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"Every thing," says he, "besides morality began from "that time, to be branded with the odious term of enthu "siasm and hypocrisy. That the cause of religion (ob"serves the same writer) has declined for many years, "every person appears sensible. Among the various "reasons assigned for it, the principal, in my opinion, "is, that the established ministers have suffered it to die "in their own hands, by departing from the old method "of preaching, and from their first and original tenets; "which has given countenance to what is called natural "religion, in such a measure, as to shut out revealed "religion and supersede the gospel.
"It is in vain to cry out against deists and infidels, "when the Protestant watchmen have deserted their << post, and themselves have opened a gap for the ene66 my. Learning and oratory, it must be owned, are "arrived at great perfection, but our true old divinity is 66 gone. Amid these splendid trifles, the GOSPEL is “really LOST.*"
It is certain, that the profligate court of Charles the Second, in its endeavours to discredit the dissenters, many of whom were admirable scholars and divines, as well as holy and exemplary men in private life, contributed much to explode all doctrines concerning the SPIRIT. Unfortunately those clergymen who wished to be favoured at court, too easily conformed their doctrines to its wishes; and arguments from the pulpit united with sarcasms from the seat of the scorner, to render all who maintained the doctrine of grace suspected of enthusiasm and hypocrisy. Ridicule, in the hands of the author of Hudibras, though intended only to serve political purposes, became a weapon that wounded religion in its vitals.
* See a Letter signed Paulinus, published in 1735.
The sect of Christians denominated Quakers, certainly entertain many right notions respecting divine influence: and therefore, as the Quakers were disliked by the church, the doctrines which they maintained were to be treated with contempt. The SPIRIT, whose operations they justly maintain, became, under the direction of worldly policy, a word of reproach to them. Consequently aspiring clergymen, wishing to avoid. every doctrine which could retard their advancement, or fix a stigma of heterodoxy upon them, were very little inclined to preach the necessity of divine illumination. They feared the opprobrious names of enthusiasts or hypocrites, and so became ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
In process of time, arose the sect of the Methodists; who, however they may be mistaken in some points, are certainly orthodox in their opinions of the divine agency on the human soul. They found it in the scriptures, in the liturgy, in the articles, and they preached it with a zeal which to many appeared intemperate, and certainly was too little guided by discretion. The consequence was, that the spiritual doctrines, already vilified by the court of Charles the Second, and by the adversaries of the Quakers, became objects of general dislike and derision.
In the meantime, the gospel of Jesus Christ suffered by its professed friends as well as declared enemies. Regular divines of great virtue, learning, and true piety, feared to preach the Holy Ghost and its operations, the main doctrine of the gospel, lest they should countenance the Puritan, the Quaker, or the Methodist, and lose the esteem of their own order, or of the higher powers. They often contented themselves, during a long life, with preaching morality only; which, without the Spirit of Christianity, is like a beautiful statue from the hand of a Bacon; however graceful its symmetry and
polished its materials, yet wanting the breath of LIFE, it is still but a block of marble.
These prejudices remaining at this day, I have thought it right to recommend the sort of evidence which this book attempts to display, by citing the authority of great divines, who, uninfluenced by secular hopes or fears, have borne witness to the truth as it is in Jesus. They are among the most celebrated theologists of this nation; and such as few among living or recent writers will presume to vie with, in extent of knowledge, in power of expression, and zeal for Christianity.
Bitter is the anger of controversialists in divinity. Arrows dipt in venom are usually hurled at a writer, who ventures to recommend a doctrine which they disapprove. I must seek shelter under the shields of such men as Bishop Taylor, Doctor Isaac Barrow, and others, in and out of the establishment, who fought a good fight and KEPT THE FAITH, having no regard to wordly and sinister motives, but faithfully endeavouring to lead those, over whom they were appointed guides, by the radiance of gospel light, from the shadowy mazes of error into the pleasant paths of piety and peace.
Whatever obloquy may follow the teaching of such doctrine, I shall incur it with alacrity, because I believe it to be the truth, and that the happiness of human nature is highly concerned in its general reception. I will humbly say, therefore, with St. Paul, "I am not asham"ed of the gospel of Christ Jesus, for it is the POWER "of God unto salvation."*
And as to those who deny the doctrine of divine influence, I fear they are guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. I speak diffidently, as it becomes every mortal on a subject so momentous; but let those who are eager to deny and even deride the doctrine, consi
* Rom. i. 16.
der duly what is meant by the sin against the Holy Ghost, and let them remember this tremendous declaration of our Saviour himself, that BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST SHALL NOT BE FORGIVEN. * All other sins, we are expressly told, may be remitted, but on this the gates of mercy are closed. The denial of the Spirit's energy renders the gospel of no effect, extinguishes the living light of Jesus Christ, and involves wretched mortals in the darkness and death of Ådam, fallen from the state of primitive perfection. It is represented as the greatest of all sins, because it is productive of the greatest misery.
The proper Evidence of the Christian Religion is the Illumination of the Holy Ghost, shining into the Hearts of those who do not close them against its Entrance. The Opinion of Dr. Gloucester Ridley cited.
ONE says St. Paul, can say JESUS IS THE LORD, but by the HOLY GHOST.† If, then, St. Paul be allowed to have understood the Christian religion, it is certain, that mere human testimony will never convince the infidel, and produce that faith which constitutes the true Christian. Our theological libraries might be cleared of more than half their volumes, if men seeking the EVIDENCE of Christianity, would be satisfied with the declaration of St. Paul, and of the great Author of our religion.
There is a faith very common in the world, which teaches to believe, as an historical fact, that a person
† 1 Cor. xii. 3.
* Matth. xii, 31.
the name of Jesus, a very good man, did live on earth, and that he preached and taught, under the direction of God or divine providence, an excellent system of morality; such, as, if duly observed, would contribute to their happiness, and recommend them to divine favour. But this kind of faith not the right faith; it believes not enough, it is not given by the Holy Ghost; for he, in whom God dwelleth, confesseth that Jesus is the Son of God, and the SAVIOUR of the world*; but they who acknowledge Jesus only as a good man teaching morality, know him not as a SAVIOUR. Socrates taught fine morality; and so did Seneca, Epictetus, and many more; but they had not and could not teach the knowledge which leadeth to salvation.
"Illuminating grace," says Dr. Gloucester Ridley, "consists not in the assent we give to the HISTORY Of "the gospel, as a narration of matters of fact, suffi"ciently supported by HUMAN EVIDENCE; for this may "be purely the effect of our study and learning. The "collating of copies, the consulting of history, the com"paring the assertions of friends and the concessions of "enemies, may NECESSITATE† such a belief, a faith "which the devils may have, and doubtless have it. "This sort of faith is an acquisition of our own, and not a GIFT." But FAITH IS THE GIFT OF GOD.
"There may be a faith," continues Dr. Ridley, "which is not the work of the Spirit in our hearts, but "entirely the effect of human means, our natural facul"ties assisted by languages, antiquities, manuscripts,
* 1 John, iv. 13, 14, 15.
† Πισις ουκ ή γεωμετρικαις αναγκαις, αλλ' η ταις του πνευμο alos evegyeidis e[yivouen. BASIL in Psal. 195.—The right faith is not that which is FORCED by mathematical demonstration, whether we will or not; but that which grows in the mind from the operation or energies of the SPIRIT.