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the person of Christ, as a propitiation for our sins, is wonderfully calculated to produce the same extraordinary effects. This mysterious offering sets forth the malignity of our offences, and represents the compassion of the Deity in so overpowering a manner, that, while it fills us with horror for sin, it completely triumphs over the obduracy of our hearts. From the moment we come to a real perception of this meritorious Sacrifice, from that moment we die tó sin, till, rising again with Christ into a new life, Col. iii. l, we become, at length, wholly“ renewed in the spirit of our mind.” Eph. iv. 23. Point out a man who unfeignedly believes in a crucified Saviour, and you have discovered a man who abhors all manner of vice, and in whom every
virtue has taken root. Such a one can thank-' fully join the whole multitude of the faithful, and say, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rom. v. 1 ; “and, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God,” Rom. v. 2, we have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto us.” Once, indeed, when we were without the knowledge of Christ, we were the servants of sin; but now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, we have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Rom. vi. 17, 22.
Ravish from such a man these consolatory and sanctifying doctrines, and you leave him, either in the stupid insensibility of those who give themselves up to carnal security, or in the perplexity of others who are crying, “ What shall we do to be saved ?" The one or the other of these states must be experienced, in different degrees, by every man who is unacquainted with the efficacy of evangelical doctrines. And if the first moralist * of the
world was observed to rise above this stupidity and confusion, it was merely through the regenerating hope he indulged, that a restoring God, of whose internal operations he had already been favoured with some faint perception, would one day afford him a more clear and perfect light.
CONTAINING REFLECTIONS UPON THE APOSTLES CREED.
For the fullest proof, that a strict connexion subsists between the doctrines of the gospel and the most perfect morality, let us cast our eyes upon an assemblage of those doctrines known by the name of “the apostles' creed ;” a creed to which every true Christian conscientiously subscribes, and which baptized hypocrites make a solemn show of assenting to. Our prejudice against these holy doctrines must necessarily vanish, after we have duly considered the influence they naturally have upon the conduct of true believers.
This confession of faith has three parts. The first contains the principal doctrines of deism, or natural religion, setting forth the relation in which we stand to God as Creator. The second part of this creed includes the principal doctrines contained in the four gospels, and places before us the relation we bear to God, considered in the character of Redeemer, or as coming to save the world by that extraordinary person who is called “ the onlybegotten Son of God." The doctrines here enumerated are those with which the disciples of our Lord were wholly taken up, till the day of their spiritual baptism. The third part presents us with a recapitulation of the principal doctrines set forth in the Acts and Epistles of the apostles. This latter part of the Christian creed instructs us in our relation to God as Sanctifier, or as coming to regenerate man, by that Spirit of truth, consolation, and power, which was promised by Christ to his followers; a Spirit whose office is to instruct and sanctify the church of Christ, to maintain a constant communion among its members, to seal upon their consciences the pardon of sin, to assure them of a future resurrection, and prepare them for a life of everlasting blessedness. Let us review these three parts of this apostolic creed, and observe the necessary reference they have to morality.
The first article of this crced informs us, that there is
an all-powerful God, who is the Creator of all things in heaven and in earth. It is evident that no man can renounce this doctrine without renouncing natural religion, and plunging headlong into atheism. If there is no God, there can be no divine law, and morality becomes a mere insignificant term. Human laws may, indeed, restrain the wretch who indulges a persuasion of this nature ; but was it not for the authority of such laws, he would throw off the mask of decency, and laugh at the distinction between virtue and vice.
If you admit, with Epicurus, the being of a God, without admitting an overruling providence ; if you believe not that the Creator is an all-powerful Parent, and, as such, peculiarly attentive to the concerns of his immense family; you then destroy all confidence in the supreme Being; you take from the righteous their chief consolation in adversity, and from the wicked their chief restraining curb in prosperity.
Mutilate this important doctrine, by admitting only a general providence, and you destroy the particular confidence which holy men indulge, that God dispenses to his children, according to his unsearchable wisdom, both prosperity and adversity; that he listens to their supplications, and will finally deliver them out of all their afflictions. You trample under foot the most powerful motives to resignation and patience ; you nourish discontent in the heart, and scatter the seeds of despair among the unfortunate. Yet all this is done by many inconsistent advocates for morality.
Heathens themselves were perfectly convinced, that the practice of morality was closely connected with the abovementioned doctrines. Cicero, in his book concerning the nature of the gods, seems to apprehend, that the whole edifice of morality would fall to the ground, was the doctrine of a particular providence to be taken away. “For," says
he, “if the gods observed not what is transacted here below, what would become of religion and holiness, without which human life would be replete with trouble and confusion? I am persuaded that, in banishing the fear of the gods, we should, at the same time, banish from
among us good faith, justice, and all those other virtues which are considered as forming the basis of society.”
THE CONNEXION OF MORALITY WITH THE SECOND PART
OF THE APOSTLES' CREED,
The doctrines adverted to in the latter part of the preceding chapter compose the religion of theists, who believe in God as Creator and Preserver, but who know him not as the Restorer of fallen man. They, however, who give their unfeigned assent to the first part of this creed, will never contentedly rest at the threshold of truth. After duly attending to the blessings of creation and preservation, they will readily perceive how destitute they are of that love, that gratitude, and that obedience, which are so justly due to the Author of all their mercies. Hence, gradually discovering that, even with respect to their neighbour, they are void of that justice and charity which should be mutually exercised between man and man, they will humbly acknowledge their transgressions, and begin to apprehend those mysterious truths by which the Christian religion is distinguished from deism.
In our ancient confessions of faith, no mention is made of the misery and depravity of man.
For what need was there to make so melancholy a truth an article of faith, since it has been publicly demonstrated in every age and country by the conduct of all classes of men ? To deny that indisputable evidences of this truth are every day to be met with, is to deny that there are in the world prisons, gibbets, soldiers, fields of blood, and beds of death.
If we give up the doctrine of the fall, and, of consequence, that of the restoration, we give the lie to the general experience of mankind, as well as to that of our own hearts; we shut our eyes against the light of conviction ; we cast away, in the midst of a labyrinth, the only clue that can guide us through its winding mazes. And, after such an act of folly, we shall either, with infidel philosophers, disdain to implore the assistance of the supreme Being; or, like the haughty pharisee, we shall approach him with insolence.
If, in direct opposition to the doctrine of our depravity, we affirm, that “all things are good, and the human species as free from imperfection as the Almighty at first intended;" we then neglect the only probable means of overcoming sin, and obstinately endeavour to preclude all possibility of our restoration. Thus, by persuading a loathsome leper that his malady is both convenient and becoming, we teach him to despise the most efficacious remedies, and leave him a deluded prey to deformity and corruption. But, if it be once admitted that we are immersed in sin, without the least possibility of restoring ourselves to a state of innocence, we have then some degree of that humility which disposed St. Paul to embrace a persecuted Saviour, and by which alone we can be prevailed upon to embrace the second part of this sacred creed.
To reject that which respects either the conception, the birth, the sufferings, the death,* the resurrection, or the ascension of Jesus Christ, is to rejecteverything that concerns this condescending Saviour; since it is one and the same gospel that instructs us in all these different doctrines. To remove one of these doctrines is to break the chain of evangelical truth, by destroying one of the links of which it is composed; it is, ultimately, to deny the authority of revelation, if not absolutely to overthrow that grand edifice, of which Jesus Christ “is the chief corner-stone." In a word, as the doctrine of our redemption by a crucified
• Here is no mention made of our Lord's descent into hell, because the expression itself is an equivocal one ; the Greek word “hades.” by no means answering to the English word “hell.” St. Paul was ever ready to make mention of everything that respected his divine Master ; but where he speaks of his death and resurrection, he is not observed even to hint at this singular doctrine ; and if, by omitting it in this place, we are judged guilty of a capital error, the great apostle himself was equally guilty in this respect : see Rom. iv. 25 ; viii. 34 ; 1 Cor. xv. 4. But, if St. Paul and the four evangelists have made no mention of this extraordinary circumstance,. it cannot certainly be considered as a funda. mental article of the Christian faith.