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When Jerusalem was to be rebuilt, after the captivity of Babylon, the enemies who sought to frustrate that undertaking were active and vigilant in their opposition. Thus tried and hindered, it was necessary that they, unto whom the privileged labour of restoration was committed, should exhibit the union of
courage with industry in their holy work. "They, therefore, which builded the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laboured, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other held a weapon."*
Such a mixture of preparation to resist the inroad of error, with the more immediate object of building up the members of the Church of Christ upon their most holy faith, befits those, unto whom that sacred office is committed.
The latitudinarian spirit of the times, upon the great and essential verities of religion, seem to demand something like the Course of Lectures, of which the following pages form a portion; and something of St. Paul's spirit, when, knowing himself to be set for the defence of the faith, he stood forward against those who would oppose its gracious fulness and freedom, crying, “To whom we gave place by subjection, no not for an hour ; that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.”+ In common, therefore, with others of my Reverend Brethren, I have considered it my duty to draw that Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, in the threatened cause of the truth as it is in Jesus; and to use that weapon from the armoury of heaven, not as handling the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth, commending myself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Concerning every part of this Discourse, I would
* Nehem. iv. 17.
+ Gal. ii. 5.
2 Cor. iv. 2.
say with Cyril of Jerusalem, Μηδέ εμοί τω ταύτα λέγονται απλώς πιστεύσης, εάν την αποδείξιν των καταγγελομένων από θείων μη λάβης γραφών.-Catech. IV.
The following Lecture lays claim to no originality, either of thought or expression. In fact, the ground which I undertook to tread had been already occupied and passed over by so many giants in our earlier and better theology, that any writer, who aimed rather at truth than display, could hardly fail to find his interest in walking by their footsteps; looking to the great lights of wisdom which they held out for the way-faring man; and endeavouring to enkindle his own lamp at their beacon of pure and hallowed learning. I deemed such a course at once more refreshing to myself, and more safe to the hearer or the reader, than to aspire at any distinction from novelty or singularity ; remembering that Ahimaaz had not outrun Cushi, without taking a bypath in his way.
As there was no co-operation among the parties in this Course of Lectures, concerning the plan of conducting them, or the portions of Scripture which should be taken as texts to the various discourses, I abstained from making any acquaintance with what had been said by those who preceded me, except in cases where the nature of the subjects investigated would admit of no collision with my own. In consequence of this self-imposed restraint, there may be some repetitions of argument or sentiment, which might have been otherwise avoided. From this cause I was not aware that my friend the Rev. Hugh M‘Neile had anticipated me in the portion of Scripture upon which I had fixed for elucidating the subject committed to my charge, until several days after his eloquent Discourse had been delivered. When the discovery was made, my own Sermon was too far advanced to allow me the opportunity of recasting it, with the very scanty leisure which many important engagements leave at my disposal.
Some few additions to the Discourse, as preached in Christ Church, will be found by those who, having heard it, may think proper to read the following pages. These additions have been
made, simply with a view to confirm my arguments; and in one or two places to modify opinions, concerning the sentiments of those from whom we differ so widely, which I seemed, on advice and re-consideration, to have perhaps stated somewhat too strongly. The argument, however, remains almost, if not entirely, unaltered.
In common with my Reverend Brethren in this undertaking, I am anxious that the knowledge of divine truth—of that truth which is embodied in the Oracles of God, and, therefore, is able to make men wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus, should be extended by the proceeding. But we have a solicitude, at least as deep and abiding, that this truth should be received in the love of it; otherwise all growth in intellectual stature will be to little purpose. A man may stand higher by the shoulders in knowledge than all his brethren around him, and yet be only Saul at last. “If ye know these things, happy are ye, if ye do them."* It will avail us nothing to learn, by whatever force of testimony, or cogency of argument, that the Eternal Son of God, in our nature, hath made an atonement for sin, if, through our unbelief, the wrath of God is still abiding on us. It will minister nothing to our true happiness to be theoretically persuaded, that He who came to be the Son of Man was the Everlasting Word and Son of God, if we, in turn, will not come unto Him, in the almightiness of his salvation, that we may have life.
I must claim the privilege of saying a few words, applicable to such as may feel a disposition to speculate upon those deep things of God, which come indeed, and of necessity, within the province of a simple faith, but lie immeasurably beyond the grasp of human reason, in this state of our being. This tendency of our minds has led the way to those errors concerning the most solemn truths of Scripture, and the most essential articles of religious belief, with which the Church of Christ has been distracted. The remark holds especially good, in reference to the Unitarian heresy, And perhaps no proof more decisive — I may add, more awful, can well be given, than the confession of Dr. Priestley him
* John xiii. 17.
self, the father of modern Unitarianism :-"I was once a Calvinist, and that of the straitest sect. Afterwards, I became a high Arian, next a low Arian, and then a Socinian: and in a little time a Socinian of the lowest kind, in which Christ is considered as a mere man, the son of Joseph and Mary; and naturally as fallible and peccable as Moses, or any other prophet.” He also informs, us that “he does not know when his creed will be fixed.” It is very seductive to wade, as a man may purpose, into the apparently calm and glassy stream of mere human inquiries concerning the mysteries of religion; but if he surrender himself to its guidance, and lose sight of that prostration of soul before the wisdom of God, which the Holy Spirit commands, as our best and safest guide, he may pass through those shallows wherein the lamb may wade and be refreshed, only to be engulfed in those depths wherein the elephant may be lost.
Facilis descensus Averno;
eyes, that I
Against this seductive and fatal tendency, I know not any defence so mighty as the diligent, humble, prayerful study of the Holy Scriptures,—not partially, or with the view to discover a system ; but to understand the whole counsel of God, so far as it is intelligible ; crying with Job, “What I know not that teach thou me;”+ or with the Psalmist, “ Open mine
may see wondrous things out of thy law.”! To be mighty in the Scriptures is the only mode of being established in the faith of God-of convincing gainsayers—and, through that faith, working by love, of obtaining the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
May the God of truth bring all from error into the light and liberty of his true and spiritual church! May that God establish our hearts in the eternal truths of the Gospel, if we have received them; and enable us to hold that fast which we have, that no man take our crown!
* Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, part II. pp. 33–35. Defence of Unitarianism, for 1787, p. 111, quoted from Fuller and Dwight. † Job xxxiv. 32.
# Ps. cxix. 18,
THE ATONEMENT INDISPENSABLE TO THE NECESSI
TIES OF GUILTY MAN; AND SHOWN TO STAND OR
" FOR ALL HAVE SINNED, AND COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD;
BEING JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE, THROUGH THE REDEMP.
The question has been frequently asked, in the spirit of a spurious and latitudinarian charity, which would cry, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace,” except by the sacrifice of truth and loyalty towards God, “Why should the otherwise smooth and even surface of society be disturbed by the agitations of religious controversy? Why should not the dark and impure admixtures of jarring sects and sentiments be allowed to subside; and the current of relative life, thus cleared and purified, to roll onward in its beauty, until it expanded into an overflow of universal benevolence ?"
If in very deed such mutual forbearance would fulfil the all-gracious import of that blessed Gospel, which proclaims “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,