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VII. PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE ABOVE
DOCTRINES. The found knowledge of christianity is not of importance as a matter of speculation merely; though abstract truths, especially truths that relate to God, and the maxims of his moral government, are not without their utility and obligation : but the truths that I here contend for nearly affect the sentiments of our hearts, and our conduct in life; as, indeed, has been shewn in many respects already. Considering God as poslesed of the character in which some divines represent him, it is impossible, while human nature is what it is, that he should appear in an amiable or respectable liglit. Such a God may, indeed, be the objet of dread and terror to his creatures; but hy no means of their love or reverence. And what is obedience without love? It cannot be that of the heart, which, however, is the only thing that is of any real value in religion. Also, how. can a man love his fellow-creatures in general, when he confiders the greatest part of them as the objects of the divine abhorrence, and doomed by him to an everlasting destruction, in which he believes that he himself must for ever rejoice? And what can remain of virtue, when these two great sources of it, the love of God and of mankind, are thus grossly corrupted ? Lastly, how must the genuine spirit of mercy and forgiveness, which so eminently distinguishes the gospel
of Christ, be debased, when God himself (whose conduct in this very respect is particularly proposed to our imitation) is considered as never forgiving fin without some previous atonement, satisfaction, or interceffion? . On the other hand, loving God, as the compassionate Father of all his offspring, as willing that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of his truth; and also loving all mankind as our brethren, as, together with ourselves, the children of the fame gracious Father, we cannot want the most generous and powerful motives to do the will of God, and to pro(voke one ancther to love and to good works; being in no
fear of counteracting the secret designs of the Almighty, which we believe are aimed, not at the deftruction, but the happiness of all his creatures.
Think not, however, that I am so uncharitable as to suppose that all those who profess to maintain the doctrines I have been arguing against, are universally destitute of the genuine love of God, or of their fellow-creatures, I am sensible, and truly thankful, that it is not always the consequence; but it is because the hearts of such persons are really influenced by better principles than those which they avow.
They by no means habitually regard the Divine Being in the light in which their principles represent him, but as the true Father of all the creatures that he has made, and, as such, sincerely desirous to promote their best interests.
Also, notwithstanding, if they be asked, they will not hesitate to say, that Christ is God, the supremacy of the Father, even with respect to the Son, is, at the same time, the real sentiment of their minds; and when they lift up their hearts to God, it is only God the Father that is the proper object of their adoration. The constant tenor of the scriptures is so contrary to thair prosessed creed, that though they dare not call it in question, it is not able to counteract the plainer, the more confistent, and the better principles which will force themselves upon their minds from converfing with the bible. · Besides, it requires more subtlety and refinement to enter into the principles above-mentioned, than the common people are masters of. They cannot conceive how one man should fin, and another perfon, fix thousand years after, be guilty of that fin, and punishable for it; how one person's righteousnefs should be considered as the righteousness of ano. ther; or that three distinct persons should each of them be God, and yet that there shall be no more Gods than one.
Men of plain understandings, in fact, never do believe any such thing; nor can it be supposed that the gospel, which was intended to be the solid foundation of the faith, hope, and joy of common people, should require so much acuteness, as is necessary to give even a plausible colour to these strange assertions. The attempt to explain them (and, 'till they be explained,
they can no more be believed than a proposition in an unknown tongue) can lead to nothing but endless and unprofitable controversy. It is happy, therefore, that so many persons make a better use of the gospel than their tenets would lead them to do, and that they consider it chiefly as a rule of life, and the foundation of hape after death. But, as far as the principles I have been arguing against are believed, they cannot but do harm to those who entertain them, as well as bring disgrace upon the christian name ; both which every lover of the gospel should endeavour to prevent.
A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE ABOVE
I. A CONCISE HISTORY OF OPINIONS CONCERNING
JESUS CHRIST. - You will say, if Christ be not really God, but merely a man, though inspired and affifted by God, how came the christian world to fall into so great an error? In return, I might ask, how, if Christ be truly God, equal to the Father, so many christians, and especially the jewish christians, and many others in the very early ages of the christian church, came to think him to be merely a man; when it may be easily conceived that, on many accounts, christians, who were continually reproached with the meanness of their master, would be disposed to add to, rather than to take from his dignity? But it is not difficult to
Thew by what means, and by what steps, christians came to think as the generality of them now do.
It was the universal opinion of philosophers, at the time of the promulgation of christianity, that the souls of all men had existed before they were sent to animate the bodies that were provided for them here, and also that all souls were emanations, or parts detached from the deity. For at that time there was no idea of any substance being properly immaterial, and indivisible. When these philosophers became christians, and yet were a 'hamed of being the disciples of a man who had been crucified, they naturally gave a distinguished rank to the soul of Christ before he came into the world. They even went one step farther, and maintained that Christ had a body in appearance only, and not in reality, and therefore that he suffered nothing at all when he was scourged and crucified.
This opinion the apostle John reprobates with great severity, and even calls it Antichristian, 1 John iv. 3. whereas though it is acknowledged that the other opinion, viz. that of Christ being merely a man, existed in the times of the apostles, it is remarkable that this apoftle takes no notice of it. It was plainly, the doctrine of those only who maintained that Christ was not truly a man that gave this apostle any disturbance, or he would never have said as he does, 1 John iv. 2. Every Spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (that is, was truly a man) is of God.