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of God," has subjoined a paper from which I shall make a quotation which will enable me to leave my worthy old master in good company, or, rather, to show that the Rev. John Ryland, in his "extremes and opposites" is only a paraphrast of lord Bacon, in his "Christian Paradoxes."
"The characters of a believing christian in paradoxes and seeming contradictions.
"He believes three to be one, and one to be three; a father not to be older than his son, a son to be equal with his father; and one proceeding from both to be equal with both; he believing three persons in one nature, and two natures in one person.
"He believes a virgin to be a mother of a son, and that very son of hers to be her maker. He believes him to have been shut up in a narrow room whom heaven and earth could not contain. He believes him to have been born in time who was and is from everlasting. He believes him to have been a weak child, carried in arms, who is the Almighty, and him once to have died who only hath life and immortality in himself."
Should these passages, and those before quoted, offend, as they can hardly fail to do, some pious and considerate minds, let them remember that they are not the words of reputed heresy attempting to represent, and, so, liable to the charge of misrepresenting orthodoxy; but, on the contrary, the language of orthodoxy representing herself. Protestants have generally agreed to assail, either with sarcasm or grave censure, as the occasion might encourage, those professors of christianity who, impious, eat their God." With what consistency the majority of protestants have so assailed the papists, I am at a loss to discover. Give me
leave to explain myself by offering a remark on a passage in the affecting story of lady Jane Grey, as I find it in Dr. Gibbon's " Memoirs of Pious Wo. men."
"Lady Jane was early instructed in the principles of the reformed religion, which she seriously and attentively studied, and for which she was extremely zealous; and this, together with her other excellent and amiable accomplishments, greatly endeared her to king Edward. Her dislike of popery, parti cularly in one of its worst abominations, that of idolatry, was shown, as it is credibly reported of her, when she was very young. Upon a visit to the princess (afterwards queen) Mary, at New Hall, in Essex, she took a walk with lady Anne Wharton. Happening to pass by the chapel, lady Anne made a low courtesy to the host; at which lady Jane expressed some surprise, and asked whether the princess Mary was there? Lady Anne answered, No, but I made my courtesy to him who made us all.' Why,' replied lady Jane, how can that which has been made by the baker be he who made us all?' This speech of hers, it is said, being carried to the princess Mary, gave her a dislike to the lady Jane, which she retained ever after."
I am persuaded that no protestant has ever read this anecdote without applauding the ingenuity of lady Jane Grey, which, so far as appears, completely silenced her companion. Yet, had lady Wharton attempted a defence, the disputants agreeing that Jesus Christ, who was supposed to be resident in the host, was both God and man, her case would have been by no means desperate. She might easily have shown that the distinction, however great, between a man liable to hunger and the bread which sustained him, was lost in the comparison with him who made us all." Thus the
orthodox protestant and the orthodox papist were equally justified in worshiping representations of Deity, or both involved in the same absurdity." I remain yours, &c.
BY an adherence to first principles in religion is not meant an adherence to the first opinions we may happen to form on divine subjects; for they may, on further examination, be found erroneous; much less a blind and obstinate perseverance in the particular sentiments in which we have been educated, or which may be contended for as orthodox, by any particular denomination of christians; nor a determined adherence to what this or that party may call essential doctrines of the gospel; for all men are fallible; but a steady adherence to what, on serious and impartial examination, we discover to be the first principles of christianity as stated by Jesus and his apostles; which we shall find to be admitted by all the serious professors of the gospel.
Prop. I. Various corruptions of christian doctrine, much superstition in practice, and many unchristian divisions have been produced, by christians not adhering to the first principles of their religion.
For instance, had all the professors of the gospel, from the first introduction of christianity, strictly adhered to the doctrine of one God, as plainly stated in the sacred writings, the manifold corruptions of that fundamental principle of religion could not have existed; but, professing still to retain the belief of one God, in their reasonings concerning the nature and mode of his existence, they indulged in conjectures, and adopted inferences and conclusions, manifestly hostile to the divine unity. Had they regulated their inquiries, and bridled their conjectures, by the plain declarations of the sacred writers, taken in their most obvious sense, the world had never been distracted with their unintelligible definitions, and perplexing expositions of a trinity of persons in one undivided being notions incompatible with the plain teaching of the author of our religion, and which shock reason and common sense, had, in that case, remained unknown.
Again, had the rational and scriptural doctrine of the divine unity been closely adhered to, christians could not have fallen into the superstitious practice of offering divine worship to other beings, real or imaginary, beside the only living and true God, nor have imagined distinct objects of worship in
one undivided being. The root of that widespread superstition, which has for so many ages debased christianity, could never have stricken, in a christian soil, had not the professors of the gospel, in their expositious reasonings and conclusions, deviated from that first principle of all religious truth, the unity of God. Leaving this first principle, they soon lost themselves in a labyrinth of inexplicable mysteries, and the door was opened to the most absurd superstitions.
Endless divisions among christians was the consequence of departing from the first principles of the gospel, and introducing, as essentials of christianity, doctrines built upon inferences, and an arbitrary exposition of ambiguous words, and figurative passages of scripture. Had they been content to regard as the only fundamentals of religion those plain and simple truths which the gospel renders obvious to the common sense of mankind, brought every thing ambiguous, or which depended on inferential reasoning, to the test of those truths, and continued to walk in purity and love, the whole body of christians might have remained firmly united, and christianity would not have been disgraced by a hundred unchristian divisions. The consideration of the evils which have arisen from inattention to first principles should impress on our minds a sense of the necessity of adhering to them.
Prop. II. A due attention to the first principles of christianity will enable the unlearned christian to detect the errors which still remain among the