« PreviousContinue »
our conduct will prove us to be no better than worldly Christians.
Is there not another class who may properly be named speculative Christians ? Christians who profess to have attained a correct religious faith, but who do not exhibit a truly christian practice; .whose evidence of discipleship proceeds from their lips, and not from their lives? If so, they do not comply with the injunctions of Christ Jesus. He has no where required a belief in any enumerated set of opinions as a condition of divine acceptance. Sincere obedience is his only test of a christian profession. Ye are my disciples if ye do whatsoever I command you. A good life is the only scriptural evidence of a saving faith. The only scriptural heresy is immoral conduct. Continual reference is made by him to the actions of men, and not to their speculative opinions. We are directed to judge of persons by their characters, and not by their creeds. And we are assured that God will render unto every man according to his deeds, and not according to his religious sentiments. A correct faith is indeed valuable. It is of great value, because it is more likely to produce correct conduct; and for this reason we should search for truth as for hidden treas
But a correct practice is infinitely more valuable ; because this is the sum and substance of the gospel requisitions; and this can be secured where the faith is erroneous. For every candid person will allow that there are obedient Christians in every sect; and no man can allow that all religious opinions of eve
ry denomination are true. Unreserved obedience is therefore the test of discipleship required by Christ; and without this, a belief in all the creeds in creation will not entitle us to his approbation and acceptance.
No. If we are merely speculative believers, with immoral habits, it is of very little consequence what creed we defend. One set of opinions will be equally as valuable to us as another; but no set will be worth anything, until it exerts a purifying influence on our hearts and lives. It is of small consequence to such persons, therefore, whether they believe in the total depravity or native purity of human nature, so long as they do not keep themselves pure and unspotted from the world. It is of little consequence, whether they believe in special calling and personal election, or in free agency and moral ability, so long as they do not strive to make their own calling and election sure. It is of little consequence, whether they believe salvation to be the reward of faith alone, or obtained by persevering exertions in the ways of well doing, so long as they do not engage in working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. It is of little consequence, whether they believe in the divinity of Christ's nature or the divinity of his mission, so long as they do not render heartfelt and holy obedience to his divine commands. It is of little consequence, whether they believe in God as existing in three persons or one person, so long as they do not worship the Father in spirit and truth. And though they may understand all mysteries and have all faith, and have not
charity, they have scarcely entered the threshhold of salvation; and must be accounted as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, because they are merely speculative believers.
Is there not a third class who may be styled inconsistent Christians ? Christians who have made an open profession of religion, but who do not comply with its requisitions; who neglect either the duties of piety or benevolence ? If so, they are deserving our Lord's rebuke. For both piety and benevolence are necessary to a christian character. Jesus informed his disciples that his kingdom was not of this world; and commanded them to love God with their whole heart. emplified the influence of these principles in his daily conduct. He sought nothing of the world, but its salvation. He did not make it his supreme good-his God. No. By his love, he was influenced to do the work of his Father faithfully ; to submit to his will cheersully; to trust in his wisdom and goodness implicitly; to worship him habitually; he often spent whole nights in this holy communion. He also commanded his disciples to love their neighbors, all mankind, as themselves ; and declared that they should be known as his disciples if they had love one to another. The influence of these principles he also exemplified in his daily walk and conversation. He unremittingly labored for the best good of mankind. He confined his benevolence to no sect or party. He associated freely with all classes. He ate and drank with the avaricious publican, and the haughty pharisee.
He manifested no exclusive spirit of selfrighteousness himself, and took every possible opportunity of condemning it in his disciples.
Even when he instituted the simple and affecting ordinance of the supper, he partook of the consecrated elements with those who, though sincere, he knew were still involved in many errors; thus leaving for the everlasting benefit of the church an example of the most unbounded charity.
If then we disregard these instructions and examples, our conduct will be at variance with our profession. If we neglect the particular duties of piety, the worship and love of God, the study of the scriptures, the observance of the sabbath, and the religious improvement of ourselves and families, do we not disobey his injunctions? Or if we neglect the peculiar duties of benevolence, condemn our fellow Christians for the lawful exercise of their rights, refuse communion with them merely on account of their opinions, and deliberately deny then the christian name, because they will not assent to our interpretations of scripture, do we not violate the law of love ? Must we not regard those as inconsistent professors, who do not make religion a serious and constant concern, and endeavor to learn its requisitions from the volume of inspiration ; who do not receive Jesus as their Saviour, and make his gospel the standard of their faith and practice; who do not exercise towards the Messiah that living faith, which works by love, purifies the heart, and overcomes the world; who do not feel fr their sins that godly sorrow which produces thorough reformation of heart
and life; who do not possess for God that holy love which influences to a devotedness to his service, a resignation to his will, and a worship of his name ; who do not entertain for their fellow-men that christian charity which manifests itself in amiable dispositions, benevolent wishes, kind offices, and forgiving tempers ; in short, all who do not habitually endeavor to obey the command, imbibe the spirit, and imitate the example of Christ Jesus?
LIBERALITY AND BIGOTRY.
MESSRS EDITORS, I think that if we look over the catalogue of great minds, really great I mean, we shall find that such minds have usually been distinguished for candor and charity. I was forcibly impressed with this thought on recently meeting with a remark of Dr Jortin, relating to Bishop Taylor, Chillingworth, Locke, and others. The remark is introduced by the following quotation. And now, if men will say I persuade to indifferency, I must bear it as well as I can.
I am not yet without remedy, as they are; for patience will help me, and reason cannot cure them. The words,' says Jortin,* are borrowed from a pious, ingenious, learned, charitable, and sweet tempered Bishop, (Jer
*Preface to Remarks on Ecclesiastical History.