kingdom of God is come nigh unto you." Thus he commis. sioned them as heralds to proclaim only that which could not be known by any other means. Jesus did not confine himself to one congregation, or one place; but he went into the temple, the synagogues, cities, towns, villages, and market places, where he either proclaimed or taught as oceasion offered; and it will be found that most of his teaching among the people was by disputation, as occasion offered, and to his disciples in familiar conversation (see Matt. iv. 23; ix. 35; xv. 10; Mark i, 38, 39; ii. 1, 2; iii. 1-5; vi. 2-5; Luke iv. 42; viii. 1-20; xi. 29; xiü. 10-30; xxi. I to end); “and when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, by what authority dost thou these things?” In consequence of which question, a dispute or conversation takes place, on which he founds the whole of his instruction or teaching. See also Mark x. I to end : “and the people resort to him again, and as he was wont, he taught then again; and the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him; and he answered, no.” And it will be seen that the whole of this teaching consisted in hearing and answering questions, and commenting on them. Again (xii. 35 to end), "and Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the témple, how say the scribes that Christ is the son of David?"

Here again we see that his mode of teaching was not a fixed subject to a particular congregation, but took its rise from circumstances, and by asking or answering questions, removing the prejudices of the people, and enlightening their understandings ; but particularly he aimed at exposing the hypocrite, and bringing the teachers of the people into contempt, as he well knew the hindrance their influence was to the reception of truth. To the scribes and Pharisees (characters in that day similar to dissenting ministers in ours), his language is markedly severe : in the temple, in the synagogue, in the market place, and particularly where the people were present, he seems to labour for language sufficiently severe for these 6 wolves in sheeps clothing. See Matt. xv. 1, to 13; xxii. 1, to end, but particularly verses 13, 14. 15, “ Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; therefore ye shall receive the greater condemnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, blizid

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

guides,” &c. Indeed the whole of the chapter is full of the exposure of these sanctified hypocrites (see also Luke xx, 45, 46, 47)-_- Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples (mark! this was in the temple), beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues (places similar to modern chapels), and the chief rooms at feasts, which devour widows houses,” &c. Who can read these passages that is at all acquainted with the character of modern preachers and teachers, without being struck with the exact likeness there is between them and the scribes and Pharisees.

Thus did Jesus in an open, manly, and disinterested manner, expose the hypocrites, and instruct the people, and by disputation and argument maintain his doctrines and practice; and upon a fair examination of the Acts of the Apostles, we shall find they did not think it expedient, like modern preachers, to set his example at nought;, and had they adopted modern expediency for primitive authority, I would ask how many thousands of apostles think ye Jesus ought to have sent out to accomplish the work which he had said should be done, before the destruction of Jerusalem, in less than forty years, viz. (Mark xii. 10) “ the gospel must first be published among all nations.” This, by the method practised by Jesus and his apostles, might be accomplished; but with modern practice it would be absolutely impossible.

I have said the apostles walked in the footsteps of their master, and the following passages will justify the assertion, as indeed will the history of their whole conduct. Acts v. 42. vi.9; xi. 20 ; xiii. 5 to 13; xiv. to 5; xvi. 13; xviii. 4, 19, 26; but par. ticularly I would refer to Acts ix. 29; xvii. 1, 17 ; xix. 8, 9, 10, to shew that for spreading Christianity, and instructing the people, the apostles depended more upon reasoning, debating, and disputing, than any other method; (ix. 29)—" he (Paul) spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and DISPUTED against the Grecians; but they went about to slay him.” (xvii, 1, 2)— Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews, and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures. (xvii. 16, 17) “Now wbile Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred within him when he saw the whole city wholly given to idolatry; therefore disputed he in the sy: nagogue with the Jews, and with the devout


and in the market daily with them that met with him.” Again, xix. 8,9, 10. “ And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God; but when divers


[ocr errors]

were hardened and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed froni them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus ; and this continued by the space of two years, so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”

Thus we see that the primitive method of promulgating Christianity, was as opposite to the modern practice, as light and darkness are to each other. By Paul's method of disputation and debate, all Asia, both Jews and Greeks, were instructed in the word of the Lord by one man, in the small period of two years! how many are so informed by Pulpit Preaching in the same time? Let those men who attach such importance to the practice answer the question; and if they are not dead to all feeling, it will tinge their cheeks with blushes deeper than the Tyrian dye; and yet with all this before him (for could not be ignorant of it), the reverend Mr. Aspland had the wickedness and impudence to stigmatize the Free. thinking Christians as a debating club, in whose safety Dissenters, who call themselves Christians, could have no interest, though he must or ought to have known they were but following the example of Jesus and his apostles. But he also knew that they followed their example in another parti, cular, viz. that of exposing these reverend hypocrites, and that if they should succeed in enlightening Mr.

Aspland's supine and ignorant flock, who are led by this blind guide, “ Othello's occupation would be gone."

I trust I have clearly shewn how superior, in point of utility and usefulness, was the practice of Jesus and his apostles; as also that when they preached it was proclaiming (not explaining) a fact or circumstance not before known, and that could not be known by any other means; and surely no man will dispute their being commissioned to this office in a different way to what any man can pretend to in the present day. I have shown that they did not confine themselves to any particular place or people; that they travelled from nation to nation, from city to city, from village to village, and there proclaimed the joyful tidings of salvation; that in their teaching, they allowed and encouraged disputation; they did not merely teach where there was no danger, or to people who were friendly to their cause; but they attacked prejudice, idolatry, hypocrisy, priestcraft, vice, and false religion, in their strong holds, in the temple (the established church), in the synagogues (like our dissenting chapels); they attacked the teachers of religion in the presence of the people, even in these holy places; aye! and followed them to the market places, stripping the holy hypocrites of their disguise, ex

posed them in all their native ugliness and nakedness; they sought not for toleration acts, nor for the protection or mercy of the civil power; they knew what they had to expect. Jesus had told them what really came to pass—they will cast you out of the synagogues; they will scourge you, and kill you; you will be hated of all men for my name's sake, who will think they are doing God service; and were the Freethinking Christians to do as Jesus and his apostles did, no doubt enlightened Unitarians would treat them the same. Nay, they have proved it; for when some bills were given away at the door of Mr. Aspland's chapel (the prospectus of this magazine) one of their deacons told the person who delivered them, that if he came there again, he would have him taken up, and of course cast into prison; and I have very little doubt Mr. Belshain would do the same, if any one was to dispute with him in his synagogue, as Jesus and his apostles did with the Jews, notwithstanding he has published a sermon in vindication of religious liberty, and Mr. Aspland is an advocate for a monument to the memory of Mr. Locke. If such are their dispositions and that of all their fraternity, to them may be applied the words of Jesus (Matt. xxiii. 28 to 32), “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hy. pocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them of the blood of the prophets; wherefore ye be witnesses to yourselves that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

Now, Sir, if modern preachers or teachers are the servants of Jesus, let them follow his example; if they have a cornmission as heralds, to proclaim something new, let them shew us their commission-letus hear the

proclamation--let then travel over the world to make it known, depending on the providence of God for protection and support, as Jesus and his apostles did ; but if they disclaim this office, and pretend only to teach, let them do it in the way they did let them enter into our churches and chapels, and dispute with all that will dispute--let them come among the Freethinking Christians--their master would not have refused it; - let them meet us in print, or how they please. We accuse them of hypocrisy, of being antichristian in their practice, as perverters of the way of truth for FILTHY LUCRE'S SAKE; and we invite, we challenge them to dispute the point before assembled multitudes if they please. If after this they do not meet us fairly, we shall be satisfied that they are not only in error, but wilfully so ; they are not only hypocrites, deceivers,



cuse, if

and wolves in sheep's clothing, but the worst that can come
under that denomination; and that of course it will be our
duty to expose their craft and hypocrisy by all the means inų
our power; but if they will meet us like men and like Chris-
tians, as Jesus and the apostles met the Jews and Greeks, we
promise them every fair advantage-they shall speak first and
last, if they please. If by writing they meet us, their essays shall
have place of any other ; and let them not excuse themselves
under the idea tha we are beneath their notice! No men could
be more so than the Jews were, who killed the Lord of Life,
yet the apostles did not hesitate to dispute with them; and
surely they are not more holy than the apostles. If your hearers
are honest men, policy will induce you to meet us, Oh! ye
priests : for if ye refuse this challenge, none of your hearers
who read this can give you support, or look upon you as honest
men, but as the grossest hypocrites and impostors, who take
their money for teaching what you know to be false, and which
you are afraid should be examined. But, to prevent all ex-

you will not meet us at our place, nor write for our
Magazine, we are ready to meet you in your own, and upon
any terms, so that it comes fairly before the public.

But the Unitarian preacher or teacher may say, we have missionaries, who travel as the apostles did, and we are local teachers, appointed for the instruction of Christians; but, I ask, where is the authority for, such an office? and I hope to prove

in my future essays, that it is an office that robs the people of No lice their rights, and subverts the very end and design of Chrishla churches and chapels : do they ever feel their spirit moved with

in them at the idolatry of the people do they go into churches
and chapels, where the trinity is worshipped, and dispute the

point with the priest and the people? do they expose the avarice,

Viepride, luxury, debauchery, and hypocrisy, of the priest ? No,

they enquire for some friend to their cause, and thus, free from
danger, promulgate their opinions, and look for the glorious
reward of pecuniary remuneration from the rich, and the flat-
tering speeches and loud clappings at a tavern feast, where
they are sure to have the uppermost seats. In all respects,
whether as preachers, teachers, or missionaries, you are go-
verned by worldly motives and worldly maxims; you pre-
tend to differ from the practice of Jesus and his apostles, on
the ground of expediency and utility, because it suits your
ease and convenience better; but I trust I have shewn that
their practice was infinitely superior to yours, both for erpedi-
ency and utility, as well as that the New Testament proves that
it was directly the reverse of yours, and of course that




you can,

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »