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under a kind of necessity of imbibing erroneous opinions. For a child to be thus situated may be a calamity, but not a crime; and it is rather an evidence of an obedient than a disobedient heart, that he imbibes the erroneous opinions of his parents. For he is required to honor father and mother, and a disposition to obey this command, will naturally incline him to listen to parental instruction, and to receive as truth what his parents inculcate as the doctrines of the Gospel. It is as unreasonable as it is cruel, for a Protestant to impute it to wickedness of heart, that the children of Papists grow up strongly attached to the doctrines of the Catholic church. We may as rationally blarne a child for not having been born omniscient, or for possessing the spirit of filial love and reverence, as to blame him for receiving, as truth, the erroneous opinions which were inculcated on him by his parents, while it was impossible for him to know that they were incorrect. Let
any censorious minister ask himself, what would be his views of others, who should impute it to wickedness of heart, that his children hearken to his instructions, and grow up in the belief of his religious opinions ! To whatever denomination a child may belong, the more pious and humble he is, the more likely he is to imbibe the religious opinions of his parents, whether they be correct or erroneous.'
pp. 27, 28.
Again he says;
The disputes which have divided Christians into sects, have originated in differences of opinion about the meaning of particular passages of Scripture, which were acknowledged to be genuine by each party, and to be true in the sense intended by the inspired writers. To express the supposed sense of the passages more definitely, has been an object of those who have formed creeds or confessions of faith. Propositions which men have thus formed, have been set up as standards of faith, and as tests of Christian character; and to these, others must give their assent, or be denied Christian privileges. These propositions, of human manufacture, are what their advocates denominate the truth as it is in Jesus. Those who refuse their assent to these dogmas, are reproached as enemies to the truth, while they freely admit, as the truth, the very texts of Scripture, on which these articles are supposed to be founded. It seems to have been thought not sufficient for a man to believe the doctrines of the Gospel, as given by the wisdom of God, but he must assent to an edition of these doctrines as revised and amended, by the wisdom of self-sufficient men. The “ bones of contention" have not been the words of God's wisdom, but the words of man's wisdom; and these words of man's wisdom have
been preferred to the words of God, as standards of truth and tests of character. I think I do not go too far, in saying that these human compositions have been preferred to the Bible, for the purposes I have mentioned. If they are not PREFERRED, why are they urged, and substituted, as if the Bible were insufficient? I am aware, that those who adopt this course, profess great respect for the Bible, and are not commonly backward to accuse dissenters from their creed of disrespect for the oracles of God. But it seems to me an extraordinary mode of evincing a regard for the Bible, to substitute for it, as a rule of faith, the compositions of fallible and uninspired men.'— pp. 28, 29.
The error here condemned, he illustrates in the next Letter, by two examples, the first drawn from the doctrine of transubstantiation, and the other, from that of vicarious atonement. Both of these doctrines have been accounted essential to Christianity, and a belief in both has been made a test of character, and a condition of salvation. Of those, however, who reject these doctrines, the latter as well as the former, we may suppose that many, as Dr. Worcester shows, have not been influenced by a hatred of the truth, nor by disrespect for Scripture, nor by a denial of the particular texts, in which these doctrines are thought by some to be inculcated or implied; but solely by a different construction honestly put on these texts. He adds, in confirmation of this position ;
Now let it be observed, that in both examples, the words relied on are ambiguous; for there is more than one sense in which they are capable of being understood. As a portrait, or image, is called by the name of the person represented, so the bread and wine may be called the body and blood of Christ, which are represented by them; and it is well known, that there are several senses in which one person may die for another, or for many others.
'Let it also be observed, that in the first example, Christ did not say, This bread is changed into my body
nor, This wine is changed into my blood. Not a syllable was said by him about any change, or transubstantiation. This idea was added to the words of Christ by the framers of the doctrine. So in the second example, Christ did not say, I lay down my life as a vicarious punishment for my sheep. Nor did his Apostles in any instance say, that Christ endured for us " the wrath of God," or the penalty of the divine law due to our offences. This idea was added by the framers of the doctrine of vicarious punish
ment, just as the idea of change was added by the framers of the doctrine of transubstantiation. I have no doubt, that in each case, the framers thought the idea they added, to be implied in the words of Scripture; but this is no proof that it was implied, nor that any man had a right to insert it, as the word of God. It is, however, by thus adding to the words of Scripture what men have supposed to be implied, that numerous propositions have been formed as essential articles of faith. Nor has the mischief of this creed-making policy stopped here. Each sect, after having thus formed its essential articles, have called them the truth. Hence, with them, to love the truth, is to love the articles of their creed, formed in the words of man's wisdom; and any one who dissents from these articles, is supposed to be a despiser of the truth, an opposer of the truth, an enemy to the God of truth. Of course, the opposition to these supposed truths, is imputed to depravity of heart. Hence persecution, in various forms, has been practised by one sect of Christians against another. What an awful responsibility does a fallible, uninspired man, take on himself, when he ventures to substitute his own opinion of an ambiguous passage of Scripture for the word of God, and to make that opinion a test by which he may judge the hearts of others!' - pp. 35, 36, 37.
In the Eighth Letter, he returns to one of the same illustrations, in discussing the propriety of applying the language of Paul respecting the natural man,' to those who differ from us in opinion on religious subjects. His words are remarkable, not only as indicating a serious error, but the character of the men most likely to commit it.
· Two persons are disputing on the words of Christ, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” One supposes the words to mean, that he would suffer a vicarious punishment for mankind.
The other believes that he died for us, but not in that sense of the words, yet in a sense which he thinks far more to the honor of God. These men happen to be of different characters, as well as of different opinions. One of them is meek and humble; the other self-sufficient he trusts in himself that he is righteous, and despises others. Now which of these men will be the more likely to account for the difference of opinion, by insinuating that the other is a natural man? In this case, no candid and intelligent person can hesitate for a moment. On which side soever the self-sufficient person may be, as to the meaning of the text, he will be the one to reproach his brother as a “natural man.” Candor, however, requires me to admit, that there may have been instances in which good men, in other respects, have VOL. XI. - N. S. VOL. VI. NO. I.
been so bewildered by custom, theory, or party feelings, as to adopt such an unchristian mode of proceeding. But I believe it to be a truth, that such a course is much more frequently resorted to by self-righteous hypocrites, than by men of truly Christian feelings; and that it behooves those who are in the habit of thus accounting for a dissent from their opinions, seriously to inquire how their conduct can be reconciled with gospel love and humility, and whether they are not, in fact, in that deplorable state, which they are so forward to impute to others.'
pp. 54, 55.
Two other striking passages occur in the same Letter, which may be said to put at rest the question he is considering.
Besides, if the natural man has no perception of the truth, how can he be said to hate the truth? Can he hate that which he does not perceive? Should it be said, that it is not the true meaning of Scripture that he hates, but a false meaning which he gives to the words; what is this but saying, in other words, that it is falsehood, and not truth, that the sinner hates?'.
In both the Old Testament and the New, the conversion of sinners is represented as the effect of divine truth on their minds. “ The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Psalm xix. 7. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 1 Pet. i. 23. Now if the unconverted, as such, are incapable of perceiving the true meaning of Scripture language, and consequently misunderstand it; then it must be by a false meaning of the word that they are converted. Of course, their conversion must be the effect of falsehood, and not of truth. For they are in an unconverted state till the change occurs; and it is by such views of the word as they have in an unconverted state that they are regenerated, or that the work of regeneration is commenced.' - pp. 59, 60.
Custom, false standards in morals, mistaken notions of duty, and the frequency with which we see the sin, complained of by Dr. Worcester, committed by men of reputed sanctity, have led most persons to form much too low an estimate of its turpitude. He observes, very justly, that,
'It would be in vain to search the Scriptures for more clear prohibitions and expostulations against murder, than we have against reviling and censorious judging, on account of differences of opinion; and is it not a lamentable truth, that in each of the cases, Christians have too commonly regarded custom as of higher authority than the prohibitions of God? The sixth commandment is, “ Thou shalt do no murder” ; but as soon as the rulers of two nations have declared war against each other, murder is regarded as not only lawful, but laudable. So, as soon as the ministers of one sect of Christians have ventured to denounce the people of another sect as heretics, the commands, “ Judge not,' "Condemn not,”
Speak not evil one of another," are treated with as little regard as the sixth commandment is in time of war. As, in time of national hostilities, killing men is deemed a duty, and not a crime, so it is with censorious judging in time of sectarian hostilities; and, in both cases, the most glaring violations of the divine commands are vindicated, on the principles of necessity and self-preservation.' — pp. 75, 76.
In a characteristic Letter, the Sixteenth, Dr. Worcester compares the vice of party-spirit, in religion, with that of intemperance in the use of ardent spirits, and concludes by recommending, in both cases, the total-abstinence principle,' as the only effectual remedy.
The inquiry naturally occurs, Is there no remedy for party intemperance ? Must the Christian religion be for ever thus disgraced by its professed admirers and votaries.
For a time, it seemed a hopeless enterprise to attempt a suppression of the other species of intemperance. Soon, however, a hope was excited, that by due exertions many moderate drinkers might be induced to give up their habit before they should pass
the bounds of temperance; and that many might be saved from forming the habit of moderate drinking. It was hardly expected that men might be reclaimed who had advanced far in the road of intoxication. Their case was deemed nearly hopeless. It was, however, found, that the moderate use of ardent spirits, at stated periods, exposed men to become drunkards; that, by daily indulgence, a thirst was excited which endangered both body and soul, and that entire abstinence from the use of ardent spirits was the path of safety. Many thousands have become convinced of this, and have adopted the policy,
among whom are an unexpected number of those who were supposed to be past recovery, and bound over by intemperate habits to perish as drunkards. What happy results of a few years' exertion !
'When all the evils of party intemperance shall have been disclosed, they may be found not less terrific and portentous than the evils of intemperate drinking. Why then shall not