« PreviousContinue »
were not removed away from the hope of the gospel." And again he says, “as ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him; rooted and built
ир in him, and stablished in the faith.” In his second Epistle to the Thessalonians, after describing the man of sin, who should bring in strong delusions to the destruction of those who should believe them, he says, “but we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and the belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel,Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, by word, or our epistle." In one of his directions to Timothy, he says, “take heed unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine; continue in them.” And in another, he says, “hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” Now is the Scripture thus binds us to be rooted, grounded, settled, stablished in the faith, then we may bind ourselves, to hold fast the form of sound words, and to be stedfast and unmoveable in the doctrines of Christ. For whatever God may bind us to do, we may bind ourselves to do. Christians in general therefore, and Christian ninis.. ters in particular, may, whenever there is a proper occasion for it, bind themselves to be sound in the faith, by owning and subscribing a creed or confession of faith. There is the same safety and consistency in owning and subscribing an orthodox creed, as in owning and subscribing the Bible itself. For we may as certainly know, whether the principles which lie in a creed be true, as whether the principles which lie in the Bible be true. And it is as warrantable to profess our belief of certain truths which lie in a creed, as
to profess our belief of certain truths which lie in the Bible. And this has always been the general opinion of the Church, from the first ages of Christianity down to the pr sent day.* Nor do I see how a particular Church can now be properly formed, without adopting some creed or confession of faith, as the bond of their union in the faith and practice of the gospel. At least; I cannot see how a church which has no such bond of union, can consistently refuse or exclude any from their communion, who profess to believe the Bible, though they deny all the essential doctrines of the Christian religion.
8. If the gospel is a scheme of religion composed of the doctrines of grace, then it is proper and necessary that ministers should examine those, whom they approbate to preach the gospel, respecting their belief of the fundamental principles of Christianity. Ministers are set for the defence of the gospel, and in order to discharge this duty, they ought, as far as possible, to keep out of the ministry all such as would pervert the gospel of Christ. The right of ordaining others to preach the gospel, gives them a right of inquiring into their religious sentiments. And this right involves an obligation, to use all proper means of knowing, whether they are properly established in the great and fundamental doctrines of the gospel. Nor can they be faithful to Christ, nor to themselves, nor to candidate 3, nor to the souls of men, if through fear, or favor, or negligence, they introduce those into the ministry, who are disposed to wrest the scriptures to their own, and others's destruction. To guard them against this, the apostle charges them “to lay hands suddenly on no man,” and “to commit the gospel to faithful men. who are able to teach others also.” It is an alarming circumstance, at this day, that ministers have become so remiss in examining candidates for the work of the ministry. They not only approbate them to preach, but even ordain them to the pastoral charge, without the least examination of their religious principles. And some boast of this conduct, under the noble idea of liberality of sentiment. It deserves, however, serious consideration, whether it will appear in this light, in the view of Him who hath set them for the defence of the gospel.
* See Dunlop on Creeds.
9. If the gospel is a scheme of religion composed of the doctrines of grace, then if ministers neglect to preach the doctrines of grace, they neglect to preach the gospel. We may preach many real and important truths, while we neglect to preach the doctrines of grace. But while we neglect to preach these, our sermons, however elegantly composed and gracefully delivered, are no better than the empty declamations of heathen moralists. Socrates taught the existence of the Deity, the immortality of the soul, and its happy or miserable state after death. Cicero beautifully described and inculcated justice, veracity, temperance, and all the moral and social virtues. Seneca read solemn lectures upon the vanity of the world, the deformity of vice, and the wisdom and importance of improying time and preparing for eternity. And if we preach the same doctrines and duties upon the same natural principles, we deserve the name of heathen, rather than Christian preachers.
But this is not the worst, for while we confine our preaching to these duties and doctrines of natural religion, we betray the cause of Christianity, and rob our people of the knowledge of those doctrines of grace, which alone are able to make them wise unto salva
ers at all.
tion. If we neglect therefore to preach the doctrines of grace, we are unspeakably worse than no preach
Our people had much better be left alone with the Bible in their hands. Peradventure they may read, understand, believe and be saved. But if we preach, every Sabbath, something directly contrary to the spirit and genius of the gospel, we take the most effectual method to deceive and ruin their souls forever. Error according to the inspired writers, has as great a tendency to destroy, as truth has to save the souls of men. Christ compares error to leaven, and Paul compares it to a canker, or gangrene. Error is the same to the soul, that poison is to the body. As a small degree of poison will injure the body, so a small degree of error will injure the soul.
And as a large degree of poison will destroy the body, so a large degree of error will destroy the soul. It is as dangerous and fatal therefore to preach a system of error to our people, as to inculcate a course of practical vice and immorality; for either will directly tend to destroy both their souls and ours forever. Hence, says our Lord,“iftheblind lead the blind, both shallinto the ditch."
10. If the gospel is a scheme of religion composed of the doctrines of grace, then none who are friendly to grace, can be rcally unfriendly to the doctrines of grace. Some who profess to be very friendly to grace, appear open and bitter enemies to the doctrines of grace.
But how is this consistent? If they are real. ly pleased with grace, why should not be as much pleased with the doctrines of grace. To be pleased with grace, is to be pleased with the character of God in damning sinners for the least violation of his holy and righteous law. Whoever can see a beauty in this part of the divine character, can see a beauty in divine grace. And whoever can s' a beauty in vine gracc, can see a beauty in the doctrines of" grace.
doctrines of grace.
For all the doctrines of grace grow out of, or unite with this single truth, that God is amiable and glorious in the displays of his punitive justice. How then can those who love this divine truth, hate and oppose the doctrine of election, the doctrine of divine sovereignty, the doctrine of unconditional submission, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, or any other of the doctrines of grace? Is there any thing more displeasing in these doctrines, than in the doctrine of eternal destruction for the least sin? Or if there be any grace in God's saving sinners from complete and endless ruin, is there not as much grace in those doctrines which immediately flow from this source? None therefore who really love the grace of God in the salvation of sinners, can understandingly hate and oppose the
Here, however, I beg leave to borrow the words of a late pious and elegant writer, who has set this subject in a clear and striking light. *Believe me, my dear friend, salvation, both in its root and all its branches, is entirely of grace; or else believe me, for the many cogent testimonies of scripture, Which most cireumstantially ascertain this great truth. Election is of grace. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, not on account of human worthiness, but according to the good pleasure of his will. Equally gratuitous is our effectual vocation: God hath called ts with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his purpose and is owing to the same cause. By grace are ye saved through faith. From hence springs justification: Being justified freely by his grace. This is the origin of regeneration: Of his own will beg at he us by the word of truth. The consummation of bliss flows from the same all-supplying cause: The gift of God is eternal life. It is in every respect a gift; the superstrue: Occa.