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GALATIANS IV. 17.
They zealously affect you, but not well.
MEN have invented various ways, in their depraved imagination, to escape deserved wrath and to obtain everlasting happiness. They are easily captivated with false schemes of theology; but they are all more or less detrimental to their eternal salvation. From the text and its connection, it appears that men were much disposed to depart from the pure truths of Revelation, even in the age of miracles and inspiration. In relation to such people, St. Paul seems to have been deficient in displaying that charity, which is now by many, so highly applauded. He considered those, who taught doctrines opposite to his own, as troubling the churches of Christ. He had, in fact, the boldness to say, "I would they were even cut off which trouble you." Gal. 5. 12. The teachers that he referred to, were hostile to the doctrines of grace; and inculcated, what they called good works, as the proper ground of acceptance with God. He says to Timothy, "Desiring tobe teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." 1. Tim. 1. 7. Every system of error, is calculated to flatter the pride of mento hide the beauty of holiness-to justify the sinner, and to
eclipse the glory of God in the work of salvation. On this account, the Apostle set his face against theological errors, in all their varied forms, saying, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached--let him be accursed." Gal. 1. 8. He repeats this saying, in the succeeding verse, to show us the settled determination of his mind on this point.
From St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, it appears that many false teachers had entered into that church, and corrupted the principles of its members to a high degree. This led him to exclaim "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth!" Gal. 3. 1. Their schemes of error, however, seemed greatly to affect the minds of that people, and inspired them with an extraordinary degree of religious zeal. As they had such an effect on their hearers, no doubt, they appeared to be very zealous themselves, in all their performances. Their grand object was, to make the Galatians hate the true doctrines of the gospel-to love error-to esteem the teachers of it-and to despise the real Apostles and ministers of Christ. St. Paul, therefore, says of them, "They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them." He, however, does not condemn zeal of the right kind; for he proceeds in saying, "It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing."
But, alas! men are more easily inflamed against the truth, than in favor of it; for their hearts are, by nature, totally depraved. Nothing short of divine power and grace, will incline them to the doctrines of truth and holiness. Human nature is the same thing now, that it was in the days of the inspired writers; and error has put on as great a variety of forms now, as ever it did in any ante
cedent period. It has lost nothing of its deleterious effect, on the glory of God and the best interest of men. It may, therefore, be said of false teachers in general, "They zealously affect you, but not well."
The leading object in the investigation of this subject, will be to show,
THE BANEFUL EFFECTS OF CORRUPT DOCTRINES ON THE HUMAN MIND.
Every religious system has its own peculiar moral tendency. There are two grounds, from which the truth or fallacy, the excellency or perniciousness, of any given system of doctrines, may be argued. They are called by divines, a priori, and a posteriori. The former is reasoning from the nature of the system itself; and the latter, from its moral effects on the hearts and lives of men. It is the last method of reasoning that will be principally followed in discoursing on this subject. It is not my intention to animadvert on every religious denomination that might be proved to err in doctrine. Neither is it designed to meddle with such people as disown the Christian name. The teachers St. Paul speaks of in the text, undoubtedly called themselves Christian ministers. Taking this important name, has given great currency to ruinous theories in all ages.
A few general remarks may be made,
1. On a scheme of theology, whose moral tendency is very pernicious; and its relation to the subject in hand is sufficiently near to claim some attention. It is called Universalism. This system may be divided into two distinct classes, as there are some shades of difference; but the general principle is the same. Both these kinds of Universalists pretend to believe in the ultimate and eternal happiness of all men. One of these classes wholly denies all FF
punishment beyond the present life; but the other admits a limited state of misery after death. It is no part of the present design, however, to examine the arguments by which these different schemes are said to be supported. There is no doubt, in my mind, that they are both fallacious, and of a destructive moral tendency. You, my hearers, are undoubtedly, in general, of the same opinion, in respect to this denomination. It is not easy to say, which of these schemes is the most ruinous to the souls of men; but they are both highways to eternal death. They perfectly agree in softening down the law of God-in diminishing the evil of sin, and in opposing the belief that divine justice will ever be executed on the sinner, in a way of endless misery. No time need to be spent in proving that both these theories lead to a life of dissipation, and great indifference to all experimental and practical religion. This is sufficient to show that they are not of divine origin, nor calculated to convert the souls of men to God. A mournful want of religious seriousness, evidently appears in all the members of this fraternity-preachers and hearers. They generally speak of sacred things with a great degree of freedom and levity. Their general air indicates an unhumbled mind; and very little prayer is to be heard among them. It is said, in the Scriptures, to be the work of the Holy Spirit to convince men of sin; but no such impressions appear to be on any of their minds. In this community, no one is ever heard to ask the solemn and momentous question, "What shall I do to be saved ?” until he is convinced of the error of their system. They appear to have much less fear of sin, than the generality of unawakened sinners. In a word, Universalism is a doctrine of darkness, and the first preacher of it was the grand enemy of God-the deceiver of mankind. He told our primitive parents, that in transgressing the Divine com
mand, they should escape punishment; saying, "Ye shall not surely die." This is the very essence of Universalian doctrine; but in believing it, we must disbelieve God; for he has expressly said in the Scriptures, that "the wicked shall be turned into hell;" that they "shall go away into everlasting punishment." Ps. 9. 17; Matth. 25. 46.
The scheme in view is, therefore, opposite in its nature and effects, to the best interests of society, as well as to the eternal salvation of the soul. But in hearing it preached, many are "zealously affected," and filled with a certain kind of love to the character which that system leads them to believe God sustains. It produces in them, however, no new obedience; which is a clear evidence that its nature is spurious. The very men of the world are often forced to acknowledge, that the moral tendency of the doctrine is opposite to good order and righteousness. Still, it is propagated with great zeal, to a wide extent, and is highly applauded by many who have no desire to reform their ways. As it is a pleasing doctrine to the wicked heart, we need no further evidence of its falsehood. Its votaries, in general, abhor the doctrine of sovereign grace. But in opposing the justice of God, in the eternal damnation of the sinner, the beauty of divine mercy cannot be seen; such people can have no sense of their need of it. Therefore, to be affected with this scheme, is "not well."
2. There is another system, whose distorted features, it is the principle design to delineate, in the prosecution of this subject. It is the very theory to which the preceding sermons stand opposed; namely, Anti-Trinitarianism This general system may be divided into several distinct species; from the consideration, that some of them allow more, and others less degrees of dignity to the Lord Jesus Christ.
They are all, however, equally opposed to the doctrine of a Trinity of Persons in God-to the proper Deity and