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4. Is this same Messiah the Mighty God? Then let us reverence and fear him, worship and serve him as such. Let us not dare to neglect, disobey, or reject him. Although he is our Redeemer and Saviour, yet we must recollect, he is also our Lawgiver and our Judge, and it is a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of” his righteous indignation and wrath. Let us take care, then, that we refuse not him that speaketh. For, if they escaped not that turned away from Moses, that spake on earth, much less shall we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven; whose voice" on Sinai, "shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, yet once more I shake not the earth only, but heaven also. Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom" from this King of saints, whom the Father hath set upon his holy hill of Sion: "let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire."
4. Is this Mighty God, also, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace? Then let us take care that while we are his children, being begotten by his gospel, and while we confide in him with filial love and affection, we also manifest that we are in all proper and orderly subjection to him as our sovereign Lord and King. And as he is King of Peace, as well as Righteousness, while through him being justified by faith, we have peace with God, and peace of conscience, let us demonstrate also by our peaceable disposition, by our living in love and harmony with the people of God, and as much as in us lieth, by our " following peace with all men," that we are, indeed, his genuine subjects, that his kingdom of righteousness and peace is in our hearts, and that we are in the highway to his kingdom of everlasting peace and felicity. AMEN.
THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF THE SECT EVERY WHERE SPOKEN AGAINST, IMPARTIALLY CONSIDERED, IN A DISCOURSE DELIVERED AT THE OPENING OF THE METHODIST CHAPEL AT TWICKENHAM, DEC. 14, 1800.
We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: For as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. Acts xxviii. 22.
1. SUCH was the just and reasonable language of some of the inhabitants of the greatest city in the world, to a poor, despised, and persecuted disciple of Jesus Christ, who appeared among them with every disadvantage, having been sent to Rome a prisoner, and being, at this very time, bound with a chain. It is true, they were not native Romans, as it appears, but Jews, who spake thus. But this very circumstance, one would have supposed, might have increased their prejudices against him, as he was known to be an abettor of the cause which their countrymen and the chiefs of their nation in Judea had condemned; and a disciple of the man whom the rulers of their people had lately executed as a malefactor upon a cross. Nevertheless, although appearances were so much against him, and although there were so many reasons why they should give him no countenance, but despise and persecute him, as their friends in Jerusalem had done; they had so far imbibed the fair and equitable principles of the imperial city where they resided, that they determined to check every rising prejudice, and give him a patient hearing, judging it unjust to condemn a man, or a party, or a cause, unheard. "We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest, for, as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against."
2. Methinks, my brethren, their conduct in this matter reflects censure and disgrace upon many in our day, who readily believe and propagate every idle tale that they happen to hear to the disadvantage of others, and make no scruple to condemn and revile whole communites of people, whose principles and conduct they neither understand, nor will be at the pains to examine. This, however, I trust, is not your practice. You, who call yourselves, and who, many of you, I hope, are Christians, will surely have as much justice as the Jews or Heathens at Rome. You will patiently hear a cause before you judge it, and will not condemn what you have not considered.
And, persuaded that spiritual things differ in this from natural, that they cannot be rightly understood, but by the teaching of the Holy Spirit according to the clear and forcible reasoning of this apostle, 1 Cor. ii. 11. "What man knoweth the things of a man," or the things that belong to human nature, save the spirit of a man that is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man but by the Spirit of God:"-persuaded of this, I say, you will see the propriety of applying to God in prayer for the illumination of his Holy Spirit, that, as our Church observes, in her Collect for Whitsunday, being taught hereby, you may "have a right judgment in all things," especially in things of such vast moment. Now this is all we desire. Grant us this, and we ask no more. If, at any time, after you have heard our message, and endeavouring to devest your minds of prejudice, have sincerely and earnestly asked of God to enable you to form a right judgment concerning it, you think proper to reject it, we can do no more. We leave you to God and your own consciences, only observing for your greater caution, and to prevent your coming to too hasty a conclusion, that these Jews at Rome rejected even the message of St. Paul; not, however, because they had devested their minds of prejudice, and sincerely addressed themselves to God in prayer, for supernatural light; but because they had not previously taken these necessary steps.
3. I am glad, my brethren, for the truth's sake, that you may believe and be saved, that I do not appear before you, in this place, to-day, under such disadvantageous circumstances as those under which St. Paul appeared at Rome. I was not brought to this town a prisoner, nor do I appear before you in chains. I am free, and have the same right to the privileges of an Englishman which any of you have, and to the protection of the good government under which we live ; nor does the law allow any man to
molest me, were any minded to do it, in the exercise of my office in this licensed house. Add to this, that the circumstance of my professing to be a disciple of Him that was crucified in Judea can excite no prejudice in your minds against me, for you profess to do the same. In these respects, therefore, I address you with advantages very superior to those which this apostle had in addressing the Jews at Rome. But then, I must acknowledge on the other hand, that he was a much more able advocate for the truth than I can pretend to be. However, as he did not go to any people confiding in "excellency of speech, or of wisdom," but "in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power," which, from time to time, accompanied his word; and as even he allowed, that he was not sufficient of himself for the important office of preaching the gospel, but acknowledged that his sufficiency was of God; so the same Spirit and power are free for us: God can still aid the weakness of his servants, and cause us to know by our own experience, that his grace is sufficient for us. Relying, then, on the help of this, let us,
1. Inquire what the Sect was which is spoken of in my text, and what were the principles and conduct of its members.
2dly. What we may suppose were the reasons why it was every where spoken against, and whether they who thus reviled it, acted wisely, and were justified in so doing.
I shall then, 3dly, make some application of what has been advanced.
And, 1st. We are to inquire what the Sect was which is spoken of in my text, and what were the principles and conduct of its members.
1. This sect, you will recollect, was no other than that, termed by Tertullus,*"the sect of the Nazarenes," that is, of the Christians, founded by Jesus of Nazareth, a ringleader of which, as Tertullus expresses it, was this same Paul of Tarsus. And, first,
2. As to the principles of this sect, it must be confessed that they differed widely from those, both of the Heathen and the Jews. In opposition to the Heathen, who were polytheists and idolaters; who believed in a plurality of gods, and those gods either the work of
* Acts xxiv. 5.
men's hands, wood and stone, or mere imaginary beings, that had no existence, or corrupt and evil beings, that were in reality, devils; the Christians held that there is only one God, and that he is selfexistent and possessed of all possible perfections. They believed him to be infinite and eternal in all his attributes: in wisdom unsearchable, in power almighty, in love unbounded, in truth inviolable, in justice impartial, in mercy unfathomable, and in holiness unspotted: that he is present every where, acquainted with every thing, even with the secrets of men's hearts, and can do whatever he will, whether "in heaven, or among the inhabitants of the earth, no creature being able to stay his hand, or say unto him, what dost thou? They viewed him as the original Creator, and continual Preserver of the universe of creatures, as the bountiful Benefactor, and righteous Governor of the human race, and as the final Judge of men and angels, whom, as being formed intelligent, free, and immortal, or as the Scriptures speak, " after his image," they believed to be accountable to him, and dependent on him for their final doom. They acknowledged, of course, that a future state of rewards and punishments await mankind, and that a future and general judgment will take place, the consequences of which will be everlasting.
3. Herein they differed from many among the Jews also, even from the whole sect of the Sadducees, whose doctrine it was, 66 that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit" of man, that survives the death of the body; nor, indeed, any future state whatever; but that this life is the whole of our existence, and carnal pleasure our chief good. In opposition to another part of the Jews, the Pharisees, the professors of the day, the Christians believed that man is a fallen creature, "very far gone from original righteousness," from the image of God, in which he was made, and that he is by nature a child of wrath, and, therefore, incapable of justifying himself by his own works before God: that "there is none righteous," (by nature, or according to the holy and spiritual law of God,) "no, not one; that all are gone out of the way, are together become unprofitable, and that there is none that doeth good,” viz. from a right principle, and in the manner and degree required, "no, not one;" that man's "throat is an open sepulchre; that with his tongue he uses deceit; that the poison of asps is under," even when honey is upon "his lips;" that his "mouth is," too often, "full of cursing and bitterness, his feet swift to shed blood; that destruction" to others, "and misery" to himself, "are in his ways, and the way of peace he has not known."