Page images

forgotten, that whilst some parts of Scripture speak of these, as well pleasing to God; others, and not less numerous, might be adduced to shew, that beside these something more is required ? Dr. Priestley indeed fairly asserts, that nothing more is required, and that the language of Scripture every where represents repentance and good works, as sufficient of themselves to recommend us to the divine favour. (Hist. of Cor. vol. i. p. 155.) How then does he get over those declarations of Scripture ?-He shall speak for himself.

It certainly must be admitted, he says, (Theol. Rep. vol. i. p. 252.) “ that some texts do seem to represent the pardon of sin, as dispensed in consideration of something else than our repentance, or personal virtue ;-and according to their literal sense, the pardon of sin is in some way or other procured by Christ." But he adds, that “ since the pardon of sin is sometimes represented, as dispensed in consideration of the sufferings, sometimes of the merit, sometimes of the resurrection, and even of the life and obedience of Christ : when it is sometimes Christ, and sometimes the Spirit, that intercedes for us : when the dispensing of pardon is sometimes said, to be the

act of God the Father ; and again, when it is Christ that forgives us : we can hardly hesitate in concluding, that these must be severally, partial representations, in the nature of figures and allusions, which at proper distances are allowed to be inconsistent :--and from so vague a representation


of a matter of fact, founded on texts, which carry with them so much the air of figure, allusion and accommodation, reason and common sense, he says, compel us to appeal to the plain general tenor of Scripture,” which he pronounces to be in favour of the sufficiency of good works.--And thus a great part of Scripture is swept away at one stroke, under the name of figure, allusion, &c. &c. And because Christ is pointed out to us, as the means of our salvation, in every light in which he is viewed, (for as to the Father and the Holy Spirit being spoken of, as also concerned in the work of our Redemption, this creates no difficulty) reason and common sense compel us to pronounce him, as not connected with our salva

tion in any.

This furnishes an additional specimen of the way in which Scripture is treated, by our modern rational Commentators. A number of texts, enforcing a spirit of humble submission to God's will, which is by no means inconsistent with, but on the contry includes in its nature, a spirit of Christian faith, are taken literally, as not implying this faith, because it is not expressly named. And then another set of passages, in which this faith is expressly named, and literally required, are set aside as figurative. And it is pronounced upon the whole, that common sense is to decide the matter.-And thus, by rejecting one set of passages entirely as figurative ; and then by ex

plaining another set literally and independently, with which the former were connected, and would have perfectly coalesced, so as to afford a satisfac-: tory and consistent meaning; the point is clearly made out. Relying upon this method, which Dr. Priestley has discovered, of retaining whatever. establishes his opinion, and rejecting whatever makes against it, Mr. Belsham may indeed safely challenge the whole body of the orthodox, to produce a single text, that shall stand in opposition to his and Dr. Priestley's dogmas.

But moreover it has been well remarked, that all such declarations in Scripture, as promise pardon to repentance, and are thence inferred to pro nounce repentance of itself sufficient, as they were subsequent to the promise of a Redeemer, must be altogether inconclusive, even viewed in a distinct and independent light, inasmuch as it


have been in virtue of the pre-ordained atonement, that this repentance was accepted. And as to the force of the word freely, on which not only Dr. Priestley relies very much, but also Dr. Sykes in his Scrip. Doctr. of Redemp. and H. Taylor in the beginning of his Sixth Letter, (B. Mord. Apol.) it is obvious, that nothing more is meant by passages that employ this expression in describing God's forgiveness of Sinners, than that this forgiveness was free with respect to any merits on the part of man, or any claim which from repentance, or any other cause, he might be sup:

posed to possess : since admitting such claim it would be not free, but earned. And in this

very sense it is, that Dr. J. Taylor himself, in his key, &c. (No. 67.) contends, that the word free is to be understood : “ the blessing of redemption being, as he says, with regard to us, of free grace -that is, not owing to any obedience of ours.”—Any other application of the term, must make the word free synonimous with unconditional ; in which case, forgiveness could not be a free gift, if repentance were required to obtain it; that is, unless it were extended indiscriminately to the impenitent as well as the penitent. So that, in fact, the very use of the word free, as applied to God's forgiveness of men, is so far from supporting the opinion of the sufficiency of repentance in itself, that it goes to establish the direct contrary; clearly evincing, that repentance can give no claim to forgiveness.-See some excellent reasoning on this subject, in the judicious discourses, delivered at the Bampton Lecture, by Mr, Veysie, Serm. 6, and 7,




Page 24. (t)-Dr. J. Taylor illustrates this matter by a familiar parallel. (Key, &c. No. 151.)

- To the question wherein is Christ's love and obedience, a just foundation of the divine grace ?" he answers, that he knows not how to explain himself better than by the following instance. There have been masters willing, now and then, to grant a relaxation of study, or even to remit deserved punishment, in case any one boy, in behalf of the whole school, or of the offender, would compose a copy of Latin verses. This at once shewed the master's love and lenity, was a proper expedient for promoting learning and benevolence to the society of little men, training up for future usefulness, &c.—and one may say, that the kind verse-maker purchased the favour in both cases, or that his learning, industry, goodness, and compliance with the governor's will and pleasure, was a just ground and foundation of the pardon and refreshment, or a proper reason of granting them.

This Dr. T. declares to be the best explanation he can give, of his scheme of man's redemption by Christ. And that in this there is any natural connexion between the exertions of the individual, and the indulgence granted to the rest of this little society, it is not even pretended. The whole contrivance is admitted as a good expedient or means, whereby the intended kindness of the master was to be shewn. If, in order to supply a link, whereby they may be drawn into connexion, the indulgence granted be supposed as a reward to the exertions and obedience of the individual, as

« PreviousContinue »