« AnteriorContinuar »
oracles have been the means of destroying the primeval simplicity of religion, of fomenting divisions, and of banishing from Christians the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace ?-that they have exposed Christianity to the cavil, the ridicule, and invective of sceptics; destroyed the simplicity and purity of creeds ; furnished occasions for scandal and offence ; increased and exasperated controversies ; and ultimately destroyed purity and peace ?—That to them may be imputed persecution, cruelty and war ?—that to them may be ascribed all the Heathenism, Mahometanism, and infidelity, which at present deform the face of this globe? --that but for their baneful influence (I shudder as I write) the Christian religion would, by this time, have covered the whole earth ?—that by their baneful influence, the completion of the prophesies is retarded, the union of mankind into one family counteracted, men prevented from doing the will of their Heavenly Father, from practising the instructions of their great Preceptor, from behaving to each other as brethren, and, finally, from enjoying the pacific and beneficent influences of the blessed Spirit of God ?-If all these insinuations and implicit charges be just, the blasphemous conclusion would follow-that the greater part of the Bible is not a BLESSING but a CURSE!
The insinuations, however, are unjust, and the charges groundless. The true state of this matter is the very reverse of the Doctor's representation. The Doctor recommends a partial creed—a creed drawn from a part of Revelation, from the Gospels alone.—The want of such a creed, he represents, as the baneful source of all our woes. Now, the very reverse, I am convinced, is the fact. The evils complained of originate, not from creeds founded on the whole of revelation, but from partial crceds, creeds drawn from particular parts of the sacred volume-creeds like that which we find recommended, praised, and adopted by the learned Doctor. *
The foundation of creeds, in my humble opinion, should be no narrower than that of the Church of the living God. Like that sacred edifice, they should rest on the broad basis of the scriptures. To narrow the foundation of the Chris tian faith, as our author has done-to circumscribe Chris tian doctrine—to abridge the sacred volume-to exclude the Old Testament, and the greater part of the New, from the creed of the Christian, is to subvert the Christian faith, and overturn the Christian system-it is an attempt to tear away the greater part of that imperishable foundation, on which the church of God is built. Vain and fruitless attempt ! When the Doctor has first inverted the highest pyramid of Egypt--when he has succeeded in placing that stupendous pile of building on its apex instead of its base—then, and not till then, let him attempt to invert the church of God, by endeavouring to poise that glorious fabric on the narrow pivot of a few pages, instead of rearing it on the broad basis of “the Prophets and Apostles, Jesus Christ being the chief
* After all his invectives against them, it appears that the Doctor, at heart, is no enemy to creeds. No man ever extolled creeds more, than he has eulogized those partial ones, which he would wish to bé drawn from a part of revelation--from the gospels alone.
Whilst degrading the other Scriptures, our author exalts the Gospels too high. This, to a superficial thinker, may appear impossible ; but it is not. We exalt them too high, when we raise them on the ruins of the other Scriptures. We exalt the Gospels too high, when, with Dr. B., we vainly imagine, that creeds drawn from them must be necessarily
* The Antrim Presbytery, in their petition to the House of Commons, make the following declarations :"that your petitioners are so far " from entertaining any sentiments derogatory to the Holy Scriptures, " that they do believe, that there, and there only, can be found the true « unpolluted doctrine of Christ crucified--that they invariably appeal 66 to the sacred volume for the truth of what they teach, and are at all. 6 times ready to reject any opinion that can be shown to be at variance 66 with the word of God."
According to this declaration, the members of the Antrim Presbytery hold no sentiments derogatory to the Holy Scriptures.-With what truth Dr. B. could sign such a declaration, let the reader of the preceding pages judge! That the sentiments, on which I have been animadverting, are not only derogatory, but HIGHLY derogatory to the Holy Scriptures, no unprejudiced person can deny.
The declarations of the Antrim Presbytery, I regret to say, are am, biguous and equivocal. They declare, that the doctrine of Christ crucified may be found in the Holy Scriptures. How found? few grains of wheat in a bushel of chaff? This, as we have already seen, appears to be Dr. Bruce's view of the subject !
They declare again, that they appeal invariably to the sacred volume for the truth of what they teach. But how do they appeal to the sacred voluine? Do they appeal to the whole of it, or only to the one hundreth part of it? Do they make the whole of it the standard of their faith, or only a few pages ? What a pity that the Presbytery were not more explicit ?
pure, calculated to eradicate all evil, and to introduce all good. What, I ask, is in the words of Jesus Christ, which prevents them from being perverted, as well as the other Scriptures ? Nothing.-Notwithstanding all the Doctor's high encomiums on the Gospels--and they are worthy of encomium-have they not been actually perverted? THEY
What words have been more perverted than these, “ Thou “ art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church ?" Has not the supremacy of the Pope been founded upon them?
What words have been more perverted than these, “ This s is my body. Except ye eat the flesh, and drink the blood s of the son of man, ye have no life in you ?” Has not the monstrous doctrine of transubstantiation been founded upon them ?
What words have been more perverted than these, “Ex
cept ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish ?” Has not the doctrine of penance been founded upon them?
What words have been more perverted than these, “ Whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven ?" Has not the blasphemous doctrine of indulgences been founded upon them ?-Thus it appears, that the Doctor's fine theory is contradicted by facts. Facts prove, that the most monstrous and abominable creeds have actually been drawn from the very words of our blessed Redeemer!
After extolling the Gospels too high, by raising them on the ruins of the other Scriptures, he finally degrades them, by admitting that “they have produced unhappy effects on
our perverse and crooked generation.” Neither the Gospels, nor any other part of the Scriptures, ever“ produce unhappy effects.” They may be the innocent occasions, but can never be the causes of evil,*
Having examined the Doctor's “SURE GUIDE,” let us now attend to his “ SAFE RULE.”
Page 39, he writes thus : “But, the question, to which os I mean chiefly to confine myself, at present, relates to what ye
* I do not impute this to the Doctor as a designed charge upon the Gospels. It is only one of those numerous instances in which he has failed in expressing what he meant. In the present case, he has unintentionally degraded the Gospels, by confounding the distinction between an occasion and a cause.
disputed doctrines. Here, if you were asked, Understand ye
read? you might well reply, How can we, “ except some man guide us ?-And then the question re“ curs, Who shall guide us ? What direction shall we look “ to in controversy ? To whom shall we apply, when “ learned men and whole churches differ? How shall the
people decide, when their teachers, and other learned di“ vines, disagree? This is an interesting question, at all “ times; and never more so, than at present, when reli
gious controversy is so much the vogue.
« Perhaps, the shortest answer that can be given is, Let • them alone. Let them differ, and do you adhere only to “ those points in which they all agree. Christians must " necessarily coincide in opinion, upon many important 46 truths.
We may, I believe, safely say, that they concur so on every doctrine, which can justly be called fundamen«« tal. Their agreement on these, while they differ on other 5 points, is a strong reason for embracing them: their dif• ference upon subordinate doctrines, must excite a suspi“ cion that they may not be true ; and a belief, that they are not essential.
So that, if there be any tenet, upon " which you have not the means of attaining to a rational 66 belief, you
had better leave it among polemics and con" troversionalists, till they agree among themselves; and, “ in the mean time, addict yourselves to those practical, " edifying, and well established principles, in which they
concur. This is the safest general rule that I can give to you.
So then, with regard to all those doctrines which have been disputed, the safest rule Dr. B. can give, is, “LET THEM ALONE." Now, really, if our learned author had no better rule to give than this, with great submission, I conceive, it would have been infinitely better to have given no rule at all. I shall assign my reasons.
Taking the Doctor's safe rule in their hands, the plain, illiterate part of his congregation might reason thus :" Whether any day be holier than another, is a point dis
puted by learned divines; we will therefore let the obsero" ance of the Christian Sabbath alone. It cannot be a mat“ ter of any great importance, whether we spend it in reli“ gious services, or in business and amusement.
“ Baptism is a disputed point : we will let it alone.' « We will not have our children baptized; for it is of no “importance whether they are baptized or not.
* The Lord's Supper is a disputed point: we will let " it alone. Whether we commemorate the dying love of " Jesus or not, is a matter of no importance.
“ Secret prayer, family worship, social worship, public
worship, in a word, all divine ordinances, public and pri“ vate, are disputed points : according to the safe rule of
our good minister, Dr. B., we will let them alone. “ will neither worship God in public nor in private. At“ tendance on such ordinances can be of no importance.
Particularly, we will · let the Bible alone ;' for whether “ the laity should read it at all, has been matter of dispute ; “ and at present it is disputed whether we should read it « without note or comment. We will leave the Bible
among polemics and controversionalists, till they agree among themselves about the reading of it. • We will let the moral law alone : for whether we are
obliged to keep it or not, is a matter of dispute among " learned divines. It is therefore a matter of no conse
quence, whether we study to keep the commandments of “ God, or live in the open violation of them ; whether we
study purity in heart, speech and behaviour-or live in “ rioting and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness giving ourselves up to work all uncleanness with greedi
The difference cannot be great : for some sects " have maintained that good works are so far from being
necessary, that they are obstacles to our salvation. Ac
cording to the safe rule of our good minister, we will let 66 the moral law alone!"
But I must now stop. I cannot go farther into detail. To point out all the absurdities of this “ SAFE RULE,” would fill volumes. If this safe rule of the Doctor's be a good one, where are all our peculiar principles as Dissenters ? All these principles were disputed principles. They 'were, therefore, of little importance ; and yet our forefathers shed their blood in defence of them. According to the Doctor's safe rule, they “ died as a fool dies !”
Again : If the Doctor's a safe rule” be a good one, what becomes of all our peculiar principles as Protestants ? What becomes of all the peculiar doctrines of the Reformation those doctrines, which the martyrs sealed with their blood ? They were all disputed doctrines, and, therefore, unimportant. The blood of the martyrs was shed in vain !
In one sense, indeed, the Doctor's rule must be acknow. ledged to be a safe one.