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see the church at rest, and the disciples comforted, but we would rather exchange that rest for the agitation and tumult of the sharpest controversy, or even for the unhallowed violence of persecution, than to maintain it at the expense of giving our sanction to fundamental errors. It would be far better for the church to be shaken a little by a passing tempest, than to have her soundations undermined by a silent and gradual inundation of destructive heresy. 8. It is said that those who refuse the hand of christian fellowship on the ground of religious opinion, violate the spirit of the gospel by making an arrogant claim to infallibility.— We contend that this inference from the conduct of those who insist upon a belief in the doctrines of the gospel, is unfair. If there are some men in the church to whom I cannot extend my christian charity, the language of my conduct is, not that I am infallible, but that I am bound as a disciple of Christ, to hold fast what 1 believe to be the doctrines which he has delivered. If I am told that there are others who think differently from me in regard to the truths of scripture; and that they may be right, and I wrong; I have only to say, that I follow what I believe to be an honest conviction of my understanding and conscience. That I may be condemned at last for holding error, I do not deny; but I have no fear of meeting the frown of my Judge for endeavouring to maintain what I believe to be the purity of the christian faith. It is unreasonable then to charge me with an assumption of infallibility, so long as I only claim the privilege of judging for myself, and following my own convictions; a privilege which I am as ready to allow to others as to claim for myself. If I were to attempt to setter my neighbour with my system of faith, and to force him to an exact conformity to my standard, then indeed, the charge might seem to lie against me with some degree of fairness: but at present I am only charge
able with examining the scriptures for myself, and finding in it a system of faith which I consider so important, that I cannot conscientiously acknowledge that man as a christian who refuses his assent to it. We are both of us liable to error, but it is not so much from the darkness of our intellect as from the depravity of our hearts. God has given us sufficient light to enable us to form a correct opinion concerning the great truths of religion; and if we are under these advantages, we are without excuse. 9. The last of the arguments for universal charity which we shall examine at present, is that these are subjects on which great men have held different opinions; and that it would be unreasonable in us to make those points on which the learning and genius of the world have been divided, the occasion of withholding charity from any. Though we are ready to pay all proper respect to the authority of great men, we must never forget that we have a more sure word of prophecy. If we attempt to surrender our faith to the guidance of high authority, we shall find ourselves involved in an eternal maze of contradiction. We have the Bible in our hands, and are under every advantage for examining and deciding with respect to the great fundamental truths which it contains. So far as these truths are concerned, there is nothing dark, equivocal, or mysterious. We are therefore inexcusable, if we leave this fountain of light, this infallible teacher, and follow instructors whose judgment may be perverted and blinded by prejudice and error. But this argument from authority, like some others which we have considered, proves too much for your purpose. It furnishes as good a reason why you should maintain a catholic spirit towards the deist, and even the atheist, as the grossly erring christian. Every one knows that the records of infidelity contain many a name which literature and science have reason to regard, and which will long be emblazoned on the annals of genius. Indeed, if the question were to be decided by authority, between the chilling system of infidelity, and almost any one of the perverted forms of christianity with which we are acquainted, we should have no doubt that the former would marshal the longest catalogue of illustrious defenders. The very fact that men of great name differ in their religious opinions, proves that they are fallible, and that our confidence with respect to the truth or importance of our own system of faith should not be weakened by any such opposition. It is a remark which has often been made, and which we believe is founded in fact, that the leading truths of the Bible are much more likely to be sound, in their purity, in the creed of the illiterate and simple man, than in that of the person who has been conversant with the speculations of philosophy. The former approaches the Bible with an honest d-sire to know the truth, and with hardly ingenuity or learning enough to pervert it. The latter, is in great danger of carrying a spirit of speculation into the province where faith ought to be supreme, and of moulding the doctrines of Revelation to suit the conclusions and deductions of his own reason. We have now finished the examination which we intended to make, of the arguments which are most commonly urged at the present day in savour of what we have already ventured to rall a spurious catholicism. If our limits would admit, a question of some importance might be connected with this discussion, with regard to what are the fundamental doctrines of religion. We admit that it is much easier to ascertain what doctrines are revealed in the Bible, than what degree of error may be consistent with a principle of practical godliness. But though it may not become us to pronounce with con
fidence with respect to all the doctrines which may be fundamental, there are some concerning which we can have no reasonable doubt. The grand peculiarities of the gospel, those truths which more than any other render it what it is, are doubtless the doctrines of atonement by the blood of Christ, and sanctification by the Spirit of Christ. We will only say at present, that the nearer any er.
‘ror lies to this great foundation, it is
so much the more practical, dangerous, and fundamental. We are unwilling to close these remarks without adverting for a moment to the present state of the church, and what appears to us to be the duty of its members. If any thing has escaped us which will have a tendency to check a spirit of enlightened, scriptural charity, in regard to religious differences, we sincerely regret it. We believe the state of the church requires us to ineulcate christian forbearance, but to be cautious that it does not degenerate into an indiscriminate catholicism. It is absolutely necessary that all minor dis. serences should be forgotten, and that christians should rally round their precious faith, and unite all their strength and all their zeal in defence of it. The prospect of the church is in some respects gloomy, but it will not be. come less so by our admitting into its bosom the elements of destruction. The courtesy of this niserable world may smile upon our indifference to the truths of God, but it will be a wretched consolation in the hour of death, and will plant daggers in the soul when we are called to give an account of our stewardship. Nothing but fidelity to our Master and the interests of his church can cast a vision of joy over the bed of death, or clothe the prospect of the judgment with serenity, satisfaction, and triumph. A Friend to Christian Catholicism
Acts viii. 39.-And he went on his way rejoicing.”
This is spoken concerning an officer of high rank, belonging to the royal court of a distant country, called Ethiopia. This man, in some method had become acquainted with the Jewish Scriptures, and through them had come to the knowledge of the true God. Agreeably to the rites commanded in the law of Moses, he had now probably been up to Jerusalem, at one of their solemn feasts, to worship. The sacred and magnificent ceremonies of the temple, which he had there witnessed, darkly shadowing forth the future glories of the Messiah, were well calculated to impress his mind with religious awe, and to excite an earnest enquiry, what it was which was typified, by these splendid representations. With such feelings he left the holy city, and the sanctuary of God, to return to his distant home. As his chariot was slowly passing through the variegated country in the south of Judea, his eye was drawn from contemplating the scenery of nature around him, and fixed upon the far more interesting scenes disclosed in the sacred volume. He sat in his chariot, and was reading Esaias the prophet. Whether accident or design led him to this portion of the word of God is unknown. He had seen the types of the law, but had not discovered the thing typified. He had seen the shadow of good things to come, and he longed to find the substance. In Jerusalem perhaps he had also heard something concerning the sufferings and death of Jesus. His mind was racked with doubt and uncertainty, anxious to discover some one who might lead him to the truth. At this moment he discovered a traveller on foot following the carriage. The stranger drew near, and his first words seemed to shew that he was sent by heaven to open his eyes, and relieve him from his anxiety. *Understandest thou what thou rea
dest P” The treasurer of Ethiopia forgot his rank, and the artificial distinctions which wealth can create, and received the humble stranger into his chariot. His answer to the inquiry of Philip fully evinced his own humility, and his desire for instruction. “And he said, how can I, except some man should guide me.” “The place of the seripture which he read was this: He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearers, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away; and who shall declare his generation ? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee of whom speaketh the prophet this, of himself, or of some other man P. Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” The evidence was irresistible. The writings of the prophet which he was then holding in his hand, which he knew to have been published several hundred years before, when applied to the character and sufferings of Christ, seemed a history of the past, rather than a prediction of the future. In the person of Jesus he had found the Messiah of the scriptures, a Saviour every way suited to his wants as a sinner. He was ready to exclaim as Philip himself had done, when he first came to the knowledge of Christ. “We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the Prophets did write, Jesus of Nazereth the son of Joseph.” “And as they went on their way they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, see, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip being satisfied of the sincerity of his faith in Christ, baptized him. “And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing”—rejoicing in the removal of his doubts and darkness, the Sum of righteousness having arisen in his soul—rejoicing in this method of deliverance srom sin, its bondage and its punishment—rejoicing in the hope of that life and immortality which is brought to light through the gospel. In fancy we can pursue this converted Ethiopian as he is returning through the sultry desarts, that lie between him and his native city, not assected by the pains and pleasures of the world as before, but absorbed in the contemplation of the sublime truths he has discovered, and the expectation of communicating the same truths, and the same hopes and joys to his fellow citizens. What heart that will not sympathize with him in his holy joy P Are there not some among the readers of this sermon, who can realize the feelings of this noble Ethiopian,—some who like him, have been enquiring in darkness and doubt, with painful anxiety asking what they should do to be saved; like him have been directed to Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life; like him have believed with all their hearts, have been baptized with the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and now, like him, go on their way rejoicing—rejoicing on their way through the toilsome journey of this life to their eternal home P Such will give candid attention, while, with the Bible in our hands, and the experience of saints before our eyes, we endeavor to point out some of the sources of joy to a pious mind. A soul that feels conviction of sin, that sees' he has transgressed, times without number, the law of God; that feels in his conscience the justness of the sentence which condemns him to eternal punishment, while hell is naked before him, and destruction withont a covering, such a soul is prepared to feel the value of a Saviour. If then he be directed to Jesus, who has borne our sins in his own body on the tree, and is therefore able to save even to the uttermost all those who come to God by him, he receives him with all his heart, and believing, rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory. He has found a Saviour who is Christ
the Lord; one who by his death delivers him from the curse of the law, and by his Spirit, from the bondage of sin, and never, never will he cease to feel the cheerful emotions of joy and gratitude to his Divine Redeemer, until he ceases to remember his own natural character, and the guilt and punishment from which Christ hath delivered him. Every look which he casts back upon his state as it was by nature, enhances his gratitude and his joy. He is united to his Redeemer, by a love which is stronger than death. Christ is to him the wisdom of God, and the power of God, the chiefest among ten thousand, and the one altogether lovely. Another source of joy to the renewed soul, arises from the contemplation of the character and government of God. God is now his father, his portion and his everlasting inheritance. He dwells upon the divine perfections with delight. They are pledged for his protection and support; his they are, to be enjoyed by sweet communion, in meditation, prayer and praise. Even unropewed men find something in the character of God to engage their attention. Our natural fondness for the sublime, is fully gratified in striving to stretch the mind to a comprehension of his omnipresence and eternal existence. Our natural love of order finds satisfaction in considering the infinite greatness and wisdom of him, who sits at the head of the universe, and causes the systems of worlds to roll before him with perfect regularity. But the christian stops not here. The contemplation reaches his heart. He also admires the natural perfections of God, but is principally delighted by his holiness, his goodness, and his mercy to a fallen world. It is not admiration merely, it is love that kindles the sacred flame in his bosom, when he is wrapt in the coutemplation of the divine perfections. Surely no joys enter the human breast more pure, more noble, thau the exalted and exalting raptures of strong
But it is not merely the character and works, the government of God also forms a permanent source of joy to his children. In this they differ widely from the children of the world. To them no one doctrine of scripture perhaps is more disagreeable than the divine sovereignty. They cannot bear to think that God fixes every event, working all things according to the counsel of his own will, and until they shall lay aside the weapons of their rebellion, it must forever be a fearful thing for them to be in the hands of the living God. But to a pious mind, on the contrary, what can be more cheering than to think, that at the head of the universe is a being, whose goodness will choose the best ends, and whose wisdom and
wer will enable him to attain them. All shall work together for good, for the glory of God, and for the happiness of his obedient creatures. This consolation supports him amid the
sad vicissitudes of this miserable world. When he considers how great a portion of the earth is covered with heathenish darkness, how great a part, even of the civilized world, is led astray by ignorance and error, when he sees vice triumphant and virtue crushed, while unprincipled power drives liberty and religion and happiness before it, his soul would sink within him, did he not remember, that the wrath of man shall praise God, that the remainder of wrath he will restrain, and that all things shall work together for good to those that love Him. When afflictions come heavy upon himself, his family, or his friends, he bows with calm resignation, for he sees the hand of a Father amid the chastenings of his God. He knows that these sufferings are designed to wean him from the world, and to lead him towards heaven, and in quiet submission, can say, “not my will, but thine be done.” He adopts the language of Habakkuk, “Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Although evils of every shape surround him, and convulsions shake the kingdoms of the earth, yet his soul, when stayed on God, is kept in perfect peace. “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof.” Another source of christian joy, arises from hope. Every one knows how great a part of our happiness in this life is derived from the expectation of future good.
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast, “Man never is but always to be blest.”
We fix our eyes on some object before us in our course, which we imagine, if it could be obtained, would yield us happiness. After much struggle, we reach, we grasp it,