« EelmineJätka »
It is very evident, I think, that the subjects treated of in the OLD Whole Duty of Man, are by no means so many, nor all of them so well chosen, as they might be, for the use and necessities of the present age: and, I believe, no considerate man can doubt that our CHURCH and RELIGION have another sort of enemies* to contend with now, than the Solifidians of that time; men whose shocking impieties and tenets strike at the very foundation of christianity itself: for which reason the OLD Whole Duty of Man (which, in opposition to the prevailing doctrine of those days, is chiefly confined to the moral duties) cannot, by any means, be well suited to the impious age we live in, when the articles of our christian faith are so impudently attacked and contemned: and whether the OLD Whole Duty of Man, which for near a century last past has been indiscriminately put into the hands not only of the common people, but many others, as a complete summary of our most holy religion, when at the same time the articles of the christian faith are quite omitted in it; I say, whether this has not in some degree contributed, during such a course of years, to produce that contempt which the christian faith now labours under, is submitted to the considerate and judicious part of mankind to determine.†
Most certain it is, that a man may be so struck with the beauty and excellency of MORAL duties, as to be less concerned than he ought to be for a sound FAITH; and may make shipwreck of the one, while he is too hastily and zealously pursuing the other. And it is also certain, that the author of the OLD Whole Duty of Man himself, conscious it be of the defects of that treatise, speaking in his Lively Oracles of those things we are to believe, says, the excellencies of the doctrinal part of scripture, which also render them most aptly preparative for the preceptive, and indeed so they were designed: the Credenda and the Agenda being such inseparable relations, that whoever parts them, forfeits the advantage of both.' And as the Duty of
* Atheists, Deists, &c.
↑ See Dr. Edwards' Testimony on page ix. and Dr. Gibson's on page x.
Man was the first, and the Lively Oracles the last piece of that author (for so they are placed in his works) it may reasonably be presumed, the Lively Oracles was intended to supply the defects of the said OLD Whole Duty of Man; but, the proprietors of those books not thinking fit to print them together, the author's intention, if such it was, has been rendered of little effect.
But how fashionable soever it may be at this time of day, those men grossly impose upon themselves, who confine their religion within the moral scheme of the OLD Whole Duty of Man, and so rest their acceptance with God upon the mere performance of the obligations of morality, and slight and ridicule the christian religion; how foolishly such men deceive their own souls, is described with such clearness and energy by the late archbishop SHARP, that I shall give it the reader in his own words:
"It is not enough (says this judicious and orthodox divine) to entitle any man to everlasting salvation, that he practiseth the duties of natural religion, unless he also believe and embrace that religion which God has revealed by JESUS CHRIST, supposing he has opportunities of coming to the knowledge of it. Bare morality or honesty of life, without a right FAITH, will not save a man's soul, supposing that the man hath opportunities of coming to the knowledge of that right FAITH; and this consideration I seriously address to all those among us, who think it so indifferent a matter what religion or what faith they are of, provided they are but honest in their lives. They think nothing offends God but the open violation of those rules of morality, which all the world must acknowledge themselves obliged to observe, and which it is scandalous not to observe. But this is a grievous mistake, and of most pernicious consequence. It is certain, that wherever God has revealed his will, and declared upon what terms he will bestow salvation upon mankind, there all men are, under pain of damnation, obliged to embrace his revelation, and to believe, and profess, and practise according to the doctrines of such revelation
And it is certain likewise, that God hath fully and entirely revealed his will by JESUS CHRIST and his apostles in the New Testament; and so revealed it, as to exclude all men from the hopes of salvation, who having opportunity of knowing JESUS CHRIST and his doctrines, do not believe in him. And therefore for any man to reject this method of God, and to say, I hope to be saved by another way than God hath appointed, is the extremest folly in the world; let every one therefore among us, as they would not be undone to all eternity, endeavour to instruct themselves aright in the true religion. All their pretended moral honesty will not in the least excuse them before God, if, when having means to find the truth, they do not embrace it, but continue infidels or misbelievers. If they had been born and bred in a heathen country, where they had no opportunity of coming to the knowledge of God's revealed will, I know not how far their justice and temperance, and other good moral qualities, might avail them toward the procuring of God's acceptance: but to live in a christian country, nay, and to be baptized into Christ's religion, and yet to be pagans as to their notions and opinions; not to believe in JESUS CHRIST, but to think to please God in the way of the philosophers; there is nothing in the world to be said in their excuse for this. And they will at last find true what our Saviour hath pronounced, that this is their condemnation (and a heavy one it will be) that light is come into the world, but they have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. For every one that doth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.* Therefore,
I have endeavoured to supply the foregoing defects of the OLD Whole Duty of Man, even such defects as the said archbishop, as the above cited author himself of the Lively Oracles, affirm to be so fatal to every man's eternal salvation, by furnishing the age we live in witha Duty of Man,
John ii. 19, 20.
See also the Testimonies from Scripture, &c. at the end of this Preface.
much better suited to the christian religion, and the occasions of the present times. Though
It may not be improper here to take notice of two sorts of men, who are not likely to relish the following pages; namely, such as would gladly bring all religion into contempt, and such as think nothing should interfere with public preaching from the pulpit. As to the first, nobody can be ignorant but that the age we now live in has produced many men, who make light of the christian religion, and talk contemptuously of our Saviour and his doctrines; but, åre we thence to conclude that there is no reason, no argument, no evidence to be offered for christianity, nor to inforce its faith and practice, because these men, who are acknowledged to have wit and parts, make it their business to run it down? No: this would be a very false and unjust conclusion. And if you can imagine otherwise, you are strangely mistaken in your men: they never much applied their minds to examine these things; they have, perhaps, got some commonplace heads, with which they think they can disparage christianity; and it is likely they have wit enough to set off those things to advantage. But as for serious thinking and putting things together, and making a solemn judgment of what is true or false in those matters, as in the presence of God, and as in a business wherein their everlasting salvation or damnation does depend; I say, as for this, you may assure yourselves these men never did it, nor are they capable of doing it; it is not in their nature to give themselves so much trouble, as such a work will require; and therefore we may be sure their infidelity does not proceed from any want of evidence, or arguments, for the truth of the christian religion. In a word,
All our natural and civil duties are strongly tied upon us, by virtue of our profession of christianity: and it is very muchto the honour of our religion, that it is wholly taken up in providing for the security and benefit of mankind, even in this life its general bent and tendency is to set men at case, and make them happy, by securing to all the duties due from each other, and from the want of which proceeds all the
mischief in the world: it does not leave men to be moved by such considerations alone as natural reason can suggest, but furnishes them with better. Now certainly nothing can be more to the advantage of any man, than that all the people with whom he has to do, should be commanded by God to show him mercy and to do him justice, and to do him all good offices, and to suffer none to do him injury : nothing, I say, is more likely to secure a man's peace and happiness, than such a fence as this; and yet this is the fence that christianity provides for every single person in the world. In fine, there never has been any religion ever framed to make men happy, even in this life, like that of Jesus Christ, if it were thoroughly pursued; for a man cannot possibly be made uneasy or miserable, or suffer any evil at the hands of another, without the violation of some christian command, which, if obeyed, would have secured him from it. So that, what reasons these men really have for slighting and ridiculing the christian religion and the ministers thereof, let the world judge. We cannot enter into the hearts of men, to see upon what motives they act, and under what influences they reason; but when we consider the strength and clearness, or the evidences of christianity, with the advantages and excellencies of the gospel institution, and the strict restraints it lays upon excess and uncleanness of all kinds, we cannot but see that it requires the greatest degree of charity, to inscribe their infidelity to any thing but the love of vice, or the love of contradiction.
Then as to such who are so tenacious of preaching as to oppose all written discourses, I desire it may be observed, that though preaching is usually allowed the pre-eminence of written discourses, yet, if men would hear or read them with due attention, they might be effectual to the same ends and purposes; for, notwithstanding what may be urged in favour of the voice, the air, and the action of a preacher; still, what is uttered with the voice passes off so fast, that men of ordinary capacities are not able to judge of the soundness of it; and the exhortations to virtue often have but little effect; because the rules and