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establish any point, except this, that by them no point in divinity can be established, so as to command any high degree of confidence. But should any one prove by plain arguments, drawn from the word of God, that when James says of vicious and impious exercises, "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish;” and of good cxercises, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, &c.” he means that sin and holiness come both alike from a direct divine influence on the heart of men, I shall be bound to reply or confess my error. But nothing but proving this to be the meaning of the apostle shall ever be Considered as worthy of any notice,
(Containing the Sermon alluded to on p. 10.)
MODERN PHILOSOPHICAL MIXTURES, DEGRADING
THE CHÁ RACTER, AND DEFEATING THE MORAL INFLUENCE OF THE GOSPEL, DETECTED.
COL. ii, 8. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy.
In these words the Apostle has nothing to do with natural philosophy, any farther than it overleaps its proper bounds, and purposely deviates from its own path, to arm itself against true theology. It is moral philosophers whose systems are so pernicious.Of these there are three general classes; pagan phi. losophers, who in the midst of universal darkness sought in vain to find out God; infidel philosophers, whose great endeavor is to extinguish the light of reyelation, and restore the ancient empire of spiritual ig. norance and wickedness; and christian philosophers, who labor with vast ingenuity and mighty zeal, so to pare down and fashion the Gospel of Christ, as that it shall harmonize with their self.invented systems. In this discourse, our principal business will not be with philosophy, considered as an open enemy, but as a treacherous friend. For, since the christian era, this splendid form has not only arrayed itself in open hostility against evangelical truth, but it has endeavored to incorporate itself with it, and extend its triumphs under a name so truly glorious. In this way immense injury has been done to the cause of Christ, by some of his professed followers. For ages the church languished under the evils brought upon it by the philosophical spirit of Origen. Of the celebrated Dr. Cudworth it is said, “his attachment to the platonic philosophy has thrown an air of mysticism over some of his metaphys ical opinions, and his doctrine of the plastic nature is supposed by Bayle to have given great advantage to the atheists,"'* Philosophy consisting of theological and moral opinions, which depraved men have struck out for themselves, independent of the teachings of the word and spirit of God, is no less to be dreaded whether it come in the character of a friend or foe. Though it usurp the name of christian truth, still it retains its desta uctive nature. The nature of things does not change with mere names. It is philosophy of christians, by which we are most likely to be seduced. Against an open enemy we should be more on our guard.
There is no reason to question the fact, that in all christian countries, the philosophical notions of multitudes constitute one of the chief obstacles to their be. lief of some of the most important principles of revealed religion. $ Our first duty will therefore be to exhibit marks by which this spirit may be detected among the professed friends of the gospel. Our second will be to state rea. sons why we should avoid it. The following are all the indications of it, we shall have time now to notice:
1. It grounds its belief, even of what it admits to be revealed truth, rather upon the presumption that it is demonstrable by mere human reason, than upon simple divine testimony.
The doctrines of the gospel are to be received as true, because God has declared them to be so.-This is the highest possible evidence we can have of the truth of any proposition. God can neither lie nor deceive; nor can he be mistaken. His word, therefore, taken in its plain, obvious sense, is to be admitted as infallible truth, Though it overthrow all human systems, and confound the boasted wisdom of man. But how many are there, who have a spirit within them revolting against God's testimony.
Hence so much cavil against the mysteries of revelation; so much hesitancy and doubt on the ground that the doctrine is above our comprehension; or we do not see how its harmony with other acknowledged truths can be made out; or wherein its real adaptedness to the purposes of piety and virtue consists. He that receives the Bible as the word of God, receives every truth it contains, not because he can prove it by an appeal to reason, or comprehend it in all its extent and bearings,
*N. Eden. Ency. vol. yü. p. 323.
but because God has proclaimed it to be truth. With this ground of belief he is perfectly satisfied: Nothing short of this can constitute a believer in revelation.
He that will believe nothing contained in the Scripures to be true, but upon the principle that it agrees with his own antecedent notions of the character, counsels and ways of God, and the nature of virtue, does not believe in revelation at all. The Bible is nothis guide, God is not his teacher. He may be a philosopher, but he cannot be a christian.
2. Another indication of this philosophical spirit, is its attempts to explain christian doctrine in such a man. ner that a world lying in wickedness shall no longer pretend to discover inconsistency and absurdity in the system. To a truly enlightened mind, an upright and holy taste, the gospel appears to be not only the power but the wisdom of God to salvation, and it will, when rightly explained, always command the approbation of such a taste. If it appears in a different light to any person, the erroris in his own mind. To set things right, he must experience a great change in his own views and temper. But the wisdom of this philosophy is to bring the Gospel down to the ideas and
dispositions of men, untaught by the Divine Spirit. Thus a strong plea is set up for expunging the doctrine of the Trinity from our faith, because unbelievers pronounce it absurd and incredible, and so it becomes in their view a mighty obstacle in the way of propagating among the nations a religion of perfect wisdom and beneficence. But to succeed in this attempt, we must not stop at this doc. trine. We must proceed in the work of expunging till not one essential principle of the gospel is left. It must be made what it is not, before a world lying in wickedness would cease to object to it as unreasonable. By natural men, men unrenewed in the spirit and temper of their minds, no view of religion can be admit. ted as correct, which does not flatter the mistaken no tions, which they have imbibed of their own native goodness, wisdom, and self-sufficiency. They have no idea of Paul's meaning when he says, “If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise.”—Those of all men most effectually counteract the design of the christian revelation, who undertake to reform the Gospel, instead of reforming the corrupt taste and errors of the world. If the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, then to reduce the Gospel to their view is to turn it into a system of folly.
By those very doctrines which the natural man re. ceiveth not, and to which an unconverted world has, and always will most object, all the triumphs of the Gospel over the Pagan nations have been achieved. Has the Arminian, the Arian, or Socinian system, any thing to boast of, compared to the wonders produced by the Gos. pel in the three first centuries, before any considerable attempts were made by heretics to obliterate from the christian creed the doctrine of man's utier depravity and moral impotence and of a triune God?
3. Another very decisive mark of this spirit, is its attempt to incorporate with the christian system such notions of human liberty and moral agency, as flatter the native pride and self-sufficiency of the human heart, and exclude the necessity of the influence of the Divine Spirit, in the production of holy exercises. Who can entertain a doubt, whether it be christianity or philosophy, that pleads for a self-determining power in the will of man, as essential to the existence of virtue or vice; and insists that an act of choice, to possess a mo. ral nature, must arise in our minds independent of all previous bias to such a choice; yea, independent of the influence of motives, or any external cause whatever; that such a choice must be contingent, or absolutely disconnected with all grounds of a previous certainty of its existence.
Than these, no speculations ever could be more sub. versive of the whole doctrine of the scriptures. Such a thing is a denial of the absolute dominion of Jehovah over the exercises and actions of his creatures. It gives to man an entire moral independence of his Maker, so that nothing as to his present character and conduct, or future destination can be decided by the Divine will and counsel. At one stroke it annihilates all the predictions of the Holy Scriptures; for these relate chiefly to the future volitions, actions, designs and enterprises of men: but if they were utterly contingent: if there could be no previous ground of their certain futurity, how would it be possible they should be fore-known, or foretold, even by the highest possible wisdom.