« السابقةمتابعة »
church. Whilst those prejudices and passions, which the Christian religion was designed either to regulate or fubdue, maintain their ground in the human mind, the standard of judgment set up in the Gospel will be rendered in a great degree useless. Men, under, these circumstances, will persuade themselves, either, that it does not apply to them, or by some fallacy or, other will contrive to evade the conclusion, that must otherwise have been drawn from it. Thus self-deception is industriously put in practice, in order to steer clear of that troublesome thing called self-conviction.
In fact, human pride is, generally speaking, so much mixed up with human error, that till one can be separated from the other, there is little hope of effecting an agreement of sentiment upon any disputed
subject; for men will not see what they are not disi posed to acknowledge.
But when men “ become as little children,” polfessed of that meek, lowly, and teachable temper, which alone renders them capable or desirous of information; the Bible, although it cannot speak a plainer language than it does at present, will then be better understood; because men will sit down to
it, not with a view to confirm opinions already em:) braced, but to draw from it, in fimplicity and sincerity,
that knowledge, which by Divine grace it was defigned to convey to all disposed to receive it.
In that case, they will perceive, that one great object which Christ had in view in the establishment of his church, was, that the members of it might be joined together in the bond of
and unity; in the language of St. Paul, that " there might be no schism in the body:” and consequently, that no gratification of private fancy or opinion, much less of prejudice or passion, ought to be weighed in the scale against this most essential consideration. St. Paul has so fully determined this point in the case of some of his Corinthian converts, by telling them, that even the miraculous gifts of which they were in possession, would prove no justification for their disturbing the peace and order of the church, as to leave nothing necessary to be added on that subject. In the judgment of St. Paul, the gift of prophecy, the understanding all mysteries, and all knowledge, and all faith, were as nothing in comparison with that charity, by which it was designed that the members of the Christian church should be joined together.
In the judgment of the world, what was of such consequence in the early days of the church, is now, we are forry to think, become of no consequence at all;' and that harmony among Christians, for which our SAVIOUR earnestly prayed, and which the Apoltles and primitive rulers of the church laboured so constantly to promote, is now become a matter of comparative indifference: as we must conclude to be the case, when we fee men, not only without those miraculous gifts, upon which the Corinthians prefumed, but oft times without that degree of knowledge neceffary to qualify them to understand the letter of the Gospel, which they undertake to publish, drawing congregations after them, and making the support of some private conceit, or the flightest difference of opinion upon matters not essential to the Christian cause, a fufficient ground for separation from their appointed teachers.
But would men consider, that charity and humility are two distinguishing marks of a Christian, they would feel themselves disposed to believe more, and to dispute less. Would the men to whom we now more particularly allude consider, that the submission of human reason to the revealed word of God is part of that self-abasement, which the Christian is called upon to practise; whose every " thought is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of
CHRIST;" they would stand with less confidence upon ground of their own choosing, than they do at present; and would feel themselves more in a difposition to be taught, than to teach. For, without being an advocate for blind credulity, the evils of which have been abundantly manifested, we do not hesitate to say, that there are in religion many things which, by the generality of mankind, must in some degree be taken upon trust; because the generality of mankind are not qualified to form a competent judgment of the evidence upon which they stand.
Whilst the best informed will, upon the consideration that now “ we know only in part," be most ready to subscribe to the idea, that in certain cases the honour of God is more advanced by the submission, than by the exertion, of the human understanding.
And if this idea prevail, when applied to subjects of primary consideration, as revealed articles of faith; it will not surely, when the peace of the church is concerned, be found inapplicable to matters, which revelation may have left more undetermined. “For the spirit of Christ, (as Bishop Andrews long since observed) is the spirit of ingenuity, which will freely submit itself to that which is expedient, even in things of their own nature lawful. The not ob
ferving whereof, with good heed and discretion, hath in old time filled the world with many a superstitious imagination; and in our days hath healed the imagination, and superstition, and hypocrisy, with another of riot and licentious liberty, as bad as the former, and a great deal worse."
The only remedy for this evil, the fruitful source of all sin and heresy in the world, is to be found in the promotion of that charitable spirit of the Gospel, “ which envieth not; which is not puffed up; which behaveth not unseemly; which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things;" rather than that brotherly love, the bond of Christian perfectness, should be broken. A spirit, which it is my duty to press most earnestly upon Christians; from the full conviction, that envyings, divisions, and heresies, are those works of the fleth, which most effectually serve the cause of that grand enemy, whose constant employment it is, so far as in him lies, to render abortive the Christian scheme for the salvation of fallen man.