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cannot be the mother of piety. Thougii the Jews had every thing in their favour, but ignorance; yet that alone was incompatible with vital piety. And the ignorance of thousands and thousands since, has undoubtedly proved fatal to them. The knowledge of the great and peculiar doctrines of the gospel, is essential to saving grace, or vital piety.
3. If merc ignorance of the essential doctrines of the gospel be incompatible with vital piety, then those who are ignorant of the essential doctrines of the gospel, cannot give credible evidence to others, that they are real Christians or subjects of saving grace. The Scribes and Pharisees and Jews in general, publicly professed religion, and appeared devout and zealous in their religious services and exertions ; but all these things did not convince the apostle, that they had any true religion or vital piety, inerely because they were ignorant of the pure and peculiar doctrines of the gospel. And while they were in this state of ignorance, what more could they have done that they did not do, to convince the apostle that they were real saints? And what more can any persons at this day do, to convince others, that they are real Christians, while they avow their ignorance of, and opposition to the essential doctrines of the gospel? They cannot do any more than the Jews did. But men are generally more catholic and charitable now, than the apostle Paul was. How often do we now hear pious and intelligent Christians say, that they believe such and such a man is a real Christian, though he is apparently ignorant of the true character of God, of the true spirit of the law, of the true nature of his own moral depravity, of the true character of the Saviour, and of the true terms of salvation through faith in his atonement of sin ? Mere igcorance of these essential doctrines of the gospel, and even open opposition to them, is no bar to their charity for him as a pious Christian. There are thousands in this land, who are such ignorant and heretical professors of religion: and yet many pious and intelligent Christians will believe, that they are really and eniinently pious. No inan was a more bitter and open enemy to the essential doctrines of the gospel than Mr. Wesley. This I assert not from hearsay, but from his own words which he published, and I have read. Yet he was esteemned by multitudes as a most eminently deyout and pious Christian, and his followers are still viewed in the same light. How often do we hear it said, that no mart will be condemned, on account of the denomination to which he belongs, nor on account of any false sentiments, which he sincerely and devoutly embraces; because he may still be a very devout and eminent Christian. But I ask again, how it is possible, that those who are ignorant of, and opposed to the essential doctrines of the gospel, can give credible evidence to others, that they are truly pious ? To me it appears impossible. For though they may profess religion, though they may practice the external duties of religion, and though they may have religious affections, yet it is certain that their religious affections are placed upon a false idea of God, upon a false idea of the divine law, upon a false idea of their own depravity, upon a false idea of the Saviour, and upon a false idea of the terins of salvation; and such affections must be as false as the objects upon which they are placed. It is, therefore, out of their power to give credible evidence to others, that they have any true love to God, or to Christ, or to the gospel. The ignorance and error of such persons plainly contradict and destroy all the evidence they can give to others, that they are real saints or truly pious.
4. It appears from this discourse, that we are in danger, at this day, of exercising an unscriptura! charity or catholicism towards nominal professors of religion. We are loudly and solemnly ca!led upon by sermons and religious publications to extend our charity to almost all denominations of Christians, and to hold Christian communion and fellowship with them, and to lay aside all bigotry and censoriousness in respect to those who differ from us in their relig, ious sentiments. It is undoubtedly our duty to lay aside all bigotry and censoriousness, and to become as benevolent, candid, and charitable towards all religious denominations as the apostle Paul was, but not to go beyond the example he has set us. He did not exercise charity towards his dear Jewish brethren, but viewed them as visible sinners, and not as visible saints, and exposed to perish forever. He exhorted true Christians to withhold their charity from them, and avoid fellowship and communion with them. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers : for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? and what communion hath light with darkness ? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” The distinction between saints and sinners is as great now as ever it was, and the visibility of this distinction is as great now as ever it was. The apostle's exhortation to Christians in his day, applies to Christians at this day. Those at this day who are ignorant of, and opposed to the essential doctrines of the gospel, are not visible saints, but visible sinners. Are there not yarious denominations of Christians at this day, who professedly disbelieve and openly oppose the essential doctrines of the gospel ? Do they not disbelieve and oppose the true character of God, the true spirit of the law, the real depravity of their own hearts, the true character of Christ, and the true terms of salvation ? Or, to put these ideas in different words, Do they not disbelieve and oppose the doctrine of disine sovereignty, the doctrine of election, the doctrine of reproba
tion, the doetrine of unconditional submission, the doctrine of disinterested benevolence, the doctrine of total depravity, the doctrine of Christ's atonement, and the doetrine of justification through faith in the Redeemer's blood ? Would the apostle, do you think, admit such ignorant and erroneous persons to be visible Christians? And if he would not, why should we? I am speaking of different denominations of Christians, in respect to their religious sentiments which they ayow, and not in respect to their personal conduct. We ought to be as benevolent and candid towards the most erroneous denonination of Christians as the apostle was, and feel and say as he did, It is our heart's desire and prayer to God, that they might be savedBut we ought not to be more catholic and charitable towards them than he was towards his erroneous Jewish brethren. It seems to be the opinion and practice of many at the present day to maintain, that it is not necessary to know whether men believe truth, or error, or nothing, in order to exercise charity towards them as real Christians. This is a very false, and dangerous, and corrupting sentiment. For if men can have true religion without any true knowledge of God, of Christ, and of themselves, it is impossible to know what true religion is. This is what every unsanctified heart wishes to be true, and is very ready to believe to be true. Any religion which is not according to knowledge, and which is not founded upon divine truth, is not worth having, but is worse than no religion. Unscriptural charity has a direct tendency to unite all denominations of Christians together, not in a holy, but unholy union, which is extremely dangerous. As it is the practice of the erroneous to propagate this unscriptural catholicism, so it is the duty of the orthodox to refute and expose it fully, to prevent its fatal influence upon the ignorant and unguarded.
5. If mere ignorance of the essential doctrines of the gospel be inconsistent with men's having true religion, there is reason to fear that many at this day will perish through this ignorance. Notwithstanding there is a great deal of preaching and a great deal of reading on religious subjects at this day ; yet there is much preaching and much reading which tends to divert the minds of people from the great and most important truths of the gospel, and leaves them in gross ignorance of God, of Christ, and of themselves. Though people in general now have more knowledge of the different parts of the earth, of the various nations of the world, and of some of the useful arts and sciences, than they formerly had; yet there is no ground to think, that they have more knowledge of the Bible and the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, than they had many years ago. But on the oth. er hand, great ignorance of divine truth appears to be extensively prevailing and increasing, in our religious societies, especially among the rising generation. This exhibits a melancholy prospect of grea degeneracy in religion. It was by means of relgious ignorance, that
God's peculiar people became so generally and extremely degenerate as they were in Christ's and the apostle's day. And the same religious ignorance is now producing the same fatal effects. How many neglect the precious seasons they have of reading the Bible, and of hearing the gospel? May I not say as the apostle did, “I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplieity of Christ.” The ig. norance of many of the young at least, exposes them to be carried about with every wind of doctrine, by those who lie in wait to deceive. There are, no doubt, some in the meridian of life, who being ignorant of God and their own hearts, are going about to establish their own righteousness, and building their hopes of heaven upon it. But if we may believe the apostle, they must renounce their own righteousness, and trust in Christ alone, who is the end of the law for righteousness. We believe there are some, who know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. This then I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment. There never was more need of your becoming discrimin ating Christians, that you may become the salt of the earth and light of the world, and be able to instruct others, who need to be instruct. ed in the first principles of the oracles of God. Error is coming in wjon us like a flood, and it is your imperious duty to set up a standard against it, and be valiant for the truth. There is no duty, perhaps, which you are in greater danger of neglecting, than the duty of being Paliant for the truth. It requires great courage and self-denial to stand up for God and speak on his behalf, in maintaining the great and precious truths which he has revealed in his word, and which are every day and every where spoken against. You can do more, in many cases, than ministers, in defence of the gospel, because you will be considered as more candid, impartial and disinterested in your zeal for the promotion of truth, and for the detection and suppression, and extirpation of great and fatal errors. Or should your holy zeal be resented by errorists, you have no ground to fear the evil they can do you, while acting under the Captain of your salvation. He has graciously said to the teachers and defenders of his gospel, "Lo, I am with you alway, to the end of the world.” SENEX.
SERMON. PSALM, XII. 1. Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth ; for the faithful fuil from among the children of men.
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IMPROVEMENT. 1. We have reason to fear, in view of what has been said, that these States are fast approaching the period, when heathenism, with all its attendant evils, will overspread the land. Heathens are thoses who are not acquainted with the great system of revealed truth. But are there not many such already in this country? It is computed, that there are now more than four millions in this nation, who are entirely destitute of the sacred Scriptures; and that this number is rapidly increasing. Besides, multitudes of those, who have the Bible, have imbibed loose notions of Christian doctrine, duty and experience. Revivals of religion are becoming more spurious, and eyory species of immorality, error and delusion are rapidly gaining ground. If these things are so, are we not approaching the period, when darkness will cover the land, and gross darkness the people ? Let us look at the history of those nations, that have gone in the same course, which we are travelling with so much speed, and see their end. History informs us, that within one hundred years after the death of Christ, the gospel had been preached to every na tion under heaven; so that there was not one either Greek or barbarian, or of any other name, either of those who wander in tribes or live in tents, among whom prayers and thanksgivings were not offered to the Father and Creator of the universe by the name of the crucified Jesus.' But how was it in succeeding ages? and how is it in this age, with many of those nations, where the gospel was once heard with all gladness of heart, and obeyed? The greater part of the eastern world, where the gospel of Christ was first proclaimed te dying men, is a scene of moral dessolation. And are we not as a people in the same downward road, which the nations of the East have travelled ?
2. We have reason to expect, in view of what has been said, that the severest judgments of heaven will, sooner or later, be poured upon the inhabitants of this guilty land. There are crimes which belong, in a peculiar manner, to nations, and it has been the usual method of divine Providence, as appears from the history of past ages, to punish such in time. In the prophecy of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, as well as in that of Daniel, God threatens to punish the inhabitants of Ninevah, Babylon, Egypt and Judea, as well as the Mede, Persian, Syrian, Macedonian and Roman empires, for their national wickedness. And we know, that in succeeding ages, these several kingdoms were successively overturned and destroyed. When the measure of their iniquity was full, the day of vengeance came, and they fell, one after the other, to rise no more. As we are walking in their steps, we have reason to expect the same treatment. God may spare us for years to come, for the sake of our fathers, and for the sake of that remnant of pious ones to be found among their descendants. He may prosper us exceedingly, and spare us awhile, to the very intent, that as a nation we may have an opportunity to fill upthe measure of our iniquity. But when this is done, destruction will come as a whirlwind. We have reason to expect that God will be