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Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.
We are neither going to contrast human creeds with one another, nor with the Bible; we are not going to affirm or deny any propositions contained in them; we only design to prove, that all consist of human explications as well as divine revelations; and consequently, that all are not of equal importance, nor ought any to be imposed on the disciples of Christ, either by those who are not disciples of the Son of God, or by those who are. The subject is delicate and difficult, not through any intricacy in itself, but through a certain infelicity of the times. An error on the one side may be fatal to revelation, by alluring us to sacrifice the pure doctrines of religion to a blind benevolence; and on the other, an error may be fatal to religion itself, by inducing us to make it a patron of intolerance. We repeat it again, a system of christian doctrine is the object of christian liberty; the articles, which compose a human system of christian doctrine, are divisible into the two classes of doctrines, and explications ; the first we attribute to Christ, and call Christian doctrines, the last to some of his disciples, and these we call human explications; the first are true, the last may be so; the first execrate intolerance, the last cannot be supported without the spirit of it. I will endeavour to explain my meaning by an example.
Every believer of revelation allows the authenticity of this passage of holy Scripture ; God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten
Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. If we cast this into propositional form, it will afford as many propositions as it contains ideas. Each idea clearly contained in the text I call an idea of Jesus Christ, a christian sentiment, a truth of revelation, in a word a christian doctrine. Each of these ideas of the text, in forming itself into a proposition, will naturally associate with itself a few other ideas of the expletive kind; these I call secondary ideas in distinction from the first, which I call primary; or, in plainer style, ideas clearly of the text, I name christian doctrines, or doctrines of Christ, and all the rest I call human explications of these doctrines; they may be christian, they may not; for I am not sure, that the next idea, which always follows a first in my mind, was the next idea to the first in the mind of Jesus Christ; the first is certainly his, he declares it, the second might be his; but as he is silent, I can say nothing certain ; where he stops, my infallibility ends, and my uncertain reason begins.
The following propositions are evidently in the text, and consequently they are christian doctrines emanating from the author of christianity, and pausing to be examined before the intelligent powers of his creatures. There is an everlasting life, a future state of eternal happiness--the mediation of the only begotten Son of God is necessary to men's enjoyment of eternal happiness-believing in Christ is essential to a participation of eternal felicityevery believer in Christ shall have everlasting life --unbelievers shall perish—all the blessings of christianity originate in God, display his love, and are given to the world. These, methinks, we may venture to call primary ideas of christianity, genuine truths of revelation; but each doctrine will give occasion to many questions, and although different expositors will agree in the matter of each proposition, they will conjecture very differently concerning the manner of its operation.
One disciple of Christ, whom we call Richard, having read this text, having exercised his thoughts on the meaning of it, and having arranged them in the propositional form now mentioned, if he would convince another disciple, whom we name Robert, of the truth of any one of his propositions, would be obliged to unfold his own train of thinking, which consists of an associated concatenation of ideas, some 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, eighi, secondary ideas of Robert; the first constitute a divine doctrine, the last a hu
man 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
No divine will dispute the truth of this proposition, God
Jesus Christ to believers'; for it is demostrably in the text. To this, therefore, Beza and Zanchy, Melancthon and Luther, Cal vin and Arminius, Baxter and Crisp agree, all al: lowing 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 ex istence 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 immediate ly 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 governinent; 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 re: wards 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 says, 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.