« PreviousContinue »
they most steadily and zealously protest against: for their opponents do not come near enough, or bestow pains enough, to make proper discrimination between such as preach evangelical truth in a practical manner, and those who state it in a lax and antinomian manner, but treat them all as if belonging to the latter company. Ministers of this description also often become unpopular among a large proportion of those who favour the doctrines of the gospel: the more smooth teachers who insist less on self-denial, on mortifying the flesh, and on strict holiness in all manner of conversation, are far more followed, especially if their sermons are seasoned with wit and pleasantry. "The people love to have it so.” An easy cheap religion is the very thing which nature loves and nature remains, and is often strong, where there is something more than nature. However, he "who contends earnestly for "the faith once delivered to the saints," with all its holy fruits and effects, will often meet with censure, neglect, and even slander, from great numbers of those who profess the doctrines of grace. At the same time, the more deeply he is convinced, that every perversion of this kind tends powerfully not only to deceive the souls of those who listen to it, but also to disgrace the gospel itself, and give its enemies most plausible arguments against it; to strengthen their prejudices, open their mouths, and give energy to their delusions; his sorrow for consequences so deeply to be deplored, consequences of widely spreading mischief and destruction, will become more poignant and form a great aggravation of his trials.
On the other hand, the dread of sharing the reproach from without, or of neglect and unpopularity among the favourers of evangelical truth, it is to be feared, induces many to decline the cross, by either, on the one hand, shunning to profess and teach the great doctrines of Christianity, boldly and clearly, and prominently; or, on the other hand, by becoming more general and pliant and compromising, on practical subjects, than they would otherwise be; "loving the "praise of man, more than the praise of God."1 At least, a very strong temptation to do this is placed in our way, as I well know by long experience.
I do not then object to this state of things being called a cross:' but to its being called' a 6 new cross:' for in this sense Solomon's words are peculiarly applicable; "There is no new "thing under the sun. Is there any new thing, "whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath 'been already of old time, which was before us."2 Every thing indeed is new to him who has not before seen or heard, or known it: and this makes the preaching of the gospel novel doctrine to vast multitudes, although better informed people know well that it is not, at least, a new doctrine. Every object is new to children and young people; and this gives a freshness and relish to life, which old people cannot retain. It gives also a poignancy to sorrows, and adds terror to alarms, which are abated by experience.
I have hinted above, that I have had some ac
' John xii. 42, 43.
Eccles. i. 9, 10.
quaintance with this cross: I have indeed borne it, often very painfully in the several effects above stated, for much above thirty years: and, though I see much at present to mourn over, in this as well as other things, in the world and in the church, and among the professors and preachers of the gospel, I cannot concede, that the evil, or the cross which it occasions, has increased during that time. On the whole, I hope, it has decreased though of late it has renewed its energies and exertions, in some very grievous and deplorable instances. It is, however, not a new cross, even in our own age.
But was it not one grand part of the cross, which the holy apostles, and primitive disciples and ministers of Christ, had to endure? Were there none in those days, over whom they mourned as thus perverting the gospel and deceiving others by vain words? Were there not " many who fol"lowed the pernicious ways of such deceivers, by "reason of whom the way of truth was evil spoken " of?" Was not a great part of the Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians; the Epistles of the apostles James, and Peter, and Jude; and even much of the Epistles of St. John; written against this very deviation from the holy commandment delivered unto the churches? Quotation is not needful: the whole tenour of the reasonings adopted in the apostolical epistles shews that such errors prevailed, and needed to be vigorously opposed, and even did incalculable mischief, notwithstanding this authoritative and decisive oppo
12 Pet. ii. 2. Jude 4.
sition.-Did not the first reformers in Germany and elsewhere meet with this cross from every quarter? And does not the reformation to this day "bear the reproach," from papists and infidels, of those who maintained similar licentious and antinomian inferences from the doctrine of salvation by grace, justification by faith alone, and other doctrines connected with them? Do not the writings both of churchmen and puritans, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in this land, shew that they had to bear this same cross ? In short, did any revival of pure and genuine Christianity at any time take place, in which similar perversions were not a heavy cross to some, and a deluding and prevailing temptation to others? Are not salvation, in part at least, by our own works, and salvation by a solitary faith, the Scylla and Charybdis of every age? When they who are not "taught of God" shun the one, they fall into the other. I would, then, entreat my younger brethren not to think it strange, as if any "strange thing had happened to them;" but to imitate those who, disregarding unmerited reproach, took care not to merit reproach; to " contend earnestly for the faith once delivered "to the saints," adhering to the apostolical plan of stamping all doctrines practically, and all duties evangelically, without regarding censure or courting applause; and to be " steadfast, im" moveable, always abounding in the work of the "Lord, as knowing that their labour is not in "vain in the Lord."
Tracts on one of the
The Eclectic Review for the last month, on those publications which it intitles 'Baptismal regeneration,' avers, that reasons assigned by the ejected ministers, at the ' restoration, for refusing to sign this declaration, is 'this; that the Book of Common Prayer teaches the doctrine of real baptismal regeneration, and ' certain salvation consequent thereupon.' Assuming it, therefore, as certain that these ejected ministers were infallibly right: and that this was and is the doctrine of the church of England, whatever proof may be adduced from the articles, liturgy, and homilies to the contrary; they pronounce, ex cathedra, that the Bishop of Lincoln, and Dr. Mant, &c. are consistent churchmen ; that Dr. Mant has fully proved his point; and that Messrs. Biddulph, Scott, and Bugg are inconsistent churchmen.
As this Review professedly maintains evangelical doctrine, and sometimes pleads very ably in support of it, this decision may appear to some readers somewhat extraordinary: but, in fact, it very consistently arises out of their system. If proposed as a scriptural question, they would go beyond those churchmen who deny that baptism