« PreviousContinue »
That he might not do unnecessary violence to the feelings and prejudices of the Jews; and, at the same time, that he might open to their minds Almighty God's intention of admitting the Gentiles to a full share in the privileges of the Gospel covenant; our blessed Lord employed the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. The finner, eager to avail himself of any pretext for deferring the amendment of his life, would fain consider the parable as pointing to individual penitents, and the reward bestowed on the labourer, who had wrought but one hour, as an emblem of forgiveness, promised to a late, it
be a deathbed repentance. His hopes are fallacious ; as far at least as this parable is made the basis of them; for it has not any reference to Christians, or to repentance at all.
Equally fallacious as the doctrine of faith independant of Christian works, to which I have been just alluding; and that other kindred tenet of the absolute election of indivi. duals to eternal life, and the consequent reprobation of others : fallacious inasmuch as they rest ou an affumption, that St. Paul was arguing for a different conclusion from that, which we apprehend to have been the real scope and design of his epistles. For, whereas the hypothesis of our adversaries must proceed upon the opinion, that he was distinguishing between faith, and works, as parts of the fame dispensation; the design of the Apostle appears to have been, to distinguish between the two dispensations of Moses and of Christ: and, whereas in the latter case their hypothesis prefumes upon his arguments having a perfonal tendency; he appears in reality to be vindicating the justice of God in the election of nations, generally to be the instruments of his providence; and more especially of fuch, as he then chose to be the repositories of the Christian faith.
9. Much additional light may be thrown upon the subject of our inquiries, by an attention to the time, the persons, and other circumstances, with which it is connected; as Bishop Latimer remarked from St. Austin, • The circumstances of the Scriptures en
lighten the Scriptures, and one Scripture “ doth expound another to a man that is stu“ dious, well-willing, and often calling upon ¢ God in continual prayer?."
When the malefactor addressed himself to his expiring Redeemer, (in whom perhaps he had never before had an opportunity of de claring his belief, and whom perhaps he had never before heard or seen;) and in the feason of bis distress, when his very Apostles had all
Life of Ridley, p. 452,
forfaken him and fled, openly confeffed his divine character, and implored his compassion; « Lord, remember me when thou coinest into « thy kingdom':” our Saviour graciously accepted him, and said, “ Verily I say unto thee, « To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise. But would it not be a most delusive, and mif. chievous inference, were we to contend from this for the efficacy of the death-bed repentance of one, who had passed his life in deny. ing and dishonouring Chrift?
Or because, in allufion to the Jews, who rejected God's gracious offers of mercy, and were therefore rejected from being his people, our Saviour pronounced, that “ many are call
ed, but few chofen b;" are we therefore to admit the predestinarian doctrine, that a small part of mankind is absolutely elected by God to everlasting happiness, from which the great bulk are absolutely rejected ?
Or because St. Paul, who was “a chosen * vessel " of Christ for the propagation of the Gospel was instantaneously converted to a belief in the truth by a heavenly vision; are we to expect, that the hardened finner will now experience the instantaneous conversion from his lins, by an irresistible pet of divine grace ?
* Matt. xx. 16.
• Luke xxiii. 42, 43. • Acts ix, 15.
Or because the Apostle describes his Gentile converts, previously to their admission into the Christian Church, as “ dead in trespasses and “ fins, aliens from the commonwealth of Il« rael, and strangers to the covenants of pro« mise d;" are we now to address a congregation of baptized believers, as unregenerate: thereby stripping Christ's holy ordinance of its facramental character; and, by an act of our individual authority, annulling the covenant of God?
Or because the holy Spirit operated in an extraordinary manner on the Apostles and first Christians, are we to glory in his irresistible and sensible impulses; and to affirm, in the language of Methodifm, that “ the Spirit is
visibly poured out in our assemblies;" that “ the Holy Ghost descends in a glorious man“ ner;" that he “ comes like a rushing mighty “ wind, and moves over the whole congrega“ tion;" or that “ the great God in a glorious
manner fills and overshadows our souls;" that “the Holy Ghost comes upon us, and the
power of the Highest overshadows us ;" that
we daily experience the outgoings and in^ comings of the Holy Spirit in the sanctuary " of our hearts ;” and that we can feel him " daily filling our souls and bodies, as plainly
. Eph. ii. 1. 19.
as we feel the air which we breathe, or the 66 food we eat?"
If these be errors, as I believe them, and on some future occasion shall attempt with God's good blessing to prove them, to be; they arise in a great degree from inattention to the rule of interpretation now before us ; which directs us to consider, not only what is said, but the various circumstances, under which it is spoken: a rule, to the neglect of which some of the most extravagant peculiarities of Methodism, both in opinion and in practice, may be referred.
10. To the foregoing rules for the interpretation of Scripture, only one more remains to be added; which however is of the most extenfive application and utility : I mean, that no doctrine, however fpecious, is to be admitted as part of the Gospel, which is not agreeable to the general tenour of the whole; in conformity with the prudent decision of our Church in her 17th Article, that “ we must re“ ceive God's promises in such wise, as they “ be generally set forth to us in Holy Scrip• ture.”
This, as I have already said, is of the most extensive application: nor do I conceive, that
* See Whitefield's Works, vol. i: p. 202. 223. 280. 297. 169. 166. 205. &c.