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language of the dissenters, and others, who followed the standard of the parliament against king Charles the First, though they were not the particular motives of the war, nor could contract any just blame from the unhappy issue of that war; yet at the restoration of king Charles the Second, the resentment which took place against the persons of the dissenters, and ran high, I apprehend, led the church clergy not only to be angry with the men, but to forsake their principles too, though right and innocent in themselves, and aforetime held in common among all Protestants."
This, the author thinks, gave rise to the excessive zeal for enforcing natural religion, and for mere moral preaching, to the exclusion of the distinguishing doctrines of Christ, and particularly those sublime mysteries respecting the operation of the Holy Ghost, the very life and soul of Christianity.
“Every thing," says he,“ besides morality began, from that time, to be branded with the odious term of enthusiasm and hypocrisy. That the cause of religion (observes the same writer) has declined for many years, every person appears sensible. Among the various reasons assigned for it, the principal, in my opinion, is, that the established ministers have suffered it to die in their own hands, by departing from the old method of preaching, and from their first and original tenets; which has given countenance to what is called natural reli. gion, in such a measure, as to shut out revealed religion, and supersede the gospel.
“ It is in vain to cry out against deists and intidels, when the Protestant watchmen have deserted their post, and themselves have opened a gap for the enemy. Learning and oratory, it must be owned, are arrived at great perfection, but our true old divinity is gone. Amid these splendid trifles, the gospel is really lost.”
It is certain, that the profligate court of Charles the Second, in its endeavours to discredit the dissenters, many of whom were admirable scholars and divines, as well as holy and exemplary men in private life, contributed much to explode all doctrines concerning the Spirit. Unfortunately, those clergymen who wished to be favoured at court, too easily conformed their doctrines to its wishes; and arguments from the pulpit united with sarcasms from the seat of the scorner, to render all who maintained the doctrine of grace suspected of enthusiasm and hypocrisy. Ridicule, in the hands of the author of Hudibras, though intended only to serve political purposes, became a weapon that wounded religion in its vitals.
The sect of Christians denominated Quakers, certainly entertain many right notions respecting Divine influence: and therefore, as the Quakers were disliked by the church, the doctrines which they maintained were to be treated with contempt. The Spirit, whose operations they justly maintain, became, under the direction of worldly policy, a word of reproach to them. Consequently, aspiring clergymen, wishing to avoid every doctrine which could retard their advancement, or fix a stigma of heterodoxy upon them, were very little inclined to preach the necessity of divine illumination. They feared the opprobious names of enthusiasts or hy
See a letter signed · Paulinus,” published in 1735.
pocrites, and so became ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
In process of time, arose the sect of the Methodists; who, however they may be mistaken in some points, are certainly orthodox in their opinions of the divine agency on the human soul. They found it in the Scriptures, in the liturgy, in the articles, and they preached it with a zeal which to many appeared intemperate, and certainly was sometimes too little guided by discretion. The consequence was, that the spiritual doctrines, already vilified by the court of Charles the Second, and by the adversaries of the Quakers, became objects of general dislike and derision.
In the meantime, the gospel of Jesus Christ suffered by its professed friends, as well as declared enemies. Regular divines of great virtue, learning, and true piety, feared to preach the Holy Ghost and its operations, the main doctrine of the gospel, lest they should countenance the Puritan, the Quaker, or the Methodist, and lose the esteem of their own order, or of the higher powers. They often contented themselves, during a long life, with preaching morality only; which, without the Spirit of Christianity, is like a beautiful statue from the hand of a Bacon; however graceful its symmetry, and polished its materials, yet wanting the breath of life, it is still but a block of marble.
These prejudices remaining at this day, I have thought it right to recommend the sort of evidence which this book attempts to display, by citing the authority of great divines, who, uninfluenced by secular hopes or fears, have borne witness to the
truth as it is in Jesus. They are among the most celebrated theologists of this nation; and such as few among living or recent writers will presume to vie with, in extent of knowledge, in power of expression, and zeal for Christianity.
Bitter is the anger of controversialists in divi. nity. Arrows dipt in venom are usually hurled at a writer, who ventures to recommend a doctrine which they disapprove. I must seek shelter under the shields of such men as Bishop Taylor, Doctor Isaac Barrow, and others, in and out of the establishment, who fought a good fight, and kept the faith, having no regard to worldly and sinister motives, but faithfully endeavouring to lead those, over whom they were appointed guides, by the radiance of gospel light, from the shadowy mazes of error, into the pleasant paths of piety and peace.
Whatever obloquy may follow the teaching of such doctrine, I shall incur it with alacrity, because I believe it to be the truth, and that the happiness of human nature is highly concerned in its general reception. I will humbly say, therefore, with St. Paul, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ Jesus, for it is the power of God unto salvation.''
And as to those who deny the doctrine of divine influence, I fear they are guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. I speak diffidently, as it becomes every mortal, on a subject so momentous; but let those who are eager to deny and even deride the doctrine, consider duly what is meant by the sin against the Holy Ghost, and let
them remember this tremendous declaration of our Saviour himself, that · Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven." All other sins, we are expressly told, may be remitted, but on this the gates of mercy are closed. The denial of the Spirit's energy renders the gospel of no effect, extinguishes the living light of Jesus Christ, and involves wretched mortals in the darkness and death of Adam, fallen from the state of primitive perfection. It is represented as the greatest of all sins, because it is productive of the greatest misery.
The proper Evidence of the Christian Religion is the
illumination of the Holy Ghost, shining into the hearts of those who do not close them against its entrance. The opinion of Dr. Gloucester Ridley cited.
· None,' says St. Paul, “can say Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” If, then, St. Paul be allowed to have understood the Christian religion, it is certain, that mere human testimony will never convince the infidel, and produce that faith which constitutes the true Christian. Our theolo