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to salvation-the holy scriptures, which are given by inspiration of God, and are "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” · In all those concerns which belong to your eternal peace, which affect the salvation of your souls, and your hope of heavenly glory, the gospel revelation should be your sole and single rule, as Christ is your one Master, your only Lawgiver, Saviour, and Judge. It is, therefore, your bounden duty, as it is mine, to refuse subjection to any other authority, in sacred things; and to take your religion, both faith and practice, immediately and exclusively from the Bible. Leave a blind and bigotted submission to human authority, to those who choose it. But remember that you must stand accountable for the opportunities, and the means of knowledge, which God has put into your hands : and if, favoured as you are by the light of divine revelation, you shut your eyes against that light, and remain in darkness, how do you stand acquitted at the bar of your own conscience? How shall you stand acquitted at the tribunal of your Judge ? You possess the means of knowledge, which unerring wisdom has afforded; you are often and earnestly urged, by every motive, to ayail yourselves of those, means; and if you ultimately suffer by your neglect of them, it will be but the ratification of the scripture, which tells you, “ This is the condemnation, that light hath come into the world, but men have loved darkness rather than light.” God of his mercy forbid, that this should be the condemnation of any, my dear brethren, among you.
But, whilst reading and studying the scriptures, with humble and teachable minds, and with earnest prayer for the leading of the Holy Spirit, is undoubtedly the direct and most effectual way to gain a competent knowledge and belief of all truth necessary to salvation, it is not to be expected that there should be a complete uniformity of sentiment on all points connected with the Christian revelation. Such uniformity of sentiment is a chimera which has been often and anxiously attempted, but never has been, never will, in this life, be attained.
The nearest approaches to any such uniformity, have obtained, undoubtedly, in those churches and communities where Christians have not been permitted to see with their own eyes, or judge according to the conviction of their own understandings, and where the minds of men have been bound down, and loaded, with the heavy chains of spiritual slavery. There, there has been something like uniformity; but it is the uniformity of mental darkness—it is the widespreading stupor of a spiritual lethargy—it is the stillness of intellectual death. Where Christians are in possession of their rights, and have learn
ed to exercise them; where they are in the habit of looking into “the perfect law of liberty" for themselves, and collecting the blessed truths which are there disclosed for their own information-it may be expected that all honest inquirers should generally agree in the great and essential doctrines of the Christian faith. And I am satisfied that there is a much more general agreement about them, among such as consult the gospel of Christ for themselves, than may be commonly thought. But it is no more to be expected, that there should be a perfect uniformity among us in all the shadings of religious opinion, than that there should be a perfect similarity in all the features of our faces. The endless variety of feature is a striking proof of the great Creator's wisdom, and serves many valuable purposes in life, and yet we all possess the human face divine. We do not know that a similar variety of shading in religious opinion may not be made, by the same unerring wisdom, to subserve the great interests of Christianity: whilst, notwithstanding such variety, all humble and honest believers in Christ may fairly be regarded as sincere Christians..
It is indeed desirable, so far as it is attainable, that the disciples of Christ should feel it their duty to walk by the same rule; and that, in all weighty and essential doctrines, they should be, as the Apostle counsels, “perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judg
ment.” But it never could have been contemplated that this perfect unison of mind and judgment among Christians should extend to all points, whether important or not, whether plainly revealed or not: for, in point of fact, there never has been any such uniformity in the Christian world. For my own part, I cannot say that I have ever met with any two minds that were perfectly uniform in all their religious views; although I have met with multitudes sufficiently so, for all the purposes of Christian fellowship.
And here, I will state to you, in a few words, what I take to constitute a Christian ; and consequently what, in my judgment, entitles him to Christian communion. Whosoever sincerely believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour of the world, who shed his blood for the remission of sins ;-whosoever is truly willing to come to God, through the mediation of that divine Saviour ;-whosoever accepteth salvation through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, by whom we have now received the atonement, looking for the mercy of God as manifested in that Saviour ;-whosoever regards the Bible as a revelation of the will of God to man, taking it accordingly as his sufficient rule ;—whosoever earnestly and habitually seeks the guidance and the grace of the Holy Spirit, with the sincere desire to understand, believe, and obey, the will of God from the heart ;—that man I regard as a Christian ; that man I love as a brother; and to that man, however he may differ from me in other things, I am not only willing, but I shall be delighted, to offer the hand of Christian fellowship.
I know that the narrow, sectarian spirit, which has been, and still is, too prevalent among professing Christians, will sit in severe judgment on this declaration. I know that the same unchristian spirit, which prompted some in the primitive church to say, “ I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ,” will prompt certain in the present day to bestow upon me some opprobrious names, some term of vulgar reproach, which it is hoped may render me the object of popular odium. I know that the same dividing and schismatic spirit has, in various churches, set up human creeds and conditions of church fellowship, and continues to insist on terms of Christian communion, which never were required by our Lord Jesus Christ, or his inspired Apostles. But, from amongst the partition walls, and exclusive opinions, and conflicting requirements, of the several sects and parties, it is our duty to retire to the plain and certain rule of the gospel of Christ. There we shall find all the information we need on the important subject of church fellowship; and thence alone let us take our measures for regulating all the terms of Christian communion. For this purpose, let us here attend, with all seriousness, to a few portions of the holy scripture, which