« AnteriorContinuar »
speculations upon matter and mind —upon God and nature -upon virtue and vice, had been adopted, improved, reformed, time after time. That there was always something superfluous—something wrong-something that could be improved in every system of religion and morality, was generally felt, and, at last, universally acknowledged. But the grandeur, sublimity, and beauty of the foundation of hope, and of ecclesiastical or social union, established by the author and founder of Christianity, consisted in this, that THE BELIEF OF ONE FACT, and that upon the best evidence in the world, is all that is requisite, as far as faith goes, to salvation. The belief of this one Fact, and submission to ONE INSTITUTION expressive of it, is all that is required of heaven to admission into the Church. A Christian, as defined, not by Dr. Johnson nor by any creed-maker, but by one taught of heaven and in heaven, is one that believes this one fact, and has submitted to one institution, and whose deportment accords with the morality and virtue taught by the great Prophet. The one fact is, that Jesus the Nazarene is the Messiah. The evidence upon which it is to be believed, is the testimony of twelve men, confirmed by prophecy, miracles, and spiritual gifts. The one institution is baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Every such person is a Christian in the fullest sense of the word, the moment he has believed this one fact, upon the above evidence, and has submitted to the above-mentioned institution; and whether he believes the five points condemned or the five points approved by the synod of Dort, is not so much as to be asked of him; whether he holds any of the views of the Calvinists or Arminians, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, or Quakers, is never once to be asked of such a person, in order to admission into the Christian community called the Church. The only doubt that can reasonably arise upon these points is, whether this one fact, in its nature and necessary results, can suffice to the salvation of the soul—and whether the open avowal of it, in the overt act of baptism, can be a sufficient recommendation of the person so professing to the confidence and love of the brotherhood. As to the first of these, it is again and again asserted, in the clearest language, by the Lord him
self, the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John, that he that believeth the fact that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God, overcomes the world, has eternal life, and shall, on the veracity of God, be saved. This should settle the first point; and, as to the second, it is disposed of in a similar manner; for the witnesses agree that whosoever confesses that Jesus is the Christ, and is baptized, should be received into the church: and not an instance can be produced of any person being asked for any other faith, in order to admission, in the whole New Testament. The Saviour expressly declared to Peter, that upon this fact, that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, he would build his church; and Paul has expressly declared, that “ other foundation can no man lay (for ecclesiastical union) than that JESUS IS THE CHRIST.” Our translation reads simply
56 Jesus Christ;" but the article is in the Greek, and means just as above. The point is proven that we have assumed—and, this proven, every thing is established requisite to the union of all Christians upon a proper basis. Every sectarian scheme falls before it; and on this principle alone can the whole church of Christ be built. We are aware of many objections to this grand scheme, revealed of God, to establish righteousness, peace, and harmony among men ; but we know of none that weighs a grain of sand against it. We shall meet them all (Deo volente) in due time and place. Some of them have been anticipated in one or two articles preceding. But of these more fully hereafter.
It must strike every man of reflection, that a religion requiring much mental abstraction or exquisite refinement of thought, or that calls for the comprehension or even apprehension of refined distinctions and of nice subtleties, is a religion not suited to mankind in their present circumstances. To present such a creed as the Westminster, as adopted either by Baptists or Paido-Baptists—such a creed as the Episcopalian, or, in fact, any sectarian creed, composed, as they all are, of propositions deduced from logical inferences, and couched in philosophical languageto all those who are fit subjects of the salvation of heaven, I say, to present such a creed to such for their examination or adoption, shocks all common sense. This pernicious course is what has paganized Christianity. Our sects and
parties--our disputes and speculations-our orders and casts, so much resemble any thing but Christianity, that when we enter a modern synagogue, or an ecclesiastical council, we rather seem to have entered a Jewish sanhedrim, a Mahometan mosque, a Pagan temple, or Egyptian cloister, than a Christian congregation. Sometimes, indeed, our religious meetings so resemble the Areopagus, the Forum, or the Senate, that we almost suppose ourselves to have been translated to Athens or Rome. Even Christian orators emulate Demosthenes and Cicero; Christian doctrines are made to assume the garb of Egyptian mysteries, and Christian observances put on the pomp and pageantry of pagan ceremonies. Unity of opinion, expressed in subscription to voluminous dogmas imported from Geneva, Westminster, Edinburgh, or Rome, is made the bond of union—and a difference in the tenth, or tenthousandth shade of opinion, frequently becomes the actual cause of dismemberment or expulsion. The New Testament was not designed to occupy the same place in theological seminaries that the carcases of malefactors are condemned to occupy in medical halls—first doomed to the gibbet, and then to the dissecting knife of the spiritual anatomist. Christianity consists infinitely more in good works than in sound opinions; and, while it is a joyful truth that he that believes and is baptized shall be saved, it is equally true that he that saith, “I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
ON THE SIMPLICITY, THE POWER, AND THE
EXCELLENCY OF FAITH.
[From the Christian Baptist, Vol. I.]
1. In the first place, the singular power of faith is manifested in all places and amongst all people. It demonstrates itself to be one of the common, the most common, and intelligible principles of action ; and produces the greatest changes in human character, in the views and pursuits of mankind. It overcomes the greatest difficulties, and impels men to the highest achievements known in the world.
2. It always operates according to the fact believed. Joy and sorrow, love and hatred, fear and hope, are the effects of the fact believed, and not of the manner of believing, so much talked of.
3. Evidence alone produces faith, or testimony is all that is necessary to faith. This is demonstrably evident in every case; and therefore the certainty felt is always proportioned to the character of the testimony produced. Faith is capable of being greatly increased in many instances, but only in one way, and that is, either by affording additional evidence, or by brightening the evidences already produced. To exhort men to believe, or to try to scare them into faith, by loud vociferations, or to cry them into faith by effusions of natural or mechanical tears, without submitting evidence, is as absurd as to try to build a house or plant a tree in a cloud.
4. Faith, abstract from facts, produces no substantial, no real, effect. Faith and opinions have nothing to do with each other—there is no consanguinity between them. A man might as reasonably expect to support animal life by the simplest act of chewing, as so be saved by the mere act of believing. It is not a man's eating that keeps him alive, but what he does eat; so it is not a man's believing that saves his soul, but what he does believe.
5. All controversies about the nature of faith, about the different kinds of modern faith, are either learned or unlearned nonsense, calculated to deceive and bewilder the superstitious multitudes that hang upon the lips of spiritual guides. The only, the grand question with every man is, What is fact or truth ? This ascertained, and let there be no enquiries about how a man believes, or whether his faith be of the right kind. If a man really believes any fact, his faith soon becomes apparent by the influence of the fact
6. No person can help believing when the evidence of truth arrests his attention. And without evidence it is as impossible to believe, as to bring something out of nothing
7. The term, faith, is used in the Bible in the commonly received sense of mankind, and the faith which we have in the testimony of God differs from that we have in the testimony of men in this one respect only—that as men may be deceived, and may deceive others, so the confidence we repose in their testimony, in some instances, may be very limited; but as God cannot be deceived, neither can deceive others, so the confidence we have in his testimony is superior to that we repose in the testimony of men ; the word comes to us in demonstration of the Holy Spirit, or attested unto us by the supernatural gifts which accompanied the testimony of the original witnesses, so it affords the highest possible evidence, and therefore produces the greatest confidence. If we receive the testimony of men, saith John, and act upon it in the most important concerns, the testimony of God is greater, and is capable of producing greater certainty, and infinitely worthy of being acted upon in the all-important concerns of the world to come.
THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST.
(From the Christian Baptist, Vol. I.] George King is the name of a man, but that George is king, is a proposition that expresses what either is or is not a fact. And that George is the king is a proposition not only more definite than George is king, but it expresses something more. It expresses that he is either the chief of kings, or that he is the king spoken of or referred to by the speaker. This, we presume, is apprehended by all. Now, Jesus Christ is the name of a person; but that Jesus is Christ, or that Jesus is the Christ, is a proposition that is either true or false. In the four Gospels, or during the lifetime of the Messiah, the term Christ was never applied to him as a proper name, but as an appellative. After some time, it was used as a proper name, and frequently, without the name Jesus attached to it, designated the Saviour. Thus, when Matthew wrote · The lineage of Jesus Christ,' he uses the word as a proper name; but it is obvious to all,