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remains of the pride, covetousness, and tyrannical
Of the Faith of the primitive Christians, and the Apos
tacy from it, traced in some of its successive steps, until that part of the world called Christendom was almost totally overspreadh with a midnight of darkness and Superstition. THEN I consider the efficacy of faith as re:
corded in the Holy Scriptures, whether among the elders who had not yet received the promises, but feen them afar off as described in the eleventh of the Hebrews; or among those who believed in Christ actually come in the flesh, as recorded in the New Testament, in the following (among many other places, John i. 12. “ To as many as received him gave he power to become the fons of God, even to them that believe on his name." Mark ix. 23. " All things are poslible to him that believeth.” Acts xv. 9. and xxvi. 18. 56 The hearts of both Jews, and Gentiles were purified by faith ;' and i John v, 4. . This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” James ii. 18. " I will shew thee my faith by my works.” Eph. vi. 16. “ The shield of faith, wherewith they were able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked: fay when I consider this Scripture account of faith, I see clearly that it was a lively operative one, and such as
professed Christians of ungodly lives have no claim to; for a dead faith may be reckoned either no faith at all, or (in some respect) to fall short of that of devils mentioned by the above-cited apostle James, of . · whom he says, that they not only believe but tremble,
a disposition which many professing faith in Chrift, are strangers to.
Now in my small reading I find also the accounts given of the early Christians, not only during the lives of the apostles, but for some time afterwards, to be such as imply that their faith also was of the same : lively operative kind as that above described from the New Testament, and superior in eslicacy to the dictates of mere reason.
"There appears,' says Stillingfleet, l. 2. C.,9. of his Origines facræ, to have been a divine efficacy in the first preaching of the gospel, far beyond that of the mere dictates of philosophy, which was not suited to all capacities, but to the few only, and even where it was suited to the capacities of men, did indeed render them more knowing, but rarely more good > whereas the gospel did not only change men's opinions and way of worship, but shewed its superior power, in turning them from their lusts, sensualities, and habitual sins. .
"We do indeed,' continues he, read of one Phædon and one Polemon brought off from their debaucheries by Socrates and Xenocrates; but what are these to the multitudes which by the mean and contemptible language of the apostles were converted from intemperance to fobriety, from injustice to fair dealing: from cowardice to the highest constancy ; yea fo great as to lay down their lives for the sake of virtue? and this is what Origen, in his books against Celsus, triumphs in, as the most signal evidence of a divine power in the doctrine of Christ.', .
Agreeably to this, I find that, the Prinitive Chris-. tians placed their religion, not in talking finely, but
in living well, nor did they esteem any Christians that merely professed, but such as lived as Christ commanded; and Tertullian openly declares that when men depart from the discipline of the gospel, they so far cease amongst us to be accounted Christians.'*.
But alas, how was the face of things changed, in process of time, and that faith which was once délivered to the faints cast off in the sense of the apostle, 1 Tim. v. 12? In short, an apostacy from the primi-, tive purity and simplicity did creep in, and from small beginnings prevail at length so far as to render many. parts of the Christian world as corrupt, and in some cases more so than the heathen.
Of such an apostacy befalling the Christian churches it hath seemed fit to the divine wisdom to forewarn us in the Revelation of John the divine, and several other places of the New Testament, of which it shall suffice at present to mention but two, viz.- 1 John iv. “ Many false prophets are gone out into the world, that spirit of Antichrist whereof you have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world,” and 2 Theff. ii. 1, 2, 3, 4. “ We beseech you, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand: let no man deceive you by any means, for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition ; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God fittethi in the temple of God, Thewing himself that he is God.
Accordingly when we come to consider by whose means it chiefly happened that ihe primitive beauty, purity and simplicity above hinted at, came to suffer an eclipse, we shall find that it was not by aliens and open adversaries, but by professed brethren : chat the
greatest enemies of the church were those of her own house, even as was said of Judas, John xiii. 18. “ He that eateth bread with me hath lift up his heel against ine," who kissed, and at the same time betrayed his Lord and Master : for indeed when we come to trace the origin and progress of the apostacy, we shall find that the great corrupters of Christianity have been the pretended disciples, apostles, and vicars of Christ Jesus, who by their conduct have brought infamy upon the Christian name and profession, and exposed it to that contempt with which it hath sometimes been trcated.'
Now in ord's that this may appear, I shall shew that the practices of those men have been the most barefaced contradictions to the precepts of their Lord; that from the humility, meekness, and love by him exemplified and recommended, they have degenerated into the most enormous degree of pride and cruelty, from a heavenly disposition of mind and contempt of worldly riches, into the most sordid and most oppresfive covetousness; and that, as corruption of manners is commonly accompanied by that of judgment also, they have egregiously corrupted the primitive doctrine as well as discipline.
The trụe origin of this woeful apostacy seems to , have bee i pretty deeply seated, viz. in the corruption of human nature: we are told that pride found admittance even among the angels, and degraded them from their heavenly stations. It also, through the insinuation of the serpent, found entrance into Paradise, and appears to have been one principal cause of ihe fall of our first parents. See Gen. iii. 5, 6. And if the wise man's maxim, Prov. xiii. 10. viz. “ Only by pride cometh contention," be of uni. versal extent, it seems to have possessed some of the Christians even of the early ages, and even so far as to have introduced among them the perfecution, one of another : for what was it else that caused Victor,