Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the Body.

a

[ocr errors]

that this article, as well as the “ descent would redeem us from the curse of the into hell,” is not of the same antiquity as law. By grace we should be saved through the rest of the creed*.

faith; and that not of ourselves : it was We profess our belief farther in the the gist of God. Not of works, lest any “ forgiveness of sins.”—The Scripture man should boast.”

Gilpin. doctrine of sin, and of the guilt, which § arises from it, is this:

105. Creed continued— Resurrection of Man was originally created in a state of innocence, yet liable to fall. Had he per- We believe farther, “in the resurrecsevered in his obedience, he might have tion of the body.”—This article prea enjoyed that happiness, which is the con- sumes our belief in the immortality of the sequence of perfect virtue. But when this soul. happy state was lost, his passions and ap- What that principle of life is which we petites became disordered, and prone to call the soul; how it is distinguished from evil. Since that time we have all been, mere animal life; how it is connected more or less, involved in sin, and are all, with the body; and in what state it subtherefore, in the Scripture-language, un- sists, when its bodily functions cease; are der the curse;" that is, we are naturally among those indissoluble questions, with in a state of unpardoned guilt.

which nature every where abounds. But In this mournful exigence, what was notwithstanding the difficulties, which to be done? In a state of nature, it is attend the discussion of these questions, true, we might be sorry for our sins. the truth itself hath in all ages of the Nature too might dictate repentance. But world been the popular creed. Men besorrow and repentance, though they may lieved their souls were immortal from their put us on our guard for the future, can own feelings, so impressed with an expecmake no atonement for sins already com- tation of immortality-from observing the

— mitted. A resolution to run no more into progressive state of the soul, capable, debt may make us cautious; but can ne- even after the body had attained its full ver discharge a debt already contractedt. strength, of still higher improvements,

In this distress of nature, Jesus Christ both in knowledge, and in habits of virtue came into the world. He threw a light from the analogy of all nature, dying upon the gloom that surrounded us. He and reviving in every part from their sishewed us, that in this world we were lost tuation here, so apparently incomplete in -- that the law of nature could not save us itself; and from a variety of other topics,

- that the tenor of the law was perfect which the reason of man was able to sugobedience, with which we could not com- gest.---But though nature could obscurely ply—but that God-through his mediation, suggest this great truth; yet Christianity offered us a method of regaining happiness alone threw a clear light upon it, and im

-that he came to make that atonement pressed it with a full degree of conviction for us, which we could not make for our. upon our minds : selvega- and to redeem us from that guilt, But the article before us proceeds a step which would otherwise overwhelmus- farther. It not only implies the immortathat faith and obedience were on our parts, lity of the soul; but asserts the resurrecthe conditions required in this gracious co- tion of the body.-Nor was this doctrine venant--and that God prornised us, on his, wholly new to nature. In its conceptions the pardon of our sins, and everlasting life of a future life, we always find the soul ---that we were first therefore to be made in an embodied state. It was airy indeed, holy through the gospel of Christ, and and bloodless; but still it had the parts of then we might expect salvation through human body, and could perform all its his death: “Us, who were dead in tres operations. passes and sins, would he quicken. Christ In these particulars the Scripture does

a

a

* See Bingham's Antiquities, vol. iv. chap. 3.

+ Thus Mr. Jenyns expresses the same thing : “ The punishment of vice is a debt due to justice, “ which cannot be remitted without compensation : repentance can be no compensation. It may “ change a wicked mau's dispositions, and prevent his offending for the future : but can lay no " clain to pardon for what is past. If any one by protligacy and extravagance contracts a debt, “ repentance may make him wiser, and hinder bim froin running iuto further distresses, but can “ never pay off his old bonds, for which he must be ever accountable, unless they are discharged " by bimbelf, or soiue other ia bis stead"--View of the Intern. Evid. p. 112.

not gratify our curiosity, From various their eyes--that there shall be neither passages we are led to believe, that the death, por sorrow, nor pain.” body shall certainly rise again : but in From these, and such expressions as what manner, or of what substance, we these, though we cannot collect the entire pretend not to examine. We learn “ that nature of a future state of happiness, yet it is sown in corruption, and raised in in. we can easily gather a few circumstances, corruption; that it is sown in dishonour, which must of course attend it; as, that it and raised in glory; that it is sowo a na- will be very great—that it will last for tural body, and raised a spiritual body:" ever--that it will be of a nature entirely from all which we gather, that whatever different from the happiness of this world sameness our bodies may have, they will —that, as in this world, our passions and hereafter take a more spiritualized nature; appetites prevail; in the next, reason and and will not be subject to those infirmities, virtue will have the superiority—“hunger to which they were subject on earth. Far- and thirst, tears and sorrow," we read, ther on this head, it behoves us not to in- “ will be no more"-that is, all uneasy quire.

passions and appetites will then be annihi. Instead, therefore, of entering into any lated-all vain fears will then be removed metaphysical disquisitions of identity, or -all anxious and intruding cares and any other curious points in which this deep we shall feel ourselves complete and persubject might engage us, all which, as they fect; and our happiness, not dependent, as are founded upon uncertainty, must end bere, upon a thousand precarious circumin doubt, it is better to draw this doctrine, stances, both within and without ourselves, as well as all others, into practical use; but consistent, uniform, and stable. and the use we ought to make of it, is to On the other hand, we pretend not to pay that regard to our bodies, which is due inquire in what the punishment of the to them---not vainly to adorn-- not luxu- wicked consists. In the Scripture we find riously to pamper them; but to keep them many expressions, from which we gather, as much as possible from the pollutions of that it will be very great. It is there callthe world; and to lay them down in the ed “un everlasting fire, prepared for the grave undefiled, there to be sealed up in devil and his angels; where the worm expectation of a blessed resurrection. dieth not, and the fire is never quenched

Lastly, we believe “in the life ever- --where shall be weeping, and gnashing of lasting;" in which article we express our teeth— where the wicked shall drink of the faith in the eteroity of a future state of re- wrath of God, poured without mixture into wards and punishments.

the cup of his indignation-where they This article is nearly related to the last, shall have no rest, neither by day oor night." and is involved in the same obscurity. In Though it becomes us certainly to put what the reward of the virtuous will con- our interpretations with the greatest causist, after death, our reason gives us no in. tion and humility upon such passages as formation. Conjecture indeed it will, in these ; yet “ the worm that never dieth,” a matter which so nearly concerns us ; and and “the fire that is never quenched,” are

; it hath conjectured in all ages, but infor- strong expressions, and hardly to beevaded mation it hath none, except from the word by any refinements of verbal criticism. Let of God; and even there, our limited ca- the deist bravely argue down his fears, by pacities can receive it only in general and demonstrating the absurdity of consufigurative expressions. We are told“ there ming a spirit in material fíre. Let him will then reign fulness of joy, and plea- fully explain the nature of future punishsures for evermore-that the righteous shall ment; and convince us, that where it canhave an inheritance incorruptible, unde- not reform, it must be unjust But let us, filed, that fadeth not away-where they with more modesty, lay our hands humbly shall shine forth, as the sun, in the pre- upon our breasts, confess our ignorance; sence of their father-where error, and sin, revere the appointinents of God, whatever and misery shall be no more where shall they may be ; and prepare to meet them be assembled an innumerable company of with holy hope, and trembling joy, and angels, the general assembly of the church, awful submission to his righteous will. the spirits of just men made perfect-that To the unenlightened heathen the eterthey shall neither hunger nor thirst any nity of future punishments appeared no mure that all tears shall be wiped from such unreasonable doctrine. Their state of the damned was of eternal duration.-A do not obviously fall under any of the vulture for ever tore those entrails, which commandments. were for ever renewed*.

But though we cannot call the decaOf one thing, however, we may be well logue a complete rule of duty, we accept assured (which may set us entirely at rest it with the utmost reverence, as the first in all our inquiries on this deep subject,) great written law that ever God commuthat every thing will, in the end, be right nicated to man. We consider it as an —that a just and merciful God must act eternal monument, inscribed by the finger agreeably to justice and mercy—and that of God himself, with a few strong, indelithe first of these attributes will most as- ble characters; not defining the ininutiæ suredly be tempered with the latter. of morals; but enjoining those great duties

From the doctrine of future rewards only, which have the most particular influand punishments, the great and most con- ence upon the happiness of society; and vincing practical truth which arises, is, probibiting those enormous crimes, which that we cannot exeit too much pains in are the greatest sources of its distress. qualifying ourselves for the happiness of a The ten commandments are divided future world. As this happiness will last into two parts, from their being originally for ever, how beneficial will be the ex- written

upon two tables. From hence one change this world, “which is but for a table is supposed to contain our duty to

moment, for that everlasting weight of God: the other our duty to man. But glory which fadeth not away!”

this seems to be an unauthorized division; Vice, on the other hand, receives the and hath a tendency to a verbal mistake; greatest discouragement from this doctrine, as if some duties were owing to God, as every sin we commit in this world may and others to man: whereas in fact we be considered as an addition to an everlast- know that all duties are equally owing to ing account in the next. Gilpin. God. However, if we avoid this mis§ 106. On the Ten Commandments.

conception, the division into our duty to

God, and our duty to man, may be a conHaving considered the articles of our venient one. The four first commandfaith, we proceed to the rules of prac- ments are contained in the first table : the tice. These, we know, are of such im- remaining six in the second. portance, that, let our faith be what it At the head of them stands a prohiwill, unless it influence our lives, it is of bition to acknowledge more than one God. no value. At the same time, if it be what it The second commandment bears a near ought to be, it will certainly have this relation to the first. The former forbids influence.

polytheism ; the latter idolatry: and with On this head, the ten Commandments this belief, and practice, which generally acare first placed before us; from which the companied each other, all the nations of the composers of the catechism, as well as earth were tainted, when these commandmany other divines, have drawn a com- inents were given : especially those nations plete system of Christian duties. But this by whom the Jews were surrounded. is perhaps rather too mucht. Both Mo- The third commandment enjoins reveses in the law, and Christ in the gospel, rence to God's name. This is a strong seem to have enlarged greatly on morals: religious restraint in private life; and as and each of them, especially the latter, a solemn oath is the strictest obligation to have added many practical rules, which among men; nothing can be of greater

*

Rostroque immanis vultur obunco
Immortale jecur tundens, fecundaque pænis
Viscera-

En. vi. 596.
Sedet, æternumque sedebit
Infelix Theseus-

ib. 616. 7 In the fourth volume of Bishop Warburton's Commentary on Pope's Works, in the second satire of Dr. Donne, are these lines :

Of whose strange crimes do canonist can tell

In which commandment's large contents they dwell. “ The original,” says the Bishop, " is more humorous :

In which commandment's large receipt they dwell; " as if the ten commandments were so wide, as to stand ready to receive every thing, which either " the law of nature, or the gospel commands. A just ridicule on those practical commentators, " as they are called, who include all moral and religious duties within them.”

а

service to society, than to hold it in ge- consists only in the dread of punishment. neral respect.

It is the necessary consequence of guilt; The fourth commands the observance and is not that fear, which we consider as of the Sabbath ; as one of the best means a duty. The fear of God here meant, of preserving a sense of God, and of reli- consists of that reverential awe, that congion in the minds of men.

stant apprehension of his presence, which The second table begins with enjoining secures us from offending him.-When obedience to parents; a duty in a peculiar we are before our superiors, we naturally manner adapted to the Jewish state, before feela respect, which prevents our doing any any regular government was erected. The thing indecent in their sight. Such (only temporal promise, which guards it, and in a higher degree) should be our reverence which can relate only to the Jews, may of God, in whose sight, we know, we aleither inean a promise of long life to each ways stand. If a sense of the divine preindividual, who observed the precept; or, sence hath such an influence over us, as to of stability to the whole nation upon the check the bad tendency of our thoughts, general observance of it: which is per- words, and actions; we may properly be

; haps a better interpretation.

said to be impressed with the fear of God. The five next commandments are pro- -If not, we neglect one of the best means hibitions of the most capital crimes, which of checking vice, which the whole circle pollute the heart of man, and injure the of religious restraint affords. peace of society.

Some people go a step farther; and say, The first of them forbids murder, that as every degree of light behaviour, which is the greatest injury that one man though short of an indecency, is improper can do to another; as of all crimes the da- before our superiors ; so is it likewise in mage in this is the most irreparable. the presence of Almighty God, who is so

The seventh commandment forbids much superior to every thing that can be adultery. The black infidelity, and injury called great on earth. which accompany this crime; the confu- But this is the language of superstition. sion in families, which often succeeds it; Mirth, within the bounds of innocence, and the general tendency it hath to de- cannot be offensive to God. He is ofstroy all the domestic happiness of society, fended only with vice. Vice, in the lowest stain it with a very high degree of guilt. degree, is hateful to him: but a formal set

The security of our property is the ob- behaviour can be necessary only to preserve ject of the eighth commandment.

human distinctions. The security of our characters, is the The next duty to God is that of love, object of the ninth.

which is founded upon his goodness to his The tenth restrains us not only from the creatures. Even this world, mixed as it is actual commission of sin ; but from those with evil, exhibits various marks of the bad inclinations which give it birth. goodness of the Deity. Most men indeed

After the commandments follows a com- place their affections too much upon it, and mentary upon them, entitled, “our duty rate it attoo high a value: butin the opinion to God,” and “our duty to our neigh- even of wise men, it deserves some estimabour;" the latter of which might more tion. The acquisition of knowledge,in all properly be entitled, “Our duty to our its branches; the intercourse of society; neighbour and ourselves.” These seem the contemplation of the wonderful works intended as an explanation of the com- of God, and all the beauteous scenes of mandments upon Christian principles; with nature; nay, even the low inclinations of the addition of other daties, which do not animal life, when indulged with sobriety properly fall under any of them. On these and moderation, furnish various modes of we shall be more large.

pleasure and enjoyment. The first part of our duty to God, is, Let this world however go for little. In “ to believe in him ;” which is the foun- contemplating a future life, the enjoyments dation of all religion, and therefore offers of this are lost

. It is in the contemplation itself first to our consideration. But this of futurity, that the Christian views the great point hath been already considered. goodness of God in the fullest light. When

The next branch of our duty to God, he sees the Deity engaging himself by is to fear him. The fear of God is im- covenant to make our short abode here pressed equally upon the righteous man, a preparation for our eternal happiness and the sinner. But the fear of the sinner hereafter-when he is assured that this

а

a

а

ex

happiness is not only eternal, but of the culty may be owing to our ignorance? And purest and most perfect kind--when he that on the strength of what we know of sees God, as a father, opening all his stores the wisdom of God, we may venture to of love and kindness, to bring back to him. trust him for those parts which we cannot self a race of creatures fallen from their comprehend ? original perfection, and totally lost through One truth, after all, is very apparent, that their own folly, perverseness, and wicked- if we should argue ourselves into atheism, ness; then it is that the evils of life seem by the untractableness of these subjects, we as atoms in the sun-beam; the divine na- should be so far from getting rid of our ture appears overflowing with goodness to difficulties, that, if we reason justly, ten mankind, and calls forth every exertion of thousand greater would arise, either from our gratitude and love.

considering the world under no ruler, or That the enjoyments of a future state, in under one of our own imagining.. whatever those enjoyments consist, are the There remains one farther consideration gift of God, is sufficiently obvious: but with regard to the love of God, and that with regard to the government of this is, the measure of it. We are told we world, there is often among men a sort ought to love him “with all our heart, of infidelity, which ascribes all events to with allour soul,and with all our strength.' their own prudence and industry. Things These are strong expressions, and seem to appear to run in a stated course; and the imply a greater warmth of affection, than finger of God, which acts unseen, is never many people may perhaps find they can supposed.

exert. The affections of some are patuAnd, no doubt, our own industry and rally cool, and little excited by any objects. prudence have a great share in procuring The guilty person, is he, whose affections for us the blessings of life. God hath an

are warm, in every thing but religion.nexed them as the reward of such exer- The obvious meaning therefore of tions. But can we suppose, that such ex- pression is, that whether our affections are ortions will be of any service to us, unless cool or warm, we should make God our the providence of God throw opportuni- chief good, that we should set our affecties in our way? All the means of worldly tions more upon him, than upon any thing happiness are surely no other than the else--and that, for his sake, and for the means of his government. Moses saw sake of his laws, we should be ready to among the Jews a kind of infidelity like resign every thing we have, and even life this, when he forbade the people to say in itself. So that the words seem pearly of their hearts, “My power, and the might the same import with those of the apostle, of my hands hath gotten me this wealth :" “Set your affections on things above, and whereas, he adds, they ought to remember, not on things on the earth.” Gilpin. “ That it is the Lord who giveth power to get wealth.” Others again have objected to the good

§ 107. Worship and Honour of God. ness of God, his permission of evil. A Our next duty to God is, “to worsbip good God, say they, would have prevented him, to give him thanks, to put our whole it; and have placed his creatures in a situa- trust in him, and to call upon

him." tion beyond the distresses of life.

Since the observance of the Sabbath is With regard to man, there seems to be founded upon many wise and just reasons, no great difficulty in this matter. It is what have they to answer for, wbo pot enougl., surely, that God has put the means only neglect this institution themselves, of comfort in our power. In the natural but bring it by their example into conworld, he hath given us remedies against tempt with others? I speak not to those hunger, cold, and disease; and in the who make it a day of common diversion; moral world, against the mischief of sin. who, laying aside all decency, and breakEven death itself, the last great evil, he ing through all civil and religious regulahath shewn us how we may change into tions, spend itiu the most licentious amusethe most consummate blessing. A state of inents ; such people are past all reproof; trial, therefore, and a future world, seem but I speak to those, who in other things easily to set things to rights on this bead. profess themselves to be serious people;

The misery of the brute creation is in- and, one might hope, would act right, when deed more unaccountable. But have we they were cởnvinced what was so, not the modesty to suppose, that this diffi- But our prayers, whether in public or in

a

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »