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ciously adhere is, to speak in the mildest terms of human invention, and not to be found in the Bible. While, then, you make conscience of not sacrificing a principle for which you have only the authority of man, you do not scruple to violate a most important principle, taught and strenuously insisted on in the oracles of God.
This notion of a sacrifice of principle being involved in belonging to the same church with those who do not in all points agree is, after all, rather an error of the heart, than a mistake of the judgement; in other words, it is but an apology for the manifestation of wrong feelings towards those who have obtained like precious faith with themselves. This we infer from the facility with which the notion is, in practice, often abandoned by good men, who are by no means deficient in judgement. A mere change of circumstances is often followed by a change of conduct in such as previously refrained from holding Christian fellowship with their brethren of another denomination, lest it should countenance their errors, or otherwise involve a sacrifice of principle. marriage sometimes effects a total revolution in this particular with a whole family, and that without exciting any surprise, or causing any suspicion as to the purity of their motives, or any doubt of the propriety of their conduct. Often has a minister of the gospel been called to take the charge, and actually taken charge of a church composed of the very men with whom he could not previously have held Christian fellowship, nor they with him, without being accused by themselves and others of having made a sacrifice of principle. And these changes take place, without the consciousness in any of the parties, that any principle has been sacrificed..
Another objection against the abolition of sects is, that divers denominations are necessary to preserve the purity of doctrine.
There is a class of sectarians who conceive of the truth as the miser does of a precious jewel, that may be locked up in a casket, and remain there for ages, and preserve all its intrinsic value. The man of business would estimate the value of the jewel by its utility in carrying on the purposes of trade, and in purchasing the necessaries of life. The man of benevolence would esteem it valuable only, as it would serve to diffuse the means of comfort and happiness among his fellow creaBut these sectarians seem happy in the thought of possessing a document setting forth in uninspired language their peculiar views of doctrine in the form of a creed, catechism, confession of faith, or system of theology, and they carefully lock it up in their own small denomination, as a precious jewel, not to be seen or to benefit any but themselves and their own children. They are perfectly aware that their own sect is too weak to carry the gospel abroad to the heathen and the destitute, and they feel under no obligation to make the attempt. If they entertain the hope that the pure doctrine in their possession will ever benefit the world, the hope must be founded on the supposition that by some means to them unknown and unthought of the savour of its intrinsic excellence will be diffused on every side, until, like leaven, it shall fill the earth with its fragrance. They conceive of the truth in their possession as of the most fine gold, and rather than to hazard its admixture with the less precious silver and brass of other denomi
nations, they would leave the world under the tyranny of Satan, and its inhabitants to drop, by thousands, annually, into the bottomless pit. Surely no argument can be necessary to expose the folly and wickedness of such contracted unscriptural views.
There is another class of Christians who believe that the different denominations hold each other in check and preserve between them the balance of truth. This is a quaint notion, and although entertained by numbers, cannot have been adopted as a sentiment upon very mature consideration. Were all sects abolished, so as to leave Christians at liberty to study the creeds of other denominations, they might from them all compose a formula of faith which would possibly be nearer the truth than any human production that has yet appeared; but how the articles of one church can hold in check the articles of another, or how the balance of truth can thus be preserved, is to us utterly unintelligible. The truth of one creed is not needed to hold in check the truth of another, for if they are both truths, they require neither to be checked, or balanced. The truth of one cannot check or balance the error of another, for every denomination adheres closely to its own truths and its own errors; and it certainly will not be pretended that the errors of one serve any valuable purpose to check or balance the errors of another. But suppose the check or balance may be actually inherent in the variety of creeds, how and upon whom are the benefits of it to be made to bear? Were but a portion of the Christian community divided into sects, the residue would reap all the advantages to be derived from this check; but to whose benefit is it to inure, since every professor of religion is obliged to belong to one sect or another, and
is m duty bound, by the laws of sect to prefer his own to all the rest, in the same sense that a citizen is bound to adhere to his own country, when opposed by all the world besides. All the profit, then, of this balance of truth must be left to those who make no pretensions to religion, and who of course cannot be supposed to be very solicitous on the subject of theological truth.
But to speak without irony, we verily believe that instead of the different denominations holding each other in check, the creed of one drives another farther from the Bible, and that instead of preserving the balance of truth between them, sectarian divisions have a strong tendency to mar the beauty, corrupt the purity and destroy the power of truth. It is certain that of the opposite articles of different creeds, one or the other must be erroneous. By being adopted as a matter of faith in a certain denomination, the error is perpetuated; while but for the existence of sectarian divisions, it might soon have been buried in oblivion. That practical religion has much degenerated under the dominion of sect, is most certain, which could scarcely have been the result, if a diversity of denominations serve to preserve the purity of doctrine. We are willing to concede that the doctrinal opinions held in one sect may, in some instances, have been modified by such as are held in an antagonist one; but we deny that this is at all attributable to the existence of sectarian divisions. This is merely the influence of mind upon mind, and the same operation would be going on, were the church again united. There would then, without doubt, be differences of opinion on unessential matters, and all the benefit of the influence of mind upon mind would still be realized; with this important advantage, that the prejudices, non
intercourse and opposition caused by distinctions of sect, would not subsist among those of the same church, and there would be more candour, sincerity, and simplicity of desire to learn the truth from each other, than there now is.
The best scheme for preserving the purity of doctrine, according to some Roman Catholic divines, is to invest in a council of ecclesiastical dignitaries, the prerogative of determining in all cases what shall be received as the truth. We do not readily perceive why one member of such a council might not be a check upon the other, nor why the different individuals who compose the council may not preserve the balance of truth between them, quite as well as the different sects. There is this advantage in favour of the council, that it forms but one body, the majority whereof declares the rule, while among the sects, each one declares for itself, no one having authority over the rest; and therefore Protestants can receive the truth only in contradictory decrees pronounced by a multitude of independent The members of the Roman Catholic church, on the other hand, enjoy the privilege of knowing the exact truth, as declared by one infallible court, free from the trouble, labour, and perplexity of balancing a multitude of conflicting decisions. In point of theory, the church of Rome seems to possess a decided advantage, and we might be tempted to give the preference to her views of the rules of faith and judge of controversy, did not we know how lamentably Christianity has been corrupted by her, if not wholly banished from her com
Both Roman Catholics and sectarian Protestants admit that the truth is not so clearly expressed in the