« הקודםהמשך »
with fiery zeal, insist on the profession of a great number of doctrines, and several of the doctrines of pure revelation, as the Trinity, &c. But this in them flows not from any regard to their influence in internal saving religion, but from quite another view, i. e. to uphold their tyranny. These are the doctrines which have been handed down among them by their church from ancient tradition; and, to maintain the credit of the infallibility and divine authority and dominion of their hierarchy over men's faith, they must be zealous against any that presume to deny Christ's doctrines, because they look upon it as an infringement on the high authority they claim. And some Protestants have a zeal for doctrines from like views; doctrines indeed for wbich they have no great value, in themselves considered.
$ 17. That it is not alone sufficient to believe this one article, that a person of the name of Jesus came from God to reveal his will to man, without knowing or determining what he was, or concerning his nature and qualities, is evident from this, that it is often spoken of as necessary to know Christ. It is said, “ This is eternal life, to know thee, and Jesus Christ wbom thou hast sent."
§ 18. There are two things especially that make modern fashionable divines look on doctrines of revealed religion of little importance. One is, their mistake about the conditions of salvation; another is, their mistake about the nature of true virtue, placing it chiefly, and most essentially, in benevolence to men, and so little in respect to God and Christ. If Christian virtue consists very much in a proper respect to Christ, then certainly it is of great importance to know what sort of person he is, at least as to that particular wherein his excellency or worthiness of regard consists, which is surely his divinity, if he be a divine person. Another thing on which a proper respect to him depends, is his relation to us, and our dependence upon him, which surely chiefly depends on bis satisfaction and merits for us, if he has satisfied and mérited for us. The reasons or grounds of the love and honour to Christ required of us, consist chiefly in two things: (1.) In what he is; and, (2.) In what he has done for us. Therefore, with regard to the latter, it concerns us greatly to know, at least as to the principal things, what they are. And if he has satisfied for our sins; if he has suffered in our stead; if he has truly purchased eternal life and bappiness for us ; if he has redeemed us from an extremely sinful, miserable, helpless state, a state wherein we deserved no mercy, but eternal misery, then these are principal things.
Another reason why doctrines are thought to be of little importance, is a notion of sincerity wherein true virtue consists, as what may be prior to any means of it that God grants; as if it was what every man had in bis power, antecedently to all means; and so the means are looked upon as of little importance. But the absurdity of this may be easily manifested. If it be independent of all means, then it may be independent of natural information, or of the truths of the light of nature, as well as of revealed religion ; and men may sincerely regard and honour they know not what. The truths of natural religion, wherein Christians differ from the most ignorant, brutish, and deluded idolaters, the most savage and cruel of the heathen nations, may be of little importance. And the reason why they have this notion of sincerity antecedent to means, and so independent of means, is, that they have a notion that sincerity is independent of God, any otherwise than as they depend on bim for their creation. They conceive it to be independent of his sovereign will and pleasure. If they were sensible that they depend on God to give it according to his pleasure, it would be easy and natural to acknowledge, that God gives it in his own way, and by his
§ 19. If any article of faith at all concerning Jesus Christ be of importance, it must be of importance to know or belicve something concerning bis person; what sort of a person or being he was. And if any thing concerning him be of importance to be known and believed, it must be something wherein his excellency or worthiness of regard consists : For nothing can be of importance to be known or believed about hin, but in order to some regard or respect of heart. But most certainly, if any thing of his excellency and dignity be of importance to be known or believed, it must be of importance at least to know so much about him, as to know whether he be God or a mere creature; for herein lies the greatest difference, as to dignity, that possibly can be. This difference is infinite. If it be of importance to know how worthy he is, then it doubtless is of importance that we should not be ignorant of, and deny, as it were, all his dignity, or so much of it, that what remains shall be absolutely as nothing to that which is denied. It is of importance that we love Christ, or have respect to him as one that is excellent, and worthy of esteem and love. The apostle says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatba." And doubtless, true love to Christ is in some respect suitable to the worthiness and excellency of his person. - Therefore it is of importance to believe, and not to deny
those doctrines wbich exbibit his worthiness. It is of importance that we do not in effect deny the whole of his worthiness.
$ 20. How many things were believed by the ancient philosophers about divine matters, even the most rational of them more mysterious than the doctrine of the Trinity, chiefly because such things were banded to them by the Phænicians, Egyptians, Chaldeans, or Persians, or on the authority of some great master? Yet these things were imbibed without much difficulty, the incomprehensibleness of the doctrines being no objection to their receiving them.
$21. There are things evidently true concerning the nature of our own souls, that seem strange paradoxes, and are seeming contradictions; as, that our souls are in no place, and yet have a being ; or, if they are supposed to be in a place, that yet they are not confined to place, and limited to certain space; or, if they be, that they are not of a certain figure; or, if they are figurate, that their properties, faculties, and acts, should or should not be so too.
$ 22. If many things we all see and know of the mortality of mankind, the extreme sufferings of infants, and other things innumerable in the state of the world of mankind, were only matter of doctrine which we had no notice of any other way than by revelation, and not by fact and experience; bave we not reason to think, from what we see of the temper of this age, that they would be exceedingly quarrelled with, objected mightily against, as inconsistent with God's moral perfections, not tending to amiable ideas of the God. head, &c. ?
§ 23. The definition of a mystery, according to Stapferus, Theol. Polem. p. 263 and 858, is this: A mystery is a religious doctrine, which must be made known by immediate revelation, and cannot be known and demonstrated from the principles of reason, but is above reason, and wbich in this whole universe has nothing like itself, but differs from all those truths which we discover in this system of the world.. (Ibid. p. 859.) It appears from this definition, that whatever is known by divine revelation, and is not certain from the principles of reason, is a mystery; otherwise it could not be said to be revealed. Mysteries are the first things which we conceive concerning revelation ; for no revelation can be conceived without mysteries, and therefore they constitute the sum and essence of revelation.
$24. It is to be observed, that we ought to distinguish between those things which were written in the sacred books by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and those which were only committed to writing by the direction of the Holy Spirit. To the former class belong all the mysteries of salvation, or all those things which respect the means of our deliverance taught in the gospel, which could not be known from the principles of reason, and therefore must be revealed. But to the other class those things belong, which either are already known from natural religion, but are of service to inculcate duty on man, and to demonstrate the necessity of revealed means of salvation; or are histories, useful to illustrate and to assure us of the doctrines revealed, and which point out the various degrees of revelation, the different dispensations of salvation, and the various modes of governing the church of God; all which are necessary to be known in the further explanation of mysteries.
§ 25. Mysteries constitute the criterion of divine revelation; so absurdly do they act, who allow a revelation, and deny mysteries; or deny revelation for this reason, that it contains mysteries. What the sum and essence of revealed religion are, is plain from the end of it, which is to point ont to sinful man the means of obtaining salvation, and of recovering the divine favour. But this is, that Jesus Christ is the only and most perfect cause of salvation, to be received by a true faith. This doctrine, however, is a mystery of godliness manifestly great; 1 Tim. iii. 16. And thus that great mystery constitutes the sum and essence of revelation. The essence of revealed religion consists in this, that men by a true faith receive this doctrine, which the apostle calls a mystery manis festly great. Therefore, the knowledge of the greatest mystery belongs to the very essence of the religion of a sinner. How absurd do many of the doctrines of mathematicians and astronomers appear to ignorant men, when they cannot see the reason of those doctrines, although they are most true and evident, so that not the least doubt concerning them can remain in the mind of a thorough mathematician? (Ibid. tom. iii. p. 560.)
$ 26. Since, in religion, there are some primary truths, and others more remote, which are deduced from the former by reasoning, and so are secondary-and these last may not be known, though the primary are known, but when once they are known they cannot be denied-it follows, that those articles which constitute religion, and so are fundamental, are to be distinguished into primary and secondary. The primary PART III.
OBSERVATIONS CONCERNING THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST AND
THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY,
If the temptation to the children of Israel was so great, to idolize the Brazen Serpent, a lifeless piece of brass, for the temporal salvation which some of their forefathers had by looking on it; how great would be their temptation to idolatry by worshipping Christ, if he were a mere creature, from whom mankind receive so great benefits? If thit Brazen Serpent must be broken in pieces, to remove the temptation to idolatry, (2 Kings xviii. 4,) shall so great a temptation be laid before the world to idolize a mere creature, by setting him forth in the manner that he is set forth in scripture ?
§ 2. Must Moses's body be concealed, lest the children of Israel should worship the remains of him whom God made the instrument of such great things ? And shall another mere creature—whom men, on account of the works he has done, are under infinitely greater temptation to worship-be inost openly and publicly exhibited, as exalted to heaven, seated at God's own right hand, made Head over all things, Ruler of the universe, &c. in the manner that Christ is ? Was not this the temptation to all nations to idolatry, viz. That men had been distinguished as great conquerors, deliverers, and the instruments of great benefit? And shall God make a mere creature the instrument of so many greater benefits, and in such a manner as Christ is represented to be in the scripture, without an infinitely greater temptation to idolatry?
§ 3. When the rich young man called Christ Good Master, not supposing him to be God, did Christ reject it, and reprove him for calling him so ? He said, “ There is none good but One, that is God;” meaning, that none other was possessed of goodness that was to be trusted. And yet, shall this same