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THE IMPORTANCE OF THE
DOC- respecting the being and attri
butes of God are true, the precepts to fear, and love, and obey
him, are not only not obligatory, The doctrines of the Bible are but they are without meaning. So statements of facts. For example, if the doctrines of humansinfulness, the doctrine of the trinity is the and of an atonement for sin by the statement of a fact respecting the death of Christ, are not true, there mode of the divine existence. The is no ground on which to enjoin the doctrine of God's eternal purposes precepts, to repent, and believe, is the statement of a fact respect- and hope for pardon. In this way ing the divine administration. The we might enumerate all the leaddoctrine of human depravity is the ing doctrines of the Bible, and find statement of a fact respecting the that there are corresponding precharacter of man.
cepts, which, without these docThe statement of any historical trines, are, in every respect, nugafact may be called, in the technic- tory; and we may safely say, that al language of theology, a doctrine. if the doctrines of the Bible, considTheologians have selected some of ered as a statement of facts, are the most important and peculiar not true, then the precepts of the facts stated in the Bible, and given Bible, considered as a system of them, by way of eminence, the ap- rules for regulating the conduct of pellation of doctrines : thus the men, are neither obligatory, nor facts stated in the Bible respecting even intelligible. the lost condition of man, and
But the doctrines of the Bible are the gospel method of saving him, not important on this ground mereare appropriately denominated, the ly, that they make the precepts inEvangelical Doctrines.
telligible and obligatory ;--these These doctrines of the Bible are doctrines give the precepts all their a divinely authorized statement of efficiency. On the ground before facts; and, in many instances, of taken, the precepts of the Bible, if facts of which we could not be the doctrines are not true, appear certified in any other way than by like the enactments of a legislative revelation. As a mere subject of assembly, made on the hypothesis knowledge, therefore, these facts that a certain class of beings and are most worthy of our attention. facts exist, when, in reality, no such But, in addition to this circum- beings and facts ever did exist, or stance, these facts, or doctrines, were supposed to exist, or expectlay the foundation for all the pre- ed ever to exist. There evidently cepts of the Bible,-making the would be no real or conceivable precepts intelligible and obligatory. reason for such enactments. On the Unless, for instance, the doctrines ground which I now take, the pre
cepts of the Bible, if the doctrines everlasting life."--"God commend are not true, appear like the laws eth his love towards us, in that of such an assembly promulgated while we were yet sinners Christ without being accompanied by a died for us." Now this fact that penalty, or any other suitable in. God first loved him, and has manducement to obedience. In the ifested his love in so affecting a former view, the precept enjoining manner, cannot but be a powerful repentance, for example, might be motive to induce man to obey the the subject of contemplation ; but precept which enjoins love to God, if it was not preceded by the doc. Man may also be powerfully affecttrines that God exists as a lawgiv. ed by objects which are placed in er, and that man has transgressed prospect before him, and which he the divine law ;--ur, if there was naturally desires. This susceptinot previously a knowledge of these bility is appealed to in the doctrines two facts,--the precept would be of the gospel. The happiness of unintelligible :-and if the natural heaven is represented as beyond claims of God to the love and obe- what eye hath seen, or ear heard, dience of man were not previous- or heart conceived. The nature of ly seen, the precept would appear this happiness is summarily describunreasonable. Now, in any case, ed by saying, that when Christ to secure obedience to a precept, shall appear the Christian shall be something more is necessary than like him, for he shall see him as he merely that the precept have a is. Such a hope leads a man, in meaning ; and in a case where the the language of the Bible, to purify person to whom the precept is give himself, --both by the nature of the en is so averse to the duties en- objects on which it fixes his mind, joined by it, as man is to the duties and by making him strive to avoid enjoined by the precepts of the Bi- every thing which would prevent ble, something more is necessary his attaining to this blessedness. for the purpose of securing this But the doctrine which is adapted obedience, than merely that the most directly to enforce all the precepts be reasonable. The ap- precepts of the Bible, and to operpeal to man's understanding is ate as the most solemn penalty for unsucessful :. You must, therefore, all transgression, is the doctrine present something which shall op- of a future punishment. erate as a motive by appealing to These doctrines of a future state his feelings. This power of oper- of reward and punishment cannot ating on the feelings of man is that fail to give efficiency to the prein which the great importance of cepts which are to regulate the the doctrines of the Bible is most conduct of men. They make a clearly manifest. It arises from the twofold appeal to his interest, and adaptation of these doctrines to thus, by awakening his hope and the nature of man, and to the par- fear, they dissuade and deter him ticular precepts which they are de- from sin.---'The doctrine which signed to enforce.
teaches the love of Christ in sufMan has a susceptibility of being af- fering for sinners, is no less effifected by goodness, exhibited in acts cient in producing a hatred of sin. of kindness done to himself, and by It is an apprehension of the goodsufferings endured for his sake. This ness of God, and a familiarity with susceptibility is appealed to by the it, in all its aspects, which leads doctrines of the Gospel in such lan- inen to repentance. guage as this ; “God so loved the But in order to make the docworld, that he gave his only begot- trines of the Bible produce their ten Son, that whosoever believeth proper effect, they must not be viewin him should not perish, but have ed as matters of mere speculation. God does not reveal facts to men 'probably is, that they do not like to which he designed should be mere- feel the binding force of the prely known, as a gratification to cu- cepts. The precepts of the Bible, riosity ; and of which it is of little viewed aside from the doctrines, consequence whether we have a
may appear a very pleasant matter correct notion or not. God doubt- of speculation, because the man less designed that all which he has feels under no special obligation to revealed should have an important obey them, farther than is conveninfluence on the character and con- ient and agreeable, and fears no seduct of men. And surely, if there rious consequences from disobedi. is any one part of the Bible farther ence : but if a man is told by the removed from being a matter of doctrines of the Bible that all his mere speculation than another, moral affections are unholy, that all that part is the evangelical doc. his conduct springs from wrong trines. The very object and ten- principles; that for this ! · is so deney of them is to give man cor- guilty, that God judges hi eserrect and practical views of certain ving of eternal punishme. t, and great facts which are of the near- cannot pardon him without the est personal concern to him. They atonement effected by the death of are to give him a proper knowledge his well beloved Son,-the whole of his relations and destinies; to give matter assumes the aspect of somehim such knowledge, and create in thing else than speculation. His him such a state of feeling, that the case becomes critical; and the precepts shall seem intelligible, and precepts to repent and believe, inproper, and obligatory; and to put volving an increased amount of his mind, in every respect, in such meaning, gather importance, and a state, as to understand, and joy. bear with weight on his conscience; fully obey them. The essence of and he sees that he cannot disoall religion in man lies in the exer- bey them but at his utmost peril. cise of proper affections; but what is He therefore excludes them from to produce these affections ? The his view; and calls them speculaprecepts cannot do it. The precept tive, just as if this neglect, and the io love God, though issued with application of this epithet, would ever so much authority, has no ten- change their nature, or their eterdency to excite love to him. This nal importance to him. love can be excited by some doc- In order that the doctrines may trine only, that is, some statement produce their proper effects, they of facts respecting what God is, or should be viewed just as they are what he has done. If, then, men stated in the Bible. They should would be instructed in the truths of be thoroughly understood, in all religion, they must study and under- their practical meaning, and perstand the doctrines :-if they would sonal bearing: for just in proporhave the proper religious affections, tion as the notion entertained of a they must study and become familiar particular doctrine is defective in with the doctrines :-if they would any of its parts, or is different in render any thing more than outward any of its parts from what it should and formal obedience, they must be, in the same proportion will the prepare their minds for a hearty reasonableness and urgency of the and spiritual service, by bringing precepts which that doctrine was the great and affecting doctrines of designed to enforce, be diminished. the Bible to bear on their own feel. Different modifications of the same ings.
general doctrine may produce difThe reason why men do not like ferent degrees of that which the to meditate on the doctrines, and to precepts enjoin: for instance, repkave them pressed on their view, resentations that man is, to a certain extent, a sinner, may corres- 'adapted to exert; and he undoubtpond to a precept which enjoins a edly stated just so many doctrines, certain amount of repentance, and and doctrines of just such a moral may produce it, while nothing but power, as would secure obedience the doctrine which represents a to the precepts of the Bible, and eftotal unholiness of the affections, fect the proper change in the charwill correspond to the precept, acter of man. If, therefore, these make yourselves a new heart, and doctrines are indispensable, and be created anew in Christ Jesus. there is no superfluity of moral powIf, then, the doctrines of the Bible er in them, then if all of them are are so modified as to become of not preached, and in all their less efficiency, the precepts of the strength, the proper change will not Bible must be so modified as to be- be effected in the human character, come less strict: otherwise the doc- and men may not be saved, and their trines will be found inadequate to blood will be required at the preachsecure obedience. Hence the soft- er's hand. ening or concealing the affecting 'The doctrines, when preached, doctrines of the Bible is always fol- ought to be presented in such a lowed by a lowering of the standard light, and to be so connected with of morals; and we find that all the precepts, as to produce the greatthose classes of Christians who do est possible effect in securing obedinot bring fully and prominently into ence. The truths of the Bible do not view the great distinguishing doc- possess such superfluous power over trines of Christianity—as well as all the minds of men, that we can well pagan moralists have always fail- afford to have it diminished by preed to make their systems take strong senting these truths in an unimhold of the human mind, or to do pressive attitude. The object of much towards reforming men. The preaching is not to fill the mind doctrines and precepts of the Bible with insulated conceptions of dochave so exact an adaptation to each trinal facts-broken off from each other, as to prove the divine au- other, and from the precepts which thority of them both. The power are to regulate human conduct ; of these doctrines to excite moral neither is it, on the other hand, to emotion corresponds to the resist- proclaim precepts which contain, ance to be overcome in the human in themselves, nothing to show their mind before men will obey the pre- propriety, or to enforce them. Both cepts.
these courses lead to error. The A conclusion to which I think former tends to make men suppose this view legitimately leads, is, that that all religion consists in having the doctrines of the Bible ought to certain intellectual conceptions, be preached. They ought to be which may have no more influpreached with great care,—lest a ence on the moral character of man wrong notion be given to the char- than has a conception of the acter and government of God,- relations and movements of the respecting the character and con- solar system. The latter, by leavdition of man, and the way of his ing out the doctrines, on the ground being saved.
They ought to be of which the precepts are issupreached fully and plainly. God, ed, tends to make men think who directed the doctrines of the that the precepts of the Bible are Bible to be stated there, knew what arbitrary ; or at least, that there is was the character of man on whom no special propriety in them, and no they were designed to operate ;- very momentous consequences dehe knew also what sort and amount pending on obeying, or disobeying of influence these doctrines were them, and leaves men therefore to