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Christ, the promised Messiah, a teacher of truth and righteousness, the Son of God the Saviour of the world, who was crucified but rose from the dead and brought immortality to light for the hope and comfort of mankind, can:10t be made to appear from the Book. A more certain and infallable test was given by which to know and to be known as his disciples ; one which cannot be counterfeited : By this shall all men know ye are my disciples : if ye have love one to another : “ By their fruits ye shall know them.” If the form in the rite of baptisın be cited, it is enough to say that no instance occurs in the record of the Acts of the Apostles or in the Epistles where that form was used ; but simply, “ in the name of the Lord'avus,” Acts viji. 16.
That faith is an essential elemen'c'in tỉe plan of salvation, in the formation of Christian character, and regulation of conduct, in the pursuit of happiness and every enterprise, no reasonable man can doubt. Without it nothing would be undertaken, nothing pursued, nothing accomplished, beyond the common instincts of animal life. The rational man must be convinced and believe before he will begin. The farmer will not sow where he does not believe he shall reap. The inerchant will not buy what he does not expect to sell. The hunter does not seek where he does not hope to find. The prudent general does not lead his army where he does not believe to win a victory. The scheming politician does not lay his plans, spread his net, and spend his money, unless he believes to beguile his followers and win promotion. “ He that would come to God must believe that he is and is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” He that would secure the blessings and hopes of Christianity must believe on Jesus as the way, the truth, and the lise, and keep his commandments.
Faith is as essential in intellectual, scientific, moral and religious as in material pursuits. The processes of obtainment are not much unlike. The object being higher, nobler, the labor will be greater, the journey longer, and the way more complicated and difficult. What is more difficult and refined requires more careful thought, reflection and endeavor to se.
cure growth and completeness. Clear, personal conviction is indispensable to sound faith. No person can believe at will, ror by force, flattery or proxy. Many things are accepted on credit, without examination ; and many things we only half believe. By so doing one is often deceived. A Creed accepted without full conviction of its truth, or professed in ignorance, can have no saving power. Doubt demands proof. Reasonable evidence begets faith. Every proposition, like every house, should rest on a solid foundation. Faith is a conviction, the assurance of things not seen. It supplies the lack of knowledge. It guides where we cannot see. We prepare the soil and sow the seed, convinced the harvest will re. pay the toil. The germination is in the dark, under ground, out of sight, beyond our knowledge. It will not do to be ag. nostic in practical life. Nourishment is sucked from the earth though fibrous roots, and is forced to the topmost branches by a power unseen. The rays of light, freighted with heat and life, descend from the sun. We know not how or where they combine or divide to form the branch, paint the leaves, color the flowers, and spread life and beauty the wide world over. Since the morning stars sang together the sun has rode forth in his cliariot of glory, scattering bounties and beauties everywhere. Neither our knowledge nor our faith set him on the central throne of his vast dominion. We cannot tell him how, where, or when, to shine ; nor can our ignorance or unbelief prevent his shining. We know not his substance. We do not know how he forever imparts without consuming, exhaustless in supply without receiving. We rest content in the faith ihat the sun will continue to shine and dispense good and glory everywhere ; though thick darkness be sometimes round about us, and doubts arise in timid souls. The world has no need of Creeds of human contrivance to teach and guide, and restrain, and prevent, and show the sun how to shine; or to regulate his course ; or to change the immutable laws by which the motions of the earth and sun ara gov. erned. Who is qualified to write one? What astronomer is wise enough to undertake to do for science what theologians
have done, or are trying to do, for religion? We walk by faith, not by sight, in the pursuit of objects unseen and blessings desired, whether material, intellectual or spiritual.
The real question is not, whether we must believe and obey to be saved; but whether one man, or one set of men, in one age can rightfully and properly form a Creed for all people in all ages, resting solely on their convictions and on their authority, without evidence to convince orreas on to approve ; itself perhaps unreasonable, contradictory, mysterious, and absurd to minds as enlightened, hearts as pure, and souls as sincere as their own. Such Creeds people are not asked to examine, and approve or reject; rarely are they permitted to examine them in the light of reason and revelation, in a way to come to a clear comprehension, except at their peril. They are told time is pressing ; delays are dangerous. Hence the unthinking are hurried to accept what they do not understand ; scarce knowing what they do. The more considerate and serious ask for explanations, pure and simple. They are told they must not stop to inquire into the meaning of what others ask, almost order, them to believe. They must not reason ; they are not capable of judging correctly, safely. Others, wiser and better, have done all that for them. Here is the Creed ready made. They have no need to bother their minds ; only accept and be saved. If they still persist in demanding proof to convince before confessing a Creed they cannot understand, they are plied with outside arguments, special pleadings. The great antiquity of the Creed, the high and venerable authority, the vast amount of learning bestowed upon it, the numbers, wealth, splendors, popularity, social relations, political and commercial influence, personal benefits, appeals to the narrowest selfishness, are set before them in most attractive array to entice the unwary ; followed by frowns and threats if there are still signs of hesitation ; any thing to ensure a surrender of their honest convictions in submission to a Creed they cannot imderstand and do not believe, at the dictation of those for whose principles and moral character they have no cause for special respect. To yield is to surVOL. XX.
render their soul-liberty, to be regained only with utmost difficulty. To the Creed, the name, the sect, the appeal is thenceforth made ; not, “ To the law and the testimony." They are held “in durance vile” On this strange altar is sacrificed reason, right, freedom, fraternity, equality, manhood and perpetual inheritance God gave the..
What is received in return ? The favor of a sect, a right to its name and fellowship. To waver afterwards on the Creed is to be suspected of skepticism and infidelity by all who think within the limits of dogma, or think not all. No where else in the realm of reason or revelation, right or responsibility, are such restrictions attempted on the freedoin of thought, or such impudent assuunption of man over his fellowmen. They are plainly traced in bloody lines on the pages of ecclesiastical history, and too frequently seen in the milder manners of sectarians of to-day.
The whole business of 'Creed-making, Creed-tinkering, heresy-hunting, and silly, simulating or severe trials, in ecclesiastical councils and courts, may be explained and illustrated by a brief reference to the first attempt of Civil Government to intercede and interfere in the affairs of the Christian Church. Without troubling the reader with a full account of the calling, assembling, discussions, and decisions oi the General Council, it will suffice our present purpose to state the cause, object, means and result of that first effort to settle religious disputes, establisha Christian truth, and secure liarmony by majorities and imperial authority by the authorization of a Universal Creed.
Differing opinions ou subjects not clearly understood, or foreign to the spirit and intention of Christianity, early obtained among the disciples. Z Peter was blamed for his departure from the traditions, prejudices and bigotry of the Jewish elders, because lie consented to visit a devout Gentile, a good man who feared God and did alms, and desired more light and a better faith. When lie came before the council over which James, the brother of Jesus, presided with more grace and generosity than is always seen in similar councils that have
succeeded it ; having heard the frank statement of his new and more liberal convictions, instead of condeinning or suspending him, “glorified God that he had also granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life.” The same council, in like spirit, settled the difference between Peter and Paul, and even com: mended the latter in his labors among the Gentiles. On the essential Principles taught by Jesus, there was no disagreement, nor has there been, nor can there be, among devout and honest Christians, any where at any time. With them the less was not given the greater prominence. The weightier matiers of pure religion were not overborne by selfishness, tradition, folly or fashion. They did not look backward, nor off into the dark and inscrutable, but strait forward into the dawning light of the perfect day; as humble followers of Hin who had gone before, “the way, the truth, and the life.” Walking in that liglit they found a safe guide to duty and peace, and to the knowledge and grace of God. As long as they studied the lessons of the Great Teacher, oveyed his commands, followed his examples, and were led by his spirit, “ brotherly love continued,” and peace and prosperity prevailed. But when men learned in the wisdom of the world, and conformed to its fashions, crept unawares into the church, bringing in metaphysical, abstruse and subtle questions, theories and systeins, mysteries and traditions ; creeds and rituals, making them standards, which have nothing to do with true piety, right living, and things pertaining to Godliness, not inspiring faith and hope in God; then discussions, dissensions and contentious arose and differences of opinion became the tests of fellowship, and led to sects and parties and quarrels without end. The warnings of the Apostles were unlıceded, and many were “beguiled by enticing words, and spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit after the traditio:is and rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Hence the strises, controversies, alienations, persecutions and untold evils which afflicted the early church, and have continued unto this day.
It was to allay the discords prevailing in the churches, es