Most of the writers whose names are given above, did not belong to a sect which took the distinctive name of Restorationists. They were found in the ranks of the various sects into which the Christian world has been divided. And those who formed a distinct sect were more frequently denominated Universalists than Restorationists. In 1785, a convention was organized at Oxford, Massachusetts, under the auspices of Messrs. Winchester and Murray. And as all who had embraced universal salvation believed that the effects of sin and the means of grace extended into a future life, the terms Restorationist and Universalist were then used as synonymous; and those who formed that convention adopted the latter as their distinctive name.
During the first twenty-five years, the members of the Universalist convention were believers in a future retribution. But, about the year 1818, Hosea Ballou, now of Boston, advanced the doctrine that all retribution is confined to this world. That sentiment, at first, was founded upon the old Gnostic notion that all sin originates in the flesh, and that death frees the soul from all impurity. Subsequently, some of the advocates for the no-future punishment scheme adopted the doctrine of materialism, and hence maintained that the soul was mortal; that the whole man died a temporal death, and that the resurrection was the grand event which would introduce all men into heavenly felicity.
Those who have since taken to themselves the name of Restorationists, viewed these innovations as corruptions of the gospel, and raised their voices against them. But a majority of the convention having espoused those sentiments, no reformation could be effected. The Restorationists, believing these errors to be increasing, and finding in the connection what appeared to them to be a want of engagedness in the cause of true piety, and in some instances an open opposition to the organization of churches, and finding that a spirit of levity and bitterness characterized the public labors of their brethren, and that practices were springing up totally repugnant to the principles of Congregationalism, resolved to obey the apostolic injunction, by coming out from among them, and forming an independent association. Accordingly a convention, consisting of Rev. Paul Dean, Rev. David Pickering, Rev. Charles Hudson, Rev. Adin Ballou, Rev. Lyman Maynard, Rev. Nathaniel Wright, Rev. Philemon R. Russell, and Rev. Seth Chandler, and several laymen, met at Mendon, Massachusetts, August 17, 1831, and formed themselves into a distinct sect, and took the name of Universal Restorationists.
The Restorationists are Congregationalists on the subject of church government.
The difference between the Restorationists and Universalists relates principally to the subject of a future retribution. The Universalists believe that a full and perfect retribution takes place in this world, that our conduct here cannot affect our future condition, and that the moment man exists after death, he will be as pure and as happy as the angels. From these views the Restorationists dissent. They maintain that a just retribution does not take place in time; that the conscience of the sinner becomes callous, and does not increase in the severity of its reprovings with the increase of guilt; that men are invited to act with reference to a future life; that, if all are made perfectly happy at the commencement of the next state of existence, they are not rewarded according to their deeds; that, if death introduces them into heaven, they are saved by death, and not by Christ; and if they are made happy by being raised from the dead, they are saved by physical, and not by moral means, and made happy without their agency or consent; that such a sentiment weakens the motives to virtue, and gives force to the temptations of vice; that it is unreasonable in itself, and opposed to many passages of Scripture. (See Acts 24:25; 17:30, 31. Heb. 9:27, 28. Matt. 11:23, 24. 2 Pet. 2:9. 2 Cor. 5:8-11. John 5:28, 29. Matt. 10:28. Luke 12:4, 5; 16:19-31. 1 Pet. 3:18-20.)
The grand distinguishing characteristic of this class of Christians is their belief in the final holiness and happiness of the whole human family. Some of them believe that all punishment for sin is endured in the present state of existence, while others believe it extends into the future life; but all agree that it is administered in a spirit of kindness, is intended for the good of those who experience it, and that it will finally terminate, and be succeeded by a state of perfect and endless holiness and happiness.
The following is the "Profession of Belief," adopted by the General Convention of Universalists in the United States, at the session holden in 1803. It has never been altered, and it is perfectly satisfactory to the denomination.
"ART. I. We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain a revelation of the character of God, and of the duty, interest, and final destination, of mankind.
"ART. II. We believe that there is one God, whose nature is love; revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.
"ART. III. We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order, and practise good works; for these things are good and profitable unto men."
Universalists claim that the salvation of all men was taught by Jesus Christ and his apostles. It was also taught and defended by several of the most eminent Christian fathers; such as Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, &c. In the third and fourth centuries, this doctrine prevailed extensively, and, for aught which appears to the contrary, was then accounted orthodox. It was at length condemned, however, by the fifth general council, A. D. 553; after which, we find few traces of it through the dark ages, so called.
It revived at the period of the reformation, and since that time has found many able and fearless advocates;—in Switzerland, Petitpierre and Lavater; in Germany, Seigvolk, Everhard, Steinbart, and Semler; in Scotland, Purves, Douglass, and T. S. Smith; in England, Coppin, Jeremy White, Dr. H. More, Dr. T. Burnet, Whiston, Hartley, Bishop Newton, Stonehouse, Barbauld, Lindsey, Priestley, Belsham, Carpenter, Relly, Vidler, Scarlett, and many others.
At the present day, Universalism prevails more extensively than elsewhere in England, Germany, and the United States.
In England, the Unitarian divines, generally, believe in the final salvation of all men. Dr. Lant Carpenter says, "Most of us, however, believe that a period will come to each individual, when punishment shall have done its work—when the awful sufferings with which the gospel threatens the impenitent and disobedient, will have humbled the stubborn, purified the polluted, and eradicated malignity, impiety, hypocrisy, and every evil disposition; that a period will come (which it may be the unspeakable bliss of those who enter the joy of their Lord to accelerate, which, at least, it will be their delight to anticipate,) when he who 'must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet,' 'shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and power.' 'The LAST ENEMY, death, shall be DESTROYED.' 'Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,' 'who wills that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth,'—that truth which sanctifies the heart,—that knowledge which is life eternal,—and God shall be ALL IN ALL."
In Germany, nearly every theologian is a believer in the final salvation of all men. Speaking of Professor Tholuck, Professor Sears says, "The most painful disclosures remain yet to be made. This distinguished and excellent man, in common with the great majority of the Evangelical divines of Germany, though he professes to have serious doubts, and is cautious in avowing the sentiment, believes that all men and fallen spirits will finally be saved." Mr. Dwight, in his recent publication, says, "The doctrine of the eternity of future punishments is almost universally rejected. I have seen but one person in Germany who believed it, and but one other whose mind was wavering on this subject." Universalism may, therefore, be considered the prevailing religion in Germany.
In the United States, Universalism was little known until about the middle of the last century; and afterwards it found but few advocates during several years. Dr. George de Benneville, of Germantown, Penn., Rev. Richard Clarke, of Charleston, S. C., and Jonathan Mayhew, D. D., of Boston, were, perhaps, the only individuals who publicly preached the doctrine before the arrival of Rev. John Murray, in 1770. Mr. Murray labored almost alone until 1780, when Rev. Elhanan Winchester, a popular Baptist preacher, embraced Universalism, though on different principles. About ten years afterwards, Rev. Hosea Ballou embraced the same doctrine, but on principles different from those advocated by Mr. Murray or Mr. Winchester. To the efforts of these three men is to be attributed much of the success which attended the denomination in its infancy. Although they differed widely from each other in their views of punishment, yet they labored together in harmony and love, for the advancement of the cause which was dear to all their hearts. The seed which they sowed has since produced an abundant harvest.
The ministry of the Universalist denomination in the United States, hitherto, has been provided for, not so much by the means of schools, as by the unaided, but irresistible influence of the gospel of Christ. This has furnished the denomination with its most successful preachers. It has turned them from other sects and doctrines, and brought them out from forests and fields, and from secular pursuits of almost every kind, and driven them, with inadequate literary preparation, to the work of disseminating the truth. This state of things has been unavoidable, and the effect of it is visible. It has made the ministry of the Universalist denomination very different from that of any other sect in the country; studious of the Scriptures, confident in the truth of their distinguishing doctrine, zealous, firm, industrious; depending more on the truths communicated for their success, than on the manner in which they are stated. It has had the effect, also, to give the ministry a polemic character—the natural result of unwavering faith in the doctrine believed, and of an introduction into the desk without scholastic training. But the attention of the denomination, in various parts of the country, has of late been turned to the education of the ministry; and conventions and associations have adopted resolves requiring candidates to pass examinations in certain branches of literature. The same motives have governed many in their effort to establish literary and theological institutions. The desire to have the ministry respectable for literary acquirements, is universal.
A few years since, a small number separated from the denomination, and adopted the appellation of Restorationists. To prevent misapprehension, it may be repeated, that, although a few have thus seceded, yet a difference of opinion in regard to the duration of punishment has not disturbed the harmony of the denomination generally, nor is it regarded as sufficient cause for breach of fellowship, or alienation of heart and affection.
The Universalists quote the following texts of Scripture, among others, in support of their sentiments:—Gen. 22:18. Ps. 22:27; 86:9. Isa. 25:6, 7, 8; 45:23, 24. Jer. 31:33, 34. Lam. 3:31-33. John 12:32. Acts 3:31. Rom. 5:18, 21; 8:33, 39; 11:25-36. 1 Cor. 15:22-28, and 51-57. 2 Cor. 5:18, 19. Gal. 3:8. Eph. 1:9, 10. Phil. 2:9-11. Col. 1:19, 29. 1 Tim. 2:1-6. Heb. 8:10, 11. Rev. 5:13; 21:3, 4.
We copy the following from the Trumpet and Universalist Magazine of June 4, 1836. It is by the Rev. HOSEA BALLOU, of Boston, in answer to the question, "Who are Universalists?"
"There seems to be an evident propriety in calling all who believe in the final holiness and happiness of all mankind, Universalists. There appears no good reason why those who believe in a limited punishment, in the future state, should have a less or a greater claim to be called Universalists, than those who entertain a hope that all sin and misery end when the functions of life cease in the mortal body. As they both agree in the belief that God is the Savior of all men, if this belief entitle one to the name of Universalist, of course it gives the other the same title. The Rev. John Murray was called a Universalist, and he called himself by this name, although he admitted there might be suffering hereafter, in consequence of blindness or unbelief. It is true, he did not allow that the sinner was punished for sin, either here or in the future world, in his own person, because he maintained that the whole penalty of the divine law, for the sin of the whole world, was suffered by the Lord Jesus, as the head of every man. He allowed, notwithstanding, that the natural consequences of sin would inevitably follow transgression, as we see is the case by every day's observation. So, likewise, was the Rev. Elhanan Winchester called a Universalist, and he called himself so, although his views respecting a state of retribution, and the sufferings to which the wicked in the world to come will be subjected, were widely different from those entertained by Mr. Murray. Mr. Winchester believed in a place of material fire and brimstone, where the wicked would endure a torment as intense as has been represented by those Christians who believe in endless misery. But, as he believed that all these sufferings will end, though they might continue for many thousand years, and that those miserable wretches will at last be subdued and reconciled to the divine government, and be happy, he was denominated a Universalist.
"The Rev. Dr. Huntington is ranked a Universalist, equally with those who have been named; but he believed in no punishment hereafter, being Calvinistic in his views of the demerit of sin, and of the atonement made by Christ.
"From the commencement of the denomination of Univeralists in this country, there has been a difference of opinion respecting the doctrine of rewards and punishments, among both the clergy and the laity belonging to the connection. But this difference was not considered, in those times, a good reason for a distinction of either name, denomination, or fellowship. All united in the cheering hope that, in the fulness of the dispensation of times, sin will be finished, transgression ended, and all moral intelligences reconciled to God, in true holiness and everlasting happiness. A view so grand and glorious, so full of comfort, of joy, and of peace, and so triumphant, was sufficiently powerful to draw together all who enjoyed it, and to hold them together as a denomination distinct from all those who hold the unmerciful doctrine of endless punishment.
"When the General Convention of the New England States, professing the doctrine of universal salvation, appointed a committee to draft articles of faith and a constitution, by which it might be known and distinguished from other religious sects, care was taken to appoint on that committee brethren whose views differed respecting the subject of a future state of rewards and punishments. The worthy and fondly-remembered brother Walter Ferriss, who penned that instrument, was a believer in future rewards and punishments; but he so wrote that confession of faith as to comprehend the full belief of universal salvation, without making any distinction between the belief of future punishment, or no future punishment. And it is well remembered that this circumstance was, at the time of accepting the report of the committee, viewed as one of its excellences.
"It seems improper to give so much weight to different opinions, which differ not in principle, but in circumstances only, as to constitute them walls of separation and disfellowship. If one believe that all misery ends with this mortal state, and another believe that it may continue twenty years after, and then come to an end, is there any real difference as to principle? All believe that our heavenly Father holds all times and seasons, and all events, in his own power, and that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. And, moreover, all believe that God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. This constitutes us all Universalists, and calls on us to keep the unity of the spirit, and to walk in the bonds of peace."
The following Creeds and Rule of Faith contain the fundamental principles of the Latin or Roman church.
"I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body; and life everlasting. AMEN."
It is doubtful who composed the above Creed. It was not in common use in the church until the end of the fifth century. See King's History of the Apostles' Creed.
The Symbol, Or Creed Of St. Athanasius.
"Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith;
"Which faith except every one do keep entire and inviolate, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
"Now, the Catholic faith is this—that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.
"Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance.
"For one is the person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost.
"But the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
"Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
"The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Ghost uncreated.
"The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
"The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.
"And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal.
"As also they are not three Uncreated, nor three Incomprehensibles; but one Uncreated, and one Incomprehensible.
"In like manner, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty.
"And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
"So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.
"And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
"So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Ghost is Lord.
"And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord,
"For, as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord,
"So we are forbidden by the Catholic religion to say there are three Gods or three Lords.
"The Father is made of no one, neither created nor begotten.
"The Son is from the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
"The Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son, not made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
"So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
"And in this Trinity there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less; but the whole three Persons are co-eternal to one another, and coequal.
"So that in all things, as has been already said above, the Unity is to be worshipped in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity.
"He, therefore, that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.
"Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation, that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Now, the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and Man.
"He is God of the substance of his Father, begotten before the world; and he is Man of the substance of his mother, born in the world.
"Perfect God and perfect Man; of a rational soul, and human flesh subsisting.
"Equal to the Father according to his Godhead, and less than the Father according to his Manhood.
"Who, although he be both God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ.
"One, not by the conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by the taking of the Manhood unto God.
"One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
"For as the rational soul and the flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ.
"Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.
"He ascended into heaven: he sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty; thence he shall come to judge the living and dead.
"At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own works.
"And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
"This is the Catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully and steadfastly, he cannot be saved.
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, one God, world without end. AMEN."
This Creed is said to have been drawn up in the fourth century. "It obtained in France about A. D. 850, and was received in Spain and Germany about one hundred and eighty years later. We have clear proofs of its being sung alternately in the English churches in the tenth century. It was in common use in some parts of Italy in 960, and was received at Rome about A. D. 1014." This Creed is retained by the church of England, but the Protestant Episcopal churches in the United States have rejected it.
The Nicene Creed.
"Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, Factorem coeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium. Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex Patre natum, ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero, genitum, non factum; consubstantialem Patri, per quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos homines, et propter nostram salutem, descendit de coelis. Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine; ET HOMO FACTUS EST: crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato, passus, et sepultus est. Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas. Et ascendit in coelum, sedet ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos et mortuos: cujus regni non erit finis. Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et Vivificantem; qui ex Patre Filioque procedit. Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur; qui locutus est per Prophetas. Et unam Sanctam, Catholicam, et Apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum Baptisma, in remissionem peccatorum. Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum. Et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen."
"I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. And born of the Father, before all ages. God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made; consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven. And was incarnated by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary; AND HE WAS MADE MAN: was crucified also under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, and was buried. And the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. And he ascended into heaven. Sits at the right hand of the Father. And he is to come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; of whose kingdom there shall be no end. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who, together with the Father and the Son, is adored and glorified; who spoke by the Prophets. And One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolical Church. I confess one Baptism, for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the world to come. Amen."
This Creed was adopted at Constantinople, A. D. 381. It is used in the Protestant Episcopal churches in England, and occasionally in those of the United States.
The foregoing Creeds are copied from Catholic books.
The Catholics, both in Europe and America, acknowledge the following Rule is "all that, and only that, belongs to Catholic belief, which is revealed in the word of God, and which is proposed by the Catholic church to all its members to be believed with divine faith."
"Guided by this certain criterion," they say, "we profess to believe,
1. "That Christ has established a church upon earth, and that this church is that which holds communion with the see of Rome, being one, holy, Catholic, and apostolical.
2. "That we are obliged to hear this church; and, therefore, that she is infallible, by the guidance of Almighty God, in her decisions regarding faith.
3. "That St. Peter, by divine commission, was appointed the head of this church, under Christ, its Founder; and that the pope, or bishop of Rome, as successor to St. Peter, has always been, and is, at present, by divine right, head of this church.
4. "That the canon of the Old and New Testament, as proposed to us by this church, is the word of God; as also such traditions, belonging to faith and morals, which, being originally delivered by Christ to his apostles, have been preserved by constant succession.
5. "That honor and veneration are due to the angels of God and his saints; that they offer up prayers to God for us; that it is good and profitable to have recourse to their intercession; and that the relics, or earthly remains, of God's particular servants, are to be held in respect.
6. "That no sins ever were, or can be, remitted, unless by the mercy of God, through Jesus Christ; and, therefore, that man's justification is the work of divine grace.
7. "That the good works which we do, receive their whole value from the grace of God; and that, by such works, we not only comply with the precepts of the divine law, but that we thereby likewise merit eternal life.
8. "That, by works done in the spirit of penance, we can make satisfaction to God for the temporal punishment which often remains due, after our sins, by the divine goodness, have been forgiven us.
9. "That Christ has left to his church a power of granting indulgences, that is, a relaxation from such temporal chastisement only, as remains due after the divine pardon of sin; and that the use of such indulgences is profitable to sinners.
10. "That there is a purgatory, or middle state; and that the souls of imperfect Christians, therein detained, are helped by the prayers of the faithful.
11. "That there are seven sacraments, all instituted by Christ—baptism, confirmation, eucharist, penance, extreme unction, holy order, matrimony.
12. "That, in the most holy sacrament of the eucharist, there is truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ.
13. "That, in this sacrament, there is, by the omnipotence of God, a conversion, or change, of the whole substance of the bread into the body of Christ, and of the whole substance of the wine into his blood, which change we call TRANSUBSTANTIATION.
14. "That, under either kind, Christ is received whole and entire.
15. "That, in the mass, or sacrifice of the altar, is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory, sacrifice for the living and the dead.
16. "That, in the sacrament of penance, the sins we fall into after baptism are, by the divine mercy, forgiven us.
"These are the great points of Catholic belief, by which we are distinguished from other Christian societies; and these, only, are the real and essential tenets of our religion. We admit, also, the other grand articles of revealed and natural religion, which the gospel and the light of reason have manifested to us. To these we submit, as men and as Christians, and to the former as obedient children of the Catholic church."
The Bereans are a sect of Protestant dissenters from the church of Scotland, who take their title from, and profess to follow the example of, the ancient Bereans, in building their system of faith and practice upon the Scriptures alone, without regard to any human authority whatever. The Bereans first assembled, as a separate society of Christians, in the city of Edinburgh, in the autumn of 1773. Mr. Barclay, a Scotch clergyman, was the founder of this sect.
The Bereans agree with the great majority of Christians respecting the doctrine of the Trinity, which they hold as a fundamental article; and they also agree, in a great measure, with the professed principles of our Orthodox churches, respecting predestination and election, though they allege that these doctrines are not consistently taught. But they differ from the majority of all sects of Christians in various other important particulars, such as,—
1. Respecting our knowledge of the Deity. Upon this subject, they say the majority of professed Christians stumble at the very threshold of revelation; and, by admitting the doctrine of natural religion, natural conscience, natural notices, &c., not founded upon revelation, or derived from it by tradition, they give up the cause of Christianity at once to the infidels, who may justly argue, as Mr. Paine, in fact, does, in his "Age of Reason," that there is no occasion for any revelation or word of God, if man can discover his nature and perfections from his works alone. But this, the Bereans argue, is beyond the natural powers of human reason; and, therefore, our knowledge of God is from revelation alone; and, without revelation, man would never have entertained an idea of his existence.
2. With regard to faith in Christ, and assurance of salvation through his merits, they differ from almost all other sects whatsoever. These they reckon inseparable, or rather the same, because (they say) "God hath expressly declared, He that believeth shall be saved; and, therefore, it is not only absurd, but impious, and, in a manner, calling God a liar, for a man to say, 'I believe the gospel, but have doubts, nevertheless, of my own salvation.' " With regard to the various distinctions and definitions that have been given of different kinds of faith, they argue that there is nothing incomprehensible or obscure in the meaning of this word, as used in Scripture; but that, as faith, when applied to human testimony, signifies neither more nor less than the mere simple belief of that testimony as true, upon the authority of the testifier, so, when applied to the testimony of God, it signifies precisely "the belief of his testimony, and resting upon his veracity alone, without any kind of collateral support from concurrence of any other evidence or testimony whatever." And they insist that, as this faith is the gift of God alone, so the person to whom it is given is as conscious of possessing it, as the being to whom God gives life is of being alive; and, therefore, he entertains no doubts, either of his faith, or his consequent salvation through the merits of Christ, who died and rose again for that purpose. In a word, they argue that the gospel would not be what it is held forth to be,—glad tidings of great joy,—if it did not bring full personal assurance of eternal salvation to the believer; which assurance, they insist, is the present infallible privilege and portion of every individual believer of the gospel.
3. Consistently with the above definition of faith, they say that the sin against the Holy Ghost, which has alarmed and puzzled so many in all ages, is nothing else but unbelief; and that the expression, "it shall not be forgiven, neither in this world nor that which is to come," means only that a person dying in infidelity would not be forgiven, neither under the former dispensation by Moses, (the then present dispensation, kingdom, or government, of God,) nor under the gospel dispensation, which, in respect of the Mosaic, was a kind of future world, or kingdom to come.
4. The Bereans interpret a great part of the Old Testament prophecies, and, in particular, the whole of the Psalms, excepting such as are merely historical or laudatory, to be typical or prophetical of Jesus Christ, his sufferings, atonement, mediation, and kingdom; and they esteem it a gross perversion of these psalms and prophecies, to apply them to the experiences of private Christians. In proof of this, they not only urge the words of the apostle, that no prophecy is of any private interpretation, but they insist that the whole of the quotations from the ancient prophecies in the New Testament, and particularly those from the Psalms, are expressly applied to Christ. In this opinion, many other classes of Protestants agree with them.
5. Of the absolute, all-superintending sovereignty of the Almighty, the Bereans entertain the highest idea, as well as of the uninterrupted exertion thereof over all his works, in heaven, earth, and hell, however unsearchable by his creatures. A God without election, they argue, or choice in all his works, is a God without existence, a mere idol, a nonentity. And to deny God's election, purpose, and express will, in all his works, is to make him inferior to ourselves.
The Bereans consider infant baptism as a divine ordinance, instituted in the room of circumcision, and think it absurd to suppose that infants, who, all agree, are admissible to the kingdom of God in heaven, should, nevertheless, be incapable of being admitted into his visible church on earth.
They commemorate the Lord's supper generally once a month; but, as the words of the institution fix no particular period, they sometimes celebrate it oftener, and sometimes at more distant periods, as it may suit their general convenience. They meet every Lord's day, for the purpose of preaching, praying, and exhorting to love and good works. With regard to admission and exclusion of members, their method is very simple: when any person, after hearing the Berean doctrines, professes his belief and assurance of the truths of the gospel, and desires to be admitted into their communion, he is cheerfully received, upon his profession, whatever may have been his former manner of life. But, if such a one should afterwards draw back from his good profession or practice, they first admonish him, and, if that has no effect, they leave him to himself. They do not think that they have any power to deliver a backsliding brother to Satan; that text, and other similar passages, such as, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven," &c., they consider as restricted to the apostles, and to the inspired testimony alone, and not to be extended to any church on earth, or any number of churches, or of Christians, whether decided by a majority of votes, or by unanimous voices. Neither do they think themselves authorized, as a Christian church, to inquire into each other's political opinions, any more than to examine into each other's notions of philosophy.
They both recommend and practise, as a Christian duty, submission to lawful authority; but they do not think that a man, by becoming a Christian, or joining their society, is under any obligation, by the rules of the gospel, to renounce his right of private judgment upon matters of public or private importance. Upon all such subjects, they allow each other to think and act as each may see it his duty; and they require nothing more of the members, than a uniform and steady profession of the apostolic faith, and a suitable walk and conversation. (See Acts 17:11. Rom. 10:9.)
The Berean doctrines have found converts in various parts of Europe and America.
Materialists are those who maintain that the soul of man is material, or that the principle of perception and thought is not a substance distinct from the body, but the result of corporeal organization. There are others called by this name who have maintained that there is nothing but matter in the universe.
The followers of the late Dr. Priestley are considered as Materialists, or philosophical Necessarians. According to the doctor's writings, he believed,—
1. That man is no more than what we now see of him; his being commenced at the time of his conception, or perhaps at an earlier period. The corporeal and mental faculties, inhering in the same substance, grow, ripen, and decay together; and whenever the system is dissolved, it continues in a state of dissolution, till it shall please that Almighty Being who called it into existence, to restore it to life again. For if the mental principle were, in its own nature, immaterial and immortal, all its peculiar faculties would be so too; whereas we see that every faculty of the mind, without exception, is liable to be impaired, and even to become wholly extinct, before death. Since, therefore, all the faculties of the mind, separately taken, appear to be mortal, the substance or principle, in which they exist, must be pronounced mortal too. Thus we might conclude that the body was mortal, from observing that all the separate senses and limbs were liable to decay and perish.
This system gives a real value to the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, which is peculiar to revelation; on which alone the sacred writers build all our hope of future life; and it explains the uniform language of the Scriptures, which speak of one day of judgment for all mankind, and represent all the rewards of virtue, and all the punishments of vice, as taking place at that awful day, and not before. In the Scriptures, the heathen are represented as without hope, and all mankind as perishing at death, if there be no resurrection of the dead.
The apostle Paul asserts, in 1 Cor. 15:16, that "if the dead rise not, then is not Christ risen; and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins: then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." And again, verse 32, "If the dead rise not, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." In the whole discourse, he does not even mention the doctrine of happiness or misery without the body.
If we search the Scriptures for passages expressive of the state of man at death, we shall find such declarations as expressly exclude any trace of sense, thought, or enjoyment. (See Ps. 6:5. Job 14:7, &c.)
2. That there is some fixed law of nature respecting the will, as well as the other powers of the mind, and every thing else in the constitution of nature; and consequently that it is never determined without some real or apparent cause foreign to itself, i. e., without some motive of choice; or that motives influence us in some definite and invariable manner, so that every volition, or choice, is constantly regulated and determined by what precedes it; and this constant determination of mind, according to the motives presented to it, is what is meant by its necessary determination. This being admitted to be fact, there will be a necessary connection between all things past, present, and to come, in the way of proper cause and effect, as much in the intellectual as in the natural world; so that, according to the established laws of nature, no event could have been otherwise than it has been, or is to be, and therefore all things past, present, and to come, are precisely what the Author of Nature really intended them to be, and has made provision for.
To establish this conclusion, nothing is necessary but that throughout all nature the same consequences should invariably result from the same circumstances. For if this be admitted, it will necessarily follow that, at the commencement of any system, since the several parts of it, and their respective situations, were appointed by the Deity, the first change would take place according to a certain rule established by himself, the result of which would be a new situation; after which the same laws containing another change would succeed, according to the same rules, and so on forever; every new situation invariably leading to another, and every event, from the commencement to the termination of the system, being strictly connected, so that, unless the fundamental laws of the system were changed, it would be impossible that any event should have been otherwise than it was. In all these cases, the circumstances preceding any change are called the causes of that change; and, since a determinate event, or effect, constantly follows certain circumstances, or causes, the connection between cause and effect is concluded to be invariable, and therefore necessary.
It is universally acknowledged that there can be no effect without an adequate cause. This is even the foundation on which the only proper argument for the being of a God rests. And the Necessarian asserts that if, in any given state of mind, with respect both to dispositions and motives, two different determinations, or volitions, be possible, it can be on no other principle, than that one of them should come under the description of an effect without a cause; just as if the beam of a balance might incline either way, though loaded with equal weights. And if any thing whatever—even a thought in the mind of man—could arise without an adequate cause, any thing else—the mind itself, or the whole universe—might likewise exist without an adequate cause.
This scheme of philosophical necessity implies a chain of causes and effects established by infinite wisdom, and terminating in the greatest good of the whole universe; evils of all kinds, natural and moral, being admitted, as far as they contribute to that end, or are in the nature of things inseparable from it. Vice is productive, not of good, but of evil, to us, both here and hereafter, though good may result from it to the whole system; and, according to the fixed laws of nature, our present and future happiness necessarily depends on our cultivating good dispositions.
Those persons who follow the doctrines of Arminius, who was pastor at Amsterdam, and afterwards professor of divinity at Leyden. Arminius had been educated in the opinions of Calvin; but, thinking the doctrine of that great man, with regard to free will, predestination, and grace, too severe, he began to express his doubts concerning them in the year 1591, and, upon further inquiry, adopted the sentiments of those whose religious system extends the love of the Supreme Being and the merits of Jesus Christ to all mankind.
The distinguishing tenets of the Arminians may be comprised in the five following articles relative to predestination, universal redemption, the corruption of man, conversion, and perseverance, viz.:—
"1. That God determined to bestow pardon and present salvation on all who repent and believe in Christ, and final salvation on all who persevere to the end, and to inflict everlasting punishment on those who should continue in their unbelief, and resist his divine succors; so that election was conditional, and reprobation, in like manner, the result of foreseen infidelity and persevering wickedness, (See Ezek. 18:30-32. Acts 17:24-30. Matt. 23:37. Rom. 2:4, 5; 5:18. 1 Tim. 11:1-4. 2 Pet. 1:10; 3:9.)
"2. That Jesus Christ, by his sufferings and death, made an atonement for the sins of all mankind in general, and of every individual in particular; that, however, none but those who believe in him can be partakers of divine benefits. (See John 2:2; 3:16, 17. Heb. 2:9. Isa. 50:19, 20. 1 Cor. 8:11.)
"3. That true faith cannot proceed from the exercise of our natural faculties and powers, nor from the force and operation of free will; since man, in consequence of his natural corruption, is incapable either of thinking or doing any good thing; and that, therefore, it is necessary, in order to his conversion and salvation, that he be regenerated and renewed by the operation of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.
"4. That this divine grace, or energy, of the Holy Ghost, begins and perfects every thing that can be called good in man, and, consequently, all good works are to be attributed to God alone; that, nevertheless, this grace is offered to all, and does not force men to act against their inclinations, but may be resisted, and rendered ineffectual, by the perverse will of the impenitent sinner. Some modern Arminians interpret this and the last article with a greater latitude. (See Isa. 1:16. Deut. 10:16. Eph. 4:22.)
"5. That God gives to the truly faithful, who are regenerated by his grace, the means of preserving themselves in this state."
The first Armenians, indeed, had some doubt with respect to the closing part of the latter article; but their followers uniformly maintain, "that the regenerate may lose true, justifying faith, fall from a state of grace, and die in their sins." (See Heb. 6:4-6. 2 Pet. 2:20, 21. Luke 21:35. 2 Pet. 3:17.)
METHODISTS, OR THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
This denomination arose in England, in 1729, and derived their name from the exact regularity of their lives. In 1741, they divided into two parties, under George Whitefield and John Wesley. The former adopted the sentiments of Calvin, and the latter those of Arminius. The Arminian class compose the great body of Methodists in this country and in Great Britain. Both of those men were eminently distinguished for the variety and extent of their labors.
The following are the articles of religion, as published in the "Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church:"—
"1. There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead, there are three persons, of one substance, power and eternity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
"2. The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for the actual sins of men.
"3. Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all men at the last day.
"4. The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.
"5. The holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. By the name of the holy Scriptures, we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the church. [Here follow the names of the canonical books of the Scriptures.]
"6. The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for, both in the Old and New Testament, everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, who feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, doth not bind Christians, nor ought the civil precepts thereof of necessity to be received in any commonwealth, yet, notwithstanding, no Christian whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.
"7. Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk,) but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.
"8. The condition of man, after the fall of Adam, is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and works, to faith, and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will.
"9. We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.
"10. Although good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgments, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and spring out of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known, as a tree is discerned by its fruit.
"11. Voluntary works, being over and above God's commandments, which are called works of supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety. For by them men do declare that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but they do more for his sake than of bounden duty is required; whereas Christ saith plainly, 'When ye have done all that is commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants.'
"12. Not every sin willingly committed after justification, is the sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore, the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after justification; after we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and, by the grace of God, rise again, and amend our lives. And, therefore, they are to be condemned who say they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.
"13. The visible church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
"14. The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardon, worshipping and adoration as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the word of God.
"15. It is a thing plainly repugnant to the word of God, and the custom of the primitive church, to have public prayer in the church, or to minister the sacraments, in a tongue not understood by the people.
"16. Sacraments ordained of Christ are not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they are certain signs of grace, and God's good-will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm, our faith in him.
"There are two sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord to the gospel; that is to say, baptism and the supper of the Lord.
"Those five commonly called sacraments—that is to say, confirmation, penance, orders, matrimony, and extreme unction—are not to be counted for sacraments of the gospel, being such as have partly grown out of the corrupt following of the apostles, and partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not the like nature of baptism and the Lord's supper, because they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
"The sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation; but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves condemnation, as St. Paul saith. (1 Cor. 11:29.)
"17. Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized, but it is also a sign of regeneration, or the new birth. The baptism of young children is to be retained in the church.
"18. The supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death; insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.
"Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the supper of our Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
"The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the supper, only after a heavenly and scriptural manner. And the means whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the supper, is faith.
"The sacrament of the Lord's supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.
"19. The cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay people; for both the parts of the Lord's supper, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be administered to all Christians alike.
"20. The offering of Christ, once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifice of masses, in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit.
"21. The ministers of Christ were not commanded by God's law either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstract from marriage; therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christians, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness.
"22. It is not necessary that rites and ceremonies should in all places be the same, or exactly alike; for they have been always different, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely doth openly break the rites and ceremonies of the church to which he belongs, which are not repugnant to the word of God, and are ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, that others may fear to do the like, as one that offendeth against the common order of the church, and woundeth the consciences of weak brethren.
"Every particular church may ordain, change, and abolish, rites and ceremonies, so that all things may be done to edification.
"23. The president, the congress, the general assemblies, the governors, and the councils of state, as the delegates of the people, are the rulers of the United States of America according to the division of power made to them by the Constitution of the United States, and by the constitutions of their respective states. And the said states are a sovereign and independent nation, and ought not to be subject to any foreign jurisdiction.(2)
"24. The riches and goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession, of the same, as some do falsely boast. Notwithstanding every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.
"25. As we confess that vain and rash swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ and James his apostle, so we judge that the Christian religion doth not prohibit but that a man may swear when the magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the prophet's teaching, in justice, judgment, and truth."
METHODISTS, OR THE METHODIST PROTESTANT CHURCH.
The Protestant Methodists adhere to the Wesleyan Methodist doctrines, but discard certain parts of the discipline, particularly those concerning episcopacy and the manner of constituting the general conference. They seceded from the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1830, and formed a constitution and discipline of their own.
The following preamble and articles precede the constitution:—
"We, the representatives of the associated Methodist churches, in general convention assembled, acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ as the only HEAD of the church, and the word of God as the sufficient rule of faith and practice, in all things pertaining to godliness, and being fully persuaded that the representative form of church government is the most scriptural, best suited to our condition, and most congenial with our views and feelings as fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and whereas, a written constitution, establishing the form of government, and securing to the ministers and members of the church their rights and privileges, is the best safeguard of Christian liberty. We, therefore, trusting in the protection of Almighty God, and acting in the name and by the authority of our constituents, do ordain and establish, and agree to be governed by, the following elementary principles and constitution:—
"1. A Christian church is a society of believers in Jesus Christ, and is a divine institution.
"2. Christ is the only Head of the church, and the word of God the only rule of faith and conduct.
"3. No person who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, and obeys the gospel of God our Savior, ought to be deprived of church membership.
"4. Every man has an inalienable right to private judgment in matters of religion, and an equal right to express his opinion in any way which will not violate the laws of God, or the rights of his fellow-men.
"5. Church trials should be conducted on gospel principles only; and no minister or member should be excommunicated except for immorality, the propagation of unchristian doctrines, or for the neglect of duties enjoined by the word of God.
"6. The pastoral or ministerial office and duties are of divine appointment, and all elders in the church of God are equal; but ministers are forbidden to be lords over God's heritage, or to have dominion over the faith of the saints.
"7. The church has a right to form and enforce such rules and regulations only as are in accordance with the holy Scriptures, and may be necessary or have a tendency to carry into effect the great system of practical Christianity.
"8. Whatever power may be necessary to the formation of rules and regulations, is inherent in the ministers and members of the church; but so much of that power may be delegated, from time to time, upon a plan of representation, as they may judge necessary and proper.
"9. It is the duty of all ministers and members of the church, to maintain godliness, and to oppose all moral evil.
"10. It is obligatory on ministers of the gospel to be faithful in the discharge of their pastoral and ministerial duties, and it is also obligatory on the members to esteem ministers highly for their works' sake, and to render them a righteous compensation for their labors.
"11. The church ought to secure to all her official bodies the necessary authority for the purposes of good government; but she has no right to create any distinct or independent sovereignties."
We omit the constitution, as the preceding elementary principles sufficiently develop the peculiarities of this denomination.
A name first given, in Germany, to those who adhered to the doctrine of Luther; because, in 1529, they protested against a decree of the emperor Charles V., and the diet of Spires, declaring that they appealed to a general council. The same name has also been given to the Calvinists, and is now become a common denomination for all sects which differ from the church of Rome.
A sect, in the third century, that embraced the opinions of Sabellius, a philosopher of Egypt, who openly taught that there is but one person in the Godhead.
The Sabellians maintained that the Word and the Holy Spirit are only virtues, emanations, or functions of the Deity, and held that he who is in heaven is the Father of all things; that he descended into the Virgin, became a child, and was born of her as a Son; and that, having accomplished the mystery of our salvation, he diffused himself on the apostles in tongues of fire, and was then denominated the Holy Ghost. This they explained by resembling God to the sun; the illuminated virtue or quality of which was the Word, and its warming virtue the Holy Spirit. The Word, they taught, was darted, like a divine ray, to accomplish the work of redemption; and that, being re-ascended to heaven, the influences of the Father were communicated after a like manner to the apostles.
So called from Mr. Robert Sandeman, a Scotchman, who published his sentiments in 1757. He afterwards came to America, and established societies at Boston, and other places in New England, and in Nova Scotia.
This sect arose in Scotland about the year 1728, where it is distinguished at the present day by the name of Glassites, after its founder, Mr. John Glass, a minister of the established church.
The Sandemanians consider that faith is neither more nor less than a simple assent to the divine testimony concerning Jesus Christ, delivered for the offences of men, and raised again for their justification, as recorded in the New Testament, They also maintain that the word faith, or belief, is constantly used by the apostles to signify what is denoted by it in common discourse, viz., a persuasion of the truth of any proposition, and that there is no difference between believing any common testimony and believing the apostolic testimony, except that which results from the testimony itself, and the divine authority on which it rests.
They differ from other Christians in their weekly administration of the Lord's supper; their love-feasts, of which every member is not only allowed, but required, to partake, and which consist of their dining together at each other's houses in the interval between the morning and afternoon service; their kiss of charity, used on this occasion, at the admission of a new member, and at other times, when they deem it necessary and proper; their weekly collection, before the Lord's supper, for the support of the poor, and defraying other expenses; mutual exhortation; abstinence from blood and things strangled; washing each other's feet, when, as a deed of mercy, it might be an expression of love, the precept concerning which, as well as other precepts, they understand literally; community of goods, so far as that every one is to consider all that he has in his possession and power liable to the calls of the poor and the church; and the unlawfulness of laying up treasures upon earth, by setting them apart for any distant, future, or uncertain use. They allow of public and private diversions, so far as they are not connected with circumstances really sinful; but, apprehending a lot to be sacred, disapprove of lotteries, playing at cards, dice, &c.
They maintain a plurality of elders, pastors, or bishops, in each church, and the necessity of the presence of two elders in every act of discipline, and at the administration of the Lord's supper.
In the choice of these elders, want of learning and engagement in trade are no sufficient objections, if qualified according to the instructions given to Timothy and Titus; but second marriages disqualify for the office; and they are ordained by prayer and fasting, imposition of hands, and giving the right hand of fellowship.
In their discipline they are strict and severe, and think themselves obliged to separate from communion and worship of all such religious societies as appear to them not to profess the simple truth for their only ground of hope, and who do not walk in obedience to it. (See John 13:14, 15; 16:13. Acts 6:7. Rom. 3:27; 4:4, 5; 16:16. 1 Cor. 16:20. 2 Cor. 4:13. 1 Pet. 1:22.)
As we elsewhere give the sentiments of the ancient Bereans, Pelagians, and Sabellians, it is proper to notice those of Agricola, an eminent doctor in the Lutheran church, who flourished about the middle of the sixteenth century. The word Antinomian is derived from two Greek words, signifying against law.
It will be observed that the above names are used to denote sentiments or opinions, rather than sects or denominations.
The principal doctrines of the Antinomians, together with a short specimen of the arguments made use of in their defence, are comprehended in the following summary:—
"1. That the law ought not to be proposed to the people as a rule of manners, nor used in the church as a means of instruction; and that the gospel alone is to be inculcated and explained, both in the churches and in the schools of learning.
"For the Scriptures declare that Christ is not the lawgiver; as it is said, 'The law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.' Therefore the ministers of the gospel ought not to teach the law. Christians are not ruled by the law, but by the spirit of regeneration; according as it is said, 'Ye are not under the law, but under grace.' Therefore the law ought not to be taught in the church of Christ.
"2. That the justification of sinners is an immanent and eternal act of God, not only preceding all acts of sin, but the existence of the sinner himself.
"For nothing new can arise in God; on which account, he calls things that are not, as though they were; and the apostle saith, 'Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, before the foundation of the world.' Besides, Christ was set up from everlasting, not only as the Head of the church, but as the surety of his people; by virtue of which engagement, the Father decreed never to impute unto them their sins. (See 2 Cor. 5: 19.)
"3. That justification by faith is no more than a manifestation to us of what was done before we had a being.
"For it is thus expressed, in Heb. 11:1: 'Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' We are justified only by Christ; but by faith we perceive it, and by faith rejoice in it, as we apprehend it to be our own.
"4. That men ought not to doubt of their faith, nor question whether they believe in Christ.
"For we are commanded to 'draw near in full assurance of faith.' (Heb. 10:22.) 'He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself,' (2 John 5:10;) i. e., he has as much evidence as can be desired.
"5. That God sees no sin in believers; and they are not bound to confess sin, mourn for it, or pray that it may be forgiven.
"For God has declared, (Heb. 10:17,) 'Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.' And in Jer. 50:20, 'In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found; for I will pardon them whom I reserve.'
"6. That God is not angry with the elect, nor doth he punish them for their sins.
"For Christ has made ample satisfaction for their sins. See Isaiah 53:5, 'He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities,' &c. And to inflict punishment once upon the surety, and again upon the believer, is contrary to the justice of God, as well as derogatory to the satisfaction of Christ.
"7. That by God's laying our iniquities upon Christ, he became as completely sinful as we, and we as completely righteous as Christ.
"For Christ represents our persons to the Father; and we represent the person of Christ to him. The loveliness of Christ is transferred to us. On the other hand, all that is hateful in our nature is put upon Christ, who was forsaken by the father for a time. See 2 Cor. 5:21, 'He was made sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.'
"8. That believers need not fear either their own sins or the sins of others, since neither can do them any injury.
"See Rom. 8:33, 34, 'Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?' &c. The apostle does not say that they never transgress, but triumphs in the thought that no curse can be executed against them.
"9. That the new covenant is not made properly with us, but with Christ for us; and that this covenant is all of it a promise, having no conditions for us to perform; for faith, repentance, and obedience, are not conditions on our part, but Christ's; and he repented, believed, and obeyed for us.
"For the covenant is so expressed, that the performance lies upon the Deity himself. 'For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.' Heb. 8:10.
"10. That sanctification is not a proper evidence of justification.
"For those who endeavor to evidence their justification by their sanctification, are looking to their own attainments, and not to Christ's righteousness, for hopes of salvation."
A denomination which arose in the fifth century, so called from Pelagius, a monk, who looked upon the doctrines which were commonly received, concerning the original corruption of human nature, and the necessity of divine grace to enlighten the understanding and purify the heart, as prejudicial to the progress of holiness and virtue, and tending to establish mankind in a presumptuous and fatal security. He maintained the following doctrines:—
"1. That the sins of our first parents were imputed to them only, and not to their posterity; and that we derive no corruption from their fall, but are born as pure and unspotted as Adam came out of the forming hand of his Creator.
"2. That mankind, therefore, are capable of repentance and amendment, and of arriving to the highest degrees of piety and virtue, by the use of their natural faculties and powers. That, indeed, external grace is necessary to excite their endeavors, but that they have no need of the internal succors of the divine Spirit.
"3. That Adam was, by nature, mortal, and, whether he had sinned or not, would certainly have died.
"4. That the grace of God is given in proportion to our merits.
"5. That mankind may arrive at a state of perfection in this life.
"6. That the law qualified men for the kingdom of heaven, and was founded upon equal promises with the gospel."
This denomination began about the middle of the sixteenth century. Their principal tenet is that there must have been men before Adam. One proof of this they bring from Rom. 5:12, 13, 14. The apostle says, "Sin was in the world till the law;" meaning the law given to Adam. But sin, it is evident, was not imputed, though it might have been committed, till the time of the pretended first man. "For sin is not imputed when there is no law."
The election of the Jews, they say, is a consequence of the same system. It began at Adam, who is called their father or founder. God is also their Father, having espoused the Judaical church. The Gentiles are only adopted children, as being Pre-Adamites. Men (or Gentiles) are said to be made by the word of God. (Gen. 1:26, 27.) Adam, the founder of the Jewish nation, whose history alone Moses wrote, is introduced in the second chapter, as the workmanship of God's own hands, and as created apart from other men.
They argue thus:—Cain, having killed his brother Abel, was afraid of being killed himself. By whom? He married—yet Adam had then no daughter. What wife could he get? He built a town—what architects, masons, carpenters, and workmen, did he employ? The answer to all these questions is in one word—Pre-Adamites.
This reasoning is opposed by sundry texts of Scripture, (See Gen. 1:26; 2:7; 3:20. Mark 10:6. I Cor. 15:45, 47.)
Are those who believe that God, for his own glory, hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. (See Matt. 25:34. Rom. 8:29, 30. Eph. 1:3, 6, 11. 2 Tim. 1:9. 2 Thess. 11:13. 1 Pet. 1:1, 2. John 6:37; 17:2-24. Rev. 13:8; 17:8. Dan. 4:35. 1 Thess. 5:19. Matt. 11:26. Exod. 4:21. Prov. 16:4. Acts 13:48.)
Orthodoxy literally signifies correct opinions. The word is generally used to denote those who are attached to the Trinitarian scheme of Christian doctrine.
The following article is found in the "Spirit of the Pilgrims," vol. v. No. 1, and is supposed to have been written by the late Rev. BENJAMIN B. WISNER, D. D., pastor of the Old South church, Boston.
The following summary contains the more material parts of the Orthodox faith. Those who embrace this system believe,—
"That, since the fall of Adam, men are, in their natural state, altogether destitute of true holiness, and entirely depraved.
"That men, though thus depraved, are justly required to love God with all the heart, and justly punishable for disobedience; or, in other words, they are complete moral agents, proper subjects of moral government, and truly accountable to God for their actions.
"That in the unspeakable wisdom and love of God was disclosed a plan of redemption for sinful men.
"That, in the development of this plan, God saw fit to reveal so much concerning the nature and the mode of the divine existence, as that he is manifested to his creatures as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and that these three, each partaking of all the attributes of the Deity, and being entitled to receive divine worship and adoration, are the one living and true God.
"That the Son of God, laying aside the glory which he had with the Father from everlasting, came down from heaven, took upon himself man's nature, and by his humiliation, sufferings, and death, made an atonement for the sins of the world.
"That, in consequence of this atonement, the offer of pardon and eternal life was freely made to all; so that those who truly repent of sin, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, will be saved.
"That men are naturally so averse to God and holiness, that, if left to themselves, they reject the offers of salvation, and neither repent of sin nor truly believe in a Savior.
"That God, being moved with infinite love and compassion, sends forth the Holy Spirit, according to his sovereign pleasure, by whose beneficent energy an innumerable multitude of the human family are renewed, sanctified, and prepared for heaven; while others are suffered to pursue the course which they have freely chosen, and in which they obstinately persevere till the day of salvation is past.
"That God, in his providential dispensations, in the bestowment of his saving mercy, and in his universal government, exhibits his adorable perfections, in such a manner as will call forth the admiration and love of all holy beings forever.
"That believers are justified by faith, through the efficacy of the atonement, so that all claims of human merit, and all grounds of boasting, are forever excluded.
"That the law of God is perpetually binding upon all moral beings, and upon believers not less than other men, as a rule of life; and that no repentance is genuine unless it bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and no faith is saving unless it produce good works.
"That those who have been renewed by the Spirit will be preserved by the power of God, and advanced in holiness unto final salvation. And,
"That Christ, as the great King of the universe, the Lord and Proprietor of created beings, will judge the world at the last day, when the righteous will be received to life eternal, and the wicked will be consigned to endless punishment."
"Since the reformation from Popery, those who profess to admit these doctrines, and others necessarily connected with them, and forming a part of the same system, have been denominated Orthodox, while to those who openly reject them, or any considerable part of them, this appellation has been denied.
"It is not to be inferred, however, that the Orthodox have been, or are, entirely unanimous on the subject of religion. In matters comparatively unessential, and in their modes of stating, explaining, and establishing essential truths, there has always been more or less a diversity. Thus persons may disagree as to the form of church government, or as to the mode of administering ordinances, and yet have an equal claim to be entitled Orthodox. Or persons may disagree in their interpretation of particular passages of Scripture, and as to the manner in which these bear on the doctrines of religion, without forfeiting their title to the some honorable appellation. For instance, one person may regard a particular passage as proof conclusive of the divinity of Christ, while another may be in doubt respecting it, or may apply it differently, and yet both be firm believers in the divinity of Christ. Many passages which the old writers quoted as proof-texts, have, in the progress of critical science, been differently interpreted; and yet the evidence in support of the Orthodox system, so far from being weakened in this way, has been constantly gaining strength.
"Again: persons may disagree, to a certain extent, at least, in their statements and explanations of the most essential doctrines, and yet be properly and equally Orthodox. In illustration of this remark, several examples will be given.
"All Orthodox Christians believe in the full inspiration of the sacred Scriptures; or that the holy men, through whose instrumentality the world originally received these Scriptures, spake and wrote 'as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' They believe in this as a fact of the utmost importance. But there have been various modes of stating, explaining, and illustrating this fact. Some, for instance, have spoken of two or three kinds of inspiration; others have insisted that there can be but one kind; while others have thought it better to state the subject in general terms, without attempting very minutely to define or explain them.
"All Orthodox Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, or that the one God exists in a threefold distinction, commonly called persons,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. They believe this as a revealed fact, and as an essential part of the Christian doctrine. But how differently has this fact been stated by different individuals! What different explanations have been put upon it! While not a few have preferred to leave the subject—as God seems to have left it—altogether unexplained.
"All Orthodox Christians believe in the universality of God's eternal purposes, in the certainty of their execution, and that they are so executed as not to obstruct or impair the free agency of man. But respecting the manner of God's executing his purposes,—whether by the instrumentality of motives, or by a direct efficiency,—persons having equal claims to the appellation of Orthodox, have not been agreed.
"All the Orthodox believe in the natural and entire depravity of man; or that, in consequence of the sin of his first progenitors, and previous to regeneration, every thing within him, going to constitute moral character, is sinful. But how many theories have been framed to account for the connection of our sin with that of Adam! And how many explanations have been put upon the doctrine of entire depravity! Some have made this depravity to extend to all the powers of the soul; others have restricted it to our voluntary exercises and actions; while others have confined it chiefly to a moral taste, disposition, or instinct, which is regarded as back of our voluntary exercises, and the source of them.
"All the Orthodox believe in the doctrine of atonement; but all do not state or explain this important doctrine after the same manner. Some suppose the atonement of Christ to consist wholly in his obedience, others wholly in his sufferings, and others in both his obedience and sufferings. Some hold that Christ suffered the penalty of the law for sinners, and others that he only opened a way in which, on condition of repentance, this penalty may be remitted. Some think the atonement made only for the elect, while others regard it as the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
"The doctrine of instantaneous regeneration by the special operations of the Holy Spirit, is believed by all who have any claim to be called Orthodox. But this doctrine, like the others mentioned, is variously stated and explained. Some consider man as entirely active in regeneration, others as entirely passive, and others as not entirely the one or the other. Some believe there is a holy principle implanted in regeneration, which ever afterwards remains in the heart of the subject, while others believe the change to consist in the commencement of holy exercises, which may be subsequently interrupted, though not finally lost. As to the manner in which the Spirit operates in regeneration, there is also a difference of opinion; some holding that he changes the heart by a direct efficiency, and others that this is done by the more powerful presentation and impression of motives.
"Another doctrine of the Orthodox system is, that of justification by faith in Christ. But this, also, has been differently stated and explained. Some think the believer justified by Christ's righteousness, others by the influence of his sufferings and death, and others by the joint efficacy of both his obedience and sufferings. Some believe justification to be the same as forgiveness, while others regard it as implying, not only forgiveness, but also a title to eternal life.
"It is evident, from the examples here given, that, although Orthodoxy denotes a general system of important doctrines or facts on the subject of religion, it is not to be inferred, either by friends or foes, that Orthodox Christians are tied up to precisely the same views of subjects, or that there exists no diversity of sentiment among them. There is, and always has been, a diversity of sentiment, in regard not only to modes and forms, but to the statement, proofs, and explanations, of the most important doctrines. Some of them, to be sure, are little more than verbal; but others are real, are fitted to excite interest, and are entitled to very serious consideration. Still, as they are all held in avowed consistency with that great series of facts which go to constitute the Orthodox system, they should not be regarded as placing their advocates beyond the proper limits of Orthodoxy. They constitute a wide field of important discussion, over which those who agree in holding the Head,—in holding the great doctrines of redemption by the blood of Christ, and of sanctification by the Holy Spirit,—may freely and fraternally traverse. Modes and forms, the interpretation of passages, and explanations of particular doctrines, (so long as essential doctrines are not discarded,) may be discussed without the interruption of brotherly affection, and without the imputation and reproach of heresy. One person may hold that all Scripture is given by the inspiration of suggestion; and another that, while some parts are the fruit of immediate suggestion, others may more properly be attributed to the inspiration of superintendence; and neither should charge the other with denying the inspiration of the Scriptures, or with being a heretic, or an infidel. One person may insist that the passage in 1 John 5:7, is authentic Scripture, and strong proof of the doctrine of the Trinity; and another may doubt this, or deny it altogether; and neither should be charged with intentionally corrupting the Scriptures, or with being a Unitarian. One person may hold that God executes his immutable and eternal decrees by a direct efficiency, and another that he does it by the intervention of motives, and yet one be no more an Arminian than the other."
ANDOVER ORTHODOX CREED.
Every person appointed or elected a professor in the Theological Institution at Andover, in the state of Massachusetts, shall, on the day of his inauguration into office, publicly make and subscribe the following CREED and DECLARATION:—
"I believe that there is one, and but one, living and true GOD; that the word of GOD, contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, is the only perfect rule of faith and practice; that, agreeably to those Scriptures, GOD is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth; that in the Godhead are three Persons, the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY GHOST; and that those THREE are ONE GOD, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; that God created man, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; that the glory of GOD is man's chief end, and the enjoyment of GOD his supreme happiness; that this enjoyment is derived solely from conformity of heart to the moral character and will of GOD; that ADAM, the federal head and representative of the human race, was placed in a state of probation, and that, in consequence of his disobedience, all his descendants were constituted sinners; that, by nature, every man is personally depraved, destitute of holiness, unlike and opposed to GOD; and that, previously to the renewing agency of the DIVINE SPIRIT, all his moral actions are adverse to the character and glory of GOD; that, being morally incapable of recovering the image of his CREATOR, which was lost in ADAM, every man is justly exposed to eternal damnation; so that, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of GOD; that GOD, of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, and that he entered into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of this state of sin and misery by a REDEEMER; that the only REDEEMER of the elect is the eternal SON of GOD, who, for this purpose, became man, and continues to be GOD and man, in two distinct natures, and one person, forever; that CHRIST, as our Redeemer, executeth the office of a Prophet, Priest, and King; that, agreeably to the covenant of redemption, the SON of GOD, and he alone, by his sufferings and death, has made atonement for the sins of all men; that repentance, faith, and holiness, are the personal requisites in the gospel scheme of salvation; that the righteousness of CHRIST is the only ground of a sinner's justification; that this righteousness is received through faith; and that this faith is the gift of GOD; so that our salvation is wholly of grace; that no means whatever can change the heart of a sinner, and make it holy; that regeneration and sanctification are effects of the creating and renewing agency of the HOLY SPIRIT, and that supreme love to GOD constitutes the essential difference between saints and sinners; that, by convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds, working faith in us, and renewing our wills, the HOLY SPIRIT makes us partakers of the benefits of redemption; and that the ordinary means by which these benefits are communicated to us, are the word, sacraments, and prayer; that repentance unto life, faith to feed upon CHRIST, love to GOD, and new obedience, are the appropriate qualifications for the Lord's supper; and that a Christian church ought to admit no person to its holy communion, before he exhibit credible evidence of his godly sincerity; that perseverance in holiness is the only method of making our calling and election sure, and that the final perseverance of saints, though it is the effect of the special operation of GOD on their hearts, necessarily implies their own watchful diligence; that they who are effectually called, do, in this life, partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which do either accompany or flow from them; that the souls of believers are, at their death, made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; that their bodies, being still united to CHRIST, will, at the resurrection, be raised up to glory, and that the saints will be made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of GOD, to all eternity: but that the wicked will awake to shame and everlasting contempt, and, with devils, be plunged into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone forever and ever. I moreover believe that GOD, according to the counsel of his own will, and for his own glory, hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, and that all beings, actions, and events, both in the natural and moral world, are under his providential direction; that GOD'S decrees perfectly consist with human liberty, GOD'S universal agency with the agency of man, and man's dependence with his accountability; that man has understanding and corporeal strength to do all that GOD requires of him; so that nothing but the sinner's aversion to holiness prevents his salvation; that it is the prerogative of GOD to bring good out of evil, and that he will cause the wrath and rage of wicked men and devils to praise him; and that all the evil which has existed, and will forever exist, in the moral system, will eventually be made to promote a most important purpose, under the wise and perfect administration of that ALMIGHTY BEING, who will cause all things to work for his own glory, and thus fulfil all his pleasure."
"And, furthermore, I do solemnly promise that I will open and explain the Scriptures to my pupils with integrity and faithfulness; that I will maintain and inculcate the Christian faith, as expressed in the creed, by me now repeated, together with all the other doctrines and duties of our holy religion, so far as may appertain to my office, according to the best light GOD shall give me, and in opposition, not only to Atheists and Infidels, but to Jews, Papists, Mahometans, Arians, Pelagians, Antinomians, Arminians, Socinians, Sabellians, Unitarians, and Universalists, and to all heresies and errors, ancient and modern, which may be opposed to the gospel of CHRIST, or hazardous to the souls of men; that, by my instruction, counsel, and example, I will endeavor to promote true piety and godliness; that I will consult the good of this INSTITUTION, and the peace of the churches of our Lord Jesus Christ on all occasions; and that I will religiously conform to the constitution and laws of this SEMINARY, and to the statutes of this foundation."
The foregoing creed is considered a summary of what is commonly called the ASSEMBLY'S CATECHISM.
The Westminster Assembly met in London, in the reign of Charles I, A. D. 1643. It was a synod of learned divines, assembled by order of parliament, for the purpose of settling the government, liturgy, and doctrine, of the church of England.
NEW HAVEN ORTHODOX CREED.
Considerable anxiety existed, a few years since, in regard to the Orthodoxy of the Rev. Dr. TAYLOR, professor of divinity at Yale College, at New Haven, in the state of Connecticut. The following letter from Dr. TAYLOR to the Rev. Dr. HAWES, of Hartford, contains a full exposition of the religious views of that distinguished theologian:—
YALE COLLEGE, Feb. 1, 1832.
"I thank you for yours of the 23d ult., in which you express your approbation of my preaching during the protracted meetings at Hartford. This expression of fraternal confidence is grateful to me, not because I ever supposed that we differed in our views of the great doctrines of the gospel, but because, for some reason or other, an impression has been made, to some extent, that I am unsound in the faith. This impression, I feel bound to say, in my own view, is wholly groundless and unauthorized. You think, however, that 'I owe it to myself, to the institution with which I am connected, and to the Christian community, to make a frank and full statement of my views of some of the leading doctrines of the gospel, and that this cannot fail to relieve the minds of many, who are now suspicious of my Orthodoxy.'
"Here I must be permitted to say, that the repeated and full statements of my opinions, which I have already made to the public, would seem to be sufficient to prevent or remove such suspicions. The course you propose, however, may furnish information to some who would desire it before they form an opinion, as well as the means of correcting the misrepresentations of others. I therefore readily comply with your request, and submit to your disposal the following statement of my belief on some of the leading doctrines of the gospel. I believe,—