« PreviousContinue »
this land against it, it is therefore less offensive in the eyes of God, than at the instant He forbad it ? or that God's law is only binding on the consciences of men, where it has the sanction of human * inftitutions to inforce it? If it be time which wears out the malignity of such an evil, or the obligation of the divine law against it, we may as well imagine that other crimes stand in the same predicament, and the most atrocious violations of the security and happiness of mankind, will have a prescriptive innocence to plead in their excuse.
That all such reasonings are not only without foundation, but directly opposite to the divine truth, we learn from that truth itself, which hath assured us, that “ it is easier for beaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” And that we may be assured He stamped the most permanent authority on that law, and particularly on that part of the law of which we have now been speaking, He adds, in the very next words
Whofoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery.”
adultery.” This is no new law enacted by our blessed Saviour on the subject,
* We may fay of human laws, ceremonies, and inftitutions, which interfere with the obligation of God's ordinances or commandments, as Henry II. King of France said of the papal dispensations, that_" they are < not able to secure the conscience, and are nothing ¢ but a shadow cast before the eyes of men, which cannot hide the truth from God."
but an application and explanation of that very law which he had, immediately before, faid, " could never fail,” and which was given to Moses at mount Sinai. See Luke Xvi. 17, 18.
When our Lord in his fermon on the mount, as recorded by St. Matthew, is about to explain the moral law, and vindicate it from the false glosses which the Scribes and Pharisees had put upon it, he prefaces his explanation with these remarkable words" Verily I say unto you, 'till heaven and eartb pass, one jot or one tittle (one, even the most seemingly inconsiderable part of a single letter) Jhall in no wife pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” És äv avto yɛVyta.. Until all things be done. Which, with the learned Dr. Hammond on Matth. v. 18, I would thus paraphrase :-“Till the world be destroyed, and “ all things come to an end, no one least
particle thall depart from the law, or “ be taken away, or lose its-force and ob"ligation." " Whosoever, therefore, faith Christ, ver. 19, fall break one of these least commandments, and all teach men fo, be Mall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever Jhall do, and teach them, the fame Jhall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” After such a testimony as this to the * immu* The Psalmist faith, Ps, cxix. 89.
: in the heavens is settled
thy word 0 Jebovab! · For ever I must therefore declare it, not only as my opinion, but as a fixed article of my faith, that a fingle atom of the moral law can never be changed-nor will God alter the thing that is gone out of his lips. Pf. lxxxix. 34.
tability of the divine law, it would hardly be decent in me to attempt an addition to its force, by any further arguments.
I will therefore now proceed to examine the fubjects proposed, which I shall do fingly on the authority of God's word; and this, not by detaching one text here and there from the rest of the sacred scriptures; but byexamining carefully the whole throughout, comparing spiritual things with spiritual, I Cor. ii. 13. Jand thus allowing the word of God to be, what God doubtless intended it should be, the best comment upon itself.
Nor shall I venture to rest any one point on the authority of even the best * tranflations, but constantly have recourse to the original fcriptures, being desirous to follow that fenfible maxim, that “ nothing should * be received in proof, but on the best teľ
timony which the nature of the thing will «« admit of.” If, in matters of civil property, "a copy will not be admitted in "evidence, where the original can be come 6 af,” how much doth it behove us, in matters of eternal concern, to have the best evi"dence for our determinations ? Satius est petere fontes quam sectari rivulos.
I have endeavoured to clear my imagination of all worldly systems, and human inventions
* Whosoever reads the trictures on, or rather against, the sacred (criptures, of that ignorant and malicious reviler of them, M. de Voltaire, may fee how he has been led into his mistakes by some of the Latin and French translations.
whatsoever, whether Popish or Protestant, and to allow no authority more modern than the sacred scripture, less weighty than inspiration itself, to amount to a proof of what is true or false. As for the writings of primitive * fathers, Christians, &c. the whole rabble of schoolmen, together with the decrees of councils, churches, fynods, &c. a man, who wishes to know the truth, should no more receive a matter of doctrine on their authority, than he should a matter of fact on the testimony of a Popish legend. Nay, I will
* These were but fallible men, like ourfelves, at best ; and if we consider the strange opinions which are to be found in their writings, we must acknowledge them to be very faulty. Though they have been so mutilated, changed, interpolated, and corrupted, by the various seets who have wanted their testimony to speak for them, that it is difficult to know what is genuine, and what is
I remember to have met with the following dismal, though short account, of the writings of the fathers,~" Scatent erroribus tum veterûm tum recenti
orum hæreticorum.” “ They abound with the errors,
as well of the old, as of the more modern hæretics.' Burnet observes, that “there was a great mixture " of sophisticated fuff, that went under the antient “ names, and was joined to their true works, which “ critics have since discovered to be spurious.” Hift. Ref. p. 30. 2d edit. vol. i. The apostle, Tit. i. 14. warns us against Jewish fables.; we should be equally careful of giving heed to those which seem to bear a Chris tian stamp:
We might as well recommend a young man to the study of lo
many volumes of news-papers to make him an accurate historiographer, as to the study of the fathers to make him a found divine. How far they may make him a rotten one, may be seen in the Life of Dr. Clarke, by W. Whifton, p. 143, 151, 155.
go farther and say, that the * dying words, and unshaken constancy of saints, martyrs, and confeffors, ought to prove no more than that “ they themselves believed what they “ said,” unless the holy scriptures bear testimony to their opinions.
However clear the spring is, yet, when it divides itself, flowing from the fountainhead into different channels, it will naturally present to the eye the colour, and to the palate the taste, of the different soils through which it may happen to take its course. I have therefore found little encouragement to rest any thing on the authority of commentators; who, being prejudiced by education, influenced by custom, and milled by others that have gone before them-instead of thinking as the Bible Speaks, too frequently make the Bible speak as they think. The conclusion of the matter therefore ought to be-To the LAW and to the TESTIMONY! If. viii. 20.
* Much has been built on the constancy with which the martyrs suffered—but when we find people dying with equal constancy for opposite opinions, nothing is conclusively proved on either side, but that each believed his own tenets.-See Burnet's Hift. Ref. vol. ii. p. 112. 3d edit. the case of Joan of Kent, and of George Van Pare, a Dutchman.
It is a dangerous thing to build our faith on equivocal testimony, instead of the ONE INFALLIBLE EVIDENCE of God's WRITTEN WORD—which can neither lye nor deceive; and against which there can lie no appeal, to any other writings in the world, nor to any other testimony of any kind whatsoever.