Изображения страниц

placed at the head of essentials in New England, was never heard of among Christians for more than three centuries after the birth of the Messiah. The creed of the posterity of Abraham was this, " Jehovah is our God; Jehovah is one.” This was the creed of Moses and the Prophets. They regarded God as “the Holy One of Israel ;” and to

“; him, as one person, they offered their prayers and praises. To the same God, as to one person, and “the only true God,” the Messiah addressed" bis prayers and praises. To the same God, and the same person, under the endearing title of Father, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, All the preaching, and all the prayers which are recorded in the Bible, are as strictly Unitarian, as to the personality of God, as any thing we ever wrote, uttered, or even thought. But in the fourth century, the doctrine of the Trinity was gradually formed. According to Mosheim, it did not receive “its finishing touch” till the time of the Council of Constantinople, in the latter part of the fourth century. This council, it seems, established the opinion that the Spirit of God is a distinct person.

Until this was done, there was no such thing as the doctrine of the Trinity,

Three-One God,” known to Jews or Christians. As the doctrine was formed in a most contentious state of the council, so it has been an unceasing cause of strife from that day to the present. In the quarrels and wars occasioned by this doctrine, much blood was shed, and many thousands of lives were sacrificed. Such have been some of the melancholy effects, which have resulted from the conduct of uninspired men, in assuming a right to form essential articles of faith, in addition to those which were represented to be such by the Head of the Church.

After much inquiry and deliberate examination, we can say with truth, that we believe that not so much as one of the doctrines which have been contended for in New England, as essential, within the last fifty years, was ever spoken of as essential by any inspired teacher. But, that these doctrines were not spoken of as essential by inspired teachers, is not our only objection. Several of them appear to us directly the reverse of what was taught by Christ, and really reproachful to our heavenly Father. That some of them are contrary to the teaching of Christ, we shall attempt briefly to show by way of contrast.

or a



[ocr errors]

1. As a contrast to the doctrine, that God is three distinct persons, the Messiah said, -- " The chief of all the com

mandments, is, Hearken, Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is ONE," or,

" Jehovah is our God, Jehovah is ONE; “and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.Mark xii. 29.*

2. As a contrast to the doctrine, that Christ is a second person in the Godhead, equal with the Father in power and glory, he taught thus : - "The Father is greater than I;" “I can of mine own self do nothing ; 6. The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works."

3. As a contrast to the doctrine, that God shows his displeasure against Adam's sin, by bringing all little children into the world under his wrath and curse, with a nature wholly sinful; Jesus said of little children, -"Of such is the kingdom of heaven." He regarded men as sinners, and called them to repentance; but, during his whole ministry, he omitted to say a word respecting the apostasy of Adam. We have no evidence, that he ever spoke of Adam, or his fall.

4. As a contrast to the doctrine, that God inflicted on his Son, a person equal with himself, “the punishinent due to us all,” Christ taught, that, as a good shepherd, he should give his life for his sheep, and suffer many things," – not from the displeasure of God against him, as our substitute, - but “from the elders, and the chief priests, and scribes.” So, when the time approached, he said to his disciples, — “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles, to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify; and the third day he shall rise again.

5. As a contrast to the doctrine, that it is impossible for any sinner to repent without the special, or supernatural, aid of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of

The com

* See Campbell's translation, and his note on the text. mandment was quoted from Deuteronomy vi. 4. Both Moses and the Messiah have given, “Hearken, Israel, Jehovah is our God; Jehovah is one,” as a part of the first and great commandment. That God is one, not three, is a truth to which we are required to attend by “the first commandment of all.”

God.” Our objection here is, to the addition of the idea of special, or supernatural, to what was taught by Christ; and to this we object, because we think it implies, that the common aids of the spirit are insufficient, and of course, that God does not usually grant a capacity commensurate with the duties he requires. For, while such aid is withheld, as is essential to obedience, the capacity for obedience must be incomplete.

The “Five Points” of Calvinism, which long agitated the Protestant churches, were, in some respects, different from the articles held most essential at this day. One of them seems to be discarded, and others have lost that importance, which our ancestors attached to them. The articles of faith, which one sect affirms as essential, and another denies, are not expressed in the language of the Bible. They are the words of man's wisdom, or man's folly.

The accusation, therefore, so often heard, that this man, or this sect, rejects the great doctrines of the Gospel, is generally as unfounded as it is unkind. It is but the interpretation of fallible men that is denied. Let any doctrine of the Gospel be honestly stated in the language of Scripture, and where is the Christian, or the sect, that will deny its truth? And shall a Christian be so unjust, as to accuse a brother of denying a doctrine of the Gospel, while he only denies the correctness of a fallible interpretation ?

The reason why we dissent from some doctrines which others regard as true and important, is this; we verily believe, that the doctrines are not the doctrines of revelation. Such we suppose to be the reason why good men of other sects reject some doctrines which we regard as very important. Candor and justice require, that, on each side, we should forbear accusations, which would imply, that the interpretation of a fallible man is of equal authority with the word of God. If it be so to the man who believes it to be the meaning of Scripture, it surely cannot be so to him, who believes that the doctrine is founded in misapprehension of what is said by the inspired writer or teacher.

It is remarkable, to what extent Christians have been divided and subdivided into sects, by the unauthorized practice of setting up other articles of faith, as essential, besides those, which are designated as such, by the Head of the Church. To make a change, as to essential articles in a religion which was confessedly of divine origin, seems to us a perilous undertaking; and the consequences of assuming such a right have been deplorable.

Much has been said of the soul-humbling" tendency of those doctrines which pass for essential in New England; and it has been imputed to nothing less criminal than pride of heart, that any dissent from these doctrines. Far be it from us to reproach our brethren of any sect, or to render evil for evil ; but since it is publicly known that individuals of one sect assume the name of Orthodox and Evangelical Christians, and even reproach all dissenters from their creed as unworthy of the name of Christians, it seems to be a duty to make some inquiry in regard to these assumptions and accusations. But let it be understood, that we do not believe that all the Christians, nor all the clergy of the sect alluded to, concur in the assumptions and accusations to which we have referred. In reference to those who are in the habit of such assumptions and reproaches, we would address some queries and remarks; and in what follows of this article, our language will have the form of an address to an individual minister of the gospel.

In the first place, we ask you, dear Sir, the following serious question. Does a fallible, uninspired man, evince an humble mind, by forming or adopting, as a test of character, such articles or propositions as were never spoken of as essential by the Lord Jesus or any of his Apostles ? Considering how very liable we all are, to err in our interpretations of Scripture, and how incompetent men look into each other's hearts, does not such conduct have more of the appearance of pride and self-sufficiency, than of Christian humility, meekness, and love ? How does such conduct appear to you in a Catholic, when he denounces you and all Protestants as heretics, on account of their dissent from his great and essential doctrine, that the consecrated bread and wine in the Lord's Supper are the real body and blood of Christ ? He may tell you, that this is a very "soul-humbling" doctrine ; because, like the doctrine of the Trinity, it asserts what is above reason, and seems to be contrary to it. He may also say, and say truly, that his doctrine has far more of the appearance of having been stated by Christ as essential, than either of the doctrines which you deem essential. For, not only does

are to

[ocr errors]


Christ say of the bread, “This is my body," and of the wine, “This is my blood ;” but he says, “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed;" -- and what is still more, he says, “Except ye eat the flesh, and drink the blood of the Son of man, ye have no life in you." May not, then, the good Catholic accuse you of great pride of heart, in so exalting your own reason as to reject the literal sense of Christ's words, assigning to them a figurative or symbolical meaning? He indeed makes out a strong case ; but does he satisfy you, that the pride is not on his own part, while he ventures to judge and censure the hearts of millions perhaps as honest as himself?

Or, suppose that we should set up our great doctrine as a test of character, “that God is ONE” and not three, and on this ground should reproach you and millions of others, as unworthy of the name of Christians, because they dissent from our interpretation of the Scriptures.

Would this evince humility in us? If not, how does it appear, that your doctrines have had a “soul-humbling" influence on your own mind ? We would next inquire, — Is it an evidence of humility

in you, as an individual, to assume it as a fact, that you are really more humble, pure, and upright, than any one of the myriads of people who dissent from your creed? Does such conduct evince the temper required by Christ, when he directed his disciples to "take the lowest room ?” Is it what Paul means in his exhortation, Let each esteem others better than himself ? Does it not better accord with the spirit of the Pharisee, who thanked God that he was not as other men ? What must be the impression on the minds of candid people, who hear you denouncing, as unworthy of the name of Christians, such men as Newton and Locke, — including in the same wholesale condemnation, Abraham, Moses, and the prophets, who unquestionably believed in God as one, and not as three ? If it be the nature of your supposed “ soul-humbling" doctrines to produce such censorious accusations, we must think such fruits to be evidence that the trees are not "

very good,”

that they have not the stamp of a divine origin. Indeed, we cannot doubt, that when you see such fruits in any sect, except your own, you ascribe them to something of a nature different from Christian humility. Humility pertains to that

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »