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ture. They also prove that the God of Providence is the God of the Bible :
“ Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have jollowed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily, I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, ur mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive a hundred-fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with perseoutions; and in the world to come, eternal life." Mark x. 28-30.
You may also open your Bible and read the whole of the thirtyseventh Psalm.
And while “in the keeping of God's commandments there is a great reward,” the way of transgressors is the way of danger and lifficulty and destruction. Thus speaketh the Apostle:
“ But they that will be rich, fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil : which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things: and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience. meekness.” 1 Tim. vi. 9, 10, 11.
The love of money and a hasting to get rich, is the great sin of a large number of the professors of christianity at the present day. This sin is also the fruitful parent of other sins, and of innumerable other evils. Every attentive observer of things, must be convinced that a very large portion of the jealousies and divisions and want of confidence among the members of the same worshipping assembly, and among the brethren of the same religious denomination, is to be traced to this predominant sin. Let a church member's supposed worldly interest be touched or put in jeopardy by any movement of a fellowmember, and all christian confidence and all comfortable christian action with respect to these two members, and with respect to a large portion of their friends and associates, are in many cases gone forever.
It is worthy of notice also, that the supreme love of the world, and all the envies and jealousies and evil-speaking and lukewarmness in religion, which are necessarily produced and cherished by it, may exist--yea, may visibly and eminently exist,---and yet the man keep his standing and his influence in the church of God. This is very distinctly taught in the case of those who received the good seed among thorns.
" And these are they which are sown among thorns ; such as hear the word, And the cares of this wor!d, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” Mark iv. 18, 19.
Oh, when will the professed followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ know and feel the import of the declaration, “ What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?” It is to be feared that there are very few indeed, in any of our churches, who would relinquish the possession of a good farm, or even give up the prospect of gain from a very small and doubtful kind of stock, for the sake of the Redeemer or a good conscience.
Those who are praying and laboring for the peace of Jerusalem, must endeavor to eradicate from themselves, this root of bitterness ; they must set their affections on things which are above---keep their eyes on their hearts more steadily than ever they have yet done on the inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth
Among all civilized nations, pagan as well as christian, there have been earnest discussion and warm controversy on a particular circle of topics, which seem but little nearer an adjustment now than when they were first started. Milton represents the fallen angels as being engaged in these discussions immediately after their apostacy and expulsion from heaven.
Others apart sat on a hill retir'd,
striking illustration of the identity of the topics of religious controversy and of the method of treating them from age to age, is afforded by the title page of a book, which was first printed in Engand two centuries ago. The name of Richard Baxter is familiar to us all, for his admirable treatises. The Call to the Unconverted, and The Saints Everlasting Rest, have endeared his memory to christians throughout the world. This good man had been much engaged in controversy, and towards the latter part of his life he published a work, of whose title page the following is an exact copy :
“ Richard Baxter's Catholick Theologie, plain, pure, peaceable ; for purification of the dogmatical word-warriors, who, 1. by contending about things unrevealed or not understood—2. And by taking verbal differences for real, and their arbitrary notions for essential sacred truths, deceived and deceiving by ambiguous unexplained words, have long been the shame of the Christian religion, a scandal and hardening to unbelievers, the incendiaries, dividers and distracters of the church, the occasion of state discords and wars, the corrupters of the christian faith, and the subverters of their own souls and their followers, calling them to a blind zeal and wrathful warfare against true piety, love, and peace, and teaching them to censure, backbite, slander, and prate against each other for things which they never understood.
In three books—I. Pacifying principles, about God's Decrees, Foreknowledge, Providence, Operations, Redemption, Grace, Man's Power, Freewill, Justification, Merits, Certainty of Salvation, Perseverance, &c.
II. A pacifying praxis or dialogue about the five articles, justification, &c. proving that men have contended almost only about ambigu ous words and unrevealed things.
III. Pacifying disputations against some real errors which hinder reconciliation, namely, about physical predetermination, original sin, the extent of redemption, inefficient grace, imputation of righteous
&c. Written chiefly for posterity when sad experience hath taught men to hate theological logical wars, and to love, and seek, and call for peace. Ex bello pax."
Though this was written for Great Britain two centuries ago, the whole of it would seem expressly designed for the controversies which at this moment agitate our own church : the “posterity” for whom it was “ chiefly written” by its pious author, whom “sad experience hath taught to hate theological logical wars, and to love, seek, and call for peace," it would seem is not yet born; and all the movement which has been made since, it appears, is movement in a circle, which has brought us back to the precise spot where we stood in the days of Baxter.
It will be my object, in this and some following papers, to point out
the Nature and Causes of Theological Controversy, its mischiefs, and their remedy.
I. Nature of Theological Controversy.
There are three things pertaining to the religious life of man in this world, namely, religion, theology and ecclesiastics. Religion is the unning of the soul to God. The word is derived from the Latin verb ligo or religo, which signifies to bind or make part; and it designates that uniting of the affections with God, that binding of the desires to him, which conform the human character to the divine, and make God the centre of human actions and the communication of human hopes. This is what is essential for each individual of the human race, without this there is no real happiness in time or in eternity, and with it there is heaven in this life, and in the life to come joy unspeakable and full of glory without interruption and without end.
Theology is the arranging of the ideas which pertain to religion according to some system of metaphysical philosophy; exhibiting the relations and the consistency of these ideas with each other, and defining and limiting the several terms which are used to convey them.
Ecclesiastics embrace the method of collecting people into religious societies, the social and official relations and duties arising out of those societies, the order of public worship, rites and ceremonies, and in general, whatever pertains to the physical and external excitements and expressions of religious emotion.
Theology and ecclesiastics are of no value except as they are helpers to religion; they are, if I may so express it, the shed under which religion shelters herself
sinful men, the two feet on which she stands and walks in this material world. Or, to use a still morę familiar illustration, I would say, that religion is the food, theology the plate, and ecclesiastics the table. Now, though the table and its appropriate furniture are great conveniences and quite essential to the refinements of civilized life; yet they may be of various fashions and of very different degrees of richness and elegance, which, if the food be wholesome, our health will not be affected by the meanness or the richness, the sparseness or the abundance of the furniture. Indeed, in case of necessity, we may dispense with the furniture altogether without suffering by it; and probably there was never a more cheerful and hearty meal made than when the whole multitude, &c. of five thousand men, besides women and children, sat down upon the green grass, and our Lord took the five loaves and two fishes, without knife, plate, or table, and blessed God and brake the loaves and divided the fishes among them all, each taking his portion into his hands, and eating with a good relish to satisfy his hunger. (Mark vi. 40.) So it is with religion. We can enjoy it and live upon it, directly as it comes from the hands of Christ, without either theology or ecclesiastics, - It is manifest that there is, and ever has been, very little difference of opinion among experimental christians as to what constitutes true religion. On this, the more essential, and we may say, indeed, the only essential point, they are very nearly, if not entirely agreed. All their disputes, or at least all their violent, extensive, and alienating disputes, pertain either to theology or ecclesiastics.
II. The causes of theological controversy.
1. The native peculiarities of different minds, sometimes de nominated idiosyneracies.
There is as great diversity in the structure of the mind as in the form and expression of the countenance; and it is as impossible for all men to view the same subject in precisely the same light as it is for them to look exactly alike. These idiosyncracies are clearly manifested by the sacred writers themselves. Paul does not make the same exposition of faith that James does, and Peter does not present the same aspects of truth that John does; but each presents the same great truths with such diversities of form as the peculiarities of each mind rendered most congenial to itself. These natural peculiarities, therefore, and the structure of the Bible cooperating with them, will produce some diversity of views among christians so long as the world stands.
2. Education; and in this term I here include all the external influences which combine to modify character.
In one age and country, some particular error is predominant, and religious instruction is so shaped as to meet and refute this error ; in another
age and country a different error predominates, and religious instruction is directed to meet that ; and in each case the system of truth in the mind becomes differently modified. There are various other influences which tend to a similar result, such as climate, soil, customs, political institutions, intellectual habits, &c.
From these two causes, therefore, idiosyncracies and education, diversities of views will arise, and such diversities, so far from being injurious to the cause of truth, are a decided advantage to it. It is the same truth viewed on different sides. Human capacity is so limited that no one mind can take in all the aspects of a subject at once. Complete views are obtained only by a careful comparison of the impressions of many different minds. Should several artists wish to describe or to represent by painting some beautiful building or celebrated natural prospect, and one should approach it from the north and another from the south, one from the east and another from the west; they would each give a different view, each of the views