« PoprzedniaDalej »
ken grounds ? Or how can we expect they should be able to defend every smaller circumstance of their practice by just reasonings?
If I were to recapitulate these things in short, I would draw up my charitable conclusion thus : Since our first apostacy from God has so perverted and spoiled our rational powers, and enslaved our minds to so many prejudices and passions; since the impressions of education and custom are unavoidable and necessary, deep and strong ; since the affairs of the world that is under a divine curse, are so justly and unhappily ill constituted; since capacity, leisure application, humility, and prayer, are all found together but in very few persons; and since the divine oracles, in matters less necessary, have so much obscurity in themselves, and so much thicker darkness cast upon them by contending parties, why should we be so much amazed or so angry, to see so many different sentiments and practices amongst men of honest piety, and desirous of truth?
Farewell, thou dear companion of my studies, and if your light and knowledge should be so far improved by your further inquiries, as to lead you away from that communion, and those methods of worship wherein we have so often and so delightfully joined ; yet I hope that upon the review of this letter, you will maintain a very charitable opinion of
Your unenlightened friend, &c.
« A CAVEAT AGAINST INFIDELITY."
It was in the year 1722 these discourses were composed, and they have lain several years by me waiting for a more proper opportunity to be sent into the world. But deism and infidelity having made such violent efforts, of late, in this nation, and having obtained such unbappy success, as to draw away come from the faith of the blessed gospel, and to stagger others in their be. lief, I thought providence forbid any longer delay, and called me to add this attempt toward the restraint of a spreading pestilence.
It has not been my business and intent here, to produce the numerous train of arguments, whereby the christian religion is supported, and set thern in a fair array. This has been done in many forms, and in many volumes by writers of the first rank, in our age, which are sufficiently known in the world, and received with just honour. Yet I take pleasure on this occasion to point to my reader two lesser writings lately published, wbich are worthy of his perusal. The first is the Lord Bishop of London's Pastoral Letter, written in defence of christianity, wherein, he has drawn into a narrow and compre. hensive view, some of the most considerable arguments, for the vindication of our holy religion ; and by exhibiting them, in a just and perspicuous mander, he has recommended them to the christian world. The other is Doctor William Harris's Two Discourses, wherein “ the Reasonableness of Believ.. ing the Gospel, and the Unreasonableness of Infidelity, are Displayed in a Convincing Light. I could wish that believers and infidels would read these little books with a serious spirit.
There are two sorts of persons, in our age, who have not only need to hare the evidences of our holy religion set before them, in their fullest view, but it may also be very proper to excite them to a diligent, faithful, and religious attention to these evidences, by representing the formidable and tremendous threatenings of God, against those who abuse the light they enjoy, and become intidels or apostates in the midst of divine advantages for faith. Happy should I be, if I could impress their souls, with a solemn concern and solicitude, equal to the vast and infinite importance of the subject.
The ope sort of men have declared themselves unbelievers of the gospel of Christ : they have gone so far as to renounce the scriptures, and forsake christianity : Some of these set themselves to oppose it boldly by such assaults, either, of wit or argument, as nature hath furnished them with; and some join their attempts of reason and raillery together : May God recover them by his alroighty grace! I tear there is but little prospect of recalling them to the faith, by any thing we can speak or write. There are others who have not abandoned the gospel, set lave had their minds so corrupted and perplexed, by soine objections of intidelity, that they are reduced to a doubting state, whether the religion of Corist be divine or no, and are seeking after some de. termination by fuller evidence. I do not call these persons deists or infidels : I hope, as well as pray, for their establishment in the faith of Jesus, the only Saviour'.
Now my chief design in this treatise, was to attempt a recovery of some of these doubting christians, or to stop thein in their course toward apostacy, by representing the dreadful ani! eternal bazard of rejecting the gospel of Chrisi, if it should at last appear to have come from hcaven : That those who think ot'abandoning the christian faith might see and be persuadı d, that none of their pretences to natural religion can give thein an etrectual security, from the condemning sentence of the great Judge, it they shall to the last oppose and resist the light of evidence, that shines round the gospel, in our nation
and our day. I am well aware that my conduct and mammer of argument, on this subject, will be represented as very uncharitable: Perhaps, I shall be told, that I assume the awful province of God, that I enter into the hearts of men, and pass a judgment concerning their sincerity, while I scarce suppose it possible for a man to be truly sincere, in seeking the truth, and yet to live and die an infidel, where the gospel is surrounded with its proper light and evidences.
I must confess it is a sensible grief to me, when I am constrained, by the word of God, to say any thing terrible and severe against my fellow-creatures, my partners in flesh and blood. I would hate and avoid all the characters of a censorious and uncharitable spirit. The gospel of Christ is a gospel of love, and while I preach it for the salvation of men, I would never mix my own wrath with it, nor would I willingly lie under the shadow of such an inputation. But when the great and blessed God, who has made this gospel, and who searches the bearts of men, has pronounced his wrath and damgation so often against those who beliere not in his Son, it is he himself who does in effect declare, that they are not sincere in their searches after the truth: For I am persuaded be would never proclaim such vengeance from heaven against any sincere soul, that with humble diligence and faitbfulness inquires, “ What he must do to please his Maker.”
The blessed God who has ordained the gospel of his Son Jesas, to be the means of the salvation of men to the end of the world, has certainly furnished it with sufficient evidence, for the propagation of it, through the successive generations of men, among all that are humble and willing enquirers after truth. The God of nature knows well how much light is necessary, both in the eye, and on the object, to convey the sight of it to those who are willing to see: The same all-wise God well knows also what capacity in the mind is requisite, and wbat degree of evidence is necessary to attend any revealed truth, in order to its being received by the honest and sincere soul: Aod bis equity and goodness would never have suffered such a heavy curse to be denounced against unbelievers, if he had not foreseen, that nothing but some corrupt and guilty prejudices could withhold men from receiving the truth of the gospel, where it is accompanied with its necessary testimonials. It is not I, therefore, but it is the word of God that declares the unbelievers of his gospel to be insincere, while he pronounces such a curse upon them.
The holy and gracious lips of our blessed Jesus, who knew the hypocrisy and insincerity of the Jews, in his day, did often pronounce a sentence of death and destruction upon them; and, when he left the world, he repeated this condemnation upon all infidels, where his gospel should come with its proper eridence, He that believeth not shall be dumned; Mark xvi. 16. The great apostle of the gentiles has assured us, that they who believe not hare suffered the god of this world, that is, the devil, to blind their minds; 2 Cor. iv. 4. and he has confirmed the awful sentence, If any man love not the lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, or accursed, till the Lord come ; I Cor. xvi. 22.
Now, since these solemn denunciations of divine vengeance are frequently repeated in our bible, and make a part of that book wherein our reli• gion lies, since we are bound to declare all the counsel of God, for the salva. tion of men, and knowing these terrors of the Lord, we cannot but set them before the faces of those, who are in danger of being drawn away from their stedfastness in the faith; that if they should at last perish in their own unbeJief, they may not lay the blame upon the ministers of'the gospel, and plead that they had no warning of this condemnation. It is, therefore, no instance of an uncharitable conduct, to point out to careless wanderers, that pit of fire and destruction into which they are bastening, unless thev turti their feet to another path: It has been always counted an act of charity and love, to pluck the wandering traveller, froin a tatal precipice, or affright him from approaching the brink of it, by displaying all the dreadful miscbiets, and the certale death that will attend his fall.