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that is unmanly, and sanctifying none of the meannesses of a narrow and exclusive policy. It is a ministry that is to lift off from the human mind the burden of false reverence for names and things, to teach it to despise arbitrary power, and to regard nothing as apostolic that is not in sympathy with the sentiment of Paul, “ Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy.” It is a ministry that is to restore the greatness and glory of that action of Christianity which inspirited the soul to say, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind," and making it a “partaker of the Divine nature" by enabling it to escape “the corruptions that are in the world through lust," and to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
It is a ministry whereby Christ is preached in all the details by which the spirit of his life is seen to be the spirit of all activity, and by which he is magnified as the revelation of the Father “ the brightness of his glory.” It is a ministry that while it subordinates the Son to the Father, and rejects the subtleties of the two natures, (that makes a Godhead and a humanity to be fitting phantoms, now here and now gone,) yet exalts Jesus to the preëminence over man, and rejoices in those spiritual and immortal relations which it hath pleased the Father to institute between the Heir of all things and all intelligences. It is a ministry that accepts the appointments of its Great Head for the culture of all the powers and graces essential to the perfection of discipleship to Christ and sonship to God, and maintains a religion for the cradle and the hearth, for business and recreation, for the altar and the grave. It is a ministry that unites the soul with eternity and overarches all spheres of being with the fatherly providence of God, to reform the wayward and to make the spirits of just men perfect. It thus vindicates its claims to the significant distinction “ the ministry of reconciliation; and by it, in the purest and noblest sense, “ Christ is preached,” as “God manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." To this ministry we are to be faithful in the breadth of its letter and the generosity of its spirit.
Thus shall we all work together towards the great ends of the gospel, still haunted and inspired by our ideal of the church of the future, in which this “unity of the spirit” shall be “the bond of peace;" where diversity in unity shall be seen in beautiful perfection; where one mind shall listen patiently to the thought of another mind, and shall try to see its just proportions as the other sees them, and controversy shall have no other end but the establishment of the highest truth. But we look for such a church not through indifference to discussion and independent thought, not from a nervous irritation at the idea of a collision of minds; nor do we look for it from that kind of charity that derives its potency from the fact, that nothing exists to try the temper of the soul, and murmurs,
“Ever against eating, cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian airs ;” but that ideal is to be wrought out into the living reality by the faithfulness of the sects in the Christian church in establishing and perfecting in action the moral worth of each portion of a comprehensive religion,—the proper union in our affections and lives, of truths to be believed, and duties to be performed, the speculative and the practical, ceremonials and spirit ; that the small and great may be exhibited in our characters according to that beautiful order by which the smallest of the planets is nearest to the sun, while yet the solar influence reaches out to counteract, in reference to the greatest, the power that would draw it from harmony.
Christ is preached that the great attraction may be felt, and where he is effectually preached, he becomes the spirit of rejoicing that catches the sight of all that is good, and amid all rivalry and confusion, looks to “the clear shining after the rain."
The Doctrinal and the Practical in Christianity.
The term doctrine, as used in the New Testament, is, as we hardly need say, usually synonymous with teaching. Whatever things Christ taught, whether principles of belief addressed primarily to the understanding, or moral precepts applied directly to the life, were termed doctrine. Such, however, is not the present theological use of the term. The phrase Christian doctrine, as we now employ it, does not include all the truths of the New Testament, but only a particular class of its truths. In modern theological phrase, we distinguish between doctrines and precepts. Especially do we observe this distinction in connection with the pulpit. All are familiar with the distinction of doctrinal and practical preaching.
In the present article-the main purpose of which is to consider the relations which subsist between the doctrines and the precepts of Christianity--we shall endeavor, as we ought to do, to conform to the present use of the terms employed. And, particularly, with reference to the leading term, doctrine, we shall assent, as we presume our readers will, to the following definition by Webster : “ The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and his apostles.”
Proceeding now directly to our work, we may, first of all, inquire, what are the principles or doctrines of the gospel ? What are their leading characteristics? general answer to this question may be found in the idea of a principle itself. As defined by Dr. Johnson, a “principle is a “ fundamental truth”—an" original postulate” -a “first position from which others are deduced.” A principle, therefore, is the highest order of truth; it is a first and authoritative truth, in which other and subordinate truths are embraced. In the science of physics, for instance, the law of gravity is such a truth. It is a principle pertaining to matter, and, as such, has a governing force in all the phenomena of matter. But for this very reason, because they are dependent on the prin
ciple of gravity, these phenomena are not principles. A snow avalanche of the Alps, for instance, may be distinguished from the law under which it takes place; it must be regarded as a fact, not a principle. Hence, in physics, the law of gravity might properly be termed a doctrine; but no simple fact transpiring under this law could be ranked under this head.
Now, in the New Testament, there is a class of fundamental truths which comprise the Christian doctrines; and there is also another class of truths which cannot, without confusion of thought as well as words, be termed doctrines. Of the former nature, are such truths as the paternity of God, his moral sovereignty, the human brotherhood, and human responsibility. These and similar truths, are first and fundamental-are principles; and hence they alone comprise the doctrines of Christianity. Now with these, compare such facts as the baptism of Christ, even the crucifixion of Christ, and his resurrection, and to name but one more instance, the conversion of the multitude on the day of Pentecost; and who does not see the difference between the two kinds of truth? We by no means question either the reality or the importance of such truths as those just enumerated. We simply say, that they are not Christian doctrines, but are subordinate thereto. They are not principles—first and fundamental truths; they are simply facts-important no doubt, but still facts.
With a view to presenting the true idea of Christian doctrine with greater completeness, we will now briefly consider, under three simple heads, what appear to us as its leading characteristics :
1. And first, Christian doctrine in its application to man is universal. There are many truths in the New Testament, which have only a local or partial significance. Many things have an application to the Jew and not to the Gentile ; others concern the Gentile and not the Jew. Many statements derive their special significance from peculiarities of history, government, custom, and locality, as connected with the people among whom Christ and his apostles directly labored. Now in the doctrines or principles of Christianity there is nothing limited, either as regards place or people. As such, they know neither
Jerusalem nor Mount Gerizim,—as such, neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female. The principles of the Gospel relate to human nature, rather than to human condition. It is to the man, which is essentially the same in every individual, and not to his circumstances, which are different with every individual, that these principles directly appeal. To the extent in which any individual is a man, do the doctrines of the gospel hold true of him. In the natural sense in which any one human being is a child of God, is every human being a child of God. In the sense in which any one human being is a responsible agent, is every human being a responsible agent. And so of every doctrine of the gospel; in the sense in which it concerns one, it concerns all. As related to human souls, these doctrines are of universal application.
2. The doctrines of Christianity are eternal truths. The New Testament abounds with declarations which were to have their complete fulfilment in or near the age in which they were first spoken. Nearly every controverted passage of Scripture is of this character. The passage denouncing the sin against the Holy Ghost 1 is a familiar instance. So also is the much controverted passage, “ These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.” 2 Assuming—as in this connection, we feel at liberty to do—the correctness of the Universalist interpretation of these and similar passages, their special sigpificance was limited as respects time, as well as people ; and this significance has been fulfilled near two thousand years. But in Christian doctrine there is nothing limited as respects duration. Its principles are, of necessity, the same to-day, yesterday, and forever. God will never be other than the Father; men will never be other than brethren. And so of all the fundamental truths of the gospel ; in the sense of ceasing to be, they can never have a fulfilment. Human nature ever growing towards them, can never outgrow them. The law was a school-master to bring men to Christ; but Christ is not a school-master to bring men to any higher truths than those which comprise the doctrines of his gospel. Progress is indeed possible, and to be aimed at,
1 Matt. xii. 31, 32,
2 Matt. XXV. 46.