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both in adding to the number of their deities, and in multiplying their religious rites, sanctioned by law, they coveted the same freedom in their new. Nothing could better serve to check attempts so preposterous, and a spirit so dangerous, than to see this great founder of the christian faith, solemnly disclaim all right to promulgate doctrines on his own authority, or to prescribe rites and services of his own invention. The importance of checking that spirit, and those attempts, in the apostolical age, appears but too strongly, in what afterwards took place. In a church still subsisting, and calling itself by the name of Christ, a church, too, which once had acquired almost universal empire over the professing christian world, half the doctrines and ceremonies have been either borrowed from heathenism, or supplied by human invention. The absurdities, which that church sanctions, prove to what dangerous extremes the teachers of religion may proceed, if, breaking loose from the oracles of God, they wander in the fields of fancy; and are allowed to impose their own frivolous conceits, on the belief and observance of their brethren.
To shew farther the importance of adhering to the light of revelation, and the folly of substituting for it our own conjectures or speculations, let us compare the attainments of the greatest heathen philosophers, in theology and morals, in the knowledge of God and man, with the illumination of the times and countries, where the gospel has been preached. The comparison is easily made. We have, on one side, error and folly; or, at best, vague conjecture; on the other, wisdom, truth, and certainty. Yes, the meanest cottager, who is fami
liar with his bible, has ideas more sublime and just, of the being, perfections, and purposes of God; of his own present state, and future destination ; of every thing, which it most concerns an immortal being to know; than the most learned and sagacious of those, whom heathen antiquity revered. This may prove to those modern philosophers, who descant on the excellencies of natural religion, that what they so denominate, is originally an idol of very base materials; and that any beauty or worth, which it now possesses, is derived from the ornaments, which they have stolen for it, from the temple of Jehovah. And it proves too, that if preachers listen only to the suggestions of their own fancy, or the speculations of their own reason, they follow a guide, which experience has shewn to be incapable to lead men far, and prone to lead them wrong; in preference to that, which experience as ample has demonstrated to be able to conduct them both to knowledge and virtue. Let christians, , whether ministers or people, bear this always in mind; and they will not expect to find, without the walls of the true sanctuary, the holy oracles, the unalloyed treasures of truth and wisdom.
These remarks are both suggested and confirmed by the words of God himself, recorded in the first of these epistles. “ I will destroy the wisdom of “ the wise; and will bring to nothing the under“ standing of the prudent. Where,” therefore, adds the apostle, 66 Where is the wise ? Where is “ the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world ? “ Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this " world ? For 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.”* These, and many other declarations of the same import, in the epistles to the Corinthian church, warn us of the danger of permitting our own wisdom to direct us, in things pertaining to God. Therefore, let us “ hold fast the form of “sound words, which we have heard of” prophets “ and apostles " in faith and love, which is in “ Christ Jesus.” For, to adopt the solemn commination, with which the book of Revelation concludes, “ If any man shall add unto these things, “God shall add unto him the plagues which are " written in this book. And if any man shall take
away from the words of the book of this prophe
cy, God shall take away his part out of the book 6 of life, and out of the holy city.”+
Before leaving this branch of the subject, there is one caution, which it may be necessary to suggest. Expect not to find, in ministers, an entire freedom from mistake ; nor be surprised, if they should sometimes differ on the inferior points of discipline and doctrine. Though ordained to explain the scriptures to others, and prepared, by a long course of education, for this important duty, he among them must be presumptuous indeed, who will say, Who can convict me of error ? Even the apostles, as we learn from the history of their Acts, when they used their own private judgment, differed from each other, in some subordinate particulars : “ If any man offend not in word, the same is “ a perfect man.”! It is well, if we err not in matters of fundamental importance; if we unis I Cor. i. 19-21.
+ Rev. uii. 18, 19. James iii. 2.
formly “ hold fast the form of sound words.” Mistakes in the interpretation of obscure passages ; différences of opinion with respect to questions of expediency, and the like, do not affect the essential truths of christanity. These are written in lines of light ; and he that runs may read them.
But, though ministers are not, by their office, seéured from mistake, it were good for many to trust to the judgment of ministers, in matters of doubt, more than they are sometimes disposed to do. The hrabits of study peculiar to those, who have been trained up for the sacred office, tend both to sharpen, and to inform their minds; and give them many advantages, for the discernment of truth, which others, in general, do not possess. If our Saviour said to the Jews, even with regard to teachers, in many respects corrupt and prejudiced, “ The « Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat : all,
therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that s observe and do ;"* that is, when not evidently in contradiction to the divine law; surely a similar address may, with propriety, be made to christians, concerning their instructors. And it has been made, in terms equally strong, by the apostle of the gentiles“ Obey them, that have the rule over you, “ and submit yourselves.”+ This
his great minister of - the gospel himself, on various occasions, spake by permission; and decided by the light of his own judgment: yet expected submission to his determinations ; as you will find exemplified by several instances, in these epistles. I
* Matt. xxiii. 2, 3. | Heb. xiü. 19. # Sec a Cor, vii. 6. 12; and 2 Cor. viii. .
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
2 Cor. 1V. 5.-We preach not ourselves, but Christ
Jesus the Lord ; and ourselves your servants, for
We proceed to illustrate what the apostle expresses in the second division of the text-While “ we
preach not ourselves,"
II.“ We preach Christ Jesus the Lord.”—This obviously imports
1. That we make him the chief subject of our discourses. It were a contradiction in terms to say, that we preach, or proclaim the Lord Jesus, while any other topic engages our attention, to the exclusion of him; or when other objects attract our principal regard, and leave him to be exhibited, only in a subordinate light. Whatever subject, then, may call for the preacher's exertions, let him still remember that the master, whose name he bears, is entitled to his first consideration, and that to exhibit just views of his master's character and offices, is the immediate end of preaching, and the most effectual mean for attaining all its purposes.
To“ preach Christ Jesus the Lord” is, according to the literal import of the words, to proclaim, that he, who was born at Bethlehem, and crucified on Calvary, was the Anointed and chosen of the Fa,