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No rule could be safer for the Church of Rome. It would have put an extinguisher on the Reformation. With regard to the disputed doctrines, our author would have said, “ Let " them alone. Leave them among the polemics and contro“ versionalists, till they agree among themselves.” Now, as they have not yet agreed among themselves, the Reformation would not have yet commenced ; Dr. B. and his hearers would have been, at this very moment, stanch Catholics, in the warm embraces of the old mother church!-My readers will forgive me, if, impelled by the force of truth, I proceed still farther, and say:
NO RULE COULD BE SAFER FOR THE KINGDOM OF SATAN, If universally adopted, it would have effectually secured the perpetuity of his reign, and the integrity of his empire. With great deference, I call upon Dr. B.- I call upon all the Arians in the world—to mention, if they can, one single truth, which Satan and his emissaries have not disputed. Under the Old Testament dispensation, Satan's emissaries, his false prophets, opposed and disputed those truths delivered by the prophets of the Lord. Would Dr. B. have said on this occasion, “ Let those disputed truths alone, “ till the prophets agree among themselves ?” A safe rule, indeed, for Satan's kingdom! The Old Serpent himself could have invented none better.
Again: In the commencement of the Christian era, Satan's false apostles opposed and disputed the doctrines taught by the true apostles of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. xi. 13, 14, 15.) “ For such are false apostles, deceitful workers,
transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel ; for Satan himself is transformed into an
angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his “ ministers also be transformed, as the ministers of right“ eousness, whose end shall be according to their works." When the apostles of Jesus and those of Satan were thus disputing the great doctrines of the Gospel, would our author have said, “ Let those doctrines alone. Leave them “ among the polemics and controversionalists, till they have "agreed among themselves ?” No rule in the world would have contributed more effectually to the safety and prosperity of Satan's kingdom! On the principle of this rule, the Christian religion could have never been propagated.
As Satan had his false prophets under the legal dispen. sation, and his false apostles at the commencement of the Christian era, so in every subsequent period of the church,
at least till the time of the millennium, he has had, or will have, his false teachers. Our Saviour warned us against such seducers. (Matthew, viii. 5.) “Beware of false pro
phets, which come to you in sheeps' clothing ; but in“ wardly they are ravening wolves." The apostle Peter sounds the alarm, and puts the church on her guard against the intrusion of men, who would " come in unawares, and
privily introduce damnable heresies, denying the Lord " that bought them, and bringing upon themselves and " their followers swift destruction.” The apostles Paul, Jude, and John, all blow the trumpet and sound the alarm. Their injunctions to us are, “ Beware! Beware! Be not 6 deceived. Let no man beguile you. Stand fast in the “ faith. Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to of the saints. Stand fast in one spirit and one mind, striv“ ing together for the faith of the Gospel.” With these apostolic injunctions, the advice of Solomon is completely in unison 1; Buy the truth, and sell it not."
From these observations, it is abundantly evident that “the Devil, our adversary, is still going about as a roaring “ lion, seeking whom he may devour ;" that he is still opposing the truths of the Gospel. The adoption of the Doctor's safe rule would be a base desertion of truth, and dereliction of duty. Instead of "resisting the Devil, that he may flee from us," it would be a surrendering to Satan at discretion. It would be leaving his emissaries in undisturbed possession of the field. No, Doctor Bruce! The friends of the Redeemer are not so cowardly. Rallying round the standard of truth, in the name of their God they will display their banners : nor will they leave the field till they " see Satan falling like lightning from heaven to earth;" till they see truth bursting through the clouds of error, and “the knowledge and glory of the Lord covering " the earth, as the waters cover the sea."
If the Doctor's safe rule be adopted, what becomes of all his own principles ?-his principles as a Protestant ?-as a Dissenter ?-as a Presbyterian ?--as a member of the Antrim Presbytery? What becomes of the doctrines taught in his volume of sermons—the same doctrines which were taught previously by " those eminent ministers, Halliday “ and his grandfather, Drennan and Brown, Mackay, and “ Crombie"—the same doctrines which were taught for a century past, by the Presbytery of Antrim ? These are all disputed doctrines; and this very circumstance, according to the Doctor's own acknowledgment, “must excite a suspicion that they may not be true.” Why, then, should he preach those suspicious doctrines ? Why did his boasted predecessors, for a century past, preach those suspicious doctrines ? Why do all the other members of the Antrim Presbytery, as well as himself and his son, continue to preach those suspicious doctrines ? What! the Presbytery of Antrim preaching, for a century, doctrines confessedly suspicious ? Tell it not in Gath! publish it not in Askelon lest Deists should rejoice, and Infidels triumph.
I have dwelt the longer on the Doctor's safe rule, as I believe it to be a rule too generally adopted ; and a rule fraught with incalculable mischief. Why are so many dissenters returning to the bosom of the church of England ? Why are so many Protestants returning to the bosom of the church of Rome? I answer, our author's safe rule,
and other kindred maxims, have a powerful influence in producing these effects. “ No matter what we believe, if we are sincere."
“ Those doctrines, about which good *6 men differ, cannot be important."
.6 For moules of faith let graceless zealots fight :
These have been the prevailing, fashionable maxims of the past century-maxime, as unphilosophical, unscriptural-maxims, which separate theory and practice -maxims, which confound truth and error ;, absurdly representing both as equally favourable to virtue! Upon the principle of such maxims, it is natural to ask, Why did those graceless zealots, Luther, Calvin, Zuinglius, and the rest of our reformers, fight with the church of Rome about modes of faith? Why did they throw all Europe into flames for no purpose e ? “ These graceless zealots"
-may the patrons of such maxims say—" acted as fools by des“ troying the peace of Christendom; but we are men of - pacific dispositions, and will show our superior wisdom,
by returning to the bosom of our mother church, 66 A part of all will be saved.'
• When we go to Heaven, it so will never be asked, Are you Catholics, Churchmen, or - Dissenters?”'--I ask any man of candour-any man capable of the slightest reflection—Have not such as
safe rules" and liberal maxims a direct tendency to stop the
march of mind—to arrest the progress of Reformation and to lead us back into darkness and Popery?
How different the sentiments of our blessed Redeemer and his Apostles ! « Sanctify them through thy truth; thy 66 word is truth." " God hath chosen you to salvation “ through sanctification of the spirit, and belief of the truth. “ Because they received not the love of the truth, that they
might be saved, God gave them over to strong delusions " to believe a lie, that all might be damned who believe not “ the truth.'Y"Come out from among them, my people," &c.
Nearly allied to the Doetor's sure guide, and safe rule, is the following maxim laid down in his treatise on the Being and Attributes, (P. 12): “ It is also a law of our nature, “ that we cannot discredit testimony, when sufficiently “ strong." Though this maxim, at first sight, appears quite plausible; yet, if duly examined, I humbly conceive, it will be found to subvert the foundation of the Christian system, and to lead directly to Deism, to Atheism, and to blasphemy. -These assertions are strong, I acknowledge. That they are not too strong will appear, I am convinced, by the following syllogisms :
• It is a law of our nature, that we cannot discredit testimony, when sufficiently strong.”
But the testimony in favour of the truth of Christianity, has been discredited ;
Therefore, the testimony in favour of the truth of Christianity, was not sufficiently strong.
Does not this syllogism, founded on the Doctor's maxim, level to the dust the whole fabric of Christianity ? Does it not lead directly to DEISM ?
Again : “ It is a law of our nature, that we cannot dis“ credit testimony, when sufficiently strong.
But the testimony, which God has given in favour of the truth of his own being and attributes, has been discredited ;
Therefore, the testimony, which God has given in favour of the truth of his own being and attributes, is not sufficiently strong!
I ask again: Does not this syllogism, founded on the Doctor's maxim, lead directly to ATHEISM ?
Once more: “ It is a law of our nature, that we cannot “ discredit testimony, when sufficiently strong.”.
But the testimony God has given of his Son, the testimony which the Son has given of the Father, and the testi
mony which the Holy Spirit has given of both, have been discredited ;
Therefore, the testimonies of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are not sufficiently strong!
Whether or not this syllogism, founded on the Doctor's maxim, leads to blasphemy, let the reader judge.
testimony, when sufficiently strong, cannot be discredited; neither faith is a duty nor unbelief a sin. Necessity of nature is quite incompatible with virtue and vice, praise and blame. Hence it is, I humbly presume, that the unphilosophical, and unscriptural ideas of the innocence of error,* and the trivial importance of truth, have gained such currency in the present age.
When testimonies or doctrines are discredited, the fault must either be in the evidence, or in the mind that perceives it. Now, with regard to the doctrines of the Bible, or the testimony in favour of the truth of Christianity, what Christian would say, that the fault is in the evidence ? God never requires of his rational creatures any thing unreasonable—any thing naturally impossible. If he requires men to believe in the truth of Christianity, he has given sufficient evidence of that truth. If he requires men to believe in the doctrines of the Gospel, he has given sufficient evidence of the truth of those doctrines. It is on this principle alone, that faith is a duty, and unbelief and error, sins. The understanding is the judge, bound to give a verdict according to evidence ; but the judge may be bribed. The will,
the affections, the appetites and passions, blind the understanding, pervert the judgment, and influence the belief. It is almost proverbial, that what we wish we easily believe; and that
" A man convinced against his will
* Dr. B. maintains that error may not only be innocent, but righteous and holy! The well-instructed Christian, he assures us (P. 157), will see -66 that while he adhered to the gospel he was at least safe : " that the sincere profession of a holy and righteous faith, though it “ were erroneous, must be pleasing to a holy and righteons God.” What! Holy and righteous erroneous faith! What a combination of words! “ Picus frauds” are not more monstrous, than holy and right
It is not more blasphemous to affirm, that the God of holiness may delight in sin, than to assert, that the God of truth must be pleased with error!-Need we be at all astonished that Infidels exclaim, Priestcraft! and Imposture! when we hear an erroneous faith not only pronounced innocent, but righteous and holy, by a learned Divine, a Doctor of Divinity ?