Page images


that the style and manner of writing will bear the strictest criticism. In this respect, he pleads the candor and indulgence of those into whose hands this may fall. Thus far he does not hesitate to declare, that he has not intentionally misrepresented any fact, nor given any undue coloring to the opinions of others. As far as he has given his own opinion, or offered reasons to establish a particular system of doctrine, he asks no other indulgence than this, that his opinions and arguments be examined in the light of the Gospel.

Some, who have been accustomed to consider religion as consisting in the exercise of a pretended charity which confounds <truth and error, will consider it as very illiberal to advance any decisive opinion respecting Heresy. This will indeed be consistent with their views of the nature of charity; for if the sentiments which men embrace will have but small or no influence in determining their character and moral state, or if it be of no material consequence to men what, they be lieve, there is no such thing as a Heresy. which, tends to destroy the soul.-Let it be remembered, however, that this conclusion is in opposition to express Scripture declaration...

I f

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

We are assured, that there is Heresy which destroys the soul. Christians are forewarned to expect Heresies from age to age. They are told how they are to conduct towards Heretics. They are to consider those who obstinately adhere to errors which pervert the nature and moral tendency of the Gospel, as having forfeited the character and privileges of Christians; and to separate from them, and have no Christian fellowship with them.

As it is our duty to judge in ourselves what is right, it cannot be unreasonably bold to offer an opinion respecting Heresy, and to advance reasons for the support of that opinion.

Besides, one may safely declare, on proper authority, what was called Heresy in former times, without the imputation of illiberality. And the primitive Christians not only believed the existence of Heresy, but they felt them-selves authorized to designate the particular sentiments that constitute the Heresy which the Scriptures condemn. They considered themselves bound to judge and separate Here-tics from their communion.

Such, at present, is the state of religious opinions among us, that it has become import

ant for even plain, unlearned, though: sincere Christians, to see distinctly where lies thepoint of difference between that scheme of doctrine which is called orthodox, and those which, under different names, part essentially from that scheme. This has been one object in the ensuing work; and the Author is satisfied and happy, if any, on reading it, shall be enabled to discern, more clearly, this point of difference, and also to contrast the moral tendency of the orthodox with other systems of doctrine.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

WHEN we are forewarned in Scripture,

that men shall depart from the faith, that they shall privily bring in damnable Heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them; and when we are instructed to reject an obstinate Heretic, knowing that he who is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself; we are bound to believe the existence of Heresy; and it is our safety and interest to examine the nature and moral tendency of . doctrines,

It will be for our interest to be determined in our own minds respecting religious senti

* 1 Tim. iv. r ta Peter ii. 1.

Titus ii. 10, II.

ments, whether they agree with, or essentially depart from, the spirit of the Gospel, if we would avoid the dreadful condemnation which. will be the portion of those who pervert the Gospel of Christ.

It is to little purpose that the word Heresy was originally used to designate a sect. It is: admitted, that in this sense it may be applied to each distinct denomination of Christians. It will be said moreover, that one denomination has an equal right with another, to apply it to all who differ in sentiment from them.But as the inspired writers use it, in the pas-sages before quoted, it has a principal respect to the opinions which men receive. St. Peter has informed us what that Heresy is which is damnable, or which tends to the perdition of men, even a denial of the Lord that bought them. It is obvious, that he meant a departure from the truth and spirit of the Gospel,' which will finally exclude a person from the kingdom of Heaven. In this sense, it implies not merely a circumstantial difference in sentiment from others, but an apostacy from the spirit and design of the Gospel: it is an adherence to sentiments which essentially change the scheme of Christianity, and counteract those effects which the Gospel, in its purity, is ealculated to produce in the hearts and lives. of men.

Each system of religion, which has appeared in the world, has had some distinguishing characteristic, something peculiar, by which it

« PreviousContinue »