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THE circumstances of the moment strongly impress on me the necessity of no longer delaying what has long been considered by me as an imperious duty; that is, that there should be presented to you an outline of the doctrine taught in our church. The constitution of our Society requires of the Presiding Elder, that he shall watch over the spiritual interests of the Society, and report to it on all matters, wherein it is interested. This duty, he has thought, would be most efficiently discharged, by a faithful exhibition from the pulpit, of what he has very long considered the pure truth of Christianity. Experience has, however, taught him, that in many instances his sentiments have been so misrepresented, that it has become a duty he owes to truth-to the cause in which he has been engaged for the greater part of his life, that you should now have from the press something of the nature of a creed, confession, or catechism of the doctrine he has spent so many years in labouring to establish. We know the prejudice existing with
some, against all creeds and confessions; but why should it be so? What is a creed, but the principle which a man believes; and what is a confession of faith, but the acknowledgment of that principle? Every man who believes any thing, that thing is his creed; and every man who makes an acknowledgment of what he believes, that is his confession. If then these things be so, where is there a being possessing intellectual power, and having intercourse with his fellows, who has not a creed, who has not made a confession?
The creeds and confessions among Christians, are the views which the makers of them have of religious doctrine, of faith, and morals. An advantage in these various views being exhibited, is, that every one can the more readily perceive where he can most conscientiously worship.
It has been said, that the Bible is the creed of the protestant. This is true; yet protestants themselves have greatly differed, respecting the doctrines revealed in that sacred book: hence has arisen the necessity, which each party has found itself under, of giving to the world its creed, or confession of faith: this difference of judgment does indeed exhibit a lamentable view of the weakness, or depravity of human intellect-that man cannot understand, though God himself is the teacher; or that his mind is so sensual that he will not listen to the Saviour of the world, who says, “learn of me." (Mat. xi. 29.)
In this state of things, what is our duty? The answer is given; if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. (James i. 5.) Surely the ear of
the Lord is open to the cry of him, who in sincerity of soul cries to God, saying: O, God, teach me to see thee as thou art; and to see myself as I am seen of thee. The answer of prayer may not be immediately given; but, we think, that where this desire of the mind becomes habitual, (and desire is prayer,) the Supreme Being, to whom it is addressed, will, in his own good time, (and that is always the wisest and the best,) give such measure of knowledge of himself, and of man his creature, as will convince the worshipper, that man is a sinner, and that God is his Saviour. But this measure of the knowledge of God, and of himself, does not prevent the continuance of his prayers; for the possession of knowledge is like wealth; he who knows he has but little, desires to have more; and the more he gets the more he knows its value, and desires its increase. The believer's knowledge is a spiritual treasure, even the enjoyment of life eternal; and he is exhorted to grow in grace, and in the know. ledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter iii. 18.) He whose heart is touched with the love of God, we think, ought not to be ashamed of acknowledging him as the friend of sinners; for, with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Rom. x. 10.) Here is faith (the thing believed) in the heart, and a confession made in consequence of it! The Psalmist says, I believed, therefore have I spoken; (Ps. cxvi. 10.) and Paul says, we, having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken ; we also believe, and therefore speak. (2 Cor. iv. 13.) Is it possible, after these scripture evidences, for a man who is a Christian, and professes to make the Scriptures
his rule of faith and practice, to have any reasonable objection to creeds and confessions?
We fear that enmity against these, arises from the want of faith in the things believed and confessed. If indeed a man does not believe, he is at liberty to express his dissent; but to be at enmity with the principle, is so far from rational free thinking, that it goes far to deny the right of thinking, or, if we do think, to forbid us the right of expressing our thoughts. We believe, and therefore we speak; and when we thus speak, it is a matter of little importance whether it be orally or by writing, whether it is in the form of creed, catechism, or confession. We have chosen the form of a catechism, but it is a catechism founded on a creed generally received in the Christian community. The form of question and answer is most familiar to young persons ; but let us not forget that the lessons taught us in early life, are intended for our use in every after period.
The necessity for, and advantages of a catechism, were long since advocated from your pulpit; it was approved of and greatly wished for by some; and it is now nearly three years, since a dying daughter urged upon her father, the preparation of one; and gave as a reason, that if it answered no other purpose, it would be useful to his children. This was to him like a voice from the dead; and his feelings on the subject, have ever since been, that should he find the hour of his departure was suddenly come, even the visions of glory would not prevent a degree of regret, that this little work had not been accomplished. Blessed be God, it is done; and, however imperfectly, it may be of use to his children, and perhaps to the children of others.