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Fortitude, Kindness and a Sound Mind! On no occasion, let them return Railing for Railing, but speak the Truth in Love. Not least of all, they should banish from among themselves, and in their intercourses with the world, party-feelings. A Sect perhaps they must long be: for the present, a Sect every where spoken against. May their knowledge and substantial Virtue put to shame that false and evil speaking! At the same time, let them beware of the pride of Knowledge, and be at once firm and modest. All the ecclesiastical and religious communions among us are, in some degree and sense, so many SECTS. I have no quarrel with Sects, as such; while I am utterly opposed to that nourished Sectarian character, in which some men glory-that love of distinction, which makes them entirely regardless of the best and most comprehensive principles, and of the means by which important ends are pursued, and of the broad line which separates favourite individual plans of action from truths and duties clearly laid down in the Christian Scriptures. Want of discrimination is not honest inquiry: neither is dogmatism, firmness; nor are rash censures fitted to advance Love and Unity. Let Antitrinitarians beware of dogmatism; the rather, as the party, the sectarian, spirit lately opposed to their righteous claims, was not unmarked by men in high place and power, nor failed of self-defeat. I say this advisedly: I have no fear of being contradicted, when I affirm that the prevalence of this temper on the one side, and its absence on the other, took the attention of those to whom the several claims and reasonings were first submitted; and that the impressions so made contributed materially to the introduction and ultimate passing of the Bill. Eventually, I doubt not, the measure will have a most propitious effect on the interests of Religious Truth and Freedom. For the acceleration and the stability of such a result, much will depend on what Antitrinitarians do, and on what they refrain from doing. In their present circumstances, one of their primary obligations consists in the exercise of a spirit of personal Independence-the Independence which practically asserts its right of inquiry, and of the manner of declaring the issue of its inquiry, but which also pays a sacred and fraternal homage to the rights of fellow-christians.
UNFOLD the volume of another year
page, prepared to teach the right, unfold,
Reformer, Champion and Instructor true,
And serve the cause of Justice and Mankind:
May Truth's pure votaries bring their gifts to thee,
May knowledge, zeal and wisdom be supplied,-
J. R. W.
THE LIVING GOD-A SERMON FOR NEW-YEAR'S SUNDAY, PREACHED AT THE NEW GRAVEL-PIT MEETING-HOUSE, HACKNEY.
1 Tim. iv. 10: We trust in the Living God.
By these few emphatic words the apostle describes the distinguishing faith of the church of Christ; the God of Christians is the Living God. This title is so frequently given to the Almighty in the New Testament, as manifestly to import that it bears a peculiar sense and represents a fundamental doctrine. Let us endeavour to ascertain this sense and to establish this doctrine, as the groundwork of a few reflections, suited to our character as Christians, and not unseasonable to the day when we present the first-fruits of the year as an offering to Him in whose hand our breath is, and when we are irresistibly led to meditate on our mortal and transitory condition, on the flight of time and our rapid approach to eternity.
To prepare Timothy for doing the work of an evangelist and making full proof of his ministry, the apostle, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, forewarns him of the rise of certain superstitions in the church, which would interfere with the happiness of social life, and thus bring Christianity into discredit. He points out especially the forbidding of marriage, which is so strongly sanctioned by marks of divine approbation, and the injunction of abstinence from meats, or the means and the comforts of life, which, he remarks, God hath created to be received with thanksgiving. Against these gloomy and mischievous doctrines, he represents it to be the duty of a good minister of Jesus Christ to lift up his voice. The same corrupters of the gospel who would introduce these novelties, would also broach other superstitious follies; teaching for doctrine profane and old wives' fables, and placing religion in bodily service. Timothy is exhorted to refuse their miserable notions, and to shew himself superior to their pomps and vanities. There is no real advantage, the apostle asserts, in mere ceremonies; whilst godliness or true piety is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This salutary effect of the Christian religion is its best evidence, and renders it worthy of all acceptation. It is a system of promise for both worlds, and here is the Christian's ground of action, and his consolation under any reproach that may be cast upon him for his conscientious profession: For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the Living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
The evangelist was now at Ephesus, in the midst of blind and zealous idolaters, whose favourite object of worship was a female statue, said and believed to have been the gift of Jupiter to their temple. Hence the apostle, having glanced at the blessings of true piety, particularly with regard to the future world, describes the Christian's God as the Living God, whose nature and character are a pledge of his mercies, present and to come. The supposed benefactor of the Ephesians was a fabulous personage, a fiction of poetry; and his much-boasted gift was nothing but a curiously-wrought marble: whereas the adorable name pronounced in Christian worship represents the Living God, who, because He is the Living God, is the Saviour, the Preserver and Deliverer of all men, who gives them life, continues it to them, and will renew it after death-the Saviour specially of those that believe
i. e. of Christians-inasmuch as they are already delivered from the bondage of fear, and restored to the glorious liberty of the sons of God, the heirs of life, and as they will hereafter, if they have fulfilled their high calling, and made their election sure by their obedience, be distinguished by gracious tokens of their Heavenly Father's love.
With the same secret comparison between the Ephesian idolatry and the true Christian worship, the apostle had before stated that the house or temple of God is "the church" or congregation "of the LIVING GOD;" a temple built with living materials and enshrining a Living Deity.
When, therefore, the apostle declared, writing to an inhabitant of Ephesus, We trust in THE LIVING GOD, his words, interpreted on the spot, must have fallen on the mind and heart of the reader with peculiar force, and have been understood to convey a bitter sarcasm on the degrading superstition of the Ephesians, and to imply the highest eulogium upon the religion of Jesus Christ, as both rational and beneficent.
An attentive and critical reader of the Holy Scriptures will perceive, sometimes with surprise and always with pleasure, that they contain numberless implied or express comparisons, or rather contrasts, of the True God and false gods, and of the Living God and idols. On this subject, too, they carry the figures of irony and sarcasm to the highest pitch. What bitter contempt is couched in our apostle's words, when he reminds the Gentiles that their former gods were dumb idols! And can any thing be added to his description of their insignificancy, when he says, We know that an idol is nothing in the world; as if he had said, It is nothing, and it represents nothing."
The prophet Jeremiah, in a spirit of holy indignation, marks out idol-gods for scorn by the epithets-lies, broken idols, brutish idols, and carcases of detestable and abominable things. They are altogether brutish and foolish, he says in another place ;* the stock is a doctrine of vanities. Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men. But the LORD is the True God, He is the Living God, and an Everlasting King.
Isaiah takes up a derisive song of triumph on the carrying away of the gods of the heathen into captivity, and then turns it into a hymn of praise to the True God, the Preserver of men. Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast. They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity. Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: and even to your old age am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you. To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship. They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he
Ch. x. 8-10.
standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble. Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.*
It is very probable that the peculiar name of the Almighty in the Hebrew Scriptures, the incommunicable name, held by the Jews to be inexpressible, which we pronounce JEHOVAH,-the word in the original Hebrew that is rendered by the term LORD in our version of the Old Testament, and put in capital letters, was adopted to distinguish the True God from false gods, and especially from dumb and dead idols. The word is compound, and denotes self-existence, and is equivalent to the title Living God. In this sense, the Psalmist appears to use it in his memorable song, laughing idolatry to scorn and magnifying true religion, the burthen and chorus of which, again and again brought forward, is, O Israel! trust thou in the Lord, trust thou in JEHOVAн.† The apostle virtually answers this call to piety in the text, and we this day echo back his response, We trust in the LIVING GOD.
Images set up for worship may have been designed in most cases to represent certain supposed absent beings, and the greater part of the gods thus represented were deified spirits, the souls of dead men, honoured as divine on account of their pre-eminence in good or in evil. To this class of lying vanities, the apostle may refer in the words before us; for his assertion that the confidence of the pure church of Christ is in the Living God, is preceded by an admonition concerning the apostates who should give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, that is, correctly rendered, of demons. Demonology, or the system of demon or dead-men worship, was one of the great sources of Pagan idolatry, and from this source have flowed many of the corruptions of Christianity.
The "host of heaven," the sun, and the moon and the other planets, were early objects of idolatry, from which likewise the title of the Living God might be designed to distinguish the Almighty. His incommunicable name and title is the Lord of Hosts; not, as is vulgarly supposed, the God of armies, the Patron of the mad children of men, crowding to mortal combat and raging with the lust of blood-shedding and destruction, but the Creator and Ruler of the heavenly bodies, the Lord of all worlds. The army of the firmament is a glorious spectacle, and serves great and splendid purposes,-but the heavenly host, with all their beauty and brilliancy and motion and influence, are inanimate creatures, the work of God's hands, moving only as they are impelled by his power, and in all their bright courses fulfilling his word. He is the Living Spirit of the system of the universe, of which they are unconscious and insensible parts. Their distinction is, that in all their ranks and orders they are moved by his hand, and controlled by his voice. They change and may perish, but He is the Living, Incorruptible, Unchangeable God, the same yesterday, to-day and for ever. On this great principle spoke our apostle in his remonstrance with the
idolaters at Lystra, who on seeing the miraculous cure which he and Barnabas performed on the impotent man, cried out, "The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men," meaning the planetary gods, for they called Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercury, and brought oxen and garlands, and would have done sacrifice unto them. Rending their clothes and running in among the people, the apostle exclaimed, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the Living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.*
Once more, the title Living applied to the Supreme Being by our Lord and the apostle, bears an evident reference to the peculiar Christian doctrine of life and immortality. The Creator is the source of life, and from his everlasting fulness flows out a stream of life that fills the universe with joy. He lives for ever, and He commands life and life everlasting. Death cannot prevail against his will, and his will is that not one of the least of his intelligent creatures should perish. The great object of the mission of Jesus Christ was to teach and exemplify the doctrine and the promise of life for evermore. He took the titles
of the Resurrection and the Life. The LIVING FATHER hath sent me, said this devout worshiper of the Most High, Most Merciful, in words of infinite meaning, which ought to be engraven on every understanding and every heart, The LIVING FATHER hath sent me, and I live by the Father.t
These words, also, spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify Thee: as Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.‡
In this solemn passage, although the epithet Living is not expressly applied to the Father, the sense of it is retained; and our Lord recognizes in humble prayer the beautiful truth that the Father is the True God and the only True God, because He is the Living God and the Giver of Life, thus sustaining the adorable and lovely character of the Father, the Universal and Everlasting Father.
The same view of the gospel is presented to us by the beloved disciple, in a passage at the end of his 1st Epistle,§ which has been more grossly perverted, and strained more evidently in contradiction to the whole of the writer's sense, than any other passage that I am acquainted with, in the compass of written language. We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true; and we are in Him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This translation absolutely nullifies the apostle's meaning. You will observe that the word even, as the italic characters shew, is supplemental, and that the following word in should have been rendered, according to
* Acts xiv. 15-17.
+ John vi. 57.