« PreviousContinue »
Nor does it enter into the Subtilties of perverfe Difputérs; of dwiodle into any Speculations and metaphysical Schemes which conduce not to Edification, but, in stead of profiting, distract che People with Questions noways useful, but in many Respects extremely prejudicial.
We have also: always thought there was Reafoni to admire the Clearness and Perfpicuity of the Westminster Confession, which, considering the mysterious Nature and great Variety
of the Truths contained in it, the Sophiftry of Adversaries, and the ambigtious va riable Meanings whereby they confound Words and Things, was a Matter of no finall Difficulty. And it is one excellent Quality of this Composure, that all there intricate and scarce intelligible Terms of Art brought in by the Schoolmen, whereby they pero plexed Divinity, and furnished continual Occasion of Strite and Wrangliig, are so cautiously shunned, and scarce one of them used in our Confefion. And, which is the chief Excellency of all Works of this Kind, we hope the Scriptures fubjoined to every Article, with others to the fame Effect, are convincing Evide
ces of its Contormity to the facred Oracles, and that it is bottomed upon the sure and infallible Foundation of our Faith and Manners.
All these considerations, and many more which might be added, are a very ftrong Recommendation of the Westminster Confeffion to the
Serious and diligent Study of all Ranks. It is a stupid Neglect of God and our own Souls, for any to continue in lgnorance of their Duty to him, and the mighty Things which their Saviour hach wrought for them: And as it heightens the Impiety, so it will aga gravate the fearful Condemnation, of thote who love Darkneis; and remain in their Blindness in a Land of so much Light, where the glorious Gospel shines with so bright a Lustre, and the Means of Knowledge are so eaty and useful. 'Tis so univerfal a Neglect of them, that makes Men wayering and unsettled in their Principles, that exposes them to cunning Deceivers and every Wind of perverse Doctrine ; and occaGons that Coldness of Affection and Esteem for the noble Blesfmgs of the Reformation, and that melancholy, Indifference whether the Friends or Enemies of it be successful; And hence it is, that People fee fo little of the divine Beauty and Harmony of Truth, are not animated by: a. vigorous Love and Zcal for it, nor are careful to improve its Efficacy to the advancing of Holiness.
It is a thameful Abfurdity (or those who value themselves upon all the Paris of polite Education, and endeavour to excel in the Amusements of Learning,, to be unacquainted with the very $pe culation of Religion, and the fundamental Principles of Christianity, which, they own with their Mouths. It must be surely a Re proach to
any Member of the Church of Scotland, to be ignorant of her publick Confeflion; and methinks 'tis not mu lefs fcanda Jous in those that separate from her, to be unacquainted with her Feal Principles, fince without this they can never be able to give a
mult Reason of their Practice, and it will be reasonably accounted an ignorant Schifin.
What hath been hinted concerning the Excellency and Usefulaefs of our Confeffion, will also hold good with respect to our
Larger and Shorter Catechisms, which are admirably fitted to enlighten the People with fubftantial Gospel-Truths, and make them knowing and serious Christians: And therefore it can't be reflected upon without a juft Mixture of Grief and Resentment, that any Meafures should be taken, which have the least Tendency to create a Difesteem and Neglect of these Composures among the People ; and particularly, that contrary to all good Order and Government, as well as to the Edification of Chriftians, Attempts should be made to introduce among Instru&ors of Youth other Catechisms, which beside the Errors and Obfcurities they may possibly, be charged with, and their having no Claim to any, publick Authority in the Church, are for no other valuable Quality any ways, comparable to the Westminster Catechisms, so often ratified by our Allem blies,
the designed to instruct the People in the Truth, but to be a Safeguard against the infectious Breath of Error, of which there is so great Hazard every Where. Voluimus igitur, says the Duke of
Wirtemberg in the Preface to the Wirtemberg Confession, hoc scriptung in confpe&tum proferre, ut non tam alii cognoscerent quod doctrina genus noftra Ecclefia profiterentur ; quam ut nofter populus haberet, quod in hoc
sequeretur, só foiret a quibus erroribus fibi cavendum effet,
---constituimus igitur hoc noftræ confefionis scriptum, quod paucis Summam do&trine continet, proponere, ut fontem vere falutaris doĉtrina, purum atque integrum in Ecclefiis noftra regionis conservaremus ; et mona tam, qu& nobis imaginem cælestis patris refert, & corruptione (quod in nobis eft) tueremur:
There is nothing that a Church should be more solicitously care. ful about, than to preserve her Members pure in the Faith, and safe from those poisonous Errors that abound in the World: This, the Excellency of Truth, the fatal Effects of Error and Division upon all the Parts of the Christian Life; and the many Deceivers who go about, and by various Arts endeavour to creep into Peos ples Houses, and lead captive unwary Souls, make exceeding necef fary. And for this End, there is nothing will prove more benefiçial, than an attentive Consideration of the publick Summaries of our Religion, in which the Truths opposed to the prevailing. Errors of the Time are clearly and forcibly represented; by a right Use whereof, the Minds of people may be establihed in the Do&rine which is according to Godliness, and armed against all the Machinations of Adverfaries.
It is not pretended that a Man should reject a Doctrine as false and heretical, purely because it is not agreeable to our Canfeffion; face Christians are to try the Spirits by the infallible Test
of the Holy Scriptures, and not by the Determinacion of humane Companion
Curęs. But as on other Accounts, such a Şummary of the Chris
upon examining, with the greater Diligence, the Pretentions of fuch Persons, by the Holy Scriptures and a careful Ule of all the Means for understanding them : And were our Confeffion duly improved for this purpose, we, who are perfwaded of its Purity and Excellency, cannot but think that it would
be a very successful Instrument, of maintaining the
Sincerity and Uncorruptedness of the Truth as it is in Jesus.
The People are exposed to a great many Snares, which ought to engage them
to a diligent Use of all Means whereby they may avoid them. The Papifts and other Enemies of our holy Religion are skilfil in all the Deceiveableness of Ứnrightcousness, and em: ploy very mischievous, and frequently imperceptible Methods of corrupting the Faith of the Reformation: They can put on Sheeps Clothing, and even under the Mask of higher Pretensions than their Neighbours to a Zeal for Truth, and of elevating the Do; Ctrine they teach to a greater Degree of Purity, impofe upon the Credulons, and pervert weak Minds. The natural Levity and Ficklenets of Men, especially the more ignorant Sort, expose them a ready Prey to Seducers: The Fondness that people have to diftinguish themselves from others adds to the Temptation;
Pride, Self-Conceit and a Love of popuļar Applause are frủitful of Errors, and put many upon forming Parties and leading the People astray che Lufts of our Hearts, and the extreme Inclination we have to reconcile our Interests and Pleasures with our Duity, and a Diseseem of the Law of God with a pretended Regard to his Grace, make all loose Schemes, and particularly Antinamian Doctrines very infectious, and procure too favourable a Reception to Opinions Books and Pamphlets which have a Tendency that Wayi and the superior Influence which a Form of Godliness hath with the Generality beyond the Power of it, will with such Persons render Notions which have that For more popular, than the substantial Truths of the Doctrine which is in Reality according to Godlinefs. And all these Snares have become much more dangerous by ihat stupid Neglect of Christian Knowledge, and shameful Igno rance which are to be found with a great Number.
Were the Means of Knowledge, which God affords with so diftingui hing Advantages to this Church, duly improved, and particularly by a diligent Ure of our Confesfion and Catechisms, the Minds of People would be fortified and established ; those ignorant Schif; maticks,who rove about the Country,would not find so many blind
enough to follow them, nor would new and unscriptural Notions of any kind meet with so tavourable a Reception; and the lurking Poison, and dangerous Tendency of any Books spread through the Country, would be sooner discovered, and easier Thunned.
We are sorry that there should be Occasion to mention one Performance of this kind, which hath been lately reprinted and propagated with fo much Industry: Tho'one would have thought that the many valuable and approved practical Pieces which the Church enjoys, might have rendred it needless, as some Things contained therein seemed to make it noways expedient. The Reader will easily perceive that it is THE MARROW OF MODERN DI: VINITY which is hinted at.
It would be wandring away from the Design of this Composure, to enter upon an Examination of any particular Book: And therefore we shall only observe in general. That beside the Inaccuracies in reasoning, and the Obscurities and Ambiguities which render that Book very unfit for the common people, and are apt to perplex and confound them; there are in it, at least, several Expreffions extremely indecent, and which are enough to strike with Horror those who retain that Veneration and Honour for the Holy Law of God, which its own incomparable Excellency, and the Authority and Awe of the great Legislator give it a Claim to, and one would think should be enough to guard it against the rnde, I had almoft faid profane, Treatment which it sometimes meets with. There are in that Book måny Passages, which if they don't difsolve the Obligation to Obedience, and openly allow to Christians a licentious Liberty; yet mightily weaken its Force and Efficacy, tend to cool the Zealand Vigour of Christians in the Study of Holiness, and to give them mean and languishing Thoughts of it, as of no great importance or Necessity in Christianity. There are several Parts of it which the Corruptions
of Mankind will make an Engine of, to stifle the Voice of the divine Law, and of the Grace of God too teaching us to deny all Ungodliness: And to filence the Conviction of their Consciences, they will thence take Occafion to flatter themselves with the fond Hopes that they may be justified, while they continue to produce little of the Fruits of Righteousness, and in their Practice neglect or vilifie the Works of the Law. The very Definition of Faith given by it, seems to fubtilize that great Instrument of our Justification, and that noble Principle of a purified Heart and Life, into an airy and ineffe&ual Specula. tion, which a presumptuous Sinner may perswade himself he hath attained to, and fo lull his Soul into a fatal Security : It seems to lead People into a Way of measuring their State with respect to God and Religion, by different Tests from those which the Scriptures afford us; and to divert them from trying the Sincerity of their Faith by the genuine
Marks of it, and the Characters we are least liable to be deceived by, the producing much Fruit,
the sanctifying our Hearts, and purifying our Lives, and governing our Passions.
When Holiness is the moft glorious and amiable Excellency of the Divine Nature, that is chiefly proposed to our Delight and
qur Imitation; when the Necessity, Beauty, and Perfection of it are so warmly urged home upon us in the Word of God, and it is the gieat Subject of all the Sermons pronounced by the unerring Prophet of the Church;, when it is the distinguishing Character of the Mefiah's Subjects that they' are a hely Nation, and it is the noble Design of all the mighty Acts of a Saviour's Love and the Powers of his Death, to fave us from our Sins and from a vain Conversation, he gave himself for us, that he might redeem' us from all Iniquity, and purifie to himself a peculiar People, zealous of good Works (a)ę when it is the Apostolical Definition of Religion, That Bure Religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, Io visit the Fatherless and the Widows in their Affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the World (b); and that Holiness is the great End of all the Gospel-Ordinances and Graces even of Faith it self, the Mystery' whereof 'we must hold in a pure Conscience (c), and which God makes use of to purifie our Hearts' (d)when for this purpose įhe Hope of the glorious Appearance of our Saviour is given us, that we may, purifie our felves even as he is pure (e); when, as might be proved, it is the Tendency of all the Doctrines of Grace and Şalvarioli, of the Righteousness and Satisfaction of the Son of God, and of our Justification and Redeinption by his Blood, 'to exalt and enforce Holiness; and when the Work and Influences of the Spirit of Christ are to advance it to Perfection, He loved his Church, and gave himself for it : That he might Sanctifie and cleanse it with the washing of Water, ' by the Word', That be might present it to him félf a glorious Church, not having Spot or Wrinkle or any such Ibing, but thåt it should be holy and without Blemish (f); and it is the Honour of our exalted Redeemer, that he is able to keep his people front Falling,' and to present thém faultless before the Presence of his Glory quith exceeding Joy (); that they may ever inhabite that place wherein dwelleth everlasting Righteousness; in å word, when it is the Excellency and the Glory of the Grace of God and of justifying Faith, that they are so admirably calculated to promote Holiness; when it is the highest Injury and Affront to turn them into Licentiousness the greatest Service to the Enemies of the Grace of God, and the most plausible Handle that can be afforded to Pelaa gians to improve them that way ; 'tís a furprising and an affecting Confideration, that any Schemes and Pamphlets which have at caft fome Appearances of these Evils, should be fondly entertained þy fincere Christians, and that the' very first Beginnings of them do not meet with a juster Reception. Nor
will fome Distinctions that are made, which might perhaps be easier refüred if their Meaning were understood, justify the Pallages hincéd at, or remedy their mischievous Consequences ; they may pleafe the Men that make them, but will these Subtilties impress the Minds of the People?' will they secure their Corruptions from taking fo plausible Occasion of gratifying them will
(a) Tit. 2. 14. (b) Fam. Ii 27. "FC) I Tim. 3. 9. (a) Asts 18. 9 (0) 1 John 3. 3, (f)Epb. 5. 25, 26, 27. (8) fude v. 24.