Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of Christ and his Atonement, in the depravity of man and his need of a moral renovation by the spirit, and in the doctrine of Justification by faith and future eternal punishment, more or less engaged in the work of missions; and is there in the wide world a denomination which rejects these doctrines, that is thus engaged. And is this system, which does nothing to evangelize the world, the Gospel; and that, which does all that is done in accordance with the efforts of the primitive church, another Gospel?

The faith delivered to the saints produced a piety of great solemnity, ardor and decision.

It was a piety, which took delight in the public worship of God, and in private frequent association for religious conference and prayer: a piety, which included a deep solicitude, and made vigorous exertions, for the conversion of sinners, and experienced peculiar joy in the event: a piety, which espoused openly the cause of Christ, encountered. obloquy and the loss of all things, and stood undaunted in the face of danger and produced joy unspeakable in the hour of death.

And is not this, precisely the same cast of piety, which the evangelical system does, and which the liberal system does not, produce? Is not the deeply serious cast of the one regarded as constituting the evangelical, a gloomy religion; and the lighter cast of the other as giving to it vastly the preference on the score of cheerfulness? Is not the ardor of the one, stigmatized as enthusiasm; and the cool, deliberate, intellectual cast of the other regarded as giving to it the enviable preeminence of a rational religion? Does not the one delight in, and the other deprecate, frequent voluntary associations for religious conference and prayer? The one ridicule the supposed work of sudden conversion by the spirit of God; and the other hold it in the highest estimation? Do not the converts to the one system, as far as they are called to it, disregard obloquy, and endure persecution? While, “Throughout our country, a very large proportion of those men, who, for their talents and learning and virtues, have the most influence in the community, are dissatisfied with the

Trinitarian and Calvinistic form, in which they have had religion presented to them; but are prevented from making a public avowal of their opinions by an unwillingness to encounter opposition and obloquy, and loss of confidence, and the power of being useful.- Are the sentiments which these men, "all over our country,are supposed to prefer to the evangelical system, The faith once delivered to the saints; which, in the primitive church, produced a love to Jesus Christ so ardent, an avowal of his doctrine so undaunted, and an enterprize so efficient, as moved onward from conquering to conquer, through good report and evil, through honor and dishonor, through fire and blood? Alas! how, is the gold become dim, and the fine gold changed? But is it so? Is that the primitive faith, which produces none of those consequences; and is that another and an opposite faith, which produces them all?

With respect to the manner in which cordial believers in the two systems die, we have only to say, that generally, professors of religion of evangelical opinions who have in life adorned their profession, approach their last hour without fear and with great composure of mind, and with cheerful resignation. In some instances they, even as the apostle Paul did, desire to depart and be with Christ; and not unfrequently their views and affections and anticipations of glory render them exceedingly joyful in the last hour. Now we ask, and refer for an answer to every man's observation, Is this the manner in which liberal opinions enable those to die who cordially embrace them. If some of this description meet death without fear, are not far greater numbers terrified at his approach? If some are tranquil, are not more agitated? If some manifest resignation, do not a far greater number cling with unyielding grasp to life, or manifest only the resignation of necessity? And are there any, who, by the liberal system are inspired with such love for Christ as to desire earnestly to depart and be with him: and especially are there any whose views and affections and anticipations of glory render their death bed a scene of the most exalted joy?

The faith delivered to the saints, was attended from the beginning to the end with an unwavering confidence of its truth.

False christs and false prophets arose; but they could not "deceive the elect.” Winds of false doctrine blew, but they scattered only the chaff; some also made shipwreck of the faith; but it was not the saints. There were heresies, early; and it was needful that there should be, that they which were approved might be manifest. And they were manifest; for the last Apostle that remained testified, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us." But to those, who adhered to the faith, he said, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things:"*—i. e. You know the truth of all those doctrines which some have rejected.

It is admitted, that some patrons of the evangelical system abandon it. But it will not be denied, that, as a general fact, they hold the same system of truth to the end; modified, explained, and proved, with some variation; but the same system undeniably.

But can it be said of the patrons of the liberal system, as a body, that their system, first and last, is the same. Can it be said of an individual scarcely, that he continues to embrace the same system through life. Dr. Priestly has told us that he was first a Calvinist; and that he successively embraced and abandoned, in his way downward to low Socinianism, all the intervening systems; and did not know how long he should maintain his existing faith, or what would come next. The same course has been travelled over by liberal critics and learned expositors in Germany and in this country, it is begun, it is believed, by most, and completed by many, who adopt the liberal system.

Now is it not notorious that evangelical men are reproached, as being singularly confident, that they only are right; and that Unitarians profess to have arrived at certainty chiefly in

* 1 John ii, 19, 20.

respect to the falsehood of the evangelical system; while, in relation to their own, there are many points on which they have not had time to make up their minds; and concerning which, with other wise and great and good men, they continue to doubt. Indeed, it might appear unseemly for men, who had discovered that four out of five of their systems of belief, deliberately adopted, were wrong, to entertain a very high opinion of the powers of their own reason, at least, or to be confident of the truth of their fifth or sixth opinion in respect to the great points of revealed doctrine. But where among these changing men, ever learning their past errors, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth; where is that unction from the Holy One which the saints possessed, and its attendant knowledge of all things.*

4. A departure from the faith delivered to the saints, producing divisions in the church, was denominated a heresy during the three first centuries.

This does not prove those doctrines to be false which the churches condemned, because churches and councils are not infallible. But it does prove the opinions denominated heretical, to be novelties, and in opposition to the received opinion of the church until the time of their existence. The declaration of the primitive church that a doctrine is a heresy, is a public formal testimony, as to what had been until then, the received opinion of the churches,

* A writer of eminence, in a sermon from 1 Cor. xiii, 10, delivered at an ordination,t assumes without any attempt at exposition, or proof, that even the Apostles knew but in part: from which has resulted "diversity of opinion,” and the fact, that, though of two opposite opinions, both cannot be true; "they may both be innocent:” and that this imperfection of knowledge may have been designed, “as a moral discipline," and "to give a larger scope, and new occasion, for the exercise of good feeling.” It certainly would have been relevant and desirable, that it should have been ascertained whether this conceded ignorance of the apostles, respected doctrinal knowledge, or only experimental knowledge, begun in time, and to be consummated in heaven; the latter, seeming to be the subject of discourse, and not at all the former. Whether their partial ignorance of Christian doctrine, had respect to a partial revelation of the doctrines of Christianity, or to the doctrines which are revealed: If it respected revealed doctrines, whether their ignorance was owing to their indolence, or incapacity to understand, or to such obscurity in the revelation of them, that even apostles could understand only a part of the doctrines which God had revealed. We cannot but admire, if it were partial doctrinal knowledge, which is conceded by the Apostles, how they should have drawn inferences from the fact, so directly opposed to those which were drawn by this writer. The one, inferring charity and moderation; the other, the duty of contending earnestly for the faith. The one anathematising any man, or even an angel, who should preach any other gospel; and the other, inferring from the same premises, the equal innocence of doctrinal truth and doctrinal falsehood.

+ Dr. Ware's Sermon delivered at the ordination of the Rev. William B. O. Peabody, at Springfield, 1820.

The heretics themselves, admitted sometimes, that their opinions were novel, but nevertheless true; or more commonly, so explained them, as to claim that they were not a departure from the received faith. Uniting of course, the testimony of heretics, to that of the church, as to what had been the received opinion.

From the nature, then, and the known æra of the several heresies in the primitive church, we may ascertain what was the antecedent faith of the church, on the points to which they relate.

The doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ was, then, the received opinion of the church, when denied by the Gnostics, towards the close of the first century. The Divinity of Christ when denied by Arius A. D. 315. Soon after which, it was condemned as a heresy, in a council of 380 Fathers. The doctrines of original sin, entire depravity, regeneration by special grace, and justification by faith, continued to be the received doctrines of the church until the time of Pelagius about A. D. 400.

The doctrines of the evangelical system, then, commenced their journey down to us from the apostolic age: and as each doctrine of the liberal system encountered any one of them, that, was declared by the church to be a novelty, and the other the antecedently received opinion of the church. Can this fact be reconciled with the supposition that the liberal system, was the faith first delivered to the saints? Did all the churches from the beginning, misunderstand the import of the Gospels and epistles; and all the apostolic expositions of them; and misunderstand systematically wrong; and exactly alike, on all points; and in direct opposition to what Jesus Christ and the Apostles intended to teach; and this too, without concert, and throughout the Roman Empire? Or if the liberal was the system first delivered to the saints, could all the churches have exchanged it for the opposite system, so early, so silently, so unitedly, as to have the whole truth regarded as a novelty and denounced as a heresy in the second and third and fourth centuries. Dr. Priestly has attempled to show that the liberal system was that which was

« AnteriorContinuar »