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Scriptures may be as immovable as the mountains about Jerusalem, while our views of their teaching may undergo a radical revolution.
But if the above objection be valid against the Bible as a creed, every human creed is equally involved in the dire consequences of the same logic. Each believer of the Westminster Confession only believes what he thinks it teaches. So, according to the above objection, the Westminster Confession is not his creed, but his understanding of its teachings is such, to all intents and purposes ! So of every creed. Hence there can be no creed in existence except our conceptions of those things which are thought to be creeds, but are not! For surely if our belief in our own understanding of the Bible be a bar to our making the Bible our only creed, the understanding of any written or printed formula must be subject to the same objection.
But enough for the character of this objection. It is not our understanding of the Scriptures against which we object-it is not even diversities of understanding against which we put in our caveat—but it is against making them unchangeable perpetuities.
Why is it that Christianity_cannot be brought into polite society as a subject for conversation? The superstitions of modern pagans and ancient mythology may be brought up with propriety and discussed, and why not Christianity? The reason is obvious. Each member of a creedbound Church has pledged himself to learn no more in that direction than his creed, which, it is but courtesy to suppose, he already knows. Hence, for persons of different creeds to try to instruct one another contains the covert insult of inviting a man to violate his pledge; and for those of the same creed to attempt to give instruction implies the impertinence of insinuating that your brother does not understand what he has deliberately pledged himself to believe? In either case, hard feelings must be the inevitable result. Hence the Lord Jesus, who is the Alpha and Omega of our eternal hopes, must be banished from polite society! The heart may swell with love for Christ, but no utterance must betray us as one of His followers; or some pert damsel might confront us, as one such did Peter, and say, “This fellow also is one of them." Under such circumstances, if we speak at all, it must not be from the abundance of the heart, but from the reprehensible habit of light talking.
The radical infidels of Boston, in their late convention, struck no harder blow against modern Christianity than when they alluded to this feature of polite society. And with what a triumphant air they paraded this rule of etiquette as indicating the decay and death of what they called an "effete," worn-out system of religion! And yet where lies the blame of this profane restriction, if not in the existence of human authoritative creeds? And this feature of the subject alone is so pregnant with evils that it ought to be sufficient indictment to drive them from the purlieus of Christian society. How many thousand opportunities of learning or imparting good lessons are daily lost by this strangely arbitrary rule of etiquette-a rule too, only made necessary by the bigotry and intolerance of human creeds. What is society for but the cultivation of our higher faculties? We meet our friends in the social circle at a neighbour's fireside-or, perhaps, at our own-and, in converse sweet, we gain and impart much useful knowledge about the things of the present life; but of Christ and heaven, where our treasure and hearts are, we must say not a word! Things connected with our material welfare and temporal existence may be widely discussed; but of that higher, holier, and eternal life which is hid of God in Christ we may not speak in the polite social circle, because the spirit of
Observer, Jan. 1, '71.
human creeds has decided religious social discussions improper! Because of these artificial restrictions upon religious investigations, the question of Christianity is not open to a free, generous, and gentlemanly inquiry, such as is conceded to every other branch of human knowledge.
I. We charge upon human ecclesiastical creeds that they are necessarily schismatic in their external tendency, tending to divide the real followers of Jesus.
II. Their internal influence is to cramp the vital energies of their devotees, and retard their intellectual and religious improvement.
III. They shear their Churches of their strength to defend the Bible against scepticism.
IV. Creed-makers treat men as if they were children, unable to investigate the Bible and do their own thinking.
V. Human creeds promote superstition, because they substitute human for Divine authority.
VI. They promote religious ignorance, because their tendency is to lay restrictions on religious social intercourse.
VII. They are entirely opposed to the progressive spirit of the nineteenth century.
VIII. They are, and will be, the war-clubs with which the enemies of our common religion are fighting, and will fight against every type of Christianity.
With all these things in view, it becomes every follower of Christ to throw aside these weights, and stand up for the Bible alone; then shall we save the credit of that Holy Book in the coming conflict, and the effect of its truth shall be our eternal salvation. No creed but the Bible is worth contending for, and that alone is worth a thousand times more than all creeds. If we lose the Bible in contending for creeds, we shall lose all, and gain nothing; but if we lose all human creeds in contending for the Bible, we gain all, and lose nothing.
The crisis is upon us. A world, dying in sin, looks up to the lovers of simple Christianity for help and deliverance from the toils of modern scepticism. Romanism and Protestantism are powerless in the grasp of the gigantic foe. They are not able to save themselves, much less to rescue a world from sin and destruction. No human creed can deliver humanity from impending ruin. And he who would stand as champion for God and humanity must be clothed with the panoply of God, "with the armour of righteousness on the right hand and left." None but they who stand for the Bible alone can stand in "the day that cometh." Christians, then stand up for Christ, for that time is at hand! Great are our responsibilities, but without responsibility there is no honour. It is ours, fellow Christians, to be "the pillar and support of the truth!" O, blessed privilege! Distinguished honour! Transcendent glory! Thanks be to God, who shall give us the victory through Jesus Christ, our Lord! Christian Quarterly. B. U. WATKINS.
REPORT ON UNION OF CHURCHES.
RECENTLY the Cincinnati Presbyterian Synod received a Report from a Committee appointed a year before, for the purpose of considering the very important question of Christian Union. From that Report we have much pleasure in presenting the following quotations, not as accept
Observer, Jan. 1, '71.
ing every item, but as showing the continued advance toward a truly Scriptural view of the subject.
"We would not pour green and putrid water into the living spring. We would not bandage dead limbs to the living vine. A Christian Church should be a Church for Christians only.
The Church is not the rule of faith, practice or Church organization. The Bible only is the rule. The Church should be organized by regenerate men, and then their only province is to decide with prayerful judgment what the Bible laws of Church organization are.
Nor should any one be received to membership who cannot assent to these Scriptural requirements from clear conviction in the sense of his own private judgment. We would not for the sake of Christian Union abate one iota of the strictness or extent of the most sensitive conscientiousness. Let conscience bind us to whatever we see to be the mind of Christ, and let a catholic spirit bind us to love all and to co-operate with all that we see to be His.'
"Christ the only king and lawgiver, has authorized but one organization in His Church.
Many considerations suggest this oneness of organization.
First Her God is one; her Redeemer is one; the Holy Spirit her sanctifier is one; the Bible, her rule of faith and duty is one; and all the similitudes by which the church is described one, as one vineyard,' 'one flock,' 'one body,' 'one spouse,' one family.'
Second-All those things by which an outward visible organization is effected are as Christ instituted them, one and the same for all the world, and not two or more.
He has given but one Gospel to be believed and obeyed. He has instituted but one baptism, and one Lord's Supper, one worship, and one government, and one discipline. But these are the very things by which the organization of the Christian Church is effected."
"Third-Christ never authorized in His Church the organization of different denominations, each with its own code or set of written or unwritten laws, in some particulars diverse from, and in another contradictory to each other.
Christ said to His apostles, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.' 'He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be
But did He thereby authorize the organization of different denominations?
Did He say to Peter: Go preach and baptize, but be careful to provide and take with you a book of discipline, and organize the Methodist Church with denominational laws in some respects differing from and in conflict with all the other organizations, to be authorized and provided for in the Christian Church?
Did He say to Paul, after his conversion, Go preach and baptize, but fail not to take with you a confession of faith, and form of government and discipline, and with these organize the Presbyterian Church with denominational laws differing from and in conflict with all other Christian organizations?
Did He commission Andrew to take with him a prayer-book, and give directions that upon it he should organize the Protestant Episcopal Church with certain high claims, and with denominational laws at variance with all other Church organization?
Observer, Jan. 1, '71.
Did He send James to organize independent congregations, each one of which should refuse to enter into any open, explicit obligatory agreement with other Christian congregations, even concerning those things which Christ plainly makes necessary in heart, and faith, and life, and Church organization, and each one of which should declare that for government there is no one visible, universal Church. Nor are there national, provincial, or diocesan Churches, but only local Churches or congregations.'
Our blessed One Lord and Universal King, never authorized the apostles to pursue any such divisive, schismatic course.
The laws which He gave and which He commissioned His inspired apostles to give, pertaining to the organization of the Church and all else, are one and the same for all time and for every place.
He certainly did not institute different denominations and give them authority to enact laws contradictory to each other, and some of which must necessarily be false, and then enforce them as Christ's own laws in His Church."
We speak not of the voluntary usage of prevailing customs, or of mere recommendations, for these things never produce denominational divisions. We speak of organic enactments of denominational laws, for it is these, and these only, that divide the Church. These are the apples of discord, and the wedges of division in the Christian Church. It is these peculiar distinctive denominational laws which give visible form and sharp outline, and repellant and perpetuating power to divisions."
"Christ said, on this rock I will build my Church' (Matthew xvi. 18,) He did not say on this rock I build my Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian denominations.
Christ said, Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.' (John xvii. 20, 21).
But did He pray for such oneness only as would be invisible and spiritual to convince the world which cannot see the invisible, and which cannot discern the spiritual, whilst He purposed that the divisions of Christians should be organized, visible and permanent?
These organized divisions in the Church were the work of our forefathers. And we fear that we were much fail to perceive their enormity because of our long familiarity.
The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge.' (Ez. xviii. 2)."
"But these apostles, divinely inspired and commissioned, never organized two or more denominations in any place.
They made obligatory as Christ's law in every place the very same Gospel as to its truths, its, duties, and its salvation, the very same sacraments, the same discipline and the same forbearance.
Never did they promulgate one thing in one place and another thing in another, as the law of Christ in this matter of Church organization." Some of the pioneers of Christian Union, who return to the divine order, and worship faithfully in small companies rather than accept enlargement at the cost of deviation from the laws of Christ, may take courage from the above-their feeble influence is telling in such like results in more than one direction.
Observer, Jan, 1, '71.
"My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence."-JOHN Xviii. 36.
WHAT language could more emphatically declare that the Christian religion is purely spiritual in its character? Yet, in spite of this plain declaration, the "Bishops" of the Church of England-styling themselves followers of "the meek and lowly Jesus "-claim, by virtue of their spiritual Office, seats in the House of Lords; and, as if to aggravate the anomaly, all history shows that they have invariably exercised their function in opposing those measures which have promoted prosperity, liberty, and religion among the people. Happily there are signs that this scandal to Christianity will not exist much longer. "A Bill to Relieve the Lords Spiritual Hereafter Consecrated from Attendance in Parliament," is the title and purpose of a measure laid before the House of Commons last Session by Mr. S. Beaumont. The nature and extent of the proposal are indicated with sufficient clearness by its titular designation. The present occupants of the Episcopal benches would, if it became law, retain their seats in the Upper House for life, but their successors would not inherit legislative duties and responsibilities. It is not proposed to make a clean sweep of them altogether, but gradually, as the bishops are "called hence," their temporal functions would die with them, until the whole twenty-six spiritual peerages are extinct, and the exalted members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy would then be able to devote their entire time and talents to the welfare of the Church, undistracted by the cares of State.
The bishops, it will be remembered, occupied a prominent place in the public mind during the previous Session of Parlim ent. The discussions on the "Bishops' Resignation Bill" led to an unusual amount of attention being directed to the sacred and secular conditions attaching to the prelatical office, and the general interest of the question has since grown considerably. Mr. Hadfield, M.P., who brought the subject under the notice of Parliament, has endeavoured to ripen public sentiment in relation to it by the publication of a pamphlet strongly urging the expediency of relieving bishops from attendance in Parliament. "A Manchester Reformer" prefaces the work by a review of the conduct of the bishops during the Irish Church debates, which contains an indictment against the Episcopate of the most grave and serious character. The article arraigns the prelates for the part which, with one or two honourable exceptions, they took in precipitating a collision between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and thwarting the emphatically-pronounced will of the nation. But unsound statesmanship is the least damaging charge brought against the spiritual lords. Their counsels were not only unconstitutional in spirit and revolutionary in tendency, in reference to the control which the Upper House should exercise in the government of the country, but they seemed, for the time, to have lost sight of every other consideration than that which pertained to the grossest worldly interests. Even after the House of Lords had adopted the principle of disestablishment, by the second reading of the Bill, "One proposition after another emanated from these spiritual lords which savoured of nothing but extortionate greediness for money." The writer describes in detail the tortuous and mischievous policy pursued by the majority in the Lords, "inspired mainly by the rapacity and fanaticism of the bishops," and exclaims: "When the bonds of Empire were strained to bursting, and the hearts of men were sick with