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they are opposing damnable heresies ; and could hardly ever betray. them into any indecency or intemperance of language. Their anger would be most in danger of getting the better of their meekness and their pity, when they were attacked with the pride and fury, that is peculiar to those who fancy themselves to be the only favourites of heaven, and all the rest of the world to be reprobate from God and goodness.
Those persons who think that their salvation depends upon holding their present opinions, must neceffarily entertain the greatest dread of free inquiry. They must think it to be a hazarding of their eternal welfare to listen to any arguments, or read any books, that favour of berely. It must appear to them in the same light as listening to any other temptation, whereby they should be in danger of being feduced to their everlasting destruction. This temper of mind cannot but be a foundation for the most deplorable bigotry, obstinacy, and ignorance. Whereas those persons who have not that idea of the importance of their present fentiments, preserve a state of mind proper for the discussion of them. If they be wrong, as their minds are under no strong bias, they are within the reach of conviction, and thus are in the way to grow wiser and better as long as they live.
Of the practical Tendency of different Systems of Doctrine. MUCH has been said concerning the pratlical tendency
of particular opinions in religion ; but, in general, this has been done with little accuracy, whereas it is a subject that delerves the nicest attention of philosophers and divines; requiring an intimate knowledge of the human paffions and affections, and of the various influences to which men are exposed in life. As to what Mr. Venn has
thought thought proper to call a proof of the incomparable excellence of the orthodox system considered in a practical view, I do not so much as pretend to examine it at all; and he or his friends may, if they please, consider this, as a confeffion, that I am not able to refute what he has advanced upon that subject. I shall only, in this place, suggest a few general observations ; and may possibly, upon some other occasion, enter into a more particular discussion of this truly curious and useful subject of inquiry.
All that can be done to influence men's moral conduct is, in the first place, to present to their minds sufficient motives of hope or fear; and, in the next place, in order to make that course of actions, to which these motives lead, pleasing and easy, so as to form a habit, and engage the heart and affections ; we must give them such ideas of the Divine Being, of their fellow creatures, of themselves, &c. (that is, of all the beings and things with whom they have any connection, and whom their duty respects) as will make them appear to be the proper objects of those dispositions and affections, which we are required to exercise towards them.
The great objects of hope and fear, which christianity presents to mankind, are the joys and torments of a future life. It is the conviction of the insufficiency and instability of every thing on this side the grave; it is a regard to a treasure in heaven, which neither moth nor ruft can corrupt, and which thieves cannot break through and fleal; it is the firm belief and expectation of the great recompence of reward, that awaits our perseverance in well-doing, at the resurrection of the juft: there, I say, are the confiderations that raise the hearts of men above this world, and place them beyond the influence of its pleasures or pains; so that they can neither be seduced by the one, nor deterred by the other, from keeping the commandments of God. These great and leading motives to virtue, these confiderations, whereby we become habitually to look upon ourselves as citizens of heaven, and only pilgrims and strangers on eart), must be nearly the same in all the forms of the christian religion ; S 3
and, in proportion to the degree in which we give our attention to them, and thereby strengthen our faith in them, they must influence us all alike.
All the difference, therefore, with respect to the practical influence of any particular opinions, can only be occasioned by the different views with which they present us, of those persons and things that are objects of our duty. I shall give a brief illustration of this in the idea that is exhibited of the Divine Being, according to what are generally called the rational and the orthodox fyftems.
According to all systems, God, our creator, preserver, and moral governor, is to be represented as the object of our reverence, our love, and our confidence; and this end feems to be completely effected by the rational christian, when he confiders the Divine Being as having produced all creatures, with a view to make them happy, in a manner suited to their respective natures; bearing a most intense, and absolutely impartial, affection to all his offspring; providing for their regard to virtue (the only security of their happiness) by equal laws, guarded with aweful fanctions; inflexibly punishing all wilful obftinate transgreffors, but freely pardoning all offences that are sincerely repented of, and receiving into his love and mercy all who use their best endeavours to discharge the duty incumbent upon them; when we consider him as most minutely attentive to all the works of his hands, invisibly conducting all events with a view to the greatest happiness of all that love and obey him ; secretly affording them all necessary assistance, in proportion to their real occasions, and abundantly and everlastingly rewarding, in a future life, their patient continuance in welldoing, during their abode in this state of trial and probation. How is it possible, made as we are, not to revere, love, and confide in such a being as this?
On the other hand, those who assume to themselves the distinguishing title of orthodox, consider the Supreme Being as having created all things for his own glory, and by no means for the general happiness of all his creatures; as im
puting to all mankind the transgression of their first parent, and dooming every man, woman, and infant, to everlasting and unutterable misery, for an offer.ce to which they were no way accessary, of which it is impoffible they should be, in any sense of the word, guilty; and for which it were absurd in them even to affect repentance. In this situation of things, when all mankind were incapable of doing any thing, in thought, word, or deed, but what tended to aggravate their condemnation ; they suppose the universal parent arbitrarily to select out of the whole number a few, whom he designs for eternal happiness, leaving, that is, in fact, decreeing, all the rest to everlasting and unspeakable misery. According to them, also, even the elect cannot be saved, till the utmost effects of the divine wrath have been suffered for them by an innocent person. The grace that saves them is irresistible, and irrevocable, so that they can never lose the divine favour.
If it be possible to revere, love, or confide in such a being as this, I must own that I know nothing of the human heart, or its affections. Sure I am, that a man of this character, and who should act in this manner, would be the object of dread and abhorrence, to all who should be so unhappy as to be dependent upon him. What advantage favourable to virtue can be made of the imitation of such a being as this ? Must an earthly parent be encouraged to love one of his children, and to hate another of them, independent of a regard to their moral conduct; and must he never forgive an offence in any of them, till a full satisfaction, or atoneinent, have been made to him for it?
It is the great boast of those who stile themselves orthodox, and particularly of Mr. Venn, that their sentiments have a great advantage in inculcating humility. But when, without that peculiar system, we consider ourselves as the workmanship of God; that all our powers, of body and of mind, are derived from him ; that he is the giver of every good and of every perfeet gift, and that without him we can do and enjoy nothing, how can we conceive ourselves to be
in a state of greater dependance, or obligation ? that is, what greater reason or foundation can there possibly be for the exercise of humility? If I believe that I have a power to do the duty that God requires of me; yet, as I also believe that that power is his gift, I must still say, what have I that I have not received, and how then can I glory, as if I had not received it. If the Divine Being have given me a natural power to move my arm, is not the obligation the same, as if he should, by a supernatural power, move it himself, whenever I have occasion for it?
If, conscious of many imperfections, and many failures in the discharge of my known duty, I have recourse to the divine mercy and clemency, is not my gratitude and humility as great, when I conceive that I am indebted for the pardon of my sins to the free, unmerited, goodness of God; as it could be, if I thought the pardon I received was purchased, by a full satisfaction made to his offended justice ?? If the sense of gratitude and obligation, in this case, arise from my idea of the freeness of the gift, I think it must be greater upon the former supposition than upon the latter.
A sense of our obligation to our Lord Jesus Christ, also, as a person commiflioned by God to redeem, that is, to deliver, fave, or rescuc, us from a state of fin and misery ; to give laws to mankind, to be Lord of all, and judge of the guick and dead, is as efficacious to attach us to him as far as our regards to him are consistent with our primary regards to God his father; who, out of his own love to mankind, fent him on this great and gracious errand) and to enforce obedience to his laws, as a sense of obligation that can arise from any particular hypothesis whatever.
Upon the whole, notwithstanding what Mr. Venn, and others boast, it does not seem to be a fact, that those who call themselves orthodox are at all more humble, and lowly minded, or more free from spiritual pride, and oftentation, than others. As far as my observation goes, I ain satisfied, that the contrary is the case: nor from any knowledge that I have, or can procure, concerning these professors and their