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and brought the gospel out of it, in a way one should not have expected. This reminds me of a wonderful preacher in the same way, who lately preached on “Abraham begat Isaac, and Issac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs." He said, it had a gospel sonse, and referred to the mystery of the Trinity, and the work of the Holy Ghost. Abraham begat Isaac, means the eternal generation of the Son of God, who is the only begotten of the Father; then the Holy Ghost is represented by Jacob, for he proceeds from the Son as well as the Father; and, lasíly, "Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs,” signifies, the work of the Spirit in sending forth the twelve apostles.”
This last interpretation appeared to me so striking, that I could remain silent no longer, but exclaimed, “How justly has the apostle said, “ Unlearned and unstable men wrest the Scriptures; that is, put them on the rack to torture them, in order to make them speak what they never intended !' I am so far from being charmed with these new evangelical interpretations, that I am shocked and alarmed. All the novelty and ingenuity which they display, make no compensation for the banishment of that which is the great design of preaching, to make known the mind of the Spirit in the Scriptures.
For what else but the real mind of God, expressed in his word, can be the food of faith? Unless we derive his genuine meaning in any passage, our faith is not fixed on the truth of God, but the ingeruity of man. What will be our condition at the last day, if it should be found that, instead of taking into our hearts his declarations of truth and grace, we were carried away with the novelty of some allegoric meaning, forced upon his words in defiance of bis plain meaning? And, when once the heated imagination of a popular preacher is allowed to melt down Scripture as wax, to take any impression which his ingenuity chooses to give, the Bible, instead of being, as you think, rich in meaning, has really no sense at all. The doctrines of the gospel, far from being supported by such fanciful comments, are really betrayed into the hands of their enemies; for, when they see certain truths brought out of texts, where common sense may see they never were intended to be taught, they suppose that the doctrines themselves are only the reveries of ingenious brains, which can only be supported by twisting Scripture contrary to its original meaning. Or else, they learn to use ingenious liberties with those texts which really contain evangelical doctrines, and put them on the rack, to banish Christ out of them, reversing the process by which you attempt to force Christ into them : for, they say 'Why is it not as fair for us as for you?'
As I now perceived that my friend had too little 'relish for my sentiments to give them easy credit, I enquired for one who resides in the house; and, being told that he was in the next
room, I called him in. He is an ingenious man, and, though of a sceptical turn, indifferent to all sentiments, he loves to argue against the peculiar doctrines of the cross. Yet, as the Devil has been forced to confess the glory of Christ, I thought I might draw him into the conversation in such a way as to correct the errors of my friend. It is needless to relate by what process I brought him to the point I wished; let it suffice to know that, when he found we differed on the proper way of interpreting Scripture, he seized the opportunity to speak thus :
" As to the Scripture, I have sometimes thought there is not much meaning in it; for I have heard some famous preachers give such strange, out-of-the-way sense to their text, that I was convinced they did not trouble themselyes to find out what was really meant by the words, but what curious things they could say from them. At the same time, I have watched the countenances of religious people, and seen them highly charmed with the hocus pocus of this conjuror, who could bring a hen and chickens out of a snuff-box; or, in other words, bring out of a text what was never in it. I have often said to myself, Do these people read the Bible every day, to know no more of its meaning than to be caught with such perversions ?
« But,” said he to my friend, as I know you are partial to such strange twists, I will not hurt your feelings by harping on this string; but will make my peace with you, by expounding Scripture on your own plan. 'You often tell me, I must be regenerate, because ojir Lord says, “ Ye must be born again." Now, what a fine view of the resurrection is this! When we spring from the womb of our mother Earth, and are born into a new world! - this is all the regeneration I want. Nay, don't tell me that is not the meaning of the speaker.. It is a fine new interpretation of the passage, and suits my gospel, if not yours. As to its not being the real meaning of Christ, when he spake of the new birth, I am sure it is as much his meaning, as original sin was David's, when he uttered the text we heard yesterday afternoon. Yet, I know, you were charmed with the interpre. tation given to those words; though it is evident, to every un. prejudiced man, that David is only magnifying the Omniscience of God, who saw him before his body was perfectly formed in the womb."
I saw my friend began now to have enough of his own system ; I, therefore, thought it prudent to ask him to walk a little way with me. I then begged him to reflect seriously on the con sequences which result from such treatment of Scripture; -- told him how sorry I was to find his minister had been influenced by the taste of his hearers to adopt such a strain, instead of examin, ing into its soundness, and then exposing its fallacy. We then parted ; but, if I find any happy result, I may perhaps inforin jou, for the benefit of your readers.
THE CAUSES OF DEISM.
Is there not a Cause 2 David. - An infallible authority asserts, that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. If this testimony be true, the primary cause of Deism lies deep; it is seated in the depravity of human nature. The fountain is empoisoned, and the streams partake of the deadly infection. Opportunity and temptation do not communicate; they only draw forth the latent corruptions of the fallen soul. These seeds of infidelity already contain the germ of life, though concealed for a time beneath the surface, smoothed by civilization, early correction, or careful education. But the effects of rain and sunshine are not more certain in the vegetation of the natural world, than the influence of occasion and solicitation upon the human heart. Every man is by nature in a state of virtual infidelity; the declarations of revealed truth are not really believed : and the transition to speculative unbelief is neither difficult nor surprizing. But though we state that the awful depravity of nature is the general and remote cause of Deism, we nevertheless acknowledge the presence and operation of other causes which are subordinate and occasional.
Immorality inclines men to receive the principles of infidelity. A corrupt tree brings forth corrupt fruit, answerable to its' degenerate nature: so from a corrupt heart proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetuousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, &c. These immoralīties, which stain the conduct, become an immediate and powerful inducement to Deism. As they are congenial to the heart whence they proceed, so they are sincerely loved. The degenerate parentsoul looks with a partial eye upon her own offspring ; indulges them with that freedom in secret which is the proof of sincere attachment, and is jealous of every thing which threatens separation from her darling idols, her beloved lusts. Resolved to persist in the crooked paths of rebellion against God, -every extenuation of the evil of sin is eagerly sought after,-and every assurance of impurity is joyfully received. To such a course of conduct, how suitable and relieving is the creed of Deism !It is a theory derived from human depravity, and demonstrates its origin by its application.-It furnishes an apology for every crime by an appeal to constitutional inclinations, as to principles anthorized by the God of nature; silences the harsh clamours of conscience, by a disavowal of superstition; and alministers the sacrifice of annibilation to every intrisive fear. “The fool hai.. said in his hcart, There is no God.” Is the cause of this brutal conclusion sought for? “ They are corrupt; they have done abominable works. They are all gone aside; they are altogether become filthy: thiere is none that doeth good,-10, not one.
A defective education must be noticed as one of the earliest occasions of Deism. To read the Bible, or to commit to merory the first principles of Christianity, is, in many of our public schools, considered as a practice puritanic and obsolete.. Socinians and Deists have warmly joined to expel the Scriptures from our juvenile seminaries, as unsuitable to the period of childhood: as calculated unfairly to prepossess the unsuspicious mind with conclusions in favour of a revelation, the evidence of which they are not able to examine. Besides (say these reasoners) by associating the tasks of school with the sacred writings, we may excite that aversion which mature reflection will not be able to overcome. Mar.y sincere but incautious friends of revelation have too readily fallen into the snare thus artfully laid for their offspring; and the consequences are such as fill the reflecting mind with pain and alarm. Instead of the sentiments and phraseology of Christ and his inspired servants, the minds of the young are stored with the maxims and diction of ancient philosophers or modern novelists. The language of revelation is to them a strange dialect; nor can they recognize the venerable authority of prophets or apostles, when their writings are appealed to by the evangelical minister of God. Thus the access of saying truth to the understanding is rendered difficult, in proportion to their wani of acquaintance with the medium through which it is conveyed. Their attention to the Bible is probably first excited by the bold and blasphemous sneers of infidelity; the seed of speculative Deism is cropt into the lieart, anil takes deep root in a soil too awfully favourable to its future growth and maturity.
Parents and guardians of the rising age, would you wish to countcract this fatal mischief? - Begin, then, with your tender and inportant charge, as soon as capacity begins to dawn.
Train up, catechize your children in the way they should go, thai, when they are old, they may not, through the seductions of Deism, depart from it. This is a direct injunction, delivered by the highest authority; and we see the auspicious result of obedience exemplified in one of the most striking instances :The match!ess Paul congratulates his on Timothy, that, from a child, he had known the holy Scriptures, and which had made him wie unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus.
May we not, in many instances, trace Deism to an impa. tience of contron!? Education, defective as it in general is, lays some restraints on the passions. The recurrence of the Christian Sabbath, sanctioned too by the laws of our land, opposes a public and powerful barrier to licentiousness of senti nient, and profligacy of conduct. The prohibitions and alarm.
ing sanctions of the revelation of God, are perpetually interfering with the favourite pursuits and criminal indulgences of the vain and the immoral. Even these characters are sometimes startled with the distant thörders of Sinai; and conscience brings them into a state of bondage through fear. Now Deism proposes a short road to emancipation Let us break their bands asunder,' and cast away their cords from us," is the counsel dictated.-" Our lips are our own: who is Lord over us?” is the haughty challenge. Thus, in proportion as Deism attains its purpose, cvery moral authority is subverted : every restraint on the lawless passions is discarded ; and the institutions of civil society present a tottering and short-lived security against the return of gloomy savagism and universal anarchy.
A spirit of bold speculation, unawed by the majesty of the incomprehensible God, unchecked by the conviction of human fallibility, has led numbers into the ranks of infidelity. True courage is a noble trait in the
aracter of man, ant is a constant companion of sound wisdom; but there is a disposition, miscalled Courage, whose proper appellation is Temerity: This is a blind and headlong temper, averse to sober inquiry, and unae: quainted with the calculations of prudence. Under its influence, the Bible, though surrounded with claims of the most awful import, and disclosing truths of eternal moment, is treated with less respect than the dreams of heathen sages, or the reveries of the wildest theorists. Suspicion of incompetence, where the profoundest minds have paused, and bent the knee of prayer, is quite unknown to these daring souls. No doubt, they are the men of intuition, and wisdom was born and must die with them! These are the characters who become vain in their ima, gination, and their foolish heart is darkened: professing themselves to be wise, they become fools, and perish in their own de. ceivings. Let the youth of education and science beware of this proud rock, on which thousands have struck, making shipWreck of faith and a good conscience.
Confusion of thought has proved a frequent occasion of renouncing Christianity. Numbers cannot, or will not, discern the difference between the corruptions of men and the religion of Christ. Why should the mumery of Rome be confounded with the noble simplicity of gospel-worship? What affinity havo the sublime doctrines of the New Testament with the dogmas of Popes, or the decrees of councils? Why should man, in what. ever station, or of whatever attainments, be identifice with the book of heaven? The word of revelation must be tried by its own intrinsic character, independent of every thing adventitions or human. And how reasonable this role of judgment! Flow readily acceded to in every cause, and on every other occasion ! So far is the word of God from referring to its merely-noininal advocates, in proof of its own authenticity; or as exeinplifying