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from heat a shade." Visionary schemes and cob-web experiments in politics and religion begin, by many, to be held in just contempt; and things which are far better, to be duly appreeiated. The stern and awful features of adulterated orthodoxy begin to relax and soften into smiles, and the wan and lifeless countenance of pseudo-catholicism begins to assume more an¬ imating, and well-proportioned, and interesting features. Not a few begin more clearly to discover the difference between religious usurpation and intolerance, and christian liberty and rights; between dogmatism and anathemas, and luminous reas oning and gospel philanthropy; between the turbid swelling waters which burst from a human fountain, and the pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal issuing from the throne of God and the Lamb. Nor do they less distinguish the difference between the pleasant fruits which are abundantly produced by the immortal tree which grows on the bank of this beautiful river, and the fruit
"Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Nor does this discrimination fail, at least in some measure, te produce the effects which might be reasonably hoped and expected.
These things are a happy presage of a not far distant arrival of that auspicious day, when "the envy of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; when Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim;" when "the watchmen shall see eye to eye;" when ev ery wall of partition between the different tribes and denominations of men shall be broken down; when none other than the gospel standard shall be erected, to which all nations shall flow, when the whole human family shall "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;" when "every knee shall bow at the name of Jesus, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
In the pleasing anticipation of that blessed day, and in the devout hope that its mild and cheering dawn will soon be seen and happily realized in this dark and chilling region,, is the heart's desire and prayer to God of your friendly although rejeeted brother. JACOB NORTON,
TRINITARIAN PROFESSORS OF RELIGION.
Fellow Christians, and Beloved in the Lord,
PERMIT me to address you, in the view of the preceding letter, as well with a spirit of ingenuous concern and fidelity, as of meekness and love.
My object is to solicit your serious and impartial attention, briefly, to several subjects, which you must esteem as highly interesting and important, and as having a strong claim to the dispassionate and unbiassed exercise of your understandings, and to your practical regard.
You profess to be the disciples and friends of Jesus Christ, the benevolent founder of our holy religion, whose spirit is tolerant, fostering, mild, conciliatory, pacific and beneficent.
To possess. and to be guided by this spirit, is the ornament and the glory of the christian character. And to encourage and promote its exercise, to the utmost of our power, is as well a precious privilege, as an important and indispensable duty. But is this privilege duly estimated? Is this duty suitably discharged? If weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, must you not find yourselves, in relation to this subject, censurably wanting? Is it not a subject for deep regret, that ceremonials ju religion, unscriptural words, and phrases, and formularies, and difference in opinion with respect to religious subjects, which are either of minor importance, or too abstruse to be casily and clearly understood, should set at variance, and too-often at irreconcileable variance, those, who sincerely love our Lord Jesus Christ, and whose hearts are attached to that religion which he taught and inculcated? That this should be the ease, is deeply to be deplored; and that the evil might be removed, is devoutly to be wished. But is this evil of such a nature as not to admit of removal? It is hoped, it is indeed presumed that it is not. Let the attempt be suitably made to renounce it, and desirable success, it is confidently believed, will be the result.
What then is to be done? What have you to do, my christian brethren, in this interesting and important business? You will not plead, I would presume, that you have no concern in it. You are to "arise, for this matter belongeth unto you. Be of good courage, and do it." And as you would accomplish it in
the best manner, and to the best effect, you will not neglect to imbibe, more copiously, the spirit of the gospel. This spirit "suffereth long, and is kind. It envieth not: vannteth not itself: is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly; seeketh not her own is not easily provoked; thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things; believeth all things; hopeth all things; endureth all things." Let this spirit have that governing influence over your minds, and hearts, and conduct, which it ought to have, and a dividing spirit, a spirit of angry and unhallowed contention, a spirit of bigotry, censoriousness and denunciation, will happily subside or disappear. But how, my brethren, is the charitable and divine spirit of the gospel, in the most successful manner, to be cherished and promoted; and the opposite spirit to be discountenanced and suppressed? Is it not by holding the gospel in that high and unrivalled estimation, which will effectually influence your minds and your hearts to embrace it, as the exclusive rule of your faith and practice? A departure from this rule, by the establishment of human creeds and formularies, as tests of orthodoxy and terms of christian fellowship, has, in a great measure, been the occasion of obscuring the mild and cheering light of the gospel. of covering the christian world with darkness, of dividing christians into angry, and contentious, and bitter factions; of substituting many gross and senseless superstitions, and the most idle and ridiculous rites and ceremonies, in the room of the plain doctrines and significant and simple rites and ceremonies, taught and inculcated in the gospel. It has, in a word, been instrumental, and in various ways, of great and incalculable evil to the cause and interest of pure and undefiled christianity. But are christians in general, are you, my brethren, chargeable, with no departure from the safe and infallible standard of the gospel, as the rule of faith and practice? Happy were it for yourselves, and for our common christianity, were you chargeable with no such departure.
I am not unaware, that you profess to receive the inspired scriptures as the only rule of your faith and practice. But while in words you make this profession, yet do you not in deeds seem to deny it? Do not many of you practically say, that these scriptures are not a competent criterion, or test, by which to judge, what are the necessary qualifications for admission to the special ordinances of Christ's visible kingdom! If this is not the language of your conduet, most devoutly do I wish to be convinced of it. But so long as you countenance and insist upon an assent to articles of faith of human device, as an indispensable requisite for the admission of your fellow christians to your fellowship and communion, must it not be admitted, that you treat the divine scriptures as an incompetent test of chris
lian orthodoxy, and of the christian character? And does not your conduct seem strongly indicative of that want of confidence in respect and reverence for these scriptures, to which they have a most just and solemn claim?
If these scriptures are, indeed, in your estimation, a sufficient, a full, and a clear rule of faith and practice, why will you substitute and tenaciously cling to another, drawn up and methodized in words of man's invention? Why will you refuse, and persist in refusing to admit to your christian communion, those who profess their faith in the holy scriptures, as containing all, and their only articles of religious faith, and who visibly maintain the christian character? Why will not those scriptures enable you to judge as correctly of their hearts and lives, as any human creed, or supplement, or appendage to the inspired volume? I would rather ask,do not those scriptures furnish you with a better, and a much better rule, for thus judging, than any such creed, supplement, or appendage? Why, then, do you wish for-why insist upon any other rule than that which the inspired scriptures furnish? Is there nothing in this, which appears to you incongruous, unjustifiable, and censurable ?
On what principle, let me ask, is this policy of human origin and patronage, defensible? Would you not view it as most un, reasonable, imposing and tyrranous, were you required to give your assent to the religious dogmas of the church of Rome, or of any other corrupt and erroneous church, in order to your enjoying the privilege of a seat at the Lord's table? And in case your consciences were to constrain you to withhold your assent, your names were to be cast out as evil, and you were to be viewed and treated as "symbolizers with Infidels and Pagans," would you not think yourselves greatly injured, and the pure religion of the gospel as highly disrespected and abused? Why then will you require your fellow christians to assent to a creed of human fabrication, as a term of their admission to your fellowship, and in case they withhold assent, treat them in the manner as above stated? You are to bear in mind, that human creeds, of every description, are founded on the same general principles, and supported by the same general arguments. You' cannot, therefore, plead for the creed of your own forming, without virtually pleading the cause of every other creed of human form, however erroneous and absurd.
Although it is not my design to enter into a discussion of articles of faith of human device, or to decide with respect to their general correctness or incorrectness, yet I beg leave to solicit your serious and solemn attention to a particular article, to which you profess to give your assent, and to which you require the assent of others, as a term of christian communion. The article to which I refer, is that which relates to the doctrine of the Trinity, and which asserts that there are three per
sons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and that these three are equal in every divine perfection. Do you, christian brethren, assent to this article with your understanding? Have you any distinct ideas of its imports? If not, how can you satisfy your consciences in professing to assent to it? Can it be justifiable in the sight of God, or in the view of any unprejudiced and reflecting mind, to profess to believe, and in the most solemn manner, in the truth of a proposition, the terms of which are unintelligible? Is not such a profession, to say the least, an act of trifling with our holy religion, and even its divine author? But are not religious transactions, of all others, the most solemn and sacred? Can they be trifled with, without incurring guilt? Can they be acceptable to God, or profitable to man, if they have not the sanction and suffrage of the understanding? Can you reflect on this subject, and feel no remonstrance of conscience against assenting to the article under consideration, and requiring assent to it from others, as a test of their religious character, and as their passage to your christian charity? Do you pretend to understand the import of this mysterious, and, as Dr. Watts expresses it, strange doctrine? Do you understand by it, that the Son and Spirit of God, are distinct intelligent persons, beings, or agents, and equal to God the Father in every divine perfection? If you understand the article in this sense, and believe it to be true, do you not, in assenting to it, profess to believe in three selfexistent, independent, and infinitely perfect Gods or Deities? But if by this article you understand any thing essentially dif ferent from this, do you not perceive, that the Son and Spirit must be, in your estimation, essentially different in character or perfections from the Father? Whether, then, you assent to this doctrine or article, as implying, either that the Son and Holy Spirit of God are distinct intelligent persons, beings, or agents, and equal to God the Father; or, as implying something essentially different, must not your profession involve you in the absurd and shocking doctrine of tritheism, or in the doctrine of the inequality of the Son and Spirit with the Father? But is it not true, that you assent to this mysterious article in neither of these senses, nor in any distinct and intelligible sense whatever? Pardon me the wrong, my brethren, if I misrepresent you. But while I believe that I do not, I can contemplate your conduct in relation to this subject, with none other, than with feelings of deep regret and concern. And this regret and concern are not a little increased, when I farther contemplate the lamentable effects which this doctrine produces on your minds and conduct, in regard to those, who, in speaking of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, use the pure and intelligible words of scripDo you not view and treat them, as espousing a most dangerous and alarming error? as unworthy of your christian