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topics both of instruction and admonition.- Habits of polytheism had not only confused and bewildered their understandings upon speculative points of religion ; but they had also sanctioned indulgence in many immoral practices. Their minds were to be gradually elevated to the contemplation and worship of an almighty and beneficent Being, as superior to the imperfections, as different from the nature, of mortal man; and they were to be incessantly reminded, that the purity of Gospel-morality could hold no parley or compromise with gratifications in themselves unseemly, yet even encouraged by the rites and modes of worship, in which they had been nurtured. Moreover, in kind forbearance to the prejudices of their brethren, who had been reared in principles of fixed attachment to the ceremonial law, it was desirable that the Gentile converts should abstain from some practices, which, although not actually forbidden by the strictness of Christian morals, yet were strangely at variance with the religious habits of the Jews.--It was probable too that some of them; when they learned that they were admitted to the enjoyment of privileges, of which the majority of Jews were found unworthy; might be disposed to entertain and express a feeling of undue triumph over the fallen, but oncefavoured, people of God.

Now these various sources of mistake, arising from the actual and relative situations of Jews and Gentiles, not only produced errors of a speculative kind, but engendered heart-burning and strife ; which were at variance with the very first principles of the Christian religion, while they tended very naturally to


endanger the interests of the infant Church, by provoking opposition from without and creating divisions within.

It became therefore a point of no slight importance that these various and conflicting opinions should be investigated and exposed ; and well was it worthy the time and pains bestowed by the inspired Apostles, more especially St. Paul, to trace the source of such errors with diligence; to examine them dispassionately, and to refute them with all their



persuasion, yet with the language and feelings of kind

Here then are the topics, upon which the main part of the Apostolic letters may be said to turn. To these may be added other matters incidentally introduced, yet connected with that particular age; matters relating to abuses, which had crept into á particular community; to the personal opponents of St Paul; or to some prevailing error upon a particular part of Christian doctrine; as, for instance, the near or distant approach of the day of judgement.

Such is a general description of the subjects contained in the Apostolic writings. And, I think, it will be at once acknowledged that these topics were of peculiar interest, and highly necessary to be discussed and explained in the age of the Apostles ; but that, for the most part, they have long ceased to be of interest as questions of doubt, which we require to have solved; or as questions of practice, to which we are required to conform.--Nevertheless, you cannot fail to have remarked, that, in the discussion of these curious and, as it were, insulated subjects, statements are occasionally given and advice enforced, which concern all Christians of all ages, and which it well becomes us to lay to heart. Here then lies an important distinction : and if, from all which has now been said, you treasure up no other observation than this, be assured this alone will supply a safe and steady light through many a passage in the Apostolic writings, which has often been looked at as dark and perplexing.

The maxim, which I would impress upon you, is this. That the utmost care and caution are necessary in sifting and separating the different portions of these invaluable documents; the confined and fleeting topics of the age, from such as are of paramount importance and perpetual obligation; facts and opinions interesting, as they elucidate the early state of the Church and, -incidentally, the authenticity of other portions of Scripture, from such as expressly aid our knowledge in the history of the Author of our faith, and which illustrate and enforce the duties, which He has exacted, as the condition of our final justification.

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The nature and importance of those questions, which were agitated between the friends and opponents of the Christian Church in its infancy, were alluded to and, I hope, elucidated, in my last Discourse. The vital point concerning the pretensions of Jesus, whether He were the Messiah or a deceiver, was debated furiously between the unbelieving Jews and all Christians whatsoever ; while a source of discord unhappily sprung up among Christians themselves, concerning the permanence of the Mosaic law and its obligation upon the Gentile converts.

These were the only questions, which were likely to arise in those early days; and we find from the Acts of the Apostles that the agitation of the former was marked by sanguinary acts of intolerance; while the other displayed the less atrocious, but not more salutary, effects of eager controversy. To these questions then were the Epistles of St. Paul principally directed ; and although in the explanations and illustrations, with which a statement of their real nature was accompanied, some topics of more general use were occasionally intermixed, yet it must be sufficiently apparent that the principal arguments they contain were likely to be far more useful as well as interesting to that particular age, than to the subsequent times of Christianity; when no disputes of such a kind could possibly exist. Long since have all matters of controversy between believing Jews and Christians been utterly extinguished. Indeed, when a long train of prophecy was fully accomplished in the destruction of Jerusalem, and the temple-worship of necessity ceased, all previous doubts about the efficacy and unalterable obligation of the law must have been hushed in silence.

Nevertheless, in spite of this obvious proof that the questions agitated of old should cease to agitate any longer; and that many of the topics so interesting to the first Christians can have no reference to the present state of the Gospel ; yet such distinctions have been too often forgotten in the heat of succeeding controversies ; and almost every sect of Christians has at times appealed to this part of the sacred records for arguments, which it never was intended to supply. When the Apostle has been debating a partial or local question, the zeal of modern controversy has transformed it into a portion of universal doctrine; when allusion has been made to matters transient and temporary, it has been perversely turned into something urgent and even perpetual.

It is the more necessary to mark this distinction clearly; because not only have insulated passages

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