« AnteriorContinuar »
interest to consult, some pique, or resentment, or envy to gratify in their excommunication. This is base injustice. Many, like the late Mr. Thomas Scott, subscribe them for preferment. He declared that he was moved by the Holy Spirit to enter into the ministry, and yet he afterwards avowed that then he did not believe there was any Holy Spirit. This is lying and hypocrisy. These are, however, incidental occurrences. But the number of such cases, and the frequency of their occurrence, are alarming to those who believe that God reigns. Again, the number of items which enter into those creeds is not amongst the least of their absurdities. In the Presbyterian Confession there are thirty-three chapters, and in these one hundred and seventy-one dogmas. In receiving "ministers," or in "licensing preachers," it is ordained that the candidate be asked, "Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures ?” Observe the words, "the system." Yes, the identical system taught in the Scriptures that is, the one hundered and seventy-one dogmas of the Confession is the system of truth taught in the Holy Scriptures. Neither more nor less! But I am digressing. I only proposed in this place so show that the imposition of any creed of human device is incompatible with the nature and circumstances of man. This, I conceive, is rendered sufficiently plain from an inspection of the circumstances and character of the human mind already noticed.
But, it was affirmed, that every attempt to found the unity of the church upon the adoption of any creed of human contrivances;-upon any creed, other than the apostles' testimony, is not only incompatible with the nature and circumstances of mankind, but is also an effort to frustrate and defeat the prayer and plan of the Lord Messiah, and to subvert his throne and government.
It will be confessed, without argument to prove, that the conversion of men, or of the world, and the unity, purity, and happiness of the disciples of the Messiah, were the sublime subjects of his humiliation unto death. For this, he prayed in language never heard on earth before, in
words which not only expressed the ardency of his desires, but at the same time unfolded the plan in which his benevolence and philanthropy were to be triumphant.
The words to which we refer express one petition of that prayer recorded by the apostle John, commonly styled his intercessory prayer. With his eyes raised to heaven, he says, "Holy Father-now, I do not pray for these only (for the unity and success of the apostles) but for those also who shall believe on me through, or by means of, their word-THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE, THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME." Who does not see in this petition, that the words or testimony of the apostles, the unity of the disciples, and the conviction of the world, are bound together by the wisdom and the love of the Father, by the devotion and philanthropy of the Son. The order of Heaven, the plan of the Great King, his throne and government, are here unfolded in full splendour to our view. The words of the apostles are laid as the basis, the unity of the disciples the glorious result, and the only successful means of converting the world to the acknowledgment, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. or the Son of the Blessed, the only Saviour of men.
Let us attend to the argument of the prayer. The will of Jesus was the same as the will of him who sent him. The will of Heaven, that is, the will of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is, that all who believe on the Messiah through the testimony of the apostles may be one; consequently, they do not will that those who believe on him through the Westminster Divines shall be one. The words of the prayer alone demonstrate this. And who does not see, and who will not confess, that the fact proves, the fact now existing, that those who believe in him through the words of the Westminster Divines are not one? They are cut up or divided into seven sects at this moment. While the Saviour prays that those who believe on him through the apostles may be one, he in fact, and in the plain meaning of terms, prays that they who believe on him through any other media or means may be divided, and not be one. To attempt to unite the professing disciples by any other means than the word of the apostles, by the Westminster, or any other creed, is, then, an attempt to overrule the will
of Heaven, to subvert the throne of the Great King, to frustrate the prayers of the Son of the Blessed. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God's thoughts and ways higher than ours. He knows, for he has willed, and planned, and determined, that neither the Popish, the Protestant, the Presbyterian, the Methodistic, nor the Baptist creed shall be honoured more than the apostles' testimony, shall be honoured as much as the apostles' testimony, shall be honoured at all. These creeds the Saviour proscribed for ever; they are rebellion against his plan and throne, and they are aimed at the dethronement of the Holy Twelve-He put them on thrones, he gave them this honour. All creed makers have disputed their right to the throne, have attempted, ipso facto, their degradation, and have usurped their government. But he that sits in Heaven has laughed at them, he has vexed them in his sore displeasure, he has dispersed them in his anger, and confounded their language as he did their predecessors', who sought to subvert his throne and dominion by the erection of a tower and citadel reaching to the skies. The votaries of those creed makers have also concurred with their masters, and have attempted to raise them upon their shoulders to the apostolic thrones; but he has broken their necks, and they go bowed down always. He has made them to lick the dust, and caused children to reign over them.
But the conversion of the world is planned and ordered by the will of Heaven to be dependent on the unity of the disciples, as well as this unity dependent upon the apostles' testimony. An attempt to convert Pagans and Mahometans to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and the sent of the Father, until Christians are united, is also an attempt to frustrate the prayer of the Messiah, to subvert his throne and government. There are unalterable laws in the moral world as in the natural. There are also unalterable laws in the government of the moral and religious world, as in the government of the natural. Those laws cannot, by human interference, be set aside or frustrated. We might as reasonably expect that Indian corn will grow in the open fields in the midst of the frost and snows of winter, as that Pagan nations can be converted to Jesus Christ, till Christians are united through the belief of the apostles'
testimony. We may force corn to grow by artificial means in the depth of winter, but it is not like the corn of August. So may a few disciples be made in Pagan lands by such means in the moral empire, as those by which corn is made to grow in winter in the natural empire; but they are not like the disciples of primitive times before sectarian creeds came into being. It is enough to say, on this topic, that the Saviour made the unity of the disciples essential to the conviction of the world; and he that attempts it independent of this essential, sets himself against the wisdom and plans of Heaven, and aims at over-ruling the dominion and government of the Great King. On this subject we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, because the people are dull of hearing. But we shall leave this
prayer for the present, having just introduced it, and noticed the argument of it, by reminding the reader that, instead of human creeds promoting the unity of the disciples, they have always operated just the reverse; and are in diametrical opposition to the wisdom and benevolence of the Heavens. Should the Christian community be united upon the Westminster, or Methodistic, or Baptist, or any human creed, then the plan of Heaven is defeated, the apostles disgraced, the Saviour's prayer unanswered, and the whole order of Heaven frustrated, and the throne of the universe subverted. He that advocates the necessity of creeds of human contrivance to the unity of the Church unconsciously impeaches the wisdom of God, arraigns the benevolence of the Saviour, and censures the revelation of the Spirit. He, perhaps, without reflection attempts to new modify the empire of reason, of morality and religion; to rise above, not only the apostles, but the Saviour himself, and arrogates to himself a wisdom and philanthropy that far surpasses, and in fact covers with disgrace, all those attributes that rise to our view, and shine with incomparable effulgence in the redemption of man.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN BAPTIST.
Sir,-From the nature and design of this work, as stated in your proposals to the public, and from the character of those who may be supposed desirous to patronise it, as a work not devoted to the interests of any party, but merely and exclusively to the evolution and exhibition of Christianity in its primitive simplicity and native excellence; it is presumed that an Essay on the proper and primary intention of the Gospel, with its proper and immediate effects in those that received it, would be a suitable introduction to such a work, as it would not only furnish an interesting and radical criterion, whereby to judge between the present and primitive state of Christianity; but also would serve to show the grievous and incalculable privation of blissful and efficacious privileges, occasioned by a long and almost universal departure from the original apostolic exhibition of it; and thus tend to excite a general and just concern in the public mind to repair the incalculable loss, by strictly adverting to the pure original Gospel as exhibited by the apostles, and thus to contend earnestly for the faith as it was once delivered to the saints. If you, sir, think with the writer, that such a subject would be a suitable commencement, and that the following will, in some good measure, answer that purpose, you will please accept it as a token of sincere desire for the utility and success of your under. taking, and as a pledge on the part of the writer, of his hearty determination to contribute any assistance in his power, to the accomplishment of so worthy an object. Yours, respectfully,
ESSAY ON THE DESIGN OF THE GOSPEL, AND ITS PROPER AND IMMEDIATE EFFECTS.
[From the Christian Baptist, Vol. I.]
That the reconciliation of a guilty world, in order to complete and ultimate salvation, was the proper and primary intention of the Gospel, is evident from the uniform tenor of the gospel testimony, as recorded in the New Testament. The Gospel itself is called the word of reconciliation, 2 Cor. v. 19. The work of preaching it, as at first enjoined upon the apostles, and afterwards executed by them, is styled the ministry of reconciliation, 2 Cor. v. 18, 19. Their manner of proceeding in it was to this effect: "As though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye (sinners) reconciled to God," 2 Cor. v. 20, 21. The instruction under which they proceeded to the execution of their office, was, "that repent