utes to the beauty of the whole. It is not so with respect to truth and error, which are as opposite as right and wrong. True doctrines are the plants, and false doctrines the weeds of the church. They cannot both flourish in the same mind. The one must be rooted up, or the other will be overrun and rendered unproductive.

The causes which the scriptures assign for the corruption of Christian doctrine, are principally, if pot entirely, of a moral nature. They represent evangelical truth as a holy doctrine, and as that which cannot be understood by an unholy mind. The natural (or mere worldly wise) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him : neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. They are hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes; and thus it seemeth good in his sight, whose mind it is to abase the pride of maa. If the gospel bad been the wisdom of this world, the spirit of this world would have sufficed to understand it; and there would be no more errors concerning it, than wbat arise from the imbecility of the buman mind on all other subjects ; but it is not : it is the wisdom that is from above, and therefore requires a state of mind suited to it; or, as the Apostle expresses it, that we receive not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which are freely given to us of God. Now, this being the case, so far as we attempt to judge, preach, or write of the gospel, under the influence of mere worldly wisdom, or in any other than its own spirit, we are morally certain, in some way or other, to pervert it.

Here then are open to our view three grand sources of error; namely, The numbers of unconverted, or mere worldly-wise characters, who intrude themselves, or are intruded by others, into the Christian ministry—The greater number of merely nominal Christians, whose taste calls for anti-scriptural preaching-And the large portion of unsanctified wisdom found even in godly men.

First: The great number of unconverted ministers. Far be it from me to judge of men otherwise than by what they manifest therselves to be. I abhor the spirit of our modern Antinomians who would persuade us that they know good ministers from others

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by a kind of spiritual physiognomy; but who, if the tree be known by the fruits, have much more reason to judge themselves. Yet the personal religion of many preachers must be allowed, hy charity itself, to wear more than a suspicious appearance ; nor is it surprising that it should be so. If, in the purest age of the church, when there were but few attractions for covetousness and ambition, there were

corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith ;" men who had “the form of godliness, but denied the power thereof;" is it any wonder that there should be such in our times ? And, as the introduction of almost every error among the primitive Christians is attributed to this sort of characters, is it not reasonable to expect that things should move on in The same direction?

An uprenewed person, whatever be his education, talents, or natural temper, can never fall in with Christianity, as it is taught in tbe New Testament. If therefore, he occupy a station in the church, he will be almost certain to transform religion so as to suit himself. This, it is clear, was the grand source of the Romish apostacy. No sooner was Christianity adopted by the state, than it became the interest of worldly men to prosess it. Ecclesiastical offices were soon filled, in a great degree, by unbelievers in disguise. The effect was, as might have been expected, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and spirit of the gospel, were gradually lost, and a system of corruption was substituted in their place.

This has been a source of departure from the truth down to the present times; and that, in different degrees, among all denominations of Christians. If we look into the establishments of Protestant Europe, we shall find that in spite of oaths and subscriptions, devised in former ages for the security of orthodoxy, worldly men have a system of their own, and will explain their articles and creeds according to it. Or, if we look out of establishments, wherever worldly men are admitted to the work of the ministry, we shall find things much tbe same. Some of the greatest perverters of the gospel, during the last century, have descended from pious parents, who, fond of the idea of bringing up their children to the public service of God, overlooked the necessity of personal religion ; presuming, as it would seem, that God would, in due

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time, supply that defect. The consequence was, the young men, finding evangelical truth sit uneasily upon them, threw it off and embraced a system more suited to the state of their minds.

Observing these things among men of education, many serious people have contracted a prejudice against learning itself; and have preferred the preaching of the most illiterate, for the sake of a pure doctrine. But neither is this any security : for men of assurance and address. pretending to extraordinary light and marvellous inspirations, will often obtrude themselves upon the people, and draw disciples after them, especially from among the unthinking und light-minded part of Christian professors. In them the words of Peter have been eminently fulfilled : Speaking great swelling words of vanity, they have allured, through the lusts of the flesh, those that for a while were escaped from them who live in error. Nor has their influence been confined to such characters : sincere people have frequently been misled by their specious pretences. When Judas, professing a solicitude for the poor, condemned an expression of love to Christ, as an unnecessary piece of wastefulness, he drew away the other disciples after him. In short, men who have not the spirit by which the gospel was dictated, will not cleave to it. Some may err on this side, and some on that : some, having greater talents, may do greater injury to it, and others less; but all, in one way or other, will pervert it : and where this is the case, many will follow their pernicious wnys; and the way of truth, being comfounded with them, will be evil spoken of.

Secondly: The great number of merely nominal Christians.-In the present state of things, the bulk of mankind are not governed hy principle, but by custom; following the course of this world, whatever direction it may take. In one country they are Heathens, in another Mahometans, and in another Christians : in other words, they are of no religion. The effect of this is, that a large proportion of ministers are certain to be póminated and cho. sen by men who have no taste for the searching, humbling, and holy doctrine of the gospel, but are utterly averse from it ; and where this is the case, it requires but little discernment to perceive what will be the general tone of preaching. Even in congregational churches, if the people, or the leading individuals among them

be worldly-minded, ambitious, or in any respect loose livers, they will not be at a loss to find preachers after their own heart Thus error is propagated, and thus it was propagated from a very early period. The time will come, said Paul to Timothy, when they will not endure sound doctrine ; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears ; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Thirdly : The large portion of unsanctified wisdom, found even in godly men.-The wisdom of this world, as opposed to the wisdom of God, is not confined to mere worldly men.

The apostle, after speaking of spiritual men as judging all things, and as having the mind of Christ, adds, And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal ; even as unto babes in Christ. And this, their carnality, is represented as rendering them unable to understand the great doctrines of Christianity, which are compared to meat, and as leading them to build upon the gospel-foundation a mixture of wood, and hay, and stubble ; all of which shall be burnt up another day, though they themselves shall be saved.*

There is a slowness of heart, even in good men, to believe what i God has revealed, especially if it clash with their pre-conceived

ideas. Such was the state of mind of the apostles themselves, pre. viously to the resurrection of their Lord: and such is the state of mind of great numbers among us. We often hear men in controversy talk of being open to conviction, and willing to retract their sentiments, if but fairly confuted: but such professions either mean but little, or at best indicate a great want of self-knowledge. Those who are the most open to conviction, will commonly suspect themselves the most, and of course will not be very

forward in the use of such language. If there were not a slowness of heart, both in receiving truth and relinquishing error, a large proportion of our controversies would soon be at an end.



The foregoing remarks may suffice to account for the prevalence

* 1 Cor.ii. 6, 7. 12, 15, 16. iii. 1, 2. 12–17. Vol. IV.



of error, so far as man is concerned; but it may be farther inquired, Wherefore doth God permit it ? Why is it that the beauty of the Christian church is suffered to be marred, and its peace invaded by a succession of perpetual discords? This is an awful subject; and if we were left to our own conjectures upon it, it would be our wisdom to leave it to the great day, when all things will be made manifest : but we are not. The scriptures of truth inform us, that there must needs be heresies, that they who are approved may be made manifest.

All the influences to which we are exposed in the present life, are adapted to a state of probation, and to do 18 good or harm, according to the state of mind which we possess. We are not only fearfully made, but as fearfully situated. The evidence in favour of true religion is sufficient for a candid mind; but not for one that is disposed to cavil. If we attend to it simply to find out truth, and obey it, we shall not be disappointed ; but if our souls be lifted up within us, the very rock of salvation will be to us a stone of stumbling. The Jews required a sign in their own way: Let him come down from the cross, said they, and we will believe him. If he had publicly risen from the dead,' say modern unbelievers,

could have doubted it. Yet he neither came down from the cross, nor rose publicly from the dead; and let them


if they please, he could not, and that all his miracles were the work of imposture. It may be our duty, as much as in us lies, to cut off occasion from them who desire occasion : but God often acts otherwise. They who desire a handle to renounce the gospel, shall have it. Thus it is that men are tried by false doctrine, and even by the immoralities of professing Christians.

The visible kingdom of Christ is a floor containing a mixture of wheat and chaff; and every false doctrine is a wind, which he, whose fan is in his hand, makes use of to purge it. There are great numbers of characters who profess to receive the truth, on whom, notwithstanding, it never sat easily. Its holy and humbling nature galls their spirits. In such cases, the mind is prepared to receive any representation of the gospel, however fallacious, that may comport with its desires ; and being thus averse to the truth, God, in just judgment, frequently suffers the winds of false doctrine





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