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latter Christians, and copy the lives of the first and purest professors of the Christian religion.
It would be endless to enumerate reasons in support of this doctrine ; and I am happy to observe, that you are in full possession of one practical argument, which triumphs over all suspicion. You have made an experiment of this doctrine. You are free yourselves, and your brethren are free along with you. Hence that freedom of speech in your teachers; for nobody is so weak as to imagine that all our hearers should adopt all the principles we lay down. We propose a subject, you think of it, you do not see evidence of it. What then ? Nothing at all.
Hence that spirit of free inquiry, which is cherished among you. You habituate yourselves to read the Scriptures, to make use of your own understandings, to inquire of one another how it is written, and of whom speaketh the prophet. Hence that investigation of a subject, which you pursue, and those interesting, eager, and friendly debates, which you conduct with so much edification to one another, and with so much honour to the soundness of your understandings, and to the sweetness of your tempers. You have learned the happy art of hearing without any unkind emotions your own sentis ments contradicted, sifted, and tried; and it never enters into your minds to injure, to grieve, or even to suspect the good and honest soul, who thinks for himself, but who does not think with you.
Hence comes that mild and gentle discipline, which sets open the Lord's table to all who profess faith in Christ and repentance towards God. I have spoken improperly. You have not set the Lord's table abroad; it was he himself who did so: but you have avoided the folly of inclosing it, of obliging all to approach it by a strait, dark passage, kept by a surly animal, in shape a man, in temper a mastiff. Hence that honest proposal of believers baptism as a primitive institute of Jesus Christ, and that just liberty given to every brother to judge of the nature and necessity of what you propose. If he believes, he is baptized; if he thinks infant baptism a divine institute, exemplified by Christ, and enjoined on the children of his disciples, he procures a neighbouring teacher to baptize them; and though this hath been the practice of this society for more than a hundred and fifty years, yet there is no instance in your recollection or in your records, of the least degree of bitterness or incivility on that account.
Hence that generous regard, which you manifest to all good men of every denomination. You hear their instructions with mildness; you examine them with integrity, you adopt them with gratitude, or you refuse them with civility, accompanying your unbelief with a thousand kind offices, far better to the good men than your orthodoxy. Hence that just distinction, which you make in regard to all the duties you owe your fellowcreatures. You observe that you are bound by the law of nature, and by the express revelation of Scripture, to love your neighbour as yourself; your neighbour in general, not your sound neighbour in particular.
Hence comes the inexpressible joy of your hopes. You see at no great distance, death. You consider dying as a passage to immortal life. You consider immortal life as the inheritance of all good men; and there you hope benevolence, which, in its utmost exercise here, is only in the bud, will ripen into fruits of inconceivable extent, duration, and beauty. Much of the joy of such prospects arises from the exercise of benevolence. What interest have we in the destruction of our fellow-creatures? Is it impossible for us to be happy unless some of our fellow-creatures be miserable ? How can a bigot be happy by believing, that the infinitely wise and good God will contract himself into the size, the narrow size of a school-boy's soul, will make his childish distinctions, enter into his silly schemes, and rule and judge a world of " ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands," not by the perfections of his own nature, and the well known laws of bis government, but will make all move to the drowsy musick of the tinkling bells of a pedant. A happiness founded on benevolence, rests on the pillars that support the universe: it may be shaken, it never can be subverted. On this subject we have no reproofs, and but
one exhortation to give you, and that is contained in one word, PERSEVERE. 6 As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy !" They are 66 the Israel of God." 66 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." Amen.
THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION SHOULD NOT BE CONFOUNDED
(AT LITTLE SHELFORD.]
COLOSSIANS ii. 8, 9.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and
vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
6 BEWARE lest any man spoil you”... What! is it possible to spoil a Christian? Indeed it is.
Indeed it is. A Christian may spoil himself as a beautiful complexion or a proper shape may be rendered disagreeable by circumstances of dress or uncleanliness; he may be spoiled by other people, just as a straight child may be made crooked by the negligence of his nurse; or exactly as a sweet-tempered youth may be made surly or insolent by a cruel master. 6 Beware lest any man spoil you.” Is it possible for whole societies of Christians to be spoiled ? Certainly it is. Nothing is easier. They may spoil one another, as in a family, the temper of one single person may spoil the peace of the whole; or as in a school, one trifling or turbulent master may spoil the education, and so the usefulness, through life, of two or three hundred pupils, successively committed to his
injudicious treatment. All human constitutions, even the most excellent, have seeds of imperfections in them, some mixtures of folly, which naturally tend to weaken and destroy; and though this is not the case with the Christian religion itself, which is the wisdom of God without any mixture of human folly ; yet even this pure religion, like the pure juice of the grape, falling into the hands of depraved men, may be perverted, and whole societies may embrace Christianity thus perverted.
Beware lest any man spoil you through ... what ? Idolatry, blasphemy, profligacy? No. Christians are in very little danger from great crimes; but beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy. What hath philosophy done, that the apostle should thus guard Christians against it? Did not he know that before his time, while mimics were idly amusing one part of the world, and heroes depopulating another, the peaceable. sons of philosophy disturbed nobody, but either improved mankind in their schools, or sat all calm and content in their cells? Did he not observe that in his time Christianity was reputed folly, because it was taught and believed by unlettered people ; and that if philosophers could be prevailed on to teach it, it would have instantly acquired a character of wisdom? Whether the common people had understood it or not, they would have reckoned it wise if philosophers had taught it. The apostle knew all this, and, far from courting the aid of learned men to secure credit to the Gospel, he guards Christians in the text against the future temptation of doing so. Had this caution been given us by any of the other apostles, who had not had the advantage of a learned education, we might have supposed, they censured what they did not understand; but this comes from the disciple of Gamaliel.
The wise apostle assigns two reasons for the caution. “ Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy." Why? Because philosophy doth not go on the same ground as Christianity. Philosophy is a body of wis-, dom made up of the speculations, and conjectures, and inferences of studious, learned men ; but Christianity is