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It has been usual for writers on primitive Christianity to collect the greater part of their materials from the writings and records of the first three or four centuries, from which they have exhibited a picture of that heavenly religion in many respects very unlike the original. The Christian religion began to be corrupted
False teachers were propagating their pernicious doctrines even in the days of the apostles. In the age immediately succeeding, its original purity and fimplicity were much defaced by a mixture of vain philofophy, error, mysticism and superstition, adopted and propagated by such as were reputed the most pious and
orthodox fathers of the church. In the beginning of the fourth century it must have been eflentially corrupted, otherwise it could never have been accommodated to the nations of this evil world, incorporated with the civil conftitution, and adopted as the established religion of the Roman empire. This union of church and ftate paved the way for the kingdom of the clergy, which gradually advanced to the summit of its power and glory in the Romifh hierarchy; a kingdom as opposite in all respects to the kingdom of Christ which is not of this world, as the mystery of iniquity is to the mystery of godliness. As therefore we cannot form a proper judgment of pure and genuine Christianity from any records posterior to the apostolic age, much less from the modern forms of it which are at present established among the nations called Chriflian, we should collect our views of it entirely from the sacred scriptures, which are the only pure, unerring and unalterable standard of Christian faith and practice.
The objections of infidels to the truth and excellency of the Christian religion, are many of them founded on the corruptions of it, and the unworthy conduct of many of its professors, with which it has no concern. But if they would not deceive themselves in such an important matter, they ought first to learn from the fcriptures what real Christianity is, and then judge of it from its own evidence, pretensions, and merits. If they consult the New Testament they may easily perceive, that it was never intended as an engine of state, a foundation for priestcraft, or to be fubfervient in any respect either to the religious pride, or worldly lusts of men: they may also see, that it was never defigned as a rule
for any form of godliness which in the present state of things the nations of this world, as such, may be supposed to affume; and that it is altogether impossible to apply it to such purposes without effentially corrupting it. Its great object is to make known the way of salvation from guilt and misery through a crucified Saviour, and by this means to reconcile men unto God, to separate them from the communion of infidels and ungodly professors, to unite them among themfelves in the closest union and most fervent love for the truth's fake, and to direct and influence them in their conformity and obedience to Chrift in this world, that they may be partakers of his glory in the next. In this view the New Testament appears a plain, perfect and consistent rule, but in no other; for its chief design is to promote the interests of that kingdom which is de clared to be not of this world.
The evidence of the truth of the Christian religion does not rest upon human authority. It claims our belief and regard as a revelation from God, and bears such evidence of its divine origin, as will undoubtedly leave every one who rejects it without excufe. It clearly discovers itfelf to be the exact and circumstantial fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies; and who but the omniscient God could possibly foresee or reveal before-hand such a wonderful scheme and series of events, so remote, and so different from the ordinary course of things ? Who but the almighty Governor of the universe could fo overrule the determinations of free agents, and so order and difpofe all things in a fublerviency to his purpose, as to ensure and effectuate a circumstantial accomplishment of such predictions ? The miracles which at first attended the publi
cation of the gospel were so many divine attestations of its truth, for none but the Almighty could possibly perform them. They were so mighty, wonderful and numerous, and done fo openly in the fight of multitudes, that the most prying and obstinate oppofers could not deny them; and though some most absurdly ascribed them to the agency of demons, yet others no less inimical to the cause, were constrained to acknowledge that they were effects of divine power; so that it was reserved for the infidels of later times to dispute the reality of them.-The resurrection of Jefus Christ from the dead is another demonstrative proof of the truth of his religion. He referred his enemies to this evidence of his divine million, and the precautions they took to prevent all imposition in this matter, served only to establish more clearly the truth of the fact. He shewed himself alive to his apostles after his palion by many infallible proofs, and was also seen of above five hundred brethren at once, who were appealed to as living witnesses of it many years after. As the chosen witnesses of this important fact irad every possible means of satisfying themselves, so they could not be deceived; and they confirmed the truth of their teftimony to others by miracles, and demonstrated the fincerity of their own belief by dealing it with their blood.-Besides these, the internal characters of the Christian religion clearly demonstrate its divine original. It gives Such a glorious manifestation of the true God, as infinitely transcends all our best natural conceptions of him. It exhibits such an amazing plan of redemption, so admirably calculated to display the divine character, and so well suited zo the periihing condition of guilty mortals, that
none but God could either contrive, execute or reveal it. Its doctrines are so sublime and heavenly, its precepts fo pure and perfect, its motives so noble and powerful, and the whole of it so worthy of God, so greatly surpassing all that could have entered into the heart of man to conceive, and yet, when revealed, fo confonant to his enlightened reafon and conscience, and so conducive to his beft end and interest, that it clearly manifests itself to be from heaven. Such, however, as have no discernment of divine excellence, nor any relish for the things of God, cannot properly perceive this last kind of evidence. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither cun he know them because they are Spiritually difcerned. Hence the necessity of divine illumination.
Those who profess the Christian religion ought to try their faith and practice by the New Teltament, which is the infallible rule, and the oniy standard which Christ hath authorized and established in his kingdom. So far as their profeflion does not agree with the word of Christ and his inspired apostles, it is undoubtedly false, however fanctioned by universal cultom, human systems, or national establishments: We are of God, says the Apostle, he that knoweth God keareth is; be thct is not of God, heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the Spirit of
If we take a view of what currently paffes for Christianity in what is called the Christian world, and compare it with the religion contained in the New Testament, we shall scarce be able to trace a resemblance. The greater part think they have a title to be called Christians from