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human manufacture are what their advocates denominate the truth as it is in Jesus. Those who refuse their assent to these dogmas are reproached as enemies to the truth, while they freely admit as the truth the very texts of Scripture, on which these articles are supposed to be founded. It seems to have been thought not sufficient for a man to believe the doctrines of the Gospel as given by the wisdom of God, but he must assent to an edition of these doctrines as revised and amended, by the wisdom of self-sufficient men. The “ bones of contention” have not been the words of God's wisdom, but the words of man's wisdom : and these words of man's wisdom have been preferred to the words of God, as standards of truth and tests of character. I think I do not go too far in saying that these human compositions have been preferred to the Bible, for the purposes I have mentioned. If they are not PREFERRED, why are they urged, and substituted, as if the Bible were insufficient ? I am aware that those who adopt this course profess great respect for the Bible, and are not commonly backward to accuse dissenters from their creed with disrespect for the oracles of God. But it seems to me an extraordinary mode of evincing a regard for the Bible, to substitute for it, as a rule of faith, the compositions of fallible and uninspired men.
If one sect of Christians may adopt this course, so may another ; and thus it has been that different sects have adopted the same self-sufficient principle, and mutually censured, reproached and persecuted one another. Then a third sect is formed, which condemns each of the preceding; then a fourth, and a fifth, and so on till the family of professed disciples of Christ have become divided and subdivided into numerous parties or hostile bands, as unlike a "building fitly framed together," as are the fragments of a temple after having been rent asunder and dispersed by the violence of a hurricane,-and almost as far from that oneness which Christ prayed might exist among all who should become believers in him, as are the different parties of the belligerent troops of a nation in a time of civil war. What can be more adapted to promote infidelity than such perpetual hostilities among those who profess to be disciples of the Prince of peace, and to love one another as Christ has loved them !
What is the difference between denying the Gospel to be a sufficient revelation, and establishing the creed of a particular sect as a standard of faith and a test of character? If the Gospel is not so clear and definite as to supersede the necessity of human creeds as standards of faith, why should it be called a revelation from God? Suppose I should form a confession of faith, expressive of my own views of the meaning of Scripture. This might be useful for giving information of what I think to be true in regard to the doctrines of the Gospel. If I stop here, I give no just cause of offence. But if I proceed further and make my opinions a test of character, and impute it to moral depravity that others dissent from my creed, what do I less than to
act the part of the “ Man of sin," assuming to be God" or
" above all that is called God”-invading the rights of my fellow men, and arrogating the prerogative of God in judging the hearts of my brethren ? There is, I suspect, much more of the “Man of sin," in this business of creedmaking and censuring such as dissent, than has generally been imagined. If it be said that by the “ Man of sin” the Pope was intended; I would ask, who and what is a Pope but a man who assumes the right of determining how his brethren should understand the doctrines of the Gospel, and the right of censuring and persecuting such men as dare to question his infallibility ? The Pontiff of Rome is not the only man who presumes thus to invade the rights of men and the rights of God.
Party creeds, in the language of human wisdom, have unquestionably been adopted in the belief, that the doctrines of the Gospel can be better expressed than they were by Christ and his apostlesat least, expressed in language less ambiguous, and more sure to keep heretical persons from joining a church. It has been pleaded that creeds or articles of faith, expressed in Scripture language, would afford no security against the admission of persons of very different opinions, as all who profess to regard the Bible as their rule of faith will readily assent to articles thus expressed. Hence it has been deemed proper to express
articles of faith in language more definite than the language of the Scriptures, that there may be more uniformity of opinion among
the members of the same church, and that men of erroneous opinions may be excluded.
But do such articles of faith insure uniformity of opinion? Look at the Church of England, whose clergy subscribe “ The Thirty Nine Articles.” The majority of them are supposed to be Arminians, and being the majority, they are called “the Orthodox.” Another large and respectable class of these clergymen are Calvinists. Some are supposed to be Antinomians. They all subscribe a creed which is in the strongest language Trinitarian; yet how many of the clergy of that church have been Unitarians, except in name ! And how many of the explanations of the doctrine of "three persons in one God,” given by the ministers of that church, have amounted to nothing more than Unitarianism under a Trinitarian cloak or veil! What better than this have we when we are told, that by the three persons in one God are meant three attributes, or three offices, or three relations, or three unknown distinctions ? Is it not a fact, too, that many of the clergy of the Church of England subscribe the Thirty Nine Articles, not in reality as articles of their belief, but as “ Articles of peace ?”
In that Church we have an example illustrative of the benefits or the disadvantages which result from the establishment of Articles of faith in the words of man's wisdom. In our own country, too, something of the same diversity of opinion is known to exist among
ministers who profess an assent to popular articles of faith, which are called essential doc
trines; and the same articles are also in our country differently explained by different writers. What worse than this might be expected to result should all their articles of faith be stated in the very words of Christ and his Apostles ? And would there be no advantage in having the articles so 'expressed as to preclude the strong temptations to hypocrisy and dissimulation ?
TWO EXAMPLES OF ERROR FROM THE AMBIGUITY OF
My Christian Brethren,
Having mentioned the ambiguity of language as a prolific source of error and diversity of opinion among Christians, I shall now present two examples.
When our Lord instituted the supper as a memorial of his death, on giving the bread to his disciples he said, “Take, eat, this is my body;" and on giving the cup he said, “This is my blood.” On such ground as this the Catholic clergy formed the doctrine of transubstantiation. In other words they formed propositions to be received as articles of faith which affirmed that the bread and the wine,