« السابقةمتابعة »
nounced an heretical apostate, but his person has been delivered over to the tormenters.
THE eastern and western empires of the church have, each in their turn, poured forth the thunders of excommunication. Luther and Calvin, and all the Reformers, were heretics in their day. They also hereticated others, who differed from them. By the church of England the Puritans, our ancestors, were persecuted and driven from their native country. No sooner were they established in power, than, forgetting the rights of private judgment, they persecuted the Quakers and Baptists: They deprive them of citizenship and banished them their territories.
FOR no other crime than supposed error of opinion, more professing christians, than would people half these States, have either been burnt at the stake, perished on the rack, or been inhumanly butchered. And although in the present period, the benign influence of science and civilization has so far ameliorated the human mind, that the persecution of fire and sword ceases to destroy our race, yet, even now, the professing brethren of one common Lord, the avowed disciples of the Prince of peace, maintain a warm and bitter contest, and sullenly close against each other the doors of christian fellowship.
WHENCE Come wars and fightings among you, ye advocates of the mild and peaceful religion of Jesus? Do they not originate in your depraved lusts? Can ye seriously amuse yourselves with the idea, that such is the earnest contention for the faith once delivered to the saints to which you are exhorted by that inspiration, which commands all professing christians to receive one another, not to doubtful disputations, but as Christ hath received us to the glory of God? Is not the true and all important faith, a faith, which worketh by love, which purifieth the heart, overcometh the world, and bringeth forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness? What else is that system of moral virtue, exemplified by the lively practice of its glorious Author, and published to the ancient saints, through the medium of Apostles, as the essence of all true religion? To this faith his followers are never to be indifferent. For the maintainance and propagation of
this they are always earnestly, no matter how earnestly, to contend.
HAD the flaming zeal of the church been directed to this fundamental point, speculation would have disappeared as the pole star of controversy, and brotherly love, instead of being abolished, would have been made to abound. The lifeless and formal pharisee, the dry systematic, destitute of the love of God, the traitorous disturber of Zion's peace, and the enemy of the Lord Jesus by wicked works, would have been the victims, the only victims, sacrificed to the preservation of gospel faith.
BUT whence do christians differ in their speculations? Shall we say, "Through hatred of the truth?" Are we then to suppose, that God has given over to blindness of mind, that they all may be damned, those, who deny 'ungodliness with every worldly lust; who strenuously advocate and practise the holiness of the Redeemer; and carefully preserve themselves pure and unspotted from the world!
O CHARITY, thou offspring of God, who hopest all things, who thinkest no evil, and coverest a multitude of sins, divine and heavenly CHARITY, fill our bosoms with thy blessed influence, and lend thy friendly mantle to hide the infirmities of our race. And do thou, celestial CANDOR, dispel the mists which obscure the view of our understandings, that, in the light of unclouded day, we may discern the true cause of discordant opinions among the followers and advocates of christian truth.
Not only is there a great difference in the intellectual powers of men, but equally great is the difference in the opportunities of cultivating these powers. Some are allowed to spend their whole life in ransacking the stores of science, and every advantage, which can be desired for mental improvement, is enjoyed to the full. Others, whose natural abilities are equally great, are placed in circumstances altogether unfavorable. Improper instruction in early youth confines the genius of thousands, and lays it under embarrassment, which operates through life to retard their progress; while millions are compelled to constant and unremitted toil, to furnish themselves and their families with daily bread.
CIRCUMSTANCES, merely accidental, often give a particular direction to the human mind, inspire it with a certain train of thought, and infix first principles, which, though erroneous, become established, and have important influence upon all its subsequent reasonings and decisions.
LANGUAGE is highly ambiguous. Very numerous are the significations of a single word. Its various use is far better understood by some than by others, and minds, equally candid, obtain very different ideas from the same expression.
ACQUAINTANCE with the manners and customs of antiquity is, many times, essential to a just interpretation of an ancient writer. Of these customs some are ignorant, and therefore rendered incapable of developing a sentiment, which is wrapped in language alluding to a peculiar ceremony or practice of the author's time.
FIGURE or metaphor, though common to all languages, was more especially the manner in which the early eastern writers delighted to express their ideas. The literal construction is often very different from the metaphorical. Hence the same passage will convey a different sentiment, according to the mode of interpretation, which men adopt.
THE doctrines of scripture are not delivered in a systematic form, classed under distinct and separate heads. They are promiscuously scattered throughout the sacred volume. And, though the essential features of the scheme are so prominent as to strike the eye of even a careless observer, yet other doctrines often arise from a history, from an argument, from an extensive comparison of similar phraseology, from the general scope and design of the inspired writer, from the circumstances under which he wrote, and a consideration of the characters whom he addressed. Concerning all these things a fallible man, though ever so candid, is liable to misjudge.
FINALLY, Such is the unbounded influence of Education, that it operates like a constitutional mechanism upon the mind, and authoritatively dictates its decisions. The child is brought up to know and to feel the supremacy of the parent, to depend upon his instructions as originat
ing in superior knowledge, to place the utmost confidence in his declarations as undoubtedly true, and to exercise implicit faith in his religious formularies as unquestionably correct. Even before he has made any proficiency in letters, he is taught the principles of his instructor as being the revelation of God. Through the several periods of youth these are continually impressed, both by precept and example, upon his mind; and he is led, without understanding the grounds and reasons of other sects, to look upon those, who differ from his parents, in the same manner that they do. Some he pities as ignorantly stupid: Others he abhors as grossly depraved.
INDEED, when arrived to the age of manhood, not one in a thousand can be said to think for himself. He still reverences his ancestors, and their opinions sway his mind. Nor, with all his candor, is he likely to judge otherwise, though they may be ever so erroneous; seeing he has been always instructed, not only into a belief of the truth of their opinions, but also into their particular construction of such scriptures, as are adduced for the support of these opinions.
DOES he become a theological student, and enter on preparation for the ministry? Neither, in this case, is he at all liberated from the influence of education; but still continues a subject of its controling power. He becomes a student under some eminent divine, for whose piety, abilities, and orthodoxy, both he and his parents entertain the highest respect. The Presbyterian does not commit his son to the tuition of an Episcopalian Bishop; nor does the Baptist venture him in the hands of a Presbyterian Doctor. The rigid Calvinist furnishes no employment for the Arminian instructor; nor are the Arian or Socinian academies composed of the sons of Athanasian Trinitarians. The mind of the well disposed youth is still to continue in the channel of his ancestors. He is still to be loaded with the incumbrance of education, however erroneous, notwithstanding his age would capacitate him for independent thought, and indulge him in his own reflections. While under the care of his respected instructor, he is furnished with
such authors, as ingeniously defend his peculiar sentis ments. He is taught to contend earnestly for the creed of his teacher as being the faith once delivered to the saints; and, having examined one side of a question only, and been inspired with sufficient prejudice against every opponent, he is sent forth to preach and to defend the doctrines in which he was BORN!
COME hither ye Calvinists, ye Arminians, ye Presbyterians, ye Baptists, ye Episcopalians, and all other de nominations of any long standing, and testify against this statement if ye can. How muchsoever ye differ in other points, here ye fully agree. Ye all proclaim yourselves the legitimate sons of your fathers, and trace back your pedigree through many generations. Well disposed towards you all, I thank you for your testimony. Not withstanding your differences in points of speculation, I feel no necessity of charging depravity upon you, so long as charity can furnish a more rational account. As denominations, I see in you all many excellent virtues. I observe your unanimous acknowledgment of but one God, of whom are all things; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things; accompanied with many other grand articles of the christian scheme: And the reasons, exhibited above, do not allow me to raise against any one sect of professing christians the stone of condemnation.
Is such catholicism infidelity? It is then infidelity of a peculiar cast. Were it but universally prevalent, the christian kingdom would no longer be rent in sunder, by broils and dissentions, by wars and fightings. No longer would it be a house divided against itself. We should be the friendly brethren of one common Lord; we should show ourselves the subjects of the Prince of peace. In the unity of this spirit, prejudice and party, bigotry and superstition, those inveterate enemies of the church, would be immolated for their crimes. Zion would be covered with a coat of mail; and the union of her forces would render her invincible. Infidelity, deprived of his weapons of war, would shrink from the unequal contest; and the christian empire would soon extend her dominion to the ends of the earth.