« PreviousContinue »
Having diligently and with care examined the Holy Scriptures to find what is that system of doctrines, truths, and duties revealed there, and endeavored to state them, and set them in a proper and clear light, and having at length finished what was proposed and undertaken, we may now look back, and, upon a general review of the whole, it is presumed that the following conclusions may be deduced with clear and abundant evidence:
I. That there is a connection, consistence, and harmony in the system of truths, taken from the Holy Scriptures, stated and explained in the foregoing work.
Care and pains have been taken to support and prove each by the sacred oracles; but it is hoped that all these considered collectively, and the whole put together and joined in one system, will, “ like an arch, add strength and firmness to each part," and increase the evidence that every doctrine that has been advanced as important truth is indeed contained in the Bible, and so essential to the whole, that it cannot be excluded and rejected without marring, and in a sense rejecting, all the rest which are connected with it and really implied in it. It is certain, that doctrines inconsistent with each other are not to be found in divine revelation. If any two or more truths are plainly revealed, between which we cannot see the consistence, we may be sure they are consistent with each other, and that it is owing to our ignorance, and to some mistake we are making, that we do not see them to agree perfectly. But when the agreement and consistence of every important doctrine revealed in the Bible is discerned, this gives satisfaction to the mind, and casts a lustre of light and beauty over the whole. No pains, therefore, ought to be spared in examining the Bible with this view, that we may learn what are the doctrines there revealed, and be able to see their connection and consistence.
There is one chain, or consistent scheme of truth, which runs through the whole of the Bible; and every doctriné contained in this divine plan is not only consistent with the rest, but as much a part of the whole as is each link of a chain, so that not one can be broken or taken out, without spoiling or at least injuring the chain. In this view, the foregoing system is offered to the examination of all who are willing to search the Bible daily, and in the light of that, to try every doctrine that has been advanced, that they may find whether they be agreeable to the Scripture and consistent with each other, or not, and accordingly receive or reject them. It is not pretended, that every particular article which has been mentioned, as matter of conjecture or probable, of which there are some instances, or that is considered as more evident from Scripture than the opposite, is essential to the system. If it be consistent with the whole, it may be received, though it be not essential; and if it should be thought by any not worthy to be received, or not so evident from Scripture as the contrary, it may be rejected, and the contrary believed, perhaps, as consistent with the system of connected truth. Of this every one will judge for himself. And though persons may differ in their judgment on some sentiments of this description, which have been mentioned, yet they may agree in receiving every doctrine which is essential to a system of truth, which is harmonious in every part, and forms one connected, consistent plan of divine truth. But if any doctrine be denied and rejected, which is a necessary part of the system of truth revealed in the Scripture, or which is really implied in it, the connection is hereby broken, and the whole system is destroyed; and every truth contained in it is implicitly given up and denied: as a chain is broken and spoiled by taking away one link of it, and a well-cemented and strong arch is broken down and demolished, by removing a small, but necessary part of it. From this it follows,
II. That there is no other scheme, or system of supposed truth, which is connected and consistent with itself through the whole of it.
This follows as a necessary conclusion from the foregoing. If that be true, therefore, this must be also true. There is but one consistent plan of religious truth, which is revealed in the Scripture; and another cannot be invented or exist, which is consistent with itself in every part. Therefore, if we can find what is the system of doctrines revealed in the Bible, (and this we may and shall do, if it be not wholly our own fault,) we may be sure no other which is throughout consistent can be found, or is possible. As every divine, revealed truth is per. fectly consistent with the whole truth, and every doctrine comes in to make and complete one whole, and is so connected as to make one uniform system, which is not capable of any alteration without rendering it imperfect, so error and false doctrine is always necessarily inconsistent with itself, and no system of error can be invented, which is not inconsistent, and does not imply a contradiction. Thus error is always crooked, and cannot be made straight. False doctrines may be and often have been advanced, and formed into a sort of a system, and have a degree of connection and agreement with each other, and may be joined with some truths, and be made to appear plausible, and even consistent with all truth, to a superficial, undiscerning eye, and especially to a mind filled with prejudices against the truth, and real disgust of it. But when these doctrines, or this system of errors, are critically examined by a discerning mind, they will be found to imply gross inconsistencies and contradictions; and a mind thus prejudiced, and disaffected with the great truths of divine rev. elation, may view them as inconsistent with reason and with each other, and think he finds innumerable contradictions in the Bible, and consequently reject it, and embrace what appears to him a more consistent, or at least a more pleasing scheme. But nothing is obtained by this but a temporary, pleasing dream and delusion, which, when properly examined, will appear to consist in confusion and self-contradiction, and, if followed in the natural and genuine tendency of it, will land the infidel in total darkness and universal scepticism, the greatest of all contradictions and absurdities. This has been verified by numerous facts in the Christian world, and instances of it are multiplying at this day.
Those doctrines which are inconsistent with the absolute supremacy and independence of God; his omniscience, unchangeableness, and infinite felicity; his infinite wisdom, rectitude, and goodness, must be false doctrines; and all that are connected with them, and follow from them, must be also contrary to the truth, and are an implicit denial of the being of the true God, and inconsistent with any proper acknowledgment of him. The denial of the decrees of God, and that he hath foredained whatsoever comes to pass, and all those doctrines which are implied in this and follow from it, are inconsistent with this true character of God, and, therefore, are false doctrines, and an implicit denial of the being of the only true God, and inconsistent with all true piety, and, if followed in their true consequences, will lead to universal scepticism, darkness, and delusion.
Those tenets relating to human liberty, and that moral agency of man necessary in order to render him capable of virtue or vice, praise or blame, which are inconsistent with the decrees of God fixing all events and all the actions of men, are inconsistent with the divine character, and even with the existence of God; are inconsistent with the Holy Scripture, and are inconsistent with themselves, implying self-contradiction, and the greatest absurdity; which, it is supposed, has been in some measure made manifest in the foregoing work. And without mentioning more particulars, it is left to the candid, considerate reader to examine every doctrine which has been proposed in this view; and it is presumed that he will find the whole, and especially all the leading sentiments, not only consistent with each other, but with the being, perfections, and character of God, revealed in the Scripture; and that no other scheme of doctrine can be consistent with these, or with itself, but tends to infidelity, and to remove all important religious truth: and if so, and he be disposed to receive the truth in the love of it, his mind will by this be more established in the truth, and know it, and that no lie is of the truth, but that this is the true God and eternal life. (1 John ii. 21; v. 20.) And the farther he proceeds in the line of truth, and the more clear and comprehensive view he obtains of it, the greater will be his confidence and assurance that this is the only system of doctrines which is agreeable to the divine perfections, the Word of God, and with itself, and that these are the doctrines which are according to godliness; and the greater satisfaction and joy will he have in contemplating, loving, and obeying them.
III. It appears from the whole of the foregoing, that it is of great importance that the doctrines and truths contained in divine revelation should be understood, believed, and loved; that this is necessarily implied in the exercise and practice of true religion, without which there is no salvation.
If this were not important and necessary, there would be little or no need of a divine revelation. This is a revelation of a system of truth and of duty, the foundation and reason of which is the revealed truth, and all obedience consists in knowing, loving, and obeying the truth; therefore, were there no doctrines, no truth and articles of faith revealed, no duty or obedience could be enjoined or known. The Bible reveals a system of truth. It reveals the being and character of God; nis works and designs; the state and character of man; the person and character of the Redeemer; his work and designs, and the way of salvation by him; what God does, and what man must be and do, in order to his salvation. The Bible opens the invisible world to men, and sets before them the great, important truths relating to the invisible, eternal kingdom of Christ; and there cannot be one exercise of piety or charity, or any duty of either of these performed by any man, unless it be in the view of those revealed truths, or in conformity to them.
The Holy Scripture, therefore, represents the knowledge and belief of the truth as necessary to salvation; that faith, without which men cannot be saved, is the belief of the truth.” “ He that believeth shall be saved.” This supposes some truth to be believed; and what can this be but the truths of the
gospel, the truth to which Christ came to bear witness? Were there no revealed truths, there would be nothing to be believed; no objects of faith; for faith is a belief of the truth. Surely none will say saving faith consists in believing nothing, or in believing a lie! Christ speaks of the knowledge of the truth as necessary in order to salvation, and peculiar to his followers. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John vii. 17.) “ And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John viii. 32.) “ Sanctify them through thy truth ; thy word is truth.” (John xvii. 17.) “ When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.” (John xvi. 13.) The apostle Paul represents the great design of the gospel to be, to bring Christians to a union in knowledge and faith, or a belief and practice of truth. we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Eph. iv. 14, 15.) He speaks of the doctrine which is according to godliness, as necessary to be known and obeyed by every Christian. (1 Tim. vi. 3.) He directs Timothy to “hold fast the form of sound words," which he had heard of him. (2 Tim. i. 13.) By the form of sound words, nothing can be meant but the system of gospel doctrines which the apostle taught, and in which he had instructed Timothy; and he was to hold fast those sound words, those wholesome, important, solid truths, by meditating upon them, and maintaining and preaching them; which is the same with holding and preaching sound doctrines, and being sound in the faith, which he repeatedly mentions.
And the knowledge and belief of the truth revealed in the Bible is so important and essential to a Christian, that all Christian practice is denoted by obeying the truth.“ Obeying from the heart the form of doctrine which has been delivered to them.” (Rom. vi. 17.) “Doing the truth, and walking in the truth.” (John iii. 21. 3 John 4.) And Christians are exhorted to “ contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3.) The faith which had been delivered to the church can be nothing but the system of doctrines contained in divine revelation; the truths implied and exhibited in the gospel, which were to be believed and maintained by Christians. The apostle Paul, in all his epistles,