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be no flood; and consequently, that Noah was a bigot, whose undertaking, while it exposed himself, was an invidious reflection upon the age. When the father of the faithful followed the calling of God, there were none to stand by him and encourage him; he was separated from his nearest relations; and wheresoever he went, he was under fears and dangers from people of a false persuasion. When Jesus Christ brought with him from heaven, that light which was to be the glory of his people, one ruler of the Jews came to him by stealth in the night, to consult him as a teacher, come from God. So great was the authority of a blinded multitude, that a ruler of the people was afraid of being brought into disgrace, by conversing personally with the Saviour of the world!
The times, therefore, and the people who live in them, are never to be considered by us, when we are seeking or following the truth, on the ground of its own proper evidence. When it was asked, with a design to perplex the peo ple,
ple, who, of the Rulers, or of the Pharisees, had believed? our Saviour gave them a different rule: why do ye not of yourselves, said he, judge what is right; without going first to consult those, who are blinded by false learning, and, with an appearance of great sanctity, have im posed upon the people? See," saith one, "how fast our doctrine is increasing! all the learned are going after it; and you must all submit to it in a very short time." And who are they that thus reason with us? The very same persons, who declaim so loudly on the fallibility of all men ; and yet hold themselves to be little less than infallible in the choice of their own opinions. Let error rise as high as it can; and let truth sink as low as a wicked world can reduce it; the difference between them is the same as ever; and we shall still find it wiser and better to follow the setting sun, as Columbus did when he discovered the Indies. The meteor of heresy, which blazes, and dazzles us for a while with its appearance, will burn out, and leave not a spark behind;
while the sun only sets to rise again. Such will be the fate of the Church, and of the doctrines of truth by which it is supported.
There never was a time from the beginning of the world, when there was not a party against the Church of God: and our Israel must have its enemies, as that Church had which came out of Egypt. In the first age of the Gospel, the Apostle St. Jude spoke experimentally of those whom he then saw, or prophetically of those whom we should see, that they go in the way of Cain, and run after the error of Balaam, and perish in the gainsaying of Corah. If our governors were as cruel as Pharaoh, some would rejoice at it, and upbraid us with every disadvantage we might be under from hard usage; as a sign that the Church is a thing of no consequence, and that all those who belong to it are the vassals of the state. If the Church were as pure as Abel, the envy and jealousy of Cain would hate its offerings and sacrifices. If its order and œconomy were as perfect as in that Church which covered the face of the earth
in its passage to Canaan, the self-interested spirit of the mercenary Balaam would endeavour to bring a curse upon it, and blast its greatness. If its governors were as manifestly supported in their commission, as Moses and Aaron, the spiritual pride of Corah would set up the holiness of the congregation against its priesthood, and the power of the people against the civil magistrate, who gives it protection. But none of these things ought to stagger or surprize a reader of the scripture: they are all to be expected: these things were our examples: and the Church would not be the Church of God, if there were none to rise up against it.
With these considerations in his mind, and not without them, a reader will be prepared to examine what I have written upon the Church. If any of our dissenting brethren should look into this little piece, and find the matter so represented as to engage their attention; my prayer shall be with them, that God may give them the grace to cast out the bitter leaven of a party-spirit; to lay aside all temporal mo
tives and interests, and consider the Church (as I have done) only so far as it is related to the other world. To any particular or national Church, all temporal álliances are but momentary considerations, which pass away with the fashion. of this world; and the Church may be either with them, or without them, as it was in the first ages: but the Church itself, under the relation it bears to Jesus Christ, abideth for ever.