FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIAN UNION
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FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIAN UNION
"I PRAY - for those who shall believe on me through their
teaching, that all may be one; that as thou, Father, art in me, and
I in thee, they also may be in us, that the world may believe that
thou hast sent me, and that thou gavest me the glory, which I have given
them, that they may be one, as we are one; I in them, and thou in
me, that their union may be perfected: and that the world may
know that thou hast sent me, and that thou lovest them as thou lovest
me." Thus Messiah prayed; and well might he pray thus, seeing he was
wise enough to teach that, "If a kingdom be torn by factions, that kingdom
cannot subsist. And if a family be torn by factions, that family cannot subsist.
By civil dissensions, any kingdom can be desolated; and no city or family,
where such dissensions are, can subsist."
If this be true - and true it is; if Jesus be the Messiah - in what moral
desolation is the kingdom of Jesus Christ! - Was there at any time, or is
there now, in all the earth, a kingdom more convulsed by internal broils
and dissensions, than what is commonly called the church of Jesus Christ!
Should any one think it lawful to paganize both the Greek and Latin churches
- to eject one hundred millions of members of the Greek and Roman communions,
from the visible and invisible precincts of the Christian family or kingdom
of Jesus Christ; and regard the Protestant faith and people as the only true
faith and the only true citizens of the kingdom of Jesus; - what then shall
we say of them, contemplated as the visible kingdom, over which Jesus presides
as Prophet, Priest, and King! Of forty millions of Protestants, shall we
constitute the visible kingdom of the Prince of Peace? Be it so, for the
sake of argument; and what then? The Christian army is forty millions strong.
But how do they muster? Under forty ensigns? - Under forty antagonist leaders?
Would to God there were but forty! In the Geneva detachment alone, there
is almost the numbers of petty chiefs. My soul sickens at the details!
Take the English branch of the Protestant faith, - I mean England and the
United States and all the islands where the English Bible is read; and how
many broils, dissensions, and anathemas, may we compute? I will not attempt
to name the antagonizing creeds, feuds, and parties, that are in eternal
war, under the banners of the Prince of Peace. And yet they talk of love
and charity, and of the conversion of the Jews, the Turks, and Pagans!!!
Shall we turn from the picture, lay down our pen, and languish in despair?
No! For Jesus has said, "Happy the peace-makers, for they shall be
called Sons of God." But who can make peace, when all the elements
are at war? Who so enthusiastic, as to fancy that he can stem the torrent
of strife, or quench the violence of sectarian fire! But the page of universal
history whispers in our ears, If you tarry till all the belligerent armies
lay down their arms, and make one spontaneous and simultaneous effort to
unite; you will be as very a simpleton, as he that sat by the Euphrates,
waiting till all its waters run into the sea.
We are so sanguine - perhaps many will say, so visionary, as to imagine that
a nucleus has been formed, or may be formed; around which may one
day congregate all the children of God. No one, at all events, can say that
it is either impious or immoral, - that it is inhuman or unchristian, to
think about the present state of Christ's kingdom; or to meditate upon the
possibility or practicability of any scheme of gathering together the children
of God, under the ensign of the Cross alone. No one can say that such an
enterprise is absolutely chimerical, unless he affirms the negative of the
Messiah's proposition, and declares that the present wars and strifes must
extend and multiply through all time, and that God will convert the whole
world, without answering the prayer of his Son; or rather, on a plan
adverse to that promulgated by him, and in despite of all the moral desolations
which have ensued upon all the broils and battles of five hundred sects,
and fifteen hundred years!
Dare any one say, or even think in unphilanthropic or malevolent, to make
an effort to rally the broken phalanxes of Zion's King, and to attempt to
induce them to turn their arms from one another, against the common foe?
With such a one, it were worse than hopeless to reason, or to exchange a
single argument. Shall we not rather esteem it to be the most honourable,
acceptable, and praiseworthy enterprise, that can be dared or undertaken
by mortal man on this earthly stage of action? And as God has ever effected
the most splendid revolutions by the most humble agents, and by means the
most unlikely in the wisdom of all human schools; we think it not amiss or
incongruous to make an effort, and to put out hands to the work of peace
From Messiah's intercession above quoted, it is incontrovertible that union
is strength, and disunion, weakness; that there is a plan founded in infinite
wisdom and love, by which, and which alone, the world may both believe
and know, that God has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.
And like all the schemes of Heaven, it is simple to admiration. No mortal
need fancy that he shall have the honour of devising either the plan of uniting
Christians in one holy band of zealous co-operation, or of converting Jews
and Gentiles to the faith that Jesus is that seed, in whom all the
families of the earth are yet to be blessed. The plan is divine. It is ordained
by God; and, better still, it is already revealed. Is any one impatient to
hear it? Let him again read the intercessions of the Lord Messiah, which
we have chosen for our motto. Let him then examine the two following
propositions, and say whether these do not express Heaven's own scheme of
augmenting and conservating the body of Christ.
1st. Nothing is essential to the conversion of the world, but the union
and co-operation of Christians.
2nd. Nothing is essential to the union of Christians, but the Apostles"
teaching or testimony.
Or does he choose to express the plan of the Self-Existent in other words?
Then he may change the order, and say-
1st. The testimony of the Apostles, is the only and all-sufficient means
of uniting all Christians.
2nd. The union of Christians with the Apostles' testimony, is all-sufficient,
and alone sufficient, to the conversion of the world.
Neither truth alone, nor union alone, is sufficient to subdue the unbelieving
nations; but truth and union combined, are omnipotent. They are
omnipotent, for God is in them and with them, and has consecrated
and blessed them for this very purpose.
These two propositions have been stated, illustrated, developed, - and shall
I say proved, in the Christian Baptist, and Millennial Harbinger,
to the conviction of thousands. Indeed, one of them is as universally conceded,
as it has been proposed, viz: That the union of Christians is essential
to the conversion of the world; and though, perhaps, some might be found
who would question, whether, if all Christians were united, the whole world
could be converted to God; there is no person, of whom we have heard, who
admits a general or universal prevalence of the gospel - in what is usually
called the millennial age of the world - and who admits that moral means
will have any thing to do with its introduction, who does not also admit
that the union of Christians is essential to that state of things. Indeed,
to suppose that all Christians will form one communion in that happy age
of the world, and not before it, is to suppose a moral effect without a cause.
The second proposition, viz.: That the word or testimony of the Apostles
is itself all-sufficient, and alone sufficient, to the union of all
Christians, cannot be rationally doubted by any person acquainted with
that testimony, or who admits the competency of their inspiration to make
them infallible teachers of the Christian institution. And, indeed, all who
contend for those human institutions called creeds, contend for them as necessary
only to the existence of a party, or while the present schisms, contentions,
and dissensions exist. Therefore, all the defences of creeds, ancient and
modern, while they assert that the Bible alone is the only perfect and infallible
rule of faith and morals; not only concede that these symbols called creeds,
are imperfect and fallible, but, also, that these creeds never can achieve
what the Bible, without them, can accomplish.
But how to do without them, appears to be an insuperable difficulty to many
well disposed Christians. To labour this point would be foreign to our present
purpose; especially as it has already been fully discussed in the present
It is, perhaps, altogether sufficient at present to propose the question,
How has, what is called the church, done with them? Have they not been the
fruitful cause or occasion of all the discords, schisms, and parties, now
existing in Christendom? And will not a very superficial observation, and
a little experience, convince every man that the rivers tend not more certainly
to the sea, than creeds and human devices in religion, tend to discords and
divisions. Take, for example, two of the most popular creeds of the present
day - the Westminster, and that of the Methodist - with whose history American
society is better acquainted than with that of any other, and test the tree
of its fruits, - judge their tendency by their practical effects upon society.
To say nothing of the lesser schisms in the party, that once formed one communion
on the platform of the Westminster creed, we can now enumerate no less than
nine separate communions - all professing the Westminster articles, in substance
or in form. These are the General Assembly in Scotland and the United States,
the Cameronians or Solemn League and Covenant Presbyterians, the Burghers
or Unionists, the Anti-Burghers or Seceders, the Relief Presbyterians, the
Cumberland Presbyterians, and the New School, now upon the eve of being born.
To these might be added those called English Presbyterians, who are now more
generally known by the name of Independents and Congregationalists; and,
indeed, the Glassites or Sandemanians, who came out of the synod of Angus
and Mearns in the year 1728. Thus in one hundred and ninety years, have nine
or ten distinct communions originated out of the Westminster creed. Some
of them, too, as discordant and aloof from each other, as were the Jews and
[*Since the above was written some of these bodies have united]
Nor have the Methodists in England, Canada, and the United States done much
better for their age. They now form five or six separate communions, under
different names. To say nothing of the Whitefieldite Methodists, those of
John Wesley, are, the Wesleyan Methodists, the New Connexion of Methodists,
the Methodist Episcopal church, the O"Kelly Methodists, the Radicals, etc.
And what shall I say of the twelve or fourteen sects of Baptists - many of
whom have as much affection for the Greek and Roman church, as for one another!
It were useless to furnish other evidence in proof that human opinions,
inferential reasonings, and deductions from the Bible, exhibited in the form
of creeds, can never unite Christians; as all their fruits are alienation,
repulsion, bickering, and schism. No human creed in Protestant Christendom
can be found, that has not made a division for every generation of its
existence. And I may add - the more thinking, inquisitive, and intelligent
the community which owns a creed, the more frequent their debates and schisms.
But the Bible will do not better, if men approach it with a set of opinions,
or a human symbol in their minds. For then it is not the Bible, but the opinions
in the mind, that form the bond of union. Men, indeed, had better have a
written than an unwritten standard of orthodoxy, if they will
not abandon speculation and abstract notions, as any part of Christian faith
But all these modes of faith and worship are based upon a mistake of the
true character of Revelation, which it has long been our effort to correct.
With us, Revelation has nothing to do with opinions, or abstract reasonings;
for it is founded wholly and entirely upon facts. There is not one
abstract opinion, not one speculative view, asserted or communicated in Old
Testament or New. Moses begins with asserting facts that had transpired in
creation and providence; and John ends with asserting prophetic or prospective
facts, in the future displays of providence and redemption. Facts, then,
are the alpha and the omega of both Jewish and Christian
But that the reader may have before his mind in one summary view, the whole
scheme of union and co-operation, which the Living Oracles and the present
state of the Christian religion in the world demand; which has been, at different
times and in various manners, illustrated and sustained in the present
controversy, against divisions, - we shall here submit it in one period.
Let THE BIBLE be substituted for all human creeds;
FACTS, for definitions, THINGS, for
words; FAITH, for speculation; UNITY OF
FAITH, for unity of opinion; THE POSITIVE COMMANDMENTS
OF GOD, for human legislation and tradition;
PIETY, for ceremony; MORALITY, for
partizan zeal; THE PRACTICE OF RELIGION, for the mere
profession of it; - and the work is done.
For the illustration of the leading terms, and their correlates found in
this project, and for a full development of our meaning, (as we may
nor may not be understood, if interpreted by the polemic vocabulary of this
age,) - we shall introduce some extracts from the Christian Baptist
and Millennial Harbinger, developing our meaning, and containing some
of the capital positions which have been fully elicited and canvassed, in
a controversy of twelve years.
Back to the beginning
Fact means something done. The term deed, so common in the
reign of James the First, is equivalent to our term fact. Truth and
fact, though often confounded, are not the same. All facts are truth, but
all truths are not facts. That God exists, is a truth, but not a fact; that
he created the heavens and the earth, is a fact and a truth. That Paul was
the Apostle of the Gentiles, is a truth, but not a fact; and that he preached
Christ to the Gentiles is both a fact and a truth. The simple agreement of
the terms of any proposition with the subject of that proposition, or the
representation of any thing as it exists, is a truth. But something must
be done, acted, or effected, before we have a fact. There are many things
true in religion, morals, politics, and general science, which are not facts;
but these are all but the correspondence of words and ideas with the things
of which they treat.
Facts have a power which logical truth has not; and therefore, we say, that
facts are stubborn things. They are things, not words. The
power of any fact, is the meaning; and therefore the measure of its power
is the magnitude of its import. All moral facts have a moral meaning; and
those are properly called moral facts, which either exhibit, develop, or
form moral character. All those facts, or works of God, which are purely
physical, exhibit what have been commonly called his natural or physical
perfections; and all those facts or works of God, which are purely moral,
exhibit his moral character. It so happens, however, that all his works,
when properly understood, exhibit both his physical and moral character,
when viewed in all their proper relations. Thus the deluge exhibited his
power, his justice, and his truth; and therefore, displayed both his physical
and moral grandeur. The turning of water into wine, apart from its design,
is purely a demonstration of physical power; but when its design is apprehended,
it has a moral force equal to its physical majesty.
The work of redemption is a system of work, or deeds, on the part of Heaven,
which constitutes the most splendid series of moral facts which man or angel
ever saw. And they are the proof, the argument, or the demonstration, of
that regenerating proposition which presents God and love as two names
for one idea.
When these facts are understood, or brought into immediate contact with the
mind of man, as a moral seal or archetype, they delineate the image of God
upon the human soul. All the means of grace are, therefore, only the means
of impressing this seal upon the heart; of bringing these moral facts to
make their full impression on the soul of man. Testimony and faith are
but the channel through which these facts, or the hand of God, draws the
image on the heart and character of man. If then the fact and the testimony
are both the gift of God, we may well say that faith and eternal life are
also the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
To enumerate the gospel facts would be to narrate all that is recorded of
the sayings and doings of Jesus Christ, from his birth to his coronation
in the heavens. They are, however, concentrated in a few prominent ones,
which group together all the love of God in the gift of his Son. He died
for our sins, He was buried in the grave, He rose from the dead for our
justification, and is ascended to the skies to prepare mansions for his
disciples, comprehend the whole, or are the heads to the chapters which narrate
the love of God, and display his moral majesty and glory to our view.
These moral facts unfold all the moral grandeur of Jehovah, and make Jesus
the effulgence of his glory, the express image of his substance. These are
the moral seal which testimony conveys to the understanding, and
faith brings to the hearts of sinners, by which God creates them anew,
and forms them for his glory. It is the Spirit which bears witness - the
Spirit of God and of Christ which gives the testimony, and confirms it in
the disciples. But let us next proceed to testimony.
Back to the beginning
The Romans, from whom we have borrowed much of our language, called the witness
the testis. The declaration of this testis is still called
testimony. In reference to the material system around us, to all objects
and matters of sense, the eye, the ear, the smell, the taste, the feeling,
are the five witnesses. What we call the evidence of sense, is, therefore,
the testimony of these witnesses, which constitute the five avenues to the
human mind from the kingdom of nature. They are figuratively called witnesses,
and their evidence, testimony. But the report or declaration of intelligent
beings, such as God, angels, and men, constitute what is properly and literally
As light reflected from any material object upon the eye, brings that object
into contact with the eye, or enables the object to make its image on the
eye, so testimony concerning any fact, brings that fact into contact with
the mind, and enables it to impress itself, or to form its image upon the
intellect, or mind of man. Now, be it observed, that as by our five external
senses we acquire all information of the objects of sense around us, so by
testimony, human or divine, we receive all our information upon all facts
which are not the objects of immediate exercise of our five senses upon the
things around us.
To appreciate the full value of testimony in divine work of regeneration,
we have only to reflect, that all the moral facts which can form moral character,
after the divine model, or which can effect a moral or religious change in
man, are found in the testimony of God: and that no fact can operate at all,
where it is not present; or where it is not known. The love of God in the
death of the Messiah, never drew a tear of gratitude or joy from any eye,
or excited a grateful emotion in any heart among the nations of our race
to whom the testimony never came. No fact in the history of six thousand
years, no work of God in creation, providence, or redemption, has ever influenced
the heart of man or woman, to whom it has not been testified. Testimony is,
then, in regeneration, as necessary as the facts of which it speaks.
The real value of any thing, is the labour which it cost, and its utility
when acquired. If reason and justice arbitrated all questions upon the value
of property, the decision would be, that every article is worth the amount
of human labour which is necessary to obtain it; and when obtained, it is
again to be tried in the scales of utility. Now, as all the facts, and all
the truth which can renovate human nature, are in the testimony of God; and
as that testimony cost the labour and the lives of the wisest and best that
ever lived, that testimony, to us, is just as valuable as the facts which
it records, and the labours and the lives which it cost, and just as
indispensable in the process of regeneration, as were the labours and the
lives of Prophets, Apostles, and the Son of God.
History, or narrative, whether oral or written, is only another name for
testimony. When, then, we reflect how large a portion of both Testaments
is occupied in history, we may judge of how much importance it is in the
judgment of God. Prophecy, also, being the history of future facts, or a
record of things to be done, belongs to the same chapter of facts and record.
Now if all past facts, and all future facts, or all the history or testimony
concerning them, was erased from the volumes of God's inspiration, how small
would the remainder be! These considerations, added together, only in part
exhibit the value and utility of testimony in the regeneration of mankind.
But its value will be still more evident, when the proper import of the term
faith is fully set before us.
Back to the beginning
No testimony, no faith: for faith is only the belief of testimony,
or confidence in testimony as true. To believe without testimony, is just
as impossible as to see without light. The measure, quality, and power of
faith, are always found in the testimony believed.
Where testimony begins, faith begins; and where testimony ends, faith ends.
We believe Moses just as far as Moses speaks or writes: and when Moses has
recorded his last fact, or testified his last truth, our faith in Moses
terminates. His five books are, therefore, the length and breadth, the height
and depth, or, in other words, the measure, of our faith in Moses.
The quality or value of faith is found in the quality of value of
the testimony. If the testimony be valid and authoritative, our faith is
strong and operative. "If," says John, "we receive the testimony of men,
the testimony of God is greater," stronger, and more worthy of credit. The
value of a bank bill, is the amount of the precious metals which it represents,
and the indisputable evidence of its genuineness; so the value of faith is
the importance of the facts which the testimony presents, and the assurance
afforded that the testimony is true. True, or unfeigned faith, may be contrasted
with feigned faith; but true faith is the belief of truth: for he that believes
a lie, believes in vain.
The power of faith is also the power, or moral meaning of the testimony,
or of the facts which the testimony represents. If by faith I am transported
with joy, or overwhelmed in sorrow, that joy or sorrow is in the facts contained
in the testimony, or in the nature and relation of those facts to me. If
faith purifies the heart, works by love, and overcomes the world, this power
is in the facts believed. If a father has more joy in believing that a lost
son has been found, than in believing that a lost sheep has been brought
home to his fold, the reason of this greater joy is not in the nature of
his believing, but in the nature of the facts believed.
Here I am led to expatiate on a very popular and pernicious error of modern
times. The error is, that the nature, or power and saving efficacy of faith,
is not in the truth believed, but in the nature of our faith, or in
the manner of believing the truth. Hence all that unmeaning jargon
about the nature of faith, and all those disdainful sneers at what is called
"historic faith," - as if there could be any faith without history, written
or spoken. Who ever believed in Jesus Christ, without hearing the history
of him? "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?"
Faith never can be more than the receiving of testimony as true, or the belief
of testimony; and if that testimony be written, it is called history - though
it is as much history when flowing from the tongue, as when flowing from
Let it be again repeated, and remembered, that there is no other manner of
believing a fact, than by receiving it as true. If it is not received as
true, it is not believed; and when it is believed, it is no more than regarded
as true. This being conceded, then it follows, that the efficacy of faith
is always in the fact believed, or the object received, and not in the nature
or manner of believing.
|"Faith was bewildered much by men who meant
To make it clear, so simple in itself.
A thought so rudimental and so plain,
That none by comment could it plainer make.
All faith was one. In object, not in kind,
The difference lay. The faith that saved a soul,
And that which in the common truth believed,
In essence, were the same. Hear, then, what faith,
True Christian faith, which brought salvation, was:
Belief in all that God revealed to men;
Observe, in all that God revealed to men,
In all he promised, threatened, commanded, said,
Without exception, and without a
This holds universally in all the sensitive, intellectual, and moral powers
of man. All our pleasures and pains, all our joys and sorrows, are the effects
of the objects of sensation, reflection, faith, etc., apprehended or received,
and not in the nature of the exercise of any power of capacity with which
we are endowed. We shall illustrate and confirm this assertion by an appeal
to the experience of all.
Let us glance at all our sensitive powers. If, on surveying with the eye
a beautiful landscape, I am pleased, and on surveying a battle field strewed
with the spoils of death, I am pained, - is it in accordance with truth to
say, that the pleasure or the pain received was occasioned by the nature
of vision, or the mode of seeing? Was it not the sight, the thing
seen, the object of vision, which produced the pleasure and the pain? The
action of looking, or the mode of seeing, was in both cases the same; but
the things seen, or the objects of vision, were different; - consequently,
the effects produced were different.
If on hearing the melody of the grove I am delighted, and on hearing the
peals of thunder breaking to pieces the cloud, dark with horror, hanging
over my head, I am terrified, - is the delight or the terror to be ascribed
to the manner or nature of hearing, or to the thing heard? Is it not the
thing heard, which produces the delight or the terror?
If I am refreshed by the balmy fragrance of the opening bloom of spring,
or sickened by the fetid effluvia of putrid carcasses, - are these effects
to be ascribed to the peculiar nature or mode of smelling, or to the thing
smelt? Or when the honey and the gall come in contact with my taste, - is
the sweet or the bitter to be regarded as the effect of my manner of tasting,
or to the object tasted? And when I touch the ice, or the blazing torch,
- is the effect or feeling produced to be imputed to the manner of feeling
them, or to the thing felt? May we not, then, affirm that all the pleasures
and pains of sense; all the effects of sensation; are the results, not of
the manner in which our five senses are exercised, but of the objects on
which they are exercised? it may be said, without in the least invalidating
this conclusion, that the more intimate the exercise of our senses is with
the things on which they are exercised, the stronger and more forcible will
be the impressions made: but still it is the object seen, heard, smelt, tasted,
or felt, which affects us.
Passing from the outward to the inward man, and on examining the powers of
intellection one by one, we shall find no exception to the law which pervades
all our sensitive powers. It is neither the faculty of perception, nor the
manner of perception, but the thing perceived, that excites us to action:
it is not the exercise of reflection, but the thing reflected upon: it is
not memory, nor the exercise of recollection, but the thing remembered: it
is not imagination, but the thing imagined: it is not reason itself, nor
the exercise of reason, but the thing reasoned upon, which affords pleasure
or pain - which excites to action - which cheers, allures, consoles -- which
grieves, disquiets, or discommodes us.
Ascending to our volitions and our affections, we shall find the same
universality. In a word, it is not choosing, nor refusing; it is not loving,
hating, fearing, desiring, nor hoping; it is not the nature of any power,
faculty, or capacity of our nature, nor the simple exercise of them, but
the objects or things upon which they are exercised, which give us pleasure
or pain; which induce us to action, or influence our behaviour. Faith, then,
or the power of believing, must be an anomalous thing; a power sui
generis; an exception to the laws under which every power, faculty, or
capacity of man is placed, unless its measure, quality, power, and efficacy
be in the facts which are testified, in the objects on which it terminates.
There is no connection of cause and effect more
intimate; there is no system of dependencies more closely linked; there is
no arrangement of things more natural or necessary, than the ideas represented
by the terms fact, testimony, faith, and feeling. The first
is for the last, and the two intermediates are made necessary by the force
of circumstances, as the means for the end. The fact, or the thing said to
be done, produces the change in the frame of mind. The testimony, or the
report of the thing said or done, is essential to belief; and belief of it
is necessary to bring the thing said or done to the heart. The change of
heart is the end proposed in this part of the process of regeneration; and
we may see that the process on the part of Heaven is, thus far, natural and
rational; or, in other words, consistent with the constitution of our
Back to the beginning
CONFIRMATION OF THE TESTIMONY.
All revealed religion is based upon facts. Testimony has respect to facts
only; and that testimony may be credible, it must be confirmed. These points
are of so much importance as to deserve some illustration, and much
consideration. By facts we always mean something said or done. The
works of God and the words of God, or the things done and spoken by God,
are those facts which are laid down and exhibited in the Bible as the foundation
of all faith, hope, love, piety, and humanity. All true and useful knowledge
is an acquaintance with facts. And all true science is acquired from the
observation and comparison of facts. But he that made the heart of man and
gave him an intelligent spirit. knows that facts alone can move the affections
and command the passions of man. Hence the scheme of mercy which he has
discovered to the world, is all contained in, and developed by, the works
of mercy which he has wrought.
Facts have a meaning which the understanding apprehends, and the heart feels.
According to the meaning or nature of the fact, is its effect upon us. If
a friend have risked his life, or sacrificed his reputation or fortune to
relieve us, we cannot but confide in him and love him. If an enemy have attempted
our life, invaded our property, or attacked our reputation, we cannot, naturally,
but hate him. Nothing but the command of a benefactor, or the will of some
dear friend, who had laid us under obligation to himself, can prevent us
from hating our enemies. If a beloved relative have sustained some great
misfortune, we must feel sorry; or if he have been rescued from some impending
calamity, we must feel glad. Our joy in the latter case, and our sorrow in
the former, arise from the meaning or nature of the fact. The feelings
corresponding with the nature of the fact, are excited or called into existence
the moment the fact is known or believed. It is known when we have
witnessed it ourselves, and it is believed when reported to us by
credible persons who have witnessed it. This is the chief difference between
faith and knowledge.
As existence or beings must precede knowledge, so facts must precede either
knowledge or belief. An event must happen before it can be known by man --
it must be known by some before it can be reported to others - it must be
reported before it can be believed, and the testimony must be confirmed,
or made credible, before it can be relied on.
Something must be done before it can be known, reported, or believed. Hence,
in the order of nature, there is first the fact, then the testimony, and
then the belief. A was drowned before B reported it - B reported it before
C believed it, and C believed it before he was grieved at it. This is the
unchangeable and universal order of things as respects belief. In this example
when we reason from effect to cause, it is grief, belief, testimony,
fact - and from cause to effect, it is fact, testimony, belief,
grief. We ascend from grief to belief - from belief to testimony -- from
testimony to fact. We descend from fact to testimony - from testimony to
belief - and from belief to grief. To this there is no exception, more than
against the universality of the law of gravity. If, then, there was nothing
said or done, there could be no testimony, and so no faith. Religious affections
spring from faith; and, therefore, it is of importance, that this subject
should be disintricated from the mysticism of the schools.
Laws call for obedience, and testimony for belief. Where there is no law,
there can be no obedience; and when there is no testimony, there can be no
faith. As obedience cannot transcend law, so faith cannot transcend testimony.
John's testimony went to so many facts. On his testimony we can believe only
as far as he has testified. And so of all the other witnesses. The certainty
of faith depends upon the certainty or credibility of the witnesses. But
not so its effects. The effects depend upon the facts believed --
the certainty upon the evidence. I may be equally certain that John
was beheaded - that Jesus was crucified. Nay, I may be as certain of the
birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, as I am of his death on Calvary. The testimony
may be equally credible, and the faith equally strong; but the effects produced
are not the same. The facts believed have not the same meaning, are not of
the same nature, and do not produce the same feelings or effects. I may be
as certain of the assassination of Caesar in the Senate House, as I am of
the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary: but as the facts believed are as diverse
in their nature, meaning, and bearings upon me, as the East and the West;
so the effects or fruits of my faith are as different as Julius Caesar and
Jesus Christ. The more ordinary the fact, the more ordinary the testimony
necessary to establish it. That A B, aged 90, and confined for some time
with sickness, died last night, requires only the most ordinary testimony
to render it credible. But that C D lived to 140, enjoying unabated vigour
of mind and body, requires stronger testimony. But still, all facts happening
in accordance with the ordinary and natural laws of things, require but good
human testimony to make them worthy of credence. It is only extraordinary
and supernatural facts which require supernatural testimony, or testimony
supernaturally confirmed. This is the point to which we have been looking
in this essay. And now that we have arrived at it, I would ask, How has
the testimony of the Apostles and Evangelists been confirmed?
To confirm a testimony is neither more nor less than to make it credible
to those to whom it is tendered; or, to express the same idea in other words,
it is to give men power to believe. Now, it will not require the same amount
of evidence to persuade an astronomer that the earth's shadow struck the
moon last eclipse, as it would to convince an Indian; nor would it require
the same amount of evidence to convince a chemist that combustion was effected
by pouring water on a certain composition of mineral substances, as it would
an unlettered swain. To make any testimony credible to any order of beings,
regard must therefore be had to the capacity, attainments, and habits of
those beings. To confirm the testimony of the Apostles concerning the Messiah's
death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, and coronation as the Lord and
King of the Universe, imports no more nor no less than that it should be
rendered every way credible to such things as we are, or that we should be
made able to believe. A testimony confirmed, and yet incredible
to those to whom it is tendered, is a contradiction in terms. But why emphasise
on the word confirmed? Because the holy Apostles have emphasised upon
it. It is therefore necessary that we should pay a due regard to the confirmation
of the testimony. The testimony is one thing, and the confirmation is another.
It is necessary, in all important occasions in human affairs, that the testimony
which is received between man and man should be confirmed by some sanction.
Hence an oath for confirmation of testimony is an end of all strife. The
highest confirmation which men require in all questions of facts, is a solemn
oath or affirmation that the things affirmed are true.
But supernatural facts require supernatural confirmations. Hence when the
confirmation of the gospel is spoken of in the apostolic writings, it is
resolved into the doings or works of the Holy Spirit. "Demonstrations
of the Holy Spirit, are the confirmatory proofs of the gospel. When Paul
delivered the testimony of God, or the testimony concerning Jesus, to the
Corinthians, he says, "It is was confirmed among them." And if we
examine into the confirmation of the testimony as Paul explained it, we shall
find that he makes the spiritual gifts, or those extraordinary and miraculous
powers which the Apostles themselves displayed, and which so many of their
converts also possessed, an assurance or confirmation of what he promulgated.
We shall only attend to the light which one of his epistles to the Corinthians
throws upon this subject. After thanking his God for the favour bestowed
upon the disciples of Corinth when he first visited them, he proceeds to
specify the special favours bestowed upon the disciples in that renowned
city. "You were enriched (says he, with every gift by him, even with all
speech and all knowledge when the testimony of Christ was confirmed
among you: so that you come behind in no gift." "There are diversities
of gifts, (says he, for to one disciple is given the word of wisdom;
to another, the word of knowledge; to another, faith, (to be
healed;) to another, the gift of healing; to another, the ability
of working in others the power of working miracles; to another,
prophecy; to another, discerning of spirits; to another,
divers kinds of foreign tongues; and to another, the interpretation
of foreign tongues." - Now, the Corinthians were put in possession of
these (for they came behind in no gift) "when the testimony of Christ was
confirmed among them." For, says Paul, I came not to you with the excellency
of speech, or the persuasive eloquence of the schools, but with the demonstration
of the Spirit and of power; that your belief of my testimony, or your faith,
might not rest, or be founded upon human wisdom or eloquence, but upon the
power of God evinced in the demonstrations of the Spirit which confirmed
my testimony among you. For had it not been for these demonstrations of the
Spirit and power, your faith could not have rested upon an immovable basis.
To those desirous to understand this subject, an
examination of this first letter to the Corinthians cannot fail to be most
instructive; for it most clearly and unequivocally teaches us that the
visible, audible, sensible demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
was that supernatural attestation of the testimony of Christ which made it
credible, so that no man could have acknowledged Jesus of Nazareth to be
the Almighty Lord, but by this demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Thus was
the testimony confirmed - thus was Jesus demonstrated to be the only begotten
Son of God - and thus, and thus only, are men enabled to believe in
Back to the beginning
Amidst the uncertainty, darkness, and vice, that overspread the earth, the
Messiah appears, and lays a foundation of hope, of true religion, and of
religious union, unknown, unheard of, unexpected among men. The Jews were
united by consanguinity, and by agreement in a ponderous ritual. The Gentiles
rallied under every opinion, and were grouped, like filings of steel around
a magnet, under every possible shade of difference of thought, concerning
their mythology. So long as unity of opinion was regarded as a proper basis
of religious union, so long have mankind been distracted by the multiplicity
and variety of opinions. To establish what is called a system of orthodox
opinions as the bond of union, was, in fact, offering a premium for new
diversities in opinion, and for increasing, ad infinitum, opinions,
sects, and divisions. And what is worse than all, it was establishing self-love
and pride as religious principles, as fundamental to salvation; or a love
regulated by similarity of opinion, is only a love to one's own opinion;
and all the zeal exhibited in the defence of it, is but the workings of the
pride of opinion.
When the Messiah appeared as the founder of a new religion, systems of religion
consisting of opinions and speculations upon matter and mind, upon God and
nature, upon virtue and vice, had been adopted, improved, reformed, and exploded
time after time. That there was always something superfluous, something
defective, something wrong, something that could be improved, in every system
of religion and morality, was generally felt, and at last universally
acknowledged. But the grandeur, sublimity, and beauty of the foundation of
hope, and of ecclesiastical or social union, established by the author and
founder of Christianity, consisted in this, that THE BELIEF OF ONE
FACT, and that upon the best evidence in the world, is all that
is requisite, as far as faith goes, to salvation. The belief of this
ONE FACT and submission to ONE INSTITUTION
expressive of it, is all that is required of Heaven to admission into
the church. A Christian, as defined, not by Dr. Johnson, nor any creed-maker,
but by one taught from Heaven, is one that believes this one fact,
and has submitted to one institution, and whose deportment accords
with the morality and virtue of the great Prophet. The one fact is expressed
in a single proposition - that Jesus the Nazarene is the Messiah.
The evidence upon which it is to be believed is the testimony of twelve
men, confirmed by prophecy, miracles, and spiritual gifts. The one
institution is baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Spirit. Every such person is a disciple in the fullest sense
of the word, the moment he has believed this one fact, upon the above evidence,
and has submitted to the above mentioned institution; and whether he believes
the five points condemned, or the five points approved by the synod of Dort,
is not so much as to be asked of him; whether he holds any of the views of
the Calvinists or Arminians, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists,
or Quakers, is never once to be asked of such persons, in order to admission
into the Christian community, called the church. The only doubt that can
reasonably arise upon these points, is, whether this one fact, in
its nature and necessary results, can suffice to the salvation of the soul,
and whether the open avowal of it, in the overt act of baptism, can be a
sufficient recommendation of the person, so professing, to the confidence
and love of the brotherhood. As to the first of these, it is again and again
asserted, in the clearest language, by the Lord himself, the Apostles Peter,
Paul, and John, that he that believes the testimony that Jesus is the Christ,
is begotten by God, may overcome the world, has eternal life, and is, on
the veracity of God, saved from his sins. This should settle the first point;
for the witnesses agree that whosoever confesses that Jesus is the Christ,
and is baptized, should be received into the church; and not an instance
can be produced of any person being asked for any other faith, in order to
admission, in the whole New Testament. The Saviour expressly declared to
Peter, that upon this fact, that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, he would
build his church; and Paul has expressly declared that "other foundation
can no man lay (for ecclesiastical union) than that JESUS IS THE
CHRIST." The point is proved that we have assumed; and this proved,
every thing is established requisite to the union of all Christians upon
a proper basis.
It must strike every man of reflection, that a religion requiring much mental
abstraction or exquisite refinement of thought, or that calls for the
comprehension or even apprehension of refined distinctions and of nice
subtleties, is a religion not suited to mankind in their present circumstances.
To present such a creed as the Westminster, as adopted, either by Baptists
or Pedobaptists; such a creed as the Episcopalian, or, in the fact, any sectarian
creed, composed as they all are, of propositions, deduced by logical inferences,
and couched in philosophical language, to all those who are fit subjects
of the salvation of Heaven - I say, to present such a creed to such for their
examination or adoption, shocks all common sense. This pernicious course
is what has paganized Christianity. Our sects and parties, our disputes and
speculations, our orders and castes, so much resemble any thing but Christianity,
that when we enter a modern synagogue, or an ecclesiastical council, we seem
rather to have entered a Jewish sanhedrim, a Mohammedan mosque, a Pagan temple,
or an Egyptian cloister, than a Christian congregation. Sometimes, indeed,
our religious meetings so resemble the Areopagus, the Forum, or the Senate,
that we almost suppose ourselves to have been translated to Athens or Rome.
Even Christian orators emulate Demosthenes and Cicero. Christian doctrines
are made to assume the garb of Egyptian mysteries, and Christian observances
put on the pomp and pageantry of pagan ceremonies. Unity of opinion, expressed
in subscription to voluminous dogmas imported from Geneva, Westminster,
Edinburgh, or Rome, is made the bond of union: and a difference in the tenth,
or ten thousandth shade of opinion, frequently becomes the actual cause of
dismemberment or expulsion. The New Testament was
not designed to occupy the same place in theological seminaries that the
carcases of malefactors are condemned to occupy in medical halls - first
doomed to the gibbet, and then to the dissecting knife of the spiritual
anatomist. Christianity consists infinitely more in good works than in sound
opinions; and while it is a joyful truth, that he that believes and is baptized
shall be saved, it is equally true that he that says,"I know him, and keeps
not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in
Back to the beginning
PURITY OF SPEECH.
If I were to classify in three chapters the whole Christian institution,
after the fashion of the modern schools, for the sake of being understood,
I would designate them Christian faith, Christian worship,
and Christian morality. To these the moderns have added two others,
which, using the same licence, I would call human philosophy, and
human traditions. Now, in the first chapter, we, and all Christians,
are agreed: for as Christian faith has respect to the matters of fact
recorded - to the direct testimony of God found in the New Testament concerning
himself - concerning his Son and Spirit - concerning mankind - what he has
done, and what he will do, on it there is no debate. I find all confessions
of FAITH, properly so called, like the four gospels,
tell the same story so far as matters of fact or faith are concerned.
In the second chapter we are also agreed, that God is to be worshipped through
the Mediator - in prayer, in praise, public and private - in the ordinances
of Christian baptism, the Lord's day, the Lord's supper, and in the devotional
study of his word and of his works of creation and providence.
In the third chapter we all acknowledge the same moral code. What is morality,
is confessed and acknowledged by all; but in the practice of it there are
We repudiate the two remaining chapters as having any place in our faith,
worship, or morality; because we think we have discovered that all the divisions
in Protestant Christendom - that all the partyism, vain jangling, and heresies
which have disgraced the Christian profession, have emanated from human
philosophy and human tradition. It is not faith, nor piety, nor morality;
but philosophy and tradition that have alienated and estranged Christians,
and prevented the conversion of the world. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle,
deserved not the reputation of philosophers, if Calvin, Arminius, and Wesley,
were not worthy of it. The former philosophised morally on nature and ancient
tradition - the latter, on the Bible, and human society.
Religious philosophers on the Bible have excogitated the following doctrines
and philosophical distinctions:-
"The Holy Trinity," "Three persons of one substance, power, and eternity,"
"Co-essential, co-substantial, co-equal," "The Son eternally begotten of
the Father," "An eternal Son," "Humanity and divinity of Christ," "The Holy
Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son," "God's eternal decrees,"
"Conditional and unconditional election and reprobation," "God out of Christ,"
"Free will," "Liberty and necessity," "Original sin," "Total depravity,"
"Covenant of grace,"7 "Effectual calling,"
"Free grace," 'sovereign grace," "General and particular atonement," 'satisfy
divine justice," "Common and special operations of the Holy Ghost," "Imputed
righteousness," "Inherent righteousness," "Progressive sanctification,"
"Justifying and saving faith," "Historic and temporary faith," "The direct
and reflex acts of faith," "The faith of assurance, and the assurance of
faith," "Legal repentance," "Evangelical repentance," "Perseverance of the
saints,"8 and "Falling from
grace,"9 "Visible and invisible church," "Infant
membership," "sacraments," "Eucharist," "Consubstantiation," "Church government,"
"The power of the keys," etc. etc.
Concerning these and all such doctrines, and all the speculations and phraseology
to which they have given rise, we have the privilege neither to affirm nor
deny - neither to believe nor doubt; because God has not proposed them to
us in his word, and there is no command to believe them. If they are deduced
from the Scriptures, we have them in the facts and declarations of God's
Spirit; if they are not deduced from the Bible, we are free from all the
difficulties and strifes which they have engendered and created.
We choose to speak of Bible things by Bible words, because we are
always suspicious that if the word is not in the Bible, the idea which it
represents is not there; and always confident that the things taught by God
are better taught in the words, and under the names which the Holy Spirit
has chosen and appropriated, than in the words which man's wisdom teaches.
There is nothing more essential to the union of the disciples of Christ than
purity of speech. So long as the earth was of one speech, the human
family was united. Had they been then of a pure speech as well as of one
speech, they would not have been separated. God, in his just indignation,
dispersed them; and before he scattered them, he divided their
language. One of his Prophets, who lived in
a degenerate age, who prophesied against the corruptions of his day, when
he spoke of better times, of an age of union and communion, was commanded
to say in the name of the Lord, "Then will I turn to the people a pure
language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve
him with one consent."10 Purity of speech
is here declared to be prerequisite to serving the Lord with one
"The words of the Lord are pure words."11 To
have a pure speech we must choose the language of Canaan, and abandon that
of Ashdod. And if we would be of one mind, we must 'speak the same thing."
This was Paul's scheme of union, and no man can suggest a better.
It requires but little reflection to discover that the fiercest disputes
about religion, are about what the Bible does not say, rather than
about what it does say - about words and phrases coined in the mint
of speculative theology. Of these the homousios and the
homoousios of the ever-memorable Council of Nice are a fair sample.
Men are neither wiser, more intelligent, nor better after, than before, they
know the meaning of these words. As far as known on earth, there is not,
in "the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,"
the name of any person who was either converted or sanctified to God by any
of these controversies about human dogmas, nor by anything learned from the
canons or creeds of all the Councils, from that of Nice to the last Methodistic
It is a virtue, then, to forget this scholastic jargon, and even the names
of the dogmas which have convulsed Christendom. It is a concession due to
the crisis in which we live, for the sake of peace, to adopt the vocabulary
of Heaven, and to return the borrowed nomenclature of the schools of its
rightful owners - to speculate no more upon the opinions of Saint Austin,
Saint Tertullian, Saint Origen - to speak of the Father, and the Son, and
of the Holy Spirit - of the gospel, of faith, of repentance, of baptism,
of election, of the death of Christ, of his mediation, of his blood, of the
reconciliation, of the Lord's supper, of the atonement, of the church of
God, etc. etc., in all the phrases found in the Record, without partiality
- to learn to love one another as much when we differ in opinion as when
we agree, and to distinguish between the testimony of God, and man's reasonings
and philosophy upon it.
I need not say much upon the chapter of human traditions. They are
easily distinguished from the Apostles' traditions. Those of the Apostles
are found in their writings, as those of men are found in their own books.
Some human traditions may have a show of wisdom, but only an appearance.
So long as it is written, "In vain to they worship me, teaching for doctrines
the commandments of men," so long will it be presumptuous folly to add the
commandments of men to the precepts of Jesus Christ. I know of but one way
in which all believers in Jesus Christ, honourably to themselves, honourably
to the Lord, and advantageously to all the sons of Adam, can form one communion.
All have two chapters too many in their present ecclesiastic constitutions.
The contents of the aforesaid two chapters are various and different in all
the sects, but they all have these two chapters under some name. In some
they are long, and in some they are short; but whether long or short, let
every one agree to tear them out of his book and burn them, and be satisfied
with faith, piety, and morality. Let human philosophy and human
tradition, as any part of the Christian institution, be thrown overboard
into the sea, and then the ship of the church will make a prosperous, safe,
and happy voyage across the ocean of time, and finally, under the triumphant
flag of Immanuel, gain a safe anchorage in the haven of eternal rest.
I would appeal to every honourable, good, and loyal citizen of the kingdom
of Heaven, - to every one that seeks the good of Zion, that loves the kingdom
and the appearing of our common Lord and Saviour, whether such a concession
be not due to the Lord, to the saints in heaven and on earth, and to the
whole human race in the crisis in which we are now placed; and whether we
could propose less, or ought to demand more, than to make one whole burnt
offering of all our "empty and deceitful philosophy," - our "science, falsely
so called," - and our traditions received from our fathers. I would leave
it to the good sense of every sane mind to say, whether such a whole burnt
offering would not be the most acceptable peace offering, which, in this
our day, could be presented on the altar of the Prince of Peace; and whether,
under the teachings of the Apostles of the Great Prophet, the church might
not again triumphantly stand upon the holy ground, which she so honourably
occupied before Origen, Austin, Athanasius, or the first Pope was
Back to the beginning
Baptist, vol. ii, pp. 66, 67. Essays on the Westminster creed, vol. 2. -
Review of Dr. Noel's Circular, vol. v.
2 Pollock's Course
of Time, Book viii. p. 189.
Harbinger, Extra, No. 6, pp. 340-345.
4 Millennial Harbinger,
vol. 1, pp. 8-12.
5 The fundamental
proposition is - that Jesus is the Christ. The fact, however,
contained in this proposition is - that God has anointed Jesus of Nazareth
as the only Saviour of sinners. He is the promised Christ: "God has constituted
him Lord and Christ." - PETER.
6 Christian Baptist,
vol. i, pp. 167-169.
7, 8, 9 These
are examples of scriptural phrases misapplied: for the corruption of Christianity
has been consummated by the incursions of barbarian language, and by the
new appropriations of the sacred style.
10 Zephaniah iii.
11 Psalm xii. 6
Harbinger, vol. vi, pp. 109-113.