Слике страница

of which are primary ideas of Jesus Christ, and others secondary notions of his own, additions, perhaps of his wisdom, perhaps of his folly, perhaps of both: but all, however, intended to explicate his notion of the text, and to facilitate the evidence of his notion to his brother. Robert admits the proposition: but not exactly in Richard's sense. In this case, we assort ideas, we take what both allow to be the original ideas of our common Lord, and we reckon thus, Here are nine ideas in this proposition, numbers one, three, six, nine, genuine, primary ideas of Christ; numbers two, four, five, secondary ideas of Richard; numbers seven, eight, secondary ideas of Robert; the first constitute a divine doctrine, the last a human explication; the first forms one divine object, the last two human notions of its mode of existence, manner of operation, or something similar: but, be each what it may, it is human explication, and neither synod nor senate can make it more.

No divine will dispute the truth of this proposition, God gave Jesus Christ to believers; for it is demonstrably in the text. To this, therefore, Beza and Zanchy, Melancthon and Luther, Calvin and Arminius, Baxter and Crisp agree, all allowing it a Christian doctrine but, each associating with the idea of gift other ideas of time, place, relation, condition and so on, explains the doctrine so as to contain all his own additional ideas.

One class of expositors take the idea of time, and by it explain the proposition. God and believers, says one, are to be considered contemplatively before the creation in the light of Creator and creatures,

abstracted from all moral considerations whatever; then God united Christ to his church in the pure mass of creatureship, without the contemplation of Adam's fall. Another affirms, God gave a Saviour to men in design before the existence of creatures: but in full contemplation, however, of the misery induced by the fall. A third says, God gave Christ to believers, not in purpose before the fall: but in promise immediately after it. A fourth adds, God gives Christ to believers on their believing, by putting them in possession of the benefits of Christianity. In all these systems, the ideas of God, Christ, believers, and gift, remain the pure genuine ideas of the text; and the association of time distinguisheth and varieth the systems.

A second class of expositors take the idea of relation, and one affirms, God and believers are to be considered in the relative light of governor and subjects, the characters of a perfect government are discernible in the giving of a Saviour, justice vindicates the honour of government by punishing some, mercy displays the benefit of government by pardoning others, and royal prerogative both disculpates and elevates the guilty; however, as the governor is a God, he retains and displays his absolute right of dispensing his favours as he pleases. A second says, God and believers are to be considered in the light of parent and children, and Christ is not given to believers according to mere maxims of exact government: but he is bestowed by God, the common Father, impartially on all his children. A third says, God and believers are to be considered in the light

of master and servants, and God rewards the imperfect services of his creatures with the rich benefits of Christianity. A fourth considers God and believers in the relation of King and consort, and say, God gave Christianity as an inalienable dowry to his chosen associate. In all these systems, God, Christ, believers, and gift remain, the pure genuine ideas of the text; and the association of the idea of relation distinguishes and varies the systems.

In general, we form the ideas of the Supreme Being, and we think, such a being ought to act so and so, and therefore we conclude he does act so and so. God gives Christ to believers conditionally, says one, for so it becomes a holy Being to bestow all his gifts. God gives Christ unconditionally, says another; for so it becomes a merciful being to bestow his gifts on the miserable. I repeat it again, opposite as these may appear, they both retain the notions of the same God, the same Jesus, the same believers, the same giving: but an idea concerning the fittest way of bestowing the gift distinguishes and varies the systems. I call it the same giving, because all divines, even they, who go most into a scheme of conditional salvation, allow, that Christ is a blessing infinitely beyond all that is due to the conditions which they perform in order to their enjoyment of him.

Let us for a moment suppose, that this proposition, God gives Christ to believers, is the whole of revelation on this subject. A divine, who should affirm, that his ideas of time, relation, and condition were necessarily contained in this scripture; that his

[blocks in formation]

whole thesis was a doctrine of Christianity; and that the belief of it was essential to salvation; would af firm the most palpable absurdities; for, although the proposition does say, Christ is God's gift to believers, yet it does neither say, when God bestowed this gift, nor why he bestowed it, nor that a precise knowledge of the mode of donation is essentially requisite to salvation. That God gave the world a Saviour in the person of Jesus is a fact affirmed by Christ in this proposition, and therefore a Christian doctrine. That he made the donation absolutely or conditionally, before the fall or after it, reversibly or irrevocably, the proposition doth not affirm; and therefore every proposition including any of these ideas is an article of belief containing a Christian doctrine and an human explication, and consequently it lies before an examiner in different degrees of evidence and importance.

[ocr errors]

Suppose a man were required to believe this proposition, God gave Jesus to believers absolutely, or this, God gave Jesus to believers conditionally; it is not impossible, the whole proposition might be proved original, genuine, primary doctrine of Jesus Christ. Our proposition in this text could not prove it, and were this the whole of our infornation on this article, conditionality and unconditionality would be human explications: but, if Christ have given us in any other part of revelation, more instruction on this subject; if he any where affirm, either that he was given on certain conditions to be performed by believers, or that he was not given so, then indeed we may associate the ideas of one text

with those of another, and so form of the whole a genuine Christian doctrine.

When we have thus selected the instructions of our Divine Master from the opinions of our fellowpupils, we should suppose, these questions would naturally arise, Is a belief of all the doctrines of Christ essential to salvation? If not, which are the essential truths? If the parable of the talents be allowed a part of his doctrine, and if the doctrine of proportion taught in that parable be true, it should seem, the belief of Christian doctrines must be proportioned to exterior evidence and interior ability; and on these principles, should a congregation of five hundred Christians put these questions, they must receive five hundred different answers. Who is sufficient for these things! Let us renounce our inclination to damn our fellow-creatures. Let us excite all to faith and repentance, and let us leave the decision of their destiny to Almighty God. When Christ cometh he will tell us all things, John iv. 25. till then let us wait, lest we should scatter fire-brands, arrows, and death, and make the hearts of the righteous sad, whom the Lord hath not made sad, Prov. xxvi. 18, 19. Ezek. xii. 23. How many doctrines are essential to salvation, seems to me exactly such a question, as How much food is essential to animal life?

We will venture to go a step further. Were we as capable of determining the exact ratio between any particular mind and a given number of ideas as we are of determining how many feet of water a vessel of a given burden must draw; and were we able so to determine how much faith in how many doc

« ПретходнаНастави »