« السابقةمتابعة »
But what was the ground of this impious charge? Were they loose in their morals, or scandalous in their lives? No such thing. Had they not as much regard for practical religion and true morality as any of their objectors? More, far more than they all, Did they never mention good works as necessary to answer any valuable end in the Christian life? They often pressed the performance of them, as absolutely necessary to answer various important purposes,both in the sight of God and man. What then could be the reason of so hateful a charge? Because their doctrine was not in the least adapted to gratify the pride of man. They taught, that without the atonement made on the cross, and the grace revealed in redeeming blood, the state of the best men would have been absolutely desperate-desperate as that of the devils, and of those already damned. And as the apostles were free to declare, that the state of the most respectable part of mankind was evil, dreadfully evil, evil as to those things, for the sake of which they most highly esteemed themselves; so they boldly preached a perfect Saviour, and a finished salvation, to the most worthless and vile.
These primitive teachers and infallible guides were not in the least acquainted with those terms and conditions, those pre-requisites and qualifications, the performing and attaining, of which are, by many, accounted so necessary to acceptance with God. They knew but of one way in which a sinner might be accepted of God, and justified before him; and that was entirely of grace, through the perfect work of Christ alone. The way of justification which they taught, is absolutely pure and unmixed. In their doctrine, on this important subject, grace does not only appear; it shines, reigns, triumphs: it is the only thing. There is not discernible in it the least tincture of those notions which foster pride, or cher
ish selfesteem. All those fine distinctions, invented by the proud philosopher, or the self-righteous moralist, which tend in any degree to support the opinion of human worthiness, and to obscure our views of divine grace, are by them entirely set aside, and totally annihilated. The most shining deeds and valuable qualities that can be found among men ; though highly useful and truly excellent, when set in their proper places, and referred to suitable ends; are, as to the grand article of justification, treated as non-entities. In this respect, the most zealous professor, with all his laboured performances, star ds on a level with the most profane. The apostolic truth addressing all to whom it comes, as guilty, condemned, perishing wretches, leaves no room for preference or boasting in any; that so the whole glory of our salvation may be secured to that grace which is infinitely rich and absolutely free.
At this, the devout Pharisee and the decent moralist are highly offended. Such doctrines being advanced, they think it incumbent upon them to stand up in defence of what they call an holy life and to support the sinking credit of good works, as having a considerable efficacy in procuring our acceptance with God. This many persons frequently do, much more by talking about their necessity than by performing them.. Now they think it their duty to rail at the preacher as an avowed enemy to holiness; nor will they spare to give him the honourable title of, A friend of publicans and sinners. Now innumerable slanders are cast on the doctrine of grace, as being licentious; and on the ministers of it, as opening the flood-gates of all iniquity. For they suppose that every thing bad may be justly expected from those who openly disavow all dependence on their own duties; and whose hope of eternal happiness
arises, not from services which they perform, but from grace which the gospel reveals: not from the worth which they possess, but from the work which Christ has wrought. Thus they despise the gospel under the fair pretence, of a more than common concern for the interests of holiness.
Nor is this the only offence which the gospel gives. For as it is entirely inconsistent with the natural notions of men concerning acceptance with God, and contrary to every scheme of salvation which human reason suggests; as it will admit of no co-partner in relieving a distressed conscience, or in bringing deliverance to a guilty soul, but leaves every one that slights it and seeks for assistance from any other quarter, to perish under an everlasting curse; so the pride of the self-sufficient kindles into resentment against it, as a most uncharitable doctrine and quite unsociable. Nor can the faithful dispensers of sacred truth fail to share in the honours of these reproaches. For while they dare to affirm, that this. gospel, so hateful to the sons of pride, exhibits the only way ofa sinner's access to his offended Sovereign; and that all who oppose it, and all who embrace its counterfeit, are left in the hands of divine justice without a Mediator; they are sure to be accounted persons of contracted minds, and very far from a liberal way of thinking. They are considered as the dupes of bigotry, and little better than the enemies of mankind. He, indeed, who pretends to be a friend to revealed truth, but is cool and indifferent to its honour and interest; whose extensive charity is such, that he can allow those who widely differ from him in the capital articles of the christian faith, to be safe in their own way; may enjoy his peculiar sentiments without much fear of disturbance. But though such conduct may be applauded, under a false notion of christian
candour, and of a catholic spirit; though it may be the way to maintain a friendly intercourse among multitudes whose leading sentiments are widely dif ferent; yet it will be deemed, by the God of truth, as deserving no better name, than a joint opposition to the spirit and design of his gospel. For such a timid and lukewarm profession of truth, is little better than a denial of it; than open hostility against it. To seek for peace at the expense of truth, will be found, in the end, no other than a wicked conspiracy against both God and man. Such, however, as love the truth, will boldly declare against all its counterfeits, and every deviation from it: and, whatever may be the consequence, they will say with him of old, Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel, let him be accursed.
Thus the genuine gospel will always appear like an insult on the taste of the public. Wherever it comes, if it be not received, it awakens disgust and provokes abhorrence. Nor can it be otherwise. For its principal design is, to mortify the pride of man, and to display the glory of grace; to throw all human excellence down to the dust, and to elevate, even to thrones of glory, the needy and the wretched; to show that every thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of Christ, is an abomination in the sight of God; and that he who is despised of men and abhorred by the nations, is Jehovah's eternal delight. The ancient gospel is an unceremonious thing. It pays no respect to the academic because of his profound learning; nor to the moralist on account of his upright conduct. It has not the least regard to the courtier, because of his pompous honours; nor to the devotee, for the sake of his zeal or his righteousness. No, the potent prince and the
* Isa. xlix. 7. Matt. iii. 17.
abject slave, the wise philosopher and the ignorant rustic, the virtuous lady and the infamous prostitute, stand on the same level in its comprehensive sight. Its business is with the worthless and miserable, whomsoever they be. If these be relieved, its end is gained. If these be made happy, its Author is glorified, whatever may become of the rest. Toward these it constantly wears the most friendly aspect and rejoices to do them good. But the selfsufficient of every rank are treated by it with the utmost reserve, and beheld with a steady contempt. The hungry it filleth with good things but the rich it sendeth empty away.
These considerations may serve to show us the true state of the case, as it stood between Paul and his opponents. The situation of things was much the same between Protestants and Papists, at and for some time after the Reformation. Nor will the apostolic doctrine ever fail to be attended with strenuous opposition and foul reproaches, while ignorance of its real nature, and legal pride, prevail in the hearts of Many, indeed, are the methods that have been devised, to render the unpalateable truth more generally acceptable, and to obviate the offence of the cross. But what have been the consequences? The gospel has been corrupted; the consciences of awakened sinners have been left to grope in the dark, for that consolation which nothing but the unadulterated truth could give; and, instead of promoting holiness, the reverse has been awfully manifest. It therefore behoves every lover of sacred truth, to let it stand on its own basis, and not to tamper with it. To leave all its credit and all its success in the world, to its own intrinsic worth-to that authority with which it is clothed, and to the management of that sovereign Being who ordained it for his own glory.