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Enmity to Religion in general the natural Con
sequence of Enmity to the Gospel.
JOHN, XV. 22, 23, 24. If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had
șin ; but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that kateth me, hateth my Father also. if I had not done among them the works, which none other man did, they had not had sin; but now they have both seen, and hated both me and my Father,
OUR Divine Lord in these words teaches us, that, in respect of guilt, there is a great dif. ference between those, who have never heard of the gospel, nor had an opportunity to receive it, and those who have seen its evidences and yet have rejected it. The former cannot be charged with the sin of unbelief ; the latter have no cloak for their sin.
He shews us what is the true cause of unbelief in those who have known the gospel : It is their hatred of it. They have seen and hated me.
He warns us what is the next and natural conse. quence of rejecting his gospel : It is the rejection of all religion in principle and practice. “ He that hateth
Father also.” It is this last observation, which now lies before us.
Some of those, who discard the Christian revelation, pretend to believe the truth of natural religion. They verbally acknowledge, that there is a God, a providence, a future existence; and that there are certain moral virtues, which are useful to mankind, such as justice, veracity, beneficence, temperance and prudence. Though they have no reverence for Jesus as a divine teacher, nor for his gospel as a divine communication, yet they believe there were such men as Socrates, Plato and Seneca, who taught good moral rules of life, and whose rules are still worthy of observation.
But whatever they may pretend, our Savior expressly affirms it, at least as a general truth, that they who hate him, hate God that they who despise his gospel, cast away all religion.
And this is not merely an incidental observation ; but what he often repeats and much insists upon,
in his discourses to the unbelieving Jews, as a matter which deserved their most serious consideration. “ He that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father—he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me. Every man that hath heard, and learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Ye neither know me, nor my Father. If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also.”
If against so high authority as this, an authority, which the Christian surely will not dispute, any doubt the truth of our position, that “they who reject the gospel, after they have known it, generally reject all religion,” let them attend to some consid. erations, which will illustrate and confirm it.
1. So far as we can judge from facts, this is generally the case.
I will not say, there are no temporary exceptions. Some, I suppose, there may be. For men run not at once, to the last extreme either in dissipation of
morals, or in licentiousness of opinion. But if there are exceptions, they are few, and these only for a time.
The opposers of revelation, in the present day, if we can learn their sentiments from their writings, are generally Atheists. Though they sometimes speak of a God, yet they appear not to revere him as a moral governor, who will finally judge his rational creatures according to their characters. They oppose revealed religion, not because there is another, which they like better, as being more rational, and pure and better founded; but because they like none : They hate all in every form. They, perhaps, might have been Deists once ; but they did not long remain such. Deism leads on directly to Atheism. They who run into the former, seldom stop short of the latter. Some may choose to reject the name, when they embrace the thing. But there are those who have not much delicacy about the name. Infidelity used to have some modesty ; but now it has very much thrown off disguise. That which once called itself deism, has now the audacity to avow itself to be atheism.
2. It is an observation of the Apostle, “ Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” One degree of error, as well as of vice, leads to another, When men begin to depart from the truth, they can no more prescribe bounds to their wandering, than when they depart from virtue, they can set limits to their corruption. The traveller, who, being disgusted with small inconveniences in his plain and beaten path, strikes off at a venture in expectation of an easier or straiter course, is soon disappointed. He meets with obstructions, which he did not foresee, and he must turn to avoid them. Still new difficulties occur and again he must change his course, until perplexed,
bewildered and lost, he sits down in despair of re. covering his first path, or finding a new one, which will conduct him home. So is the man who forsakes the path of truth and uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness and error. His ways are crooked; he has none to guide him. One devious trait leads to another ; the farther he wanders, the more difficult it is to return, and the more easy to wander still.
3. The Psalmist observes, " The meek God will guide in judgment, and the meek he will teach his way." Humbleness of mind is the best preparative for the residence of that heavenly Spirit who leads into all truth. Pride and self confidence oppose his influence and forfeit his direction. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The Apos. tle speaks of those to whom God sends strong delusions, that they should believe a lie, and perish in the error of their way. These are they, who received not the love of the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. If there are any whom God gives over to a reprobate mind, and a deceived heart, none more likely to be thus abandoned, than they who have known and hated the gospel of their salvation. Of such the Apostle speaks, when he says, “ It is impossible for those, who have been once enlight. ened, and have tasted the good word of God, if they shall fall away, to be again renewed to repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves afresh the Son of God.” If we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for of judgment.”
4. From the nature of the gospel we may conclude, that they who renounce it, will, of course, renounce all rcligion.
The gospel contains every thing, which belongs to the religion of nature, and every thing which is
wise and good in any religion whatever. It teaches us the existence of an all perfect Deity. It gives us the most exalted representation of his character and government. It lays before us the parest and plainest rules of virtue and piety. It enforces the obligations of duty by the strongest motives. It brings to view all the arguments for a holy life, which reason can suggest, and places them in the clearest light. It adds many encouragements, which reason could never ascertain, but which must wholly depend on revelation ; such as the acceptableness of repentance for past transgressions, the grace of God to help the infirmities of the humble, the resurrection of the body from the dust of the grave, and the greatness and perpetuity of the rewards reserved for the obedient.
They who reject such a religion as this, reject every religion which can be worthy of belief. When they have exploded the description which the gospel gives of the divine character the precepts which mark out the duty of man—the motives which recommend his duty, and the hopes and assistances which encourage repentance and obedience ; they may be challenged to shew, what materials are left, out of which they can fabricate a religion of their own. The enemies of the gospel cannot stop short of total infidelity, because, when the gospel is thrown aside, every thing is gone, which belongs to the religion of nature. If they pretend to believe and respect the latter, they can mean no more by it than a liberty to live as they list, and to follow the impulse of their inclinations, with only such restraints as are imposed by a regard to health, reputation, interest and the laws of society. To call this religion, is to profane a sacred name by applying it to a licentious life.