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necessary to the ends of Christian fellowship, may be beneficial, and is in fact practically important.
A simple profession of belief in the Bible may comprehend all that is important to and obligatory on a Christian ; and it is no less true, that such a profession may be made by a man, who has not a single particle of belief in common with a Christian. It may embrace all the peculiarities of Christianity ; it may embrace any given parts of them; or it may reject them all.
The enlightened, sincere, humble Christian says—I believe in the Bible ; and it may be, that his faith in that volume is well pleasing to God. Another Christian, less enlightened, but equally sincere and humble, says-I believe in the Bible ; and his faith too may be acceptable to God. He may have some error in his belief-and what uninspired man has not ? None of us can measure nicely in any balance of our own construction the degree of error which a man may hold, and yet be saved.
Two men may present themselves, both professing a belief in the Bible; but one acknowledges Jesus Christ as God, and the other denies it; or one believes in the doctrine of angels, of mind independent of matter, and of the resurrection, while the other is a sort of Sadducee, and rejects all the three ; or one believes in the necessity of a spiritual renovation by Divine influence, but the other does not ; and so on. Their diversity of belief, on the one side and on the other, may comprehend all the varieties that have ever been known in the history of Christianity; and yet they both profess to believe in the Bible. This diversity, may go even further. A man may profess to believe in the Bible, under such mental qualifications and reservations, as to make him out a deist-an infidel. When he comes to be examined, and the true character of his faith is developed, he says, perhaps, very frankly, Oh yes, I believe in the Bible as I do in the Koran, or the sacred books of any other religion ; as I do in any literary records, ancient or modern, religious or otherwise, according to their history, as asserting claims to my respect, be it more or less.
It is evident, therefore, that a simple profession of belief in the Bible is so far from determining the character and measure of a man's faith, as a Christian, that it does not even decide whether he be a Christian or an infidel; a pagar
or a Mohammedan. If, therefore, men are to associate together as Christians, and for Christian purposes, they must have some other terms of agreement, than simply that they believe in the Bible. tion, therefore, that such a profession is sufficient, is a false one-false for the objects of Christian fellowship and cnterprise.
It is admitted on all hands, that there are distinct peculiarities in the Christian religion; and it will also be admitted by the majority of Christians, that a profession of belief in this religion ought to be supported by a life that shall exhibit these peculiarities.
“ Ye are a city set on a hill ; ye are the salt of the earth ; ye are the light of the world ; let your light so shine,” &c. “Verily, verily I say unto you, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” “ Marvel not that I said unto you, Ye must be born again.” “ If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own,” &c. “ If any man be in · Christ he is a new creature," &c. Some, indeed, have maintained, that the primitive sense of conversion implies only a coming into the Christian faith and system from Judaism, paganism, or any religious state uncongenial with Christianity. This may possibly be true, if the meaning be extended so far as to embrace a spiritual renovation of the mind and affections by the Spirit of God; but not otherwise. Such evidently was the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. The apostolic epistles evince throughout, that they maintained an inseparable connexion between the peculiarities of Christian faith and practice; and that the practice is as peculiar as the faith. They evidently attached importance to the Christian belief, as being influential over the heart, life, and manners-renovating individuals and renovating society. Christians are exhorted to "hold fast the form of sound
words ;” to “hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering ;” to “ contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints," &c. Departures from the faith are foretold, and the consequences, as being very disastrous. The epistles of John, who lived to a great age, and witnessed numerous apostacies of individuals, and the decline of churches, are full of admonitions on the importance of a correct faith. The most remarkable development of his patriarchal character had a uniform bearing on this practical point.
M. D'Aubigné's philosophical retrospect of the developments of Christianity under the successive periods of the Christian era, as noticed in the previous chapter, if it be admitted to be worthy of respect, shows how much importance has always been attached to doctrine_faithwhich came at last to be systematized ; and for aught that can be seen, with propriety, and for public convenience and advantage. All the inspired records seem to have been contrived to assert, develope, and guard a right faith. Indeed, Christianity would obviously be defective, if it were not thoroughly furnished with the elements of doctrine concerning God, the Saviour, the design of his mission, the character and wants of man, the method devised and the agencies employed for his recovo ery, the future state, &c. &c.
History demonstrates, that Christians have always felt, and still feel—and the world has also been under the same impression—that the followers of Christ are to be distinguished by their faith and practice. They are a chosen and separate people ; and if separate, there must be some public, visible marks of separation.
These consist primarily and formally in the right use and application of the sacramental ordinances by the proper ministerial authority. But the use of the ministry is not only to connect the church with the inspired records, as the source of its authority, but also as the fountain of religious belief. These records, since completed, are to the world simply a collection of literary compositions, satisfactorily attested as having emanated from the Divine mind. Yet, they are in truth literary records simply, in
their palpable forms, the meaning of which is to be determined by fair and reasonable rules of exegesis ; and when rightly interpreted, they exhibit the elements of Christian faith.
Although one passage of Scripture may throw light on another, within the range of the record, yet Scripture cannot interpret itself as a whole. That is to say, a creed cannot be constructed out of its own language solely, as the medium of conveying its meaning. For example :-If one or more passages of Scripture be cited to explain another, and so on, till the entire record is quoted, the student has been reasoning in a circle, and finds himself in the end just where he was when he began, and no wiser as to the meaning of the whole. He is lodged in a truism, that the Bible is the Bible. This investigation may have increased his knowledge and his knowledge of the records examined; such must have been the result; but it will have determined no matter of faith between him and a second person, as to what the Bible declares, or reveals. The inspired record alone and nothing more, in this round, will be before the public as common property; and the question still returns—what is its meaning ?: Citing Scripture, therefore, to explain Scripture, cannot be a Creed, or Confession of faith. It is simply saying—We believe in the Bible.
It amounts to this :--That other forms of language must be used and applied, as a commentary, or medium of exhibiting and conveying the sense of Scripture to a community of minds. Consequently, other forms of language must be used in a creed to declare and profess a common faith, deduced from and founded on the Scriptures. This needs no further proof.
The Bible is replete with elementary principles of morals and religion, distinctly developed, yet running and melting into each other, as a beautiful and harmonious whole, or system. It is not ordinarily deemed either important or convenient for a creed, designed as a standard of Christian fellowship, and as a basis of concert in action and enterprise, to embrace every item of these principles; but only, that it should be a summary of doc
trine--a comprehensive statement of the great, fundamental, and leading principles of Christianity. It is manifest, that there must be something of this kind to constitute a common ground to stand upon.
Christianity is pre-eminently a religion of sentimenta religion begetting decided, strong, ardent feeling. And the feelings thus produced are the result of two causes in their combined and concentrated action, viz. speculative views and Divine influence the first instrumental and the last efficient. But the last cannot or will not act but in coincidence with the light, which the first has thrown in upon the mind. The vitality and power of genuine religious sentiment depend upon correct doctrinal views, or on a correct faith. For example: On correct views of God, of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit ; of man in his primitive and fallen condition; of the principle of atonement by the death of the Saviour; of the Mediatorial office; of the office of the Spirit; of the lost condition of man, as an individual, and as a race ; of the advantages to be gained by the use and application of the remedy, &c. The light of the Christian scheme, as a whole, bursting in upon the mind of man-supposing that he had none of it before—would be like the day that follows night. And it amounts to the same thing in the end, whether it comes at once, or whether it comes by degrees. It makes a new world-a new creation ; or rather opens on the mind the universe as it is, in connexion with its Supreme Head. Where all was darkness, all becomes light. It produces an entire new state of feeling, as compared with the necessary doom of man independent of such a system of redeeming agencies.
But these impressions, these sentiments, these feelings, as being ardent and powerful, are awakened by the peculiarities of Christianity-by what it exhibits of God in relation to man in the scheme of redemption. Observe what a transformation of character it produced in the Apostles, in the first Christians; and what of the same thing it has done from that age to this, and is still doing. What motives must they be, that have produced such results! And all this has depended and always