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representations, and, on various occasions, to adopt the same expressions; or that which employs us in coldly criticising away their meaning : that which leads us, without fear, to give them their full scope ; or that which, while we are honouring the Son, would excite apprehensions, lest we should, in so doing dishonour the Father?
The next question to be discussed is, Which of the two systems places the mediation of Christ in the most important point of light? That system, doubtless, which finds the greatest use for Christ, or in which he occupies the most important place, must have the greatest tendency to promote love to him. Suppose a system of politics were drawn up, in which civil liberty occupied but a very small portion, and was generally kept out of view ; or if, when brought forward, it was either for the purpose of abating the high notions which some people entertain of it, or, at least, of treating it as a matter not absolutely necessary to good civil government ; who would venture to assert, that such a system was friendly, or its abettors, friends to civil liberty ? This is manifestly a case in point. The Socinian system has but little use for Christ; and none at all, as an atoning sacrifice. It scarcely ever mentions him, unless it be to depreciate those views of his dignity which others entertain, or in such a way as to set aside the absolute necessity of his mediation.
It is not so in our views of things. We find so much use for Christ, if I may so speak, that he appears as the soul which animates the whole body of our divinity; as the centre of the system, diffusing light and life to every part of it. Take away Christ; nay, take away the deity and atonement of Christ ; and the whole ceremonial of the Old Testament appears to us little more than a dead mass of uninteresting matter: prophecy loses almost all that is interesting and endearing : the gospel is annihilated, or ceases to be that good news to lost sinners which it professes to be : practical religion is divested of its most powerful motives ; the evangelical dispensation, of its peculiar glory; and heaven itself, of its most transporting joys.
The sacred penmen appear to have written all along upon the same principles. They considered Christ as the All in all of their
religion ; and, as such, they loved him with their whole hearts. Do they speak of the first tabernacle? They call it a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience. But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.* Do they speak of prophecy? They call the testimony of Jesus the spirit of it.t Of the gospel ? It is the doctrine of Christ crucified. Of the medium by which the world was crucified to them, and they to the world ? It is the same.$ The very reproach of Christ had a value stamped upon it, so as, in their esteem, to surpass all the treasures of the present world.ll. One of the most affecting ideas which they afford us of heaven, consists in ascribing everlasting glory and dominion to him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands were heard with a loud voice, saying, WORTHY IS THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN, TO RECEIVE POWER, AND RICHES, AND WISDOM, AND STRENGTH, AND HONOUR, AND GLORY, AND BLESSING !T
Let us select a particular instance in the character of Paul. This apostle seemed to be swallowed up in love to Christ. His mercy to him, as one of the chief of sinners, had bound his heart to him with bonds of everlasting gratitude. Nor was this all; he saw that glory in his person, office and work, which eclipsed the excellence of all created objects, which crucified the world to him, and him unto the world. What things were gain to me, those I counted lost for Christ.' Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord : for whom I have suffered the loss of all things. Nor did he now repent : for he immediately adds, And do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him; not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the right* Heb. ix. 9-11. + Rev, xix. 10. I 1 Cor. i. 23. Gal. vi. 14.
|| Heb. xi. 26. Rev. v. 11, 12.
eousness which is of God by faith.—That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comformable unto his death.* When his friends wept because he would not be dissuaded from going to Jerusalem, he answered, What mean ye to weep, and to break mine heart? For I am ready, not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem, FOR THE NAME OF THE LORD Jesus !t Feeling in himself an ardent love to Christ, he vehemently desired that others might love him too. For this cause he bowed his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in behalf of the Ephesians ; praying, that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith. He represented him to them as the medium of all spiritual blessings; of election, adoption, acceptance with God, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins ; of a future inheritance, and of a present earnest of it; as Head over all things to the church, and as him that FillETH ALL IN ALL. He described him as the only way of access to God, and as the sole foundation of a sinner's hope ; wbose riches were unsearchable, and the dimensions of bis love passing knowledge. I
If any drew back, or deviated from the simplicity of the gospel, he felt a most ardent thirst for their recovery: witness his Epistles to the Corinthians, the Galatians, and, (if, as is generally supposed, he was the writer of it) to the Hebrews. If any one drew back, and were not to be reclaimed, he denounced against him the divine declaration, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.ß And, whatever might be the mind of others, like Joshua, he was at a point himself: Henceforth, he exclaims, let no man trouble me; for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.| If he wished to live, it was for Christ; or, if to die, it was to be with him. I He invoked the best of blessings on those who loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity ; and denounced an anathema maranatha on those who loved him not.**
The reason why I have quoted all these passages is, to show that the primitive gospel was full of Christ ; or, that Christ was, as it were, the centre and the life of the evangelical system ; and that this, its leading and principal characteristic, tended wonder* Phil. iii. 7–10. + Acts xxi. 13. ' Ephes. i, ii, iii. Heb. x. 38. Il Gal. vi. 17. Phil. i. 20, 21. * Ephes. vi. 24. 1 Cor. xvi, 22.
fully to promote the love of Christ. Now, brethren, let me appeal to you again : Which of the systems in question is it, which resembles that of the apostles in this particular; and, consequently, has the greatest tendency to promote love to Christ? That of which Christ is the All in all; or that in which he is scarcely ever introduced, except for the purpose of representing him as a “mere fellow-creature, a fallible and peccable man ?”
The third, and last question to be discussed, (if, indeed, it need any discussion, is Which of the two systems represents us as most indebted to Christ's undertaking? Our Lord himself has laid it down as an incontrovertible rule, that those who have much forgiven, will love him much ; and that those who have little forgiven, will love him but little. That system, therefore, which supposes us the greatest debtors to forgiving love, must needs have the greatest tendency to promote a return of love.
Our views with respect to the depravity of human nature are such, that, upon our system, we have much more to be forgiven, than our opponents bave upon theirs. We suppose ourselves to have been utterly depraved ; our very nature totally corrupted; and, consequently, that all our supposed virtues, while our hearts were at enmity with God, were not virtue in reality, but destitute of its very essence. We do not, therefore, conceive of our. selves, during our unregeneracy, as having been merely stained by a few imperfections ; but as altogether polluted, by a course of apostacy from God, and black rebellion against him. That which is called sin, by our opponents, must consist chiefly, if not entirely, in the irregularity of a man's outward conduct ; else they could not suppose, as Dr. Priestley does, that “ Virtue bears the same proportion to vice, that happiness does to misery, or health to sickness, in the world :'* that is, that there is much more of the former than of the latter. But the merely outward irregularities of men bear no more proportion to the whole of their depravity, according to our views of it, than the particles of water which are occasionally emitted from the surface of the ocean, to the tide that rolls beneath. The religion of those who make sin to consist in
• Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Vol. I. Lelter V. VOL. II.
little beside exterior irregularities, or who conceive of the virtues of men as greatly exceeding their vices, appears to us to resemble the religion of Paul, previously to his conversion to Christianity. While he thought of nothing but the irregularities of bis exterior conduct, his virtues, doubtless appeared to him to outweigh his vices ; and, therefore, he concluded all was well; that he was in a fair way to everlasting happiness; or, as he himself expresses it, alive without the law. But when through the glass of that divine commandment which prohibits the very inclination to evil, he saw the corruption that reigned within, transgression assumed a very different appearance : it was then a mighty ocean, that swelled, and swept off all his legal hopes. Sin revived, and he died. In short our views of human depravity induce us to consider ourselves, by nature, as unworthy, as lost, and ready to perish; so that, if we are saved at all, it must be by rich grace, and by a great Saviour. I scarcely need to draw the conclusion, That, having according to our system, most to be forgiven, we shall, if we truly enter into it, love most.
Further : Our system supposes a much greater malignity in sin, than that of our opponents. When we speak of sin, we do not love to deal as Mr. Belsham does, in extenuating names. We find no authority for calling it “ human frailty ;" or for affixing any idea to it that shall represent us rather as objects worthy of the compassion of God, than as subjects of that which his soul abhorreth. We do not see how Mr. Belsham, or those of his sentiments, while they speak of Moral evil in so diminutive a style, can possibly conceive of it, after the manner of the inspired writers, as an evil and bitter thing ; or, as it is expressed in that remarkable phrase of the apostle Paul, exceeding sinful.*
Our opponents deny sin to be, in any sense, an infinite evil ; or, which is the same thing, deserving of endless punishment ; or · * The expression, exceeding sinful, is very forcible. It resembles the phrase, far more exceeding, or rather, excessively exeeeding, in 2 Cor. iv.7. It seems that the Holy Spirit himself could not find a worse name for sino than its own. If we speak of a treacherous person, we call him a Judas : if of Judas, we call him a devil; but if of satan, we want a comparison, because we find none that is worse than himself: we must, therefore, say, AS