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creed; a creed to which every true Christian conscientiously subscribes, and which baptized hypocrites make a solemn show of assenting to. Our prejudice against these holy doctrines must necessarily vanish, after we have duly considered the influence they naturally have upon the conduct of true believers.
This confession of faith has three parts. The first contains the prin. cipal doctrines of Deism, or natural religion, setting forth the relation in which we stand to God, as Creator. The second part of this creed includes the principal doctrines contained in the four Gospels, and places before us the relation we bear to God, considered in the character of Redeemer, or as coming to save the world by that extraordinary person, who is called the only begotten Son of God. The doctrines here enu. merated are those with which the disciples of our Lord were wholly taken up till the day of their spiritual baptism. The third part presents us with a recapitulation of the principal doctrines set forth in the Acts and Epistles of the apostles. This latter part of the Christian creed instructs us in our relation to God, ás Sanctifier, or as coming to regenerate man by that Spirit of truth, consolation, and power, which was promised by Christ to his followers: a Spirit, whose office is to instruct and sanctify the Church of Christ, to maintain a constant communion among its members, to seal upon their consciences the pardon of sin, to assure them of a future resurrection, and prepare them for a life of everlasting blessedness. Let us review these three parts of this apostolic creed, and observe the necessary reference they have to morality.
The first article of this creed informs us that there is an all-powerful God, who is the Creator of all things in heaven and in earth. It is evident that no man can renounce this doctrine, without renouncing natural religion, and plunging headlong into Atheism. If there is no God, there can be no Divine law, and morality becomes a mere insignificant term. Human laws may, indeed, restrain the wretch who indulges a persuasion of this nature ; but were it not for the authority of such laws, he would throw off the mask of decency, and laugh at the distinction between virtue and vice.
If you admit, with Epicurus, the being of a God, without admitting an overruling providence: if you believe not that the Creator is an allpowerful Parent, and, as such, peculiarly attentive to the concerns of his immense family: you then destroy all confidence in the Supreme Being: you take from the righteous their chief consolation in adversity, and from the wicked their chief restraining curb in prosperity.
Mutilate this important doctrine by admitting only a general provi. dence, and you destroy the particular confidence which holy men indulge, that God dispenses to his children, according to his unsearchable wis. dom, both prosperity and adversity; that he listens to their supplications, and will finally deliver them out of all their afflictions. You trample under foot the most powerful motives to resignation and patience; you nourish discontent in the heart, and scatter the seeds of despair among the unfortunate. Yet all this is done by many inconsistent advocates for morality.
Heathens themselves were perfectly convinced, that the practice of morality was closely connected with the above-mentioned doctrines. Cicero, in his book concerning the nature of the gods, seems to appre.
hend, that the whole edifice of morality would fall to the ground, were the doctrine of a particular providence to be taken away : “ For," says he, “if the gods observed not what is transacted here below, what would become of religion and holiness, without which human life would be replete with trouble and confusion? I am persuaded that, in banishing the fear of the gods, we should, at the same time, banish from among us good faith, justice, and all those other virtues which are considered as forming the basis of society."
The connection of morality with the second part of the apostles' creed.
The doctrines adverted to in the latter part of the preceding chapter, compose the religion of Theists, who believe in God as Creator and Preserver, but who know him not as the Restorer of fallen man. They, however, who give their unfeigned assent to the first part of this creed, will never contentedly rest at the threshold of truth. After-duly attend. ing to the blessings of creation and preservation, they will readily perceive how destitute they are of that love, that gratitude, and that obedience, which are so justly due to the Author of all their mercies. Hence gradually discovering that, even with respect to their neighbour, they are void of that justice and charity which should be mutually exer. cised between man and man, they will humbly acknowledge their trans. gressions, and begin to apprehend those mysterious truths by which the Christian religion is distinguished from Deism.
In our ancient confessions of faith, no mention is made of the misery and depravity of man. For what need was there to make so melan. choly a truth an article of faith, since it has been publicly demonstrated, in every age and country, by the conduet of all classes of men ? To deny that indisputable evidences of this truth are every day to be met with, is to deny that there are in the world prisons, gibbets, soldiers, fields of blood, and beds of death.
If we give up the doctrine of the fall, and, of consequence, that of the restoration, we give the lie to the general experience of mankind, as well as to that of our own hearts; we shut our eyes against the light of conviction ; we cast away, in the midst of a labyrinth, the only clue that can guide us through its winding mazes. And after such an act of folly, we shall either, with infidel philosophers, disdain to implore the assistance of the Supreme Being, or, like the haughty Pharisee, we shall approach him with insolence.
If, in direct opposition to the doctrine of our depravity, we affirm, that "all things are good, and the human species as free from imperfection as the Almighty at first intended,” we then neglect the only probable means of overcoming sin, and obstinately endeavour to preclude all possibility of our restoration. Thus, by persuading a loathsome leper that his malady is both convenient and becoming, we teach him to despise the most efficacious remedies, and leave him a deluded prey to deformity and corruption. But if it be once admitted that we are immersed in sin, without the least possibility of restoring ourselves to a state of inno. cence, we have, then, some degree of that humility which disposed St. Paul to embrace a persecuted Saviour, and by which alone we can be prevailed upon to embrace the second part of this sacred creed.
To reject that which respects either the conception, the birth, the sufferings, the death,* the resurrection, or the ascension of Jesus Christ, is to reject every thing that concerns this condescending Saviour ; since it is one and the same Gospel that instructs us in all these different doctrines. To remove one of these doctrines is to break the chain of evangelical truth, by destroying one of the links of which it is composed; it is ultimately to deny the authority of revelation, if not absolutely to over. throw that grand edifice, of which Jesus Christ “is the chief corner stone." In a word, as the doctrine of our redemption by a crucified Saviour is rejected, either wholly or in part, so we reject, either in part or altogether, the most constraining motives to repentance and gratitude, obedience and purity.
An unholy course of conduct proceeds from two principal causes, pride and the rebellion of the senses : from the former arises the disorder of our irascible passions; and from the latter proceed all our irregular desires. Now, before these evils can be perfectly remedied, or the unholy become truly virtuous, it is necessary to eradicate pride from the heart, and to subdue the irregular appetites of our degenerate nature. This is undoubtedly the most difficult task to be accomplished in life ; but what is impracticable to the incredulous Deist, becomes actually possible to the sincere believer. By the example of his persecuted Master, he is animated to trample upon all the pride of life; and upon the cross of his dying Lord, he is crucified to the sensual delights of this present world, “ Take my yoke upon you,” says the blessed Jesus, “ and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart,” Matt. xi, 29. “ Christ hath suffered for us,” continues St. Peter, “ leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps,” 1 Pet. ii, 21. “Let the same mind be in you,” adds St. Paul, “ which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God,” voluntarily “took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto the death of the cross,” Phil. ii, 5, 8.
It is necessary to be well acquainted with the human heart, and to have accurately observed the influence that example has upon mankind, in order to understand the great advantage which Christians have over Deists, even allowing the morality of both parties to be equally pure. What is there of which those persons are not capable, who follow the King of kings, encouraged by his example, and supported by his power! Thus supported, no command will appear too strict to be obeyed : no burden too heavy to be sustained; but we may joyfully triumph, like the first imitators of Jesus, over that innate pride and those sensual desires upon which the incredulous continually striking, as upon 'dangerous rocks, make shipwreck of all their boasted morality.
* Here is no mention made of our Lord's descent into hell, because the ex. pression itself is an equivocal one: the Greek word hades by no means answer. ing to the English word hell. St. Paul was ever ready to make mention of every thing that respected his Divine Master; but where he speaks of his death and resurrection, he is not observed even to hint at this singular doctrine; and if, by omitting it in this place, we are judged guilty of a capital error, the great apostle himself was guilty in this respect, Rom. iv, 25; viii, 34; 1 Cor. xv, 4. But if St. Paul and the four evangelists have made no mention of this extraordinary circum. stance, it cannot certainly be considered as a fundamental article of the Christian faith.
The last article, recounted in this part of our creed, must be supposed to have a prodigious influence upon the minds of men. Take away the doctrine of a judgment day, in which an infinitely holy and powerful God will render unto every man according to his works; you then take from the wicked those salutary fears wbich restrain them in the career of vice, and from the righteous those glorious hopes which are the strongest incentives to a life of godliness.
The connection of morality with the third part of the apostles' creed.
The first article, in the third part of this ancient confession of faith, respects the confidence which every believer indulges in the Divine grace, or rather, in that Holy Spirit which sanctifies the sinful and consoles the afflicted. If, by an obstinate incredulity, we reject this sacred Comforter, we refuse the wisdom and power which result from an intimate union with the Father of lights, and disclaim all fellowship with that Divine Mediator, whose humanity is far removed from the sight of men. As we could derive no possible advantage from a sun, whose rays, concentrated in himself, should neither visit our eyes with their cheering light, nor our bodies with their kindly heat, so, if the Almighty neither illuminates our minds by the Spirit of truth, nor animates our souls by the Spirit of charity, we may reasonably suppose him to have as little interest in the concerns of men as the statue of Olympian Jupiter.
The remainder of this creed respects the nature of the Church and the privileges of its members.
To destroy the doctrines which relate to the holiness of those who truly appertain to the Church of God, the universality of that Church, and the communion of those saints" of whom it is composed ;--this is to overthrow the barriers which form the pale of the Church, confound. ing the holy with the profane, and the sincere with the hypocritical,
Take away the doctrine that “respects the remission of sins," and you leave us in a state of the most cruel uncertainty. You take away from penitents that expectation which sustains them; and from believers the gratitude that engages them to love much, because much has been forgiven them, Luke vii, 47. You destroy the most powerful motive we have to pardon the offences of our neighbour, Eph. iv, 32, and leave us in a state of solicitude incompatible with that internal peace which is the peculiar privilege of Christians, John xiv, 27.
Rob us of the doctrine of a future resurrection, and you leave us weak in times of danger, alarmed in times of sickness, and wholly in bondage to the fear of death. But, while we remain in possession of this exhilarating truth, we can follow, without fear, the standard of the cross ; the most cruel torments are rendered tolerable; and we can submit, without repining, to a temporary death, looking forward to a glori. ous resurrection and a happy immortality.
Consequences of the foregoing observations. All crimes are founded upon those errors which are first embraced in theory, before they are adopted in practice. Overthrow these errors by opposing to them pure and incontrovertible doctrines, and you destroy sin in the bud. On the other hand, true virtue is produced by truth. Oppose a lie to this truth, and, if it be admitted, you destroy the seeds of virtue. So long as the first man had his heart penetrated with the certainty of this doctrine, "If I am ungrateful enough to disobey my Creator, I shall die,” so long he remained in a state of innocence. But to this doctrine the tempter opposed his false promises. “You shall not surely die,” said he; on the contrary, "you shall become [wise and happy] as gods.” No sooner were these delusive doctrines assented to on the part of Adam, but his understanding becoming necessarily clouded, his will was immediately beguiled: and thus, blindly following the temptation, he fell into an abyss of misery.
Doctrines, whether they be good or bad, still continue to have the same influence
the conduct of men ; and to suppose the contrary, is to suppose that light and darkness can never cease to produce their ordinary effects. The following doctrine, “ Out of the pale of the Romish Church there is no salvation,” has filled Europe with fires, scaf. folds, and massacres. Eradicate this doctrine from every prejudiced heart, and plant in its room the following Scriptural truth, “ God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him," and, in the place of streaming blood, we shall see streams of charity uninterruptedly flowing through every Christian kingdom.
The miser imagines that riches are the sovereign good, and that the highest pleasure consists in counting over and over his splendid hoards. The debauched youth is confident that the sovereign good consists in sensual gratification, and the highest gratification in the enjoyment of a frail beauty, destined to be the prey of worms. Destroy these groundless persuasions by solid doctrines: demonstrate to these infatuated creatures that God himself is the sovereign good, and that this good is offered to us in Jesus Christ; and that the highest enjoyment consists in having the heart penetrated with Divine love, and in looking forward with a lively hope of being one day eternally united to God. Convince them of these momentous truths, and the charms by which they have been captivated so long, will be immediately broken. Ah ! how delightful is it to behold such sensual reasoners awaking from their deathful slumber, and crying out, with St. Augustine, “O eternal sweetness ! Ineffable greatness Beauty for ever new! Truth, whose charms have been so long unnoticed, alas, how much time have I lost in not loving thee!"
Sound reason must unavoidably submit to the force of these observa. vations, the truth of which is demonstrated by the general conduct of mankind. But, perhaps, the best method of reasoning with the incredu. lous, is to point out the consequences of their own system. Imagine a man, who, instead of receiving the doctrines of the Gospel, publicly