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fensive to your palate: But we who profess christianity, generally quarrel with Christ's prescriptions; and if we do not understand the nature of a remedy which he recommends, we think this a sufficient reason for refusing it. From Christ only, if we can help it, we will take nothing upon trust.
One false witness is often sufficient to make us believe, that a neighbour vows to do us an injury; but twenty ministers of Jesus cannot persuade us, God hath sworn in his wrath, that if we die in our sins we shall not enter into his rest, Psal. xcv. 11. or that if we come to him for pardon and life, he will in no wise castus out, John vi. 37....The most defamatory and improbable reports spread with uncommon swiftness; and pass for matter of fact: But when St. Paul testifies, that if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his, Rom. viii. 9. who believes his testimony? Does not the same mind that was open to scandalous lies, prove shut against such a revealed truth?
Isaiah asks, Who hath believed our report? and Jesus says, When the Son of man cometh shall he find faith upon the earth? alas! there would have been no room for these plaintive questions, if the word of God had not been proposed to our faith; for the most groundless and absurd assertions of men. find multitudes of believers. We see daily, that an idle rumour about a peace or a war, meets with such credit as to raise or sink the stocks in a few hours.
It is evident that man has a foolish and evil heart of unbelief, ready to strain out a gnat in divine revelation, while he greedily swallows up the camel of human imposture. Now if it is part of the gospel which Christ commands his ministers to preach to every creature, that he who believeth not shall be damned, Mark xvi. 16. how great is the depravity, and how imminent the danger of fallen man, who has such a strong propensity, to so destructive, so damnable a sin as unbelief!
But, let us come still nearer to the point. If we are not by nature conceived in sin, and children of wrath, millions of infants, who die without actual sin, have no need of the blood of Christ to wash their robes, nor his Spirit to purify their hearts. The incarnation of the Eternal word, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, are as unnecessary to them, as the visits of a physician, and his remedies to persons in perfect health. Their spotless innocency is a sufficient passport for heaven: Baptism is ridiculous, and the christian religion absurd in their case.
Nor does it appear, why it might not be as absurd with regard to the rest of mankind, did they but act their part a little better: For if we are naturally innocent, we have a natural power to remain so; and by a proper use of it, we may avoid standing in need of the salvation procured by Christ for the lost.
Nay, if innocent nature, carefully improved, may be the way to eternal life, it is certainly the readiest way, and the Son of God speaks like the grand deceiver of mankind, when he says, I am the way no man cometh to the Father but by me. Christians, let self-conceited deists entertain the thought, but harbour it not a moment; In you it would be highly blasphemous.
And that you may detest it the more, consider further, that all the capital doctrines of christianity are built upon that fundamental article of our depravity and danger. If all flesh hath not corrupted its way, how severe are those words of Christ, Except ye repent, ye shall all perish: and Except ye be converted, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven ?......If all are not carnal and earthly by their first
birth, how absurd is what he said to Nicodemus; Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven? If there is any spiritual health in us by nature, how notoriously false are these assertions : All our sufficiency is of God: Without me ye can do nothing? If every natural man is not the reverse of the holiness, in which Adam was created; how irrational these and the like scriptures? If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature....To conclude: If mankind are not universally corrupt, guilty, and condemned; how unnecessarily alarming is this declaration! He that believeth not on the Son of God is condemned already.... The wrath of God abideth on him: and if we are not foolish, unrighteous, unholy and enslaved to sin; why is Christ made to us of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption? Take away then the doctrine of the fall; and the tower of evangelical truth, built by Jesus Christ, is no more founded on a rock, but upon the sand: Or rather, the stately fabrick is instantly thrown down, and leaves no ruins behind it, but the dry morality of Epictetus, covered with the rubbish of the wildest metaphors, and buried in the most impertinent ceremonies.
One more absurdity still remains. If man is not in the most imminent danger of destruction, nothing can be more extravagant than the great article of the christian faith thus expressed in the Nicene creed: "Jesus Christ, very God of very God, by whom all things were made, for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, was made man, and was crucified for us.”
Is it not astonishing, that there should be people so infatuated as to join every Lord's day in this solema
confession, and to deny, the other six, the horrible danger to which they are exposed, till they have an interest in Christ? Is not the least grain of common sense sufficient to make an attentive person see, that if he, by whom all things were made, came from heaven for our salvation, if he was made man that he might suffer and be crucified for us; he saw us guilty, condemned, lost and obnoxious to the damnation, which we continually deprecate in the litany? Shall we charge the Son of God, in whom are hid all the treasures of divine wisdom, with the unparalleled folly of coming from heaven to atone for innocent creatures, to reprieve persons uncondemned, to redeem a race of free men, to deliver from the curse a people not accursed; to hang by exquisitely dolorous wounds, made in his sacred hands and feet, on a tree more ignominious than the gallows, for honest men and very good sort of people; and to expire under the sense of the wrath of heaven, that he might save from hell people in no danger of going there?
Reader, is it possible to entertain for a moment these wild notions, without offering the utmost indignity to the Son of God, and the greatest violence to common sense? And does not reason cry as with the sound of a thousand trumpets, "If our Creator could not save us consistantly with his glorious attributes, but by becoming incarnate, passing through the deepest scenes of humiliation and temptation, distress and want, for thirty three years; and undergoing at last the most shameful, painful, and accursed death in our place; our wickedness must be desperate, our sins execrable, our guilt black as the shadow of death, and our danger dreadful as the gloom and torments of hell?"
Shocking doctrine !" says the self-conceited moralist, as he rises from his chair full of indignation, and ready to throw aside the arguments he cannot answer. Reader, if you are the man, remember that this is an appeal to reason and not to passion, to matter of fact,
and not to your vitiated taste for pleasing error.
may cry out at the sight of a shroud, a coffin, a grave, "Shocking objects !" But your loudest exclamations will not lessen the awful reality, by which many have happily been shocked into a timely consideration of, and preparation for, approaching death.
"But this doctrine, you still urge, drives people to despair.".... Yes to a despair of being saved by their own merits and righteousness; and this is as reasonable in a sinner who comes to the Saviour, as despairing to swim across the sea, is rational in a passenger that takes ship. Our church, far from speaking against it, says, that "Sinners should be dismayed at God's rightful justice, and should despair indeed, as touching any hope that may be in themselves." Hom. On falling from God, 2d part.
A just despair of ourselves is widely different from a despair of God's mercy, and Christ's willingness to save the chief of sinners, who flies to him for refuge. This horrible sin, this black crime of Judas, springs rather from a sullen, obstinate rejection of the remedy, than as some vainly suppose from a clear knowledge of the disease: And that none may commit it, Christ's ministers take particular care not to preach the law without the gospel, and the fall without the recovery: no sooner have they opened the wound of sin, festering in the sinner's conscience, than they pour in the balm of divine promises, and make gracious offers of a free pardon, and full salvation by the compassionate Redeemer, who came to justify the ungodly, and to save the lost.
And indeed those only, who see their sin and misery, will cordially embrace the gospel: for common sense dictates, that none care for the king's mercy, but those who know they are guilty, condemned criminals. How excessively unreasonable is it then to object, that the preaching of man's corrupt and lost estate drives people to despair of divine mercy, wher it is absolutely the only means of shewing them their