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nezzar's days. And after God had again delivered them, and restored the state of religion among them, by the instrumentality of the Maccabees, they degenerated agam: So that when Christ came, they were arrived to that extreme degree of corruption which is represented in the accounts given by the Evangelists.
It may be observed here in general, that the Jews, though so vastly distinguished with advantages, means, and motives to holiness, yet are represented, from time to time, as more wicked in the sight of God, than the very worst of the heathen. As, of old, God sware by his life that the wickedness of Sodom was small compared with that of the Jews; (Ezek. xvi. 47, 48, &c. also chap. v. 5-10.) So Christ, speaking of the Jews in his time, represents them as having much greater guilt than the inhabitants of Tyre and Sydon, or even Sodom and Gomorrah.
But we are now come to the time when the grandest scene was displayed that ever was opened on earth. After all other schemes had been so long and so thoroughly tried, and had so greatly failed of success, both among Jews and Gentiles; that wonderful dispensation was at length introduced--the greatest scheme for suppressing and restraining iniquity among mankind, that ever infinite wisdom and mercy contrived-even the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. "A new dispensation of grace was erected (to use Dr. T's. own words, p. 239, 240) for the more certain and effectual sanctification of mankind into the image of God; delivering them from the sin and wickedness into which they might fall, or were already fallen; to redeem them from all iniquity, and bring them to the knowledge and obedience of God." In whatever high and exalted terms the scripture speaks of the means and motives which the Jews enjoyed of old; yet their privileges are represented as having no glory, in comparison of the advantages of the gospel. Dr. T.'s words (p. 233.) are worthy to be here repeated. "Even the heathen (says he) knew God, and might have glorified him as God; but under the glorious light of the gospel, we have very clear ideas of the divine perfections, and particularly of the love of God as our Father, and as the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We see our duty in the utmost extent, and the most cogent reasons to perform it: We have eternity opened to us, even an endless state of honour and felicity, the reward of virtuous actions; and the Spirit of God promised for our direction and assistance. And all this may and ought to be applied to the purifying of our minds and the perfecting of holiness. And to these happy advantages we are born; for which we are bound for ever to praise and magnify the rich grace of God in the Redeemer."
And he elsewhere says,* *The gospel constitution is a scheme the most perfect and effectual for restoring true religion, and promoting virtue and happiness, that ever the world has yet seen." And admirably adapted to enlighten our minds and sanctify our hearts. And never were motives so divine and powerful proposed, to induce us to the practice of all virtue and goodness.
And yet even these means have been ineffectual upon the far greater part of them with whom they have been used; of the many that have been called few have been chosen.
As to the Jews, God's ancient people, with whom they were used in the first place, and used long by Christ and his apostles, the generality of them rejected Christ and his gospel with extreme pertinacity of spirit. They not only went on still in that career of corruption which had been increasing from the time of the Maccabees; but Christ's coming, his doctrine and miracles, the preaching of his followers, and the glorious things that attended the same, were the occasion, through their perverse misimprovement, of an infinite increase of their wickedness. They crucified the Lord of Glory with the utmost malice and cruelty, and persecuted his followers; they pleased not God, and were contrary to all men; they went on to grow worse and worse, till they filled up the measure of their sin, and wrath came upon them to the uttermost; and they were destroyed and cast out of God's sight, with unspeakably greater tokens of the divine abhorrence and indignation, than in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. The greater part of the whole nation were slain, and the rest were scattered abroad through the earth in the most abject and forlorn circumstances. And in the same spirit of unbelief and malice against Christ and the Gospel, and in their miserable dispersed circumstances, do they remain to this day.
And as to the gentile nations, though there was a glorious success of the gospel amongst them in the apostles' days; yet probably not one in ten of those that had the gospel preached to them embraced it. The powers of the world were set against it, and persecuted it with insatiable malignity. And among the professors of christianity, there presently appeared in many a disposition to abuse the gospel to the service of pride and licentiousness. The apostles foretold a grand apostacy of the christian world which should continue many ages; and observed, that there appeared a disposition to such an apostacy among professing christians, even in that day. (2 Thess. ii. 7.) The greater part of the ages now elapsed, have been spent in that grand and general apostacy, under which the christian world, as it is called, has been transformed into what has been
Pref. to Par. on Rom. p. 145, 47.
Key, § 167. Note on Rom. i. 16.
vastly more dishonourable and hateful to God, and repugnant to true virtue, than the state of the heathen world before: Which is agreeable to the prophetical descriptions given of it by the Holy Spirit.
In these latter ages of the christian church, God has raised up a number of great and good men to bear testimony against the corruptions of the Church of Rome, and by their means introduced that light into the world, by which, in a short time, at least one third part of Europe was delivered from the more gross enormities of Antichrist: Which was attended at first with a great reformation as to vital and practical religion. But how is the gold become dim! To what a pass are things come in protestant countries at this day, and in our nation in particular! To what a prodigious height has a deluge of infidelity, profaneness, luxury, debauchery, and wickedness of every kind, arisen ! The poor savage Americans are mere babes, if I may so speak, as to proficiency in wickedness, in comparison of multitudes in the christian world. Dr. T. himself, as before observed, represents, that the generality of christians have been the most wicked, lewd, bloody, and treacherous of all mankind; and (Key, § 388.) that "The wickedness of the christian world renders it so much like the heathen, that the good effects of our change to christianity are but little seen."
With respect to the dreadful corruption of the present day, it is to be considered, besides the advantages already mentioned, that great advances in learning and philosophic knowledge have been made in the present and past century: affording great advantage for a proper and enlarged exercise of our rational powers, and for our seeing the bright manifestation of God's perfections in his works. And it is to be observed, that the means and inducements to virtue which this age enjoys, are in addition to most of those which were mentioned before, as given of old; and among other things, in addition to the shortening of man's life to 70 or 80 years, from near a thousand. And, with regard to this, I would observe, that as the case now stands in christendom, take one with another of those who ever come to years of discretion, their life is not more than forty or forty-five years; which is but about the twentieth part of what it once was: And not so much in great cities, places where profaneness, sensuality, and debauchery, commonly prevail to the greatest degree.
Dr. T. (Key, § 1.) truly observes, That God has from the beginning exercised wonderful and infinite wisdom in the methods he has, from age to age, made use of to oppose vice, cure corruption, and promote virtue in the world; and introduced several schemes to that end. It is indeed remarkable, how many schemes and methods were tried of old, both before and after the flood; how many were used in the times of the
old testament, both with jews and heathens, and how ineffectual all these ancient methods proved, for 4000 years together, till God introduced that grand dispensation, for redeeming men from all iniquity, and purifying them to himself, a peopie zealous of good works; which the scripture represents as the subject of the admiration of angels. But even this has now so long proved ineffectual, with respect to the generality, that Dr. T. thinks there is need of a new dispensation; the present light of the gospel being insufficient for the full reformation of the Christian world, by reason of its corruptions: (Note on Rom. i. 27.)-And yet all these things, according to him, without any natural bias to the contrary; no stream of natural inclination or propensity at all, to oppose inducements to goodness; no native opposition of heart, to withstand those gracious means which God has ever used with mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day; any more than there was in the heart of Adam the moment God created him in perfect innocence.
Surely Dr. T.'s scheme is attended with strange paradoxes. And that his mysterious tenets may appear in a true light, it must be observed that—at the same time he supposes these means, even the very greatest and best of them, to have proved so ineffectual, that help from them, as to any general reformation, is to be despaired of that he maintains all mankind, even the heathen in all parts of the world, yea, every single person in it, (which must include every Indian in Ameca, before the Europeans came hither; and every inhabitant of the unknown parts of Africa and Terra Australis) has ability, light, and means sufficient to do their whole duty; yea, many passages in his writings plainly suppose, to perform perfect obedience to God's law, without the least degree of vice or iniquity.*
But I must not omit to observe, that Dr. T. supposes, the reason why the gospel-dispensation has been so ineffectual, is, that it has been greatly misunderstood and perverted. In his Key, (§ 389,) he says, "Wrong representations of the scheme of the gospel have greatly obscured the glory of divine grace, and contributed much to the corruption of its professors.Such doctrines have been almost universally taught and received, as quite subvert it. Mistaken notions about nature, grace, election and reprobation, justification, regeneration, redemption, calling, adoption, &c. have quite taken away the very ground of the Christian life."
But how came the gospel to be so universally and exceedingly misunderstood? Is it because it is in itself so very dark and unintelligible, and not adapted to the apprehension of the
* See p. 259, 63, 64, 72. S.
human faculties? If so, how is the possession of such an obscure and unintelligible thing, so glorious an advantage?-Or is it because of the native blindness, corruption, and superstition of mankind! But this is giving up the thing in question, and allowing a great depravity of nature. Dr. T. speaks of the gospel as far otherwise than dark and unintelligible; he represents it as exhibiting the clearest and most glorious light, calculated to deliver the world from darkness, and to bring them into marvellous light. He speaks of the light which the Jews had under the Mosaic dispensation, as vastly exceeding the light of nature which the heathen enjoyed; and yet he supposes, that even the latter was so clear, as to be sufficient to lead men to the knowledge of God and their whole duty to him. He speaks of the light of the gospel as vastly exceeding the light of the Old Testament; and says of the apostle Paul in particular, "That he wrote with great perspicuity; that he takes great care to explain every part of his subject; that he has left no part of it unexplained and unguarded; and that never was an author more exact and cautious in this."* Is it not strange, therefore, that the Christian world, without any native depravity, should be so blind in the midst of such glaring light, as to be all, or the generality, agreed, from age to age, so essentially to misunderstand that which is made so very plain?
Dr. T. says (p. 167. S.) "It is my persuasion, that the Christian religion was very early and grievously corrupted by dreaming, ignorant, superstitious monks, too conceited to be satisfied with the plain gospel; and has long remained in that deplorable state."-But how came the whole Christian world, without any blinding depravity, to hearken to these ignorant, foolish men, rather than unto wiser and better teachers ? Especially, when the latter had plain gospel on their side, and the doctrines of the other were (as our author supposes) so very contrary not only to the plain gospel, but to men's reason and common sense? Or were all the teachers of the Christian church nothing but a parcel of ignorant dreamers? If so, this is very strange indeed, unless mankind naturally love darkness, rather than light; seeing in all parts of the Christian world there was a great multitude in the work of the ministry, who had the gospel in their hands, and whose whole business it was to study and teach it; and therefore had infinitely greater advantages to become truly wise, than the heathen philosophers. But if, by some strange and inconceivable means, notwithstanding all these glorious advantages, all the teachers of the christian church through the world, without any native evil propensity, very early became silly
Pref. to Par. on Rom. p. 146, 49.