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THE SCRIPTURES ARE, &c. that I have been contending; but for truth--the glory of God, and the souls of men. • To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
The last clause of this passage will be the foundation of the next Sermon. Like Timothy may we “know the Scriptures; which are able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus.” AMEN.
ISAIAH VIII. 20. To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not accoi
ding to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Two discourses have been delivered from this passage. In the first, it was shown, that the Scriptures are the only standard of faith and practice. In the second, the various ways were pointed out, in which our Anti-Trinitarian opponents refuse to speak according to this word.
In conformity with the general arrangement, it remains,
III. To show, the reasons of their resorting to other grounds of decision. When the text was written, it appears that some were disposed to advise the Israelites to forsake God-to renounce his word as the only standard of truth, and to have recourse to other sources of religious information. In opposition to these pernicious instructions, the prophet said, “Should not a people seek unto their God? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
It is, surely, a sinful darkness, that causes people to depart from the light of divine truth. It is a manifestation that they have never been born of the Spirit-never conformed to the moral image of God. Men of great minds
and extensive science, are as deeply involved in moral darkness before regeneration, as the weak and illiterate part of mankind. Through the pride of carnal reasoning, they go astray, and reject the counsel of God. The simple truths of the Gospel were accounted, by the learned Greeks, “ foolishness.” They could see no consistency in salvation by grace, and through faith in a crucified Savior. It was exceedingly offensive to them, to be told, that they were such sinners as to deserve eternal damnation ; that they needed sovereign mercy; and that they could not see the kingdom of God, without experiencing a change of heart. Scientific refinement, and conformity to a system of ethics, were the grounds of their reliance for acceptance with God. Hence, St. Paul says, “ The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the
power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
In all ages and nations, among all descriptions of men, “the preaching of the cross is, to them that perish, foolishness.” “ The carnal mind is enmity against God;"> direct hostility to every essential doctrine of Scripture. Those people who are disposed to resist the idea of their being totally depraved anterior to regeneration, give the strongest testimony they possibly can, that this is in fact their own situation. No lively and well-informed Christian will ever dispute the entire depravity of man by nature. St. Paul says to a church, of whose members he entertained a high esteem, “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord : walk as children of light.” Eph. 5. 8. In the discussion of the present head, it may, 1. Be proper to observe, that those who refuse to speak
according to the Oracles of God, manifest that they have never been born of the Spirit. Hating the grand doctrines of the Gospel, is as great an evidence of impenitence, as an open transgression of the moral law. That God, who requires us to obey his voice, has also commanded us to believe his word. If we have been born of the Spirit, we shall have a respect for all the commandments of Jehovah. People may be moral to a certain degree, without having any regard to the Scriptures as a rule of life. Public opinion is the standard by which many regulate their behavior. They wish to be esteemed ; and, therefore, they aim to conduct themselves in conformity to the general tone of morals. Their character depends entirely on the state of the society in which they are placed. Their external conformity to revealed religion, is, therefore, purely an accidental event. No example, however, will induce people to love the truth, as it is in Jesus Christ. Under the influence of such an example, they may assent to divine doctrines; but their hearts are as unreconciled to them, as the most open and daring opposers. 66 The carnal mind is enmity against God,” under all circumstances. In this state, the heart is a chaos of moral darkness. No ray of divine light irradiates it for the space of a moment. It is no breach of charity to say, concerning the people who oppose the Trinitarian doctrines, that they have never been renewed by the power of the Holy Ghost ; for they deny that there is such an agent in contradistinction from the Father, or such a change as we view regeneration to be, produced in any human heart. Those passages of Scripture which speak of that event, are construed by them to mean nothing but the resurrection of the body. They cannot, therefore, be the subjects of a change, which they themselves believe to be unnecessary, and even impossible. We profess to have an entire faith in both these doctrines;
and believe that it is because they have not been born of the Spirit, that they refuse to speak according to the law and the testimony." It is said in the text, “ If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” This is the same as to say that such people have never been “ born of the Spirit.” There may, however, be a considerable degree of darkness, in relation to the deep things of God, in the minds of some who have been regenerated ; but we cannot admit that it is so thick, as to lead them to an open denial of the Divinity and Atonement of Christ—the Deity, Personality, and saving operations of the Holy Ghost. These are fundamental principles in the scheme of revealed religion; and when they are given up, it takes away all claim to the Christian name. No one can be a real Christian, who has not been “born of the Spirit.” This has been fully proved by Mr. Wardlaw, in his admirable Sermon, on the Christian name. A departure from the cardinal doctrines of the Bible, renders the want of vital piety certain ; and every degree of heterodoxy, makes the thing, in some measure, doubtful. A complete soundness, in relation to the divine system, is necessary, to exhibit shining evidence of being a real disciple of Jesus Christ. Soundness in the faith, is closely allied to holiness in action. The one is the tree, and the other its fruit. Corrupting the word of God, is, therefore, no small crime in his view ; and we have cogent reasons for saying, that an attempt to overturn its fundamental principles, is a clear indication of being his enmies at heart. To say any thing less than this, would be a flat contradiction of the text which I am now illustrating. This would be a corruption of truth, to which, I hope, through grace, never to descend.
Concerning the real ministers of the Gospel, St. Paul says, “ For we are not as many, who corrupt the word of