[ocr errors]

rent in human action, there is design apparent in the creation and preservation of the universe.

I have in millions of instances, during four thousand years, decided that God has spoken repeatedly to man; and in millions of instances, during the last two thousand years, I have affirmed that God, who in sundry times and in divers parcels, epoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son." Such is my oracle, because I have decided from many processes of examination and cross-examination of the witnesses for God, with as much assurance as I have ever affirmed any historical fact.

Querist.--For the sake of argument, then, let it be conceded that your decision is accordant to truth. Then I ask, Admitting that God has spoken to man, and that the Bible contains these communications; but amongst the various copies and versions, ancient and modern, there are various readings and interpolations: how, then, do you diseriminate the genuine from the spurious readings? What are thy criteria ?

Reason.—The narrative of facts is the same in all manuscripts, copies, and versions, in every substantial particular. The facts are not only the basis, but the matter of christian faith; and it is only in the verbal expositions of the meanings and tendencies of these facts, that interpolations or various readings of any importance occur. Comparisons of the more ancient manuscripts and translations, and of the quotations found in the writings of the primitive authors, together with the scope, style, and manner of the inspired penmen, make it not difficult, when proper pains are taken, to ascertain the genuine readings, and to detect the supplements or mistakes of transcribers.

Querist. But does not the detection of some supplements, interpolations, or erroneous readings, constitute some objection against the authenticity of the religion founded upon these writings?

Reason.--No: no more than the detection of the works of man upon the mountains and plains, upon the lakes, rivers, and seas, weakens the argument that the earth is the Lord's and that he is the maker of it. As soon would I reject all proof of the divine benevolence because there are found vegetable poisons in our gardens, and mineral poisons among our medicines which God has himself created, as reje-t a communication from him because he has permitted man to transcribe it, and left it possible for him to pervert it; affording, however, sufficient criteria to detect every foreign ingredient, as he has to discriminate the vegetables and minerals favorable to life, or to contradistinguish what are called the works of nature from the works of art.

Querist.--Tell me, then, what use dost thou make of revelation ?

Reason.-All its communications are to me as the axiomata of Euclid to the mathematician. luse them all as first and fixed principles never to be called in question, as rules and measures by which all moral principles are to be tried. A "thus says the Lord" settles all debate, and is absolutely authoritative in every question concern


ing the spiritual and eternal world. So soon as I ascertain the meaning of the command, promise, or proclamation, 1 pause not to inquire whether it ought to be regarded, received, or obeyed, but proceed forthwith, according to its tenor and import, to act in accordance with it.

Querist. But is not this implicit and unconditional surrender of thyself derogatory to thy true dignity, office, and honor?

Reason.--Nothing I conceive so honorable, so dignifying, so congenial to my office, as this implicit acquiescence in all the annunciations of the Great Father of reason and truth. Nothing so certain, so durable, so unchangeable as the word of the Lord. There is no error in it. There can be no error in the most strict and exact conformity to it: for it shall stand for ever. Truth, like its author, is eternal and unchangeable. And when it is ascertained that God has spoken, to bow with reverence and without reserve is my duty and

my honor.

Querist.—But is it not alleged by thee that God has always spoken in accordonce with thee—that revelation and reason perfectly harmonize?

Reason. When men speak of revelation and reason according and harmonizing, they cannot mean a faculty of the human soul: for what sense is there in affirming that natural light and the eye harmonize and accord ? To say that light and the eye agree, is to say as much as that revelation and reason agree. Reason is that eye of the soul to which the light of revelation is addressed. But the babbling world, perhaps, mean that revelation and experience agree; which is true just as far as we have experience; but as revelurion bly transcends our experience, it can only be affirmed that so far as human experience reaches, it accords with revelation; and hence is is fairly to be presumed that experience will continue to agree or correspond with revelation until the terms "revelation" and "experience” will be terms of equal value, and cover the same area of thought.

The improper use of terms, the confounding of words and phrases, is an error as common among sceptics as among christians, and it is equally pernicious to them as to any other class of reasoners. The phrases, “above reason,bicontrary to reason," "accordant to reason, when fairly tested, mean no more among those who think, than above or beyond my experience, contrary to my experience, or accordant to my experience. He, therefore, who says he believes nothing above his reason, nor contrary to his reason, simply says he believes nothing above his experience or contrary to it; and therefore revelation to him is wholly incredible. A christian may believe the Alcoran or the writings of Confucius or Zoroaster just as far as many persons believe the Old and New Testament: that is, as far as their experience goes.

I am wholly misapprehended by the great multitude who pretend to adore me. They are burning incense to a phantom which I abhor, and insulting me to my face by ascriptions of praise, which caricature

[ocr errors]

rather than characterize me. Their philosophy concerning my being and perfections, when stripped of its flimsy veil, represents me as a deity of subcreative power, an independent dependant, originating and originated, creating and created. My worshippers, were they to understand themselves, would be astoended at the grossness of their idolatry and the stupidity of their devotion. . One says, "I believe nothing above thee, O Reason!" Another says, “I believe nothing contrary to thee, O Reason!” In derision I have replied, “I see nothing above thee, O Eye?" "I see nothing contrary to thee, O Eye!" Yet they feel not the severity of my reproof, but repeat their unmeaning adorations. A votary of mine, carrying a candle in a dark night, once exclaimed, “I desire no guide but thee, O Reason!" to whom í whispered, "I want no guide but thee, o Eye!" and immediately blew out his candle. He stood confounded; but perceived not the meaning of my remonstrance, and forth with cried out for a guide, No ear heard him, for he had declared himself independent of the car; and, plunging into a ditch, he perished!

Reproof, remonstrance, irony, and satire are in vain. This ignoble crowd still throng my courts, and are worshipping they know not what. I renounce them; they belong not to my school--they are not admitted into my secrets. I claim not divine honors. Whatever knowledge I have acquired I have gleaned from two volumes. I read but two--the volume of Nature and the volume of Revelation: the former for the present, the latter for the future destiny of man. I have not an original idea : all that I know of the material system is derived from the volume of Nature; and all that I know of the spiritual is derived from the volume of Revelation. With these lamps I can direct all who submit to my guidance; but without them I cannot move one step, much less guide them in the path of life. I carry two lamps-one in each hand: these guide my true disciples; but the lamps which guide them illuminate my path and show me where to place my foot.

Querist.-Thou now speakest without a parable--and while thou claimest for thyself no higher hönors than these, thou wilt ever find me thy advocate when thou demandest



[ocr errors]

CAMPBELLISM A QUARTER OF A CENTURY AGO. THE following CIRCULAR, written 26 years ago, shows that the Regular Baptists have been, in many places, falling off from the peculiarities which were for

the chief ornament of the denomination. Their testimony was once loud and unfaltering, clear and decided for the spirituality of Christ's kingdom, for the sufficiency or the Holy Scriptures against all human creeds, for the ordinances of the New Institution, and against the assumptions of many Protestant sects and the Roman hierarchy. But having become more fashiona


ble, and in good standing with the other sects, they have, in conforming to them, lost much of their former spirituality and simplicity.



NORTH CAROLINA, A. D. 1805, The Ministers and Messengers of the Neuse Baptist Association, to

the several Churches they represent, sendeth christian salutation. Dearly beloved Brethren

Through the providence of God we have had another comfortable meeting, and have had favorable accounts of the work of grace in different • churches. We still feel it our duty, by way of letter, to give you some advice

in a cautionary manner, with respect to the prevailing evil of the examples and writings of professing men in churches, both ancient and modern; for in them we discover the beast, with the likeness of a lambi's horns, striving to destroy the faith and practice of the christian church. To say but little about their actions may do; for, to do the subject justice, would be beyond the bounds of a circular letter.

To give a few hints:- All mankind are imperfect at best, by reason of which they have self ends and interests in view, and will, in a less or greater degree, form their actions in order to obtain them, and so conform to the customs and fashions of the people with whom they converse, laying aside the exhortation of Paul, which is, not to conform to the things of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, that they may prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God; and leaving the example of Christ, they follow the world, laying aside the austere part of religion, they would make it more easy to enter into the kingdom. By this means, they gain the friendship of the rich and the popular; this procures a rich glebe and plump benefice, which is pleasing to the nature of man, and the dissimulation of a Peter may draw away a Barnabas. So weak minds are led astray, and the cross of Christ reproached, which has been the cause of a misapplication and wrong administration of ordinances. The writings of men of this stamp, have the same and a more pernicious tendency. We mean those that are intended as a rule in any part of the faith and practice of a church-such as canons, creeds, confessions of faith, catechisms, and church histories, with all other scribbles of the same complexion. The impropriety of the above may be seen by the differences among them, and the alterations they have met with in the different centuries, and different churches, prove them an improper rule for christians. Another evil attends them:

as their desire was for the after generations, to lead them into the religion and principles of their fathers, therefore it begets strong prejudices on the mind, and lays them liable to many errors and superstitions, and deprives them from seeing any necessity of searching the Scriptures, believing that their fathers were as good, as wise, and as learned as any men, and so take them for their guide, and learn of man, and not of Christ; and trust in man and making flesh their arm, and so bring this curse of God on themselves.

Again, we are not to take the writings of any mere man in spiritual things, but search the Scriptures whether it is so or not. Then, before we dare to take these writings as a rule, we must examine their references, and compare their inferences with the spirit of the text, and be at as much trouble as the compiler. Why not take the Scriptures? Again, they are a false representation to the world, recommending their authors as almost divine, and their characters unspotted, swelling their good works to an enormous size, while all their misconduct, imperfections, and failings are slightly mentioned or entirely concealed; and men being fond of applausė, are still adopting the same measures, which keeps the presses filled with such performances and sacrilegious specuJations, carrying on through church and state, robbing God of his honor, and his poor servants of their money, and perpetuating error from one gencration VOL. 111


to another. This, we believe, is the foundation upon which bason baptism, giving absolution for sins, preaching funeral sermons, the use of ceremonies at graves, and praying for the dead, first originated, and is still kept up. Another strong objection against the above writings is, that they cast contempt upon the Scriptures, and their authors assuming the prerogative of Christ, they presuppose that the Scriptures are imperfect, and short of being in themselves a sufficient rule for a church; forasmuch as they add traditions that are not to be found in the word of God, and bind them upon their adherents, by which they are led to read and consider those writings more than the Scriptures, thereby lay a greater stress upon them, and so to be like those that seem somewhat in the church, and less regard Christ and his word. This is contempt indeed! And their authors assume the place of Christ, as they make themselves head rulers and lawgivers over the churches, aad thereby get the mastery, and are called Rabbi, robbing God of his glory and Christ of his honor. Another strong reason why we should reject, condemn, and cast away all such pretensions, is, that there is not one text in God's word that gives the least liberty, under any pretension whatever, for such writing; but to the contrary, strictly forbids adding to, or diminishing from, under the pain of his curse.

And now, brethren, we have endeavored to lay before you the nature and tendency of those very pernicious performances. We hope you will duly consider them, and avoid the evil by a close search of God's word, and strict attention thereto, as the rule of your lives, knowing that you are to receive nothing without searching the Scriptures to see whether it is approved of by God or not. In this you stand, justifiable in the sight of God and man. This, by the grace of God, will support you against the gross and prevailing error of the present day; this will lead you into the peaceable paths of righteousness, and make them pleasant to your souls; these are the paths in which the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles went-they are now with God at rest. May the Lord bring us all thither for Christ's sake!





THE church of S. Maria Rotunda, in the city of Rome, was reared by M. Agrippa, son-in-law to Augustus Cesar, and was called by him the Pantheon. In this building, in niches all round its walls, stood the images of all the gods of the Pagan world. In honor of them it was reared, and to them consecrated. But Boniface IV. diminished the edifice somewhat, and re-consecrated it to the worship of the Virgin Mary, and all the saints, male and female. In the niches which held the images of every god, now stand the images of every saint and saintess in the Roman Calender.

The most authentic records of remote antiquity give to Ninus, the son of Nimrod, and founder of Ninevel, the honor or dishonor of first contriving a false God. In a public assembly of the Babylonians he passionately extolled his father, by them called Belus, the founder of their empire; and presented to them a statue of him, to which he commanded them to pay the same reverence as was due to his father alive. Ile appointed the statue to be a common sanctuary to the miserable, and decreed that every offender who fled to it should be

« VorigeDoorgaan »