« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
that even good men entertain different opinions of what true holiness is, nor that those who are subjects of it possess it in very different degrees.
Crisp. And what would you answer to this objection? Gai. I should say, that no upright heart can be so in the dark respecting the nature of true holiness, as to make any essential mistake about it. Whether I can determine with metaphysical accuracy the different component parts of it, or not, yet, if I am a true Christian, I shall feel it, shall possess it, shall practise it. As tu determining what degree Christ is the believer's sanctification extent will carry a man to heaven, that is not our business. We do not know to what Divine mercy will reach in the forgiveness of sin; but this may be said, that he may be assured that he has no true holiness in him at all, who rests contented with any degree short of perfection.
Crisp. Will this answer apply to truth as well as to holiness?
Gai. Why not? If the way to salvation be so plain, that a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein, what can it be but prejudice that renders the truth difficult to be understood? He who does the will of God shall know of his doctrine. Surely then I may say, that no one who is in a right temper of mind can be so in the dark respecting what truth is, as to make an essential mistake about it. Whether I can determine the question with accuracy or not, yet, if I am a Christian, the truth dwelleth in me. As to the precise degree in which we must receive the truth in order to be saved, it is not our business to decide. But this is incontestable, that he who does seek after the whole
of revealed truth, and sit as a little child at the feet of his Divine Instructer, the truth is not in him.
Crisp. But is it not easier to discover what holiness is, than what truth is?
Gai. I grant that conscience assists in determining betwixt right and wrong, which it does not in many things respecting truth and error. But if we were en
tirely on God's side, we should find the revealed dictates of truth as congenial to our hearts, as those of righteousness are to our consciences; and in that case the one would be as easily determined as the other.
Crisp. But is there not a difference between the importance of believing the truth of God, and that of complying with his commands?
Gai. You would not think more favorably of a child who should discredit your testimony, than of one who should disobey your authority; and the same Being, who declares that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, hath declared, that he who believeth not the record that God hath given of his Son, hath made God a liar,-that he who believeth not, shall be damned!
Crisp. But should every error or mistake, to which fallible mortals are liable, be considered as unbelief, and as subjecting us to damnation?
Gai. By no means. There is a specific difference between error and unbelief. The one is a misapprehension of what the Divine testimony contains; the other supposes that we understand it, but yet discredit it. It is the latter, and not the former, that is threatened with damnation.
Do you then suppose error to be innocent?
Gai. The answer to this question must depend upon the cause from which it springs. If it arise from the want of natural powers, or opportunity of obtaining evidence, it is mere mistake, and contains in it nothing of moral evil. But if it arise from prejudice, neglect, or any evil bias of heart, it is otherwise, and may endanger our eternal welfare.
Crisp. Will you be so good as to illustrate this distinction?
Gai. Had David been engaged in the most wicked conspiracy when he fled to Abimelech; and had Abimelech in this circumstance given him bread and a sword; yet, if he knew nothing of it, less or more, nor possessed any means of knowing it, his error would have been innocent, and he ought to have been acquitted. But had he possessed the means of knowledge, and, from a secret disloyal bias, neglected to use them, giving easy credit to those things which his heart approved, he would have deserved to die.
Crisp. Amongst human errors, can we distinguish betwixt those which arise from the want of power or opportunities, and such as spring from the evil bias of the heart?
Gai. In many cases we certainly cannot, any more than we can fix the boundaries betwixt light and shade; yet there are some things, and things of the greatest importance, that are so plainly revealed, and of so holy a tendency that we are taught by the Scriptures themselves to impute an error concerning them, not to the understanding only, but to the heart. said IN HIS HEART, there is no God. derstand my speech? Because YE
The fool hath Why do ye not unCANNOT HEAR MY
WORDS. They stumble at the stumbling-stone being disobedient.
Crisp. Have not all men their prejudices? the good as well as the wicked?
Gai. As all men are the subjects of sin, undoubtedly they have. But as it does not follow, that because a good man is the subject of sin, he may live in the practice of all manner of abominations, neither does it follow that, because he is the subject of criminal error, he may err in the great concerns of eternal salvation. Good men have not only their gold, silver, and precious stones, but also their wood, hay, and stubble,* which will be consumed while they themselves are saved; nevertheless all are represented as building upon a right foundation. He that errs with respect to the foundation laid in Zion, will, if God gives him not repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, err to his eternal overthrow. Crisp. Does not this last species of error seem nearly related to unbelief?
Gai. I conceive it to be so nearly related, as to be its immediate effect. The heart leans to a system of falsehood, wishing it to be true, and what it wishes to be true, it is easily persuaded to think so. The first step in this progress describes the spirit of unbelief; the last, that of error. The one grows out of the other. Such a progress was exemplified in those persons described in the Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians: They received not the love of the truth, believed not the truth, but had pleasure in
Is not Gaius incorrect in applying this text to the errors and prejudices of believers? by hay, wood, and stubble the apostle means unregenerate men built up into a Church state, by even a true Minister of the Gospel. EDITOR.
unrighteousness; therefore God gave them up to a reprobate mind, that they might believe a lie, and be damned! Crisp. I confess I am more deeply convinced than ever, that the manner in which the word of God is heard and received, ought to be a subject of very serious consideration.
Gai. True: And I may add, the manner in which it is preached too. Wo unto them who teach any other doctrine than that which God hath revealed! Wo unto ministers, if they preach not the Gospel of Christ! If even an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him be accursed.
Crisp. I thank you, my dear friend, for your instructive observations. As night is drawing on apace, I must take my leave. But I hope we shall soon have an opportunity of meeting again.
Gai. I hope so too. Farewell!
DIALOGUE THIRD, BETWEEN CRISPUS AND GAIUS.
ON THE CONNEXION BETWEEN DOCTRINAL, EXPERIMENTAL, AND PRACTICAL RELIGION.
In our last interview we discoursed on the influence of truth as it respected our eternal salvation; we will now inquire, if you please, into its influence on the holiness and happiness of Christians in the present state; or, in other words, into the connexion between doctrinal, experimental, and practical religion.
Gai. Such an inquiry may convince us of the im