Page images
PDF
EPUB

the predestination to eternal life without regard to good works, advanced by Austin, prevailed in the west, chiefly through the authority of his name ; it

was never received in the eastern church, and was much controverted, and held with various modifications, in the western. Also together with this doctrine of grace, the divines of the roman-catholic church held the doctrine of human merit, founded on the right use of the grace of God to man. And the present doctrines of grace, original fin, and predestination, were never maintained in their full extent 'tili after the reformation by Luther, who was a friar of the order of Austin, had been much attached to his doctrines, and made great use of them in opposing the popish doctrines of indulgence, founded on that of morit.

III. A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE OF

ATONEMENT.

The doctrine of atonement, or of the necessity of satisfaction being made to the justice of God by the death of Christ, in order to his remitting the sins of men, arose from an abuse of the figurative language of scripture, as the doctrine of transubftantiation also did. But for several centuries these figurative expressions were understood and applied in a manner very

different from what they now are. It was granted by some pretty early writers, that were bought (or redeemed) with a price; but

then,

wc

then, as we had been the flaves of fin, and were redeemed by God, who ransomed us by the death of his son, it was maintained 'till after the time of Austin (the principal author of all the rigid doctrines that are now called Calvinist ) that the price of our redemption was paid not to God, but by God to the devil, in whose power we were.

Of this opinion was Austin himself, who wrote largely on the subject in his treatise on the doctrine of the trinity. It was long after his time before we find any traces of its being generally thought that the price of redemption was paid to the offended justice of God and the present doctrine of atonement, founded on the idea of the absolute necessity of an infinite satisfaction being made by one infinite being for offences of an infinite magnitude, as committed against another infinite being, is subsequent to the reformation. This doctrine was advanced by the reformers in the course of their controversy with the papists, about the doctrine of human merit, works of penance, and the power of granting indulgences. Now can it be fupposed that a doctrine of so much importance, as this is always represented to be, should have been unknown so many ages?

Thus all these boasted ancient doctrines are in fact of late date, either having arisen from the principles of heathen philofophy, or having been started and extended in the course of controversy, one false position making another necessary for its support;

and

and an air of awful and deep mystery has been no Imall recommendation of them to many of the more ignorant.

The doctrine of the trinity, having been one of the earliest corruptions of christianity, will probably be one of the last to be completely eradicated. But the time, I trust, is fast-approaching, when, by means of the zeal of truly enlightened and good men in this great cause, this fundamental error, which gives such great and just cause of offence to jews and mahometans, will be removed, and all that has been built upon it will fall to the ground.

THE CONCLUSION. My christian brethren, if the reading of this address give rise to any doubts or scruples in your minds, with respect to fome doctrines which you have been used to consider as true and fundamental in the christian religion, inquire farther; and if you be satisfied that you have hitherto been mistaken, dare to avow the truth, and act consistently with it. Dread the consequences of joining with an enlightened mind, in the idolatrous worship of any creature, though enjoined by any human authority; remembering the words of Christ, Thou shalt worfhip the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Matt. iv. 10. and also that awful voice from heaven respecting all antichristian corruptions of the gospel in mystical Babylon; Come out of her, my

peoples people, that ye be not partakers of her fins, and that je receive not of her plagues. Rev. xviii. 4.

Think not to avail yourselves of the wretched equivocation of many divines, who imagine that they may fafely ascribe all divine honours 10 Jesus Chrift, on account of his union with the Father, when they believe no more of his proper divinity than professed arians or focinians. By this artifice they secure the reputation of orthodoxy; but let them consider the value of the purchase, and the price they give for it. To mere worldly confiderations, to the praise of men, or filthy lucre, they facrifice that integrity, for the loss of which worlds cannot compensate.

The publisher of these tracts does not conceal his name through the fear of any thing that men can fay of him, or do to him, but merely to give what he has written a better chance of being read without prejudice. What he has done is out of a fincere good-will and compassion to the multitude, who. believe they know not what, or why, and what is of more consequence, who know not what Spirit they are of; but instead of speaking the truth in love, mistake bitterness and rancour for a zeal for God and his truth, and also for the sake of a better fort of people, who are unhappily drawn into the same delufions.

Considering the deference which the common people always pay to the judgment of men of learn

ing

ing, there can be little doubt but that, if those persons who, having studied this subject, have been convinced that Christ is not God, and ought not to be worshipped as God, had openly avowed their opinion, and had had recourse to no mean subterfuge or equivocation, this fundamental article of true and rational christianity had long ago been the prevailing belief; and our religion appearing more worthy of its divine author, there would have beeni, at this time, fewer unbelievers in all christian countries, and many more converts made to it from other religions. And, compared with this glorious advantage, what has been gained by all the arts and sophistry of ministers, who have concealed their real meaning under ambiguous expressions, left, as they prétend, they should too much shock the prejudices of their hearers ?

That some regard should be paid to the prejudices of the weak is allowed; but let not this lead men to criminal dissimulation, or extend to things of so much importance as this, respecting the unity of God. In this case, let us keep at the greatest distance from every thing that is disingenuous ; let the truth be spoken in the most explicit manner, and let the consequences be left to the power of truth, and the God of truth. Besides, it is imporfible that while men retain depraved and unworthy notions of God, their devotion should be such as God requires ; so that this pretended tenderness

injures

« PreviousContinue »