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God-that he will come again, to raise all the dead, and sit in judgment upon them-and that he will then give to every one of us according to our works:-"These," he says, "are properly speaking, the only great truths of religion: and to these not only the Church of England, and the Church of Scotland, but even the Church of Rome, gives its assent."* We see here, that Dr. Priestley not only allows, that there are certain great truths of religion, but determines what, and what "only," they are. I do not recollect, however, that the false teachers in the churches of Galatia denied any one of these articles; and yet, without rejecting some of the great and essential truths of Christianity, they could not have perverted the gospel of Christ, or have introduced another gospel.
But Dr. Priestley, it seems, though he allows the above to be great truths, yet considers nothing as essential to Christianity, but a belief of the divine mission of Christ. "While a man believes," he says, "in the divine mission of Christ, he might with as much propriety be called a Mahometan, as be denied to be a Christian." To call Socinians Mahometans, might, in most cases, be improper : they would still, however, according to this criterion of Christianity, be within the pale of the church; for Mahomet himself, I suppose, never denied the divine mission of Christ, nor very few of those doctrines which Dr. Priestley calls "the only great truths of religion.' The Doctor informs us, that "some people consider him, already, as half a Mahometan." Whether this be just or unjust, according to his notions of Christianity, a Mahometan is to be considered as more than half a Christian? He ought, if the above criterion be just, to be acknowledged as a fellow christian; and the whole party, instead of being ranked with heathenish and Jewish unbelievers, as they are by this same writer,§ ought to be considered as a sect, or denomination of Christians. The Doctor, therefore, need not have stopped at the Church of Rome, but might have added the Church of Constantinople, as agreeing in his 66 only great truths of religion."
*Familiar Letters, Letter, XXII.
↑ Considerations on difference of opinion (V.
I scarcely need to draw the conclusion which follows from what has been observed: If not only those who perverted the gospel among the Galatians, did, but even the Mahometans may acknowledge those truths which Dr. Priestley mentions, they cannot be the only great, much less the distinguishing truths of the Christian religion.
The difference between Socinians and Calvinists, is not about the mere circumstantials of religion. It respects nothing less than the rule of faith, the ground of hope, and the object of worship. If the Socinians be right, we are not only superstitious devotees, and deluded dependents upon an arm of flesh,* but habitual idolaters. On the other hand, if we be right, they are guilty of refusing to subject their faith to the decisions ofheaven; of rejecting the only way of salvation; and of secreligiously depriving the Son of God of his essential glory. It is true, they do not deny our Christianity on account of our supposed idolatry; but for this no reason can be assigned, except their indifference to religious truth, and the Deistical turn of their sentiments.
If the proper deity of Christ be a divine truth, it is a great and a fundamental truth in Christianity. Socinians, who reject it, very consistently reject the worship of Christ with it. But worship enters into the essence of religion; and the worship of Christ, according to the New Testament, into the essence of the Christian religion. The primitive Christians ar echaracterized by their calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus. The Apostle when writing to the Corinthians, addressed himself to the church of God at Corinth, to them that were sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place CALLED UPON THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. That this is designed as a description
*Jer. xxvii. 5.
+ Mr. Lindsey's observation, that Called upon the name of Christ, should be rendered, Called by the name of Christ, if applied to Rom. x. 13, would make the scriptures promise salvation to every one that is called a Christian. Salvation is promised to all wno believe, love, fear, and call upon the name of the Lord; but never are the possessors of it described by a mere accidental circumstance, in wh.ch they are not voluntary, and in which, if they were, there is no virtue.
of true Christians will not be denied; but this description does not include Socinians, seeing they call not upon the name of Christ. The conclusion is, Socinians would not have been acknowledged, by the Apostle Paul, as true Christians.
If the deity of Christ be a divine truth, it must be the Father's will, that all men should honour the Son, in the same sense, and to the same degree, as they honour the Father; and those who honour him not as God, will not only be found opposing the divine will, but are included in the number of those who, by refusing to honour the Son, honour not the Father who hath sent him: which amounts to nothing less, than that the worship which they pay to the Father, is unacceptable in his sight.
If the deity of Christ be a divine truth, he is the object of trust; and that not merely in the character of a witness, but as Jehovah, in whom is everlasting strength. This appears to be another characteristic of true Christians in the New Testament. In his name shall the Gentiles trust.-I know whom I have trusted; and that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.-In whom ye also trusted, after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.* But, if it be a characteristic of true Christianity so to trust in Christ, as to commit the salvation of our souls into his hands; how can we conceive of those as true Christians, who consider him only as a fellow-creature; and, consequently, place no such confidence in him?
If men by nature be in a lost and perishing condition; and if Christ came to seek and save them under those characters, as he himself constantly testified: then, all those that were whole in their own eyes, and seemed to need no physician, as the Scribes and Pharisees of old, must necessarily be excluded from an interest in his salvation. And in what other light can those persons be considered, who deny the depravity of their nature, and approach the Deity without respect to an atoning Saviour?-Further:
If the death of Christ, as an atoning sacrifice, be the only way of a sinner's salvation; if there be no other name given under heaven, or among men, by which we must he saved; if this be the
* Matt. xii. 21. 2 Tim. i. 12. Ephes. i. 12, 13.
foundation which God hath laid in Zion; and if no other will stand in the day of trial; how can we conceive, that those who deliberately disown it, and renounce all dependence upon it for acceptance with God, should yet be interested in it? Is it supposable, that they will partake of that forgiveness of sins, which believers are said to receive for his sake, and through his name, who refuse to make use of that name in any of their petitions?
If the doctrine of atonement by the cross of Christ be a divine truth, it constitutes the very substance of the gospel; and, consequently, is essential to it. The doctrine of the cross is represented in the New Testament, as the grand peculiarity, and the principal glory of Christianity. It occupies a large proportion among the doctrines of scripture, and is expressed in a vast variety of language. Christ was delivered for our offences, wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.-He died for our sins. By his death purged our sins-is said to take (or bear) away the sins of the world-to have made peace through the blood of his cross-reconciled us to God by his death-redeemed us by his blood -washed us from our sins in his own blood-by his own blood obtained eternal redemption for us-purchased his church by his own blood, &c. &c. This kind of language is so interwoven with the doctrine of the New Testament, that, to explain away the one, is to subvert the other. The doctrine of the cross is described as being, not merely an important branch of the gospel, but the gospel itself. We preach Christ crucified; to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness: but to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.—I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.—An enemy to the cross of Christ, is only another mode of describing an enemy to the gospel.* It was reckoned a sufficient refutation of any principle, if it could be proved to involve in it the consequence of Christ's having died in vain.t Christ's dying for our sins, is not only declared to be a divine truth, according to the scriptures, but a truth of such importance, that the then present standing, and the final salvation of the Corinthians, were
* 1 Cor. i. 23, 24. ii. 2. Gal. ii. 21.
suspended upon their adherence to it.* In fine, the doctrine of the cross is the central point in which all the lines of evangelical truth meet, and are united. What the sun is to the system of nature, that the doctrine of the cross is to the system of the gospel; it is the LIFE of it. The revolving planets might as well exist and keep their course, without the attracting influence of the one, as a gospel be exhibited worthy of the name, that should leave out the other.
I am aware that Socinian writers do not allow the doctrine of the atonement, to be signified by that of the cross. They would tell you, that they believe in the doctrine of the cross; and allow it to have a relative or subordinate importance, rendering the truth of Christ's resurrection more evident, by cutting off all pretence that he was not really dead. Whether this meagre sense of the praise will agree with the design of the Apostle, in this and various other passages in the New-Testament; whether it contains a sufficient ground for that singular glorying of which he speaks, or any principle by which the world was crucified to him, and he unto the world, let the impartial judge. But, be this as it may, the question here is not whether the doctrine of atonement be signified by that of the cross; but, supposing it to be so, whether it be of such importance as to render a denial of it a virtual denial of Christianity?-Once more :
If we believe in the absolute necessity of regeneration, or, that a sinner must be renewed in the spirit of his mind, or never enter into the kingdom of God; in what light must we consider those who plead for a reformation only, and deny the doctrine of a supernatural divine influence, by which a new heart is given us, and a new spirit is put within us? Ought we, or can we, consider them as the subject of a divine change, who are continually ridiculing the very idea of it?
It is common for our opponents to stigmatize us with the name of Bigots. Bigotry, if I understand it, is a blind and inordinate attachment to one's opinions. If we be attached to principles on account of their being our's, or because we have adopted them, *1 Cor. xv. 1-3.
+ Dr. Priestley's Sermon on Glorying in the Cross.