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IMPORTANCE OF THE DOC- respecting the being and attri
TRINES OF THE BIBLE AS CONNECTED WITH ITS PRECEPTS.
THE doctrines of the Bible are statements of facts. For example, the doctrine of the trinity is the statement of a fact respecting the mode of the divine existence. The doctrine of God's eternal purposes is the statement of a fact respecting the divine administration. The doctrine of human depravity is the statement of a fact respecting the character of man.
The statement of any historical fact may be called, in the technical language of theology, a doctrine. Theologians have selected some of the most important and peculiar facts stated in the Bible, and given them, by way of eminence, the appellation of doctrines: thus the facts stated in the Bible respecting the lost condition of man, and the gospel method of saving him, are appropriately denominated, the Evangelical Doctrines.
These doctrines of the Bible are a divinely authorized statement of facts; and, in many instances, of facts of which we could not be certified in any other way than by revelation. As a mere subject of knowledge, therefore, these facts are most worthy of our attention. But, in addition to this circumstance, these facts, or doctrines, lay the foundation for all the precepts of the Bible, making the precepts intelligible and obligatory. Unless, for instance, the doctrines
butes of God are true, the precepts to fear, and love, and obey him, are not only not obligatory, but they are without meaning. So if the doctrines of human sinfulness, and of an atonement for sin by the death of Christ, are not true, there is no ground on which to enjoin the precepts, to repent, and believe, and hope for pardon. In this way we might enumerate all the leading doctrines of the Bible, and find that there are corresponding precepts, which, without these doctrines, are, in every respect, nugatory; and we may safely say, that if the doctrines of the Bible, considered as a statement of facts, are not true, then the precepts of the Bible, considered as a system of rules for regulating the conduct of men, are neither obligatory, nor even intelligible.
But the doctrines of the Bible are not important on this ground merely, that they make the precepts intelligible and obligatory;-these doctrines give the precepts all their efficiency. On the ground before taken, the precepts of the Bible, if the doctrines are not true, appear like the enactments of a legislative assembly, made on the hypothesis that a certain class of beings and facts exist, when, in reality, no such beings and facts ever did exist, or were supposed to exist, or expected ever to exist. There evidently would be no real or conceivable reason for such enactments. On the ground which I now take, the pre
cepts of the Bible, if the doctrines are not true, appear like the laws of such an assembly promulgated without being accompanied by a penalty, or any other suitable inducement to obedience. In the former view, the precept enjoining repentance, for example, might be the subject of contemplation; but if it was not preceded by the doctrines that God exists as a lawgiver, and that man has transgressed the divine law;-or, if there was not previously a knowledge of these two facts,the precept would be unintelligible :-and if the natural claims of God to the love and obedience of man were not previously seen, the precept would appear unreasonable. Now, in any case, to secure obedience to a precept, something more is necessary than merely that the precept have a meaning; and in a case where the person to whom the precept is given is so averse to the duties enjoined by it, as man is to the duties enjoined by the precepts of the Bible, something more is necessary for the purpose of securing this obedience, than merely that the precepts be reasonable. The appeal to man's understanding is unsucessful You must, therefore, present something which shall operate as a motive by appealing to his feelings. This power of operating on the feelings of man is that in which the great importance of the doctrines of the Bible is most clearly manifest. It arises from the adaptation of these doctrines to the nature of man, and to the particular precepts which they are designed to enforce.
Man has a susceptibility of being af fected by goodness, exhibited in acts of kindness done to himself, and by sufferings endured for his sake. This susceptibility is appealed to by the doctrines of the Gospel in such language as this; "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life."--"God commend. eth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Now this fact that God first loved him, and has manifested his love in so affecting a manner, cannot but be a powerful motive to induce man to obey the precept which enjoins love to God. Man may also be powerfully affected by objects which are placed in prospect before him, and which he naturally desires. This susceptibility is appealed to in the doctrines of the gospel. The happiness of heaven is represented as beyond what eye hath seen, or ear heard, or heart conceived. The nature of this happiness is summarily describ ed by saying, that when Christ shall appear the Christian shall be like him, for he shall see him as he is. Such a hope leads a man, in the language of the Bible, to purify himself,-both by the nature of the objects on which it fixes his mind, and by making him strive to avoid every thing which would prevent his attaining to this blessedness. But the doctrine which is adapted most directly to enforce all the precepts of the Bible, and to operate as the most solemn penalty for all transgression, is the doctrine of a future punishment.
These doctrines of a future state of reward and punishment cannot fail to give efficiency to the precepts which are to regulate the conduct of men. They make a twofold appeal to his interest, and thus, by awakening his hope and fear, they dissuade and deter him from sin.---The doctrine which teaches the love of Christ in suffering for sinners, is no less efficient in producing a hatred of sin. It is an apprehension of the goodness of God, and a familiarity with it, in all its aspects, which leads men to repentance.
But in order to make the doctrines of the Bible produce their proper effect, they must not be view ed as matters of mere speculation.
God does not reveal facts to men
less designed that all which he has
The reason why men do not like to meditate on the doctrines, and to have them pressed on their view,
probably is, that they do not like to feel the binding force of the precepts. The precepts of the Bible, viewed aside from the doctrines, may appear a very pleasant matter of speculation, because the man feels under no special obligation to obey them, farther than is convenient and agreeable, and fears no serious consequences from disobedience but if a man is told by the doctrines of the Bible that all his moral affections are unholy, that all his conduct springs from wrong principles; that for this he is so guilty, that God judges him deserving of eternal punishment, and cannot pardon him without the atonement effected by the death of his well beloved Son,-the whole matter assumes the aspect of something else than speculation. His case becomes critical; and the precepts to repent and believe, involving an increased amount of meaning, gather importance, and bear with weight on his conscience; and he sees that he cannot disobey them but at his utmost peril. He therefore excludes them from his view; and calls them speculative, just as if this neglect, and the application of this epithet, would change their nature, or their eternal importance to him.
In order that the doctrines may produce their proper effects, they should be viewed just as they are stated in the Bible. They should be thoroughly understood, in all their practical meaning, and personal bearing: for just in proportion as the notion entertained of a particular doctrine is defective in any of its parts, or is different in any of its parts from what it should be, in the same proportion will the reasonableness and urgency of the precepts which that doctrine was designed to enforce, be diminished. Different modifications of the same general doctrine may produce different degrees of that which the precepts enjoin: for instance, representations that man is, to a cer
tain extent, a sinner, may correspond to a precept which enjoins a certain amount of repentance, and may produce it, while nothing but the doctrine which represents a total unholiness of the affections, will correspond to the precept, make yourselves a new heart, and be created anew in Christ Jesus. If, then, the doctrines of the Bible are so modified as to become of less efficiency, the precepts of the Bible must be so modified as to become less strict: otherwise the doc, trines will be found inadequate to secure obedience. Hence the softening or concealing the affecting doctrines of the Bible is always followed by a lowering of the standard of morals; and we find that all those classes of Christians who do not bring fully and prominently into view the great distinguishing doctrines of Christianity as well as all pagan moralists-have always failed to make their systems take strong hold of the human mind, or to do much towards reforming men. The doctrines and precepts of the Bible have so exact an adaptation to each other, as to prove the divine authority of them both. The power of these doctrines to excite moral emotion corresponds to the resistance to be overcome in the human mind before men will obey the precepts.
A conclusion to which I think this view legitimately leads, is, that the doctrines of the Bible ought to be preached. They ought to be preached with great care,-lest a wrong notion be given to the character and government of God,respecting the character and condition of man, and the way of his being saved. They ought to be preached fully and plainly. God, who directed the doctrines of the Bible to be stated there, knew what was the character of man on whom they were designed to operate ;— he knew also what sort and amount of influence these doctrines were
adapted to exert; and he undoubt edly stated just so many doctrines, and doctrines of just such a moral power, as would secure obedience to the precepts of the Bible, and effect the proper change in the character of man. If, therefore, these doctrines are indispensable, and there is no superfluity of moral pow. er in them, then if all of them are not preached, and in all their strength, the proper change will not be effected in the human character. and men may not be saved, and their blood will be required at the preacher's hand.
The doctrines, when preached, ought to be presented in such a light, and to be so connected with the precepts, as to produce the greatest possible effect in securing obedience. The truths of the Bible do not possess such superfluous power over the minds of men, that we can well afford to have it diminished by presenting these truths in an unimpressive attitude. The object of preaching is not to fill the mind with insulated conceptions of doctrinal facts-broken off from each other, and from the precepts which are to regulate human conduct; neither is it, on the other hand, to proclaim precepts which contain, in themselves, nothing to show their propriety, or to enforce them. Both these courses lead to error. The former tends to make men suppose that all religion consists in having certain intellectual conceptions, which may have no more influence on the moral character of man than has a conception of the relations and movements of the solar system. The latter, by leaving out the doctrines, on the ground of which the precepts are issued, tends to make men think that the precepts of the Bible are arbitrary; or at least, that there is no special propriety in them, and no very momentous consequences depending on obeying, or disobeying them, and leaves men therefore to