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“ The Lord my God!" though he was wickedly engaged against the Lord's people ; so it has been usual with many who have hated and denied the power of godliness, to value themselves highly upon the form of it; and, while they are alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, they affect to be thought his best servants, and make the most confident claims to his favour.
The pure religion of Jesus cannot but be despised and rejected by the carnal mind : “ the natural man “ receiveth not the things of God,” they are beyond his sphere, he does not apprehend them, and therefore cannot approve them; nay, he is averse and unwilling to meddle with them, and therefore it is impossible he should understand them. But the fiercest opposition arises from the complication of presumption and hypocrisy we have spoken of; when men, destitute of the Spirit of God, from a vain conceit of their own wisdom and goodness, arrogate to themselves an authoritative decision in religious concerns, and would reduce the judgment and practice of others to their own corrupt standard.
Such was eminently the character of the Scribes and Pharisees, who, with unwearied malice, persecuted our Lord to the death of the cross; and he forewarned his disciples to expect the like treatment; he sent them forth as lambs in the midst of wolves, and assured them that their attachment to him would draw on them the hatred of mankind, so far as even to deprive them of the rights of civil society, and the pleasures
of relative life. "A man's foes shall be those of his
erown household;" his parents shall 'forget their affection, his children their duty, his servants their reverence, even the wife of his bosom shall despise him, when he boldly professes the Gospel ; 'nay, the most: amiable qualities, joined to the most endearing connexions, are not sufficient wholly to suppress the enmity which fills the hearts of the unregenerate, against those in whom they discern the image of Christ. And that this enmity would sometimes assume a religious form, and under that appearance proceed to the greatest extremities, he informed them in another place, " The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you *** ¢¢ will think that he doth God service."
If a faith and practice agreeable to the New Testament were not always attended with a measure of this opposition, we should want one considerable evidence that the Gospel is true, and infidels would be possessed of one solid objection against it, namely, That our Lord was mistaken, when he predicted the reception his doctrine would meet with. But the Scriptures cannot be broken: the word of Christ is fulfilled and fulfilling every day, and especially in this particular. Many perhaps will be ready to object here, and to maintain, that in our nation, and at this present time, the charge is invidious and false. It will be pleaded, that when Christianity had to struggle with Jews and Pagans, it could not but be opposed; but that with us, is under the guard of a national establishment, an opposition to Christianity (unless by the feeble efforts of deists and libertines) is impracticable and inconsistent
by the very terms; and that, if the delusions of a few visionary enthusiasts are treated with that contempt and indignation which they justly deserve, this should not be styled an opposition to Christianity, but rather a warrantable concern for its vindication, especially as no coercive methods are used ; . for though some attempts have been made to restrain the leaders from poisoning the minds of the people, yet no person is injured, either in life or property, on account of his opinions, how extravagant soever.
To this extenuation it may be replied
1. I do not assert that persecution and reproach must necessarily attend the name of a Christian, or that it is not possible to make a high profession of religion under that name, and at the same time preserve or acquire a large share of the honours, riches, and friendship of the world ; but I maintain with the apostle, “ All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall " şuffer persecution.”. The distinction he makes in these words is observable: So much. godliness as may be professed without a peculiar relation to Jesus, the world will bear; sobriety and benevolence they will applaud ;. even prayers, fastings, and other external acts may be .commended ; but to live godly in Christ Jesus-50.as to profess our whole dependence upon his free salvation, to seek all our strength from his grace, to do all expressly for his sake, and then to renounce all trust or confidence in what we have done, and to make mention of his righteousness, only—this the world cannot bear; this will surely provoke the .contempt or hatred of all who have not the same spirit,
whether accounted Christians or Infidels, Papists or Protestants. That nothing less than what I have mentioned can be the import of living godly in Christ Jesus, I shall in due time prove by a cloud of witnesses,
2. I acknowledge, with thankfulness to God, and to those whom he has placed in just authority over us, that the interposition of stripes, imprisonment, tortures, and death, in matters pertaining to conscience, has no longer place in our happy land :
jacet (semperque jaceat:)
Divini Imago Zelis et Pestis. The spirit of persecution is repressed by the wisdom of our laws and the clemency of our princes ; have no ground to believe it is extinct, or rather, we have sufficient evidence of the contrary. Not to mention some recent instances, in which power has been strained to its full extent, it is notorious that scorny, invectire, and calumny (which can act unrestrained by human laws), are employed for the same ends and purposes, which, in other countries, are more speedily effected by anathemas and sanguinary edicts.
3. The opposition I am speaking of is not primarily between men and men, simply considered, but between the spirit of the world and the spirit that is of God, and therefore the manifestation of each will be in mutual proportion. The Lord Jesus himself sustained the fiercest contradiction of sinners, because his character was superlatively excellent : his apostles, though far inferior to their Lord, expressed so much of his temper and conduct, that they were counted worthy to suffer shame in the next degree to him :
as he was,
so were they in the world. St. Paul, who laboured more abundantly than his brethren, experienced a larger share of dishonour and ill-treatment. Though educated at the feet of Gamaliel, and no stranger to Grecian literature, when he showed himself determined to know nothing but Jesus, and to glory only in his cross, he was accounted, by Jew and Gentile, as the filth and off-scouring of all things : and thus it will hold universally. If therefore, any who sincerely espouse the Gospel meet with little disturbance or censure, it is not because the carnal mind is better reconciled to the truth than formerly in the apostles' days, but because our zeal, faith, and activity are so much inferior to theirs, and our conduct more conformable to the prevailing taste around us.
4. I confess that (as our Saviour has taught us to expect by the parable of the tares) revivals of religion have been generally attended with some incidental offences, and counterfeited by many false. appearances. It has been so in times past, it is so at present, and we are far from justifying every thing, and in every degree, that the world is ready to condemn. However, we cannot but complain of a want of candour and ingenuousness in this respect also. Many who bring loud charges against what is irregular and blameable, are evidently glad of the opportunity to prejudice and alarm weak minds : they do not confine their reproof to what is erroneous and unscriptural, but endeavour, by ambiguous expressions, invidious names, and indiscriminate censures, to obscure the state of the question, and to brand error and truth with the same mark of infamy; they either cannot, or will not, dis