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may gain, a promise not to increase in knowledge-not to grow wiser. But this objection is without the least weight, if christians ought to be steady and unwavering in their belief of the fundamental doctrines of the gospel; and so they certainly ought to be, if they both know the truth, and know that they do know it. It is not improper or unreasonable for christians to promise that they will steadfastly adhere to the essential principles of their belief, expressed in their confessions of faith; for they are sure that these must stand, and that whatever new truths they may learn, will not subvert, but perfectly accord with and confirm that systein of doctrines which has been delivered them in the scriptures "of truth.
4. This subject shows the fallacy of that maxim of the poet, which is so often quoted, and so much admired:
'He can't be wrong whose life is in the right.'
Understood in one sense, this maxim is, no doubt, correct. It is true that a good life, in the strict and proper sense of the phrase, flows from good principles as much as a good heart. A good life is not only a moral, but a religious and godly life; and such a life results from the belief and love of the essential doctrines of the Bible; for it is the truth only 'which is according to godliness.'
But this is not the sense in which the above maxim was meant by the poet, and is understood by most who quote and admire it. The meaning intended, and commonly received, is this; that he is a virtuous and good man whose life is moral, whatever errors he may hold, and however fluctuating he may be in his belief. But here is a palpable fallacy, which our subject enables us to detect. Two things are here taken for granted, neither of which is true; first, that a virtuous and good man may embrace and retain ever so many and great errors, and perpetually fluctuate from one scheme of false doctrine to another, and secondly, that a man's erroneous and fluctuating belief may have no influence upon his practice, which is directly contrary to the assertion of the apostle James, that 'a donble-minded man is unstable in all his ways.'
5. It may be inferred from the preceding observations, that good sentiments are as important as good practice. Good moral and religious practice cannot flow from essentially erroneous moral and religious sentiments, any more than sweet water can flow from a bitter fountain, or good fruit grow upon a corrupt tree. A man's practice may be bad, whose sentiments are good; for men naturally love to practice evil, and may be drawn away by their lusts, and enticed to do what they are convinced is wrong, and what their own consciences condemn.
But, on the other hand, a man's practice cannot be good, whose sentiments are essentially and widely erroneous; for, in the first place, a good man will not embrace and retain such sentiments, and it is a good man only whose practice is really good, in a moral and religious view; and in the second place, a wicked man, who loves to practice evil, will feel himself justified by erroneous
sentiments, in following the desires and devices of his depraved heart; so that the instances are very rare, if they ever occur, in which a wicked man, who has imbibed great errors on moral and religious subjects, maintains even a fair exterior, and much less a truly moral and religious conversation. The lives of men are often worse, but rarely better than their creeds.
In this respect, as well as in others, it is not a matter of indifference what men believe. It is as important that men should know and believe the truth, as it is that they should understand aud do their duty.
6. This subject throws light upon a fact, for which it has been thought difficult to account. I allude to the great diversity of sentiment among those who profess to derive all their knowledge of religion and morals from the same sacred volume. From the earliest period, the christian world has been divided into various denominations, which have been multiplied and ramified almost without limits. These denominations have differed not only respecting the rites and forms of religion and the externals of morality, but respecting the essential and fundamental doctrines and duties of the gospel; while, at the same time, they have generally professed their belief in the sacred scriptures, as the inspired and sufficient rule of faith and practice. This fact has often perplexed the minds of believers, while unbelievers have taken occasion from it to justify their rejection of the counsel of God. This diversity of sentiment has been accounted for in various ways.Some have attributed it to the obscurity and apparent inconsistency of the sacred writers. But to account for it in this way, falls little short of calling in question the inspiration of the scriptures, which are professedly given for the instruction of all classes of men, and which all are required to understand and believe.Some have attributed the difference of sentiment in the christian world, to the difference in the natural abilities of men. But this must be incorrect; for the difference in the natural abilities of men, exists to as great a degree among those who are united in sentiment, as among those who differ; and it exists, and forever will exist, in heaven, where there can be no diversity of sentiment. Others have attributed the difference of sentiment among professing christians, to the different modes of education which have prevailed. But in reply it may be said, that the different modes of education have been the effect, and not the cause, of the diversity of religious and moral sentiment.
The subject under present consideration furnishes a satisfactory solution of the difficulty above mentioned, and discloses the true source of that diversity of moral and religious sentiment, which has so much distracted and puzzled the christian world. It is the same as the source of that unsteadiness and fluctuation in belief, to which so many are addicted. It is the blindness of the heart,' that moral depravity which darkens the understanding and perverts the judgment, which causes men to 'love darkness rather than light,' and leads the 'unlearned and unstable' to wrest the
scriptures to their own destruction.' If all who have professed the christian religion, had received the love of the truth,' they would have been of 'one mind,' and there would have been no diversity or change of sentiment, from the days of the apostles to the present time. But even now, notwithstanding the different modes of teaching, preaching, and writing, to which the difference of sentiment has given rise, it is possible for any honest inquirer after the truth, to find it. The obstacles in his way are great, but not insuperable. They may be overcome, and ought to be overcome, as to all essential matters; for there is no imperfection in the scriptures, which are able to make men wise unto salvation.'
7. This subject shows the reasonableness of disciplining professors of religion, for heresy as well as for immorality. Why should professors be disciplined for immorality? Doubtless because immorality furnishes evidence of an unrenewed heart. But heresy, i. e. the embracing and avowing of fundamental error, furnishes equal evidence of an unrenewed heart; for a professor who embraces and avows such error, is necessarily unsteady in his belief, having at least once apostatized from the faith which he professed, and thus given reason to apprehend that his heart is not right with God.'
8. In the light of this subject, the condition of saints appears happy and safe. They know the truth, and know that they know it; and the truth makes them free from doubt, perplexity, and change, and lays a solid foundation for their hope of heaven.
Finally, the condition of sinners appears miserable and dangerous. If they know and believe the truth, they hold it in sin, and make it the occasion of their greater condemnation. If they are ignorant of the truth, they are in darkness and perplexity, fluctuating from one error to another, and 'carried about with every wind of doctrine,' Their minds are like 'the troubled sea, which cannot rest.' Ever leaning, there is the utmost danger that, through the deceptive arts of heretics, the devices of Satan, and the blindness of their own hearts, they will never come to the saving knowledge of the truth.' CLERUS.
From the Episcopal Watchman. THE BAPTISM.
I saw them at the sacred altar stand,
Forget all else around. With might endued
Of shame to own their faith, should stain the cheek;
American Board.-The annual meeting of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, was held in NewHaven last month. The session commenced on Wednesday morning and closed on Friday evening.
From the Treasurer's Report, it appeared that the receipts of the Board during the past year were $100,934; viz-donations, $9,068; legacies, 9236; interest on permanent funds, 2630.Payments during the same period, including the debt of last year, $103,875
The sermon was by the Rev. Dr. Woods, of Andover, on 'Hindrances to the Spread of the Gospel.'
On Thursday evening a public meeting was held, at which, after the reading of extracts from the Report of the Prudential Committee, addresses were made by Rev. Drs. Cornelius, Lansing, Beecher, and M'Auley, and a contribution, amounting to $303; was taken up.
We understand that the Rev. Dr. Cornelius was unanimously elected Corresponding Secretary of the Board, in place of the late Mr. Evarts.
The Report of the Prudential Committee was read by Messrs. Anderson and Greene, Assistant Secretaries. The Intelligencer furnishes the following brief abstract.
The Board has eighteen distinct missions under its care;-four in Asia, three in Europe, ten among the Indian tribes of NorthAmerica, and one in Polynesia. These missions embrace 51 stations, and are composed of 61 preachers, 45 lay assistants, and 126 female helpers, married and single; in all 232. Fourteen preachers of the Gospel have received appointments, with a view to their proceeding into different fields, as soon as possible. One of these is, indeed, already on the way to the place of his destination. Eight, with a physician and printer, are expected to embark, during the present month, for the Pacific. One is destined to liberated Greece; another to Palestine; another to the Jews of Turkey; and two to Bombay.
The number of schools in the several missions is 1045, containing upwards of 50,000 scholars. There are four printing establishments, with eight presses, from which not far from 1,000,000 of books, and 47,000,000 of pages, have been issued in eleven different languages. Thirty-three churches have been organized, and contain upwards of 1300 members; and within the period embraced by this report, not less than five of the missions have been visited with copious effusions of the Spirit of God.
Catholics in Missouri.—The Catholic influence in Missouri is great. Besides the College in St. Louis, they have flourishing schools in several places. 1. At Florissant, about 10 miles above