Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into every part of the soul; which in the first place subjects us to the wrath of God, and in the next, produces in us those works which the scriptures term the works of the flesh. This is what, in strictness of speech, Paul usually calls sin: and the works which spring from it, such as adultery, fornication, thefts, hatreds, murders, revellings, he of course calls fruits of sin ; though often in scripture, and by Paul himself, they also are called sins. These two things then are to be distinctly considered ; in the first place, that being so vitiated and perverse in every part of our nature, we are already, for that corruption alone, justly convicted and condemned before God, to whom nothing can be acceptable but righteousness, innocence and purity. Nor is this a liability for the sin of another. For when it is said, that we are rendered obnoxious to the judgment of God through the sin of Adam, it is not so to be understood as if we, being innocent and undeserving, were to bear the blame of his offence; but because of his transgression, we are all clothed with a curse, he is said to have subjected us to condemnation. By him not only punishment falls upon us, but that corruption which springs from him, is instilled into our very nature, to which punishment is justly due. Wherefore Augustine, though he frequently calls it imputed sin (the better to shew that it is derived from our descent) at the same time affirms it to be our own sin. And the Apostle himself explicitly testifies, 80 death hath passed upon all, for that all have sinned ; that is, are involved in original sin, and defiled with its stain. Hence also, even infants, while they bring with them from their mother's womb their damnation, are liable not for another's, but their own sin. For although they have as yet brought forth no fruits of their iniquity, yet they have the seeds of it in themselves; nay, their whole nature is a seed. of sin : and therefore cannot but be odious and abominable in the sight of God. Hence it follows that they are accounted guilty by God; for without fault, there can be no guilt.

The second point is now to be considered, that this perverseness never ceases to operate in us; but continually brings forth new fruits, to wit, those things which we have before mentioned, called works of the flesh ; just as a fiery furnace breathes out flame and sparks, or a fountain sends forth water without ceasing. Wherefore they who have defined original sin to be a want of that original righteousness which ought to be in us, although they comprehend the whole matter, yet they do not use a sufficiently significant and energetic term. For our nature is not only destitute and void of good, but so fertile and productive of all evil, that it cannot cease to act. They who say that it is concupiscence, use a no less inadequate term, even if they add (what at least will be granted by most) that whatsoever there is in man, in his intellects and will, in his soul and body, is defiled and filled with this concupiscence ; or to express it shorter, that the whole man is nothing but concupiscence. Whence I have said that every part of the soul was siezed upon by sin, so soon as Adam departed from original righteousness. Nor was it merely an inferior appetite that inveigled him ; but a horrible impiety capti

Tated the very citadel of his mind, and pride penetrated to his inmost heart. # #

From the fault of our flesh, therefore, and not from God, is our destruction, since we perish for no other reason than because we have degenerated from our first condition. Nor let any one here object, that God might have better provided for our salvation, if he had prevented the fall of Adam : for this objection, on account of its bold curiosity, is shocking to the pious mind; and besides, this matter pertains to the secret of predestination, which will be hereafter considered in its place. Let us then remember that our ruin is to be imputed to the depravity of our nature, lest we bring an accusation against God himself, the author of our being.

the
FOR THE CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.

ESSAY ON INFIDELITY....No. II. ADMITTING that there is a God of righteousness and truth, the moral governor of the world, who has an inherent regard for the happiness of his creatures, the workmanship of his hands; and that he were about to reveal his will to men, to give them a system of religion for their faith and practice ; what should we conclude would be the nature and tendency of that system? Most certainly it would be calculated to promote the welfare of men, both here and hereafter. It would tend to the comfort and well-being of each individual in particular, and to the good order, prosperity and happiness of community at large. Those attributes and perfections which es. sentially belong to God, as a moral governor, would certainly induce him thus to provide for the best good of his creatures, in all their relations and circumstances, for time and eternity, individually and collectively. These are truths to which every one will assent on the first proposal. Indeed, our modern in, fideš uniformly assent to them, by implication at least, when they undertaketo shew that what is called a revelation is unworthy of God, and not productive of any good to society ; but on the contrary, of much mischief and misery. As they are inclined to reject the evi. dence of prophecy and miracles in favour of revelation, for the present we will wave any consideration of these topics, and join issue with them on the single point of its utility to human society. A great deal might be said on the comfortable prospect which it af. fords the individual, of a future state of blessedness. We might shew how much it tends to calm the jarring passions ; to still the tumult of fear, doubt and anxiety, and conduct him quietly down the stream of mortality, with his eye steadily fixed upon a haven of rest. But this point will also be waved ; for these essays are designed chiefly to counteract the effect of those assertions and insinuations, which are intended to prejudice the minds of the unlearned and incautious, and to destroy their veneration for the practical institutions of Christianity, on pretence that they are mischievous, or at most useless to society. There will consequently be no arguments intro. duced but such as apply directly to our present state ; and such as are, or may be obvious to common sense, and plain understandings ; such, in short, as turn exclusively upon acknowledged matters of fact, and rest not at all upon any other evidence than what is common among men.

And in the first place ; it will doubtless be admitted that civilization, and a knowledge of the arts and sciences, is the greatest blessing to man, in his present sublunary state. If then it can be made to appear that the institutions of revelation, as they are received and practised among Christians, have contributed, and daily are contributing to the diffusion of this blessing, one great point will be gained. This I shall endeavour to ascertain by considering facts, and by reasoning on the nature and tendency of those institutions. Much has been said and written, many encomiums have been bestowed upon the literature and refinements of ancient Greece and Rome, who were unaided by the genius of our religion. And whatever merit they are entitled to on this score, let them by all means enjoy. But when the matter comes to be carefully examined by such lights as have come down to us, it will be found that their civilization, in many points, has been greatly overrated. Within the walls of Alhens and Rome, great progress was indeed made in the arts of civil life.

............... “Uniting all.
Society grew numerous, high, polite,
And happy. Nurse of art! the city rear'd,

" In beauteous pride,sher tower-encircled head." While the country all around them was raised but a very few degrees above absolute barbarism ; enjoying almost none of the advantages resulting from a knowledge of the arts, and the orderly arrangements of civil government. Of this, with respect to Greece, we have a curious proof in Isocrates, an Athenian orator and philosopher. In a laboured panegyric upon the laws and institutions of that state, addressed to the celebrated court of Areopugus, he says, that when those institutions were in full operation, before the corruptions and disorders prevale:t in his time had been introduced, the citizens used to build splendid houses, and live securely and sumptuously in the country.* Would this be a distinguishing encomium upon any civil state in Christendom? It certainly would not. Nor,

* His expressions are:- Thus they were able to live in great security: They erected more splendid and sumptuous edifices, and enriched them with more equipage in the country, than in the city And many did not even repair to the city at the annual Festivals, choosing rather to enjoy their estates than the public shows. And it is, besides, worthy of remark, that in previously giving an account of those institutions which produced such happy eftecis; he has mentioned one thing that considerably resembles an important regulation, which has been introduced into society by the Christian religion; for he says, that not being content with making good laws, without providing the means of their execution; haring divided the city into wards, and the country into towns, they kept a watch upon the conduct of every one, and brought the unruly to trial. Some they admonished, some they threatened, and others, when necessary, they punished.-(Isoc, OKAT, ARIOP.) To this measure, here mentioned, of dividing the country into towns, and providing the means of admonition and instruction, doubtless is to be ascribed the high civilization of Attica, beyond what prevailed in the other states of Greece,

w it seems, could it be said of Athens in the days of Isocrates. And yet that city was at that very time considered as the centre of arts and refinement. With respect to. Rome, whoever shall read the history of what was called the servile war, which was a war of the slaves headed by Spartacus, against their masters, will be abundantly convinced, that almost all Italy, the very centre and heart of the Roman empire, was then in a state very little better than savage. And yet at this time Rome had reached nearly to her highest state of literature ; but few advances were afterwards made. Indeed, the Greek and Roman philosophers and legislators scarce ever dreamed of such 2 thing as extending their systems of jurisprudence beyond the limits of a single city ; leaving all the country about them with little other law and order than what depended on the capricious will and pleasure of the more knowing and refined inhabitants of the principal cities. They were rude, ignorant, barbarian slaves, compelled to work for their masters, who claimed to own both them and the soil on which they laboured. They enjoyed few indeed of the arts and conveniences of common life. They scarce knew what civilization was. They were considered as incapable of being governed by regular laws; and so perhaps they really were. With respect to extent of territory, thus limited was the civilization of these celebrated ancients. In the latter times of the Roman republic, however, and after they became a monarchy, they adopted the practice of planting what were called colonies, invested with privileges and a mode of government, bearing some resemblance to the mother city. But this was done, not by incorporating the ancient inhabitants, but by a total extirpation of them, in order to gratify the minions of men in power. It is also true that they used to grant the privileges of citizenship to many individuals belonging to the conquered countries; which descended to their children.f By these means they diffused in some degree their arts and refinements beyond the immediate vicinity of Rome. But still, much the greater part of the countries subject to their authority, was governed only by military despotism, and the will of those to whom they were parcelled out; without science and arts, and at most half barbarians.

But what a different face of things do we behold, wherever the gospel, in any tolerable degree of purity, has prevailed. Large and extensive countries are melted, as it were, into one uniform mass. The same system of laws and government is extended to every corner of the society. If not the elegancies and luxuries, at least the solid benefits of civilization, reach the king on his throne and the peasant in his cottage. And why is this, but that the duties and practices required by Christianity have rendered men capable of being thus cemented together in a state of society? If the reasons of this, the way and method in which it has been done, be enquired for, they are at hand. And here, among the first and foremost, should be reckoned the appointment of one day in seven, to be spent in publicly assembling together for the worship of God. Were we to disregard altogether the object for which Christians assemble, and merely

t of this we have an instance in St. Paul, who says he was free-born; that is, he was born of parents who had been made citizens.

consider the whole community to be districted in such manner as to make it convenient for them to assemble once a week, and thus actu. ally assembling, the benefits would be immense ; much greater than those are apt to imagine, who are unused to reflect on the subject. As in the bounties of Providence, which we daily receive, but overlook whence they come; so here, we are apt not to trouble ourselves about the source of those great blessings which we perpetually enjoy from this important institution. Let us then proceed to a more par ticular enquiry into a matter, which is alledged to have produced such great consequences. As the appointment stands, people of all ages and classes assemble, where, by universal consent, sobriety, decency, and good order are indispensable. They thus, from their earliest years, acquire a habit of seriousness and attention, of deco. rum and order. When together, they see each others' faces, and learn to know and feel that they are men, partakers of the same na. ture, and made for society; that they have mutual wants and dependencies, and therefore mutual duties to perform ; mutual animosities are, for the time at least, suspended, and their hearts are softened into good humour. The discordant and jarring passions have no opportunity to rufile their bosoms; but every thing tends to tranquilize, to inspire peace and friendship between man and man; to make reasonable beings of them who will endeavour to govern them. selves by maxims deduced from thought and reflection, and not from the impulse of passion and appetite. These happy propensities creep upon men in childhood; they grow up with them, and become incorporated with their very natures, and inseparable from their manners. The savage is worn off, and the civilized man is formed ; humane, gentle, and curbed to the dictates of wisdom and virtue. A great deal of this would follow, without ascribing any thing to the peculiar occupations in which the mind should be engaged; and in which is engaged the attention of every pious mind. And here we should do well to consider how much a serious and devout worship of the great Lord of Heaven and Earth, tends to soften and harmopize the heart; to banish pride and obstinacy; and thereby to assimilate our tempers and dispositions. What have we to be proud of, when bowing before the divine Majesty ? What are our wills when put in competition with his, who ruleth over all things? How diminutive are we, in comparison of him in whom all things exist! Such reflections naturally and necessarily occupy the minds of those who repair to the house of worship, suitably affected with the business of holy time. And is there nothing in all this that is likely to render men benevolent, peaceful, orderly and humane? The self-exalted advocate for the sufficiency of reason, however in his practice he may despise and neglect this solemn duty, as a vulgar superstition, dare not say it can produce no improvement of the heart. Let it be granted that not one half or one quarter of those who assemble, ever think of the proper business of the time; still they come together, and learn, in spite of their inattention, many of the duties which belong to men in a state of civilized society. Mr. Addison, that accurate observer of human nature, somewhere remarks, that the institution of Sunday, if there were no other reasons for it then the atten

« PoprzedniaDalej »