« ForrigeFortsæt »
learned from the gospel the present is a state of trial The gifts of Providence are not distributed to men, according to their merit; the good are often exercised with affliction, persecution
, and reproach, while the wicked enjoy prosperity and peace. In this state of things, an opportunity is afforded to Christians, for the exercise of submission to the will of God, patience under the afflictions which he lays upon them, and fortitude in pursuing the path of duty, in the midst of discouragements and difficulties
. The expectation of another state of being, where rewards and punishments will be distributed, according to the character which men sustain, rests upon the persuasion that God is just, and pow. erfully stimulates to virtue. Infidels themselves, acknowledge that the doctrine of rewards and punishments in a future state, has so great a tendency to enforce civil law, and restrain the vices of men, that reason will not decide against it, on principles of good policy.” Then may we not ask, if the doctrine has a tendency to restrain vice, and enforce obedience to civil laws, is it not probable that the Creator, who wills the good of mankind, would affix to his laws such sanctions? In this world their effect is salutary, and if they tend to restrain the vicious inclinations of man, they may be beneficial in another state of existence. The probability that these sanctions are annexed to the divine law, is just as strong, as that there will be a future state: for if the Gowernor of the world shall render to every man according to the deeds done in the body; and rewards and punishments are not distributed in this life, in exact accordance to character, then he has designed us for another state, where even-handed justice shal be administered to all
. These remarks, it is hoped, will satisfy the candid reader, that arguments drawn from the nature of things, render it probable that there will be a judgment day, and a future state of rewards and punishments. But our observa. tions are confined to a very short period of time, and to a very limited portion of this vast universe, and cannot enable us to de termine what the Supreme Governor will, or will not do. That the events which have occurred in our world, may be important to other orders of intelligent beings, as manifestations of the infinite perfections of Jehovah, will scarcely be questioned: and if so, their full development in the transactions of the judgment day, and the future state of rewards and punishments appears to be indispensable.
4. It has also been objected to Christianity, that it establishes a system of priestcraft and spiritual despotism over the minds and consciences of mankind." When we remember that it is the duty of the christian minister, to exhibit the truth of God so clearly, that the ungodly may be alarmed, the hypocrite unvailed and the errorist detected, it is not surprising that the enemies of divine revelation, should level their heaviest artillery against them. Ahab, the wicked King of Israel, hated and persecuted the prophet Micaiah because he told him of his wickedness, and the approaching judgments of an offended God. Ministers are men of the same nature, and subjected to the same weaknesses and infirmities with others. Some of them, no doubt, in entering the sacred office, are actuated by very unworthy motives; but that this is not the case with all, and that it was not the design of the institution of the ministry, candor will constrain all to allow. It is generally admitted, that the knowledge of the arts and sciences tends to elevate and adorn our nature, and shed a lustre upon society where that knowledge is cultivated: hence those who devote themselves to teaching these branches, are
held in high estimation in every civilized land. The gospel - minister is employed in teaching the great principles of morality
and religion: the duties of rulers and ruled, parents and children, and of neighbor to neighbor; together with the duties which we owe to God, our Maker and final Judge, that we may enjoy communion with him here and hereafter. The faithful performance of these duties, promotes the happiness of men in civil life; and in its bearing upon the future state, is of infinite importance. Now if those who instruct in the liberal arts and sciences, are justly entitled to a competent and decent support, reason and justice will award the same to the Christian minister. Should he lay claim to an extravagant degree of wealth or power, I would not justify him or advocate his cause, but simply refer to the warrant which the scriptures give hån, “ Do ye not know that they who minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple; and they who wait at the altar, are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
During the dark ages, a power over the consciences of men was claimed, altogether unwarranted by the word of God; and the same power is probably claimed at this day, where the papal usurpation prevails: but what is contrary to the christian scriptures cannot be urged as an objection to the ministry which they have established. When an officer of government receives bribes and perverts justice, to promote his own pleasure or emolument, we never charge it to the constitution, because such conduct is i contrary to that instrument: in like manner, the errors of
ministers ought not to be charged to the holy scriptures, when these errors are there so clearly condemned. Let any man examine the character and qualifications of a Gospel minister, as they are exhibited 1 Tim. 3:1-7. and he will find much to applaud and nothing to censure. He must be vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre, but patient; not a brawler, not covetous, &c. The power with which he is vested,
was given for edification and not destruction, and is altogether ministerial and declarative; it is not civil, but ecclesiastical and spiritural. The complaints therefore which are made against the christian scriptures, for having established a system of priestcraft, and spiritual despotism in the world, are entirely without foundation.
The depravity and malevolence of the human heart, have suggested numerous other objections to the system of revealed truth, which our limits will not permit us to notice. The evidences which prove our scriptures to be a revelation from God, are overlooked; and weak, frivolous, and unfounded objections are urged, to quiet the clamors of conscience, and keep men in countenance, while they live in the violation of God's righteous law. The same historical evidence by which we prove that Herodotus, Livy, Tacitus and others, wrote the books which bear their respective names, proves that the books of scripture were written at the time they say, and by the persons whose names they bear. That these writers were sent of God to deliver to mankind the doctrines which they inculcated, is proved by the astonishing miracles which they wrought, in the presence of friends and foes, and under circumstances in which the spectators could not be deceived. That the sacred writers were divinely inspired, is further evinced by the gift of prophecy. The knowledge of future contingent events belongs to God only: and where such events are announced years, and even ages before they come to pass, the Spirit of God must have communicated them. Nothing can evince the depravity of the human heart more clearly, than the opposition which men make to divine revelation. If the Bible be examined concerning the character of the Supreme ruler of the Universe, it teaches us that he is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in all his attributes-righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works—merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and in truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty. This Being we are required to reverence, love and worship. The duties of men in the various relations of life are also stated concisely and justly: rulers are required to be wise men, fearing God, loving truth, and hating covetousness. He that ruleth over men, must be just, ruling in the fear of God. The ruled, are required to submit themselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake, and be subject to the higher powers. The duties of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, and neighbors towards each other, are stated so plainly, that he who runs may read. Let the whole community adopt the revealed will of God, contained in the holy scriptures, as the rule of faith and practice, and soon shall we see society exhibiting a degree of order, harmony and improvement, never before witnessed.
With the following practical inferences, I shall now close my remarks on this subject.
1. Our gratitude is due to God, that his statutes are right, rejoicing the heart. The services which masters, kings and emperors require of those who are bound to obey them, are not always for the benefit of the servant. Those who take part with Satan the god of this world, and like Ahab, sell themselves to do evil, are not employed in business which will ultimately yield them either pleasure or profit. But God has connected our duty and interest, so that when we obey his will, we are most effectually promoting our present and future happiness. Many of the statutes of the Lord, require us to do, what is by no means pleasant to our depraved propensities: but our condition is hazardous in the extreme; it is only by violent and painful remedies, our utter ruin can be prevented. This then should encourage us in yielding obedience to the will of God, that while we are obeying his commands, we are using the best means of securing our present and eternal felicity.
2. The disposition, so prevalent in the world, to reject divine revelation as the rule of faith and practice, proceeds from human depravity, and not from any want of sufficient evidence. To be able to make objections to certain parts of revelation, and to ridicule and vilify scripture institutions, and holy men, is thought by some to manifest more acuteness and discernment than falls to the lot of the vulgar, while it only betrays an uninformed mind and a depraved heart. This is the testimony of scripture in the following passages: “ This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Unto you, therefore, who believe, he is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner. If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not." Reason concurs with revelation in establishing the same point. For if God has given a revelation of his will, and sufficient evidence of it, then nothing but alienation of heart from God, prejudice, or some corrupt bias, can prevent men from receiving it: but if he has not given sufficient evidence that a revelation has been made by him, nothing but alienation of heart from God, prejudice, or some corrupt bias, can induce men to receive it as such. The question then is, whether Paul and the other apostles, acted from selfish, ungodly and depraved motives, in believing and preaching Christ, or whether Voltaire, Hume, Gibbon, Paine, and others, acted from unworthy motives in rejecting him. The answer is obvious, and the fact is established: human depravity is the source of infidelity.
8. The fact, that the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart, should induce us with cheerfulness, to apply ourselves to the study of the scriptures. In the affairs of life, a regard to our own happiness, is a governing principle. Christ hath brought life and immortality to light by the gospel, and the retributions of eternity are calculated to excite the deepest interest. Why, then, should we not pursue that course which shall rejoice our hearts upon a dying bed, and enable us to lift up our heads with joy, amidst the conflagrations of the last day? The statutes of the Lord will lead us to the knowledge of our condition as sinners: to the knowledge of Christ, the only Saviour; and to the knowledge of the rest and blessedness of heaven: where the beloved of the Lord shall see Jesus as he is, and be like him, and dwell in the presence of God, where there is fulness of joy, and at his right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore.