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that universal obedience which will ever distinguish the believer from the infidel. He, therefore, who declaims against this scriptural faith, whether he be a novice or a philosopher, indirectly pleads the cause of vice, and gives sufficient proof of his spiritual ignorance.
3. From what has been advanced, we may infer the necessity there is of avoiding the mistake of the gnostics on the one hand, and the error of incredulous sages on the other; the former of whom, contending for a speculative faith, salute Christ as their Lord, though they refuse to obey his commands; while the latter holding faith in the utmost derision, and depending upon their own power for the performance of every good work, pollute, by unworthy motives, the most excellent of their actions.
The same subject continued. As many have taken great offence in observing how little effect the doctrines of the gospel have upon
the lives of Christians so called, it becomes us here to inquire into the causes of this grand evil.
The doctrines which distinguish Christianity from theism have this peculiarity, that no man can possibly receive them unless he has first sincerely embraced the doctrines of theism. He must believe in God before he can believe in Christ; he must have the sincerity of an honest heathen before he comes to the possession of Christian'charity. It is usual with the whole multitude of outward professors to cry out in their public services, "We believe in Jesus Christ: We believe in the Holy Ghost :" &c. though their faith, it may be, is not equal to that of devils, who believe in the existence of a rewarding and avenging God, with sincerity sufficient to make them tremble before him. These hypocrites can no more be said to believe, from the heart, the latter articles of the apostles' creed, than those children who are yet unacquainted with the alphabet, may be said to have perused and digested the most profound authors. The doctrines of the gospel must necessarily appear both useless and absurd to those whose faith in God is not sufficient to penetrate them with a boly fear, for as we cannot arrive at man bood without first passing through the state of infancy, so we cannot cordially receive the latter part of the apostles' creed till we have first embraced tbe former part by a lively and steadfast faith. Why did Caiaphas refuse to believe in Christ? because he was but a hypocrite with respect to the Jewish faith. On the contrary, why did Cornelius the centurion so readily believe? It was, undoubtedly, because the sincerity of bis faith in God had prepared his heart for the reception of faith in Christ. " Every man,” saith this divine Saviour, " that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Ye who believe in God believe also in me; and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth.”
These fundamental doctrines compose the ladder of evangelical truth, in which he who takes offence at any single step, runs a double hazard ; that of ascending no higher, and even that of falling from the step where he has obstinately determined to take up his rest. that doeth truth, cometh to the light;" but be that refuses the first truth, places himself beyond the possibility of receiving those which are of a more sublime nature. If he has not first observed the dawn of the gospel day, he can never contemplate our divine Sun when shining in his meridian brightness.
The articles of the Christian faith may be compared to a course of geometrical propositions, the last of which always supposes a perfect knowledge of the first. To require of spiritual infants any high and important acts of faith in Jesus Christ, or in the Holy Spirit, before they are taught to entertain just notions of the Supreme Being, would be equally unreasonable as for a man to pretend that it is possible to make a good geometrician of an ignorant peasant, by instructing him to repeat the terms of Euclid's last propositions, without ever bringing him to a true understanding of the first. If, then, the generality of Christians are contented with learning merely to repeat our doctrinal terms, we must expect to see them as far from manifesting the virtues of St. Paul, as the superficial peasant from possessing the solidity of Euclid.
Other reasons given for the little influence which the fore
going doctrines are observed to have upon Christians in general.
PROFITABLY to teach the doctrines of the gospel, there are certain rules necessary to be observed; and where these rules are either unknown or neglected, the gospel becomes of little importance.
1. A true doctrine, in order to have its due effect, must be announced with purity. It should neither be mutilated by hasty contradictions, por corrupted by vain additions, The prince of error equally serves his own interest by perplexing the truth as by spreading a falsehood; and when errors are added to evangelical truths, those truths may be compared to excellent medicines unhappily mingled with dangerous poisons. Thus, the doctrine of future punishments is not only deprived of its utility, but becomes really pernicious by the addition of another doctrine, which teaches that a sum of money left as the price of prayer for a departed soul will effectually soften and even terminate its pains.
2. A doctrine should not only be delivered in the purest manner, but they who announce it should study io demonstrate its excellency and power, by the whole course of their conduct. Were leprous physicians to cry up a specific against the leprosy, it cannot be imagined that lepers in general would anxiously adopt a remedy which had been attended with so little effect upon the recommenders of it. We here intimate, not without the utmost regret, that too many of the clergy destroy the effect of their doctrines, by the immorality of their conduct.
2. To give scriptural doctrines their full effect, it is necessary to make them pass from the understanding to the will, or from the judgment to the heart of those who admit them. It would be in vain to procure for a patient the most efficacious remedy, if, instead of applying it in the method prescribed, he should think it sufficient to touch it with his lips, or should content himself with drawing in the grateful odour exhaling from it. To such a
patient, however, the greater part of Christians bear á strict resemblance, who speculate upon the gospel, without ever embracing it with that lively " faith which worketh by love."
4. It is not sufficient, that these doctrines should be preached in their native purity; but it is equally necessary that they should be preserved in the same purity by those who receive them. Our Lord makes this solemn declaration to sinners : Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Yet how is it that many thousand Christians who admit this important truth, remain to the present day in a state of impenitence ? It is because they mingle with it the following pernicious error : though I spend the present moment in sin, God will assuredly give me grace to repent in the latter part of my life. Hence that lamentable inattention to the duties of religion which is universal among us at this day.
5. Very frequently the doctrines of the gospel are attended with no considerable effect upon those who admit them, because the salutary operation of these truths is counteracted by the powerful influence of earthly desires indulged in the heart. Thus, in a disordered stomach, the most wholesome food is deprived of its virtue. To remedy this evil, it is necessary to enter upon a regimen too severe to be regarded by an obstinate patient, and upon an absolute necessity of which an inattentive physician will not peremptorily insist.
6. Where doctrines of the most humiliating tendency have not first made a deep impression, there the consolatory doctrines of the gospel tend only to uphold the sinner in a course of impiety. Those preachers who favour the false judgment of worldly men, wanting either courage or experience wisely to administer the doctrines of the gospel, so that they may alarm the impenitent and console the dejected; these preachers, instead of eradicating, do but increase the evil we lament. It cannot, indeed, be denied that they offer many sacred truths to the world; but, while they do not nicely distinguish, and apply them to the different states of their hearers, as they only draw their bow at a venture, it is no wonder that their arrows so frequently fall beside the mark. These perplexers of truth contribute as little to the conversion of sinners, as a physician would contribute to the recovery of the sick,
who, without any prudent selection, compounding together all the drugs of an excellent pharmacopeia, should indiscriminately offer the same confused recipe to every patient.
7. The doctrines of Christianity are frequently delivered as the opinions of men, rather than as the declarations of God, founded upon events much better attested than the most certain historical facts; and to this single error the inefficacy of those doctrines may, in a good degree, be imputed. Were reason and conscience made to walk in the front of the gospel, the want of a Redeemer would be more universally experienced in the world, than it has hitherto been. But while the preachers of that gospel neglect to assert the depravity of human nature; or while they omit, in confirmation of so melancholy a truth, to make the most solemn appeals to the consciences of men; so long we may expect to see their ill-directed labours universally unsuccessful. Had these teachers in Israel an experimental acquaintance with those truths, upon which they presume openly to descant, their word would speedily be attended with unusual efficacy; their example would give it weight, and in answer to their fervent prayers, the God of all grace would set his seal to the truths of the gospel.
Whenever the messengers of religious truth shall become remarkable for the purity of their lives, and the fervency of their zeal, their doctrines will soon be attended with sufficient influence in the Christian world to over, throw the objection we have been here considering, and effectually to stop the mouth of every gainsayer.
The doctrines of Christianity have an obscure side. The
reasons of this obscurity. The error of some philosophers in this respect. "THE gospel,” says J. J. Rousseau, " is accompanied with marks of truth, so great, so striking, so perfectly inimitable, that the inventor of it appears abundantly more admirable than its hero. But, after all, this gospel is filled