« PreviousContinue »
that a disaffection is spreading his residence was not sufficiently itself through the community, large for two societies, that it which may ultimately have a would be painful to him to be in very unhappy influence on our any measure the cause of dissenreligious institutions.
tions in the community, that he My attention has been called wished a mere peaceful remedy. to this subject by an application, for the evil to which he was ex. which I lately received from a posed. friend, whose moral and religious To this case of my friend, I de character I highly respect. He sire your attention, and that of expressed to me, what indeed I your correspondents. It is not well knew, his conviction of the singular. In other parishes, truth and importance of chris some of the best men, I fear, are tianity, and his desire to unite excluded from christian privilehimself with the christian church, ges by the operation of creeds, that he might at once bear his drawn up with little care, in testimony to this divine religion, “words which man's wisdom and avail himself of the institu- teachieth." The mass of the ted means of giving it an influ- people, unaccustomed to inquire, ence over his own heart. “But,” and taking their opinions upon said he, “the privilege is denied trust, receive without complaint
I live in a town where the articles, which they find esthere is but one place of worship, tablished in the church. But one church, one minister; and reflecting men, habituated to this church and minister are nar- weigh the import of words, are row and exclusive in their senti. shocked by some of the princi- ' ments. I am by no means in- ples, which are offered to them elined to excessive liberality, but as the substance of christianity, the creed, to which my assent is and from tenderness of conscience required, contains articles, which decline subscription. Thus the shock at once my reason and my most intelligent and conscienmoral feelings. What must I tious part of the community are do? The church is barred against sometimes found in the crowd
I am condemned for who turn their back on the taneglecting to enter it.”
ble of the Lord. My sympathy with my friend If we could bring together the induced me to speak at first with various creeds which are impossome warmth. I told him that I ed in our country, we should be did not consider him bound to struck with the extent of the evil contribute to the support of in- here lamented; and some would stitutions, from the benefit of be ready to ask how it is, that which he was excluded; and that the christian church has continhe would be justified in joining ued to receive accessions, when with men who were laboring un the entrance to it has been so under the same oppression in the warrantably obstructed. formation of a new church on the In one parish a man is require broad principles of christianity. ed to believe, that there are three He answered, that the place of persons in one God. Unable to
, 198 Terms of admission to christian privileges. explain this långuage, and un- master, and received from his willing, in a solemn act of reli- hands the bread and the wine, gion, to employ words which he had heard any thing about three does not understand, he desires persons in one being, and whethto be told what the word person er any church can be injured by ineans. He is informed that the receiving members on the ground doctrine is too mysterious to be of the same faith which these explained, that it surpasses'all' old fashioned christians possesscomprehension, that his daty is ed. But he pleads in vain. He to believe and not to pry into the is told, that in different ages the deep things of God. He answers, church needs different fences 'and" that he does not ask for reason- sécurities, that all christians, ings to support the doctrine; he whose hearts God has touched, only wishes to know what the assent without hesitation to these doctrine is, what is the import' inexplicable words, and that the of the language to which he is' article to which he objects is one expected to subscribe. Perhaps' of the necessary methods of presome attempt is made to satisiy' venting the taint of heresy from this most reasonable request; spreading through the christian bht tenfold darkness gathers over flock. the subject. The word person, In another parish a man is however defined, always suggests' called give his assent to artito him the idea of a distinct in- cles, which, in his view of them, dividual or being. He asks, offend not only his reason, but whether he must believe that' the best feelings of his heart. three distinct beings make the. He is called to believe, that God one God. He is told no; that brings men into existence wholly this is a damnable heresy; that corrupt, and wholly unable to this is to make three Gods. He relieve themselves, that from answers, that after all his efforts, this mass of corruption he has he can attach no other ideas to been pleased to select a number, the article which is imposed on whom, by his irresistible power, him. He does not denyto ' he from that he others' of sharper vision this ar- leaves the rest to the hopeless ticle may be sufficiently plain, corruption in which they were but he begs that he may be re- born, and then plunges them into leased from assenting to a dise' eternal flames, because they have tinction too subtle for his feeble' not made themselves pure,
All capacity, and that he'máy be re this appears to him to be fairly ceived into the church of the sav- implied in the creed, to which iour, whom he loves, on the his assent is required. His blood ground of that good confession, grows cold as he reads it. He' which satisfied the apostles, that offers his objections, and receives Jesus is the Christ, the Son of perhaps some ingenious ' replies; God. In support of this request, but still he cannot reconcile these he asks whether the plain fish: doctrines with God's paternal ermen of Galilee, when they goodness or with hi an responsurrounded the table of their sibility. He is far from dény
ing the sincerity or christian plain education, who was character of those, who profess to quired to express her belief in discover in these articles the the perfect consistency of premarks of God's infinite benignity, destination with man's free-agenand the most powerful motives cy. Thus, the doubtful questo obedience, but he asks that tions of metaphysics and theolothese articles may not be applied sy, by which the most powerful as a test to his own character, minds have beep perplexed and He is told however, that the confounded, are to be settled by creed of the church expresses the the common people, before they yiews in which regenerated minds can be received into the family agree, and that he must come of Christ. Blessed Saviour, with these views to the table of thou friend of the ignorant, who Christ, or not come at all.* didst preach and adapt thy gos
I have mentioned only a few pel to the poor, are these the peculiarities of opinion which conditions which thou requirest are insisted on as essential to ad. or-approvest for admission into mission into the church. · I have the number of thy people? known a person prevented from The probability is, that if all joining a church, chiefly because the church covenants of New he doubted whether the persever England were collected, every ance of saints was taught in thc christian among us would find scriptures, as the doctrine is com several, to which he could not monly understood at this day.t subscribe, and of course the most I lately heard of a woman of however to be understood as denying
the doctrine; but we mean to denys It is believed that few, who as that a man may be said to persevere in sent to the articles referred to in this obedience, while he lives in rebellion; paragraph, view them in the light and we mean to affirm, that for a man the candidate is here supposed to do; to be consistent with himself in probut if they are capable of being thus fessing to believe the doctrine, his understood, it is a sufficient reason walk must be in the “path of the just,” for confining church creeds or terms which "is as the shining light, that of admission, to the language of the shineth more and more unto the per. scriptures. And it is a weighty ob- fect day." Ed. jection against foisting into articles of faith the words of man's wisdom in
# As we understand the terms, preference to such as the holy spirit we see not the least inconsistency beteacheth. ED.
tween predestination and free-agency;
but as they are understood by many, † It may be doubted whether any
there doubtless may be an inconsis. doctrine has been less understood, or
tency. But whatever may be suppos. more abused, than this, “That true
ed of the consistency or the inconsis. saints will certainly persevere to the tency of these terms, we do not find end of life." If it mean any thing that Christ or his apostles ever requirworthy of our belief, it means that ed an assent to an article of this natrue saints will habitually continue in ture, as a term of admission to chris. a course of sincere obedience to the tian privileges. What if God predescommands of God. But how many,
tinated that every accountable being who profess to believe this doctrine,
should act as a free-agent, and be reprove it to be false, by their own ex.
warded according to his own works; ample, if we must admit that they were
would such predestination be inconsists ever sincere christians! We are not
ent with free agency? Ed.
eminent saints would be exclud- ly did our Lord warn his discied from several of our churches. ples, against despising the least There is reason to believe, that of his friends? How fearful in some of our towns, inen of the was the woe pronounced on those fairest characters, to whose up- who should throw a stumbling rightness the most important in- block in the way of his feeblest terests are entrusted, whose lives followers? Can we guard too are most useful, whose chari- solicitously against the guilt of ties are most extensive, whose obstructing the progress
any, conduct in their social relations who discover a sincere regard to is most blameless, and whose the authority of our common contributions for the ministry. Lord? are most liberal, are denied the The question now offers, what benefit of the very institutions is the duty of those, who are exwhich they support, and are cluded from the church by the virtually treated as heathens.
operation of unscriptural creeds Were this a slight evil, I and confessions?
This question would not so earnestly urge it on is beginning to be agitated by the attention of christians. But laymen, and deserves the considis it nothing to shut a disciple eration of the judicious and exof Jesus from the church and ta- perienced. What shall these ble of his Master? Is it nothing persons do? Shall they leave to expel those, whom Jesus in the societies, where religious vites! Is it nothing to limit the privileges are denied them, and benefits of religious institutions form new churches on a scriptur. Do I not receive a serious injury al foundation? or shall they when I am excluded from some seek admission into churches of of the most efficacious methods other towns, which maintain which my Saviour has appointed catholic principles of communfor improving my character, and ion? These are obvious methods preparing me for heaven? Shall of relief; but they are not withI resist every invasion of my out dangers. Will they not dicivil rights, and shall I suffer vide our churches, and give the dearer privileges of religion birth to many unchristain feelto be wrested from me? To ex- ings? Can no milder method be clude from the church those who devised? Cannot christian min. profess to receive Jesus Christ isters be persuaded to review as their Lord and Saviour, and their creeds, and to ask themwhose conduct is consistent with selves seriously, whether they their professions, because they contain no articles which a man cannot assent to articles which may doubt and yet be considerare expressed in phrases of man's ed, in the view of charity, a folinvention, and which
lower of Jesus? Cannot minis. where declared in scripture to ters be persuaded to employ their be essential to the christian char- influence in substituting simple acter, to do this is to assume a and intelligible declarations of power, offensive to Christ, and scripture for ambiguous phrases injurious to man. How solomn- and long contested doctrinese
This is most devoutly to be wish mon Lord, as they regard the ed, and this would at once re charitable spirit of his gospel, inove the evil.
as they desire the peace
and We hope that we shall not be improvement of his church, that considered as impeaching the they will generally consider the christian sincerity of churches evil which has now been exposand ministers, whose creeds are ed, and will most cautiously abopen to objection. The injury stain from every act or requisithey commit, though great, is un tion which may exclude from the intentional. Their error belongs fellowship and privileges of the to the judgment, and not to the church, those whom Jesus acheart. Far from reproaching cepts, and who are equally enwith bitterness, we would ten titled with themselves to the derly beseech them, as they re name of christians. vere the authority of our com
JONES' ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS.
In the introduction to Jones' he had perused the works of Illustrations of the Four Gospels, Irenæus, and the recognitions of a work of great learning and Clement, with proper atteution, merit, lately published in Eng- he would have come at the truth land, I find the following state- in a direct road, and probably ment. “A Sweedish professor have met with complete success. has given an account of a Jewish Irenæus says, that John publishsect still in existence, which was ed his gospel to exterminate the founded by John the Baptist, and errors of the Gnostics. This which ascribed to him an writer was a disciple of Polythority superior to Jesus. This carp, who had been personally account is translated by Micha- acquainted with St. John. He elis, who supposes that John the had, therefore, the best means of Evangelist wrote his gospel to information; and it appears proconfute the errors of the Gnosties, bable, that the assurance of the and of the Sabians, the name of object, which the evangelist bad which distinguishes the disciples in view, thus impressed on his of the Baptist. And so import- mind, first suggested the idea of ant does the German critic think writing an account of the Gnos. the discovery to be, that the ob- tic heretics.” “The book, comscurity, in which St. John's gos- prehending the recognitions and pel had been involved, was at homilies, ascribed to Clement once dissipated by it. Micha- of Rome, is not deemed genuine elis has applied the discovery by Lardner and some others, but to the elucidation of this gospel; the composition of an Ebionite but he does not, by what he calls towards the close of the second a totally new light, appear to century. When duly examined, have been successful in remov however, it appears to have been ing its obseurities. If, however, published much earlier. The