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In general, we form ideas of the Supreme Being, and we think, such a being ought to act so and so, and therefore we conclude he does act so and so. God gives Christ to believers conditionally, says one, for so it becomes a holy being to bestow all his gifts. God gives Christ unconditionally, says another; for so it becomes a merciful being to bestow his gifts on the miserable. I repeat it again, opposite as these may appear, they both retain the notions of the same God, the same Jesus, the same believers, the same giving; but an idea concerning the fittest way of bestowing the gift distinguishes and varies the systems. I call it the same giving, hecause all divines, even they, who go most into a scheme of conditional salvation, allow, that Christ is a blessing infinitely beyond all that is due to the conditions, which they perform in order to their enjoyment of him.
Let us for a moment suppose, that this proposition, God gives Christ to believers, is the whole of revelation on this subject. A divine, who should affirm, that his ideas of time, relation, and condition, were necessarily contained in this scripture; that his whole thesis was a doctrine of christianity; and that the belief of it was essential to salvation, would affirm the most palpable absurdities; for, although the proposition does say, Christ is God's gift to believers, yet it does neither say, when God bestowed this gift, nor why he bestowed it, nor that a precise knowledge of the mode of donation is essentially requisite to salvation. That God gave the world a Saviour in the person of Jesus is a fact affirmed by Christ in this proposition, and therefore a christian doctrine. That he made the donation absolutely or conditionally, before the fall or after it, i'eversibly or irrevocably, the proposition doth not affirm; and therefore every proposition including any of these ideas is an article of belief containing a christian doctrine and an human explication, and consequently it lies before an examiner in different degrees of evidence and importance.
Suppose a man were required to believe this proposition, God gave Jesus to believers absolutely; or this, God gave Jesus to believers conditionally; it is not impossible, the whole proposition might be proved original, genuine, primary doctrine of Jesus Christ. Our proposition in this text could not prove it, and were this the whole of our information on this article, conditionality and unconditionality would be human explications :' but, if Christ have given us in any other part of revelation, more instruction on this subject; if he any where affirm, either that he was given on certain conditions to be performed by believers, or that he was not given so, then indeed we might associate, the ideas of one text with those of another, and so form of the whole a genuine christian doctrine.
When we have thus selected the instructions of our divine Master from the opinions of our fellowpupils, we should suppose, these questions would naturally arise :- Is a belief of all the doctrines of Christ essential to salvation ? "If not, which are the essential truths ? If the parable of the talents
be allowed a part of his doctrine, and if the doctrine of proportion taught in that parable be true, it should seem, the belief of christian doctrines must be proportioned to exterior evidence and interior ability; and, on these principles, should a congregation of five hundred christians put these questions, they must receive five hundred different answers. Who is sufficient for these things ! Let us renounce our inclination to damn our fellow-creatures. Let us excite all to faith and repentance, and let us leave the decision of their destiny to Almighty God. When Christ cometh he will tell us all things. Till then let us wait, lest we should scatter fire-brands, arrows, and death, and make the hearts of the righteous sad, whom the Lord hath not made sad. How many doctrines are essential to salvation, seems to me exactly such a question, as--how much food is essential to animal life?
We will venture to go a step further. Were we as capable of determining the exact ratio between any particular mind and a given number of ideas, as we are of determining how many feet of water a vessel of a given burden must draw; and were we able so to determine how much faith in how many
doctrines was essential to the holiness, and so to the happiness of such a soul; we should not then entertain a vain notion of exacting by force these rights of God of his creature. For, first, the same proportion, which renders a certain number of ideas essential to the happiness of an intelligent
mind, renders this number of ideas so clear, that they establish themselves and need no imposition. Secondly; the nature of faith does not admit of imposition; it signifies nothing to say, kings command it; if angels commanded it, they would require an impossibility, and exact that of me, which they themselves could not perform. Thirdly; God has appointed no means to enforce belief; he has nominated no vicegerents to do this; he has expressly forbidden the attempt. Fourthly; the means, that one man must employ to impose his creed on another, are all nefarious, and damn a sinner to make a saint. Fifthly; imposition of human creeds has produced so much mischief in the world, so many divisions among christians, and so many execrable actions, attended with no one good end to religion, that the repetition of this crime would argue'a soul infested with the grossest ignorance, or the most stubborn obstinacy imaginable. Sixthly; dominion over conscience is that part of God's empire of which he is most jealous. The imposition of a human creed is a third action, and before any man can perform it, he must do two other exploits; he must usurp the throne, and claim the slave. How many more might be added! From a cool examination of the nature of God—the nature of man—the nature of christianity—the nature of all
within the compass of human thought to employ--the history of past times—the state of the presentin a word, of every idea, that belongs to the imposition of a human creed, we venture to affirm,
the attempt is irrational, unscriptural, impracticable, impossible. Creed is belief, and the production of belief by penal sanctions neither is, nor was, nor is to come. The project never entered the mind of a professor of any science, except that of theology. It is high time, theologists should explode it. The glorious pretence of establishing by force implicit belief, should be left to the little tyrant of a country school ; let him lay down dry documents, gird false rules close about other men's sons, lash docility into vanity, stupidity or madness, and justify his violence by spluttering, Sic volo, sic jubeo, stat pro ratione voluntas.
Were christians sincere in their professions of moderation, candour, and love, they would settle this preliminary article of IMPOSITION, and, this given up, there would be nothing else to dispute. Our objections lie neither against surplice nor service book; but against the imposition of them. Let one party of christians worship God as their consciences direct; but let other parties forfeit nothing for doing the same. It may appear conjectural; but it is sincerely true, theological war is the most futile and expensive contest, theological peace the cheapest acquisition in the world.
Although the distinction of a divine revelation from a human explication is just and necessary; although the principles of analogy, proportion, and perfection, are undeniable; and although, considered as a theory, the nature and necessity of uni