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choose a religion for himself, and trines of salvation; a church to join himself to that body of may reasonably require that he, Christians, which, in his serious, whom they receive as their min. impartial judgment, enjoys the ister, should believe those docgreatest purity, and confers the trines. For it is absurd to exgreatest spiritual advantages; in pect that any man will suitably like manner religious societies preach doctrines, which he disbehave a right to worship in that lieves, or that he will contribute way which seems most agreeable to the support of opinions, which to divine revelation, and to man- he holds in detestation or conage all their concerns as a bodytempt. and act in every respect, as they Let it, then, be remembered, believe themselves directed by that a society of Christians have Supreme authority. Nor can any 'a right to determine for themman intrude himself into such selves, what doctrines shall be societies without their consent. preached to them, and by what No man can force them to enter mode of instruction they can be tain communion with him con- most edified. To oblige them trary to their own consciences, or to hear doctrines which they do in any respect usurp the direction not believe, or to hinder them of their affairs.
from being instructed in that If Christians, who have formed faith, which they seriously emthemselves into a church, choose brace, would be to usurp a tythat some one should be appoint rannical authority over their coned to lead in their religious ex
sciences. The members of a ercises, and to explain the doc- church, therefore, are by their trines and inculcate the duties of natural rights authorized to Christianity; they have a title, judge, what doctrines or articles founded on the natural rights of of faith shall be held by their mankind, to determine who shall minister, as a part of his qualifi. be invested with that sacred of- cation for the office. But let it fice. They are authorized to be well considered, that many, confine the office to such, as give who profess to believe the Scripsatisfactory evidence of the qual- tures, deny the most important ifications which they judge to be truths, and, by a cunning pervernecessary. Nor can any candi. sion of God's word, propagate date for the office reasonably the most hurtful errors. Cone complain of hard treatment, be sequently, a declaration of faith cause just satisfaction is demande in the precise words of Scripture, ed as to his qualifications. Since thus misapplied and wrested, it is a duty of a Christian minis- can no wise distinguish among ter to recommend the practice of those who hold and preach the every virtue and grace ; a church most opposite doctrines, or give may properly require, that the any satisfaction concerning their character and life of one, who is faith. The church may, therea candidate for the ministry, fore, justly require of one who should be such as to exemplify offers to become their minister, the graces of Christianity. As that he express his belief in such it is one great duty of a minister terms as are least ambiguous, to explain and enforce the doc- and best calculated, according to Vol. II, No. 8.
the circumstances of the time structed by their ministers in and place, to assure them of the that faith, and their consciences soundness of his religious opin- determine them to join in that ions. In other words, they may worship which is founded upon require an assent to their public it, believing too that a departure creeds, which are the expres- from their confession is a de. sions they judge best adapted to parture from the spirit of the give them this assurance. gospel ; they have a right, which
A society of fallible men are, cannot be disputed, to confine no doubt, exposed to mistake. their choice of ministers, and They may believe what is false, their reception of members to or may imagine a truth of great- such as embrace their confeser importance than it really is, sion. And he who would thrust and may thus be led to require himself into their society contra. that as a qualification in a minis- ry to their rules, would be guilty ter,
which more enlightened of arrogantly infringing their piety would willingly forego. religious rights. But this does not alter the case. In short, we apprehend that If they err, they err for them- nothing is necessary to vindicate selves. Their liability to err for the use of confessions, but the bids implicit confidence in their fundamental principles of sociejudgment, but does not nullify ty, and the natural rights of their rights. The same is true rational creatures. And we are of civil societies; they may mis- ready to think that an impartial take as to the best mode of consideration of the subject would government, and as to the re- convince our opponents, that quisite qualifications of rulers. those rery maxims of liberty, But they do not, on this account, which they appropriate to themforfeit their right to judge and selves, and in which they glory, act for themselves.
are sufficient to support all the auOn the principles which have thority which creeds have had, in been laid down, a number of enlightened reformed churches. churches have a right, and may, It is not to be supposed, befor certain important purposes,
cause at present we rest the find it expedient to form them- vindication of confessions OR selves into a large body. When thesc maxims, that we can find the greater part of a nation no support from Christian princivoluntarily enter into a religious ples. We think it easy to show union, there will arise what may that confessions of faith are imbe denominated a national church; plicitly required by plain gospel and the articles of faith received precepts, and involved in the very by them, and established as the nature of a gospel church. criterion of the qualifications of In that legitimate use of contheir pastors and members, will fessions, for which we contend, 'become a national confession. there is no assumption of power Now if a number of churches, to determine controversies, and thus associated, embrace the to oblige men to absolute subsame doctrines as constituting mission. We would leave every the faith once delivered to the person free to examine the sense saints, if they desire to be in. of Scripture, and to judge for himself of the doctrines contain- who desire the ministerial office ed in confessions. We are ever or church communion among ready to assert, that a Christian them. So that when any person ought to receive that sentiment, is convicted of an opinion conwhich, upon impartial inquiry, trary to their confession, he is appears most agreeable to Scrip- not to be considered as properly ture, whether it is contained in chargeable with absolute heresy, confessions, or not. If we pro- but as holding a principle which, duce passages of Scripture, as in their view, is heresy, and whick conclusive proofs of the doc- they are seriously persuaded is trines contained in creeds, let it of such a pernicious tendency, not be supposed, that we would that they cannot receive any be followed at a venture. We man, as a minister or brother, have no design to fetter the un- who maintains it. derstanding of others, or to bear Hence it is manifest, that the down a rational inquiry by the determinations of any body of weight of our decisions ; but men concerning articles of faith, wish every one, with an unbiass. are not founded upon any suppos. ed mind, to examine our faith, ed authority, which they þave to and judge whether it be accord, govern the consciences of others, ing to Scripture.
or to make creeds for tnem ; but We pretend not that a con- upon the natural right which all fession of faith, or any human men and all societies have to fol. composition is, properly speak- low the dictates of their own uning, a standard of orthodoxy, orderstanding, and to embrace and a test, by which erroneous opin. support that scheme of religion, ions can be certainly distinguish. in which they perceive the greated from those which are true. est evidence of divine truth. In It is possible the truth may be a word, that use of confessions, on the other side, and that error which we believe to be proper may be found in the established and beneficial, reșts upon that creeds of the church. But al- unalienable privilege of a rational though no church or society of creature, the right of private fallibie men have a right to judgment. And all the consid. determine any article of faith, erations, which the warmest or to fix the meaning of Scrip- advocates of freedom can urge to ture, so as to oblige others to heighten its excellence; we shall submit to their decisions; yet cordially approve as important those who constitute a Christian advantages to our own cause ; society have proper authority to since we shall thereby have at determine, what articles of faith least the same liberty to value they themselves embrace, or in and support confessions, as oth what manner they understand ers have to despise and reject the Scriptures, and what they them. would have their ministers be- If indeed churches should lieve and preach; and con- oblige any person to incorporate sequently, they have authority with them and subscribe to tvir to compose a body of doctrines, constitutions ; if they shiuld the belief of which they think un either force him to give a aso essential qualification of those, sent to their established confes
sions at first, or afterwards pun- ural right of private judgment, ish him for altering his senti- and grievously to oppress their ments by depriving him of any consciences. Thus the extreme advantages, to which he had a
of imaginary liberty, for which claim independently of them; they contend, is very near the this would be exceeding the opposite extreme of arbitrary bounds of private judgment, and power. This will be evident, lording it over another's faith. if we consider the consequenBut the principles we adopt are ces, which naturally attend the not in the least exposed to this scheme of those, who most riobjection. We abhor persecu gidly oppose confessions. From tion in every shape, believing their reasonings it plainly fol. that every man has an equal lows, that churches have not right with us to follow the light power to agree upon rules for of his own understanding and their own government; that, althe dictates of his conscience, though they are convinced in and that confiscations, imprison. conscience, that such doctrines ments, torture, and blood are not only are agreeable to revelation the arguments which Christian and ought to be preached to the meekness and charity employ, people, and therefore incline to These are the tools of ignorance choose those only for pastors, and and error, calculated to oppress to receive those only for memhumanity, and to extirpate all bers, who believe them; yet true religion. That use of con- they must be denied that liber. fessions, for which we plead, is ty; they must be imposed upon, not built on such principles, nor and forced to hear doctrines, does it tend to such consequen- which they think inconsistent ces. Candid readers will easily with their edification ; and when perceive that the vehement ex. they desire to attend upon pubclamations, which have been ut- lic worship, that they may make tered against usurped power and progress in religion, they must religious persecution, affect not submit to an administration, our cause. Those frightful im- which in their view tends rather ages
of imposition, , hierarchy, to retard, than to advance them and tyranny, with which some in the ways of holiness. They labour to array confessions of must have their ears grated by faith, are creatures of fancy, and doctrines, which they reject as owe their being to mistaken ap- pernicious, or despise as useless, prehensions or wilful partiality, and must be robbed of those res Indeed we have reason to com- ligious instructions, which are plain that writers on the other their greatest comfort. side bave not treated our opin- It follows from the scheme of ions with that moderation and those, who make the fiercest op candour, of which they so often position against confessions, that make their boast.
because they have a low opinion We go farther. It is not an of the doctrines of Christianity, unfounded observation, that the and are for allowing unbounded outcry made by the inveterate latitude in matters of faith, think.: enemies of confessions tends to ing a man none the worse for his deprive the charches of the nat. religious sentiments, whatever
they be; therefore se, who think and coatempol them, and would otherwise, and beicie the doc. dictate its van airf Dorians in as trines of religion of great mo magisterial and imperious a mare ment, must sa ia contradictionner, as the popunicate erer as to our understandings, and, in sumed. order to gratify their inclina. Is there sot ground for this tions, must be isrliferent as to rebuke? Hare not the favourite the interests of truth, and give words, liberty, freein.Mirzerzute ourselves little concern about judgment, clarit, &c. been per what ministers believe and teach. verted to an uncertain and danger
It may be added as another ous signification, and prostituted eonsequence of their reasonings, to the most unworthy purposes? that because they are fully satis. Have they not beeu instruments fied as to the orthodoxy of a man, of infidelity, and a fair mask, unif he own the Scriptures and es. der which apostacy from Chrispress his sentiments in the pre- tianity and hatred of all goodness cise words found there, though hare disguised themselves ? Do he decline giving his assent to we not know that in the mouths, doctrines expressed in any other and in the lives of many, liberty terms; therefore we, who are means licenciousness, a contempo persuaded, that many men ude of the restraints of virtue and re. derstand seripture phrases in a ligion? Do we not see that the manner quite opposite to what adversaries of creeds are as fond we think the true sense, and un- of their own notions, and as obder that fair varnish conceal the stinate in maintaining them, and most unscriptural schemes ;- look with as much disdain on. we who accordingly believe, that those who differ from them, as their using scripture phrases is the most zealous devotees of no evidence what kind of doc. orthodoxy? Are they not as imtrine they embrace, must, not- patient of contradiction? Do they withstanding, be content with not shew themselves capable of their false test of orthodoxy, and as much warmth and rudeness? if we act with serious caution, What writers in all the world must be stigmatized, as morose, treat their opponents with more narrow-minded bigots.
contempt, display an air of high· These are some of the won. er superiority, or are more fondderful benefits which we owe to ly addicted to their own schemes, them, who profess to be most than those who make the loudest zealous for liberty and the right pretensions to candour and liberof private judgment. This is the ality?
PASTOR noble freedom, to which they would elevate us; a freedom which would dissolve the bonds
DIVINITY of Christian societies, and the unity of faith ; a freedom which The perfection of Christ's exwould confound truth and error, ample, and the evidence thence light and darkness, the church arising in favour of the gospel, and the world ; a freedom which have been stated, in some prewould impose upon us, if not ar. ceding numbers of the Punoticles of faith, at least a disbelief polist. May we not hence derive