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entered into their labours. We enjoy the benefits of their reasoning, writing, sufferings and blood. Why are we not a nation all wise and good! Why not all burning with zeal for the welfare of our country, and attached to all the principles that brought it out of the darkness of despotism into the broad day of light and liberty! Divine order! where shall we find thee? In our bosoms? In our families? In our churches? In the whole world? Would to God it might pervade all! It gives us pleasure to see it in so many. It excites our gratitude to God the author for what we have, and our hope that it will increase more and more. Yet we behold with reverence and fear; for order begun in us, resembles the morning of a spring day, it has obscurity clouds and rain, the remains of a winter just gone, and brightness and beauty, the beginnings of a summer, now at hand. May God, of his infinite mercy, succeed every effort to extend a virtuous order! May he free us all from the immoderate passion of subduing others, and give us grace to govern ourselves. To him be honour and glory for ever! Amen.
THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF CEREMONIES. Preached at Dr. Fordyce's Meeting, Monkwell-street, London,
Dec. 25, 1780.
2 CORINTHIANS iv. 3, 4, But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that
are lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto
them. THE English translation of the New Testament is, in general, so faithful, that it would not be right to shake the popular confidence in it. The facts recorded by the Evangelists are clearly narrated; the reasonings of the Apostles on these facts in their Epistles are properly and honestly expressed; the spirit of the original breathes in the translation, and the whole work will always do honour to the abilities of the translators, and convey just sentiments of christianity to English readers.
It must, however, be allowed, that this translation with all its excellencies is a human work, and partakes of human frailty; we ought not therefore to be surprized if we discover here and there an imperfection; a wrong sense of a word; a misconstruction of a sentence; or an impropriety of any sort that escaped the attention of the tran, slators.
I speak thus, because a learned friend some time ago suggested that our text was among the number of mis-translated passages. His conjecture on examination appeared well founded ; however, I would not presume to make a new reading the ground of a public discourse, had I not first privately consulted several able judges, and had I not also recollected, that the doctrine we are going to teach does not rest on this reading : but, should the reading be rejected, stands firmly supported by the whole of divine revelation.
We think our text should be rendered thus; If our gospel be VAILED, it is VAILED AMONG THE THINGS THAT ARE ABOLISHED, BY WHICH the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, and so on.
There are two general sources of arguments in defence of this sense of the passage : the first is merely literary, and for that reason improper in this place; the second is easy and obvious, it is the scope of the writer ; of this let us try to make a right judgment.
In the foregoing chapter, the Apostle treats of the two ceconomies, the Jewish and the christian, and gives the preference to the latter, as for other reasons, so chiefly on account of its superior clearness and perspicuity. Moses, who spoke to the children of Israel, put a vail over his face, and taught his doctrine by signs; but Christ, and all his Apostles, with uncovered face, that is, without signs, use great plainness of speech. Moses addressed the senses of the jews with ceremo
nies that were to be abolished; but these ceremonies are done away in christianity, and the teachers of it bend all their attention to make plain simple truth manifest. Moses established a local @economy, and addressed his ministry to the children of Israel only; but christianity is an universal religion, and the propagators of it commend themselves to 'every man's conscience in the sight of God.
Is christianity, then, it may be asked) a religion contrary to that of the Jews? The God, the Mediator, the doctrine, the morality, of christians, do they differ from those of the Jews? God forbid! Judaism, says our Apostle, was a glorious economy: but christianity exceeds it in glory. It is so much more excellent, as it is more plain, intelligible, and clear. Christians worship the same God, believe in the same Mediator, hold the same doctrines, and practise the same morality as the pious Jews always did. Christianity and judaism are not two religions; but one religion in two different degrees of perfection. The one was the gay blossom; the other is the rich fruit: the one was the design; the other the execution.
What! (it would be objected further by a Jew) do you, Paul, affirm that the birth of your Jesus, and his life, the doctrine, the miracles, the manner and the nature of his death, the dissolution of the Mosaical ceconomy, and the incorporating of all gentile nations into one body of divine worshippers, do you affirm, that all these were foretold by our prophets, believed by our ancestors, and
included in the religion of our nation? The far greater part of our nation have denied this, and have crucified your Lord of glory! To this natural objection supposed, our text seems to contain an answer. It is as if the Apostle had said, our gospel was actually contained in your law, and, if it lay concealed from the bulk of the nation, it was owing to their want of discernment, they could not look to the end of the ceremonies, which are now abolished. Their puerile minds were dazzled with the splendor of ceremonies, and never penetrated into the truths concealed under them. The grand adversary of mankind availed himself of this popular prejudice, and by heating their passion for pomp in religion, blinded their minds by means of the very ceremonies which were intended to inform them. If our gospel be hid from the Jews, it is hid by Jewish ceremonies, which, though formerly appointed by divine statute law, are, now Christ is come, abolished, and rendered obsolete. By these ceremonies, while they stood, the god of this world blinded the minds of unbelievers, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, contained in prophecies, and sacrifices, should shine unto them.
Our text, then, does not speak of final impenitence; but of the abuse of Jewish ceremonies. To this subject we will confine our attention; and we will endeavour to justify the worship of our nonconformist churches, by giving an answer to this plain question, Why do we respect the ceremonies of the Jewish religion, and reject the same cere