« הקודםהמשך »
independent of others, or in society, in the exercise and practice of christianity, and the social virtues and conduct which it prescribes.
It will be asked by some, whether all this be not confuted by fact and experience, since christianity has not rendered societies and kingdoms happy, where it has been generally received and professed ; and has been the means of the contrary, and produced contentions, cruel persecutions, and wars : And christians have contended with christians, and persecuted and destroyed each other?
Answer. That christianity has had no better and no more happy effect where it has been in a sense received and professed, has not been owing to the nature and tendency of it ; but to the abuse of it, and opposition to it, and a refusal cordially to receive it, and practise agreeable to the spirit, and revealed laws of it. By this it has been perverted to very bad purposes, and made the occasion of great mischief and unhappiness among men. Any one may be certain of this, by attending to the Bible, and well observing what are the principles, rules and practice there inculcated and prescribed ; and what would be the certain effect, if they were cordially receiv. ed and obeyed. We must consult the Bible if we would know what christianity is ; what are the truths there revealed, and what disposition, exercises and practices it does recommend and enjoin. And in this way alone can we learn, and be able to judge of the nature and tendency of it, and see how far it has been abused and perverted by men.
He who will attend to the Bible with iinpartiality, candour and discerning, will be sure that whenever the truths and religion there revealed shall be properly received, and reduced to practice by all the people ; and christianity shall have a genuine and complete effect, it will effectually banish all the evils which now take place in society among men, whether more private or public, by putting an end to all unrighteousness and oppression, unfaithfulness and fraud; to all contention and war, pride, ambition and selfishness, and to the indulgence of every lust, in word or conduct, which tends to evil, or to hurt any one. And on the contrary, it will introduce that uprightness, and
universal righteousness in practice, that benevolence and beneficence to all, every one taking his proper place, and doing the duties of it, so as to advance the good of the whole ; which will spread universal peace, prosperity and happivess, through the whole society, nation or kingdom: And that nothing can destroy or disturb the peace, good order and happiness of society, but a devia. tion from the truths and duties inculcated in the holy scriptures.
The scripture foretels the evils of which the gospel would be the occasion, by the abuse of it ; and the opposition which would be made to it ; and the corruption and apostasy, both in doctrine and practice, which should take place among the professors of christianity, which would be the occasion of persecution, and innumerable calamities. And these having actually taken place as they were predicted, is so far from being an objection to the truth and excellency of christianity, that hereby is exhibited a standing evidence of its divine original ; and may justly be considered, as a pledge of the advantage and happiness which it shall produce in this world, in the last days, when it shall have its proper effect on the hearts and lives of mankind, which is also forctold.
The salutary influence christianity has had already in the world, forming men to be peaceable, harmless, and useful members of society, in the practice of righteousness and goodness, where the dictates of it have been in any measure properly regarded and obeyed, of which there have been many instances, is sufficieut to convince every candid mind, that when it shall be no longer abused and perverted to evil purposes, by men of perverse minds, but universally understood, embraced and prac. tised ; it will render mankind and society unspeakably more happy than they have ever yet been, or can be, while men are ignorant of it, or refuse to regard and obey its dictates. That there is such a happy era coming, is abundantly foretold in the divine oracles, when by the influence and power of the gospel, in the hand of the ex. alted Redeemer, he will reign universally in the hearts of men, and they shall obey him ; and the happy effect of christianity shall be seen in fact and experience, in extirpating all unrighteousness and violence from the
earth, and introducing universal peace, love and beneficence, when men shall learn war no more ; but practise all the social virtues, each one in his proper sphere ; honestly and wisely seeking and promoting the greatest public good, and the happiness of every individual, so far as he has ability and advantage.
But the most complete and happy effect of christianity will take place, and appear in the fulness, importance, and glory of it, when the kingdom of Christ shall be brought to perfection in the future state'; when the most beautiful, harmonious and happy society will be formed by it, in the exercise of love to God and to one another, by which the most perfect union, and the highest possible happiness shall exist forever. Here then we are to look, to see what is the nature and genuine tendency of christianity; and what will be the happy effect of it to individuals, and to society, when it has overcome all opposition, and shall reign in perfection, in the heart and practice of every member of the kingdom of Christ.
II. From this view of christian practice, and it being thus in all respects suited to promote the good of mankind, and the welfare and happiness of society in this world, arises a strong and forcible argument that the Bible is from God, and christianity has a divine original.
They who reject the Bible as a revelation from God do generally confess that the rules of moral conduct contained in it are suited to promote the good of society, and the peace and happiness of mankind in this world : And that christian morality, and attendance on the institutions of the christian religion, public worship and instruction, tend to promote civility and good order among men, and the political good of society. In this they appear to be really inconsistent with themselves, and confute their own creed. For this being granted, (and grant it they must, or deny what is evident from reason and fact) the inference is clear and strong, that the Bible is a revelation from heaven.
Were the Bible a contrivance of man, of one man, or any number of men, who joined to form a plan to pro. mote the good of society, it cannot be reasonably supposed there would be no gross mistakes in it ; or that it would be suited to promote the good of society in every age, and different nations of the world, and in all the va. rious and different circumstances of mankind, under all the different forms of civil government, as it really is. Much less can this be supposed, when it is written by different men, unknown to each other, in various ages and nations, and widely differing in their education, and particular tastes, habits and customs. That a book should be written by these men, in such circumstances, on so many different occasions, which, when carefully examined, contains one consistent system of rules for moral life, suited to the comfort and happiness of every individual, and the greatest good of all human societies; and in this respect far exceeding the best code of civil. laws that was ever invented, without any light and assistance from this book, is the most incredible position that can be asserted.
HAVING diligently and with care examined the holy scriptures to find what is that system of doctrines, truths and duties revealed there ; and endeavoured to state them, and set them in a proper and clear light ; and having at length finished what was proposed and undertaken, we may now look back, and upon a general review of the whole, it is presumed that the following conclusions may be deduced with clear and abundant evidence.
I. That there is a connection, consistence, and har. mony in the system of truths, taken from the holy scriptures, stated and explained in the foregoing work.
Care and pains have been taken to support and prove each by the sacred oracles ; but it is hoped that all these considered collectively, and the whole put together, and joined in one system, will, "like an arch, add strength and firmness to each part,” and increase the evidence that every doctrine that has been advanced as important truth, is indeed contained in the Bible, and so essertial to the whole, that it cannot be excluded and re
jected without marring, and in a sense rejecting all the rest which are connected with it, and really implied in it. It is certain, that doctrines, inconsistent with each other, are not to be found in divine revelation. If any two or more truths are plainly revealed, between which we cannot see the consistence, we may be sure they are consistent with each other, and that it is owing to our ignorance, and to some mistake we are making, that we do not see them to agree perfectly. But when the agreement and consistence of every important doctrine revealed in the Bible is discerned, this gives satisfaction to the mind, and casts a lustre of light and beauty over the whole. No pains therefore ought to be spared in examining the Bible with this view, that we may learn what are the doctrines there revealed ; and be able to see their connection and consistence.
There is one chain, or consistent scheme of truth, which runs through the whole of the Bible. And every doctrine contained in this divine plan is not only consistent with the rest, but as much a part of the whole, as is each link of a chain, so that not one can be broken or taken out, without spoiling, or at least injuring the chain. In this view, the foregoing system is offered to the examination of all, who are willing to search the Bi. ble daily, and in the light of that, to try every doctrine that has been advanced, that they may find, whether they be agreeable to the scripture, and consistent with each other, or not; and accordingly receive or reject them. It is not pretended, that every particular article which has been mentioned, as matter of conjecture or probable, of which there are some instances, or that is consider. ed as more evident from scripture, than the opposite, is essential to the system.
If it be consistent with the whole, it may be received, though it be not essential ; and if it should be thought by any, not worthy to be received, or not so evident from scripture as the contrary, it may be rejected, and the contrary believed, perhaps, as consistent with the system of connected truth. Of this every one will judge for himself. And though persons may differ in their judgment on some sentiments of this description, which have been mentioned; yet they may agree in receiving every doctrine which is esVOL. IT.