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"tell you, even weeping, that they are enemies of the "cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose "God is their belly, who mind earthly things." St. Paul had occasion to express himself thus, and that again and again, even in the golden days of primitive Christianity. Could their worst enemies have given them a worse character? Can even malice itself desire to fix a harsher imputation upon any denomination of people now subsisting? Yet these are the words of truth and soberness; the words of an inspired apostle; the words, not of resentment, but grief. He spoke of it weeping; he would willingly have hoped better things; but he knew what tempers and practices were inconsistent with a sincere acceptance of the Gospel; and, unless he would shut his eyes and stop his ears, he could not but be sensible that many, who were reputed Christians, dishonoured the name of Christianity, and caused the ways of truth to be evil spoken of. Now what is the consequence? Shall the apostle bear the blame of the evils and abominations he lamented? for if he had not preached, these evils would not have appeared under
'What disagreeable things the apostle was apprehensive of meeting, when he should revisit Corinth, we may learn from 2 Cor. xii. 20, 21.
The apostle knew that some did or would presume to infer a liberty to sin from the doctrine which he preached, Rom. vi. 1.; yet he would not suppress or disguise the truths of God to prevent such a poor disingenuous perversion. He knew likewise that no one, who had tasted that the Lord is gracious, can either form such a conclusion himself, or listen to it if proposed by others; therefore he thought it unnecessary to refute it at large. "Shall we continue in "sin that grace may abound? God forbid!" This is a sufficient answer. This absurd blasphemy exposes and confutes itself; the terms are inconsistent, impossible, and contradictory in the highest degree.
the Christian name. Shall the wickedness of his pretended followers be charged as the necessary effect of that pure and heavenly doctrine which he had delivered? By no means. The grace of God, which he preached, taught and enabled those who received it in their hearts, "to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, 'righteously, and godly in the present world." If inquiry was made concerning the tendency of his doctrine, he could appeal to the tempers and lives of multitudes, who had been thereby delivered from the love and power of sin, and filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. But it was likewise true that they were still encumbered with a depraved nature; they were in a world full of temptations and snares; and, as their numbers were very great, some instances had occurred of persons sincerely well disposed, who had too visibly declined from the rule by which they professed and desired to walk. Against their mistakes and faults he watchfully directed his exhortations and admonitions, as occasions offered; and they were generally attended with a good effect, to convince, humble, and restore the offenders, and to increase their circumspection for the time to come. It was true likewise, that there were some gathered by the preaching of the Gospel into the number of professors, who were not effectually called and changed by the Spirit of God. These, though for a time they had a name to live, were no better than dead; and one reason why the Lord permitted the offences and divisions we have mentioned to take place was, that, by the means of such heresies, those that were approved might be made manifest, and the chaff
separated from the wheat. For, though the ignorant world would call even those persons Christians whose conduct proved them enemies to the cross of Christ, yet time, the test of truth, unanswerably evinced the difference. Thus St. John, who lived some years after the rest of the apostles, and saw many turn their backs upon the teachers and doctrines they had once owned, has observed to this purpose-" They went out from "us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of
us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us; "but they went out that they might be made manifest, "that they were not all of us.' In a word, there were too many pretenders; some things amiss where the heart and views were right in the main; and imperfections in the best. The scorners and cavillers, who hated the light of the Gospel, and were always in search of something to confirm their prejudices against it, met with much answerable to their wishes, even in the first and best churches; but to men of candour, who were ingenuous seekers of the truth, the spirituality, humility, and brotherly love that prevailed among the Christians, and the powerful effects of their public ordinances, demonstrated that the truth was on their side, and that God was assuredly with them.
We offer the same apology, the same train of reasoning, in behalf of what is now so generally deemed the foolishness of preaching. The doctrines we defend, which some (who cannot do it ignorantly) have the effrontery to misrepresent as novel opinions, are, we doubt not, the doctrines of Christ and his apostles, and, in substance, the doctrines taught from the word of God, by Wickliffe, Luther, and the venerable reformers of our
k1 John, ii, 19.
own church. We preach Christ crucified, Christ the end of the law for righteousness, and the power of God for sanctification, to every one that believeth. We preach salvation by grace through faith in his blood, and we are sure that they who receive this doctrine unfeignedly, will, by their lives and conversations, demonstrate it to be a doctrine according to godliness. They are not indeed delivered from infirmities, they are liable to mistakes and indiscretions, and see more amiss in themselves than their worst enemies can charge them with. But sin is their burden, they sigh to be delivered from it, and they expect a complete redemption. We cannot, indeed, say so much for all who outwardly avow a belief of this doctrine: there are pretenders, who, while they profess to believe in God, in works deny him but it has been so from the beginning. The miscarriages of such persons are charged indiscriminately upon the societies among whom they are mixed, and upon the truths which they seem to approve; but there is a righteous God, who in due time will vindicate his own Gospel and his own people from all aspersions. St. Paul observed such things in his day, and he spoke of them likewise, but he spoke of them weeping. The true state of the mind may be determined from the temper with which the miscarriages of professors are observed. The profane expatiate on them with delight, the self-righteous with disdain; but they who know themselves and love the Lord, cannot speak of them without the sincerest emotions of grief. They are concerned for the honour of the Gospel, which is defamed under this pretence; 'they are grieved for the unhappy and dangerous state of those by whom such offences come; and they fear for themselves, lest the enemy should gain an advantage over them likewise
for they know they have no strength nor goodness of their own. Therefore, avoiding unnecessary reflections on others, they endeavour to maintain a watchful jealousy over themselves, and to fix their hearts and hopes upon Christ Jesus their Lord; who, they are persuaded, is able to keep them from falling, to save them to the uttermost, and at length to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.
Of the Heresies propagated by false Teachers in the
In this view our Lord Wherever it is preached, according to the distribu
THE parables in the thirteenth chapter of St. Matthew are prophetical of the reception and event of the Gospel in succeeding ages. himself has explained them. the hearers may be classed tion in the parable of the sower. Some hear without understanding or reflection. In some it excites a hasty emotion in the natural affections, and produces an observable and sudden change in their conduct, resembling the effects of a real conversion to God; but the truth not being rooted in the heart, nor the soul united to Christ by a living faith, these hopeful appearances are, sooner or later, blasted and come to nothing. Others are really convinced in their judgement of the truth and importance of what they hear; but their hearts cleave to the dust, and the love of this world, the care of what they have, the desire of what they have not, the calls of business, or the solicitations of