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pale there can be no error, and without it no salvation. He sees other churches also, though professing to glory in that great Reformation, which was founded on the principle that it is the right and duty of every man to judge of religion for himself, with no responsibility but to God-yet, with a lamentable inconsistency, assuming the badge of infallibility which they had torn from the papal brow, and denying the name of christian to him, who will not measure his faith by their standard. Amidst this variety and discordance of opinion, the humble disciple is often perplexed and distressed. The question of Pilate“ what is truth,” bursts anxiously from his lips. How shall I know when I

I have found so much of it as is



salvation? How can I be certain, after my best endeavours to discover it, that I may not still fatally err, and lose all interest in my Saviour's promises ? I see on all sides, in every communion, men of learning and integrity, of piety and benevolence, men who are incapable of intentional deception, and who have no imaginable motive to deceive. By what criterion shall I discover with which of them truth resides, and which of them may be followed without hazard to my salvation ?

The Scriptures have not left us without the means of satisfying our minds on this interesting subject. We have in our text the assurance, that no man who inquires after his duty with the fear of God before his eyes, and who uses his best en

deavours to perform it, will fail of final acceptance. Let us inquire more particularly into the meaning and extent of this principle.

There is nothing in it inconsistent with the repeated declarations of scripture, that we are justified by faith—that without faith, it is impossible to please God.

All that it asserts is, that the value of faith depends not so much on the opinions which we hold, as on the spirit and temper with which we inquire for, and embrace them. It is not measured by the state of our understandings, so much as by the dispositions of our hearts. It is to be tested not so much by the kind or number of propositions which we believe, as by the practical and habitual influence of a few great principles, which no sincere inquirer after the truth as it is in Jesus can fail of attaining. Two things only are declared to be necessary to our final acceptance; first, that we should use the means of religious knowledge which are put into our hands, in the fear of Almighty God; and secondly, that we should act uniformly according to our best sense of right and duty. To fear God is to have an awe of the divine perfections ; to cherish a sense of our accountability to him and to make his will our supreme rule, to the exclusion of all fear of man, and all worldly advantage. He therefore who opens the scriptures with this sentiment of reverence for God's authority, and uses all his lights and means to understand them; who faithfully acts in obedience to the dictates of

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whatever may

his duty so far as it is known to him; such a man,

be the result of his inquiries, will have the essence of that faith which God will approve and accept.

To what other conclusion, indeed, could we have come, even if the scriptures had been silent on this subject? What other test of saving faith can there be, than that which is given by a sincere and conscientious employment of the means which God has put into our hands ? If you make the criterion of justifying faith to be the accuracy of the results of our inquiries, without regard to the different capacities and opportunities of mankind, you make faith to depend on the state of the understanding; and then he who has the wisest head, not he who has the purest and humblest heart, will be saved. This is evidently opposed to the whole spirit of the gospel, and every one who believes in the justice of the Most High, is entitled to say that it cannot be true. But still it


be said, “ are there not some essential doctrines of the gospel, which every man must believe, who hopes for salvation; and the denial of which must forfeit his right to the christian name ?», My brethren, this distinction between doctrines that are essential, and doctrines that are not essential, is one unknown to the scriptures, and which seems to me without any just foundation. All the doctrines of the scriptures are essential. They all rest on the same authority, and are all equally en: titled to our reverence. But before any doctrine


can be obligatory, we must first have reason to believe it to be contained in the scriptures; and if, after an inquiry made in the fear of God, we do not find a given doctrine to be contained there, to us it is not essential. God will never mark it against us as sin, that we have not believed what we honestly think to be no part of his revealed will. Our ignorance and our errors, as far as they are involuntary, and do not arise from any wilful neglect of the means of God's grace, he will surely of his mercy forgive. It follows, that though all the doctrines of scripture are equally essential to him who knows them, all doctrines are not equally essential to all men. The objects of faith must be more or fewer, according to the different capacities, the different opportunities, the different means and advantages, with which God has favoured different men.

What is essential to a christian, is not essential to a heathen. What is fundamental with one christian, may not be so with another. A truth which is essential to you, whom heaven has blessed with an enlarged mind, wise instructors, and an exemption from those hidden biasses which mislead in the search for truth, may not be essential to me, who am denied these privileges, and am unable, after my best efforts, to discover it. Those doctrines alone are equally essential to all christians, which all christians, who inquire after truth with sincere and upright minds, equally acknowledge to be the evident doctrines of the Bible. No one, who



searches the scriptures with the fear of God before his eyes,

need fear that he will not infallibly arrive every

truth which is essential to him. If I could doubt this, christianity, instead of appearing to me a message of peace, of mercy, and celestial love, , would become a subject of apprehension and dismay. For if it be possible, that one sincerely honest man may fatally err in his inquiry after his duty, then it is possible that every man may thus

Who then, who had not a direct communication from heaven, could have any confidence that he did not misconceive the whole system of christianity, and was not plunging himself into remediless perdition?

Perhaps, however, we may be told that 5 truth is one—there can be only a right and a wrong, a true and a false belief, and that they only who have the true faith can hope to be saved.” This sentiment would have no inconsistency in the mouth of a Mahometan, or an advocate for papal infallibility, but it does not become the lips of a Protestant. If the consequence which is drawn from the principle of the unity of truth were a just one, another consequence also would be equally just, which is this, that no one of the whole human race can be saved. Truth, in its abstract and elemental state, is undoubtedly simple; and in strictness, there can be only one view of it, which is a perfectly just one. But that view is taken only by Him who is infinite in wisdom, and not by weak

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