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serious corruption of the doctrines of the Gospel-absurdities have arisen which are in no way justly chargeable on Christianity itself, or its institutions, but which originate solely in the injudicious, though often well-meant, tone adopted by some of its advocates.
Certain it is, that there are eternal and definite truths which are unchangeable-- that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever--that the fundamental principles of his religion must be presented always in the same unvarying form, simple, unbending, and immutable. In these points, to change would be . to corrupt-and to omit, would be to incur the woe pronounced on every one who diminishes aught from the book of life. But though the general outline of the Christian system must remain the same, and stand for ever as a faithful model and memorial of times past to times present and times future, some of its constituent features may, with perfect propriety and fidelity to the original, be suffered for a season to remain in the back ground, while others
require to be displayed in a fuller light, and to occupy the prominent place in the
In allotting to each subject its proper share of importance, there is scope for judgement, and discrimination, and comparison ; and in the exercise of these faculties it will be best discerned whether we have really imbibed the spirit of Christ as our teacher, or whether a seeming outward likeness, without any transforming principle within, is the only fruit we have gained from a course of study in his school.
There can indeed be no doubt, that the confirmation of the truth of Christianity by the fulfilment of prophecy, must be at any stage of the church's existence an important branch of Christian preaching. But to bring forward this testimony as frequently as it occurs in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, would perhaps be more seasonable when it is first planted, than when it has already taken root, and has been watered, and has begun to bring forth its spiritual increase. The subject wisely formed almost the exclusive evidence dwelt on by our Lord, because it was particularly appropriate for the conviction of the keepers of those sacred records to which appeal was made; but were it to occupy as large a share in doctrinal discourses at the present day, the consequence would be that other proofs would be omitted which equally require to be enforced, and a part only would be brought forward, instead of the whole of the argument with which we are furnished in behalf of the Gospel. Other internal evidences will be urged with propriety, in proportion as we recede from the primitive times, and as the certainty that Christ was indeed the child of promise becomes more universal; so that none who are in possession of the prophecies continue still to look for another, one infatuated race of people only excepted.
A similar caution should be observed in the
use of some of the terms employed by our Lord.
For instance, the separation of the world into the two classes of Gentiles and Jews, which was then the current division, has probably
given a strength to some of the passages where they are set in strong opposition, which may render them unfit for general application in a society altogether formed of professing Christians. Those who are standing near the pale, may be excluded for ever by the offence taken at some incautious classification which seems to forget the shades and gradations of character which exists in a country where the Gospel has been preached for many centuries.
At the same time, the distinction which should always be preserved between those who have embraced it in power, and those who have only received it in word, must not be neutralized by taking away the broad line of demarcation which actually separates them. The worldly must be told not to be conformed to this world; and that since the friendship of the world is enmity with God, whoever is the friend of the world is the enemy of God. It is only meant to assert, that terms of strict propriety under the. circumstances wbich originally gave birth to them, require to be strictly and prudently ex
amined before they are pressed into a service for which they were not originally intended, and employed against objects situated very differently from those against whom our Lord directed them.
So too with regard to our Lord's charge to his apostlestake no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak'-it would be no less than presumptuous arrogance, amounting to a temptation of Providence, if we were to transfer the command without reservation or allowance from the first inspired propagators of the Gospel to their successors in the ministry at the present day.
The insufficiency of human means, in them- · selves, as well as the submission of worldly wisdom and finite reason to the mysteries of revelation, cannot be too strongly maintained; but if in our eagerness to establish these truths the real difference of cases be overlooked, we shall not only interpret Scripture erroneously,