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Hogan, W. Auricular Confession and Nunneries
More, Rev. Henry. Protestant Priestism
Plain Man. Church of Christ
Rogers, Rev. J. G. Christianity and its Evidences
instead of Houlston and Stoneman.]
" PROVE ALL THINGS; HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD." 1 Thess. v. 21.
CHRISTIANITY A REASONABLE RELIGION.
The above general title Christ's Religion,"—is adopted in this first department of our enquiries to remind the doubting, and caution the believer, that there is much in the world passing under the name of Christianity, which is not sanctioned by the New Testament. We have therefore nothing to do with objections and difficulties arising out of human schemes or impositions; since on these pretensions our hopes do not rest; and in reference to them, we also are sceptical.
It is to be feared that much infidelity has originated in a revolt against superstition; that men disgusted with the worldliness and pompous ritual of a pretended Christianity, have been betrayed into hostility against that religion which they have known only in name. We have, consequently, distinguished between Christ's religion, and the religion of a priesthood ;-wolves in sheeps' clothing: and whereas, in the dishonoured name of Christianity, many deeds of oppression have been committed, it is necessary further to indicate, that the gospel is not to be confounded with a combination of Priestcraft and Statecraft.
Whatever persons object to, as condemning the religion of the New Testament, they are bound in logic and morals, to find in those writings : and if on the contrary, all such things are forbidden and repudiated in the code of Christian laws, the opposition on this ground is plainly misdirected. It will be found on a fair examination, that the religion of Jesus Christ, is consistent with, nay, the firmest support of all human rights and duties.
This we hope (in our subsequent enquiries) to make plain to every understanding. "If however it should be objected, that no one knows what Christianity is, since there are so many opinions on the subject; it is a sufficient reply for the present, that (besides the substantial agreement amongst the majority of sects) real Christianity may be discovered in the Bible, with as great certainty as we can interpret or understand any book in the world, which contains a statement of opinions.
The whole of Christianity may be well understood with less reading and argument than have of late been wasted in ascertaining the purpose of one article in the Church Catechism-baptismal regeneration. It is when we turn aside to human inventions, that we get bewildered : the clergy may be lost in the Arches Court, the Privy Council, the Courts of
Common Pleas, Queen's Bench and Exchequer; but a plain man with a conscience, needs only to take his Bible into the Court of Common Sense.
And in this appears another point of freedom cherished by Christianity, namely FREEDOM OF THOUGHT; without which there can be no other freedom, and with which there must be all other.
The gospel does not demand a blind assent, but intelligent faith; it is the priest who requires the people to open their mouth and shut their eyes to see what he may send :=to wink and swallow the wafer.
It is the present priests of Rome who have invented the appropriate miracle of a winking picture, that attention may be turned from the despotism of State and Church: that if the picture winks with one eye, the people may wink with both : or shut their eyes altogether.
But Christ's religion comes “to open men's eyes, to turn them from darkness to light :” we are commanded there to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good:” which means that we are to throw away what is bad; and in discriminating thus, we exercise our own reason and conscience, by the aid of the best light afforded to us. It is consequently a great mistake to suppose that the faith Christianity requires, is something opposed to reason: “faith,” in the Scriptures, is only another term for the exercise of reason, in opposition to the blind indulgence of sense and passion—the deceitful lusts, which war against the soul.” We speak here of faith (and Christianity in general) in its relation to the intellect; as excluding for the present, those spritual or moral consequences arising out of faith or enlightened conviction.
Christianity appeals to our reason, and by this means requires and cultivates our spiritual freedom : those who are versed in its principles have
senses exercised to discern between good and evil”—not the bodily senses,
ears ; nor the passions of our nature, but our mental perceptions or reason ; which, when opposed to bodily senses, is called " faith.” To believe, is to have “ the eyes of our understanding enlightened;" and because this religion deals with spiritual things, not with the objects of our bodily senses or passions, it enforces the moral habit of following reason alone—as “we walk by faith, and not by sight.” This is the true and only opposition, between faith and sense ;-it does not say, “we walk by faith not by reason :" but we follow our better judgment and improved insight, not our earthly impulses.
Dr. Arnold very clearly maintained this view of faith, as expressed in the following sentence
“It is not scriptural but fanatical, to oppose faith to reason; faith is properly opposed to sense : it is listening to the dictates of the higher part of
our minds, to which God speaks, rather than to the lower part of us, to which the world speaks. This cuts down at once, all Pusey's nonsense about rationalism ;-what he abuses as rationalism, is what the Scriptures commend, as knowledge, judgment, understanding and the like.”—Life and Correspondence of Dr. Arnold. Vol. ii. p, 54.
Accordingly the Apostle Paul aimed to commend himself“ by manifestation of the truth to every man’s conscience,” that men might follow those principles which the mind can appreciate, instead of the indulgencies which appeal to the “lust of the Aesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” the “victory which overcometh these is our faith," or