« הקודםהמשך »
DEAR SIR:-WITH the general contents of your letter before me,
You rely upon such expressions as "by him all that believe shall
in the testimony of God; or
Come, now, and let us reason together upon your reasonings. The
Now concede, as I know you must, and I have so much faith in your candor as to say that I know you will—I say, concede that a man cannot be assured that he believes any truth prior to the impulses of that truth upon his moral natúre, upon his understanding, will and affections, then the question is, Are not the effects, workings, and actings of the truth believed, the grounds of his certainty or assurance that he does believe? Another question, if you please: And are the inward feelings-call them what you please-as clear, and firm, and safe a ground of assurance, as those moral actions which require the whole man to move; are they, indeed, in any great matter, ever placed as the foundation of confidence?
By this we know that we have passed away from death to life: because we love the brethren. And how do we know we love the brethren, but by the fruits of that love! The man who can feel assured that he loves the brethren, without the acts of brotherly kindness, without the fruits of that love in overt acts, is more of an angel or spirit than I am, or in this mortal state can ever hope to be. And he that can be assured that he believes, before obedience to the truth believed, has attained to a purer air and a clearer sky in mental science than I have ever yet enjoyed. Now remember that you make the assurance of faith prior to the assurance of pardon: so do we. But see the difference:-you make faith itself the assurance of itself, while I demand its movements, its impulses, its acts; or, its obedience, if you please. Your theory, then, of the assurance of pardon resting upon the assurance of faith, and the assurance of faith resting upon itself, is the old theory of the earth resting upon the back of a tortoise, and the tortoise resting upon itself.
But, say you, how do I make faith the assurance of itself? l an. swer, By alleging that a man has the assurance of pardon when first he sincerely believes, and in assuming that he can be assured that he does believe prior to any act of obedience to the truth believed. And here I beg your attention while I state that by an act of obedience to the truth believed, we mean any assimilation of the mind to the truth believed; such as loving, hating, fearing, hoping, rejoicing, in corres. pondence with the truth believed. The first emotion of joy, or sorrow, on hearing a report, is an act of the mind in accordance with the meaning or truth of the report, and is a proof to the subject of it that he believes the report. Now if you allow that a person's assurance that he believes depends upon no fruit or act of faith, you make faith the faith or assurance of itself: and if you do not, then you make the fruit or act of faith the ground of assurance that we do believe; and consequently you make the consequences, fruits, or obedience of faith, the assurance of pardon! You will please read this again, and ponder it well; and then make an effort to demonstrate how a .nan can have any assurance of pardon on the ground of his faith alone, or on faith without obedience: then you will find and feel the dilemma in which your theory terminates, and the utter impossibility of any person having the assurance of pardon, or the assurance that he sincerely believes, but by obedience.
Then returns the question, Whether are the wisdom, goodness, and grace of God, more apparent in appointing penitents to be baptized for the remission of their sins, and christians overtaken in any fault to confess and pray for remission, than in telling them merely to believe for pardon, or love, fear, or hope for pardon--in appointing an institution for remission which calls for the understanding, will, affections-body, soul and spirit-to act in one mighty concert, never to be forgotten?
Be assured, my dear sir, that obedience is as necessary to prove sincerity in the court of our own understanding, as in the court of public opinion; and without the sincerity of faith, you will not allow the assurance of pardon. Could Abraham have been assured that he sincerely believed the promise of God made to him, if he had not went out of Ur of Chaldea, and crossed the Euphrates, at the command of God? Or when commanded to offer up the Child of Promise, could he have known that he was obedient short of all that transpired on Mount Moriah? The Father of all believers' could have had no assurance of his acceptance, if that assurance depended upon the sincerity of his faith, unless there was some test ordained by which he could prove to himself that he sincerely believed. Many idly talk about their faith, and think they have a good stock of it un. til they set about walking by faith; then they begin to discover that they cannot stand, much less walk by it.
But still it is true that all blessings are received by faith; for if God's promises are not believed, neither pardon nor any spiritual blessing can follow any act of obedience to any command. And when men "sanctify their souls by obeying the truth,” the sanctifying influence or power is in the truth believed, and consequently in the grace revealed in that truth; for the saving truth is the grace of God reported to the ear, apprehended by the understanding, and received into the heart,
I am glad that you hit upon the proper phrase in this last communi. cation; for the question is not, Who can be pardoned without bap tism? but, Who can have the assurance of pardon, without this institution for remission? You have, in effect, conceded the point in issue, by alleging that sincerity of faith, or a certainty that a person believes, is necessary to the assurance of pardon: and I trust that by this time you are equally assured that no man can be assured that he does believe, unless his faith works the things which the Lord has commanded; that, in one word, faith alone, or faith itself, can never prove its own existence-consequently, no assurance of pardon with. out the obedience of faith. Your obedient servant, for the Truth's sake,
IN this age of enthusiasm and superstition as well as of free if quiry, I think it would not be amiss for you to publish from Horne's Introduction, vol. 1, pp. 141-2-3, his remarks on enthusiasm.
J. CREATH, Juar.
ENTHUSIASM. Tur characteristics of enthusiasm or fanaticism are, a blind credulity, in consequence of which its subject is led to imagine himself always to be the favorite of Ileaven, and actuated by divine inspiration;disorder and contradiction in the religious system proposed by the enthusiast;-and obscurity and absurdity in his exposition of it, accompanied with dictatorial positiveness, requiring an implicit credence of his pretensions, or at least on grounds as vain and delusive as those which have satisfied himself;-a morose, unsocial, and severe system of morality and contempt of all written revelation. But none of these characteristics is to be traced in the character or writings of the Apostles. They became the disciples of Jesus Christ upon rational conviction,-not upon internal persuasion alone, but on the irrefragable evidences of clear and stupendous miracles, proofs submitted to their senses, and approved by their reason, which enthusiasm could not have counterfeited, and never would have required; and at every step of their progress, as their faith was called to signalize itself by new exertions, or to sustain new trials, it was fortified by new proofs. The slowness and caution with which the Apostles received the fact of their Lord's resurrection from the dead, fully exempt them from all suspicion of being the dupes of delusion and credulity. Throughout their various writings, the utmost impartiality, sobriety, modesty, and humility prevail. In the most frank and artless manner they do that which enthusiasts never do; they record their own mistakes, follies, and faults, and those of very serious magnitude, acknowledged to be such by themselves, and severely censured by their master. No example of this nature can be found in the whole history of enthusiasm, and no other such example in the whole history of man. Enthusiasts also, in all their preaching and conversation on religious subjects, pour out with eagerness the dictates of passion and imagination; and never attempt to avail themselves of the facts or arguments on which reason delights to rest. Strong pictures, vehement effusions of passion, violent exclamations, loudly vociferated and imperiously enjoined as objects of implicit faith and obedience, constitute the sum and substance of their addresses to mankind. They themselves believe, because they believe, and know, because they know; their conviction, instead of being (as it ought to be the result of evidence, is the result of feeling merely. If any one attempt to persuade them that they are in an error, by reasoning, facts, and proofs, they regard him with a mixture of pity and contempt, for weakly opposing his twilight probabilities to their noon-day certainty, and for preposterously laboring to illumine the sun with a taper. How contrary is all this to the conduct of the Apostles! When a
proof of their mission or doctrine was required of them, they appeal. ed instantly and invariably to arguments, facts, and miracles. These convinced mankind then, and they produce the same conviction now. The lapse of more than seventeen centuries has detected them in no error, and in no degree enfeebled their strength. Their discourses were then, and are now, the most noble, rational, and satisfactory discourses on moral and religious subjects, ever witnessed by mankind. There is not one single instance in them all, in which belief is demanded on any other grounds than these; and on these grounds it is always rightfully demanded: but on these grounds it is never demanded by enthusiasts. There is not in the world a stronger contrast to the preaching of enthusiasts, than that of Christ and his Apostles.
Further, the style of fanatics is always obscure, arrogant, and vio. lent. The style of the New Testament is the very reverse of this. The utmost harmony exists through every part of the system of reli. gion inculcated by its authors. The historical books are plain, calm, and unexaggerated; detailing the facts that establish the unparallel. ed perfection of their Divine Lord, with the particularity and consistency of truth. Some trifling discrepancies, it is true, are found in the collateral circumstances related by the historians of Jesus Christ, (and this is an evident proof that they did not copy one from another); but in all essential matters they entirely and perfectly agree: and though scarcely one among them had read, or could have read, the writings of the others, yet their histories and doctrines are perfectly accordant. And the Epistles-though written at different and distant times, on various occasions, from different places, and addressed to very different communities, and persons-never contradict each other. On the contrary, they are uniformly, in the highest degree natural, rational, and affectionate, admirably adapted to the occasions which produced them, and the relations which their several writers bore to the various churches and persons whom they addressed :-instructing their ignorance, and encouraging their virtues,—rebuking their offences without bitterness,- vindicating their own character from calumny, without betraying any excessive resentmentand maintaining their own authority, as religious instructers and guides, without any trace of spiritual pride, any arrogant claims to full perfection of virtue. So far are they from inculcating a gloomy devotion, or a morose, unsocial, or selfish system of morality, that, while they insist on the necessity of sincere, and heartfelt piety to God, without any affectation of rapturous ecstasy or extravagant fervor,-a piety, in short, chastened and controlled by humility and discretion,—they at the same time inculcate the strictest equity and justiee in our intercourse with our fellow men, together with the purest, most active, and most diffusive benevolence. While the just preeminence is allowed to internal sincerity, outward rites and observances have their due importance preserved; every grace, and every virtue, that can form a part of the Christian character, has its just order and value assigned to it in the Christian scheme; every civil,