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What apostolic descent have you, of which either the Roman Catholic priest has not more, or any Dissenting minister may not have as much ? The conclusion then, to which we come is, that upon your own individual responsibility, you declare that I cannot be saved. You and I both profess to be Christians—both are devoting our lives to the ministry of Christ—both have the Bible as our guide—both have Christ as our Head—both have the day of righteous retribution before us at no great distance of time-both are told by our Lord himself, that “Many that are last shall be first, and the first last;">
are not to judge one another lest we be judged ; that love is the fulfilling of the law, and the first and second commandment of the Gospel; and yet you take upon yourself to pronounce that my soul is lost unless I believe a doctrine of the Divine Nature, which, I suppose, all who hold it regard as the most incomprehensible of all mysteries. And you are not afraid to represent our tender and merciful Saviour as consigning to eternal perdition, for an error of the understanding, those who sincerely desire to be his followers! You are not afraid of detracting from the character of God! Supposing you to have been more fortunate in your pursuit of truth than I have in mine, I still would not willingly exchange my charity for your creed. “O Truth, Truth, how much doth charity avail and do!” I should think it far more acceptable to my Lord to hear me exclaim humbly before God and man, “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief," than that I should confidently recite every clause of the longest creed in Christendom. If we judge one another very strictly with regard to opinions, will not our own opinions be strictly judged, when we appear at the judgment seat of Christ, and then who shall stand?
It may be urged that much stress is certainly laid on belief and faith in the New Testament. Yes, but of a kind which would cause us to cling more closely to Christ, and not of a kind which would lead to exclusion and denunciation. A woman who has been a sinner makes her way into his presence, stands at his feet weeping, washes his feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair and kisses them, and anoints them with precious ointment. To her, he says, “Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace.” One who has been ill twelve years presses through the crowd and touches the hem of his garment. To her he says, “Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole.” Blind Bartimeus has his sight restored on account of his faith, which shewed itself by the exclamation, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” A father goes to Jesus, saying, “Master I have brought to thee my son, who hath a dumb spirit; if thou canst do anything have compassion on us and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Such is the faith of which we read in the New Testament, and which is necessary to create our hearts anew. Except ye be converted and become, not infallible theologians, but as little children, ye cannot inherit everlasting life.
But let me enforce this serious consideration in words more powerful than any I could have written, and having this additional claim upon you, that they were uttered by two of the most zealous and able clergymen of your own church. Preaching on the text “ What is truth ?” Mr. Robertson says,
- Some persons might think it to be the duty of any man who took this text to preach upon, to lay down what truth is; and if a minister were so to treat it, he might give you the fragment of truth which his own poor mind could grasp; and he might call it, as the phrase is, the Truth or the Gospel;' and he might require his hearers to receive it on peril of salvation. And then he would have done as the priests did ; and they who lean on other minds would have gone away bigoted; and they who think would have smiled, sadly, bitterly, or sarcastically, and gone home to doubt still more, What is Truth, and is it to be found ?' *** The Truth is infinite as the firmament
In childhood both seem near and measurable ; but with years they grow and grow, and seem further off, and further, and grander, and deeper, and vaster, as God himself, till you smile to remember, how you thought you could touch the sky, and blush to recollect the proud and self-sufficient way in which you used to talk of knowing or preaching
the Truth. And once again, Truth is made up of principles; an inward life, not any formula of words. God's character, spiritual worship; the divine life in the soul. How shall I put that into sentences, ten or
ten thousand ? The words which I speak unto you, they are Truth, and they are Life. How could Pi. late's question be answered except by a life? The Truth, then, which Pilate wanted—which you want, and I want—is not the boundless verities, but Truth of inward life.”
Speaking of Tertullian, the Rev. F. Maurice says, “to use our English expression, he feels that he is retained against those whom he is attacking. You will say, perhaps, that his client was Christianity, and that a man might be well afraid of betraying such a cause. I fully believe that that was Tertullian's feeling: let him have all the benefit of the admission. But it seems to me an utterly wrong feeling. Think of a poor earthborn man taking Christianity under his patronage. It was precisely the mistake of the Carthaginian to do this, as it has been the mistake of thousands of others. They have thought that the Gospel was their cause. The truth was not something above them to be adored, sought after, lived for, died for; it was something which they had grasped and comprehended."*
In harmony with the spirit of these passages, we do not regard it as our chief work to make proselytes to our own opinions. Why we are not Trinitarians I am to state in the following pages : but our great desire is, that a direct personal relation may be established between God and Christ and every human soul. We hold that the grand truths of Christianity pervade the New Testament, and that if we read thoughtfully and in a right spirit, we shall be certain
* Vide Ecclesiastical History, 1st and 2nd Centuries, p. 274.
to gain knowledge enough to introduce us into that living union with God through Christ, in which vital religion consists. The infallible human authority, therefore, which we cannot find either at Rome or elsewhere, we do not need. If Christianity live and breathe in every page of the evangelical records, then it is not necessary we should be confident in our interpretation of each verse and phrase; and the clearness of Divine Revelation is not obscured or its glory dimmed by the fact, either that every syllable did not proceed from “ the pencil of the Holy Spirit,” or that we have no infallible interpreter to whom to resort in our difficulties and differences.
I know the religious freedom we uphold is by many associated with latitudinarianism and indifference; but its use to the devout soul is to gain access to the primary sources of spiritual knowledge and thought, to seek truth in its very home. “ Protestant independence, they tell us, (says Mr. Robertson), is pride and self-reliance; but in truth it is nothing more than a deep sense of personal responsibility; a determination to trust in God rather than in man to teach ; in God and God's light in the soul."
Let it be borne in mind, therefore, that our dissent from the Church of England is not doctrinal alone, but also on the ground that we feel her position to be an inconsistent and, therefore, an unstable one. As upholding the right of private judgment and the sufficiency of the Scriptures, she is on the side of religious liberty.
How forcible and striking is the article, in which she declares that " whatsoever is not read in the Scriptures, nor may be proved thereby, is