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dervaluing of the human body, as composed of matter; and from this a denial of the resurrection. It could not be it was thought, that the soul would have any connexion with the body in a future state. Another consequence followed. The notice was adopted, that the Son of God, the Eternal Word, could not have taken matter into a connexion with himself: it would occasion defilement. And hence the opinion, that he only seemed to do this,-only seemed to be born, to live, to suffer, and die. His dwelling in flesh was only appearance, and not a reality. From this it followed, that there was no real suffering at all; and consequently no atonement for sin. In like manner, all the peculiar sympathy which Christ's incarnation qualifies him to feel for those who dwell in flesh, was destroyed." See Moshiem's Eccl. Hist. vol. I. p. 111.
. Murdock's Translation. And further still: Hence arose the whole system of self mortification, and self torture, which came into vogue
early monkish times. The destruction of the flesh was deemed the greatest merit, was more thought of than the righteousness of Christ, in the salvation of the soul. A system of self righteousness was brought in as a ground of hope, instead of the free grace of the Gospel. Thus, that one error, of making matter intrinsically
evil-a mere wrong philosophic speculation, which it might seem · would be very harmless—was yet
, carried out in its influence through connected doctrines, the means of sapping the very foundations of the whole system of evangelical truth.
I might make the same remarks, substantially, in regard to the doctrine of the saints' perseverance, the doctrine of free justification through the righteousness of Christ received by faith, the un. changeableness of God's purposes of grace, and others of the Christian system. Not one of them can be denied, but derangement will ensue in a large circle of associated truths, and perhaps the whole character of the Gospel be changed.
IX. There is one other branch of the subject, which I will briefly notice. It is the doctrine of future retributions. Let this doctrine be denied. Let the ground be assumed, which sometimes is assumed, that men receive all their punishment for their sins in this life. What bearing does this have on the other doctrines of the Christian system?
In the first place, it destroys the doctrine of forgiveness. The Bible, as every reader of it knows, speaks largely of forgiveness.“With thee there is forgiveness, that thou mayest be feared," or "worshipped.” “To the Lord our God belong mercies and for. giveness, though we have rebelled against him." And so on almost every page of the sacred record. Now if men receive full punishment for all their sins in this life, obviously no man is forgiven, aud this doctrine of forgiveness is destroyed. Punishnent and for: giveness do not go together. He that is punished, is not forgiven. He pays the debt
, or meets the responsibility which the law lays upon him, and is free. The doctrine of forgiveness, therefore, -a doctrine which pervades the whole Bible, and has been deemed one of its chief glories,-is, by the position above alluded to, utterly overthrown. God may proclaim, “I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud, thy sins."
cloud, thy sins.” But no, it is not so. These sweet passages, and others like them, are no longer true. God does not forgive. He exacts the penalty. There is absolutely no forgiveness in the world.
The sentiment, moreover, that all sin is punished in this life, makes Christ die in vain. Christ died with a view to forgiveness, that “in his name should be preached repentance and remission of sins among all nations.” But if all sin is punished, so that there is no forgiveness, what is the use of Christ's death? If every man receives in himself the punishment of his sins—pays the debt himself—why could he not as well do it without the death of Christ, as with it? The death of Christ evidently does him no good in this respect. Paying the debt himself, (the expression, of course, will be understood according to the subject,) he is his own savior. He is indebted for life to no other. This is a plain and inevitable consequence of the position, that all sin is punished in this life. We have no more to do, either with forgiveness of sins, or with a Savior's blood.
Nor is the difficulty relieved by taking the other ground sometimes resorted to, that there will be a temporary punishment beyond the grave, where those who have not received the due measure of recompense in this life, will have the balance meted out to them. This also leaves out of the account the doctrine of forgiveness, and the doctrine of the death of Christ. It only shifts the scene in part from the present to the future state. The principle is still the same. The sinner is punished according to his deserts, and then comes out from his imprisonment. To whom is he indebted for deliverance ? Not to the free mercy and forgiving love of God, for God does not forgive, but exacts the punishment to the last mite. Not to the atoning death of Christ. That has not paid his dreadful death. He has paid the debt himself. He is under obligation, therefore, to himself
, and to the sufferings he has endured, and to these alone, for his salvation. Instead of washing in the fountain set open for sin and uncleanness in the Gospel, he has cleansed his soul in purgatorial fires. When he comes out from his prison, therefore, he comes out shouting praises only to himself. And when he enters in through the gates into the city, he enters shouting praises only to himself, for the great achievement. He can join no song of redeeming love. He can tell of no grace; for grace has not been shown him.
And is there such a heaven as this? Is there a heaven, whose earth-born inhabitants do not acknowledge their indebtedness to Jesus? who do not acknowledge themselves washed in his blood ? who do not sing of forgiveness, and behold the finishing of salvation, “with shoutings of grace, grace, unto it ?" Then it is not the
heaven of the Bible. Some other revelation must contain the assurance of it. And some other happiness must exist there, different from that opened to the world by the Gospel.
There is one other consequence flowing from the sentiment brought to view. If it is possible for some men to gain heaven by suffering the full punishment deserved by their sins, then it is possible for all to gain heaven in the same way. Especially if it is possible for the more wicked and incorrigible, whom all the means of the present life could not subdue and reclaim, to expiate their guilt by a purgatorial process, and enter heaven, there is surely no impossibility in the salvation of those less guilty, on the same ground. The human race, then, are not lost. The Scriptures teach us that “the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” But it is not so. Every individual of the human race might save himself. The argument is conclusive. If the most wicked and abandoned, who reject Christ in the present life, and pursue all manner of evil, are capable of paying the dreadful debt they owe to the justice of God, and coming out from under his hand free, certainly the less wicked and the less abandoned are capable of doing the same. All men, therefore, might be ultimately happy on their own account,-standing on their own ground, on their own inerits. This whole business of providing a Saviour for the world therefore, is all a needless work. The world would have been happy without it. Each individual could have been his own savior. And it is signally painful to see the innocent suffering for the guilty, when it was not needful; when the guilty might have borne the penalty as well, and accomplished the same end. Why did Jesus suffer, "the just for the unjust," if the unjust themselves, by sufferings could have secured the same objects? Why did Jesus pay the dreadful debt of the human race, if that race were competent themselves to pay their own debt, and rise to the heavenly glory without his interposing mercy ?
I have but suggested thoughts in this discourse, to be pursued at your leisure. A mere glance at the different topics, is all that the time has allowed.
1. You will see, I trust that there is a connection between the doctrines of religion. You will see that they form a system. Those mentioned—some of the leading--are a specimen in illustration of the principle, which applies to the whole. It is manifest that none of them can be touched, but the others will feel the influence. The beginning of denial, is “ as when one letteth out water."
2. The subject shows us the importance of studying, with unprejudiced minds, and with great care, the doctrines of religion. No one doubts the value of the doctrines of science in its various branches. But no subject, after all, is of equal importance with the doctrines of religion--the science of immortality—the science of God, and his law, and the eternal life of the souls he has made. To commit error on any subject, is an evil. But to commit error
here, is to commit error of the greatest description possible. Even a small error, as it may appear to the inconsiderate, will be likely to spread its influence far and wide, and may lay waste all that is bright and fair in the enclosures of truth. Well, then, is the injunction, “In doctrine showing uncorruptness." Let pains be taken, that every thing may be viewed in the exact light in which God has placed it. “ Search the Scriptures." Search with a desire to know. Search with prayer. Let the truth be prayed into the mind, and it will be likely to get there in its symmetry and proportion, and to work its appropriate results of eternal life.
3. The subject shows us the process by which some are led to reject the whole system of revealed truth. They did not mean, when they began, to proceed to such lengths. They loosened one stone of the arch, and that loosened another, and that another, till, perhaps before they were aware, the whole was prostrate at their feet. Priestly is, substantially, an instance of this. He himself makes the acknowledgment. Once, he tells us, he was "a Calvinist, and that of the strictest sect." Then he became a high Arian, next a low Arian, and then a Socinian, and in a little time, a Socinian of the lowest kind." And after all, he adds, that he "does not know when his creed will be fixed." (See Magee on the Atonement, vol I. page 135.) Poor man! The ruins of the whole Christian system were lying around him, because he had pulled away the first stone. You have seen the mountain avalanche, stopped midway in its course. But its position is precarious. Every traveler fears to pass it. So is the man who has begun to slide from the foundations of truth. Something may have stopped him for a inoment. But who does not expect to see him move again down the declivity ? Men should beware how they begin departure from sound uncorrupted Christian doctrine. The end may be immensely different from what they imagine.
We have an illustration of this subject in our own community at the present day. Twenty years ago, a certain class of religious teachers, who had removed themselves from the foundation of their fathers, were told, that their course was downward, and that it would land them in virtual infidelity. They thought it unkind to be suspected of such tendency. But the result has fully verified the prediction. Christian ministers, so called, now stand up, even on this soil of the Pilgrims, and express their pain that a dying man should be found trusting in Christ for salvation. Christian ministers, so called, now stand up, and treat the Bible as little better than a collection of legendary tales. And a large circle of teachers still hold fellowship with them as regular and worthy ministers of Jesus Christ. O, who can tell whereto the beginnings of departure from uncorrupted doctrine will grow?
4. We see why it is that people who discard some one fundamental doctrine, or embrace some one fundamental error, even if they stop at this point, are yet, by this one wrong proceeding, pre
vented from deriving due advantage even from those portions of truth which they attempt still to hold. Cases of this kind are sometimes witnessed. And the solution is to be sought on the principle we have been considering. The one doctrine discarded all the other doctrines are loosened, as they lie in the minds of these people, and fail thus entirely to make the impression they otherwise would make. Or the one error embraced, a baleful in. fluence is shed by it over the whole mind and heart, creating a constant hindrance to a cordial following of the truth that is yet acknowledged. The system is mutilated; and, being mutilated, loses power. “Then shall I not be ashamed," says an ancient servant of God, “when I have respect unto ALL THY CONMANDMENTS." Let the system stand as God has ordained it. Neither add, nor diminish, nor vary. Then the whole will be harmonious, and, beyond description, glorious.
5. I simply add, that the doctrines of religion are of great practical moment. Bring together the points which have been suggested: the being of an infinitely perfect God; the inspiration of the Bible as an unerring revelation of his will to mankind; the universal providence of God; his wise and holy sovereignty in all his works; the immortality of the human soul; the deep and entire apostacy of the human race; the utterly lost condition of the world in itself; the supreme divinity of Jesus Christ, his atoning blood, and his all-sufficiency as a Saviour for the perishing; the doctrine of the Spirit, and his heavenly work on the hearts of free moral agents in their salvation; the retributions of an eternal state, giving the penitent, the reclaimed, the believer in Jesus, eternal life, but placing the impénitent, the unreclaimed, the rejecter of Jesus, where he shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." This is the system taught in the Bible, in its more promi. nent outlines. And this system claims, not only the attention of the intellect, but the homage of the heart, and the obedience of the life. God must be loved, and adored, and chosen as the portion of the soul. The Bible must be reverenced, and adhered to as " a light shining in a dark place." Sin must be acknowledged, repented of, forsaken. Christ must be accepted, believed on, followed. The Spirit must be prized, and sought, and cherished, and things offensive to his purity avoided. Heaven must be aspired after, and the energies of the soul directed to its attainment; while from destruction every one is required to give unceasing diligence to escape.
"Flec from the wrath to come; lay hold on eternal life.”
The subject is now with you. Heaven grant that you may make such use of it as will give you acceptance of it at the last day. Be not among the corrupters of the word of God. Be not among the deniers of the doctrine of Jesus. The world is a perishing world. IIeaven has sent the Gospel to save its lost inhabitants from the second death. Accept the deliverance it brings you, and take the glory it reveals!