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of means by the sinner, as to create ample encouragement to attend upon them, and to render all hopes of conversion while neglecting or rejecting the truth, or while living in open sin, eminently presumptuous.
That believers are justified by the merits of Christ through faith; and are received into a covenant with God, which secures their continuance in holiness forever;-while those, who die in their sins, will continue to sin wilfully, and to be punished justly for ever.
That God exercises a providential government; which extends to all events in such a manner, as to lay a just foundation for resignation to him in afflictions brought upon us by the wickedness of men, and for gratitude in the reception of good in all the various modes of human instrumentality—that all events shall illustrate his glory and be made subservient to the good of his kingdom-and that this government is administered, in accordance with a purpose or plan, known and approved of by him from the beginning.
Finally, that the God of the universe has revealed himself to us as existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; possessing distinct and equal attributes, and in some unrevealed manner so united as to constitute one God.
These are the doctrines, which, it is believed, were delivered to the saints, and which have been held substantially, though with some variety of modification, by the true church of God in all ages. To prevent circumlocution, I shall, in this discourse, call them the Evangelical System, and for the same reason, I shall call the opposite the Liberal System.*
It has been common to support these doctrines by the quotation of proof texts. But to these a different exposition is given more reasonable, it is said, and carrying with it a higher probability of truth; which leads to critical exposi
* I choose to call these doctrines the evangelical system, not only because I believe them to be the Gospel; but because no man, or denomination, has held them so exclusively, as to render it proper to designate them by the name of an individual or a sect. It is a select system, which some of almost every denomination hold, and some reject; and which ought to be characterised by some general term indicative of the system as held in all ages and among all denominations of Christians.
tion, and opens a wide field for evasion and creates perplexity and indecision.
My design at present is to avail myself of collateral evidence only, with the view of attempting to decide in this way which is the correct exposition of the proof texts the evangelical or the liberal exposition.
For the sake of argument, we shall suppose the evidence from exposition to be on each side exactly balanced, and proceed to lay into the scale of evangelical exposition those arguments which seem to furnish evidence of its correctness. I observe, then,
I. That the doctrines of the evangelical system are in accordance with the most direct and obvious meaning of the sacred text. By obvious meaning, I intend that, which is actually suggested, without note or comment to the minds of honest and unlettered men. That the proof texts teach the doctrines of the evangelical system in this manner, is alleged by learned infidels as a reason for rejecting the inspiration of the Bible; by Unitarian commentators and writers, as a reason for restraining, modifying and turning aside the text; and by Critics, who translate or expound without reference to theological opinions. No translators have been able to maintain a reputation for classical literature, and to sink in a translation the obvious meaning below, and bring up the philosophical meaning upon the surface. The editors of the "Improved Version" have manifested as much good will, with as little conscience, in the attempt, as has ever appeared; and yet have been compelled to allow the proof texts, in most instances, to speak the offensive doctrines, and to content themselves with a simple contradiction of them in notes and comments. Interpretation according to the obvious import has resulted always in the evangelical system; while expositors according to the supposed rational and philosophical mode of exposition have differed indefinitely. It is not the evangelical, but the liberal rule of interpretation, which has
* This fact shows, that these remarks are as applicable to the original text, as to the translation; for surely, if the evangelical were not the obvious import in the original, nothing would be easier than to give a literal translation, which should leave them out of sight entirely.
filled the world with divers doctrines, perplexity and doubt. All versions, and all expositions according to the obvious meaning, of whatever country or age, do substantially agree in the evangelical system; and agree with the understanding of mankind at large who read the Bible. The Bible, for the most part, was written also by men, who understood language only according to its obvious import;-and for the use of men, to whom it must have been a sealed book upon any other principle of interpretation. Add to this, the testimony of the Bible to its own plainness: that it can be read by him that runs; and understood by the wayfaring man though a fool; that it is a lamp to the path; that it furnishes the man of God thoroughly; that it is profitable for doctrine; that it is able to make wise to salvation; that it creates obligation to know the truth and renders error inexcusable. Now if the obvious meaning of the proof texts be not the true one; and if the true meaning be one which can be seen only by men of classical and philosophical vision; then the common people have no Bible. For the book itself teaches them nothing; and the critical expositions of uninspired men are not a revelation. The character of God is also implicated, as having practised on his subjects a most deplorable deception; as having taught them falsehood in their own tongue, and the truth in an unknown tongue; as having required them to abhor, upon pain of his eternal displeasure, what he has taught them, by the only import of terms which they can comprehend; and to love and obey what he has not taught them, by any import of language, which they can possibly comprehend. Was the glorious God ever more scandalised than by such an imputation? We have heard of his having made a great part of mankind on purpose to damn them, and of his sending to hell helpless victims for the nonperformance of impossibilities; and, if such were indeed his character and conduct, I know not what other Bible we could expect, than one impossible to be understood and framed to deceive. But on this subject, we adopt the language of a distinguished advocate of the liberal system. "It is impossible that a teacher of infinite wisdom should expose those, whom he would teach, to
infinite error. He will rather urpass all other instructors in bringing down truth to our apprehension. A revelation is a gift of light; it cannot thicken and multiply our perplexities."*
2. It is the uniform testimony of the Bible, that the righteous love the truth; and that the wicked are opposed to it.
If then, we can decide who are the wicked, in the Scriptural sense, which system they approve, and which they oppose; we have an inspired decision which is the faith delivered to the saints. But the Scriptures have decided that irreligious and profane persons are wicked men;-and that all persons of confirmed vicious habits, liars, drunkards, thieves, adulterers, and all the impure are wicked men. They have placed in the same class the ambitious, who love the praise of men more than the praise of God; and the voluptuous, who love pleasure more than God. Now that some of this description of sinners are found under both systems, is admitted; but which system do they, as a body, prefer; and against which do they manifest unequivocal hostility. It requires no proof but universal observation to support the position, that the irreligious, immoral and voluptuous part of the community prefer the liberal system, and are vehement in their opposition to the evangelical system. If this assertion needs confirmation; assemble the pleasure-loving and licentious community of the world:-the patrons of balls and theatres and masquerades:-and let the doctrines of the evangelical system be preached plainly to them. Would they be pleased with them? Would they endure them? Do this class of the community, where their numbers or influence preponderate, any where, in the wide world, settle and support an evangelical minister; and if they support the preaching of any
⚫ Channing's Sermon, second Baltimore Ed. pp. 12, 13.
+ The reader will observe, that we do not say, nor do we believe it to be true, that all, or even the majority, who professedly embrace the liberal system, are wicked in the sense explained. We know, and we gladly embrace the opportunity to acknowledge, that there are among them many whose talents and learning, whose amiable and generous dispositions, and whose devotedness to the public good, on many accounts deserve our respect and commendation. There are, in this class of the community, many whom we not only respect and esteem, but whom, as connexions and friends we tenderly love. Our assertion is that those who are wicked, in the Scripture sense of that term, do, as a body, whatever preaching they attend, and with whatever denomination they are classed, dislike the doctrines of the evangelical faith and prefer those of the liberal system.
system of doctrines, is it not substantially the liberal system? Go to the voluntary evening association, for conference and prayer; and which system will you hear breathed out in supplication? Then go to the voluntary evening association for gambling or inebriation, and which system with its patrons, will you hear loaded with execration and ridicule? When a division is made in a town or parish, by the settlement of a minister of liberal or evangelical opinions; which side do a majority of the pious take, if there be on earth. any such thing as piety manifested by credible evidence; and which side do the wicked take, if there be on earth any such class of persons as wicked men-proved to be such by their deeds. If a majority is obtained against evangelical opinions, was it ever known to be done, by the most pious and moral part of the community, in opposition to the suffrages of the most irreligious and flagitious? There is, then, some powerful cause, of universal operation, which arrays the irreligious part of the community against the evangelical system. But, according to the bible, of two opposing systems, one of which must be true, that which the wicked approve is false, and that which they oppose and hate is true;-"for he that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved."
3. The Evangelical System produces the same effects universally, as were produced by the faith delivered to the saints.
The maxim, that the same cause, in the same circumstances, will produce the same effect, is as true in the moral as in the natural world: the laws of mind, and the operation of moral causes, being just as uniform as the laws of matter. The Gospel, the greatest moral cause which ever operated in the world, is the same now as in the apostolic age; and the heart of man, civilized or uncivilized, is also the same. So that this great cause is operating now, precisely in the same circumstances as it did in the primitive age; for the heart of man is the moral world, and is the same now as then. If there be a system of doctrines then, at the present time, whose effects universally are the same