Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

practice of the Christian system were neither developed nor comprehended at once, even by the Apostles or their numerous converts on the day of Pentecost. But it was unfolded, and placed on record at the appointed time, when the Apostles had completed their labors, and departed to be with Christ, which is far better. A long night of darkness and error has enshrouded the moral world; but, blessed be God, the days of light, and truth, and liberty are dawning upon us.

The reformation with which the Harbinger is identified, seeks to promote unshackled thought on the basis of God's Word. But even as liberty abused may terminate in licentiousness, or may be used as a cloak of maliciousness, it becomes every disciple to be on his guard. The sects around us are, for the most part, rent asunder. Old systems are tottering to the very

foundations, Bold and independent men are stepping out of the ranks, and advancing to higher positions of truth. What the approaching crisis may develope, who can tell ?

That those from among the sects who are now pleading for reformation, should immediately take up their standing on the apostolic platform of Christian privilege, worship, and church order, is too much to be expected. Nothing short of this, however, will pacify the conscience, or allay that perturbation of mind which the truth has created.

The Christian is commanded to have every thought in subjection to Christ, and not to think more highly of himself than he ought; but to think freely, yet soberly, and with becoming modesty, upon things testified in the Bible. The teaching of Christ and his apostles is always directed, in the first instance to the renovation of the inner man. “ Make the tree good,” was a figure which they constantly put out before men, “ and the fruit will be good also.” This is a lesson we should learn with all diligence and humility.

Having commenced the labors of 1853, we hope, by help of the Lord, to conduct it faithfully to the close. We trust that our readers, by their exertions to augment the list of subscribers, will give effect to our endeavors to promote the cause of Christianity in the world.

J. W.

JANUARY, 1853.

THE

British Pillennial Harbinger.

THE CHRISTIAN FAITH.

BY DR. RICHARDSON.*

Religious faith being simply the confidence we have in the divine testimony, as our acquaintance with that testimony increases, and we discover new truths or new facts, so our faith will be progressively enlarged or extended; being always in exact proportion to our knowledge of the testimony or revelation of God. The question now is, Must an individual wait until he is fully acquainted with all the particulars revealed in the Bible, before he can properly be regarded as having the amount of faith necessary to salvation and church membership? Or are there particular points only, in regard to which he must be instructed ? And if this be true, what are these important matters which he must know and believe in order to salvation ?

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is not regarded, by any of the sects, as an essential, prerequisite to the profession of faith which they require. And it is fortunate for them that it is so, else the party would expire with the last of its present members. All agree that there are certain fundamental points which must be believed, and which, taken together, constitute what is termed orthodoxy.t To extract these from the Bible, has been the great business of councils and assemblies—which smelting, as it were, in their party furnaces, the ore of Holy Writ, have obtained, as they imagined, from it the pure and precious metal. This they have, then, mixed with the requisite portion of alloy to give it hardness; and having stamped it with their own theological image and superscription, have issued it as the only standard coin in the realm. however, disagreeing as to the characters which should distinguish this precious metal, have, unfortunately, obtained a different product, and we have, consequently, as many different standards as there are parties, amd it would puzzle the most skilful assayer in the theological mint to determine their relative values.

Nevertheless, after all, we certainly concur with the rest of the religious world, in making a distinction between what is properly and especially " the faith," or the Christian faith, and a general belief and reception of the divine testimony, contained in the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. But we differ from all the parties here in one important particular, to which I wish to call your special attention. It is this : that while they suppose this Christian faith to be doctrinal, we regard it as personal. In other words, they suppose doctrines, or religious tenets, to be the subject matter of this faith; we, on the contrary,

* The Essay which we introduce to our readers, from the pen of one of the Faculty of Bethany College, is worthy of careful perusal.

of “Orthodoxy," as Warburton wittily observes, "is my doxy, and heterodoxy is another man's doxy."

Each party, conceive it to terminate on a person—the Lord Jesus Christ himself. While they, accordingly, require an elaborate confession from each convert—a confession of a purely doctrinal and intellectual character, studiously elaborated into an extended formula ; we demand only a simple confession of Christman heartfelt acknowledgment that he is the Messiah, the Son of God.

The Christian faith, then, in our view, consists not in any theory or system of doctrine, but in a sincere belief in the person and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is personal in its subject, as well as in its object; in regard to him who believes, as well as in regard to that which is believed. It consists of simple facts, directly connected with the personal history and character of Jesus Christ, as the Messiah and the promised Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. It is personal in its object, leading to personal regard and love for Christ, and a personal interest in his salvation. It consists not in definitions, neither does it embrace the litigated questions of sectarism. It contains not one, much less five cardinal points of speculative theology; nor does it inflict upon the believer, for his sins, forty articles save one. The gospel of salvation, indeed, were ill-fitted to be preached to every creature, illiterate or learned, if it consisted, as some imagine, of those ponderous bodies of divinity, and intricate systems of theology, which have oppressed the energies and entangled the movements of the Protestant world.

It might not, indeed, be difficult, had we space to devote to the subject, to account for that seemingly strange infatuation of the Protestant community, which, like that of the alchemists in search of the philosopher's stone which should convert base metals into gold, led them, for ages, in a long and weary search of that visionary something called orthodoxy, which, by the slightest contact with the soul, could transmute ignorance, bigotry, and spiritual pride, into the most shining Chistian virtues. We will only remark, that the great doctrine of the Lutheran reformation, “ Justification by faith,” having been established upon the ruins of Romish works of superstition, minds, imbued with a love of theory and metaphysical investigation, engaged in remote speculations touching the nature, the quality, and the extent of this justifying faith; and formed elaborate systems of doctrine, which they supposed to be comprised within its limits, and to which they thought it necessary that every other mind should conform. They seemed to attribute to a particular set of tenets an independent and exclusive saving efficacy, as though they were possessed of some talismanic influenee, or as though the belief of them was so meritorious as to secure a title to salvation. Their talents, learning, and important services, in other respects, in the cause of Reformation, gave them an influence by which the whole mind of the Reformation was turned into this channel. Purity of doctrine became the rage; and, as each party leader differed from others in his tenets, but agreed with them all in pride of opinion and zeal for orthodoxy, doctrinal disquisitions, and controversies were every where predominant, and the whole religious community became entangled and bewildered in theological distinctions and metaphysical speculations, and seemed to lose sight entirely of the real simplicity of the Christian doctrine, and of the true nature of Christianity itself,

The truth is, that this whole controversy about purity of faith and doctrine, seems to have originated in a misapplication of the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith. It is perfectly well known, that Luther did not depend for his salvation upon any particular set of tenets which he held, but upon the merits of Christ alone. “ Look to the wounds of Christ,” said to him his spiritual counsellor, the Vicar General of his order, “and you will there see shining clearly the purposes of God towards man; we cannot understand God out of Christ." Some, perhaps, will say,” cried Luther himself long afterwards, when, on his way to the diet at Worms, he preached at Erfurth, “ You talk to us much about faith ; teach us, then, how to obtain it. Well, agreed; I will show you how our Lord Jesus Christ said, Peace be unto you, behold my

hands. That is to say, Look, oh man, it is I, I alone, who have taken away thy sins and redeemed thee, and now thou hast peace, saith the Lord.” And it was this humble reliance upon the work of Christ that characterized both the life and death of this great reformer.

It has been, indeed, the great error of Protestants, and the great cause of all their schisms, that they have sought to supercede this direct personal reliance upon Christ, by a mere intellectual assent to a set or system of tenets. True, they do by no means proscribe this personal trust or faith in Christ, but the natural working of the whole machinery of a party, as far as it is peculiar and denominational, tends to lead the mind away from this simple faith to a false confidence in mere human opinions and intellectual abstractions, and in outward forms. Thanks, however, to the power of the gospel itself, this tendency of the systems of the day has been checked in individual cases; and, though many are lulled into a false security, trusting to the orthodoxy of their belief, and mistaking zeal for human opinions as a meritorious earnestness for saving truth; and substituting an extravagant admiration of the leading men and favorite preachers of their denomination for the love of Christ, there are some who have gazed, in silence and in secret, upon that face “marred”--that form insulted—those bleeding wounds of that Just and Holy One who “offered himself a sacrifice without spot to God,” and have yielded to him alone their confidence and love. Snch individuals are found in all parties, and they recognize each other as being fellow-heirs of the grace of life, and as having a common interest in the great Redeemer. It is, indeed, this simple faith in Christ, accompanied by its appropriate fruits which constitutes that “common Christianity” which is admitted to exist in all parties, independent of party peculiarities; an admission, by the way, which at once assigns to these peculiarities their true character, as mere excrescences upon Christianity; as having no power to save, and as the very means of perpetuating division. Happy would it be for the world, if all could be induced to rest content with that “common Christianity," which it is the very object of the present reformation to present to the religious community as the only means of securing unity and peace.

I am aware that it will be difficult for those who have been accustomed to regard the Christian faith as an assent to a particular set of tenets, to recognize this simple belief in Christ as sufficient to admit an individual to the blessings of Christianity. If, however, they will fully consider the scriptural import of this faith in Christ, they will perceive, that under an extreme simplicity which adapts itself to all minds, it necessarily involves and includes, all the conditions of salvation. It is to be noted that to believe in Christ is not simply to believe what Christ says; that is, to receive as true whatever may be regarded as the teaching or doctrine of Christ. This is the very inadequate and erroneous view which we have been combatting, which mistakes an intellectual assent to the deductions of reason from Scripture premises, or even to the express dictates of inspiration, for a personal and direct reliance upon Christ himself. Again : to believe in Christ, is not merely to believe that there lived a person bearing that

Yet there are multitudes who seem to have no higher idea of the Christian faith than this, and no better knowledge of the term Christ than to suppose

name.

it a mere personal appellation. But the word Christ is not a name, it is an official designation. The name JESUS, given by express command of God, is itself significant, and the addition of the word Christ, with the definite article which is often expressed, and may be always supplied, furnishes the titular and qualifying expression which denotes the peculiar character of the person. He is not Jesus Christ, as an individual thus named and surnamed, but he is Jesus THE CHRIST. These are propositions totally different. The former might be to us of no peculiar moment, but the latter expands itself over the past, the present, and the future, and involves in it the eternal destinies of the human race. Yet, though to believe the person to whom this title is applied to be what the title really imports, is to believe something concerning or about this person, of a most important and far-reaching nature, even this would fall short of constituting the Christian faith, if this conviction be supposed unconnected with that trust and direct reliance upon this person which would be justly due to him, in the office and character thus assigned to him.

Whether or not it be possible for any one fully to undersand the import and bearings of the sublime proposition that Jesus of Nazareth is the and truly to believe it, and yet, at the same time, to entertain the proposition as a mere intellectual conviction, without giving up the heart to him in humility, penitence, and love; to trust and confide in him as the only Saviour, and the anointed King of Kings. is a question which I deem it unnecessary to consider. For certain it is, that if it be possible for any one thus to separate, in point of fact, words from thoughts, thoughts from things, or things from the emotions they are fitted to excite, and to believe this proposition as a mere doctrine, tenet, or mental abstraction, such a one does not possess the Christian faith. To believe in Christ, is to receive him in all the glory of his character, personal and official ; to trust in him in all the relations which he sustains to us, as our Prophet, our Priest, and our King; to behold in him our only hope and refuge; and renouncing ourselves, our own self-confidence, our righteousness, and every vain device, to lean on him only as our stay, and to look to him only as the “ Lord our Righteousness," as our salvation and our life. It is not merely to believe what is said of him as the Son of God—as the Son of Man-as living, dying, rising, reigning, returning; but, believing this, to trust in him as our Saviour, to walk with him as our teacher, our friend; to realize his gracious presence with us, and to discern his footsteps in the path we tread. It is to be brought into direct relation and fellowship with him—to think of him as of a person whom we ow, and to whom we are known-to speak to him as to one who hears, and to listen to him as to one who speaks. Such, in our view, is the Christian faith ; not a trust in definitions, in doctrines, in church order, in apostolic succession or official grace, in opinions or dogmas, true or false; but a sincere belief of the testimony concerning the facts in the personal history of the Lord Messiah, accompanied by a cordial reception of him in his true character as thus revealed to us, and an entire personal reliance upon him for our salvation.

That this simple trust in Jesus, and nothing else, is really and truly “the faith,” will be clearly seen by any one who will examine the Scriptures upon the subject. He will find there

1st. That the history of Jesus of Nazareth is related to us—his birth, his miracles, his teachings, his sufferings, his glorification and that our attention is called to the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies, in the incidents recorded of him, for the express purpose of producing this faith. I need only here refer to the close of the testimony of John, where he expressly declares this to have been

« НазадПродовжити »