Imágenes de páginas


borious examination of the Scriptures, was led to my respect to you, give you a particular account of take of some of the leading doctrines of Chris- the occasion of it. tianity, appear to have been substantially the same * The beginning of the year in which it was as those of Milton and Sir Isaac Newton. Truth published, the controversy that made so much was, on all occasions, the object of his researches : noise and heat amongst some of the Dissenters, he valued it above all things; and the diligence coming one day accidentally into my mind, drew of his inquiries was proportioned to the import- ne, by degrees, into a stricter and more thorough ance of their aim. But, that he should always inquiry into the question about justification. The have attained to the knowledge of truth, who Scripture was direct and plain ; and it was faith shall affirm? particularly on those awful subjects that justified: the next question then was, What where the vast interests every man has at stake faith that was that justified; what it was which, render it incumbent on him to trust the decisions if a man believed, it should be imputed to him for of no judgment but his own; which, considering righteousness? To find out this, I thought the the natural inequalities discoverable in human in- right way was, to search the Scriptures; and tellect, and the wonderful diversities of human thereupon betook myself seriously to the readcharacter, must necessarily give rise to error; ing of the New Testament, only to that pur. though doubtless the sincere seeker will always pose. What that produced, you and the world find so much of truth as may be necessary to his have seen. eternal salvation. “A holy life,” says Jeremy “ The first view I had of it seemed mightily to Taylor, “will make our belief holy, if we consult satisfy my m in the reasonableness and plainnot humanity and its imperfections in the choice ness of this doctrine ; but yet the general silence of our religion, but search for truth without de- I had in my little reading met with, concerning signs, save only of acquiring, heaven, and then be any such thing, awed me with apprehension of as careful to preserve charity, as we are to get singularity, till going on in the gospel history, the a point of faith. I am much persuaded we should whole tenor of it made it so clear and visible, find out more truths by this means ; or however that I more wondered that every body did not see (which is the main of all) we shall be secured and embrace it, than that I should assent to what though we miss them; and then we are well was so plainly laid down, and so frequently incul

cated in holy writ, though systems of divinity This was the course pursued by Locke in com- tisfaction was, that it led me into a discovery of

said nothing of it. That which added to my saposing the Reasonableness of Christianity. He the marvellous and divine wisdom of our Saviour's had discovered the inconsistencies and unsatisfactoriness of the ordinary systems of divinity ; and conduct, in all the circumstances of his promulnot to consult “ humanity and its imperfections” gating this doctrine ; as well as of the necessity in the choice of his religion, he betook himself to that such a lawgiver should be sent froin God for the diligent study of the Scriptures, which he the reforming the morality of the world; two found to contain doctrines clear and intelligible, fully and advantageously explained in the books

points that, I must confess, I had not found so and adapted to the apprehension of the bulk of mankind. From the title and general tone of the of divinity I had met with, as the history of the work, we should have inferred that it was chiefly to give occasion

and matter for. But the neces

gospel seemed to me, upon an attentive perusa), addressed to those professors of Christianity who overlook its precepts to dwell upon its mysteries, trine (which he came to publish) as he did, in

sity and wisdom of our Saviour's opening the docand seem desirous of setting faith and reason in opposition to each other ; who think they can such a thread of evidence through the whole his

parables and figurative ways of speaking, carries never have enough to believe, though far too tory of the evangelists, as I think is impossible to much to practice ; who, confident in ther imagin; be resisted ; and makes it a demonstration, that ed strength, rush in “where angel's fear to tread;" the sacred historians did not write by concert, as enter dogmatically into the secret designs and purposes of God; rashly seek to lift the veil from advocates for a bad cause, or to give colour and those things which“ eye hath not seen, nor ear world; since they, every one of them, in some

credit to an imposture, they would usher into the heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive;" and, not even yet content, set them- place or other, omit some passages of our Saviselves up as infallible in their way, and require all our's life, or circumstances of his actions, which men to adopt their opinions, and hazard their sal- show the wisdom and wariness of his conduct; vation on the soundness of their judgments. This and which even those of the evangelists who have is what, from a perusal of the work, we should recorded, do barely and transiently mention, withhave supposed. But

, in the preface to the Second out laying any stress on them, or making the least Vindication, Locke himself gives us the history of remark of what consequence they are, to give us the book, and an explanation of his views in com- truth of their history. These are evidences of

our Saviour's true character, and to prove the posing it. Addressing himself to the Rev. Mr. Bold, who, without being personally acquainted

truth and sincerity, which result alone from the with him, had undertaken his defence, he says: nature of things, and cannot be produced by any

art or contrivance. —“ Since you seem to me to comprehend what I have laid together, with the same disposition of

“How much I was pleased with the growing mind, and in the same sense that I received it discovery, every day, whilst I was employed in from the holy Scriptures, I shall, as a mark of this search, I need not say. The wonderful har

mony, that the farther I went disclosed itself, tend

ing to the same points, in all the parts of the sacred * Liberty of Prophesying, p. 5. history of the gospel, was of no small weight with

me and another person, who, every day, from the The reader, acquainted with the circumstances beginning to the end of my search, saw the pro- of the philosopher's life, aware of the extent of his gress of it, and knew at my first setting out that knowledge, the brilliance of his genius, the singuI was ignorant whither it would lead me; and lar vigor and keenness of his judgment, his love therefore, every day, asked me, what more the of truth, and indefatigable diligence in the search Scripture had taught me ? So far was I from the of it, may now proceed with confidence to the thoughts of Socinianism, or an intention to write study of the Reasonableness of Christianity. He for that or any other party, or to publish any thing will find in the language a plainness and simpliat all. But when I had gone through the whole, city reflected from the Scriptures themselves. No and saw what a plain, simple, reasonable thing opinion is advanced but what seems based on Christianity was, suited to all conditions and ca. some text: no fine-spun inferences are drawn pacities; and in the morality of it now, with di- from doubtful expressions. The discourses of vine authority, established into a legible law, so Christ and his apostles, as far as possible accordfar surpassing all that philosophy and human rea- ing to the order of time, are examined, compared, son had attained to, or could possibly make effec- and explained, sometimes from the circumstances tual to all degrees of mankind, I was flattered to under which they were delivered, sometimes from think it might be of some use in the world ; espe- their reference to the general scheme of Christicially to those who thought either that there was anity, but always without any attempt at straining no need of revelation at all

, or that the revelation their meaning, or any of those disingenuous arts of our Saviour required the belief of such articles common among the framers of systems. Occafor salvation, which the settled notions and their sionally, indeed, he appears to mistake the intenway of reasoning in some, and want of under- tion of Scripture : but, not being sure of our own standing in others, made impossible to them. interpretation, it would be presumption to decide Upon these two topics the objections seemed to he must every where be wrong where we think turn, which were with most assurance made by him so; though we claim for ourselves the liberty Deists against Christianity; but against Christia- he demanded, to examine his examination, and nity misunderstood. It seemed to me, that there draw our own conclusions. needed no more to show them the weakness of their exceptions, but to lay plainly before them the

J. A. St. J. doctrine of our Saviour and his apostles, as delivered in the Scriptures, and not as taught by the several sects of Christians.”

London, December, 1835.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]


The little satisfaction and consistency that is to 2. To one that thus unbiassed reads the Scripbe found in most of the systems of divinity I have tures, what Adam fell from, is visible, was the met with, made me betake myself to the sole read- state of perfect obedience, which is called justice ing of the Scripture (to which they all appeal) for in the New Testament, though the word which in the understanding the Christian religion. What the original signifies justice, be translated rightefrom thence, by an attentive and unbiassed search ousness : and by this fall he lost paradise, wherein I have received, reader, I here deliver to thee. was tranquillity and the tree of life; that is, he If by this my labor thou receivest any light or con- lost bliss and immortality. The penalty annexed firmation in the truth, join with me in thanks to to the breach of the law, with the sentence prothe Father of Lights, for his condescension to our nounced by God upon it, shows this. The penalty understandings. If, upon a fair and unprejudiced stands thus : " In the day that thou eatest thereof examination, thou findest I have mistaken the thou shalt surely die.” How was this executed ? sense and tenor of the gospel, I beseech thec, as He did eat; but in the day he did eat, he did not a true Christian, in the spirit of the gospel (which actually die, but was turned out of paradise from is that of charity) and in the words of sobriety, set the tree of life, and shut out for ever from it, lest me right in the doctrine of salvation.

he should take thereof and live for ever. This 1. It is obvious to any one who reads the New shows that the state of paradise was a state of Testament, that the doctrine of redemption, and immortality, of life without end, which he lost that consequently of the gospel, is founded upon the very day that he cat.* His life began from thence supposition of Adam's fall. To understand, therefore, what we are restored to by Jesus Christ, we * The question here discussed is one upon which must consider what the Scripture shows we lost the varieties of opinion are almost as numerous as by Adam. This I thought worthy of a diligent the persons who have treated of it. Milton, whose and unbiassed search; since I found the two ex- theoretical notions underwent, in the course of his tremes that men run into on this point, either on life, numerous alterations, always tending from the the one hand shook the foundations of all religion, the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, knew not

more fanatical to the less, evidently, when he wrote or on the other made Christianity almost nothing. what to think of the state into which Adam fell by For whilst some men would have all Adam's pos- his transgression ; but, like the erring spirits, terity doomed to eternal infinite punishment, for the transgression of Adam, whom millions had

" Reasoned high never heard of, and no one had authorized to Of fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute, transact for him, or be his representative; this And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.” seemed to others so little consistent with the justice or goodness of the great and infinite God, which is named of Arminius, are wont to accuse

" The Jesuits," he says, " and that sect among us that they thought there was no redemption ne us,” (be was now a Presbyterian,)“ of making God cessary, and consequently that there was none, the author of sin, in two degrees especially, not to rather than admit of it upon a supposition so de- speak of his permission : first, because we hold, that rogatory to the honor and attributes of that Infi- he hath decreed some to damnation, and consenite Being; and so made Jesus Christ nothing quently to sin, say they; next, because ihose means, but the restorer and preacher of pure natural reli- which are of saving knowledge to others, he makes gion ; thereby doing violence to the whole tenor to them an occasion of greater sin. Yet, considerof the New Testament: and, indeed, both sides ing the perfection wherein man was created, and, will be suspected to have trespassed this way, but subsequent, 'though not in time, yet in order to

might have stood, no decree necessitating his free-will, against the written word of God, by any one who does but take it to be a collection of writings de- methinks, be persuaded to absolve both God and us.

causes which were in his own power ; they might, signed by God for the instruction of the illiterate Whenas the doctrine of Plato and Chrysippus, with bulk of mankind in the way to salvation ; and their followers, the Academics and the Stoics, knew therefore generally and in necessary points to be not what a consummate and most adorned Pandora understood in the plain direct meaning of the was bestowed upon Adam to be the nurse and guide words and phrases, such as they may be supposed of his arbitrary happiness and perseverance; I mean to have had in the mouths of the speakers, who his native innocence and perfection, which might used them according to the language of that time have kept him from being our true Epimetheus; and country wherein they lived, without such and though they taught of virtue and vice to be both learned, artificial, and forced senses of them as

the gift of divine destiny, they could yet give rea

sons not invalid, to justify the councils of God and are sought out, and put upon them in most of the fate from the insulsity of mortal tongues: that man's systems of divinity, according to the notions that own free-will, self-corrupted, is the adequate and each one has been bred up in.

sufficient cause of his disobedience besides fate ; as

to shorten and waste, and to have an end ; and man nature in his postsrity it is strange that the from thence to his actual death, was but like the New Testament should not any where take notice time of a prisoner between the sentence passed of it, and tell us, that corruption seized on all beand the execution, which was in view and cer- cause of Adam's transgression, as well as it tells tain ; death then entered and showed his face, us so of death. But, as I remember, every one's which before was shut out and not known. So sin is charged upon himself only. St. Paul, “By one man sin entered into the world, 5. Another part of the sentence was, “Cursed and death by sin ;"* that is a state of death and is the ground for thy sake ; in sorrow shalt thou mortality: and, “in Adam all die ;”that is, by eat of it all the days of thy life; in the sweat of reason of his transgression all men are mortal, and thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto come to die.

the ground ; for out of it wast thou taken: dust 3. This is so clear in these cited places, and so thou art, and to dust shalt thou return.' This much the current of the New Testament, that no- shows that paradise was a place of bliss as well body can deny, but that the doctrine of the gospel as immortality, without toil and without sorrow. is, that death came on all men by Adam's sin ; But when man was turned out, he was exposed to only they differ about the signification of the word the toil, anxiety, and frailties of this mortal life, death. For some will have it to be a state of which should end in the dust, out of which he was guilt, wherein not only he but all his posterity was made, and to which he should return; and then so involved, that every one descended of him de- have no more life or sense than the dust had, out served endless torment in hell-fire. I shall say of which he was made. nothing more here, how far, in the apprehensions 6. As Adam was turned out of paradise, so all of men, this consists with the justice and goodness his posterity was born out of it; out of the reach of God, having mentioned it above: but it seems of the tree of life. All, like their father Adam, a strange way of understanding a law which re- in a state of mortality, void of the tranquillity quires the plainest and directest words, that by and bliss of paradise. “ By one man sin entered death should be meant eternal life in misery. – into the world, and death by sin.” But here will Could any one be supposed by a law that says, occur the common objection, that so many stumble “ for felony thou shalt die," not that he should lose at :—How doth it consist with the justice and his life, but be kept alive in perpetual exquisite tor- goodness of God, that the posterity of Adam ments? And would any one think himself fairly should suffer for his sin; the innocent be punished dealt with, that was so used?

for the guilty? Very well, if keeping one from 4. To this they would have it be also a state of what he has no right to, be called a punishment. necessary sinning, and provoking God in every The state of immortality in paradise is not due action that men do: a yet harder sense of the to the posterity of Adam more than to any other word death than the other. God says, “That in creature. Nay, if God afford them a temporary the day that thou eatest of the forbidden fruit, mortal life, it is his gift, they owe it to his bounty, thou shalt die;" that is, thou and thy posterity they could not claim it as their right, nor does he shall be ever after incapable of doing any thing, injure them when he takes it from them. Had but what shall be sinful and provoking to me, and he taken from mankind any thing that was their shall justly deserve my wrath and indignation.- right; or did he put men in a state of misery Could a worthy man be supposed to put such worse than not being, without any fault or demerit terms upon the obedience of his subjects? Much of their own; this, indeed, would be hard to reless can the righteous God be supposed, as a pun- concile with the notion we have of justice, and ishment of one sin wherewith he is displeased, to much more with the goodness and other attributes put a man under a necessity of sinning con lly of the Supreme Being, which he has declared of and so multiplying the provocation. The reason himself, and reason as well as revelation must acof this strange interpretation we shall perhaps find knowledge to be in him; unless we will confound in some mistaken places of the New Testament. good and evil, God and Satan. That such a I must confess, by death here I can understand state of extreme irremediable torment is worse nothing but a ceasing to be, the losing of all ac- than no being at all

, if every one's sense did not tions of life and sense. Such a death came on determine against the vain philosophy, and foolish Adam and all his posterity, by his first disobe- metaphysics of some men ;* yet our Saviour's dience in paradise ; under which death they should have lain for ever, had it not been for the * To what metaphysicians he alludes I am ignoredemption by Jesus Christ. If by death threat- rant; but though, once born and conscious of existened to Adam were meant the corruption of hu- ence, we all vehemently abhor to leave the warm

precincts of the cheerful day," and lie for ever in

cold obstruction" and Lethean sleep, we must Homer also wanted not to express, both in his Iliad doubtless humbly acquiesce in the truth and wisdom and Odyssey. And Manilius the poet, although in of our Saviour's decision. Our feelings, however, his fourth book he tells of some 'created both to sin on the subject, depend greatly on our personal chaand punishment;' yet without murmuring, and with racter. Moloch, à fierce and savage spirit, covets an industrious cheerfulness, he acquits the Deity." annihilation :Book i. ch. 3. And so Manilius might well do, be

" What doubt we to incense cause the pagan notions of deity and fate were most His utmost ire ? which to the height enraged, obscure and confused; for, to those best acquainted

Will either quite consume us, and reduce with ancient philosophy, it will, ( doubt not, appear, To nothing this essential, happier far that what they called fate, we call God, their reveal- Than miserable to have eternal being: ed separate divinities being only the high ministers Or if our substance be indeed divine, of this sovereign power of ibe universe. -Ed.

And cannot cease to be, we are at worst * Rom. v. 12. * 1 Cor. xv. 22.

On this side nothing."

« AnteriorContinuar »