« PoprzedniaDalej »
ed, more peaceable and pure. They would have spoken “ the truth in love.” That great scourge of human nature and disgrace of the Christian church, Persecution, could scarcely have found any pretext for cruelty in the words of Christ. The Christian religion would have so charmed and edified mankind, that it would, by this time, have covered the whole face of the earth. Men would have hailed it as a messenger of glad tidings, The prophecies of Christ would have received already that completion, which awaits them at last. All mankind would have become one family, dutifully performing the will of their common Father, practising the instructions of their great Preceptor, and behaving to each other as brethren. Their swords would have been transformed into plough-shares, and their spears forged into pruning hooks. Men would now learn war no more, and would every day become more and more fit for translation to Heaven. The Spirit of God would descend and rest upon their hearts, like the dove, the emblem of peace, gentleness and love.
If this be not the case, let no man presume to impute the fault to the Gospel, but to our own wayward and vicious dispositions. Neither let any one suspect, that the plan was ill calculated for the human race, or that its Divine author was destitute of foresight; for its adaptation to our present infirmities, and to the future perfection
of our nature, is among its distinguishing excel. lencies; and the unhappy effects, which the mild wisdom of the Gospel would produce upon our perverse and crooked generation, were distinctly foretold.
Let me then beseech you, my brethren, to meditate day by day, and night by night, upon that holy book, which “contains the words of eternal life, all that pertains to life and godliness, having the promise, both of the life that now is, and the life that is to come.” Respectfully and gratefully receive that variety of religious knowledge, which is communicated in the Acts of the Apostles, and their Epistles; but fix upon the words of Jesus as the standard of your faith, the anchor of your hope, the guide and inspirer of your charity; and may God grant you a right understanding in all things.- Amen.
, P. 46.-- (1) See Bishop Hooper: Sermon iv, quoted by Abp. Lawrence: "damned by the magistrates.” Apply this to 1 Cor. xi. 29, and Rom. xiv. 23.
P. 56.—(2) While preparing this edition for the press, I met with an unexpected corroboration of the sufficiency of the Gospels, and the subordinate importance of the Epistles, by the Rev. John Townsend, a writer, widely differing from me on most other doctrines.-" John xvi. 12, 13. This address of our Lord is commonly alleged in support of the assertion, that additional doctrines were to be propounded in the Epistles.
what particulight to lighet: that
That such cannot be the meaning of the passage, the preceding inquiry as to the several articles of Christian belief has proved. To what particulars, then, did our Saviour allude? That Christ was to be a light to lighten the Gentiles no less than the glory of the people of Israel: that the peculiar privileges of the Jews were at an end: that the Samaritan, the Greek, and the Barbarian, were to stand on a level with the Israelite in the Christian Church: and that it was not his will to restore at that time the kingdom to Israel.
The post, then, which the Epistles occupy in the sacred depository of revelation is not that of communications of new doctrines. They fill their station, as additional records, as inspired corroborations, as argumentative concentrations, as instructive expositions, of truths already revealed, of commandments already promulgated. In the explication of moral preeepts, the Epistles frequently enter into large and highly beneficial details. We must not regard the Epistles as communications of religious doctrines not disclosed before; as displaying the perfection of a system of which merely the rude elements had been indicated in the writings of the four Evangelists. A deliberate, and, I would humbly hope, an honest comparison of “things spiritual with spiritual has not discovered to me Calvinistic tenets in any part of the sacred volume.”—See New Test. arranged, Vol. II. 211, 8c..
P. 57.—13)“ Christianity is nothing else but the most perfect design to make a man happy in his whole capacity: and as the law was to the Jews, so was philosophy to the Gentiles, a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ; to teach them the rudiments of happiness, and the first and lowest things of reason; that when Christ was come, all mankind might become perfect: and this was brought to pass by discovering and restoring and improving the law of nature, and by turning it all to religion; for the natural law being sufficient, eternal and unalterable, the body of the law could not make a new morality.”—Bp. Jeremy Taylor, last edition, II. xxxvi." .
P. 59.—(4) Of the first description are Newton, Locke, &c.; of the second such men as Clarke and Paley.
ON THE INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY.
REVELATION xix. 10. “ The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of Prophecy.”
IT is natural, that man should be anxious about his fate; and eagerly listen to any expedient, that may enable him to draw the curtain of futurity, and behold, at one glance, the whole period of time, in which he is concerned. The impatience, which prompts him to anticipate the catastrophe of an interesting story, without submitting to the gradual tenor of narration, must stimulate him still more to snatch the book of destiny, and greedily devour the pages, which contain the secrets of his future life. Though this desire is natural, and often indulged to an extravagant excess, it is by no means clear, that a full gratification of it, would add to the sum of human happiness. A distant view of prosperity might aggravate the evils of affliction; and, in
stead of enhancing, greatly diminish, the long expected enjoyment. If, on looking into the volume of infallible and irreversible destiny, we should find a decree of endless distress and sor. row, hope, which now cheers the darkest gloom of misery, and never forsakes us in our misfortunes, would at once desert us. That faithful friend, who would have led us from one stage of affliction to another, beguiling the way with flattering promises, and affording the most grateful consolation to our grief, would abandon us to the horrors of despair. Notwithstanding, therefore, the avidity of men, to pry into futurity, and their apparent credulity in impostors, there is, perhaps, no person of common reflection, who would venture to ask the fatal question, if sure of an infal. lible reply; but the most credulous in fortunate omens, are armed with a degree of incredulity against inauspicious prognostics.
From these observations we may reasonably con. elude, that Prophecy was never intended to enlarge our knowledge of future personal events. Neither does a distinct foreknowledge of such public transactions, as affect the condition of states and empires, seem to have been the intention of Prophecy. Its true design was explained by our Lord, when he said: “I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe.” Its object is, to evince the operation of a superintending Providence,