Page images
PDF
EPUB

sects maintain separate organizations on account of Creed differences, and a portion of them receive protection from Moslem and other heathen powers which they often refuse to each other. In Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and some other places several sects of different Creeds worship the one God in the name of the one Lord under the same roof, but never at each other's altar. A page could be filled with the names of sects which followed more fiercely the adoption of the Creed so loudly extolled as “invincible,” “alone sufficient to destroy all heresies" and "all the efforts of the devil.” The Creed itself has been several times altered. The filioque added by the Roman has never been accepted by the Oriental churches, and is the wall of partition between them.

Were it necessary to enter upon an analysis of the Creeds of Christendom, each claiming to be the right and only true and safe one, it would be easy to find in them a sufficient cause for the divisions and distractions existing in the church of God, and preventing its more rapid growth in purity, peace, union and good will. Selfishness, ambition, pride and prejudice, are imbeded in the foundations and permeate the parts of all Creeds, but each man's own!

Who with another's eye can read,
Or worship by another's creed?
Revering God's command alone,

We humbly seek and use our own. The question of the retention or rejection of ready-made Creeds can best be answered by a knowledge of what they have dine and are capable of doing. Mischievous as they have been in fostering pride and exclusiveness ; and weak and weakening as they seem to be wherever light and liberty of thought and speech are permitted and wisely employed in the honest search for truth and righteousness, they still exert, unperceived at the time, a strong influence over the religious opinions, feelings and conduct of people ; in some stronger than in others. Why else is it that, in all special efforts to revive the work of religion, it is found necessary to keep Creeds carefully out of sight, often disowned, until the gathering into flocks and labeling for the sect, and then but faintly read? Why else are churches so thinly attended where dogmas are so often and sererely preached, and theories and systems insisted upon ? Why, but for Creeds and names, do peo ple meet and pass with a bare nod when going to worship“ the God and Father of all," in the name of the oue Lord of all," who are respectful, friendly and cordial on all other occasions ? Why else these continued struggles, appeals and contrivances to raise funds to sustain sectarian schools, and build and sustain churches, where those already built are not half full ? Why else these large funds to send missionaries with the proper trade-marks, to convert the heathen ? - To what?

In Mexico, a few years since, free toleration was proclaimed. Five sects are there with their separate Creeds, and not much “brctherly love" is wasted between them. M. E. South and M. E. North, Episcopal English and Episcopal American and Presbyterian. The Englislı government compels China to buy opium (£125,000,000) against the earnest reinonstrance of the Emperor ; but missionaries carry Bibles and prayer-books to save them from their sins. Aincrica ships whiskey, auns, powder and missionaries of divers Creeds to convert the heathen to “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, one Father of all and to the love of their neighbors as themselves.” Most Christian nations of many Creeds send missionaries abroad, and maintain large military and naval establishments at home, to help keep peace where churches abound, and the gospel, in all shades, is preached for the instruction and guidance of the people Wealth, luxury, pride, distinction, ambition, rivalry, vain show, and much parade and pretension, with ease and indolence, are as distinctly seen in churcles and in Christian nations, as among the heathen ; as common among professors as non-prosessors. Where is more display of “ gay clothing" to be seen than in the processions and at the altars of the high titled dignitaries of The Church, which claims to represent the Man of the seamless coat, who had not where to lay bis licad. How must He who sits on the throne of perfect Justice, and understands all the imaginations of the

thoughts, look upon the controrersies and conduct of bigoted sectarians, contending about modes of faith and forms of worship to the woful neglect of moral character; who cultivate not much — certainly not chiefest, “the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance ?” Which is the truer way to reverence and honor Jesus, contending about Creeds, or aspiring to cherish his spirit and keep his commandments ?

It is pleasant, profitable, hopeful to receive a Chunder Sen, or a Mozoomdar from Hindostan, and hear them tell of Jesus and the good principles lie taught which his disciples ought to study and put in practice, instead of quarreling about their dogmatic creeds, and peculiar forms. It tells of an inward moving of the spirit, when those of differeing Creeds forget their narrowness, and meet, and greet, and eat with a Hindu heathen in a respectful, and almost fraternal manner at a comfortable breakfast. It argues well for the future, if it does not come quite up to the example of him who chose fishermen for his companions and ate with publicans and sinners, rebuking the scribes and pharisees, who, while pretending superior piety, were of the class wlio condemn and persecute, and prevent the real reformation of the world.

It is told of the beloved disciple, that when in banishinent on Patmos, many came to hin from the seren churches with complaints, differences of opinion, and subjects in dispute ; his invariable answer was, “ Beloved, love one another." Which of all the Creeds is inost willing to heed such advice, and obey Jesus ? Who can contrive and authorize a better rule ?

If it be asked, low Christianity can be sustained and extended without a dogmatic creed; it should be a sufficient answer to say, on the same principles, in the same spirit, and by the same means and methods Jesus employed, exemplified, and coinmanded during his ininistry among men. “ It is enough for the disciple to be as his master, and the servant as his Lord. “ If any man (especially preacher), have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. As many as are led by the

spirit of God, they are the sons of God. If you love not your brother, whom you have seen, how can you love God, whom you have not seen. And this commandment have we from him, that he that loveth God, loveth his brother also.” Love, not Creeds, is the fulfilling of the law. Suppose all who have named the name of Jesus had remembered to depart from iniquity, and to love one another, from the beginning, instead of contending about Creeds, what would have been and now be the condition of the Church Universal ? Suppose all Christians, regardless of Creed, name, or sectarian affinity, would join sincerely and lieartily before God, in a Covenant something like this:

Accepting the religion of Jesus Christ as a revelation of truth, duty, and destiny, and adopting it as our guide and rule of conduct, we confess ourselves to be his disciples, members of his church; and we do enter into a solemn covenant of fellowship and fraternity, promising to live in love, and in peace and good will towards all men.

Cannot all sincere Christians who love the religion of Jesus more than theories and systeins of men, conscientiously join in such a covenant, leaving Creeds, and forms, and names to per, sonal preferences, “having their faith to themselves,” but allowing them in no way to interfere with the " operation of the spirit” of love to God and man. What inore is needed to unify the church, and save the world ? The only name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved, will then supersede and be preferred to all other names, by all who love God with all their hearts, and Christianity more than self or sect. In due time the white stone and the new name will be given, and be preferable to the mark in the forehead. What else but pride and prejudice, name and Creed, keeps professed Christians in severance, too often inaking them uncharitable and scvere towards each other.

Dark and gloomy as the prospects of Christianity may seem to some, and severe as the attacks of unbelievers may be, there is ground to hope for its deliverence out of the wilderness through which it has long been wandering. Creeds are no longer the proof of actual faith, the tests of character, the measure of social esteem, or the assurance of salvation. No

sectarian is satisfied with another's Creed, nor many careful, honest, reverent thinkers with their own. Recently two na tional conventions have been held ; one of the “ Church Universal,” the other the “Universal Church." Both have been proposing and discussing amendments in ritual or profession. The latter, for ten years, has been worried over the changing of a single word. A compromise was reported by a committee which had it under consideration for years, which the members afterward confessed did not suit any of them; and it was referred back for further consideration. They had no Hosius nor Constantine to strike out the Iota. The assurance of hope gains strength from the fact, that no one sect longer thinks to slam the gates of glory in the face of every other Creed, but look with king and serene regards upon good people of all Creeds, and of no authorized Creed but their own. Prayers go up from every altar - prayers of faith it is hoped

to the one God and Father for the dominance of love, truth, righteousness, purity, peace and salvation in all the earth.

The attacks of infidelity, bold and resolute, do not harm Christianity, but rather strengthen it, and make it more vigorous. They show professors their faults, and the cause of their failures, and awaken them to see and move them to purge away the perversions and corruptions which have crept into the ministry and the churches, leading them to put pretension for reality, as if to deceive the people. From such conditions Christianity must be delivered, by a genuine and thorough reformation from dead works to a living faith. Christians must " walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love ; endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace; that they of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of them.” A corrupt church, ministers or members, van never bless the world, or spiritually prosper. The greatest enemy of Christianity, is, and ever has been, nursed in the bosom of the church itself. It is the manner of dogmatie

« PreviousContinue »