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another; as Jesus Christ to his father according to the flesh; and the apostles to Christ, and the Father, and the Spirit ; that ye may have unity in body and soul. • XIV. Knowing that ye are filled with God, I have exhorted you in few words. Remember me in your prayers, that I may enjoy God; and likewise the churches in Syria, among whom I am not worthy to be named. I greatly long for your joint prayers to God, and your love, that the church in Syria may be watered with the dews of divine grace through your means. - XV. The Ephesians salute you from Smyrna, (whence I write) being ready for the glory of God; as ye also are, and who with Po. lycarp the bishop of the Smyrnians, have exceedingly refreshed me. . The other churches, in honor of Jesus Christ, also salute you... Fare ye well, in the peace of God, and possessing the inseparable Spirit which is Jesus Christ.
To the MAGNESIANS. »
FOR THE CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
On Liberality of Sentiment. LIBERALITY of sentiment among christians who differ in their faith is the boast of the present day. This, if rightly under. stood and sincerely practiced, is undoubtedly entitled to a high rank among christian virtues. But is there no danger, that by being carried to an extreme, like all other virtues, it may degenerate into a vice? Is there no fear, lest it should level all distinction between truth and falsehood, right and wrong? May it not produce utter indifference to every thing under the name of religion? The old adage is frequently repeated, “ as a man thinketh so is he." It is said our faith is the result of evidence as it at present strikes the mind, and that we cannot help believing as we do. And then it is usual with an air of triumph to ask, whether a righteous and merciful God will condemn any one for a faith he could not avoid entertaining? Thus the latitudinarian thinks he has proved to a demonstration, that it is a matter of utter indifference what we believe; and if so, by consequence whether we believe any thing. Seduced by fashion, and unwilling to be thought bigoted, there are noť wanting many serious and well disposed christians who adopt this reasoning as conclusive, and by their sanction give it currency.
To call in question the propriety or correctness of any sentiment that may have become the favorite of the day in which we live, is always an undesirable task. It is nevertheless a task, which regard to truth and consistency, sometimes requires us to perforin. And to shew in this case that this reasoning is altogether fallacious and void of foundation can be no difficult matter; for suppose the above question should be answered in the negative ; as it certainly ought to be; and it be said that God in the day of account will condemn no one for a faith he could not avoid entertaining, yet what concession is there contained in this ? Let a man's faith be as sincere as it may; let him be ever so fully persuaded of his errors, absurdities and false
hoods, it still remains to be proved that he has not been guilty ofnegligence and abuse of his powers. If this be the case with him, may he not be condemned by a righteous God who knoweth the heart? God has certainly, a right to require from his creatures a due use of those faculties with which they are endowed by his goodness. If they abuse their reason ; if they suffer their perverse desires to overcloud their judgment and bewilder their understanding, so that they cannot discern and embrace the truth, are they not guilty in his sight?
We are told of a certain ancient state which passed a law inflicting a double punishment for crimes committed in a state of intoxica. tion; and the common sense of mankind is inclined to say there was a great deal of justice in this law. All civilized nations punish crimes committed in this condition with at least the same severity, as those committed in the full use of reason. And why so ? Clearly because it is considered that a voluntary deprivation of reason ought to be no excuse. And what is the indulgence of any other passion that deprives a man of the right and proper use of this laeulty but a species of intoxication? So far as such indulgence is voluntary, (and all will agree that when sinful it is so) and so far as it produces the effect of blinding the understanding, and occasioning errors in the judgment, it is criminal in the sight of God, though it should lead to no criminal act; a case however, that can very hardly be just; since he who knoweth not and entertaineth not the truth, cannot be supposed to conform to it in his actions.
Conformably to this reasoning we always think and act, in cases which concern our duty towards ourselves and each other. We say that men are blinded to their duty; that through passion and prejudice they will not see the truth, and what their duty requires. We hesitate not to condemn them, as well for their actions as for their wilful blindness, as we call it. Nothing is more common than to say of some, for instance, that avarice so blinds and perverts their judgments, that they cannot see what is right between man and man. This indulgence of a sordid passion we condemn, as the root of all evil. In cases which affect our present interest, we are ready enough to see and condemn those errors in judgment which arise
from a want of properly governing our passions. Such errors we think criminal ; and what we think we say. Why then should we not think the same and say the same with regard to errors in a more important concern?
It will not be denied that the propensities of fallen nature may lead men to imagine they have an interest in believing a lie. Having a strong desire to gratisy their present inclinations, they are under a violent temptation to bend their faith till it will comport with their feelings. The truth lays upon them many and severe restraints, as they imagine. Something must be done to get rid of these restraints. Their passions go to work, and substitute something instead of the truth, which they would fain have answer the same pur. pose. In all this shuming and prevarication ; this contest between reason and passion; this surrendry that is finally made to the latter, and the sell-imposition that follows, is there nothing sinful in the sight of God? That error and falsehood are often thuis chosen in
preference to the truth, no one will deny who considers well what human nature is. And in a little time what has been thus corrupt ly embraced, may be, and often is very sincerely believed. But does this sincerity remove all stain of sin ? Not unless the eternal nature of truth can be changed by being opposed. The longer any one perseveres in error, and the more firmly he adheres to it, the great er is his sin.
Because it ought to be granted, and is granted, that men have no right to pronounce authoritatively wherein these errors consist, and to inflict the proper punishment, it doth not therefore follow that it will not be done by Almighty God; since he knoweth the heart, and can discern where error is voluntary and obstinate, or invincible, if such there ever be. Nor again does it follow, because it belongs to God to judge and award the penalty, we may not therefore tell men the truth, and endeavor to give them warning of the judgment to come; and to assure them how much it stands them in band to see well to it, that they be not led into error by their delusive passions. To tell them either in our words, or by our conduct, that it is a mat. Ger of indifference what they believe, for every kind of faith is equal I acceptable to God, is to flatter them with false hopes which can gever be realized. It is in short, directly saying that in religion there is no such thing as truth ; a proposition to which no christian can knowingly and intentionally assent.
If reason alone will lead us to such a conclusion, let us now see What is taught by him who is greater than our reason, and knoweth all things. And here, what means our Savior when he says that men Love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil? And again, they will not come unto him that they may have light? These assertions certainly imply that to embrace and persevere in error, from corrupt inclination, is asin. What is to be understood by the unprofitable servant in the parable, who hid his lord's money in the earth? This servant was condemned merely for negligence, in not improving che talent which had been committed to his hands. · From this then we are taught that to neglect our powers, not to make use of the
reason we have, and thereby fall into error and unbelief of the truth • is a sin, for which God will condemn us in the last day. . .
And what says St. Paul of himself? Though he verily thought he pas daing God service, while he was persecuting his church; yet, notwithstanding the sincerity of his faith, he does not exonerate him. self from guilt in what he had done; though being done in unbelief, he says he found mercy. If error in him was sinful, notwithstanding it was sincerely and firmly believed, it must be so in every other man.
And to bring the whole of scripture authority to center in one point, it is said, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; buf he that believeth nat shall be damned. If total rejection of the gospel shall expose any one to condemnation, a partial denial of it, or disbelief of some of its truths, and embracing their opposite errors, so far as it goes, deserves the same condemnation; and what it deserycs it will certainly recçive froin God's hand.
- But it may perhaps be asked, is there no such thing as invincible error? May there not be cases in which men, according to their means, may have honestly and fairly used their reason, and yet be unavoidably obliged to embrace error instead of the truth? Undoubtly there are such cases. But when and where they exist is known only to God, who will certainly deal mercifully with all who have the misfortune to be thus situated. These however, are cases out of the present enquiry; which is to show that error in faith may be, and often is a sin; and therefore that it cannot be a matter of indif. ference what we believe, as some would have us imagine.
And now in the conclusion we are brought to this point, to admit that God indeed will condemn no one for a faith he could not avoid entertaining; but then there are much fewer cases of unavoidable error than the latitudinarian is willing to own; since much the greater part of the opposition to truth observable in the world, arises from a voluntary and perverse indulgence of corrupt passions and appetites. Hence it stands us ever in hand to be vigilant and on our guard, lest we be drawn into error and consequent condemnation, All motives to such vigilance, and therefore all regard for religious truths will be taken away, if, under a notion that all sorts of faith are equally acceptable God, we once come to think that it is no matter what we believe ; a consequence this, which no serious friend to truth, to virtue and religion, can wish to see take place among christians. As then they would wish to avoid this consequence, let them avoid what opens a door to it; and cease to advocate those sen. timents which level all distinction between truth, and falsehood, be: lief, and unbelief.
Exposition of the Articles of the Church.
Of the Three Creeds. The Three Creeds,* Nice Creed, Athanasius Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy scripture. " BY the 'word creed is meant the substance of a chris tian's belief.
I shall treat of the three creeds in the order in which they are mentioned in this article. The Nice or Nicene creed is so denominated, because the greater part of it was drawn up and agreed to at the council of Nice, in the year of our Lord 325.
That which is called the creed of Athanasius was certainly not written by that Father; nor can it now be ascertained who was its real author. It was published in the sixth century, under the name of that distinguished father, probably for the purpose of giving weight to it; and at worst it is to be considered as containing his doctrines.
• The church of England retains the Athanasian Creed, which is left out of the American revised liturgy. The bishop of Lincoln's remarks on that Creed are nevertheless worthy of attention, and are inserted in course. [EDIT,
Great objection has been made to the clauses of this creed, which denounce eternal damnation against those who do not believe the Catholic faith as here stated; and it certainly is to be lamented that assertions of so peremptory a nature, unexplained and unqualified, should have been used in any human composition. The principle upon which these clauses are founded is this; that a belief of certain doctrines is essential to salvation ; and this principle seems to rest upon the general tenor and express declarations of the New Testament. We find our Savior and his apostles equally anxious to establish a right faith and a correct conduct. Faith and good Forks are inculcated as equally necessary : Without faith it is im. possible to please him....Heb. xi. 6.—He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth notshall be damned; that is,condema ned...Mark xvi. 16. It is indeed impossible for any one to admit the divine authority of the New-Testament, and doubt the necessity of faith in general; and surely the faith thus required must include the leading and characteristic doctrines of the christian religion! and though the gospel has not expressly enumerated those particular doctrines, none seem to have a stronger claim to be so considered, than those which relate to the Three Persons, in whose name we are commanded to be baptized, to the incarnation of Christ, and to a future judgment. These are the doctrines of the Athanasian creed ; and therefore it would follow, that a belief in the doctrines of the Athanasian creed is essential to salvation. It was also a custom among the early christians, after a confession of the orthodox faith, to pass an anathema on all who denied it; and indeed, in almost eve. ry ancient creed transmitted to us, we find an anathema denounced against those who dissented from it, because it was thought to con. tain the essential articles of christianity. We know that different persons have deduced different and even opposite doctrines from the words of scripture, and consequently there must be many errors among.christians; but since the gospel no where informs us what degree of error will exclude from eternal happiness, I am ready to, acknowledge, that in my judgment, notwithstanding the authority of former times, our church would have acted more wisely and more consistently with its general principles of mildness and toleration, if it had not adopted the damnatory clauses of the Athanasian creed. Though I firmly believe tbat the doctrines themselves of this creed are all founded in scripture, I cannot but conceive it to be both unnecessary and presumptuous to say, that “except every one do keep them whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly." · As different practical duties are required of different persons, according to their circumstances and situations in life ; so different degrees and different sorts of faith, if I may so express myself, may be required of different persons, according to their understandings, attainments, and opportunities of improvement; and God only knows what allowance is to be made for the influence of education and habit, and for that infinite variety of tempers, dispositions, and capacities, which we observe in mankind; but in any case let it be remembered, that these clauses cannot be considered as applicable to any persons, except those who shall have had full means of in-*