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are others to which the hearts of natural men rise in opposition.
1. Few, if any, object to moral subjects, because it is a just and general opinion, that all men ought to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Neither Jews nor Greeks would take offence at this kind of preaching, nor even men of vicious characters, unless the preacher should happen to fix on the vices of some of his friends, and censure them with severity : in that case resentment would naturally be excited, and he might expect to be charged with being too pointed or personal in the pulpit, especially if he had previously known on whom the reproof would fall.
In such circumstances, what shall a preacher do ? Shall he cease to expose vice, because some of his friends are vicious ? God forbid! Far bet. ter will it be for him to lose the attachment of the best parishioner he has, and to make a sacrifice of his whole temporal interest, than to be unfaithful to his God, to his conscience, and to the people of his charge. The way for mankind to secure their feelings from injury on such occasions, is for them to be virtuous. But if they will violate the laws of God, and injure society by their wicked examples, they must bear the reproach.
No prudent man will introduce personal matters into the pulpit; nor will an honest man be afraid of commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. However, as moral subjects are generally approved, because agreeable to the reason and nature of things, he has but little to fear on this head, except he should be too evangelical in his manner of treata
ing them ; for the law may be handled evangelically, and the gospel may be preached legally.
2. We may also insist freely on the Christian tempers without giving offence; because, like moral subjects, they command respect from man. kind in general, who readily acknowledge that all men ought to be meek, patient, charitable, ready to forgive, &c. And it is confessed that these are very important subjects, and should frequently be brought into public view, as evidences of the truth of personal religion ; for, “if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” 3. We
without reproach, perhaps, if we touch lightly on the sinfulness of mankind, and assure them, if they do what they can, God will co-operate with their endeavours, and grant them salvation. Such a representation of things is flattering to the pride of man, because it extenuates human depravity, and divides the glory of salvation between Christ and the sinner. In this case the offence of the cross ceaseth.
4. It seems to be a very popular opinion, that articles of faith are of no great importance, provided a man's life be good.' If so, it follows, that it was not necessary that Jesus Christ should come into the world to teach and save mankind; because, according to the above proposition, their salvation might have been accomplished without it. For whether we believe in Jesus Christ or Confucius, is of no consequence, provided the life be good. It amounts therefore to a rejection of divine revelation, particularly of Christianity.
Some persons, upon pretence of the sufficiency of the light of nature, avowedly reject all revel::
tion, as in its very notion incredible, and what must be fictitious; and indeed it is certain no revelation would have been given, had the light of nature been sufficient in such a sense as to render one not wanting and useless. But no man in seriousness and simplicity of mind can possibly think it so, who considers the state of religion in the heathen world before revelation, and its present state in those places which have borrowed no light from it.
“ There are other persons, not to be ranked with these, who seem to be getting in a way of neglecting, and as it were overlooking revelation, as of small importance, provided natural religion be kept to.” With little regard either to the evidence of the former, or to the objections against it, and even upon supposition of its truth, “ the only design of it,” say they, “must be to establish a belief of the moral system of nature, and to enforce the practice of natural piety and virtue. The belief and practice of these things were perhaps much promoted by the first publication of Christianity. But whether they are believed and practised upon the evidence and motives of nature or of revelation, is no great matter."* This way of considering revelation, though it is not the same with the former, yet borders nearly upon it, and runs up into it,t that is, into deism. This, I apprehend, will appear by comparing the principle we oppose, with our Lord's commission to his apostles, (Mark xvi. 15, 16.) “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved ; but he that believeth not, shall be damn
Aug. in Psalm xxxi.
+ Bishop Butler's Analogy.
ed.” To which may be added the following solemn passage of Peter concerning Christ, delivered by him when filled with the Holy Ghost : (Acts iv. 12.) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
If we deny the truth of these scriptures, the charge of deism is fixed on us : if we admit it, we can no longer treat Christianity with indifference, but must confess that it is of infinite im. portance to mankind, both in its principles and practices.
To ascertain what Christianity is, as taught by Christ and his apostles, we must search the New Testament.
The “ foolishness of preaching" mentioned in the text, the apostle explains by saying, preach Christ crucified.” (verse 23.) This general expression comprehends, I suppose, the varie ous subjects of the ministry of the apostles ; which I proceed to consider.
More cannot reasonably be expected under this head, than that the preacher should give a sketch of the plan of apostolic preaching. A full discussion of the subject would fill volumes, and will employ the whole time of the ministers of Christ, provided they are properly attentive to the duties of their profession.
1. The apostles insisted frequently on the great principles called natural religion ; such as the being and attributes of God, his creation and government of the universe, his love of virtue and hatred of vice, and that he will finally render to every man according to his works. These
principles are fundamental to all true religion, and are blended with Christianity, which “is a republication of them: and, which is very material, it teaches natural religion in its genuine simplici. ty; free from those superstitions with which it was totally corrupted, and under which it was in a manner lost.”*
If so, natural religion owes much to Christianity. Besides, it comprehends all the great principles of natural religion, and makes us acquainted with the method of our redemption by Christ, concerning which the light of nature leaves us in total darkness.
Thus viewed, Christianity may be considered as a new edition of natural religion, with addi. tions of the greatest importance to the world. Let mankind determine then, which has the pref. erence, natural religion detached from Christianity, or Christianity as comprehending all the great principles of natural religion in their most pure state, and at the same time revealing to us God's eternal purpose of mercy to sinners through Jesus Christ.
2. The universal corruption of the world is another part of apostolic preaching. In Rom. iii. Paul considers this subject in a most explicit and decided manner, where he takes a comparative view of Jews and Gentiles. " What then ? are we better than they? No, in no wise : for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” And after he had quoted several passages from the Old Testament in support of the affecting truth, he adds, “ Now, we know that what things the law saith, it saith
Bishop Butler's Analogy.