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A CHARGE, &c.
Reverend Brethren, WHEN God surveyed the world which he had made, he saw that every thing was good and perfect in its kind : and such as he made it, such it continues to this day, under a law which shall never be broken. But when we turn our eyes toward the moral world, we find it unsettled and variable. It receives a law which it doth not preserve, but becomes weary of truth, and studious of novelty. The body is continually changing the fashion of its garments, but such fashions may pass and repass with little offence : new opinions, which are the fashions of the mind, are of dangerous influence, especially in religion, where they are most apt to intrude.
We therefore, my brethren, whose office it is to watch for the souls of men, should carefully observe what changes are taking place in our own age and country; what good doctrines are decaying, what evil opinions, are rising up and spreading; tracing them, so far as we are able, to the causes and sources from whence they have proceeded. Such an inquiry as this being altogether of a spiritual intention, and for the conduct of which we must one day give a strict account to Almighty God, no secular fears, no partial attachments, should interfere to render it ineffectual.
The great doctrines essential to Christianity, and without which it cannot be considered as a religion true in itself or beneficial to us, are those concerning the nature of God; the nature of man; the saving principle of faith; the importance and use of the church; the obedience due to civil government; the necessity of a pure life and holy conversation.
The learned and inquisitive, who see what is passing in the world, need not be informed, that, in this age and this country, there are many dangerous corruptions, many errors propagated in respect to all the doctrines above mentioned. Occasional books and pamphlets, with periodical publications of various descriptions, betray lamentable mistakes in some, and very unwarrantable bitterness in others, against the distinguishing articles of the Christian faith. I do not mean, therefore, to inform my learned brethren of that which they know already; but still it is my duty to remind them, and stir up their attention, that they may unite with me, as I assure myself they will be ready to do, in every good measure, which prudence and piety shall suggest for the preservation of our common faith.
I. That God in his nature is one Jehovah, and, in persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is the doctrine into which we are baptized: it meets us every where in the Scriptures, and is therefore very properly interwoven with all the forms and services of our liturgy.
The Trinity of the New Testament is undoubtedly
the same Jehovah, with his Word and Spirit, in the Old; and Arianism seems to have arisen among those Christians who took up from the Jews, in their state of apostasy, the false ideas they had formed of the God revealed to them by Moses and the prophetsa. They, who do not agree with us in our belief, appeal to the Scripture against us, but do not appear to depend upon it for themselves ; because they apply so frequently to other topics, as better suiting their purpose, and more accommodated to the feelings of the vain and inexperienced. How often hath it been urged, that we ought not to receive the faith which the first fathers of the church, and the succeeding fathers of the reformation, have delivered to us, because we are of late years so far advanced above them in knowledge? But I have never seen the connexion pointed out between any modern improvements in science, and the new doctrines of reformers in theology. We are certainly much improved, for instance, in the art of making time-keepers, above those who lived a hundred years ago; but no man will say, that we thence derive any advantage for numbering our days more wisely; or that we have any clearer ideas of eternity than we had before. An eminent artist in this way may doubt of the apostles' creed; but then there is no visible relation between his art and his unbelief. The conceit of superior learning has always had an ill effect upon Christian
a Mr. Whitaker, in his Origin of Arianis?n disclosed, seems to have gone upon the right ground; and his work merits consideration. VOL. IV.
ity; and is frequently found in those who have no great matters to value themselves upon. We may be as learned as we can make ourselves, and yet continue good Christians; because true learning and true religion were never yet at variance; but the moment we are vain of our learning, we begin to be in danger, and some folly or other is not far off. The Greeks were unfit to receive the Gospel, because they boasted of a sort of wisdom between which and the wisdom of the Gospel there is no affinity. They delighted to speak of little things in great words; while they who first published the Christian faith, propounded to the world the highest objects in the plainest language. Hence it hath been observed, that persons in the same state of life with the apostles of Jesus Christ, have attained to a great understanding of sacred things; while some scholars of high pretensions have betrayed great dulness and misconception in respect to the same: for our religion ever had, and ever will have, some things which are hidden from those who are wise and prudent in their own estimation, and are revealed to persons of teachable, child-like dispositions. The natural and adequate effect of all knowledge, when rightly used, is to make men wiser; but the affectation and abuse of learning have a contrary effect.
Many appear to have been drawn away from the Trinity of revelation by an abuse of abstract reasoning; that is, by presuming upon an analogy which does not exist, between inathematical truth and all other truth. We have seen it argued, seriously in appearance, that three cannot be one in divinity,