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from one another. Is this the freedom of the gospel?—“the unity of the spirit, in the bond of peace,” of primitive, apostolic Chritianity, or anything like it? Most assuredly not.
There is too good reason to fear that such a state of things has scandalized many; that, while it is now making many seek shelter from the scandal and turbulence of sectarian dissension, by going over to the ranks of Catholicism-into the bosom of dark Romish superstition—it has also made many open, daring infidels, atheists, and enemies of religion, in every form ; and, instead of exciting the admiration of surrounding unbelievers, making them exclaim, as once was the case-“ See how these Christians love one another !" It has too often, in modern days, made them look down with scorn upon Christianity, and Christians of every name-regarding the mass of them as altogether weak, superstitious, violent fanatics, who, instead of loving, would still, as they used to do, tear and devour one another, if it were not for the light of philosophy, and a brighter age dawning upon them. If our word could be heard at all, we would beg and beseech Christians of every denomination to abate their intolerant animosities and divisions, and to think seriously if there is not a fundamental cause of this great evil, that ought to be sought out and done away ;—if there is not a remedy, that may and ought speedily to be applied, to prevent the continual spread of this crying evil, this eating canker, that is preying on the heart of the human race, and casting a blot upon the honoured name of Christianity.
Why callest thou me good ? there is none good but one, that is God.”—(Matt. xix. 17.) This was the answer of Jesus himself to the young man that asked him—“Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Trinitarians, to evade the plain, obvious meaning of this passage, so palpably opposed to their assertion that Jesus is God, as well as the Father, are obliged to have recourse to an exposition, such as no unprejudiced person would ever think of, and which involves in it the following most shocking consequence and reflection upon our Saviour's character, viz.—that though the Saviour is said to have beheld and loved this young inquirer after eternal life, yet, from some cause or other, he wilfully concealed from him the only means of obtaining it :-first, by disingenuously disclaiming his own true character and Godhead, thus purposely keeping the man ignorant of what, according to our opponents, is a fundamental doctrine of the gospel, which he essentially needed to know and believe, in order to eternal life; and secondly, by deceiving the man with a false answer to his question—“ If thou will enter into life, keep the commandments ;"—this being again, according to our opponents, a false and impossible way of obtaining eternal life, since the fall of Adam. Now, sooner than attribute, in any shape, or under any pretence, such monstrous duplicity, to the faithful and true witness, who certainly had “the words of eternal life," I will throw all conflicting creeds and confessions of men overboard at once, and leave them to sink or swim as they may, and cleave to my Bible alone, as the creed of my youth, that first taught me to think of my heavenly Father as one, and one only, of absolute, eternal, and peerless goodness; and that the sure way of entering into eternal life is, as Jesus points out, to keep his commandments ; whose commandments are not grievous, but whose yoke is easy, and his burden light. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."-(Rev. xxii. 14.)
April 13, 1846.
OUTLINES OF THE HISTORY OF PRESBYTERIANISM, IN
BY THE REV, H. MONTGOMERY, LL.D.
( Continued from No. X. page 313.)
The Westminster Confession of Faith, as drawn up in the year 1643, was never designed by its Authors to become an authoritative standard of Christian Doctrine and Ecclesiastical Discipline. On the contrary, it was merely put forth as a deliberate statement of important principles, calculated to influence the public mind, and to promote greater uniformity of faith and worship, in the several portions of the kingdom. Its framers never dreamt that, in coming ages, it was to supersede the Bible, and to be imposed as a yoke upon the consciences both of Ministers and people; for, they expressly declare that "the Word of God, contained in the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule of faith and obedience;” and that “the Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other than the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.” They declare, in another place, that, “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, in matters of faith and worship; so that to believe such doctrines or to obey such commandments, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience and reason also.” On their own showing, therefore, the Authors of the “Westminster Confession” were, themselves, genuine Bible Christians, and strenuous assertors of the right of Private Judgment; and never imagined that, at the end of two hundred years, millions of men would receive their views of doctrine as superior to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and his inspired Apostles, or that Churches would require the reception of their Human Theories, as an essential condition to admission to the Ministerial office, or even to the common ordinances of religion! But, if they had even arrogated infallibility, and claimed authority for the opinions of a human conclave, in dark and bigoted times, many of the statements of the “Confession" are, in themselves, so wonderful, self-contradictory, and anti-scriptural, that one feels astonished and grieved at the melancholy fact of such views having, at any time, received the sanction of Protestant Churches, and still more at their retaining their hold, to a considerable extent, (at least nominally,) even in our own days of comparative enlightenment. I say nominally; for I sincerely believe, that the great mass of the people, in Calvinistic Churches, are not Calvinists in reality—that they have never read the Creed in which they are supposed to believe; and that, if they did read it, they would repudiate its doctrines. In making this statement, I do not design to cast any special reproach upon my Calvinistic brethren, as being neglectful of religious inquiry; for, in this respect, I believe them to be pretty much on a level with the members of other Churches-receiving the religion of their parents or their party, as the religion of the Gospel. This believing upon trust has, in all ages, been the bane of truth and liberty; and, whatsoever may be the evils resulting from the present controversies of rival sects, there is likely to be an increase of individual knowledge and personal Christianity. The canvassing of each others' opinions, in a temperate and candid spirit, will tend immediately to elicit truth, and eventually to promote charity: and, it is mainly with this view that I now propose to give a very brief statement of the several doctrines of the “Westminster Confession of Faith,” which are, I sincerely believe, at variance with the plain teachings and sanctifying principles of the Word of God. That all its doctrines are erroneous, I do not assert, for the worst creed ever put forth by man contains some truth: but I do conceive its errors to be great, manifold, and injurious; and as such, I feel myself bound to expose them, without cherishing one unkind or ungenerous sentiment towards my Calvinistic brethren, to many of whom I am warmly attached by the ties of unfeigned gratitude and
The primary and fundamental error of the “ Westminster Confession,” it holds in common with all the great Churches of Christendom. That error is contained in the second chapter, which relates to the nature of the Divine Being; and appears the more remarkable, coming in connexion and contrast with the following beautiful and Scriptural commencement of the chapter, to which every heart assents:
"There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
How surprising is it to find in immediate connexion with this sublime delineation of the Divine unity, spirituality, and unbounded perfection, the following strange and self-contradictory statement:
“ In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son."
I have called this strange, because there is not one sentence in the entire Bible, which speaks of a Trinity, of three persons in the Godhead, of God the Son, or of God the Holy Ghost; and I have called it self-contradictory, first, because, although one mode of existence is ascribed to the Father, and another to the Son, and another to the Holy Ghost, which would make them three distinct beings, they are nevertheless represented as only one being ; secondly, because the very idea of Father necessarily implies priority of existence to the Son whom he has begotten, and who, consequently, could not be eternal; and, finally, because the Holy Ghost, proceeding both from the Father and the Son, could not have been co-eval with either, and must necessarily have had a derived being instead of that inherent self-existence, essential to the very idea of God.
But, unhappily, this doctrine is not merely self-contradictory: it is also at variance with the great fundamental doctrine of all religionNatural, Jewish, and Christian. It is not my object, in this place, to argue the question of the Divine unity, which is at once the plainest and the sublimest of all truths. I see it in the order and magnificence of the starry heavens: I read it in the ancient Record which saith, “ Thou shalt have no other Gods before me”—“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”_“I am the Lord, I alone, and there is no God with me:" I hear it in the words of his anointed Son, who calls the Father “the only true God," to the exclusion of all other beings; and who constantly refers to his own derived existence, power, and wisdom: I learn it from the great Apostle of the Gentiles, who declares that, “to us, there is but ONE GOD, the Father:" and I find a negative proof of the same great doctrine, in the discreditable fact, that the Westminster Assembly placed at the head of their “Scripture Proofs" for the Doctrine of a Trinity, 1 John v. 7, a text admitted by every candid Trinitarian, to be either an accidental interpolation, or a wilful forgery. Happily, the controversy on this subject is gradually becoming contracted within narrower boundsour so-called Trinitarian brethren being constrained by the overwhelming force of reason and Scripture, to declare that “they also are Unitarians,” and to speak of the Trinity as "a mystery” which, although they believe, they can neither understand nor explain. All this is exceedingly satisfactory; and I should scarcely have adverted to the question at all, as it does not embrace à peculiar doctrine of the “ Westminster Confession,” were it not that this general dogma of assumed Orthodoxy is the main support of the great errors of Calvinistic theology.
Of those peculiar errors, that which stands at the head is contained in the third chapter, and entitled “God's Eternal Decree ;” and, assuredly, whatsoever we may think of the doctrine itself, the couragé and plainness with which it is put forth command our wonder. It runs thus:
“God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.
“'Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foun. dation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.
Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
“The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.
“As for those wicked and ungodly men, whom God as a righteons judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden, from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan: whereby it comes to pass, that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.”
John Calvin, himself, the inventor, or at least the perfecter, of this doctrine, aptly called it “ The Horrible Decree;" and amiable old John Wesley declared, with characteristic force, that, “if true, it would make God worse than the Devil.” Now, I do not design to speak of it in the strong language applied either by its author or its commentator. I have simply placed it before the Christian readerbefore the just-minded, pious, and kind-hearted members of Calvinistic Churches: and I feel convinced that it will pronounce its own doom. Nevertheless, a few plain sentences, written “more in sorrow