Page images
[ocr errors]

into the snares of sin, that they might be fattened for the day of slaughter, and finally devoured like natural brute beasts ! Surely this could not be the meaning of the holy Apostle. Besides, it would appear that the persons spoken of, were apostates. “ Having forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness,” verse 15. Were reprobates ever in the right way?

" For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation," Jude verse 4. If a correct translation of this passage had been given, it never could have been produced to support unconditional predestination. II do wpores por pa je tvos, (Palai progegrammenoi) the words here rendered before of old ordained, literally signify, of old, before written : for golega pa je Eros, comes from togo, before, and yeaww, to write, or yeau peal, letter, or character of literal writing."* It was not the

persons, which were identified in the time of Jude to the condemnation before written ; but their character. It being the immutable determination of God to punish all ungodly characters, in every age of the world, he ordered this determination to be recorded, or written, of old, long before the days of Jude ; and to this revealed and written determination of God, St. Jude appeals, to shew that his declarations concerning the punishment of such ungodly characters, were predicated of truth, the immutable truth of God.

[ocr errors]



We often err in the interpretation of authors, by not attending to the time, place, and circumstances, of their writing. These things ought especially to be kept in mind when we read the sacred scriptures. When the Apostles were sent out to preach the glad tidings of salvation through Jesus Christ, they proposed a system of religion, to which the Gentiles especially, and the Jews also, in a great measure, were strangers. In propagating their doctrine, they used terms which were found in the Greek language, and which were well understood by the Greeks themselves, to convey certain appropriate ideas, respecting their system of theology; but which, when incorporated by the Apostles into the Christian phraseology, were used in a different sense. It cannot be supposed they used the words tos, (Theos) God, Tisos, (Pistis) Faith, Eoq.a, (Sophia) Wisdom, Aysos, (Agios) Holy, in the same sense in which the Heathen philosophers did : but they attached a higher, and more dignified meaning to them. It is well known that most of the Heathen philosophers believed and taught the doctrine of fate, especially those who professed to believe in the eternity of matter, &c. Hence the terms which they used in their theology to signify that fatality which was supposed to preside over the affairs of men, were adopted and used by the Apostles ; but unquestionably they used them in a different sense from what the Heathen philosophers, used them.Thus the word Ozośw, (oriso) which signifies to bound, limit, decree, set, or appoint, and was used by the


profane writers according to its literal import, when they applied it to the fates of men, of communities, and individuals, was not used by the New-Testament writers to signify that all the actions of every individual, were decreed, bounded, and limited by an irrevocable decree of God, respecting those actions; but when it was used to designate the decree, or appointment of the Almighty, it related, as I have before observed, to his immutable designs, in regard to the method of salvation by Jesus Christ, and the qualifications for heaven.

From not attending to these obvious truths, some Christian writers have unwarrantably degraded the sublime doctrines of the Gospel of the Son of God, levelling them to the contemptible subtleties of heathen philosophy; thereby imperceptibly corrupting the minds of christians from that pure and simple form of doctrine, which was first delivered to the saints, by Christ and his Apostles. By this means also, man is reduced to the level of a brute or a stone, in regard to praise or blame-being divested' of that distinguishing and noble endowment, power to will and to act, he is reduced to the fatal necessity of being acted upon by an irresistible influence, in order to act; and of being compelled in all he does, in all cases and circumstances. By the same injudicious method, God, the author of all good, is represented in the character of a cruel despot, who has ordained one line of conduct for his intelligent creatures, but commanded another; and who punishes with everlasting destruction a part of his creatures, who exactly fulfil the counsel of his will! Such unbecoming views of the divine character and government, must have originated from a misunderstanding of his gracious designs, and a misapplication of the terms used by the inspired writers.

Laying aside such unworthy thoughts of God, and viewing him in the light of scripture and enlightened reason, which unfold him as a being of untarnished rectitude, of boundless wisdom and benevolence, of infinite justice and goodness, whose governing influence is exercised over a world of free, responsible intelligencies; and whose righteous laws, founded in the immutable nature and fitness of things, are in perfect correspondence to his decrees, both revealed for the regulation of man's conduct. From this scriptural and rational view of things, we see a broad basis, an immoveable rock, on which we may stand, and beseech sinners to be reconciled to God. Some, however, may object, that the conflicting opinions of the different sects of professing Christians, presents an impassable barrier in their way. But why should these things stagger your faith in the reality of Christianity, any more than the different opinions prevalent among philosophers and astronomers, should excite doubts respecting the truth and reality of those sciences ? It is not the province of any one man to know all the truth relating to any one science: and therefore men may very innocently differ respecting some

[ocr errors]

points, without any diminution of brotherly affection, or without undermining the main pillar of truth. We all agree, That there is a God, that Jesus Christ died for sinners, and that mankind are fallen beings; and that consequently men must be born again in order to enter into the kingdom of God. These truths are clearly revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and unequivocally taught by the greater part of those denominations who profess to be Christians. So far then, all is plain and easy. Improve according to the light and opportunities you have, and what is now dark and mysterious, will become light and perspicuous. To obtain victory in argument, to silence an antagonist in debate is a matter of minor importance to the obtaining victory over sin, and triumphing over the corruptions of our own hearts. Against these internal foes, we ought therefore to bend ourselves with all our might; knowing that we shall be vanquished, unless aided by Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

Let us then, for a moment, lay aside the weapons of controversy, with which we have been combating errors of doctrine, and enter into a close investigation of our own hearts. Our shouts of victory are unseasonable, unless they are accompanied with humility, faith, love to God, to our fellow men who may differ from us in some sentimental points, as well as those of our own party--and with a victory over our own hearts. Have we ever been convinced of sin, so as to see its heinous nature? Has



« PreviousContinue »