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fellowship that ought to be demanded: for Christ has told us, By their fruits ye shall know them; and we ought to conclude a man's faith to be right, if his conduct be so; since a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Great and good men do not agree about what are the essential doctrines of the Gospel; but concerning a man's conduct, there can be but one opinion.
Is this true? Is it not as difficult to determine between essentials and non-essentials in conduct, as in doctrine? Who will undertake to say what precise degree of outward morality is indispensably necessary to prove a man to be really pious; or how much bad conduct is consistent with a state of grace and salvation ? To draw such a line is just as difficult as to draw the line between essential and non-essential doctrines; and men would differ as much about the former as the latter. To make a man's practice, then, the sole test of his piety, does not at all relieve this peculiar difficulty of the subject, and we are more liable to mistake his true character, if we judge of it alone by his practice, than if we judge of it by his faith and practice; since he can more easily deceive us in regard to one, than in regard to both. In the first case, we have but one criterion of his piety; in the other, we have two.
We return, then, with increased convictions of its truth, to the position, that a professed belief in the essential doctrines of the Bible, and a correspondent practice, are the indispensable conditions of Christian fellowship. And hence the conclusion forces itself upon us, that the Orthodox minister, who believes that Unitarians deny one or more of these essential doctrines, cannot, without inconsistency and unfaithfulness to Christ, exchange pulpit services with them; since such exchanges must be regarded as a most decided expression of fellowship. And if, with a view to justify himself, he pretend that there is not an essential difference between the two systems, this is a virtual abandonment of the Orthodox faith.
Several objections, however, are urged against the exclusion of Unitarians from Orthodox pulpits. To these objections we will now direct our attention : premising, however, that when any. particular rule of duty is clearly shown to be contained in the Bible, no considerations whatever, derived from any other source, can release us from the obligation of acting according to that rule.
It is said that there are many Unitarians whose belief is by no means so lax as has been represented; that some even profess to believe in the atonement, and in regeneration; and while they are silent in regard to the divine character of Christ, do nevertheless acknowledge him to be an all-sufficient Saviour ; and that others are silent in regard to all the doctrines of the Orthodox, expressing neither a belief nor disbelief of them. And shall the Orthodox minister indiscriminately refuse fellowship to all such, simply because they are not prepared to acknowledge the doctrine of the Trinity ? If the Orthodox minister is satisfied that any man, of whatever name, believes in all the essential doctrines of the Gospel, the principles we have endeavored to establish do not forbid him, but require him, to admit such an one to his fellowship, if his life correspond to his belief. But in respect to the cases above mentioned, there are several considerations which demand attention.
Does a Unitarian believe in the necessity of a change of heart? But he does not believe in the entire native depravity of the heart, nor in the existence of the Holy Spirit, as a personal agent. According to his views, therefore, men do not need regeneration, nor is there any appropriate agent to perform the work. When, therefore, he talks of regeneration, he means something entirely different from the Orthodox.
In regard to the atonement, most of the Orthodox believe that this doctrine, and the deity of Christ, stand or fall together; since they cannot conceive how a created being can do anything more for God than his obligations impose on him, and, therefore, cannot become an available substitute for other beings. But where is the Unitarian who regards the atonement as a propitiatory sacrifice ? And when this idea is abstracted from the doctrine, what is there of life and saving efficacy lest? Besides, what Unitarian believes the atonement to be an essential doctrine of the Gospel? What minister among them does not admit to his pulpit men who publicly deny the doctrine? And we have shown that when we regard the belief of the doctrine as not indispensable to salvation, we do in fact abandon it. For what does that atonement amount to, which is necessary for one, and not for another; which may be safely believed, and safely rejected ? Surely this is something very different from the doctrine as maintained by the Orthodox.
But you say that some ministers express no decided opinion concerning the Orthodox doctrines, unless it be election and reprobation; their preaching being wholly of a practical character. What! a minister preach sabbath after sabbath, and year after year, and yet express no opinion concerning the essential doctrines of the Bible! Then he does not believe them. His preaching has the same effect as if he denied them; or rather, it has a worse effect: for while he professes not to differ much from the Orthodox, pious people will listen to him without suspicion, and his discourses, being destitute of the savor of Gospel truth, will be exactly of that character which is calculated to deaden religious feeling, and thus prepare the heart for the reception of the grossest errors. This is actually the way in which Unitarianism has been introduced into many of the Evangelical churches of this country. The minister at first professes not to differ much from the Orthodox ; and he preaches in such an ambiguous manner, that some of his hearers understand him to be advancing Unitarianism, and some suppose he means to defend Orthodoxy. Thus he keeps his real sentiments out of sight, until devoted piety is nearly extinguished, until the doctrines of grace are nearly forgotten, and the worldly prejudices of his people are enlisted in his favor; and then he begins to throw off the mask, and to show, that his professed neutrality in regard to sentiments was only an artful stratagem to introduce Unitarianism. Does not such duplicity answer but too well to the descriptions of false teachers given in the Scriptures? They are represented as á not entering the fold by the door, but as climbing up some other way ;' as “privily bringing in damnable heresies,' and as creeping in unawares. Creeping in unawares! how exactly descriptive of the progress of error! · Is it not obvious, then, that a real Unitarian, who conceals his sentiments under the mask of great moderation, and professes to be in doubt on the subject, is more dangerous than one who openly declares his sentiments? To exchange with the former, then, will exert a more powerful influence in favor of error than with the latter. There may, indeed, be found cases of this mixed character, that will greatly perplex the Orthodox minister in regard to exchanges; but the fact that a man does not openly deny the doctrines of the Gospel, is merely negative evidence in his favor; and ought not the man who believes these doctrines, to require something more than negative evidence, as a condition of fellowship? Why should a minister be desirous of concealing his opinions of Gospel truth, unless he is acting a double part, or is more lax than ; the world suppose him to be? If his silence concerning the doco! trines of the Gospel be negative evidence in his favor, is not his neglect to preach them to his people positive evidence against him?
Besides all this, if the Orthodox minister exchange with one man, who is generally regarded as a Unitarian, even if he approximates towards Orthodoxy, the great mass of mankind, who do not make nice distinctions, will regard it as a public testimony, that between such a minister and Unitarians generally there is no essential difference.
But Christ has declared, “By their fruits ye shall know them.' Now it is said that many Unitarian clergymen, by correct and exemplary lives, give as good evidence of piety as any class of men. How shall the Orthodox dare pronounce such in dangerous error, and exclude them from their fellowship?
If anything be taught in the Bible, it is, that a right state of heart is as necessary to prove a man's piety, as a right state of conduct. Now the Orthodox believe, as a general fact, that a right state of heart disposes a man to embrace the essential doctrines of the Gospel, when they are clearly presented to him; and hence, they must regard a reception of those doctrines as necessary to prove a right state of heart. A correct visible morality will not prove this; since this may consist with the absence of everything spiritual, and a deep rooted hostility to God.
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But to refuse exchanges is to erect an arbitrary and unscriptural standard; it is to lay claim to infallibility ; it is to say to others as good as ourselves, Stand by thyself ; I am holier than thou. ..
The Orthodox minister does not pretend that he is insallibly right, and Unitarians infallibly wrong. But he claims the right of free inquiry and private judgment; the right to examine the Bible for himself; the right of believing such truths as he finds taught in it, and the right of acting according to that belief. And these same rights he cheerfully yields to the Unitarian. On examining the Scriptures, with prayer and every help within his reach, he thinks he finds there the doctrines of Orthodoxy; while the Unitarian arrives at an opposite conclusion; and both of them practise accordingly: that is, in the case under consideration, the Unitarian admits the Orthodox to fellowship, because he conceives that there is no essential difference in their belief; while the Orthodox refuses such fellowship, because he believes that difference to be essential. But on what ground can the Orthodox man be charged with erecting an unscriptural and arbitrary standard, and of claiming infallibility, more than the Unitarian? Both of them are merely acting agreeably to the directions which they suppose they find in the Bible.
It is said, however, that if, after all, the Orthodox minister may be wrong, and the Unitarian right, then is it rash and presumptuous to refuse exchanges.
A man, then, must act contrary to the dictates of conscience, because it is possible he may be mistaken. If so, men must refuse to act in almost every circumstance: for how seldom is it, that they can obtain infallible evidence to guide them. In cases where the life of a prisoner is depending, judges and juries do not hesitate to decide, because they have nothing but probable evidence before them-nothing but the fallible evidence of men. Why then should the Christian minister refuse to act, when he has the testimony of God to direct him? If the possibility of mistaking that testimony should deter him from acting in this case, it is a reason equally good, for neglecting to follow the Bible in every other case; since
he can never be infallibly sure that his interpretation is correct. as any es Another argument in favor of exchanges, is, that to refuse them,
manifests a narrow, exclusive, and intolerant spirit, totally incon
sistent with the liberal views and noble feelings which Christianity a right su inspires.
Why did not the apostles treat all men as Christian brethren? Because they had not sufficient evidence that they were truly pious; and consequently their duty to the world and their Master forbade them to extend their fellowship to all they met. They
admitted to their fellowship only those, in whose faith and practice morality they thought they saw evidence of genuine piety; and whenever of events Christians, since their days, have departed from this rule, the con
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sequence has ever been, that vital godliness has been deeply wounded, if not destroyed. But if the apostles had a right to exclude from their fellowship any, whose faith or practice they judged to be essentially wrong, why have not Christians at this day the same right; for it does not appear that the apostles were guided by inspiration in this matter, since they received to their communion some hypocrites. And if Christians at this day are exclusive and intolerant in following this rule, so were the apostles.
It is said, however, by the advocates of these exchanges, We have an example in point, of one who was greater than the apostles. Christ himself did not scruple to hold fellowship with the heretical and corrupt Jews; whom no one will dare to say were less erroneous than Unitarians.'
When Christ came into the world, the only visible church on earth consisted of the Jewish people; and if there were any true believers among men, they belonged to that church. Christ saw fit, for a time, to attach himself to this church, as the only divine institution on earth, until he could prepare the way for the introduction of a new dispensation, and could establish a church, on essentially the same principles indeed, but remodelled, and different in its rites and ceremonies. That preparation was not completed, until near the close of Christ's earthly labors; but at the last passover, which he kept with his disciples, he formally introduced these changes, and henceforth the Jewish and the Christian churches were separated forever. It appears, therefore, that Christ remained in communion with the corrupt Jewish church no longer than the peculiar circumstances of the case rendered it necessary.
It is evident, however, continues the advocate of exchanges, that even at the time when the Eucharist was introduced, Christ's disciples had no just conceptions of the nature of his religion, and especially, that they did not understand his approaching sufferings as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the world. And if Christ could admit those to his fellowship who knew nothing of the Orthodox doctrine of atonement, who shall dare refuse fellowship . at this day to those who cannot receive that doctrine?
If the apostles at the time of Christ's death had no adequate conceptions of the design of his sufferings, what was the reason? Simply, because the vicarious nature of his sacrifice had never been fully disclosed to their minds. But just so soon as the doctrine was explained to them, they embraced it with eagerness and joy, as their subsequent writings testify; and they embraced it, because their hearts were prepared to receive it, having love to God implanted in them. So we can conceive of a case at this day, in which a man may give evidence of piety, who never heard of the atonement; yet the moment that doctrine is explained to him, he will receive it. But we are not now speaking of such peculiar cases. We speak of men, who, having had the doctrine of the atonement