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TO THE READER.
THE Christian religion is best known and distinguished by the God proposed in it, as the object of our faith and obedience : and as there is no true religion, but the religion of Christians, so is there no true God, but the God of Christians.
Before the coming of Christ, and the fulfilling of the law, God was known by the name of Jehovah, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. The Israelites, who were the seed of Abraham, and drew their whole religion from a divine revelation, had the knowledge of the true God; and the people of every other nation, who were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, were also without God in the world. Though they talked much of God, and wrote much of him, and offered him many sacrifices, yet they knew him not: the being they served, was not God, but another in the place of him, falsely called by his name. And though some modern Christians have forgot
a Ephesians ii. 12.
there was any
difference, yet the very heathens themselves, upon some occasions, were ready enough to allow it. Naaman the Syrian, when he was cured of his leprosy by the prophet Elisha, made a public confession of it-Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel.b The same is affirmed by the inspired psalmist--All the Gods of the heathens are idols ;c and God himself declares them all to have been vanities.d
The case is now with the Christians under the gospel, as it anciently was with the Jews under the law : they believe in the only true God; while the unchristian part of mankind, who are by far the majority, either know him not, or wilfully deny him; as Pharaoh did the God of the Hebrews when he was told of him. And we are now got to such a pitch of indevotion and ignorance, that among those who profess and call themselves Christiuns, there are too many who are almost come to be heathens without knowing it. For there is a fashionable notion propagated by most of our moral writers, and readily subscribed to by those who
prayers but seldom, and can never find time to read their Bible, that all who worship any God, worship the same God ; as if we worshipped the three letters of the word God, instead of the being meant and understood by it. The universal prayer of Mr.
in 2 Kings v. 15.
c Psalm xcvi. 5. d Jeremiah xiv. 22.
Alexander Pope was composed upon this plan; wherein the supreme being is addressed as a common father of all, under the names, Jehovah, Fove, and Lord. And this humour of confounding things, which ought to be distinguished at the peril of our souls, and of comprehending believers and idolators under one and the same religion, is called a catholic spirit, that shews the very exaltation of Christian charity. But God, it is to be feared, will require an account of it under another name; and though the poet could see no difference, but has mistaken fove or Jupiter for the same father of all with the Lord Jehovah; yet the apostle has instructed us better; who, when the priest of Jupiter came to offer sacrifice, exho: ted him very passionately to turn from those vanities unto the living God je weli knowing that he whom the priest adored under the name of Jupiter, was not the living God, but a creature, a nothing, a vanity. Yet the catholic spirit of a moralist can discern no difference; and while it pretends some zeal for a surt of universal religion, common to believers and infidels, betrays a sad indifference for the Christian religion in particular. This error is so monstrous in a land enlightened by the gospel, and yet so very common amongst us at present, that I may be pardoned for speak
ing of it in the manner it deserves. And let me beseech every serious person, who is wil. ling to have his prayers heard, to consider this matter a little better, and use a more correct form; for God, who is jealous of his honor, and has no communion with idols, will certainly reject the petition that sets him upon a le. vel with Baal and Jupiter.
The true God is he that was in Christ re. conciling the world to himself; there is none other but he; and if this great characteristic be denied, or any other assumed in its stead, a man is left without God; after which, he
may call himself a Deist, if he will; but his God is a mere idol of the imagination, and has no corresponding reality in the whole universe of beings.
The modern Jews, by denying their God to , have been manifest in the flesh, are as effectually departed from the true God, as their forefathers were, when they danced before the golden calf, and called their idolatrous service a feast to the Lord. For the being of God is not an object of sight, but of faith ; it enters first into the heart, and if it be wrong there, ;
, the first commandment is broken: if a figure of it be set up before the eyes,
then the second is broken likewise. The first forbids us to have any other God; the second, to make any graven image of him. Now though we make no image, yet if with the heart we believe in
any God different from the true, the idolatry indeed may be less, but the apostacy is the
And this seems to be the case of the Jew.
The Mahometans are another set of infidels, who abhor idols, but have in express terms denied the Son of God. and set up an idol of the imagination, a God in one person. They inveigh bitterly against the Christians for worshipping three Gods ; for so they state the doctrine of a trinity in unity, as some others have done beside them.
In answer to all these abominations of the Deist, the Jew, and the Mahometan, and to shew that no unbeliever of
denomination can be a servant of the true God, it is written -whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the father :f and again-whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.8 And let the Socinians, who have not only vindicated the religion of Mahomet, but preferred it to the Christianity of the Church of England, which with them is no better nor other than a sort of paganism and heathenism, * let them consider what a share they have in this condemnation. fi John ïi. 23.
g 2 John 9. * See Leslie’s Theological works, fol. vol. i. p. 218. where the reader may find a great deal more to the same purpose; and particularly an epistle of the Socinians, to the Morocco embassador, in the time of Charles II. a great curiosity, wherein their whole scheme is laid open to the bottom by themselves.