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ing. It is not enough that it lies on the table, if it be not stored in the inind. No man is so insane as to hope, because food is prepared and is on his table, that therefore he shaii live, eat it or not. Neither should any one be so irrational as to expect spiritual health and growth, mental expansion, heart enlargement, the soul's salvation, without embracing that truth which God hath revealed for this specific purpose. But if it be thus necessary to believe the truth, it is plain to demonstration that we must not embrace errors, which are fundamentally subversive of this truth.
You have flattered yourself that the nature of your opinions was of little importance that sincerity in them was enough. But rest assured that sincerity in the belief of error is widely different from believing the truth. Did you never hear of a person's taking poison, sincerely believing it to be a wholesome medicine? And did his sincerity arrest the laws of nature? Did the poison forget its virulence and become harmless and nutritious, because of his sincerity! On the contrary, was not his sincerity the very thing which ruined him? Had he indulged any suspicions, he might have examined with care before he took the poison; or he might have prevented its effects after he had taken it, by timely preventatives. But his apprehensions were not awakened. He felt no alarm. He sincerely believed it a wholesome medicine, and his sincerity destroyed him.
Sincerely believing ice to be fire, will not convert it into fire. Sincerely believing stones to be bread, will not render them nutritious. Nor will sincerely believing error to be truth, alter at all its destructive nature. Suppose a man should take a quantity of four, and an equal quantity of arsenic, and, comparing them together, should conclude that one was just as well calculated to preserve life as the other. He might say, “I can see no great difference between the two; I can feel no difference; I can smell no difference. I can perceive no reason why one should preserve life, and the other destroy it. I am under no obligations to believe what I cannot understand-nor do I believe it. I am sincerely of the opinion that this arsenic is just as good to preserve life as that flour.” And having reasoned thus learnedly, he proves his sincerity by swallowing the poison. Yet, notwithstanding his sincerity, he is a dead man. Yea, in consequence of his sincerity, he is a dead man. It is just because he really and sincerely believed what he professed, that he took the poison and destroyed his life. Sincerity does not reverse or suspend the laws of nature, either in the physical or moral world, It rather gives efficiency and certainty to those laws.
Suppose (and the case is not wholly without a parallel) that a foreigner, recently landed on our shores from some of the arbitrary governments of Europe, should sincerely believe that, having now reached a land of liberty, he might freely appropriate to his own use whatever he desired; and proceeding on this his sincere belief, suppose he should rob the first man, or steal the first horse that came in his way. Would the sincerity of his belief snatch him from the arrest of justice? Would the Judge and the Jury confirm his sincere belief? or would they confine his person? His sincerity in this case has lodged him in a prison. It was the sincere belief of a dangerous and foolish error that turned him aside from the path of honesty and duty, and led him to commit a crime by which his liberty is forfeited.
Some of the pirates, executed not long since for murder on the high seas, are said to have declared on the gallows, that they believed there was no God, no heaven, no hell, no retribution, no hereafter. That they were sincere, it should seem there can be no doubt; for they published the declaration with their dying breath. Were they justifiable or excusable in their belief? Do you say, No? But who are you that undertake to decide what another ought, or ought not to believe? They sincerely believed there was no God, and their sincerity was tested at the end of the halter; and why were they not justifiable? You will reply, doubtless, as I should, that there is light enough, even from the works of God, to teach any person that he is. Before these men could have become Atheists, they must have closed their eyes to the light of day, and their consciences to the light of heaven. They loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Their sincere belief of error arose entirely from their love of sin. They wanted no God, and they would believe in none. They heartily desired that he should not be, and they sincerely be.. lieved that he was not. Their sincerity, therefore, is found, on examination, to be not their excuse, but their fault; not taeir misfortune, but their crime. Instead of palliating their guilt, it is itself the most portentous mark in the long catalogue of their sins.
And what is true in this case, is true in all analogous cases, Sincerity in the belief of essential error is never any excuse for such error. So far from justifying those who embrace it, it aggravates their condemnation. Take the Deist, who, professing to believe in God, rejects his word. Will his sinoere rejection of Christ and the gospel save him? How strange it would be, if a sincere rejection of Christ, and a sincere acceptance of him, should lead to the same results should entitle to the same blissful rewards!
No, reader, we must sincerely reject error, and sincerely believe and embrace the truth. And we must be careful not to mistake human error for heavenly truth-man's wishes for God's revelation.
THE NEW YEAR. A WORD TO NEUTRALS AND PARTIAL REFORMERS.
TIME, that parenthesis in Eternity, is, as Lord Bacon said, “the greatest innovator." What innovations has it made during the last four hundred years? I say, the last four hundred years; because with their history we are best acquainted, having so many records on all subjects agitated during that period. It is not yet four hundred years since the Bible was first printed. Germany, which has ever since excelled in theological studies, had the first printed Bible in 1450, England, in 1468, had Rufinus on the Creed published for her first book. A Mɔnk put the Bible; but an Archbishop put Rufinus first to press. England has been creedish ever since.
Bacon, born in 1560, published his “Novum Organum" in 1620. Locke, born in 1632, gave his philosophy of the mind, his "Essay on the Human Understanding,” in 1689, the year after the happy revolution in England by the Prince of Orange. And Newton, the greatest of philosophers, born in 1642, gave forth his Principia in 1687. What have these mighty minds achieved for science, physical, mental, moral--for the world! All sciences, arts, and occupations have felt the impulse of their genius, and decorated themselves with improvements unknown before.
What has time wrought in favor of religion since Germany gave Martin Luther to the world! And, what is surpassing strange, all improvements, all public benefits, scientific, political, mechanical, moral, religious, have been forced upon society, Faustus is said to have been prosecuted for witchcraft, because he made the Bible cheap, by multiplying copies with a rapidity, and with such accurate resemblance, as baffled the whole race of the scribes, and set their occupation adrift. Bacon had to will and bequeath his fame to other nations than that which gave him birth. Locke's Essays were pro. scribed by the heads of the English Universities and forbid to be read. And even Newton was regarded as an innovator, unsettling the schools and rendering doubtful the attainments of former times. The Devil, I believe, was very courteous to him who first invented gunpowder and all improvements in the art of killing men. But in religion all innovators have been obnoxious to the curse of those they wished to bless. The universal father, Leo X. would have given to Luther a scorpion rather than a fish, and would have drowned him in the Rhine, or in Mount Etna, rather than have absolved him from his sins against the priesthood. But why speak of Luther? The whole Egyptian priesthood, with Jannes and Jambres at their head, resisted Moses, that innovator, who offered liberty and salvation to an enslaved nation. Annas and Caiphas, with all the heads of departments, crucified the author of our religion, and all his followers have in all ages been loved less as they loved him more.
But time, because it matures thought and reflection and gives experience, corrects and reforms all excesses. Nations degenerate until their vices, like ignited matter in the bowels of the earth, cause a desolating earthquake or volcanic eruption, which overwhelms them, as were Herculaneum and Pompei under the eruptions of Vesuvius in the reign of the Emperor Titus.
Caloric, which is the conservative principle in the universe, will, no doubt, as both religion and philosophy teach, become its destruction. So time, while it tends to regenerate nations and individuals, often tends to the degeneracy and destruction of both. But time is neither good nor evil in itself. It is the use or the abuse of it which creates the blessing or the curse.
But what are we doing, who are now on the stage acting our part in the great drama of human existence? Aye, this is the question. We stand upon the shoulders of the giants in literature and religion, and can we see no farther than they? Or have they accurately surveyed the whole horizon of nature and religion, and developed every thing which has life or being? Alas! in what condition is the world! I mean not merely, nor, indeed, at all, the political, but the religious world. And, to come nearer to ourselves, in what condition is the Protestant world? Torn by sectarian contentions, by intestine feuds and animosities, until all bonds of union are severed, and almost every attractive principle destroyed. And amongst those who have discovered the root of all these manifold evils and have offered them. selves up to martyrdom upon the altars of indignant sectaries, how few are willing to sacrifice their own opinions and to unite and cooperate in one great reformation.
There are at this momentin Britain, Ireland, and America, hundreds of enlightened men, of exalted and accomplished minds, who have protested against human systems of religion, and suffered excominunication rather than pollute their consciences by advocating human platforms of religion; who have plead the cause of the all-sufficiency and alone-sufficiency of the apostolic writings for all christian faith and practice; who are doing little or nothing for the restoration of the ancient order of things, either in faith or practice. Were all these to combine and direct their energies to this one point, how soon would they put to fight the armies of the aliens; how soon would the walls of Jericho fall down, and the Israel of God dwell harmoniously and securely in the promised inheritance of millennial peace, harmony, and good will!
What an influence, for example, would the Baptist society alone have exerted in the cause of reformation in these United States, had a few of the most intelligent and influential leaders of that people not set their faces against the very proposition to reform. Had they treated the proposition with a little more intelligence, patience, and christian candor, how different would have been the results of the last ten years! Instead of all the heart-burnings, excommunications, anathemas, and disquisitions upon ultimate and remote abstractions, we should have gone forward against schism, discord, and papistical authority, terrible as an army with banners. But what have the spirits of discord achieved for themselves, for society, for eternity? Nothing that can be told to their honor in the day of the Lord Jesus, I say, nothing: for, the unrivalled supremacy of Jesus, and the exclusive legislative authority of his Apostles, is that for which we plead, and that which they have so violently opposed. If in any thing we have erred in ascertaining the will of the Lord Jesus, or the traditions of the Apostles, they were not called to acquiesce in that; for we make not our inferences terms of communion, nor denounce them who may not be able to unite with us in any matter of opinion. Many of those whom they have proscribed were proscribed for insint. ating that reformation was at all needed; or for saying that the VOL. III.
Apostles were not setting in the churches enthroned in the afiectiohg of the people. They have been looked upon with an evil eye, because they made their appeals to the Apostles alone.
But the weak among them who oppose reform, fancy that they are justified in so doing because their good, wise, or learned leaders disapprove some of the views we exhibit. As to their goodness, wisdom, or learning, they are very doubtful vouchers; for, perhaps, there may be as much of all three on the one side as on the other of this controversy. Who can decide this? Must conscience, and truth, and religion be hung up with such a jury? Yet let it be observed, our opponents themselves being judges, that there are no views exhibited by us more repugnant to some things taught by many of our oppononts, than are the persons and views of those united in opposition to us, opposed to one another. But it is useless to reason with them who fear not God and honor not his word.
But what are many now doing who have protested against both antichrist and the man of sin against all usurpers over the consciences of men who have come out of the sects in Britain and America, because of their corruptions? Building little wigwams for themselves as substitutes for the more permanent and majestic domes which they have forsaken, or in lieu of the unchangeable kingdom of Jesus. We could count more than a dozen of well informed and talented men, within a few days travel of us, who have been excluded or have withdrawn from these establishments for conscience sake, that might as well be locked up in St. Peter's church in old Rome, for any thing they have done, or are likely to do, for the good of men, or the progress of reform; except the erection of a little party in honor of their peculiarity, which little faction or fraction will be dissipated or absorbed on the demise of him in whose fortunes alone they are concerned.
I do not wish at this time to name these bold reformers, who have built themselves wigwams and are content to live in them rather than return in the City of Establishments; but as some of them will doubtless read this, I would ask them, this good new years eve, whether it would not, in their judgment, now, and hereafter, be better for themselves, for the world, the church, and more to the glory of the Great Redeemer, for them to esteem the reproach of Christ above all the honors and treasures of time; and come out manfully and courageously for the Lord, and plead openly and incessantly for the restoration of the apostolic gospel and order of things? We know some able speakers in the sects who are with us in the main; and, perhaps, few but themselves and we know it. To them we would say what we have just now said to those addressed: Make this coming year the most memorable year in your lives. Look not to the flesh pots of Egypt. Suffer not the Lord's cause, as you confess it, to call upon your tongues in vain. You know what to say, and you know how many want to hear you. Boast not that there was a Nicodemus and a Joseph of Arimathea secret disciples of Jesus, or an Erasmus in the days of Luther. The Saviour has need of you. He has