce worth any thing at all of our notice. [Deism fairly stated by a moral philosopher : p. 5, 6, 7.] See the whole book, which proceeds on this principle; that natural religion being admitted, it must be a perfect scheme, a compleat structure ; and that Christianity, as a superstructure, is unneces. sary : and it is lamentable to see what advantage this author takes of the unguarded conceflions of some celebrated Christian preachers and controversialists of the church of England, who did not foresee, or did not consider, the consequences of their doctrines.
The Bishop of Llandaff's Collection of Tracts, in six volumes, opens with the Theological Lectures of Dr. Taylor, of Nora wich, a Dissenting teacher ; which shews his lordship’s great candour toward that party. In the first chapter of which Lectures, I find a rule of interpretation repugnant to the rule given us by the Scripture itself, which directs us to “ compare spiritual things with spiritual;” that is, to compare the Scripture with the Scripture, that we may keep to the true sense of it. But here it is laid down as a fundamental rule, that we should always interpret the Scripture in a sense " consistent with the laws of natural religion ; for that the law of nature, as it is founded in the unchangeable nature of things, must be the basis and ground-work of every conftitution of religion which God hath erected *.” Now, with all due deference to his lord hip's judgement in collecting properly for the edification of the clergy, and the people committed to their charge, this rule of Dr. Taylor prejudges the Scripture before we come to it, and inculcates into inexperienced students of divinity, the very principle that hath ruined us, and given us up as a prey to the Deifts; it allows them the advantage they have contended for against the peculiar doctrines of revelation, as scarce worth any thing at all of our' notice, in comparison of natural
• $ce Theologic. Tracts, vol. i. p. 5