« PreviousContinue »
judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may re"ceive the things done in his body, according to "what he hath done, whether it be good or bad," you tell them that, if they have the smallest portion of true grace (which you aver to be sovereign, i. e. arbitrary), they shall certainly be saved; but, if they are never so happy as to be made partakers of this grace (which, being sovereign, doth not at all depend upon any thing they can do), they must inevitably be lost: that is, those who are lost are lost for want of grace, and not because they did the evil which they might have avoided, and omitted to do the good which they might have done*. You tell them, further, that they must never expect to recommend themselves to God by any thing they can perform: a piece of doctrine which doth not seem to correspond very well, either with the passage just quoted, or with the exhortation of the same apostle, addressed to the Thessalonians, as follows: "We beseech you, brethren, and exhort
you by the lord Jesus, that as ye have received "of us how ye ought to walk, and to please God, "so ye would abound more and more." And yet it must be owned, that you express great disapprobation of the conduct of such as think to be accepted of God without the practice of what is good. I look upon this as a very happy inconsistency, resulting from the principles of that nature,
You may possibly say, with some, that wicked men can abstain from evil, and do good, if they will; while yet you affirm they cannot will. But surely a man cannot do what he cannot will to do. To tell him he can is to insult him.
which (however you may depreciate and vilify it) is the excellent workmanship of God, his rich and invaluable gift.
A manner of preaching so very opposite to this leading doctrine of the gospel, that we shall be dealt with according to our behaviour in the present state of trial and discipline, appears to me so contrary to the intention of preaching, that it is not likely I should receive much benefit from it: cspecially it is not likely, as I consider it liable to the preceding objections.
And now, sir, I have given you my reasons for non-attendance upon your ministry. It is not because I have a dislike to public worship; so far from it, I cannot help thinking it a misfortune to be thus debarred from what I esteem a great and desirable privilege. I should rejoice to join with my fellow-christians in such worship as I think agreeable to the true spirit of christianity: but were I to join with you, I should, in many instances, wrong my conscience; and, in barely giving attendance, I cannot avoid being hurt, more or less, by what I hear. When I do attend, I endeavour to make the most of what I approve, join in the worship where I can, and pay a particular regard to your sincerity and upright meaning. If it should be asked, why I attended constantly so long; I did it because I was afraid of setting a bad example, or rather what might be so construed. But, on further consideration, there seems no great reason to fear this, as it is well known that I do not make the day a day of pleasure: and I hope,
and am persuaded, that my absence is not suspect. ed to proceed from a disregard to religion.
In this letter, sir, I have not scrupled to declare my sentiments of your opinions with a great deal of frankness: you may possibly think, too much; but the case required it. And I doubt not you would have been as free with my principles, if you had written to me on the subject. I had in view the honour of God, and the christian religion, as well as the justification of my own conduct. I assure you, that I neither intended, nor do intend, any thing like hostility; for, however much I may think you mistaken, as a man I esteem and respect you; and have not designedly failed to show my respect upon proper occasions, when you were either present or absent. I now beg leave to offer you my best wishes, and subscribe myself, &c.
Members of the Church of England,
PERMIT me to address you on a subject of the greatest importance to a sincere believer in Christ. I observe that many of you, every seventh day, frequent some place set apart for religious worship. You there profess to offer up
prayers to the Being who created the world. Whatever may be the laws or customs of your different places of worship, you presume that they are founded on the holy scriptures. Any thing contrary to those scriptures ought not, you think, to be admitted into your worship.
Are you then worshippers of God, or not? It is a serious question. Let me persuade you to give it a moment's consideration. The words which Christ used, in answer to a Jewish inquirer after the first commandment of the law, may assist you in your thoughts. "Hear, O Israel! the
"Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love "the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with "all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment*." I bring you to this test: do you really worship that God, of whom Christ speaks, or do you not?
Before I examine this point, let me observe to you what I have seen, or heard, in your places of worship. In the episcopal churches, a form of prayer is used, in which are the following words: O God the son, redeemer of the world;-O God the holy ghost;-O holy, blessed, and glorious trinity, three persons and one god, have mercy upon us miserable sinners ;-O lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us: and, in many similar passages, prayers are addressed to Jesus Christ, to the holy ghost, and to the trinity. In most also of the places of worship belonging to the dissenters, prayers are offered up to Jesus Christ, to the holy ghost, and to the trinity.
* Mark, xii. 29.
Now, brethren, if Jesus Christ be not God, if the holy ghost be not God, if the trinity be not God, you are guilty of a breach of Christ's commandments in praying to them; and if you pray to all these, you err grievously, for Jesus Christ tells us, that "the Lord our God is one Lord;" to which great truth Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, bear witness.
Of whom then did Christ speak? The words are taken from Deut. 6th chap. 4th ver.; and, literally translated, are, "Jehovah our God is one Jehovah." Jehovah is the name by which God made himself known to Moses; Jehovah created the heavens and the earth; Jehovah called Abraham ; spake to Moses; revealed himself to the prophets; was worshipped by the Jewish nation. Throughout the whole of the Old Testament, Jehovah declares himself to be one, and that there is no other God beside him: the children of Israel, while they obeyed him, worshipped him as the one and only true God; and when they mixed with the worship of Jehovah that of idols, they were brought to their senses by severe punishments. When Christ preached to the Jews, Jehovah was the object of their worship; of him also Christ bears witness, namely, that Jehovah is the only true God; that there is no one good but him*; that he is his God and Fathert; that Jehovah his Father is greater than he‡.
These few passages of scripture are, I should
*Matt. xix. 17.
John xiv. 28.
+ Matt. xi. 25. John xx. 17.