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provision for man's salvation will doubtless be found in the use of the means appointed by God for that purpose; and these are to be had in the Church. Ithis not, therefore, a consideration of so little importance as some men imagine, by whose ministry Our prayers are offered up to God, or through whose hands Divine ordinances are received: for we are assured the blessings and graces which Christianity teaches us to expect from these ordinances, can ordinarily be derived from them, only when administered according to Christ's institution, by persons regularly called, as he has directed. Where such may be had, and we may lawfully join with them, and use their ministry; to separate from them, is to rebel against the authority of Christ, who appointed them.
But it is alleged by those who occasionally separate from our Church, that the clergy of it possess neither that zeal nor knowledge, which ought to characterize their profession; that their preaching is not that plain preaching of the cross which it ought to be, but a species of human philosophy, which can never make the hearer wise unto salvation.
I am not more surprised that such a charge should be brought, by those who have suffered an acquaintance with the conduct of some ministers of the Church, and an attachment to certain preachers out of it, to create in their minds unfortunate prejudices, than I am persuaded that the ground for such a charge, as applicable to the great body of our clergy, does not in these days exist. The truth, I believe, is, that the defect of individuals among the clergy, has been industriously magnified
into a general plea for separation from the Church; which is, in fact, to pronounce that sentence upon the cause, which ought to have been confined to the party by whose unskilfulness it has been injured.
The Gospel, it shall be admitted, is not preached exactly in the same manner in the Church, as it sometimes is out of it; and God forbid it should. From the general tenor of the writings of those, to whom the ministerial office was originally committed; who, from the circumstance of their being under the immediate direction of the spirit, must be considered perfect models for imitation; the religion of Christ appears to be a comprehensive system of faith and morality; the one considered as the foundation, the other the superstructure of the Christian building. Now we know that where the foundation is not firmly laid, the superstructure raised upon it, however excellent the materials of which it is composed, must in a short time fall to the ground. But we also know, that where the whole time is spent in laying the foundation, the work not being carried above ground, nothing will appear to which the term building can with propriety be applied. The object, therefore, which the Christian divine ought to have in view, is so to join the two parts of the Christian edifice, that they may together form one complete building; in other words, so to connect faith and obedience, those two parts of the Divine scheme of salvation, that they may constitute that perfect system of Christianity, whereby "man may become qualified for his heavenly inheritance."
Whoever sees the subject in this light, and he who does not is unqualified for a teacher of Christ
ianity, will consider it to be his duty to pay that attention to both parts of the Christian system, which, according to his best judgment, the circumstances of those committed to his charge may require. He will, therefore, from time to time, be a preacher of morality; and he must be so, if he would fully discharge his office; not the morality of the heathen, which looks to the merit of the work as its title to reward, but the morality of the Christian; a morality built upon the Gospel foundation, and deriving all its value from the principle upon which it is performed; a morality dependent upon Divine grace, and looking only to Divine grace for acceptance, upon the terms of the Gospel covenant.
The common objection, therefore, that is made to the moral preaching in our Churches, is inapplicable to that species of morality of which we are now speaking; and which, I trust, is now generally inculcated. A morality of this nature, essential to the completion of the Christian plan of salvation, must be preached; and where it is not, the whole truth, as it is in Christ Jesus, not being delivered, the Gospel is, as it were, preached by halves; and the consequence is, what it too generally has been, that the hearers of it are a sort of half Christians; standing (if we may so say) in a tottering condition upon one leg; whilst the design of the Christian revelation was, that they should stand firmly upon
Unfortunately, these pious members of our Church, (for in that light I am most willing to consider them) who are led to an occasional separation, from a zeal which they feel for the glory of the
blessed Author of salvation, suffer themselves to be frightened with the sound of a word, to which they themselves affix a wrong idea: hence it has happened, that the word has ofttimes been condemned, without the meaning annexed to it by the clergy, from whom they turn away, having been fairly examined; upon the same principle, that indiscriminating Christians are frightened with the words cross, altar, sacrifice, and priest, words peculiarly characteristic of the Christian Church, because they have been severally abused in the Romish communion.
*** From sl
Might I be permitted to speak for the clergy, whom as a body I have always considered to be greatly misrepresented on this subject, (for in all general conclusions individual cases must be put out of the question;) I should not think that I incurred a risk of contradiction by saying, that the doctrine which they preached corresponded in the main with the revelation they have received. There was a time, indeed, when the doctrine of the cross was kept too much out of sight; and when the language of our pulpits, it must be confessed, was calculated to teach men to place a vain dependence on moral performances. But it should in justice be considered that this was an extreme, which grew out of a laudable desire to counteract the fatal effects of that opposite and not less dangerous doctrine, by which the Christianity of this country had long been disgraced. But neither the writings nor discourses of the present clergy, so far as my acquaintance with them has extended, justify, generally speaking, the same charge being brought against them.
They preach, I trust, Christ crucified, as the foundation of the Christian building; and “other foundation can no man lay."*. They look, gene
rally speaking, to the Cross as to fallen man's only hope, and only title to salvation. But it being the office of the Christian ministry rightly to divide "the word of truth," the grand object they have before them is, so to preach the doctrine of the Cross that no erroneous conclusion may be drawn from it.t
Considering that Christ, by his death, has redeemed fallen man from the curse of the law, and placed him, if the expression may be allowed, in a salvable condition; they occasionally feel themselves called upon to enforce obedience to the moral law, as necessary to the accomplishment of the Christian scheme; necessary to bring fallen man into a state of acceptance with God, by qualifying him for the salvation which has been purchased.||
Man's title to eternal life has been founded on an act of Divine grace and covenant from the beginning. For Adam in his state of innocence had no right to immortality, till God was pleased to make it over to him by covenant. Still it was a right suspended on the performance of a condition. This right lost by the fall, through the mercy of the second covenant, has been re-established in Jesus Christ. Man, therefore, subsequent to the fall, with respect to a right to eternal life, stands on the same ground that Adam did previous to that event. His right to eternal life being, what Adam's originally † 2 Tim. ii. 15. Vindiciæ, c. vi. p. 284.
* 1 Cor. iii. 11. Vindiciae, c. vi. p. 276.