« PoprzedniaDalej »
violation of the ten commandments, and places the unfortunate dissident in the category of publicans and harlots.
In my whole horizon, I know not the man out of the church of Rome, or the high Church of England, that supposes, believes, or asserts, that the affusion or the immersion of a babe, without knowledge, consciousness, or faith, into any name, or in any bath, is a spiritual birth or a spiritual regeneration.
For ourself, we cannot conceive of a faith without testimony, of a birth without parentage, of a hope without a promise, or a love without beauty seen and appreciated. A beautiful figure may be travested and abused into a catachresis, as this trope was by one Nicodemus, of olden time. That a man dead in sins may be quickened into a new life—that the physical or animal man may be transmuted into a spiritual man, and be actuated into a new and spiritual life, are facts not to be reasoned against. And, therefore, what was indicated by the great Teacher to Nicodemus, is as true and veritable as any oracle in Holy Writ. That “old things may pass away, and that all things may become new," through faith in the testimony of God, is as true and as credible as the resurrection of the dead. Faith, like a telescope, brings a new universe into our field of vision. It is the evidence of things beyond the vision of the physical man. It attracts and allures the heart away from the things of sense to the things of faith and the objects of hope. It is, moreover, “the confidence of things hoped for,” and gives to them a positive existence in the new heart. These give a new impulse to the inner man, and quicken him into new and holy activities, of which before he was wholly destitute. It is a great moral and spiritual revolution in the very elements of his being, and manifests itself in all the purposes, aims, and activities of his subsequent life. So that as an apostle has said of him, “Old things passed away, and behold all things have become new." He becomes a citizen of a new universe. As a new-born babe, he now desires the pure milk of the word, that he may grow by it into the fulness of the stature of a perfect man in his new relations to Adam the second.
This great revolution in every son of Adam, essential to life eternal, is designated, in holy Scripture, under a rich variety of appropriate imagery. It is as justly regarded, and as appositely set forth, under the figure of a resurrection, as under that of a new birth. It is just as true that a man must be raised again in this present state, as born again, in order to admission into Christ's church or kingdom. Hearken to Paul. To the Colossians he says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ".
!-a fact not to be disputed—“set your affections on things above.” Again, he says to them,“ You have been planted or buried with Christ by immersion, in which you have been raised with him.” And to the Ephesians he says, “God has raised us up together with Christ,” &c. The resurrection of a sinner is just as essential as the new birth of a sinner, in order to his salvation.
Christians are said to be “planted,” “buried,” “quickened,” “born of God," “ married to another husband,” “born of water," " born of the Spirit," lights of the world,"
,"“salt of the earth,” &c. But shall we, or must we, carry out in detail, and apply these figurative formulas of thought, or metaphors, into literal facts, and then so trace the processes, or the consummation of such figures, as to apply them, in all their details, as literally, and in fact, having their counterparts perfect and complete in every converted man-in every disciple of Christ ? In that case we should need one John Bunyan for every age. And, in case of any alleged heterodox exposition, we might expect as many debates and contro
versies on each and every one of them as have been, or now are, upon the topics of regeneration," "justification," "sanctification," "adoption," or "effectual calling These debates, logically prosecuted, would require many nice distinctions and definitions, which would themselves furnish new topics and new debates ; such as the difference between regeneration and “the washing of regeneration."
But for such disquisitions we have quite as little taste as leisure. And, therefore, we are disposed to call Bible things by Bible names, and that, too, in the consecrated developments of them, both direct and indirect, in their well established Scripture currency.
But we are now complaining of false issues. And of these we have had, and still have, much reason to complain. Our issues are not on speculative views, not on doctrines, not on philosophies or theories, but upon the facts, precepts, promises, and ordinances of religion—not the Patriarchal, not the Jewish, but the Christian ordinances, properly so called. We conscientiously think that no sect, as such, -no community based on church polity, on church doctrine, on church discipline, on any philosophy of Christianity, true or false, is the church of Jesus Christ. The name Papist, Patriarchist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Methodist, Calvinist, Arminian, Trinitarian, Unitarian, have no more Christianity in them than is found in the name Monarchist, Aristocrat, Democrat, Republican, whether black, white, or red. Christ's church is not a sehool of politics, doctrines, or forms, but of Christian faith, piety, and humanity.
NATURE OF CHRISTIAN FAITH.
THE Lutheran Reformation was a reformation of the church. It proceeded from within the church itself, and consisted in the correction of errors and abuses in regard to what are usually termed the "doctrines of Christianity.” The great object of the movement was to reform the church.
On the other hand, the introduction of Christianity was a movement upon the world from without. Go
ye into all the world and preach," was the commission of its heralds, and the object of the movement was to reform the world.
This difference in purpose made a great difference in the mode of proceeding in the two cases. In the effort of Luther and his coadjutors, doctrines were taught; in that of the apostles, the gospel was preached. In the former, each thinker delivered his own views of " doctrinal Christianity," and each one established his own peculiar“ reformation.' In the latter, one gospel only was presented to the world, to convert the world to Christ.
Protestantism is, in its very nature, a grand doctrinal controversy. It has never been a converting power for Christ. The character stamped upon it in its inception, continues with it in all its progress. There is no question here of any thing but “ doctrine.” Even the gospel, which is for the world, can be contemplated only through the medium of doctrine, and is made really the exponent of the doctrines of each particular party. Thus doctrines are confounded with the gospel. No distinction is made between the gospel and the doctrines of the gospel." Doctrines are preached for the conversion both of “saints” and sinners
-of“ saints,” froin one party to another ; of sinners, from the world to some particular sect. The Swedenborgian preaches the reveries of Swedenborg,; the Calvinist, the doctrines and“ Institutes ” of Calvin ; the Arminian, the opinions of Arminius. Each one as his theory, even of conversion, which, to be valid, must be in conformity with some intellectual view or theory of the process. Hence conversion has come to be not so muc a change of heart as a change of head. It is in fact, in popular practice, the adoption of a religious theory, rather than of a religious life.
As the Christian Institution, not only in its evangelical ministrations to the world, but in its doctrinal instructions in the church, is now committed to the body of believers, who are to be the “light of the world "_"the pillar and support of the truth,” we have not to expect any movement from without, as at the beginning, either to create the church anew, or to convert the world. What is to be done now, to be done through the church itself, which has thus resting upon it the duty, not only of self-reformation, but of the conversion of sinners. All Christianity is now in the church or body of true believers. Theirs is the Bible, the only source of divine illumination ; theirs the privilege of access to the throne of favor ; theirs the Holy Spirit, the only source of spiritual power, the only personal manifestation of God on earth, working in them both to will and to do his own good pleasure. It is through the church that God now works, and it is hence most important that the church should realize and assume her proper position, and prepare herself by the correction of all errors and abuses, and by every nesessary purification and reformation, for the great work assigned to her.
The present reformation movement in which we are engaged, is an effort for this purpose. It is an overture to the religious community for co-operation in an endeavor to discover a clue which will lead the church out of the confused maze of sectarism, and which, while restoring to the church its original unity, will enable us to present also to the world the gospel in its pristine simplicity, unmingled with human theories.
To this end, it is proposed, in the very first instance, to take the Scriptures, interpreted in conformity to the established laws of language, as the only lamp to guide our feet, and to seek, by earnest prayer and in humble confidence in the divine promises, both the wisdom and the strength necessary to the task. It is, hence, entirely accordant with our aims, that we should zealously favor the revision of translations, and the circulation of pure versions of the word of God, in order that each individual may have, in his own vernacular, a correct expression of the mind of the Spirit. To content ourselves with this, however, would be to renounce the end for the sake of the means of its accomplishment. To rest satisfied with clearer views of particular passages, or even with an enlarged knowledge of the whole volume, would be to neglect or ignore the great practical purposes of this movement for the sake of mere th tic knowledge. Certainly, à purer version can profit no one, unless as it leads to a purer practice; and it would be a futile effort at improvement to labor diligently, and
at vast expense, to obtain the true words of God, unless we secure thereby the true spiritual things which these were designed to impart. Hence, the various parties now engaged in the Bible Union Revision, will profit but little by the success of their efforts, if they do not, by obtaining a more accurate version of the original Scriptures, attain also to a more exact conformity to the faith and practice of the primitive churches. For our part, we desire to keep it ever in view, that our purpose, while it embraces the attainment of a correct version, reaches far beyond this, even to the recovery of every thing which has been lost, and the subtraction of every thing which has been added, as regards the gospel and doctrine of Christ, since the days of the apostles.
These unauthorized omissions and additions may be divided simply into two classes-Ist, Those which have respect to the ministration of the gospel to sinners; and 2d, Those which have regard to the knowledge and practice of believers. We have an example of the first in the error to which we have already referred, viz : the making doctrinal matters a part of the gospel proclamation, and thus confounding simple Christian faith with Christian knowledge. It is to the consideration of this error that we shall devote the remainder of the present communication.
This is one of the most serious perversions of the gospel of Christ, and it is a melancholy reflection that it prevails so generally in the Protestant world. I do not, indeed, know a single religious party that is content to preach the simple primitive gospel as the apostles preached it. Each one has its own modification of it. Each one connects with it some religious theory. Each one demands, in addition to the simple faith demanded by the apostles, or rather instead of it, the acceptance of various tenets and tests of orthodoxy.
The great evil that results from this perversion is, that men are thereby led wholly to mistake the nature and the subject matter of the Christian faith.
They are led to conceive of it as a belief in doctrines; as consisting in correct intellectual views of the most profound mysteries of the Bible ; as having respect to the mind rather than to the heart. They are led to regard a correct view of doctrine as something absolutely necessary to salvation, and as having in itself, if not a saving efficacy, at least a meritorious orthodoxy, which will go very far toward securing acceptance with God.
This is a sad and unfortunate mistake ; for what is properly called the Christian faith, has direct and exclusive reference to Christ himself, and is hence personal, instead of doctrinal, and designed to fix the attention, the affections, and the entire trust of the soul upon the Lord Jesus, in his personal and official character, as our Saviour, our Leader, and our Hope of glory. But the above perversion, in making faith to consist in the reception of certain intellectual conceptions, called "tenets,” necessarily leads the mind away from Christ, to trust in the accuracy of its own reasonings, and leaves the heart destitute of the true love and of the spiritual presence of Christ, to become a prey to a narrow sectarian bigotry and Pharisaic pride of opinion.
This error is emphatically the error of Protestantism, which, as already intimated, is essentially a doctrinal reformation. Born and nurtured amidst doctrinal controversy, it has become a part of its nature, as it is its whole tendency and habit to look to the orthodoxy of men's opinions. On the other hand, the church of Rome retains at least this mark of an earlier origin, that she demands personal trust rather than intellectual conformity, and confidence in the priest rather than clearness of mental perception or extent of doctrinal knowledge. Her error and her crime, indeed, is, that she substitutes an earthly for a heavenly teacher : a human for a divine Mediator; a mortal, fallible_and ostentatious despot, for the King eternal, immortal, and invisible. But Protestants might learn.a useful lesson from this ancient apostacy, which thus retains the original principle or character of the faith, but misdirects its application.
The primitive Christian faith, as defined by Paul, is simply “ trust in Christ,". Eph. i. 12, 13. Christ is not a doctrine, but ą, person
“One who liveth and was dead, and behold he is alive for evermore.' The sinner is not exhorted to believe in doctrines, but“ in the Lord Jesus Christ, that he may be saved ;” and the entire economy of the gospel and its ordinances, is designed to present Christ to the mind and to the heart, as the object of faith, and hope, and love. Faith is just as personal as love or hope, and the same perversion which makes faith doctrinal, makes love also doctrinal, and hope a theory. It is not the love of Christ that animates the sectary, but the love of the system, or particular tenets he has adopted, and for the defence and dissemination of which he lives and labors. It is not Christ that is formed in him “ the hope of glory;" but an intolerant spirit of bigotry and spiritual pride, which hopes for religious domination and the praise of men. What a terrible perversion is this, which pervades and poisons the whole trinity of principles through which the soul must derive its redemption and its life.
It is the characteristic feature of the present reformation to endeavor to disentangle the Christian faith from doctrinal controversy, and to restore it to its original character, as a simple reception of the facts concerning Christ-a heartfelt personal reliance upon Christ alone. Hence it is, that we plead so earnestly for the original formula of confession, by which the true nature of the faith is so clearly exhibited. We propose to the whole religious community a return to the simple confession of faith made by the converts under the apostolic ministry -a confession which, while it affords no legitimate ground of controversy, is yet sufficiently comprehensive to include all necessary truth, and sufficiently definite to exclude all fatal error. This confession is, in substance, that made by the Ethiopian eunuch : “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;" and that such was the primitive confession, is incontrovertibly evident, not only from the inspired writings, but from the testimony of all authentic history. The greatest and most candid historian of the church, Neander, thus speaks in relation to this subject :
“The existence and first development of the Christian church rests on an historical foundation-on the acknowledgment of the fact that Jesus was the Messiah--not on a certain system of ideas. Hence, at first, all those who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, separated from the mass of the Jewish people, and formed themselves into a distinct community. In the course of time, it became apparent who were genuine and who were false disciples ; but all who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, were baptized without fuller or longer instruction, such as in later times has preceded baptism. There was only one article of faith which formed the peculiar mark of the Christian profession, and from this point believers were led to a clearer and perfect knowledge of the whole contents of the Christian faith, by the continual enlightening of the Holy Spirit. Believing that Jesus was the Messiah, they ascribed to him the whole idea of what the Messiah was to be, according to the meaning and spirit of the Old Testament promises, rightly understood ; they acknowledged him as the Redeemer from sin, the Ruler of the kingdom of God, to whom their whole lives were to be devoted, whose laws were to be followed in all things; while he would manifest himself as the Ruler of God's kingdom by the communication of a new divine principle of life, which, to those who are redeemod and governed by him, imparts the certainty of the forgiveness of sins. This divine principle of life must (they believed) mould their whole lives to a conformity with the laws of the Messiah and his kingdom, and would be the pledge of all the blessings to be imparted to them in the kingdom of God until its consummation. Whoever acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, received him consequently, as the infallible divine prophet, and implicitly submitted to his instructions as communicated by his personal ministry, and afterwards by his inspired organs, the apostles. Hence baptism, at this period, in its peculiar Christian meaning, referred to this one article of faith, which constituted the essence of Christianity, as baptism into Jesus, into the name of Jesus ; it was the holy rite which sealed the connection with Jesus as the Messiah” (History of the Planting of the Christian Church, chap. ii.)
This primitive confession of faith, then-this acknowledgment of personal and official trust—this simple mode of admission to the blessings of the gospel, is one of those divine“ things” which we would fain hope to see adopted, if the revision of the word of God should be accompanied or followed, as it ought to be, by a revision of Protestantism. And oh, how mighty would be the change in the condition of the religious world, if this personal trust in Christ as the Messiah, could be substituted for those doctrinal controversies and that empty philosophy which have usurped its place-if, instead of diverse and conflicting opinions, we could have the
one faith, the original and only true one, faith in Christ. Man, from his constitution and nature, requires for a Leader, an object of trust and confidence- -a LIVING guide. He is himself a person, and demands personal attachment and guidance. A syllabus of doctrine has no power to enlist the heart and the energies of the soul in the true work of Christ. God has given to man such a Leader as he needs-one who can command his confidence and his affections, and by the force of his heavenly example, his heavenly wisdom, and his ever present aid, sustain and strengthen him amidst the conflict of life.
It is of this personal reliance upon Christ that every true sectary is deficient. If there be ought of a personal tendency or character connected with his faith or love, this does not attach to Christ, but to Calvin-to Luther—to the chief leaders of his party. Nevertheless, there are found everywhere, individuals who, though in sects, are not of them---men who are lifted above the influence of a selfish bigotry-who constitute, indeed, the only true people of God on earth-and these are they who have put their trust in the Victim Lamb of God, and who walk as seeing Him who is invisible. These are they who realize the divine presence ever with them-who speak to God in prayer, and hear him speak to them in his sacred word, and in the inward monitions of his Holy Spirit—who walk with God--who are led by the hand of his Providence-who lean upon the arm of his power, and by a “patient continuance in well doing, seek for honor, glory, and immortality.
Let no one imagine, that in opposing the substitution of belief in doctrinal tenets for faith in Christ, we oppose what are called “ evangelical doctrines," or disparage the true doctrine of Holy Scripture. We say, simply : Let everything