« PreviousContinue »
being a snare to pride, and a stumblingblock to weakness.
That the judge of all the earth will do right, that he will require in proportion to what he has given, and punish men for the misapplication or neglect of talents, not for the want of them, is deducible from the contemplation of the Divine attributes. But when a law is promulgated, with that evidence which the Divine legislature, (and such a law is now meant,) sees to be sufficient for the conviction of a reasonable man, is it not presuming too much, to suppose, that we are innocent in rejecting it, or not bound by it, if we do reject it ?
Sincerity, in all professions, is commendable, and in the Christian character indispensable ; but if sincerity, as such, independent of any particular mode of worship, or profession, good or bad, can recommend
us to the favour of the Almighty, then moral and theological truth is of no use to man. St. Paul was a zealous Jew, and verily believed, that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth ; so he breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the Christians. Did this belief justify blasphemy and persecution ? and is it to be inferred, that when a man really believes error, he is, by the reality of his belief, constituted virtuous ? This would open a door to all the evils of the most outrageous fanaticism, and abrogate the whole moral law, under pretence of conscience.
With all this sincerity of belief, St. Paul styles himself the chief of sinners, because he had persecuted without a warrant, had culpably and rashly overlooked (what he might and ought to have seen), that Jesus was no subverter of the Jewish law,
that he was no enemy to the God and King of Israel, but came indeed from him, acted by his commission, and displayed all the signs and credentials of the Messiah, in whom the law and the prophets were finally to be completed.
No firmness of persuasion, can authorize a man to act wrong, on the pretence of conscience-we should learn even to suspect the possibility of guilt's mixing itself with what we call our speculative opinions. Error may be innocent; but not as long as truth lies before us, and we may, if we do our duty, discover it.
In matters of religion, the legislature has wisely and liberally conceded to every subject of the realm, the right of private judgment, but let it be a judgment of discretion.
The Scriptures teach one faith
only, which, like the sun, was intended to enlighten the whole world ; and if without using those means of coming to the knowledge of the truth, which God has put into our hands, men, after a slight inspection of particular texts, select from them opposite creeds, (as fancy or caprice may dictate,) there will be little prospect of arriving at a reasonable certainty with regard to the correct interpretation of scripture.
The only mode, of determining differences, is by a recurrence to first principles, to trace the stream to the fountain head, or to appeal to that primitive, church, which was nearest to the times of the apostles. To this test the author confidently refers, relying on the indulgence and candour of the public, for a serious and patient perusal.
. CHAPTER İ.
"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." Col. ii. 8, 9.
INTRODUCTION. CHRISTIANITY, in its infant state, was attacked by two formidable adversaries ; the Jew and the Gentile, both well qualified and not less disposed to give it a severe examination. ..
. It was first proposed to the Jews (warmly attached to the Mosaic institution ill understood), and its pretentions were to be tried by the correspondence of its principles and history, to the doctrine and predictions of their sacred books. The writings of the Jews to which the appeal lay, are in all hands; and with what triumphant superiority the followers of our Saviour reasoned from them, we see in their numerous publi