Contents The Christian System
by Alexander Campbell
Index

FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIAN UNION
[ Back to "Chapter 17 - The Christian Confession of Faith"]
[ Back to "Chapter 14 - Faith in Christ"]


CONTENTS
  Introduction
Fact
Testimony
Faith
Confirmation of the Testimony
Fundamental Fact
Purity of Speech


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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 and love.

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 controversy.1

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 Samaritans.*

[*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 or duty.

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 revelations.

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.

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FACT.

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.

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TESTIMONY.

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 called testimony.

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.

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FAITH.

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 the pen.

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 doubt."2

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 nature.3

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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 him.4

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FUNDAMENTAL FACT.5

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 him."6

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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 great subtractions.

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 consent. 

"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 Conference.

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 born!12

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 1  Christian 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.
 3  Millennial 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. 9
 11  Psalm xii. 6
 12  Millennial Harbinger, vol. vi, pp. 109-113.


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