« 上一頁繼續 »
if it does not make him worse, is not likely to make him any better than he is already ? Christians, he observes, profess mainly feek the happiness of another world ; yet most of them appear to be entirely devoted to the interests and pleasures of this. If any are otherwise minded, they are but few in comparison, and are generally laughed at by the rest, as fools and enthusiasts. In short, they do not follow the principles and maxims of their own religion, which is an argument that they themselves do not believe it. And though they affect to have great zeal for bringing others to the belief of it, and pretend to have no other view in this, but a desire of promoting the welfare of their fellow-creatures, and of making them eternally happy ; yet it is manifest from their conduct, that religion with them is nothing but a mere pretext to cover their base and finister designs; and that they regard it no farther than as a means of extending their empire over others, or of pofsefling themselves of their treasures.
Thus, I say, will Heathens and enemies argue against our religion from the conduct of its professors; and these arguments will be so many strong and invincible prejudices in their minds, sufficient to make them defpise it, and refuse to take any further trouble in examining, either what it is in itself, or by, what evidences its divine authority is supported. There have been many attempts made by Christians to propagate the gospel in foreign
parts, and many schemes set on foot for the conversion of Heathens and infidels ; pious, I doubt not, and well meant ; but, for my part, the more I consider the subject now before us, together with the history of past 2ges, the less hope am I allowed to entertain of the gospel's being propagated with any great fuccefs abroad, till once it be better propagated at home; or of seeing strangers submit willingly to the yoke of Jesus Christ, whilft it is borne with so bad a grace by so many of his pretended friends; and particularly, whilst there is so little union among Christians with regard to their common faith. Christians ought to act with fome kind of consistency : they should first fettle and compose their differences amongst themselves, before they pre. tend to spread that " gospel of peace” which they profess among foreigners : they fhould be generally agreed what their religion is, before they undertake to teach it to those who are entirely unacquainted with it: in a word, they should shew by their actions, that they themselves are really influenced by the faith of it, before they attempt to make others believe it. Then, indeed, we might justly hope for the happiest fruits, and for greater triumphs to our religion than it hath had fou many ages, but not sooner.
If all that call themselves Christians would agree to live according to the rules of their religion, which are not less clear than excel. lent; if they would bend their chief attention
to the things in which they all agree, and which they themselves muft allow to be of greatest importance, rather than to thofe in which they happen to differ; if, instead of affecting to diftinguish themselves by infolent pretensions to orthodoxy of opinion, (which is only paying a compliment to themselves at the expence of their brethren), they would rather study to be known by the principal and leading mark which Jesus Christ hath assigned for his disciples, their love one to another ; finally, if each party of Christians, instead of endeavouring to swallow up and destroy the reft, by means of the power and policy of this world, would agree to lay aside the little, or, if you will, the great peculiarities by which they ftand apart from each other, and to u. nite upon the broad and firm basis of the “
verlasting gospel," contained in the books of the New Testament, the only records of it which they allow to be of divine authority ; hearkening, with one consent, to the voice of their common Master, learning of him who was meek and lowly in heart, speaking the truth to one another in love, endeavouring kindly to set each other right where they think they are wrong, but never attempting to force from others a submislion to their fen. timents without inward conviction; not jud. ging or censuring, not hurting or molesting, one another upon account of mere differences of opinion, which, at the worst, can be only errors in judgement, from wbich no man is
entirely exempted ;-could we see this temper and spirit prevailing among Christians, we might yet hope, that the gospel of Christ would have free course, and be glorified in the world : the truth would get fair play; the name of Christ would be no longer blafphea med among infidels on account of the scandalous immoral behaviour of his professed followers; all prejudices against our religion arising from that quarter would be happily removed; the light of genuine Christianity, shining before men in the lives of its professors, would almost irrefiftibly invite and engage them to glorify our heavenly Father; the blefring of God would attend their endeavours to propagate it ; and this divine religion, feen in its native unsullied luftreg. and in its most falutary and beneficial effects, would gradually prevail over the whole earth. Then, in the emphatic language of the prophet, “ten
men out of all the nations would take hold « of the skirt of him that is a Christian, fay
ing, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you
In this manner was the Christian religion propagated in its early days; and if so, we have reafon to think it will never be propagated successfully any other way. Whilft bei lievers continued stedfastly in the apostles docer trine and fellowship, praising God, and having favour with all the people ; whilst they
Soe two fermcns of Dr Clarke on 1 Cor. xiii, 3.
were wont to affemble together with one acçord, being of one heart and one foul, great grace was upon them all. And in those days the churches were edified in themselves; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, they were multia plied also, by a numerous accefion of new converts coming in every day. If strifes and contentions arose in fome churches *, they never carried them so far as to renounce com. munion with one another; and they were prevailed upon, by farther instruction in the principles of Christianity, to lay them aside. If fome corruption appeared now and then among them, who, for worldly ends, endeavoured to subvert or corrupt the Christian faith, “ and would not consent to wholesome “ words, even the words of our Lord Jesus “ Christ, and the doctrine which is according " to godliness,” they were presently shunned and discountenanced by all the friends of Jetus. Christianity in the mean time spread and lourished; and Christians were every where distinguished by their mutual love, by the reafonableness of their worship, and the purity of their manners. The converts froni among the Gentiles were generally of one mind in the Christian doctrine ; and though they could not but have very different fentiments in some things from the Jewith converts, having been ist fo wide a distance from them before ; yet
• The church of Corinib, for example.