Page images



ions and offences, contrary to the doctrine ye have received, and avoid them.” To Titus he thus wrote: A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject.” Titus iii. 10. In Dr. Campbell's opinion, instead of “a man that is an heretic" the Greek words should have been translated, factious man"-meaning one who was disposed to promote contentions and divisions in the church. It was against such men that Paul's thunders were uttered-against men who dared to make doctrines essential to salvation which had not been authorized as such by the Head of the church. I may here quote the last paragraph of Dr. Campbell's Dissertation on Heresy, as both pertinent and important:

• I shall conclude with adding to the observations on schism and heresy, that how much soever of a schismatic or heretical spirit in the apostolic sense of the terms, may have contributed to the formation of the different sects into which the Christian world is at present divided, no person, who in the spirit of candor and charity adheres to that which to the best of his judgment is right, though in his opinion he should be mistaken, is in the Scripture sense either schismatic or heretic. And that he on the contrary, whatever sect he belong to, is more entitled to these odious appellations, who is the most apt to throw the imputation on others. Both terms, for they only denote different degrees of the samne bad quality, al-, ways indicate a disposition and practicc unfriendly to peace, harmony, and love."

In the same Dissertation, having shown how things

[ocr errors]

had been managed to make the term "heresy' applicable to error of judgment, Dr. Campbell remarked." Thus mere mistake is made at length to incur the reproach originally levelled against an assuming and factious temper, which would sacrifice the dearest interests of society to its own ambition.”

Two striking facts relating to the teachers who were censured by Paul, should not be overlooked nor forgotten.

I. These teachers were men who dared to teach a doctrine as essential to salvation, and as a test of Christian character, which no inspired teacher had ever exhibited in that light.

II. These teachers were, I think, of the first class of professed Christian teachers, who ventured to set up their own interpretations of Scripture as articles of faith essential to salvation, and as a test of Christian character.

It is very certain that Paul's censures were levelled against men who assumed this schismatic and creed-making power. Is it not then remarkable that, in modern times, those who have imitated the schismatic teachers, have also justified their own denouncing spirit by Paul's censure of the very principle and practice which they have adopted ? Such inconsistency is not confined to any one sect : it has been common to individuals of various denominations.



Ny Christian Brethren,

The following is the language of the Apostle


[ocr errors]

For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned," 1 Cor. ii. 14.

Dr. Macknight translates the verse as follows :

“Now an animal man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritu. ally examined.”

This text is often quoted to account for the difference of opinion, which occurs between persons of different sects, by imputing the opinion of one of the parties to moral depravity, or an unconverted state. I shall therefore exhibit what I believe to be the meaning of the text, and then inquire respecting the propriety of the common mode of applying it. “The natural man," or animal man,” I suppose to be one who is governed by animal or fleshly appetites, lusts or passions, and who seeks the gratification of these as his highest good, and in this way becomes blind to the value and importance of spiritual things.

By "the things of the Spirit of God," I understand the doctrines and precepts of God, revealed by the

[ocr errors]

Holy Spirit. These things are not received by the natural man. His heart is so set on other objects, the gratification of his animal desires, that he has no cordial relish for divine truths. His understanding and conscience may acknowledge their importance, but his heart says—“Go away for this time, and when I have a more convenient season, I will” attend to them. On such ground the things of the spirit are regarded as foolishness, or of little value compared with sensual gratifications.

“ Neither can he know them." It cannot, I think, have been the intention of the Apostle to represent the natural man as an excusable idiot, destitute alike of a good heart, of reason, understanding and common sense, and thus incapable of knowing his duty, or the meaning of words. In such a case he could not be regarded as an accountable or moral being. Toknow often means the same as to approve, acknowledge or enjoy, and has respect to the heart, rather than to the understanding. In such a sense of the word it is very obvious that a man governed by fleshly lusts, cannot know, approve, or enjoy the things of the Spirit of God, while in such a state.

The reason assigned by the Apostle is, “because they are spiritually discerned," or "examined." Dr. Macknight paraphrases the words as follows_“Neither can he know them because they are spiritually examined-examined by the light which revelation, not reason, affords." This may possibly be the meaning, but to me it appears quite as probable that by the last clause Paul meant to teach that cordially

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

to know, approve, or enjoy the precepts and truths of religion, we must have a spiritual taste or relish adapted to spiritual objects-in other words a disposition to love what is true and excellent. A worldly minded man may understand the precept, is set not your affections on things below.” A revengeful man may understand the exhortation—"avenge not yourselves.” The reviler may understand the precept, "Speak not evil one of another.” In each case, while the mind understands, the heart may be opposed to obedience, so that in the apostles sense of the words, he cannot "know" the things required or forbidden. He has no relish for such instructions. He cannot say, “ How sweet are thy words to my taste !"

Besides, a perverse taste or a disposition to indulge the fleshly lusts may be so strong—and probably often is so strong, as to prevent that attention to the precepts and truths of the gospel, which is really necessary to a correct discerning of their true import. The influence of party prejudices and passions, may often so bewilder the understanding as to occasion a false meaning of a divine precept to be preferred to the true meaning. Dr. Campbell, if I rightly remember, has given a striking instance of this, in an address to the people of Scotland. He inforrns us that when it was the fashion to murder men for their supposed heretical opinions, the command of Christ, “ Love your enemies," was said by the clergy not to mean,

enemies to our faith,” but “personal enemies." Hence they inferred that destroying dissenters for their opinions


« PreviousContinue »