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which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to have determined to adopt as the rule of his own conduct for teaching the heads of Christian doctrine in methodical arrangement: vi. 1--3. “of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment; and this will we do, if God permit.” This usage of the Christians was admirably suited for Catechumens when first professing their faith in the Church. Allusion is made to the same system in Rom. vi. 17. “ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” In this passage the Greek word τυπός, as well as υποτύπωσις, 2 Tim. i. 13. seems to signify either that part of the evangelical Scriptures which were then written (as in Rom. ii. 20. μόρφωσις, , “the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law” signified the law itself) or some systematic course of instruction derived from them or from the whole doctrine of the gospel. Acts xx. 27. “I have not shunned to declare
all the counsel of God”—which must mean some entire body of doctrine, formed according to a certain plan, though probably not of great extent, since the whole was gone through, and perhaps even repeated several times during St. Paul's stay at Ephesus, which was about the space of three years.
Christian doctrine is comprehended under two divisions FAITH, or THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD,—and LOVE, or THE WORSHIP OF GOD.S Gen. xvii. 1. “walk before me, and be
8 Milton, as is usnal with him, here employs the word love, or charity, to signify the whole “knot of Christian graces ;' or, in other words, practical religion, comprehending all the fruits of the Spirit flowing from, and founded upon, vital faith.
Par. Lost, XII. 583. •Christ having cancelled the handwriting of ordinances which was against us, Col. ii. 14, and interpreted the fulfilling of all through charity, hath in that respect set us over love, in the free custody of his love, and left us victorious under the guidance of his living Spirit, not under the dead letter ; to follow that which most edifies, most aids and furthers a religious life,' &c. Tetrachordon. Prose Works, III. 323. And again, in a passage hearing a remarkable similarity to the sentence above, What evangelic religion is, is told in two words, Faith and Charity, or Belief and Practice.' Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes, II. 534.
thou perfect.” Psal. xxxvii. 3. “trust in Jehovah, and do good.” Luke xi. 28. “ blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” Acts xxiv. 14. “ believing all things”. and v. 16. “ herein do I exercise myself.” 2 Tim. i. 13. “hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and in love which is in Christ Jesus." 1 Tim. i. 19. "holding faith and a good conscience.” Tit. iii. 8. “that they which have believed might be careful—.” 1 John iii. 23. “ that we should believe and love.'
These two divisions, though they are distinct in their own nature, and put asunder for the convenience of teaching, cannot be separated in practice. Rom. ii. 13. “not the hearers of the law, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” James i. 22. “ be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.” Besides, obedience and love are always the best guides to knowledge, and often lead the way from small beginnings, to a greater and more flourishing degree of proficiency. Psal. xxv. 14. “the secret of Jehovah is with them that fear him." John vii. 17. “if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." viii. 31, 32. “if
word .. ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 1 John ii. 3. “hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”
It must be observed, that Faith in this division does not mean the habit of believing, but the things to be habitually believed. So Acts vi. 7. “ were obedient to the faith.” Gal. i. 23. “he preacheth the faith.”
CHAP. II.-OF GOD.
Though there be not a few who deny the existence of God,' 9 Unless there be who think not God at all :
If any be, they walk obscure;
And no man therein doctor but himself.—Samson Agonistes, 295. Compare on the subject of this chapter Wilkins On Natural Religion ; Tillotson's Sermon on Job xxviii. 28, the Wisdom of being Religious ; Stillingfleet's Origines Sacre, Book III. chap. 1. ; Cudworth's Intellectual System ; Barrow On the Creed ; Locke On Human Understanding, Book IV. chap. 10; Burnet On the First Article.
for “the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," Psal. xiv. 1. yet the Deity has imprinted upon the human mind so many unquestionable tokens of himself, and so many traces of him are apparent throughout the whole of nature, that no one in his senses can remain ignorant of the truth. Job. xii. 9. “ who knoweth not in all these that the hand of Jehovah hath wrought this ?” Psal. xix. 1. “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Acts xiv. 17. “ he left not himself without witness.” xvii. 27, 28. “he is not far from every one of us.” Rom. i. 19, 20. “that which may be known of God is manifest in them.” and ii. 14, 15. “the Gentiles.... shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness.” 1 Cor. i. 21. “after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” There can be no doubt but that every thing in the world, by the beauty of its order, and the evidence of a determinate and beneficial purpose which pervades it, testifies that some supreme efficient Power must have pre-existed, by which the whole was ordained for a specific end.
There are some who pretend that nature or fate is this supreme Power :' but the very name of nature implies that it must owe its birth to some prior agent, or, to speak properly, signifies in itself nothing ; but means either the essence of a thing, or that general law which is the origin of every thing, and under which every thing acts.
On the other hand, fate can be nothing but a divine decree emanating from some almighty power.
that Power Which erring men call Chance.- Comus, 588. In allusion to the doctrines of the Stoicks, &c. Seneca De Beneficiis, iv. 8.
Sic hunc naturam vocas, fatum, fortunam ; omnia ejusdem Dei nomina sunt, varie utentis sua potestate.' Nat. Quæst. ii. 45. • Vis illum fatum vocare ? non errabis.' See, for the different reasonings of ancient philosophers on this subject, Cicero De Fato and De Divinatione. Ilume acknowledges that it has been found hitherto to exceed all the skill of philosophy. On Liberty and Necessity. The next clauses of this sentence contain in the original two of those conceits which are so frequent in Milton's works, and which can scarcely be preserved in a translation.
The passage stands thus—sed natura natam se fatetur, &c. ... ...et fatum quid nisi effatum divinum omnipotentis cujuspiam numinis potest esse?'
Further, those who attribute the creation of every thing to nature, must necessarily associate chance with nature as a joint divinity; so that they gain nothing by this theory, except that in the place of that one God, whom they cannot tolerate, they are obliged, however reluctantly, to substitute two sovereign rulers of affairs, who must almost always be in opposition to each other. In short, many visible proofs, the verification of numberless predictions, a multitude of wonderful works have compelled all nations to believe, either that God, or that some evil power whose name was unknown, presided over the affairs of the world. Now that evil should prevail over good, and be the true supreme power, is as unmeet as it is incredible. Hence it follows as a necessary consequence, that God exists.
Again : the existence of God is further proved by that feeling, whether we term it conscience, or right reason, which even in the worst of characters, is not altogether extinguished. If there were no God, there would be no distinction between right and wrong; the estimate of virtue and vice would entirely depend on the blind opinion of men ; none would follow virtue, none would be restrained from vice by any sense of shame, or fear of the laws, unless conscience or right reason did from time to time convince every one, however unwilling, of the existence of God, the Lord and ruler of all things, to whom, sooner or later, each must give an account of his own actions, whether good
The whole tenor of Scripture proves the same thing; and the disciples of the doctrine of Christ may fairly be required to give assent to this truth before all others, according to Heb. xi. 6. “ he that cometh to God must believe that he is.” It is proved also by the dispersion of the ancient nation of the Jews throughout the whole world, conformably to what God often forewarned them would happen on account of their sins. Nor is it only to pay the penalty of their own guilt that they have been reserved in their scattered state, among
? Since thy original lapse, true liberty
Is lost, which always with right reason dwells
Paradise Lost, III. 83.
the rest of the nations, through the revolution of successive ages, and even to the present day; but also to be a perpetual and living testimony to all people under heaven, of the existence of God, and of the truth of the Holy Scriptures.
No one, however, can have right thoughts of God, with nature or reason alone as his guide, independent of the word, or message of God. Rom. x. 14. “how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard ?”
God is known, so far as he is pleased to make us acquainted with himself, either from his own nature, or from his efficient power.
When we speak of knowing God, it must be understood with reference to the imperfect comprehension of man; for to know God as he really is, far transcends the powers of man's thoughts, much more of his perception. 1 Tim. vi. 16.
dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.' God therefore has made as full a revelation of himself as our minds can conceive, or the weakness of our nature can bear. Exod. xxxiii. 20, 23. “there shall no man see me, and live
but thou shalt see my back parts.” Isai. vi. 1. “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” John i. 18. no man hath seen God at any time.”
vi. 46. “not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.” V. 37. ye have neither heard his voice at any
time.” 1 Cor. xiii. 12. ^
we see through a glass, darkly. ... in part.” Our safest way is to form in our minds such a conception of God, as shall correspond with his own delineation and representation of himself in the sacred writings. For granting that both in the literal and figurative descriptions of God, he 3 Left only in those written records pure,
Though not but by the Spirit understood.-Paradise Lost, XII, 513 • It will require no great labour of exposition to unfold what is here meant by matters of religion ; being as soon apprehended as defined, such things as belong chiefly to the knowledge and service of God, and are either above the reach and light of nature without revelation from above, and therefore liable to be variously understood by human reason,' &c. Treatise of Ci Power Ecclesiastical Causes. Prose Works, II. 523. • True religion is the true worship and service of God, learnt and believed from the word of God only. No man or angel can know how God would be worshipped and served, unless God reveal it.' Of True Religion, &c., 11. 509.