« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
docility of a child, and proceed from the principles of the doctrine of Christ to the contemplation of those higher mysteries, which are reserved for such as “ by reason “ of use have their senses exercised to dis“ cern both good and evily.” He must be desirous of doing, not his own will, but the will of the heavenly Father, that he may “ know of the doctrine, whether it be of “ Godz.” He must not be hasty in drawing his private interpretations, but patient in comparing spiritual things with spiritual, and in weighing well the whole counsel of God; and as a scribe well instructed in “ the
kingdom of heaven,” he must draw “out “ of his treasure things new and olda." He must not aspire to wisdom beyond that which is written, if from the Scriptures he would learn for himself, or proclaim to others the truth as it is in Jesus, if he would speak with precision of the common salvation, or contend earnestly for “the faith delivered at once to the saints b."
y. Heb. v. 12, 14. vi. 1.
2 John vii. 17.
In the acquisition of heavenly wisdom, a man must be cautious in selecting the end to which he proposes to apply it. The Scriptures were not given to exalt a man's reputation in the world; they will not promote any secular interests; they will not bend and turn to the views of a party. The faithful student who consults them for his private satisfaction, will make them the rule of his duty and the standard of his faith and of his hope full of immortality : and he who has occasion to draw from the sources of divine knowledge for the public instruction of others, will direct them to the establishment of an harmonious and consistent faith; to the recommendation of unblemished holiness; to the promotion of love among brethren; and to the consolidation of order, peace, and unity in the Church of God.
III. These legitimate objects and qualifications of the inquirer after scriptural truth may be but little heeded by an inconsiderate and undiscerning multitude. The melancholy effects arising from the neglect of them are but too obvious, and are every day exhibited in the lowered tone of Christian morality, in the want of private charity, in the disunion of the Church through the prevalence of erroneous doctrines, and in the scornful indifference with which a holy zeal for the truth is discountenanced and reviled. Most seasonable and important therefore is it to attend to the warning voice of the beloved disciple; “ Beloved, - believe not every spirit, but try the spi“ rits whether they are of God: because “ many false prophets have gone out into “ the world.” Most seasonable and important is it to adhere to the criterion, which he and his Divine Master have
proposed, of judging them by their fruits, and by their denial or confession of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, that by these means we may distinguish the spirit of Error from the spirit of Truth.
Of the spirits of error and worldly wisdom, none is more deceitful or more imposing, or more successful in his wandering through the earth, than that which recommends a spurious liberality; which teaches that there is no error, or that there is no offence in error; that theological controversy originates in, and is supported by, mutual misapprehension and misrepresentation; that all men are agreed in the acknowledgment of essential doctrines; and that the shades of error are but as the specks and clouds which none but the curious observer can discern, upon the Sun of righteousness and truth. In answer to this master spirit, it may be of use to exhibit the prophecies which speak of specific errors;
ci John iv. 1.
to shew what false prophets are actually in the world; to collect their various sentiments, as far as is possible, from the writings, and to recite the very words of their ostensible advocates and apologists, and to convict them by an appeal to the sense and language of the Scriptures. In pursuing this course with the modernized doctrines of Socinus and of Calvin, with the forms and superstitions of the Church of Rome, with the various ecclesiastical anomalies which had their origin in the convulsions of the sixteenth century, and with the practical manners of those, who, with a professed respect for the form of godliness, are but too destitute of its
power, the chief spirits that are in the world will be brought to trial, and occasion will be afforded to judge of their pretensions whether they are of God. The doctrines of our own Church, exhibited in her Articles and public Formularies, will be submitted to the same examination, that we may not only“ prove all things,” but be persuaded to “hold fast that which is good.” In the proposed method of investigation, two leading evils, which are commonly imputed to the polemic, will be avoided. The citation of the words of other men will obviate the charge of misrepresentation; and the collection of scriptural testimonies and arguments will prevent 'the imputation, that while we reprove the errors of others, we are guilty of preaching ourselves and our own inventions, rather than the unadul. terated truth as it is in Jesus.
It is of importance to allay the apprehensions which may naturally arise in the minds of judicious and reflecting men, that