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Upon collecting through my parish, fome time fince, for the relief of the emigrant French priests, I found an almoft general difinclination among the diffenters from the church to contribute. At length one, more open than the reft, furnished the following reason for it; by telling me, that "CHRIST never died for those priests; and therefore he had no feeling for them, or concern about them." Another, who had learnt his Christianity in the fame fchool, upon my application to him on the fame occafion, immediately exclaimed, "What, Sir, to a Roman? give to a Roman! one that lives in fuch errors: if I had ten thousand guineas, I would not bestow a fingle mite upon him!"
Read, now, the story of the good Samaritan; and judge how far fuch a narrow-minded religion, which engroffes all GOD's favours to its own profeffors, and regards the rest of mankind as objects in a condition beneath that of the beasts that perish, agrees with the enlarged and charitable spirit of the Gofpel. When the difciples of our SAVIOUR Would have called down fire from Heaven to destroy their enemies, our SAVIOUR rebuked them, by telling them, that "they knew not what spirit they were of," What would this SAVIOUR fay to those pro
feffors of his religion, who could fuffer a fellowcreature to starve at their doors, because he lived in error?
In a word, let this doctrine of election and abfolute decrees, as it is often understood, and the effects produced by it upon the lives of fome of its profeffors, be compared with the revealed purpose of CHRIST's coming into the world, and the spirit of his religion; and let this be done fairly, without prejudice, and with an eye only to the truth, and it is impoffible that any Christian can longer be led captive by fuch a delufion.
! The rule laid down, though not strictly followed, by ST. AUGUSTINE, "that the more obfcure parts of fcripture should be interpreted by those that are plain," is the only rule that will enable us to form a rational and confiftent judgment upon the doctrines of revelation.
That CHRIST came to redeem man in his general character from the confequences of the fall, and to purchase for him thofe means of renewed grace, which required only to be properly employed to become effectual to his falvation, conftituted the effence of that glad tidings, which the birth of a SAVIOUR was intended to convey to a loft world.
This doctrine, fo plainly and fully revealed, ought in reason to overbalance every argument drawn from a few obfcure paffages, which at first fight may seem to look a contrary way. But this is a confideration which seldom has its due weight with those who entertain fome fingular conceit or opinion. Engroffed with their own notions, they are not to be prevailed upon to make the general tenour of fcripture the ftandard for their doctrine; but are apt to bend and warp the expreffions of it to their own particular purpose: and whilft they eagerly lay hold of every paffage that feems to countenance it, will hardly give a hearing to other texts, how plain foever, that might ferve to fet the subject in its true light. To this prejudice in favour of a pre-conceived opinion, added perhaps to a certain respect for the authority of names, is that doctrine in a great degree to be attributed, which places the conduct of a merciful CREATOR towards his fellow-creature in a light fo very different from that in which the plaineft texts of scripture authorise us to regard it.
In fact, thofe parts of ST. PAUL's writings on which this partial doctrine is fuppofed to be founded, which has perplexed the minds of so many wellmeaning people, were feen in a very different light
by the primitive Christians; to whom they conveyed the fame idea that they now convey to all who pay attention to the general tenour of the Apostle's argument. By them the Apostle has been confidered as laying open the mysterious plan of Providence at that time taking place in the world, which respected the rejection of the Jews from their boasted peculiarity as a nation, and the election of the Gentiles to a common participation with them in the privileges of the Christian church; "that through CHRIST both Jew and Gentile, being reconciled unto God in one body by the crofs, might have an access by one fpirit unto the Father." Ephef. ii. 18.
A want of attention to this leading circumftance, relative to the Jewish nation being the chofen people of God, distinguished by particular laws and privileges from all other nations, has given rife to numberlefs errors, which have disturbed the peace of the Christian church, from the days of the Apostles to the present time. But in no inftance has this want of difcrimination led to more unchriftian conclufions, than in the cafe now before us; in which the general declarations of Divine favour and vengeance, expreffed by the election and rejection of nations, as fuch, have, through a mistaken interpret
ation, become the subjects of particular and perfonal application.
For my own part, I do not take my faith from the writings of LUTHER, CALVIN, or the more ancient profeffor of this doctrine, ST. AUGUSTINE;" at the fame time that I profess the highest respect for each of them; but from that fountain from whence alone it ought to be taken, the word of God. If fome zealous men, from a laudable oppofition to one' dangerous doctrine, have been heated into a determined fupport of another; I lament in them the infirmity of the human understanding, which is too apt, in avoiding one extreme, to be carried into its oppofite. The unbalanced mind of man rarely fuftains itself in that due mean which reafon and religion mark out. This has been the cafe in the subject under confideration.
With the view of cutting up by the root the doctrine of merit, which had conftituted one of the groffeft corruptions of the church of Rome, fome of the first foreign reformers brought forward that of abfolute unconditional election, and irrefiftible grace.
This was, indeed, to do the business at a stroke; but it was a stroke which feverely wounded the cause it was meant to ferve. By taking away man's