« ПредишнаНапред »
this land against it, it is therefore less offenfive in the eyes of GoD, than at the inftant He forbad it? or that GOD's law is only binding on the confciences of men, where it has the fanction of human * inftitutions to inforce it? If it be time which wears out the malignity of such an evil, or the obligation of the divine law against it, we may as well imagine that other crimes stand in the fame predicament, and the most atrocious violations of the fecurity and happiness of mankind, will have a prescriptive innocence to plead in their excufe.
That all fuch reasonings are not only without foundation, but directly oppofite to the divine truth, we learn from that truth itself, which hath affured us, that "it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail." And that we may be affured He stamped the most permanent authority on that law, and particularly on that part of the law of which we have now been speaking, He adds, in the very next words
Whofoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery." This is no new law enacted by our bleffed Saviour on the subject,
* We may say of human laws, ceremonies, and inftitutions, which interfere with the obligation of GOD's ordinances or commandments, as Henry II. King of France faid of the papal difpenfations, that "they are
not able to fecure the confcience, and are nothing "but a fhadow caft before the eyes of men, which cannot hide the truth from God."
but an application and explanation of that very law which he had, immediately before, faid," could never fail," and which was given to Mofes at mount Sinai. See Luke xvi. 17, 18.
When our Lord in his fermon on the mount, as recorded by St. Matthew, is about to explain the moral law, and vindicate it from the falfe gloffes which the Scribes and Pharifees had put upon it, he prefaces his explanation with these remarkable wordsVerily I fay unto you, 'till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle (one, even the most feemingly inconfiderable part of a single letter) fhall in no wife pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” ἕως ἂν παντα γενηται. Until all things be done. Which, with the learned Dr. Hammond on Matth. v. 18, I would thus paraphrase: Till the world be destroyed, and all things come to an end, no one least particle fhall depart from the law, or be taken away, or lofe its force and obligation." Whofoever, therefore, faith Chrift, ver. 19, shall break one of these leaft commandments, and fhall teach men fo, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whofoever shall do, and teach them, the fame fhall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” After such a testimony as this to the * immu
*The Pfalmift faith, Pf, cxix. 89.
in the heavens is fettled thy word O Jebovab! For ever I must therefore declare it, not only as my opinion, but as a fixed article of my faith, that a fingle atom of the moral law can never be changed-nor will God alter the thing that is gone out of his lips. Pf. lxxxix. 34.
tability of the divine law, it would hardly be decent in me to attempt an addition to its force, by any further arguments.
I will therefore now proceed to examine the fubjects propofed, which I fhall do fingly on the authority of God's word; and this, not by detaching one text here and there from the reft of the facred fcriptures; but by examining carefully the whole throughout, comparing Spiritual things with Spiritual, 1 Cor. ii. 13. and thus allowing the word of GOD to be, what God doubtless intended it fhould be, the best comment upon itself.
Nor fhall I venture to reft any one point on the authority of even the best * tranflations, but conftantly have recourfe to the original feriptures, being defirous to follow that fenfible maxim, that "nothing fhould *be received in proof, but on the best testimony which the nature of the thing will "admit of." If, in matters of civil proa copy will not be admitted in evidence, where the original can be come at," how much doth it behove us, in matters of eternal concern, to have the best evidence for our determinations? Satius eft petere fontes quam fectari rivulos.
I have endeavoured to clear my imagination of all worldly fyftems, and human inventions
Whofoever reads the ftrictures on, or rather against, the facred feriptures, of that ignorant and malicious reviler of them, M. de Voltaire, may fee how he has been led into his miftakes by fome of the Latin and French tranflations.
whatsoever, whether Popish or Proteftant, and to allow no authority more modern than the facred fcripture, less weighty than inspiration itself, to amount to a proof of what is true or falfe. As for the writings of primitive* fathers, Chriftians, &c. the whole rabble of fchoolmen, together with the decrees of councils, churches, fynods, &c. a man, who wishes to know the truth, fhould no more receive a matter of doctrine on their autho→ rity, than he should a matter of fact on the testimony of a Popish legend. Nay, I will
Thefe were but fallible men, like ourfelves, at beft; and if we confider the ftrange opinions which are to be found in their writings, we must acknowledge them to be very faulty. Though they have been fo mutilated, changed, interpolated, and corrupted, by the various fects who have wanted their teftimony to speak for them, that it is difficult to know what is genuine, and what is not. I remember to have met with the following difmal, though short account, of the writings of the fathers," Scatent erroribus tum veterûm tum recentiorum hæreticorum." "They abound with the errors, 66 as well of the old, as of the more modern hæretics." BURNET obferves, that "there was a great mixture
of fophifticated stuff, that went under the antient names, and was joined to their true works, which "critics have fince difcovered to be fpurious." Hift. Ref. p. 30. 2d edit. vol. i. The apostle, Tit. i. 14. warns us against Jewish fables; we fhould be equally careful of giving heed to thofe which feem to bear a Chriftian ftamp.
We might as well recommend a young man to the study of fo many volumes of news-papers to make him an accurate hiftoriographer, as to the study of the fathers to make him a found divine. How far they may make him a rotten one, may be seen in the Life of Dr. Clarke, by W. Whifton, p. 143, 151, 155.
go farther and fay, that the dying words, and unshaken conftancy of faints, martyrs, and confeffors, ought to prove no more than that they themselves believed what they "faid," unless the holy fcriptures bear testimony to their opinions.
However clear the spring is, yet, when it divides itself, flowing from the fountainhead into different channels, it will naturally present to the eye the colour, and to the palate the taste, of the different foils through which it may happen to take its course. "I have therefore found little encouragement to rest any thing on the authority of commentators; who, being prejudiced by education, influenced by cuftom, and misled by others that have gone before them-instead of thinking as the Bible Speaks, too frequently make the Bible speak as they think. The conclufion of the matter therefore ought to be-To the LAW and to the TESTIMONY! If. viii. 20.
* Much has been built on the conftancy with which the martyrs fuffered-but when we find people dying with equal conftancy for oppofite opinions, nothing is conclufively proved on either fide, but that each believed his own tenets.-See Burnet's Hift. Ref. vol. ii. p. 112. 3d edit. the cafe of Joan of Kent, and of George Van Pare, a
It is a dangerous thing to build our faith on equivocal teftimony, instead of the ONE INFALLIBLE EVIDENCE of GOD'S WRITTEN WORD-which can neither lye nor deceive; and against which there can lie no appeal, to any other writings in the world, nor to any other teftimony of any kind whatsoever.