William Paley.

The works of William Paley ... : containing his life, moral and political philosophy, evidences of christianity, natural theology, tracts, Horae Paulinae, clergyman's companion, and sermons, printed verbatim from the original editions, complete in one volume online

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Online LibraryWilliam PaleyThe works of William Paley ... : containing his life, moral and political philosophy, evidences of christianity, natural theology, tracts, Horae Paulinae, clergyman's companion, and sermons, printed verbatim from the original editions, complete in one volume → online text (page 151 of 161)
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the disposition which they indicate. There may
be language, there may be expressions, there
may be behaviour of no very great consequence
in itself, and considered in itself, but of very
great consequence indeed, when considered as
indicating a disposition and state of mind. If it
show, with respect to religion, that to be want-
ing within, which ought to be there, namely,
a deep and fixed sense of our personal and in-
dividual concern in religion, of its importance
above all other important things; then it shows,
that there is yet a deficiency in our hearts;
which, without delay, must be supplied by closer
meditation upon the subject than we have" hither-
to used ; and, aoove all, by earnest and unceasing
orayer for such a portion and measure of spiritual
ofluenoa shed upon our hearts, as may cure and j

remedy that heedlessness and coldness, and deadi
ness, and unconcern, which are fatal, and under
which we have so much reason to know that we
as yet unhappily labour.



A'olo 07ice in the end of the world hath he appear-
ed to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
— Hebrews ix. 26.

The salvation of mankind, and most particu-
larly in so far as the death and passion of out
Lord Jesus Christ are concerned in it, and where-
by he comes to be called our Saviour and our Re-
deemer, ever has been, and ever must be, a most
interesting subject to all serious minds.

Now there is one thing in which there is no di-
vision or difference of opinion at all ; which is,
that the death of Jesus Christ is spoken of in re-
ference to human salvation, in terms and in a
manner, in which the death of no person what-
ever is spoken of besides. Others have died mar-
tyrs as well as our Lord. Others have suffered
in a righteous cause, as well as he ; but that is
said of him, and of his death and sufferings, which
is not said of any one else. An efficacy and a con-
cern are ascribed to them, in the business of human
salvation, which are not ascribed to any other.

What may be called the first Gospel declaration
upon this subject, is the exclamation of John the
Baptist, when he saw Jesus coming unto him:
" Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away
the sin of the world." I think it plain, that when
John called our Lord the Lamb of God, he spoke
with a relation to his being sacrificed, and to the
effect of that sacrifice upon the pardon of human
sin ; and this, you will observe, was said of him
even before he entered upon his office. If any
doubt could be made of the meaning of the Bap-
tist's expression, it is settled by other places in
which the like allusion to a Lamb is adopted ;
and where the allusion is sjjecifically applied to
his death, considered as a sacrifice.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the following words
of Isaiah are, by Philip the evangelist, distinctly
applied to our Lord, and to our Lord's death.
" He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and
like a lamb dumb before his shearers, so opened
he not his mouth ; in his humiliation his judgment
was taken away, and who shall declare his gene-
ration^ for his life is taken from the earth;"
therefore it was to his death, you see, that the
description relates. Now, I say, that this is applied
to Christ most distinctly ; for the pious eunuch
who was reading the passage in his chariot, was
at a loss to know to whom it should be applied.
"I pray thee," saith he to Philip, "of whom
speaketh the prophet thisl of himself or of some
other manT' And Philip, you read, taught him
that it was spoken of Christ. And I say, secondly,
that this particular part and expression of the pro-
phecy being a]jpl!ed to Christ's death, carries the
whole prophecy to the same subject; for it is un-
doubtedly one entire prophecy ; therefore the other
expressions, which are still stronger, are appiica-



ble as well as this. " He was wounded for our
transgressions ; he was bruised for our iniquities ;
the chastisement of our peace was upon him ; and
with his stripes we are healed ; the Lord hath laid
on him the iniquity of us all." There is a strong
and very apposite text of St. Peter's, in which the
application of the term " Lamb" to our Lord, and
the sense in which it is applied, can admit of no
question at all. It is in the 1st chapter of the
ilrst epistle, the 18th and 19th verses : " Foras-
much as ye know, that ye were not redeemed with
corruptible things, but with the precious blood of
Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without
spot." All the use I make of these passages is
to show, that the prophet Isaiah, six hundred
years before his birth ; St. John the Baptist, upon
the commencement of his ministry ; St. Peter, his
friend, companion, and apostle, after the transac-
tion was over, speak of Christ's death, under the
figure of a lamb being sacrificed ; that is, as having
the effect of a sacrifice, the eflect in kind, though
infinitely higher in degree, upon the pardon of
sins, and the procurement of salvation ; and that
this is spoken of the death of no other person

Other plain and distinct passages, declaring the
efficacy of Christ's death, are the following, He-
brews ix. 26 : " Now once in the end of the world
hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice
of himself Christ was once ofi'ered to bear the
sins of many, and unto them that look for him
shall he appear the second time without sin unto
salvation." And in the xth chapter, 12th verse :
" This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for
sin, for ever sat down on the right hand of God,
for by one offering he hath perfected lor ever them
that are sanctified." I observe again, that nothing
of this sort is said of the death of any other per-
son; no such efficacy is imputed to any other
martyrdom. So likewise in the following text,
from the Epistle to the Romans: ""While we
were yet sinners, Christ died for us ; much more
then being now justified by his blood we shall be
saved from wrath through him ; for if, when we
were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the
death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we
shall be saved by his life." " Reconciled to God
by the death of his Son ;" therefore that death had
an efficacy in our reconciliation ; but reconcilia-
tion is preparatory to salvation. The same thing
is said by the same apostle in his Epistle to the
Colossians : " He has reconciled us to his Father
in his cross, and in the body of his fiesh through
death." What is said of reconciliation in these
texts, is said in other texts of sanctification, which
also is preparatory to salvation. Thus, Hebrews
X. 10; " We are sanctified :" how] namely, " by
the offering of the body of Christ once for all ;" so
again in the same epistle, the blood of Jesus is call-
ed " the blood of the covenant by which we are

In these and many other passages, that lie
spread in difl'erent parts of the New Testament,
it appears to be asserted, that the death of Christ
had an efficacy in the procurement of human sal-
vation. Now these expressions mean something,
mean something substantial ; they are used con-
cerning no other person, nor the death of any
other person whatever. Therefore Christ's death
was something more than a confirmation of his
preaching ; something more than a pattern of a
holv and patient, and perhaps voluntary martyr-

dom ; something more than necessarily antecedent
to his resurrection, by which he gave a grand and
clear proof of human resurrection. Christ's death
was all these, but it was something more ; because
none of these ends, nor all of them, satisfy the
text you have heard ; come up to the assertions
and declarations which are delivered concerning it.

Now allowing the subject to stop here, allowing
that we know nothing, nor can know any thing
concerning it but what is written, and that no-
thing more is written than that the death of Christ
had a real and essential effect upon human salva-
tion; we have certainly before us a doctrine of a
very peculiar, perhaps I may say of a very unex-
pected kind, in some measure hidden in the coun-
cils of the divine nature, but still so far revealed to
us, as to excite two great religious sentiments, ad-
miration and gratitude.

That a person of a nature different from all
other men; nay, superior, for so he is distinctly
described to be, to all created beings, whether men
or angels ; united with the Deity as no other per-
son is united ; that such a person should come
down from heaven, and suffer upon earth the
pains of an excruciating death, and that these his
submissions and sufferings should avail and pro-
duce a great effect in the procurement of the fu-
ture salvation of mankind, cannot but excite won-
der. But it is by no means improbable on that
account; on the contrary, it might be reasonably
supposed beforehand, that if any thing was dis-
closed to us touching a future life, and touching
the dispensations of God to men, it would be
something of a nature to excite admiration. In
the world in which we live, we may be said to
have some knowledge of its laws, and constitution,
and nature : we have long experienced them ; as
also of the beings with whom we converse, or
amongst whom we are conversant, we may be
said to understand something, at least they are
familiar to us; we are not surprised with appear-
ances which every day occur. But of the world
and the life to which we are destined, and of the
beings amongst whom we may be brought, the
case is altogether different. Here is no experience
to explain things ; no use or familiarity to take
off surprise, to reconcile us to difficulties, to assist
our apprehension. In the new order of things,
according to the new laws of nature, every thing
will be suitable ; suitable to the beings who are to
occupy the future world ; but that suitableness
cannot, as it seems to me, be jwssibly perceived by
us, until we are acquainted with that order and
with those beings. So that it arises, as it were,
from the necessity of things, that what is told us
by a divine messenger of heavenly affairs, of af-
fairs purely spiritual, that is, relating purely to
another world, must be so comprehended by us,
as to excite admiration.

But, secondly ; partially as we may, or perhaps
must, comprehend this subject, in common with
all subjects which relate strictly and solely to the
nature of our future life, we may comprehend it
quite sufficiently for one purpose; and that is gra-
titude. It was only for a moral purpose that the
thing was revealed at all ; and that purpose is a
sense of gratitude and obligation. This was the
use which the apostles of our Lord, who knew
the most, made of their knowledge. This was the
turn they gave to their meditations upon the sub-
ject; the impression it left upon their hearts.
That a great and happy Being should voluntarily



enter the world in a mean and low condition, and
humble himself to a death upon the cross, that is,
to be executed as a malefactor, in order, by what-
ever means it was done, to promote the attain-
ment of salvation to mankind, and to each and
every one of themselves, was a theme they dwelt
upon with feelings of the warmest thankfulness ;
because they were feelings proportioned to the
magnitude of the benefit. Earthly benefits are
nothing compared with those which are heavenly.
That they telt from the Iwttom of their souls.
That, in my opinion, we do not feel as we ought.
But feeling this, they never cease to testify, to
acknowledge, to express the deepest obligation,
the most devout consciousness of that obligation
to their Lord and Master; to him whom, for what
he had done and sufiered, they regarded as the
finisher of their faith, and the author of their sal-



NoiD once in the end of the world hath he ap-
peared to put away sin by the sacrifice of him-
self — Hebrews ix. 26.

In a former discourse upon this text I have
shown, first, That the Scriptures expressly state
the death of Jesus Christ as having an efficacy in
the procurement of human salvation, which is not
attributed to the death or sufferings of any other
person, however patiently undergone, or unde-
servedly inflicted ; and farther, it appears that this
efficacy is quite consistent with our obligation to
obedience ; that good works still remain the con-
dition of salvation, though not the cause ; the
cause lieing the mercy of Almighty God through
Jesus Christ. There is no man living, perhaps,
who has considered seriously the state of his soul,
to whom this is not a consoling doctrine, and a
grateful truth. But there are some situations of
mind which dispose us to feel the weight and im-
portance of this doctrine more than others. These
situations I will endeavour to describe; and, in
doing so, to point out how much more satisfactory
it Ls to have a Saviour and Redeemer, and the
mercies of our Creator excited towards us, and
comnmnicated to us by and through that Saviour
and Redeemer, to confide in and rely upon, than
any grounds of merit in ourselves.

First, then, souls which are really labouring and
endeavouring after salvation, and with sincerity —
such souls are every hour made sensible, deeply
sensible, of the deficiency and imperfection of
their endeavours. Had they no ground, therefore,
for hope, but merit, that is to say, could they look
for nothing more than what they should strictly
deserve, their prospect would be very uncomforta-
ble. I see not how they could look for heaven at
all. They may form a conception of a virtue and
obedience which might seein to be entitled to a
high reward ; but when they come to review their
own iJerformances, and to compare them with that
conception ; when they see how short they have
proved of what they ought to have been, and of
what they might have been, how weak and broken

were their best offices ; they will be the first u.
confess, that it is infinitely for their comfort that
they have some other resource than their own
righteousness. One infalhble eflect of sincerity
in our endeavours is, to beget in us a knowledge
of our imperfections. The careless, the heedless,
the thoughtless, the nominal Christian, feels no
want of a Saviour, an intercessor, a mediator, be-
cause he feels not his own defects. Try in earnest
to perfonn the duties of religion, and you will soon
learn how incomplete your best performances are
I can hardly mention a branch of our duty, which
is not liable to be both impure in the motive, and
imperfect in the execution; or a branch of oui
duty in which our endeavours can found theit
hopes of acceptance upon any thing but extended
mercy, and the efficacy of th(ise means and
causes which have procured it to be so extended.

In the first place, is not this the case with our
acts of ])iety and devotion 1 We may admit,
that pure and perfect piety has a natural title to
reward at the hand of God. But is ours ever
such 1 To be pure in its motive, it ought to pro-
ceed from a sense of God Almighty's goodness
towards us, and from no other source, or cause,
or motive whatsoever. Whereas even pious,
comparatively pious men, will acknowledge that
authority, custom, decency, imitation, have a
share in most of their religious exercises, and
that they cannot warrant any of their devotions
to be entirely indejiendent of these causes. I
would not speak disparagingly of the considera-
tions here recited. They are oftentimes neces-
sary inducements, and they may be the means of
bringing us to better ; but .still it is true, that devo-
tion is not pure in its origin, unless it flow from
a sense of God Almighty's goodness, unmixed
with any other reason. But if our worship of
God be defective in its principle, and often debased
by the mixture of impure motives, it is still more
deficient, when we come to regard it in its per-
formances. Our devotions are broken and inter-
rupted, or they are cold and languid. Worldly
thoughts intrude themselves upon them. Our
worldly heart is tied down to the earth. Our
devotions are unworthy of God. We lift not up
our hearts unto him. Our treasure is upon earth,
and our hearts are with our treasure. That
heavenly-mindedness which ought to be insepara-
ble from religious exercises does not accompany
ours ; at least not constantly. 1 speak not now
of the hypocrite in religion, of him who only
makes a show of it. His case comes not within
our present consideration. I speak of those who
are sincere men. These feel the imjierfection of
their services, and will acknowledge that I have
not stated it more strongly than what is true.
Imperfection cleaves to every part of it. Our
thankfulness is never what it ought to be, or any
thing like it ; and it is only when we have sonie
particular reason for being pleased that we are
thankful at all. Formality is apt continually to
steal upon us in our worship : more especially iji
our public worship ; and formality takes away
tlie imnKHliate consciousness of what we are
doing ; which consciousness is the very life of
devotion ; all that we do without it being a dead

No man reviews his services towards God, his
religious services, but he perceives in them much
to be forgiven, much to be excused ; great un-
worthiness as respecting the object of all worship;



much deficiency and imperfection to be passed
over, before our service can be deemed in its nature
an acceptable service. That such services, there-
fore, should, in fact, be allowed and accepted,
and that to no less an end and purpose than the
attainment of heaven, is an act of abounding
grace and goodness in Him who accepts them ;
and we are taught in Scripture, that this so much
wanted grace and goodness abounds towards us
through Jesus Christ ; and particularly through
his sufferings and his death.

But to pass from our acts of worship, which
tbrm a particular part only of our duty to God ;
to pass from these to our general duty, what, let
us ask, is that duty 1 What is our duty towards
God 1 No other, our Sa%'iour himself tells us,
than " to love him with all our heart, with all our
soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind :"
Luke X. 27. Are we conscious of such love to
such a degree 1 If we are not, then, in a most
fundamental duty, we fail of being what we ought
to be. Here, then, as before, is a call for pardon-
ing mercy on the part of God ; which mercy is
extended to us by the intervention of Jesus
Christ ; at least so the Scriptures represent it.

In our duties towards one another, it may be
said, that our performances are more adequate to
our obligation, than in our duties to God ; that
the subjects of them lie more level with our capa-
city; and there may be truth in this observation.
But still I am afraid, that both in principle and
execution our performances are not only defective,
but defective in a degree which we are not suffi-
ciently aware of. The rule laid down for us is
this, " to love our neighbour as ourselves." Which
rule, in fact, enjoins, that our benevolence be as
strong as our self-interest : that we be as anxious
to do good, as quick to discover, as eager to em-
brace every opportunity of doing it, and as active,
and resolute, and persevering in our endeavours
to do it, as we are anxious for ourselves, and
active in the pursuit of our own interest. Now
is this the case with us 1 Wherein it is not, we
fall below our rule. In the apostles of Jesus
Christ, to whom this rule was given from his own
mouth, you may read how it operated ; and their
example proves, what some deny, the possibility
of the thing ; namely, of benevolence being as
strong a motive as self-interest. They firmly be-
lieved, that to bring men to the knowledge of
Christ's religion was the greatest possible good
that could be done unto them ; was the highest
act of benevolence they could exercise. And,
accordingly, they set about this work, and carried
it on with as much energy, as much order, as
much perseverance, through as great toils and
labours, as many sufferings and difficulties, as
any person ever pursued a scheme for their own
interest, or for the making of a fortune. They
could not possibly have done more for their own
sakes than what they did for the sake of others.
They literally loved their neighbours as them-
selves. Some have followed their example in
this ; and some have, in zeal and energv, followed
their example in other methods of doing good.
For I do not mean to say, that the particular me-
thod of usefulness, which the office of the apostles
cast upon them, is the only method, or that it is a
method even competent to many. Doing good,
without any selfish worldl}' motive for doing it, is
the grand thing : the mode must be regulated bv
opportunity and occasion. To which may be

added, that in those whose power of doing good,
according to any mode, is small, the principle ^f
benevolence will at least restrain them from duini,
harm. If the principle be subsisting in their hearts,
it will have this operation at least. I ask there-
fore again, as I asked before, are we as solicitous
to seize opportunities, to look out for and embrace
occasions of doing good, as we are certainly soli-
citous to lay hold of opportunities of making ad-
vantage to ourselves, and to embrace all occasions
of profit and self-interest 1 Nay, is benevolence
strong enough to hold our hand, when stretchrd
out for mischief! is it always sufficient to make
us consider what misery we are producing, whilst
we are compassing a selfish end, or gratifying a
lawless passion of our own 1 Do the two princi-
ples of benevolence and self-interest possess any
degree of parallelism and equality in our hearts,
and in our conduct 1 If they do, then so far we
come up to our rule. Wherein they do not, as I
said before, we fall below it.

When not only the generality of mankind, but
even those who are endeavouring to do their duty,
apply the standard to themselves, they are made
to learn the humiliating lesson of their own defi-
ciency. That such our deficiency should be
overlooked, so as not to become the loss to us of
happiness after death ; that our poor, weak, hum-
ble endeavours to comply with our Saviour's rule
should he received and not rejected ; — 1 say, if we
hope for this, we must hope for it, not on the
ground of congruity or desert, which it will not
bear, but from the extreme benignity of a merciful
God, arid the availing mediation of a Redeemer.
You will observe that I am still, and have been
all along, speaking of sincere men, of those who
are in earnest in their duty, and in religion ; and
I say, upon the strength of what has been alleged,
that even these persons, when they read in Scrip-
ture of the riches of the goodness of God, of the
powerful efficacy of the death of Christ, of his
mediation and continual intercession, know and
feel in their hearts that they stand in need of
them all.

In that remaining class of duties, which are
called duties to our.selves, the observation we iiave
made upon the deficiency of our endeavours ap-
plies with equal or with greater force. More is
here wanted than the mere command of our ac-
tions. The heart itself is to be regulated ; the
hardest thing in this world to manage. The
affections and passions are to be kept in order ;
constant evil propensities are to be constantly-
opposed. I apprehend that every sincere man is
conscious how unable he is to fulfil this part of
his duty, even to his own satisfaction ; and if our
conscience accuse us, " God is greater than our
conscience, and knoweth all things." If we see
our sad failings. He must.

God forbid that any thing I say, either upon
this or the other branches of our duty, should
damp our endeavours. Let them be as vigorous
and as steadfast as they can. They will be so if
we are sincere ; and without sincerity there is no
hope; none whatever. But there will always be
left enough, infinitely more than enough, to hum-
ble self-sufficiency.

Contemplate, then, what is placed before us —
heaven. Understand what heaven is : a state
of happiness after death; exceeding what, with-
out experience, it is possible for us to conceive,
and unlimited in duration. This L= a in-



finitely beyond any thing we can pretend to, as
of right, as merited, as due. Some distinction
between us and others, between the comparative-
ly good and the bad, might be expected ; but on

Online LibraryWilliam PaleyThe works of William Paley ... : containing his life, moral and political philosophy, evidences of christianity, natural theology, tracts, Horae Paulinae, clergyman's companion, and sermons, printed verbatim from the original editions, complete in one volume → online text (page 151 of 161)