« ForrigeFortsæt »
fome, who, to fupport a favourite, fentiment, foment heats, animofi ties, and divifions, and difcourage men of probity and learning. You allow your minifters to read the Bible, and to speak what they find there. You profefs univerfal charity and good-will to all your brethren in Chrift, and to all mankind. These are noble principles; and I hope you will never relinquish them. Give your Catholicifm its proper worth, by improving in found knowledge; and guard it with refolution. Reject all flavifh, narrow principles with difdain. Neither lift yourfelves, nor be preft into the fervice of any fect or party whatsoever. Be only Chriftians; and follow only God
You know, your congregation ftands upon no other ground, but that Catholic one, which the apoftle, in his epiftle to the Romans, afferts, and demonftrates, to be the only, and the fufficient foundation of a right to a place in the church and kingdom of God, Faith in Jefus Chrift. You may reft fully fatisfied that you are a true church, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, whereof Chrift Jefus is the chief corner ftone. And you have, therefore, the best reafon in the world for adhering fteadily to the caufe you have efpoufed, the caufe of Chriftian Liberty, which at once fettles your profeffion upon an infallible bottom, rejects all human impofitions, and at the fame time comprehends, and cordially receives, all who are of the faith of the Son of God.
I hope I need not warn you against Popery, that monstrous and most audacious corruption of the pureft and brightest difpenfation of Religion. Romifh agents are bufy amongst us, deluding, with all deceivableness of unrighteoufness, the weak and ignorant, who do not fee the falfhood of their affertions, prefumptuoufly backed with the terror of eternal damnation. This aftonishing apoftacy is plainly foretold, 2 Thef. ii. 1-12. 1 Tim. iv. 1-5. alfo in the prophet Daniel, and at large in the Revelation. And this idolatrous church, the mother of harlots, we know, fhall be "confumed by the fpirit of the mouth of the Lord, and deftroyed by the brightness of his coming." And his voice to us, in the mean time, is, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her fins, and that ye receive not of her plagues," Rev, xviii. 4.
But you are not without danger from another quarter. Some, and not a few in our land, with unnatural eagerness and pleasure, set themfelves openly to difparage and difprove the Chriftian Revelation. But where thall we find eternal life, but in that revelation? Will it be faid, that the light of nature difcovers it? That light doth difcover, indeed, to thole that attend to it, a future world: But doth it dif cover immortality, or eternal life? By no means. Doth it fhew how we fhall reach immortality? It may be faid, in the practice of virtue. But who can fay, he hath performed a virtue, that, in the estimate of his own reafon, will entitle him to it? Who can pretend to have fo behaved, as to deserve any one bleffing from God's hands? Is it not evident, that the best virtue, any man performs, needs the relief of grace and mercy? And where is that grace and mercy revealed, but
in the gospel! The gospel alone difcovers and infures immortality; or reveals the grace which exprefsly gives it, the ground upon which this grace ftands, the end for which it is given, and the means by which we may obtain it. And can the full perfuafion and view of immortal honour and glory be esteemed a trifle? A little light duft, to be blown away with every blaft of ignorant and prophane breath? The gospel is good news from Heaven; pardon and eternal life promifed to a finful world. And can any be fo infatuated as to with its heavenly light and hopes at once extinguished, and the darkncís of Paganifm reftored among the nations? Doth not nature itself teach us to be thankful for fuperior bleffings, and to turn our eyes to the brightest views and clearest profpects of happinefs? If the Univerfal Father is pleased to bestow upon us fingular favours, is it not most unnatural and wicked to defpife and reject them? Such is the glory and excellence, fuch the delightful profpects of the gospel, that, intead of cavilling and oppofing, methinks the proper and only concern of every mind thould be to feek out evidence, and all poffible means to eftablifh its truth.
Value the Word of God as your richest treasure, and the only fund of true and perfect religious knowledge, comfort, and joy. Read it over diligently, and treafure it up in your minds, as a rule of life; then you will experience its power and excellency. Forfake not the affembling of yourselves together; with readinefs of mind embrace any opportunity of joining a fociety which worships God in fpirit and truth, as part of his family, as the heirs of the grace of life, in hope of being joined in a little time to the bleffed fociety of the angels above. Live in love and goodness to all men, and especially to one another. Be inftant, and fervent in prayer; make confcience of family and clofet devotion. Keep your hearts and views above this world; daily look, and prepare for, the coming of our Lord. And that And that your love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve thofe things which are excellent; that ye may be fincere and without offence till the day of Ghrift, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jefus Chrift, unto the glory and praise of God, is the unfeigned wifh of your faithful fervant for the fake of Jefus,
ESSAY to explain the GOSPEL SCHEME, and the Principal Words and Phrafes the Apostles have used in describing it.
The Original and Nature of the Jewish Conflitution of Religion.
1.OD, the Father of the universe, who has exercifed his bound.
J lefs wifdom, power and goodnefs in producing various beings of different capacities; who created the earth, and appointed divers climates, foils and fituations in it, hath from the beginning of the world introduced feveral fchemes and difpenfations, for promoting the virtue and happiness of his rational creatures, for curing their corruption, and preferving among them the knowledge and worship of himself, the true God, the poffeffor of all being, and the fountain of all good (*).
(*) We do not know how God can exereife his perfections towards his Creatures, when he has brought them into being, otherwife, than in placing
2. In pursuance of this grand and gracious defign, when, about four hundred years after the flood, (which feems in a good measure to have removed the violence and rapine that had raged among the antediluvians,) the generality of mankind were fallen into idolatry, (a vice which in thofe times made its first appearance in the world,) and ferved other gods, thereby renouncing allegiance to the one God, the maker and governor of heaven and earth, he, to counteract this new and prevailing corruption, was pleased, in his infinite wifdom, to felect one family of the earth, to be a repofitory of true knowledge, and the pattern. of obedience and reward among the nations. That as mankind were propagated, and idolatry took its rife, and was difperfed from one part of the world into various countries, fo alfo the knowledge, worship, and obedience of the true-God might be propagated and fpread from nearly the fame quarter; or however from those parts, which then were.moft famous and diftinguifhed. To this family he particularly revealed himfelf, vifited them with feveral public and remarkable difpenfations of providence; and at laft formed them into a nation, under his fpecial protection, and governed them by laws delivered from himself, placing them in the open view of the world, first in Egypt, and afterwards in the land of Canaan.
3. The head, or root of this family, was Abraham, the son of Terah; who lived in Ur of the Chaldees, beyond Euphrates. His family was infected with the common contagion of idolatry; as appears from Jofhua xxiv. 2, 3. "And Joshua faid unto all the people, thus faith the Lord God of Ifrael, your fathers dwelt on the other fide of the flood [or river Euphrates] in old time, even Terah the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they ferved other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other fide of the flood, &c." Here Maimonides, the learned Jew (*), owns it is implied, that Abraham the fon of an idola trous father was bred up in idolatry. For having occafion to mention thefe words of Jofhua, he makes this pathetic reflection upon them. "How great is the benefit we receive from thefe precepts, which have "freed us from such a grand error, in which our father was educated; "and converted us to the true belief of God; by teaching us that he "created all things; and that he is to be worshipped, and loved, and "feared, and he only, &c.", And the apoftie Paul intimates as much, Rom. iv. 3, 4, 5. "For what faith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteoufnefs, Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that juftifieth the ungully, his faith is counted for righteoufnefs." Abraham is the perfon he is difcourfing about, and he plainly hints, though he did not care to fpeak out, that even Abraham was chargeable with not paying due
them in various relations and fubordinations to each other, in devising and conducting proper difpenfations, according to different and changing cir cumftances, in order to excite and increate the virtue of moral agents, and in providing fuitable happiness for the worthy, and punishments for the wicked.
(*) Patrick's Commentary upon Jofh, xxiv. 3.
reverence and worship to God; as the word AZEBHE, which we render, ungodly, properly imports.
4. But, though Abraham had been an idolater, God was pleafed, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, to fingle him out to be the head, or root of that family and nation, which he intended to separate to himself from the reft of mankind, for the forementioned purposes. Accordingly he appeared to him in his native country, and ordered him to leave it, and his idolatrous kindred, and to remove into a diftant land, to which he' would direct and conduct him, declaring at the fame time his covenant, or grant of mercy, to him, in thefe words, Gen. xii. 1, 2, 3,. "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will blefs thee, and make thy name great; and thou fhalt be a bluffing. And I will blefs them that blefs thee, and curfe him that curfeth thee: And in thee fhall all families of the earth be bleffed." So certainly did God make himself known to Abraham, that he was fatisfied this was a revelation from the one true God, and that it was his duty to pay an implicit obedience to, it. Accordingly, upon the foot of this faith, he went out, though he did not know whither he was to go. The fame covenant, or promife of bleffings, God afterwards at fundry times repeated: Particularly Gen. xv. 5. "And the Lord brought him forth abroad, and faid, Look now towards heaven, and tell the ftars, if thou be able to number them: And he faid unto him, So fhall thy feed be." Here again, he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. Also Gen. xvii. 1-8, he repeats and establisheth the fame covenant " for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto him and his feed after him;" promifing them "the land of Canaan for an everlasting poffeffion;" and appointing circumcifion, as a perpetual token of the certainty and perpetuity of this covenant. Thus Abraham was taken into God's covenant, and became intitled to the bleffings it conveyed; not becaufe he was not chargeable before God with impiety, irreligion, and idolatry; but because God, on his part, freely forgave his prior tranfgreffings, and becaufe Abraham, on his part, believed in the power and goodness of God: without which belief, or perfuafion, that God was both true, and able to perform what he had promifed, he could have paid no regard to the divine manifeftations; and confequently, muft have been rejected, as a perfon altogether improper to be the head of that family, which God intended to fet apart to himself.
5. And as Abraham, fo likewife his feed, or pofterity, were at the fame time, and before they had a being, taken into God's covenant, and intitled to the bleffings of it. (Gen. xvii. 7, "I will eftablifh my covenant between me and thee, and thy feed after thee, &c.") Not all his pofterity, but only those whom God intended in the promife; namely, firft the nation of the Jews, who hereby became particularly related to God, and invefted in fundry invaluable privileges; and after them the believing Gentiles, who were reckoned the children of Abraham, as they fhould believe in God as Abraham did. But more of this hereafter.
6. For about 215 years, from the time God ordered Abraham to leave his native country, he and his fon Ifaac, and grand-fon Jacob, fojourned in the land of Canaan, under the special protection of Heaven, till infinite Wisdom thought fit to fend the family into Egypt, the