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ing a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But Dr. Priestley teaches, that the heavenly state shall not commence till the resurrection. He does not suppose that there is any state of existence, strictly speaking, wherein we shall be absent from the body, and present with the Lord; for he considers the soul as having no existence at all separate from the body. He must, therefore, of necessity, be a stranger to any such strait as that mentioned by the Apostle. If the question were put to him, or to any of his sentiments, Whether they would choose to abide longer in the flesh, (which might be profitable to their connexions,) or immediately depart this life? they would be at no loss what to answer. They could not, in any rational sense, consider death as gain. It would be impossible for them, upon their principles, to desire to depart. Conceiving that they come to the possession of heavenly felicity as soon, if they die fifty years hence, as if they were to die at the present time, they must rather desire to live as long as the course of nature will admit: so long, however, as life can be considered as preferable to non-existence. It would indicate even a mean and unworthy temper of mind, upon their principles, to be in such a strait as Paul describes. It would imply, that they were weary of their work, and at a loss whether they should choose a cessation of being, or to be employed in serving God, and in doing good to their fellow-creatures.
The NATURE and EMPLOYMENTS of the heavenly state, deserve also to be considered. If you adopt the Calvinistic view of things, you consider the enjoyments and employments of that state in a very different light from that in which Socinian writers represent them. You read, in your Bibles, that the Lord will be our everlasting light, and our God our glory; that our life is hid with Christ in God; that, when he shall appear. we shall appear with him in glory; and that we shall then be like him; for we shall see him as he is. Hence you conclude, that A FULL ENJOYMENT OF GOD, AND CONFORMITY TO HIM, ARE THE SUM OF HEAVEN. You read, further, that the bliss in reserve for Christians is a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; that now we are the sons of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be: and, from hence
you naturally conclude, that THE HEAVENLY STATE WILL ABUNDANTLY SURPASS ALL OUR PRESENT CONCEPTIONS OF IT. Again, you read, that those who shall be found worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in mårriage, but are like the angels of God. Hence you conclude, that
THE EMPLOYMENTS AND ENJOYMENTS OF THAT STATE ARE ALTO
GETHER SPIRITUAL AND HOLY. You read of our knowledge here being in part; but that there we shall know even as we are known; and that the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed us, and lead us to living fountains of water. Hence you conclude, that we shall not only enjoy greater means of knowledge, which, like a fountain, will flow for ever, and assuage our thirsty souls, but that OUR MINDS WILL BE ABUNDANTLY IRRADIATED, AND OUR HEARTS ENLARGED, BY THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST; WHOSE DELIGHTFUL WORK IT WILL BE TO OPEN THE BOOK, AND TO LOOSE THE SEALS; TO UNFOLD THE MYSTERIES OF GOD; AND TO CONDUCT Our minds AMIDST THEIR BOUNDLESS RESEARCHES. Once more: you read, concerning those who shall obtain that world, and the resurrection, that they cannot die any more; that they shall go no more out; that the inheritance to which they are reserved is incorruptible, and fadeth not away; and that the weight of glory which we look for, is eternal. Hence you conclude, that the IMMORTALITY PROMISED TO CHRISTIANS IS Certain and absolute.
These are very important matters, and must have a great influence in attracting your hearts toward heaven. These were the things which caused the patriarchs to live like strangers and pilgrims on the earth. They looked for a habitation, a better country, even a heavenly one. These were the things that made the Apostles and primitive Christians consider their afflictions as light and momentary. For this cause, say they, we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen : for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
But, if you adopt the Socinian view of things, your ideas of the heavenly state, compared with the above, will be miserably flat and cold; and consequently, your affections will be more set on things below, and less on things above. Dr. Priestley, in his Sermon on the Death of Mr. Robinson, is not only employed in dissuading people from too much thought and fear about death; but from too much hope respecting the state beyond it. He seems to fear, lest we should form too high expectations of heavenly felicity, and so meet with a disappointment. The heaven which he there describes, does not necessarily include any one of the foregoing ideas, but must exist if they were all excluded!
Take his own words: "The change of our condition by death, may not be so great as we are apt to imagine. As our natures will not be changed, but only improved, we have no reason to think that the future world (which will be adapted to our merely improved nature,) will be materially different from this. And, indeed, why should we ask or expect any thing more? If we should still be obliged to provide for our subsistence by exercise, or labor; is that a thing to be complained of by those who are supposed to have acquired fixed habits of industry, becoming rational beings, and who have never been able to bear the languor of absolute rest, or indolence? Our future happiness has, with much reason, been supposed to arise from an increase of knowledge.But if we should have nothing more than the means of knowledge furnished us, as we have here, but be left to our own labor to find it out; is that to be complained of by those who will have acquired a love of truth, and a habit of inquiring after it? To make discoveries ourselves, though the search may require time and labor, is unspeakably more pleasing than to learn every thing by the information of others.* If the immortality that is promised to us in the gospel, should not be necessary and absolute, and we should only have the certain means of making ourselves immortal, we should have much to be thankful for. What the scriptures inform as concerning a future life, is expressly in general terms, and often
*Is not this the rock on which Dr. Priestley and his brethren split? Have they not, on this very principle, coined a gospel of their own, instead of receiving the instructions of the sacred writers?
in figurative language. A more particular knowledge of it is wisely concealed from us.*
You see, brethren, here is not one word of God, or of Christ, as being the sum and substance of our bliss; and, except that mention is made of our being freed from "imperfections bodily and mental," the whole consists of mere natural enjoyments; differing from the paradise of Mahometans chiefly in this, that their enjoyments are principally sensual, whereas these are mostly intellectual. Those are adapted to gratify the voluptuary, and these the philosopher. Whether such a heaven will suit a holy mind, or be adapted to draw forth our best affections, judge ye.
I am, &c.
ON THE RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN SOCINIANISM AND INFIDELITY, AND THE TENDENCY OF THE ONE TO THE OTHER.
I SUPPOSE we may take it for granted, at present, that Christianity is favorable to true virtue, and that Infidelity is the reverse. If it can be proved, therefore, that Socinianism resembles Infidelity, in several of its leading features, and has a direct tendency towards it, that will be the same as proving it unfavorable to true virtue.
It has been observed, and I think justly, that "there is no consistent medium between genuine Christianity and Infidelity." The smallest departure from the one, is a step towards the other.There are different degrees of approach, but all move on in the same direction. Socinians, however, are not willing to own that their scheme has any such tendency. Dr. Priestley appears to be more than a little hurt, at being represented by the bigots, (as he politely calls those who think ill of his principles,) as undermining Christianity; and intimates that, by their rigid attachment to certain doctrines, some are forced into Infidelity, while others are saved from it by his conciliating principles. Many things to the
* Here the late Mr. Robinson, of Cambridge, is brought in as an example; who, as some think, in an excess of complaisance, told the Doctor, in a private letter, that, "but for his friendly aid, he feared he should have gone from enthusiasm to Deism." Letters to Mr. Burn, Preface. To say nothing, whether the use Dr. Priestley made of this private letter was warrantable, and whether it would not have been full as modest to have forborne to publish to the world 30 high a compliment on himself; supposing not only the thing itself to have been strictly true, but that the conduct of Dr. Priestley was as strictly proper; what does it prove? Nothing, except that the region of Socinianism is so near to that of Deism, that, now and then, an individual, who was on the high road to the one, has stopped short, and taken up with the other.