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fellowship, and as unworthy of the christian name? To what source is this your view, and this your treatment of them, to be traced, but your strange attachment to words and phrases of human invention, which are neither explained nor understood, in relation to this "strange" doctrine? Do not your dissenting and rejected brethren profess to believe every thing which the Scripture says concerning the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do they not express, what they believe respecting them, in scriptural, and therefore, intelligible language? Do they not hold in equally high estimation, as yourselves, the HolySpirit of God? And do they not hold in much higher estimation than you do, the Son of God? Of the truth of this, I am fully persuaded; nor can I but believe, that the same persuasion would be yours, were you, without prepossession or bias, to attend to the statement which they make of their sentiments, and the arguments which they urge in support of them. Impressed with this belief, I cannot but consider your view and treatment of your dissenting brethren, as highly injurious with respect to them, as operating to the discredit of the system of orthodoxy in general, and as hurtful and dangerous in regard to yourselves. Are you not sensible, that the expressions which you use in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity are, generally, unscriptural, and, as many of your christian brethren believe, anti-scriptural? But are you under no apprehension, in doing this, that you add to the words of divine prophecy! Besides, does not the use of such expressions tend very greatly to obscure the light of divine truth, to perplex the serious and enquiring mind, to produce and perpetuate unprofitable, intemperate, unchristian and schismatic disputes; to weaken and destroy christian charity and affection, and to create and cherish a spirit of suspicion, of jealousy, of bitterness, and of vain and wretched jangling among brethren, who might otherwise dwell together in unity.
Permit me, christian brethren, earnestly to entreat, to urge you very seriously and prayerfully to examine, to re-examine, and solemnly to reflect on these things, that you may satisfactorily ascertain whether you are not utterly in a fault" with respect to them. If this really be the case, (and I am strongly apprehensive that it, indeed, is) there is no time to be lost in correcting your errors, in retracing your steps, and in turning them into the "old paths, the good way," the way of divine revelation.
Is it not the part of wisdom and duty to abandon words, and phrases, and inventions of human device, as religious tests and standards by which to try either your own hearts, or the hearts of others? Such tests and standards are, at best, but fallible
and very uncertain. Nor indeed is it in our power, by any rule whatever, whether human or divine, to determine with certainty, whose heart is right in the view of God. The best and the only rule which we have of judging on this subject, is the fruits which a man produces in his life and conversation. If these are good, we have the best evidence we can have that his heart is good also. This is the only rule which the great Founder. of our mild and holy religion has furnished, by which to regu, late our charity and practice towards others. Why, then, shall we not embrace, and strictly adhere to this rule of Christ as our sole directory? This rule, as the guide of our charity and conduct towards others, is in the highest degree good, and wise, and excellent, and safe. Why, then, would you wish to substitute one in its room, which, on mature reflection, I would fain believe, you must be convinced is far from being either so good or so safe? The rule of Christ needs no substitute. It requires no amendment. Can any substitution or amendment then be made to it, with other than rash and irreverent hands?
Dear brethren, I beseech you diligently to ponder these things in your hearts. Seriously enquire whether you have not inconsiderately, unreasonably, and even criminally departed from the simplicity of the faith and spirit of the gospel, in relation to the things which have now passed in your review? Should you be convinced that this is indeed the case, may it not be hoped, and confidently expected, that, under the influence of that religion and policy which stand not in the wisdom of men, but which is without partiality and without hypocrisy, you will explicitly and practically acknowledge your error? Will you, not only with a spirit of meekness and charity, but with a noble independence and magnanimity of mind, dare to acknowledge and avouch the inspired seriptures as the sole rule of your faith and practice? To patronize that religion which consists, not in unintelligible mysteries and speculative opinions; or which is entangled with the strife of words which man's wisdom inventeth; but which consists in poorness of spirit; in mourning under a sense of sin; in meekness; in hungering and thirsting after righteousness; in a merciful disposition and conduct; in purity of heart and life; in studying the things which make for peace, and in the practice of whatsoever things are true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report? Will you not place more confidence in, and more highly estimate a religion of this character, than in that, which consists in words, in professions, in supposed or real orthodox opinions, in high and irregular excitement of the passions, in tumultuary emotions of mind, or in any articles which compose a human creed?
Will you not give countenance and encouragement, in every suitable way, to your public teachers, to each other, and to all within the sphere of your influence, to a free and diligent study of the holy scriptures, and to an open and unreserved communication of the result of their studies and researches ? Will you not do every thing in your power to promote scriptural knowledge, and to make the study of the scriptures appear, as it really is, of all other studies, the most safe, useful, and important? And will you not indignantly frown upon any measures which are, or may be adopted and pursued, to attach more weight and importance to the words, and phrases, and theories of fallible and erring man, than to those scriptures which are worthy of all acceptation?
Will you not summon to your aid that christian fortitude which will allow you to call no man master but Christ, and to subscribe to no creed which has not the sanction of his authority ?
"I beseech you, brethren, by the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the truth which he hath sealed with his own blood, very seriously and prayerfully to attend to, and reflect on these things. Beware of an uncharitable and dividing spirit. Lay aside all party and invidious names of distinction. Abandon every narrow, unsocial, and party scheme and pursuit. Where there is difference in sentiment between yourselves and others, which, on neither side, is inconsistent with the spirit of christianity, forbear one another in love. Let it be your steady object to keep, not unity of sounds in the bond of ignorance; nor unity of practice in the bond of hypocrisy; but "the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.' Be not too confident in the correctness of your own opinions, nor too uncharitable in your censures. Enlist yourselves, as christians, under no other head but Christ, and insist on no other term of christian communion, than that which is plainly stated in the gospel. Strenuously, but with the meekness of wisdom, assert the liberty of judging for yourselves, and that liberty in general, by which Christ hath made you free. But forget not to allow others the same privilege with safety to their reputation. Let the Bible be your sole guide in all matters of faith and practice; not merely in pretence, but in deed and in truth." If ye know these things, happy are ye, if ye do them.
Page 10, line 20, from bottom, for omniscent read omniscient. Page 12, line 5, from bottom, dela may.
Page 16, line 18, from bottom, for agenius read agencies. Page 20, line 19, from bottom, for superior read inferior. Page 20, line 22, from bottom, add be after may.
Page 21, line 14, from bottom, add the at the end of the line. Page 47, line 11, from bottom, for "By this" in a note, read
By this," he says, in a note.
Page 47, line 3, from top, for profound read professed.