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Were this argument managed with skill equal to its importance,it would, with God's blessing upon it, put an end to all difference of opinion upon this subject. The errors into which many men have run in consequence of their ignorance of the nature of the Christian church; of their having considered it, not as a society made for man, but something left for man to make for himself; (like a lump of shapeless wax, to be moulded according to every one's fashion) would be corrected; and the object of that grand enemy of all religion, whose cause derives advantage from division among Christians, would be in a great measure defeated. Nothing is wanting to do justice to the cause of the church, as a society of Christ's forming, but an unprejudiced mind, an honest heart, and a competent acquaintance with primitive Christianity. A bright ornament* of our church, who possessed these qualifications in an eminent degree, has fpoken so strongly and fo plainly upon the subject to which I am now alluding, that every considerate man will at least pause before he ventures to set at nought such authority. “ I would not (fays he) be an heretick, or a schismatick in the church, to have the wisdom of Solomon, the tongues of St. Paul, and the eloquence of APOLLOS; no not to be caught up into Paradise, and hear those unutterable things. I would not be the best preacher that ever was, and speak in the pulpit by inspiration, to have that accufation lie against me, which St. Paul drew up against the Corinthians ---of envy, strife, schism." Elsewhere speaking of those spiritual gifts, which, -through the vanity of their possessors, heretofore disturbed the peace of the church of Corinth, he thus admirably expresses himself:
gentleman of his seemingly good sense and education could be induced to engage in a cause fo very unjust?" His reply was; He had not so strictly examined the merit of the cause, as now he was convinced he ought; but one thing he could not but mention, that had prejudiced him (and he believed a great many more) againft his Majesty's service, was the licence taken among the cavaliers of swearing and drinking." The answer to this was; “ Admitting the charge were true, it was highly unpardonable so excellent a prince as his Majesty should suffer for the irregularities of his foldiers; and besides, he ought farther to have confidered, the crimes he mentioned were entirely personal, and the vices of men: whereas the malice, treachery, hypocrify, and several other unparalleled vices, which made up the very essence of his cause, were the vices of devils."
“ Gifts, (fays he) whether real or pretended, whether natural, acquired, or inspired, are temptations to pride and apostacy, rather than security from them; witness Lucifer in heaven; Adam in paradise; and So
LOMON, who for his exceeding wisdom was styled the wise. So that no comparison ought to be made betwixt the excellency of knowledge and grace, and betwixt the intellectual and saving gifts of the Spirit; or between the gifts of the Spirit that make us wise, and learned, and fluent talkers, and those which make us good.
“ It is better to be humble, than to be a prophet; it is better to be righteous, than to have the faith of miracles; and it is better to be holy, than to have the gift of tongues. But, to be peaceable and love union, is as great a grace, as to be humble, righteous, and holy; nay, as to be pure and temperate. For it is equalled with all those, and many other of the prime graces in the New Testament; it is reckoned with
of them among the fruits of the Spirit; and the fruits of the Spirit are better and more desirable than the gifts of it. The gifts of it may improve the conformity of my soul after the metaphysical image of God, in knowledge and wisdom; which the apoftate fpirits retain. But these are the fruits of it; as love, joy, peaceableness, &c. which conform my soul after his moral image, and make me partaker of his moral excellencies and perfections, and which alone can qualify my spirit for his presence
and acceptance; when many inspired men, and
many more enthusiasts who think themselves inspired, shall be shut out of the kingdom of God: as for other fins, so especially, for disturbing the peace, and rending the unity of the church.
“Wherefore, if we lived in the age of miracles; or if God, to confute the infidelity of atheists, or to convert the Mahometans, or for any other reasons, dould now renew the gifts of his spirit; in submission to his good pleasure, I should beg, with the prophet JEREMIAH, to be excused from all intellectual inspirations, from visions and revelations, and prophecy; from the gift of tongues and discerning spirits, and preaching and praying by immediate inspiration. Instead of these gifts which fail, and which are good or bad, as the man is that receives them, I would beg him, for the sake of Jesus, to inspire me with the graces of his spirit, which never fail; with humility, temperance, purity, justice, and charity; for every one of these furpasseth all understanding, and the knowledge of all mysteries; more especially would I beseech him to grant me his peace, or inspire me with the love of union, which surpasseth all understanding, and would keep my heart and mind from
envyings and strife, and from making or fomenting needless divisions, through Jesus Christ
Lord." An attempt to add to the force of the above excellent passages, would be presumption. They are, therefore, left to produce their own effect upon
the reader's mind, who, if unacquainted, as most probably he is, with the writings of this great divine, will thank me for producing thus at length a quotation from him, which breathes the true Christian spirit in so eminent a degree.
To prevent misconstruction, it remains only to be observed, that what a sincere regard for genuine Christianity, accompanied with an earnest wish to promote the unity of the Christian church, has induced me, in a former part of this discourse, to say, in apparent contradiction to a writer, who has lately favoured the world with his religious sentiments; must be considered, as said against the meaning, which
be drawn from certain unguarded passages in his publication, rather than against that of their author. So much respect is due to this amiable author for the design of his undertaking, that it would give me pleasure to think, that what has been here written, might prove the means of putting his publication into the hand of one additional reader;