« PreviousContinue »
and the Prophets, who were his forerunners, and the Apostles whom he sent. Gal. iii. 24. “ the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Heb. xiii. 8. “ Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Col. ii. 17. “ which are a shadow of things to come : but the body is of Christ.” 1 Pet. i. 10, 11. “who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you : searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify.' Rom. i. 1. “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ :” in which manner he begins nearly all the rest of his epistles. 1 Cor. iv. 1. “let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ."
DIVINE REVELATION. Isai. li. 4. “a law shall proceed from me.
Matt. xvi. 17. “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” John vi. 46. “they shall be all taught of God.” ix. 29. we know that God spake unto Moses.” Gal. i. 11, 12. "the gospel which
“ was preached of me is not after man; for I neither received it of man.” 1 Thess. iv. 9. “Ye yourselves are taught of God."
This doctrine, therefore, is to be obtained, not from the schools of the philosophers, nor from the laws of man, but from the Holy Scriptures alone, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 2 Tim. i. 14. “that good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” Col. ii. 8. “lest any man spoil you through philosophy.” Dan. iii. 16. “we are not careful to answer thee in this matter." Acts iv. 19. “whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.”
In this treatise, then, no novelties of doctrine are taught; but, for the sake of assisting the memory, what is dispersed throughout the different parts of the Holy Scriptures is conveniently reduced into one compact body as it were, and digested under certain heads. This method might be easily defended on the ground of Christian prudence, but it seems better to rest its authority on the divine command ; Matt. xiii. 52. “every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom. of heaven is like unto a man which is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” So also the Apostle says, 2 Tim. i. 13. "lold fast the form”
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 arrange ment: 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 evan. gelical Scriptures which were then written (as in Rom. ii. 20. uogowors, "the form of knowledge and of the truth in the μόρφωσις, 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 unto you 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,-FAITI, or THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD,—and Love, or_THE WORSHIP OF GOD.8 Gen. xvii. 1. “walk before me, and be
8 Milton, as is usual 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 Cvil 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 fáith and a good conscience.” Tit. iii. 8. “that they which have believed might be careful--" 1 John ü. 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 bim." 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. THOUGА there be not a few who deny the existence of God,'
9 Unless there be who think not God at all :
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 Sacræ, 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. Hume 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. .... fatum quid nisi effatum divinum omnipotentis cujuspiam numinis potest
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 or bad.
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, XII. 83.