« PreviousContinue »
Carist. This sufficiently proves, that the very general rejection of Christ was not owing to a want of evidence concerning his mission, but to causes of a different nature. If it be enquired what those causes were ; it
may plied-Many false Messiahs arose about that time. This circumstance was calculated to perplex the mind of simple people, and leave them undetermined which was the true. The meanness of our Saviour's parentage ; his dwelling in Galilee; his rejecting all worldly honour; the simplicity of his life and doctrine; the ignominy of his death : the sublime language of the prophets concerning his kingdom; but above all, the general wickedness of the generation in which he appeared; these seem to be sufficient causes for the rejection of the Messiah, without considering him in the light of an impostor.
Besides; by the infidelity of the Jews, we gain a large number of unsuspected witnesses to the truth of the old Testament; and by their dispersion into all countries, they are God's witnesses, and as a seed sown for the future con. version of the nations: by their infidelity too are fulfilled abundance of prophecies : it is, moreover, a great advantage to the Gospel to have been first preached in a nation of unbelievers : it is a means of making the prophecies more attended to and more studied: it serves to shew that God did not chuse the Jews from among the nations for their own sakes: it is a warning to us to beware of the same infidelity: we are taught by it likewise, that it is not being of any particular nation or church which saveth a man : and, lastly, it is well calculated to correct a vain opinion, which every one is apt to entertain, that had we lived in the times of our SAVIOUR, and conversed personally with him, we should have been better Christians, and obeyed without doubt and without
“ Say what you please, you shall never persuade me to believe abundance of things contained in ihe book called the Bible."
Very good. Take your own way. I wish not to force your conviction, contrary to evidence. Only weigh the matter seriously and conscientiously, and may the AUTHOR of your being direct your determination !--But, suppose you feel yourself incapable of receiving the New Testament as a
religious system, founded in truth, cannot you receive it as a system of morals, founded in policy? This will not make you a religious man indeed, but it may make you a good subject, and a respectable member of civil society. It is well known, that the importance of Religion, to the well-being of every civil community, is a point on which the greatest politicians, no less than the most respected moralists, have been generally agreed; and it is an undisputed fact, established in the page of history, that, in proportion as the influence of Religion has declined in any country, in that same proportion the state itself has tended to its dissolution. Is not this an unanswerable argument, founded in universal experience, if 'not for the truth, yet for the utility of Religion.
“ But, suppose I should be convinced of the fallacy of my own opinions, and the truth of Christianity, what must I do? How shall I know, among all the uncharitable and contending denominations of Christians, ppko is right, and who is wrong, and to whom I should unite myself in Christian fellowship?"
Take the New Testament into your hand; read it diligently, 'call upon the Lord for direction faithfully, and follow whithersoever it leads the way. Take nothing upon trust; pin your faith upon no man's sleeve; to the law and the testimony*. Believe in Christ, as the Word teaches ; .
* Few of the Sectarists of the present day have departed farther from the Scriptural view of things than the New Church. The form of baptism in their Liturgy is this :-“I baptize thee in the naine of the LORD JESUS CHRist, who is at once FATHER, Son, and HOLY SPIRIT.” Their confession is this:-" Dost thou believe, that God is One both in essence and in person, in whom is a divine trinity, consisting of FATHER, Son, and HOLY SPIRIT; and that the Lord and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRisT is He? I do.” The Holy Supper is thus administered:-“The body of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, which is the divine good of his divine love, nourish and preserve you unto eternal life. Take and eat this, in remembrance that the LORD glorified his human, and thereby became the God of heaven and earth.”
Enough! One is grieved and surprized, that any set of people should take such liberties in altering the Sacred Writings. To our own master, however, we must each of us stand or fall.
Some time since there was a Letter written and addressed to the Clergy in behalf of SWEDENBORG's Theological Works. The Letter
put your whole trust and confidence in him ; obey his precepts; worship God publicly and privately with sincerity and zeal; do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your Maker; and look for his mercy through Christ Jesus unto eternal life; and be assured all shall be well.
“ Be all these things, however, as they may, the religion of Jesus is a thing of which you do not approve. He might be a very good sort of man, but his doctrines are not to your taste. If you could only get clear of the Bible, and these - Priests*, of every denomination, as the French have done, you then flatter yourselves we should see happier days?
is admirably well written, and in an excellent spirit, whoever was the author. But surely a man of his sense must see the fallaciousness of his own reasoning on the 13th page of the small edition, where he gives his reasons why the writings he wishes to recommend should be received. The whole force of his recommendation rests upon the reasons there given in favour of SwedENBORG's divine commission, and yet those reasons are altogether without any sound and legitimate foundation. What will not ingenious inen say, and how far will they not go, to establish a favourite hypothesis?
* It is greatly to be lamented, that the Clergy, in most ages of the Christian Church, bave been very generally unfriendly to Toleration, and that they should have been the instruments of calling for, or stirring up, the civil power to persecution. Every good and liberal minded man must confess and bewail this misfortune. This spirit, however, has not been confined to ministers of the Establishment. Jews, Heathens, and Mahometans, Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists, have all, in their turns, when the power has come into their hands, been guilty of the same intolerant conduct t. It is human nature, and a part of its disease. But the Gospel itself, all pure, and perfective of reasonable beings, is free from the bloody charge. Jesus, the author of it, was the most generous, huinane, and amiable of characters. But, alas! we have sadly forgotton, or perverted his institutions. Persecution and bloody deeds are the infallible marks of Antichrist. Rev. xvii. 6. That the Protestant churches should have imitated the Beast in this worst part of his conduct, can never be sufficiently bewailed. Every reigu almost from the Reformation to tlie Revolution was stained with the blood of souls-Henry VIII. who contrived to remove the Pope of Rome from being Head of the English church, and put bimself in his place, was a vile, tyrannical, libidinous, and bloody wretch. A considerable number of persons were put to death in his reign for conscience sake. Nay, even the excellent young King, EDWARD VI. was a persecutor in some cases 'unto death, being over persuaded by those about him, particularly the
+ See the Pamphlet entitled, A Look to the Lust Cenlury; or the Dissenters weighed in their own Scales. An instructive piece !
The Bible, and the persons appointed by that book to minister in holy things, are unquestionably great restraints upon the passions of men: and, blameable as our Order has been, and bad as the world is, there is no little reason to
good, but mistaken CRANMER. MARY and ELIZABETH shed much blood on account of religion. JAMES and CHARLES were not innocent. They stained their hands in blood on the same account. Cromwell, and the prevailing parties during the Rebellion, made dreadful havoc. After the Restoration, it is computed, that not less than 8000 persons perished in prison, and the sum of two millions of money was wrested from the sufferers. Sixty thousand persons are said to have suffered, in one way or other, from the Restoration to the Revolution, which was only a period of about thirty years.
Let the reader consult Dr. DODDRIDGE's excellent Sermon, against the damnable spirit of persecution.
Indeed, all national religions, whether Pagan, Jewish, Turkish, or Christian, have ever bitherto been national tyrannies. The last began with CONSTANTINE, the first Christian emperor, and continues to this day, nur own Establishment not excepted. And of what pliable stuff we Parsons are made has been tried upon various occasions in this country. When HENRY VIII. discarded the Pope of Rome, and made himself Pope in his place, the great body of Bishops and Clergy followed the example; very few, comparatively, suffered death for refusal. When EDWARD VI. rejected most of the remaining rubbish of Popery, and became Protestant, alınost all the Bishops and Clergy again followed bis example. Then when MARY afterwards undid all that EDWARD had done, and introduced Popery again, near 3000 were turned out of their Livings, but no more than four or five hundred both of the clergy and laity suffered for refusal to join her. And then, once more, when ELIZABETH rejected Popery, the Clergy, very generally, imitated her conduct. Not more than 200 gave up their preferinent. All these changes took place in the course of forty years. But whoever prevailed, Papist or Protestant, they were steady to their purpose of persecuting those who refused to comply with their tyrannical injunctions. Nay, even CALVIN persecuted Serverus unto death; and the gentle MELANCTHON approved of what CALVIN had done. CRANMER* had his victims; and, what is worse, the laws of England, in the close of the eighteenth century, contain bloody statutes in full force. Bloody laws, however, on account of religion, though of no force, through the liberality of the times, ought to be repealed, if it were only for the honour of old England; but there is a higher reason which should influence the professors of an unpersecuting MASTER.
* CRANXER was concerned in putting five or six persons to death for their religious opinions, and he himself was at last put to death by queen Mary for
A just retaliation!
the same cause.
suppose, it would be much worse without that Order. It is probable you have not well considered what the consequence would be of removing these grievances out of the way. A successful invasion from the French would, iu all likelihood, enable you to obtain these ends, for a considerable time. Had we not, however, “ better bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of?” Reformation of the decayed, impolitical, and unevangelical parts of the British constitution--not surely the destruction of the whole-should be the ardent wish of every true friend to his country, and to human nature. Perfect liberty, civil and religious, is the birth-right of man. Whatever of this nature is still wanting in this happy land, might be easily obtained from the very nature of our government. No man, therefore, who is a friend to his country, could desire to see it involved in political ruin, for the sake of obtaining what he may conceive to be some considerable advantages. Enlighten the pablic mind, and it will not be long before all remaining abuses shall be rectified.
Delenda est Carthago * is the uniform language of Frenchmen.
What the meaning of that phrase will be, we may form a pretty good idea, from the history of Carthage, and the treatment which Lyons, one of their own cities, received, when it refused to comply with the decrees of the Convention. It is worth while to state this at some length, as a useful lesson to my Countrymen.
By the new constitution of France, it was decreed, that the King could not be dethroned, unless found at the head of an army against his country. This was to be regarded as the highest crime he could possibly commit, and even for this he could be punished no otherwise than by being dethroned. « No crime whatever,” says the constitution, “ shall be construed to effect his life.” This constitution
This constitution every French
to obey, and maintain with all his might.” When, therefore, it was proposed to the people of Lyons,
* The city of Carthage was taken and plundered by the Romans 144 years before the birth of Christ. It was twenty-four miles in compass, and the burning of it continued seventeen days together. Cato was the author of the sentence, Delenda est Carthago, and SCIPIO put it in execution, with infinite horror, blood, and slaughter. See the Roman History for the account at large.