that such punishment will follow upon it. Nobody, indeed supposes that sin is, in all respects, infinite. As committed by a finite creature, and admitting of different degree, it must be finite, and will doubtless be punished hereafter with different degrees of punishment; but, as committed against a God of infinite excellence, and as tending to infinite anarchy and mischief, it must be infinite. All that is meant, I suppose, by calling sin an infinite evil, is, that it is deserving of endless punishment; and this can never be fairly objected to, as an absurdity. If there be no absurdity in the immortality of a sinner's existence, there is none in supposing him to deserve a punishment, be it in what degree it may, they shall run commensurate with it. There is no absurdity in supposing a sinner to have been guilty of such crimes as to deserve misery for as long a duration as he is capable of sustaining it. But whatever may be said as to the truth or falsehood of this sentiment, thus much is clear: that, in proportion as our opponents conceive diminutively of the evil of sin, they diminish the grace of forgiveness; and if that forgiveness come to us through Christ, (as is plainly implied in their loving him most who have most forgiven,) it must needs follow, that in the same proportion, the love of Christ is sapped at the foundation.

Once more: The expense at which we suppose our forgiveness to have been obtained, is a consideration which endears to us both the gift and the giver. We do not conceive of Christ, in his bestowment of this blessing upon us, as presenting us with that which costs him nothing. If the portion given by Jacob to his son Joseph was heightened and endeared by its being obtained by the sword and the bow; much more is a title to eternal life, by its being obtained through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is this that attracts the hearts of those who are described as singing a new song to their redeemer, Thou wast slain, and hast

Christ did, When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own. It was thus with the Apostle, when speaking of the evil of his own heart, That sin by the commandment might become-what? He wanted a name worse than his ownhe could not find one-he therefore unites a strong epithet to the thing itself, calling it exceeding sinful.

redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred and tongue, and people, and nation.

It does not appear, from any thing I have seen, that the system of our opponents can, with any plausibility, be pretended to equal ours, respecting love to Christ. All that can be alleged, with any colour of reason; all, however, that I have noticed, is this; That, in proportion as we, in this way, furnish motives of love to Christ, we detract from those of love to the Father, by diminishing the freeness of his grace, and exhibiting him as one that was incapable of bestowing forgiveness, unless a price was paid for it. To this it is replied: If the incapacity of the Father to show mercy without an atonement, consisted in a want of love, or any thing of natural implacability, or even a reluctance to the bestowment of mercy, there would be force in the objection: but, if it be no other than the incapacity of a righteous governor, who, whatever goodwill he may have to an offender, cannot bear the thought of passing by the offence without some public expression of displeasure against it; that, while mercy triumphs, it may not be at the expense of law, of equity, and of the general good; such an incapacity rather infers a perfection, than an imperfection, in his nature; and, instead of diminishing our regard for his character, must have a powerful tendency to increase it.

[ocr errors]

I am, &c.



Christian Brethren,

If we may judge of the nature of true piety by the examples of the prophets and holy men of old, we may conclude, with certainty, that an affectionate attachment to the holy scriptures, as the rule of faith and practice, enters deeply into the spirit of it. The holy scriptures were desribed, by David, under the names of the word, statutes, laws, precepts, judgments, and testimonies of God; and to these, all through the Psalms, especially in the 119th, he professes a most ardent attachment. Such language as the following was very common with him, as well as others of the Old-testament writers; O how I love thy law!-Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.-Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wonderous things out of thy law. My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.-Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.-Thy statutes have been my song in the house of my pilgrimage.-The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.

Dr. Priestley often professes great regard for the sacred wri tings, and is very severe on Mr. Burn, for suggesting, that he denied "the infallibility of the apostolic testimony concerning the person of Christ." He also tells Dr. Price, "No man can pay a higher regard to proper scripture authority than I do." We may therefore take it for granted, that a regard for the authority of scripture is a virtue; a virtue that our opponents, as well as we, would be thought to possess.

I wish, in this Letter, to inquire, supposing the sacred writers to have been honest and good men, What a regard to the proper authority of their writings includes, and to compare it with the avowed sentiments of our adversaries. By those means, brethren, you may be the better able to judge for yourselves, whether

the spirit which animates the whole body of the Socinian divinity does not breathe a language unfriendly to the sacred writings, and carry in it something hostile to every thought being subdued to the obedience of Christ.

In order to judge of a regard for proper scriptural authority, it is necessary, in the first place, to have recourse to the professions of the sacred writers concerning what they wrote. If any man venerate the authority of scripture, he must receive it as BEING


If the scriptures profess to be divinely inspired, and assume to be the infallible standard of faith and practice; we must either receive them as such, or, if we would be consistent, disown the writers, as impostors.

The professions of the sacred writers are as follow: The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue: the God of Israel said, the rock of Israel spake to me.—Thus saith the Lord. -And Jehoshaphat stood,and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.*

New-testament writers bear ample testimony to the inspiration of those under the Old Testament. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God; and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for eorrection, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.-No prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation—it is not to be considered as the private opinion of a fallible man, as the case is with other productions-for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.†

Nor did the New-testament writers bear testimony to the inspiration of the prophets only; but considered their own writings as equally inspired: If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. Peter ranks the Epistles of

* 2 Sam. xxiii. 2, 3. Isa. xlii. 1. 2 Chron. xx. 20.

+ 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. 2 Peter i. 20, 21.

Paul with other scriptures.* There seems to have been one instance in which Paul disowned his having received any commandment from the Lord, and in which he proceeded to give his own private judgment:† but this appears to have been a particular exception from a general rule, of which notice was expressly given; an exception, therefore, which tends to strengthen, rather than to weaken the argument for apostolic inspiration.

As the sacred writers considered themselves as divinely inspired, so they represented their writings as the infallible test of divine truth, to which all appeals were to be made, and by which every controversy in religious matters was to be decided. To the law, and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.-These are the true sayings of God. That which is noted in the scriptures of truth.—What saith the scripture?-Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.-The Bereans searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

[ocr errors]

The sacred writers did not spare to denounce the most awful judgments against those who should either pervert their writings, add to them, or detract from them. Those who wrested the apostolic Epistles, are said to have wrested them, as they did the other scriptures, to their own destruction.-Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let them be accursed.- What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.—If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life. Nothing short of the most perfect divine inspiration could justify such language as this. or secure those who used it from the charge of bold presumption and base imposition.

* 1 Cor. xiv. 37. 2 Pet. iii. 16. t 1 Cor. vii. 25.
Dan. x. 21. Rom. iv. 3.

Isa. viii. 20. Acts, xvii. 11.

Rev. xix. 9.

John, v. 39.

2 Pet. iii. 16. Gal. i. 8. Deut. xii. 32. Rev. xxii. 18, 19.

« ElőzőTovább »