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DOCTRINAL VIEWS OF METHODISTS, AS DISTIN GUISHED FROM THOSE OF OTHER
POINTS OF AGREEMENT.
Most of the controversies that have agitated the church in all ages, have related to points of doctrine. The unity of the Methodists in this particular is remarkable. Though divided into several branches, in common with other leading denominations, they have maintained the strictest integrity in theology. But they differ from various influential bodies of Christians on important points, and are as often con demned for this as for other peculiarities. The object of this part of our work is to unfold these points, and the argu. ments upon which they rest for support, in as brief and explicit a manner as possible. But in accordance with the advice of a wise man, who would unite all denominations ir one, we shall, in the first place, consider the points wherein we agree with Christians in general, that we may be able to determine whether, after all, we do not agree more than we disa gree.
Following this arrangement, the first particular that naturally claims attention is the authority of the Holy Scriptures. Have they the sanction of Almighty God, or are they the mere ut.erances of erring men ?
This is a great question, and it takes precedence of every other. Nearly all we know of divine things we owe to these writings. If they are from God they must be true ; if from van they may be false.
Christians of all denominations, Methodists among others, regard them as the oracles of God. They agree that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," or, to adopt the language of St. Paul, that “God, who, at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son," in such a way that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," and is “able to make [us] wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
They, therefore, hold them as the standard of religious truth, to which all moral questions are referable, and by which they are to be settled ; and admit nothing to be true that is inconsistent with their teachings, and nothing to be false which can be clearly proved thereby. And, further, that they teach all things necessary to salvation. Hence, they look upon those who esteem them only as the opinions and precepts of men, - containing a mixture of truth and falsehood, to be sifted by the reader, and received or rejected at discretion, together with those who assume tha: choy are insufficient, and may be improved by additions and subtractions, as the world advances in the arts and sciences, - as infidels, and enemies to vital godliness. And in this judgment they are sustained by reference to the incontesta. ble evidence of their fruits.
It is not our intention to discuss the divine inspiration and authenticity of these Scriptures, farther than what is necessary in a brief statement of the grounds of our faith. That man needed some definite instruction in relation to his Maker; his own duty and destiny, is but too obvious from his whole history. However we may see traces of an infinite and eternal spirit in the wonderful exhibitions of nature, having Him first revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures, no such discoveries ever cheered the investigations of the most acute philosopher who had not obtained some intimations, directly or indirectly, from the same source. The boasted discoveries of philosophy, so far as they are founded in truth, are none other than those of revelation, borrowed from tradition, or stolen from the sanctuary. But even with these helps, the infidel philosopher has furnished the world with meagre proof of his competency to understand and effectively to teach all necessary truth. His clumsy account of the great problems of revelation, but too clearly indicates that his theory is the creature of fancy, stimulated by selfconceit and enmity against God. The whole history of Pagan mythology is a standing demonstration that man, by wisdom, cannot find out God or himself. Hence, it is reasonable to presume that a revelation has been made, and, if so, that the Scriptures contain that revelation ; since it is generally conceded that they are incomparably superior to any and all other writings which claim divine authority.
But we place little reliance on such reasoning, however correct; and the Creator does not require it. He knew what was in man, and that something more tangible and demonstrative would be necessary to command his confidence. That something he furnished in various ways. First, he endowed his messengers to perform certain feats of power, in attestation of the authority with which they spake, and the truth of what they said, that could not be
imitated, or reasonably attributed to any other than himself. Thus, he qualified Moses and the prophets, Jesus and the apostles, so that, wherever they came, the blind received sight, the sick were healed by a word or a touch, the mouths of lions were shut, the violence of fire quenched, the sea hushed its rage or stood back for them to pass, and even the dead were restored to life. The readers of the Bible are familiar with the account of all these transactionis, Had Moses, or Jesus or the apostles, never done the work, described and published in their writings, their enemies would have contradicted them; for they were not done in a
The most of them were performed in public, in the presence of their enemies. But we hear no such contradiction from witnesses who were in a condition to know to the contrary. The enemies of Christ did, indeed, deny that he arose from the dead; but, in attempting to account for his absence from the tomb, entangled themselves in the meshes of the net they were spreading for others, where they remain to this day.
To the performance of peculiar W61KS, works entirely above human energy, these men added prophecies not less unaccountable on any other hypothesis than that they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. They related future events with great precision, giving the time, place, and circumstances of their transaction, and events, too, so distant, and improbable to human apprehension and belief, that no one could credit them for a moment, who did not regard the speakers as divinely imbued to reveal the deep things of eternity. Some of the events thus described were hundreds of years distant, others came within a few days of the prediction; as, for example, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. How could he have known when he should die, who should betray him, or that he would be
betrayed at all, and that he would rise after three days, nad he not been possessed of the wisdom of God ?
It was mpossible. By what power did Isaiah discover the coming, character, and history of Christ seven hundred years prior to his advent? His predictions look quite like history, and entitle him to the honor he has long enjoyed of being “ the evangelical propheti.” How came Daniel to know the secrets of the future which brought him into notice ? IIe claimed to be instructed from on high, and his enemies were forced to concede that he was not deceived.
Now, with these facts before us, established beyond all i casonable doubt, to believe what these prophets and work ers of miracles taught, seems almost unavoidable, At least, it requires no undue amount of credulity to do so.
We believe, and act, upon less evidence on every other subject. Many renounce all religion on that which bears no comparison with it. How many have shown their willingness to discard the whole Bible, because it seems not to recognize what are called the modern discoveries of science! The infidel astronomer finds that the sun stands comparatively still, and does not rise and set as was formerly supposed. He, therefore, is ready to conclude that the Scriptures are not the word of God, because they speak after the manner of men, and not scientifically. Geologists have often come to the same conclusion, because the Scriptures do not seem to allow time enough since the creation, to make out the various formations of their half-fledged theories.
And a herd of mesmeric wizards are not less credulous, The secret of miracles and prophecy, they say, is all out. Daniel mesmerized the lions. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were made fire-proof by somnambulic influence ; and the Apostles healed diseases and cast out devils by a similar agency, and no mistake. And yet, believing all this