Page images
PDF
EPUB

for the salvation of those committed to their charge. They labour to spread the kingdom of God among men, though they have never experienced that kingdom according to the fulness of the promise. And though they are unacquainted with the abundant plenitude of the gospel, yet they cease not to publish that gospel abroad with affection and zeal. They preach the cross of Christ, but they proclaim not the spiritual coming of a risen Saviour. As their careless brethren refuse to publish the coming of the Spirit, through infidelity and prejudice, so these upright ministers neglect to proclaim it, through uncertainty and irresolution. If they even entertain a just opinion of the doctrine for which we plead, yet they are restrained from speaking frequently and freely upon the subject, because, as many false Christians have rendered the dispensation of the Son contemptible in the eyes of deists; so many vainly-inspired zealots have caused the dispensation of the Spirit to appear ridiculous before sober-nıinded Christians. But, notwithstanding the reproach which many fanatics, of various sects, have brought upon this sublime part of the gospel, by mingling with it the reveries of an heated imagination, yet it will constantly be regarded by every well-instructed Christian as the quintessence of our holy religion.

There appears little probability that this neglected doctrine will be either universally received or preached in our degenerate day. But as truth has never been left entirely destitute of witnesses ; and as the generality of ministers have still courage enough to maintain, before an unbelieving world, the dispensation of the Son ; we may reasonably hope, that they will continue to mention the dispensation of the Spirit, at least, on every commemoration of the pentecostal glory. By this means we may preserve among us a precious spark of sacred fire, till our returning Lord, bursting through the clouds of incredulity, shall kindle that spark into an everlasting flame. In that day, the idle pretensions of enthusiasts shall no more inAuence believers to reject the Holy Spirit, than the vain pretensions of those false Christs who formerly appeared among the Jews, could influence the faithful to reject their only Lord and Saviour. The dispensation of the Spirit shall then appear as glorious to the eyes of admiring Christians, as the dispensation of the Son once appeared to ravished Simeon; and every apostolic pastor shall conduct his flock from the dispensation of the Father, through that of the Son, to that of the Holy Spirit, in as rapid a manner as St. Peter is reported to have done in his first discourse,

THE

PORTRAIT OF ST. PAUL.

PART III.

AN ESSAY

ON

THE CONNEXION OF DOCTRINES WITH

MORALITY.

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS.

Some divines, almost wholly occupied with the doctrines of the gospel, are not sufficiently careful to insist upon morality; while philosophers, for the most part, as wholly taken up with morality, treat the doctrines of the gospel with neglect and disdain. It is to reconcile, if possible, these two mistaken classes of men, that a few observations are here presented upon the importance of such doctrines, and their immediate connexion with morality

Morality is the science which regulates our conduct by teaching us to know and to follow justice, rendering to every one their due, love, honour, obedience, tribute, &c. The whole of this morality is included in those maxims of natural and revealed religion : “ Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them." Matt. vii. 2. “ Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things which are God's.” Matt. xxii. 21. Hence it follows, that pure morality must maintain some form of divine worship.

Some moralists, it is true, imagine it possible to be strictly just without making any profession of piety. But if justice consists in doing that to others which we desire may be done to ourselves, it is clear, that every man who honours not the supreme Being must be unjust as well as impious; since, if we are parents or benefactors, we manifest so deep a sensibility of the injustice of our children or dependents, when they repay our kindness with insolence and ingratitude.

Doctrines are, in general, precepts; but by doctrines are here particularly understood, those instructions which Christ and his apostles have given respecting the different relations in which we stand to God and to each other, together with the various duties consequent upon such relations.

Such instructions as are transmitted from generation to generation, under the name of “ maxims" or doctrines,” whether they be true or false, have a prodigious effect upon the conduct of those who admit them. In the ancient world how many hapless infants have been sacrificed among the Greeks and Romans to the barbarous maxim, that "fathers have the right of life and death over their new-born children!” In the modern world, how vast a number of unborn infants, and how many fanciful heroes, are falling every year unfortunate victims to those maxims of false honour !—“It is better to destroy the fruit of an illicit love, or to plunge a sword into the bosom of a friend, than to live without that which constitutes the honour of the sexes." Overturn these maxims of a false point of honour, and you destroy the principles upon which a thousand impious actions are committed.

Mankind can no more divest themselves of all prepossession in favour of general maxims, than they can lose sight of determining motives. The atheist and the infidel

9)

a

have their particular doctrines, as well as the just man and the Christian. The inconsistency of some philosophers in this respect is here worthy to be noted, who begin their discourses by decrying maxims in general, and conclude them by setting forth and maintaining the most dangerous doctrines. “The road to permanent happiness," say they, " is both convenient and spacious. The Almighty pays but little regard to our actions, and has endued us with passions for the very purpose of gratifying them.” They insinuate, that if a man is sufficiently rich to maintain a number of women, he may innocently enjoy whatever pleasure their society can afford him; and that, when he has no longer any relish for life, he may as innocently blow out his brains. Such are the doctrines, and such is the morality, which many ill-instructed professors are preaching among us at this day; giving ample testimony, that no men are more ready to set up for dogmatists than those who reject the doctrines of the gospel.

CHAPTER I.

PHILOSOPHERS, SO CALLED, EXALT THEMSELVES WITHOUT

REASON AGAINST THE DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL.

As those who affect exterior acts of devotion are not always possessed of the most solid piety, so they who are foremost to magnify philosophy are not always to be regarded as the wisest of mankind. It must, however, be confessed, that many Christians have afforded philosophers too just a subject of scandal, by continually opposing faith to reason; as though, in order to be possessed of the richest Christian grace, it were necessary to renounce that noble faculty which chiefly distinguishes us from the brute creation. Like the great apostle, we may rationally oppose faith to sense; but we can never, without the highest indiscretion, oppose it to reason. We should even be cautious of saying with M. de Voltaire and St. Louis, A ta foible raison, garde toi de le rendre,

« PreviousContinue »