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“ Christ, our Lord;" to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed, as is most due, all blessing, and honour, might, majesty, and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen.
THE NECESSITY OF BELIEVING.
MARK, XV). 15, 16.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and
preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
It has been matter of wonder and offence to many, that in the great concern of man's salvation so much stress should be laid upon faith. “ He that believ
“ “eth shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall “ be condemned.” Innumerable are the passages in different parts of the Scriptures, which evidently speak the same thing. They are well known, and need not be now cited. The point is one of great importance, and I shall endeavour to clear it to your apprehensions by,
I. Removing out of the way those objections which have been made, and perhaps have already arisen in your own minds ; and then,
II. Stating the grounds and reasons on which this divine determination is founded.
I. Of the objections, some respect the persons
who are to believe, and others the doctrines to be believed.
Thousands and ten thousands, it may be said, pever heard of Christ or his Gospel. It is true ; and to them most certainly the determination does not extend. It can extend to such alone as have the Gospel preacbed to them.
ye, and prcach the Gospel; be that believeth”-that is, believeth the Gospel so preached to him –“shall be saved,” &c.
But what, then, shall be the lot of all those who lived and died strangers to Christianity? They are in the hands of a gracious God, who may bestow on
, them the mercies of a redemption of which they never heard. Without the death of Christ no flesh could have been saved. But who can say, to how many, and in what different ways, the merits of that death may be applied ? For his sake the sins
may pardoned of all those who in honesty and uprightness did their best, according to the knowledge vouchsafed them during the dispensation under which they lived. He who holds up his hand at the bar of eternal judgement, will not be there tried by a law which he never knew. The apostle to the Romans is express, that the Jews, who have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law; and the Gentiles, who were without that law, shall be judged by the rule they had derived in part by tradition from their ancestors, and improved and enlarged by their own reasonings and disquisitions. But then, as the same apostle argues at large, every man, whether Jew or Gentile, who is tried by a law of works, will, in strictness of speaking, be cast; because it will be
be “ How can
proved upon him, that he has broken it. . All the world are become guilty before God, and must place their hope in the mercies of that redemption which is by Christ Jesus.
The same limitation must of course take place in the case of infants, idiots, persons insane, and any way so defective in understanding, as to be incapable of learning and believing aright. He who made us, knoweth whereof we are made; he knoweth what is in man-in every man; and will not exact the tale of bricks, where he hath not thought proper to furnish straw.
We may conclude in like manner concerning what is called invincible ignorance, or ignorance so circumstanced as to admit of no remedy. “they hear without a preacher:" Where nothing is taught, nothing can be learned.
But let a man be very cautious how he attempts to shelter himself under this plea. '. At the great day it will be inquired very minutely, not only what we did know, but also what we might have known, bad we so pleased; had we been in earnest, and taken due pains. In the whole compass of speculation, there is not a more awful and alarming thought than this. The sinner may say, I did not know; but it will be returned—Why did you not ? Had you no opportunities, which you neglected; no books, no persons to whom you might apply? Did you ask, did you search, as you would have done, if likely to lose your health or your estate ? Or did you account it a' matter not worthy your inquiry, and so, in a careless manner, dismiss it to take its chance ? How have you
been employed? How have you passed your time? A very sınall proportion of the hours spent in one single amusement would have brought you acquainted with all that it behoved you to know and believe for your soul's health. I mention this to show, that however it may fare with Heathens, and others in a state really destitute of information, and where it was impossible to be obtained, we shall in vain attempt to excuse our unbelief or ill practices by our ignorance. Nothing at the day of trial will more shock and confound us, than when the times and the places shall be pointed out in which we were called to know and to do better, but refused to obey the call. Let none, therefore, deceive themselves in this very weighty particular.
Respecting the doctrines to be believed, it is objected, that they are mysterious ; they relate to persons and things in another world, which are therefore hidden from us: we can neither see them nor hear them : none of the senses with which we are at present endowed, can reach or perceive them. What then is to be done? Why, certainly, we must believe the account which God, by his prophets and apostles, has been pleased to give us, and we must form our notions of them, as well as we can, by comparison with those things which are the objects of our senses. Our state, with regard to God and the glories of his heavenly kingdom, is exactly like the state of a blind man with regard to the sun and the light thereof. He cannot see the sun, or the light that issues from it; yet he would be unreasonable, should he refuse to believe what his friends, who do see it, tell him