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gods to witness, forbid us to be enemies; and that person, who is conscious to himself of having neglected them, in my opinion can never be happy; for whoev er becomes the object of divine wrath, I know no swiftness can save him, no darkness hide him, no strong place defend him, since in all places, all things are subject to their power; every where they are equally lords of all. This is my opinion concerning both our oaths, and the gods, whom we have made the depositories of our friendship."
It would fill a volume to cite the proofs of this reverence for superior beings, among the ancient Pagans. Suffice it to say, that all historical records abound with examples. And it is par ticularly observable, that the historians constantly ascribe public calamities to the anger of the gods. Earthquakes, plagues, great disasters of every kind are represented, as the just punishment of men for their wickedness and impiety; and sacrifices to appease the gods and avert their vengeance seem to have been co
eval with the human race.
"The gods (the only great and only
Are mov'd by offerings, vows, and sacrifice; Offending man their high compassion wins, And daily prayers atone for daily sins."
We see therefore sentiments of piety have been common to the pagan, as well as Christian world; but for want of just ideas of the true God, and his will, this reverence of the pagan nations was ill-directed, and often marked by the wildest absurdities. The Christian alone is blessed Vol. II. No. 7. RR
with a revelation of the divine character, the only object of true piety and devotion. A.
SURVEY OF NEW-ENGLAND
(Continued from page 274.)
ONE cannot have lived long in New-England under advantages to obtain information, without observing that a growing contempt of creeds and confessions of faith is characteristic of the present times.* They are abundantly decried, as useless inventions, having no tendency to promote the interests of truth and reli
gion. They are represented, as fruitful sources of debate and contention. They are exclaimed against, as inconsistent with the natural liberty of mankind, and the sacred freedom of Christianity. They are stigmatized, as arbitrary impositions, engines of spiritual tyranny. In short, they are loaded with all the reproaches, which distinguished wit and learning can furnish. In consequence of this, they are generally undervalued, and, in inany of our churches, are falling into dis
As this is deemed a great evil, and as there is, in these hazardous times, peculiar danger of its gaining ground and increasing its baneful influence; we judge
For the substance of what is to he exhibited on confessions of faith, Pastor acknowledges himself indebted to a large preface to the Assembly's confession of faith, written by W. Dunlop, Regius Professor of Divinity and Ecclesiastical History in the Uni versity of Edinburgh.
it necessary, as far as possible, to furnish a seasonable antidote. Accordingly, this will be the subject of the present and some following numbers of the SURWe shall endeavour to remove the contempt which is cast on creeds and confessions of faith, by a brief statement of their design and advantages, and to invalidate the objections raised against them by fair and rational answers. This discussion, it is hoped, will lead the churches of New-England to consider the great evil of contemning and disusing confessions of faith.
One use of confessions is, to give to the world a fair and authentic account of the doctrines maintained by the Christian church. Mankind have frequently, if not generally, mistaken, and misrepresented the faith of the church, and loaded Christianity with groundless calumnies. The religion of the gospel, in its tender years, was peculiarly exposed to abuse. Its Author, while he lived, was persecuted by the fury and barbarity of his enemies. After his decease, they endeavoured to blacken his memory and his doctrine by the vil"est aspersions. His religion was disguised with a false face, and rendered unamiable and monstrous by reproach. And the world were likely to form their opinion of it, not from a careful examination of its nature, but from the misrepresentations of its adversaries. In such circumstances, how evidently necessary was it for the honour of religion, that Christians should give a fair representation of the doctrines which they believed.
men, who have scarcely retained one principle of religion, and have embraced the most absurd and impious doctrines, have usurped the honourable name of Christians; in consequence of which the multitude, confounding all together, who bear the same title, have entertained views exceedingly injurious to Christian cause. They have attributed to the real disciples of Jesus, the errors and immoralities of those, who have been disciples in name only. It has, therefore, been of the last importance, that true believers, by publishing summaries of the Christian faith, should distinguish themselves from every erroneous sect, and furnish the world with advantages to form some proper notions of their religion.
This has been the more necessary. from age to age, because
This necessity existed in á high degree at the reformation. The papists, inspired with irreconcileable enmity against the glory of Messiah's kingdom, used every engine in their power to obscure the light of divine truth, then breaking forth, and to stop the progress of the reformation. They defamed the characters of the reformers, and violently traduced their doctrines. Accordingly, it was one great end of the confessions of faith which they composed, to shew the falsity of the charges published against them, and to convince princes, and emperors, and the world, of the unreasonableness of their persecutors.
The same reason had influence with the assembly of divines, who composed the Westminster confession and catechisms. And the same reason justifies Christians at this day in the use of confessions. Never
was a day, when a greater variety of false doctrines were propagated, and when error had more talents and zeal engaged in its cause. Nor was there ever a time, when the sentiments of believers were more openly calumniated, or when the church of Christ was more disturbed and disgraced by the multitude of false brethren. It is, therefore, highly important, that the faithful servants of Christ should exhibit a plain, and somewhat full account of their religious principles. Not willing to be confounded with all who bear the Christian name, they crave this justice, that the world would judge of them by the creed which they embrace, and the conduct which they practically approve. From every mistaken and slanderous representation, they make their appeal to those authentic vouchers of their sentiments, which are found in their confessions of faith.
Now if, according to the spirit of modern catholicism, confessions of faith should be wholly laid aside, the world would be deprived of one important advantage for distinguishing the friends of Christ from others, and so be in greater danger of forming confused and unjust conceptions of Christianity. In such a state of things, the faith of Christ's people must be judged by the opinions which commonly prevail. They would want the best advantage to clear their principles from perverse reproaches, and to designate them selves, as the faithful advocates of gospel truth. This effect of setting aside confessions would gratify the enemies of the gospel, and give them power to use
every hostile weapon with great
Secondly. By publishing plain and solemn declarations of their faith, believers design to show that they own the doctrines of Christ with cheerfulness and zeal ; that his religion, though hated and despised by the impious, is the object of their veneration; that they glory in the gospel, as their most valuable possession, and feel grate ful to God for such an unspeaka ble gift.
When God bestows distinguishing gifts, his people should not bury them in ungrateful silence, but seize every opportunity to make them known to the world, and to testify their gratitude to the bountiful Giver. Now in what way can God bless a people more than by causing the pure light of truth to shine upon them? The gospel is the noblest privilege, the most precious gift. Christians should acknowledge it with the sincerest praise, and embrace every opportunity to testify their esteem for its heavenly doctrines. This is done by the practice here recommended. Every time the faithful churches of Christ publish their confessions, they own their obligations to the infinite goodness of God for the gospel, proclaim their adherence to the divine truths contained in it, and glory in them as their crown.
As it is the duty of Christians, upon all proper occasions, to acknowledge with confidence the truths of the gospel, and never to be ashamed to profess them before men; so there are some seasons which afford peculiar motives to this duty. For example, if any of the doctrines of our holy religion should be in
jured by clamorous reproaches, and to glory in them as our highest and exposed to contempt ; if the honour. Let us account it our ordinances of God are regarded privilege to retain the faith of with disdain and represented as the reformation, particularly that insignificant by the rich and doctrine of grace, which attribthe learned ; in such a case, forutes every step in the salvation churches, that have preserved of sinners to God, and no part of their integrity, to be ashamed of it to man. True wisdom will Christ's cause, to conceal his teach us to undervalue the caldoctrines, and retire into a corn- umny of proud adversaries. er, would be inglorious and base. Christian fortitude will never be In such a time, God expects that moved from the foundation of his people will openly avow con- truth by ridicule and slander. temned truth, and espouse its in- Contempt and reproach, in such terests the more earnestly, be a cause, we may gladly bind upon cause it is misrepresented and our head, as a crown of glory. vilified by others.
And if, in many churches of Unhappily this is the case at which we hoped better things, the present day. Numberless divine truth has lost much of its heresies have crept into the purity and lustre ; we should church, and the minds of men reckon it the more indispensable are enchanted with the enticing duty, openly to maintain evanforms of error. With a great gelical principles, and the more part insolent reproach and cun- distinguished honour and happining sophistry triumph over the ness, to be free from the infecinterests of truth. Some of the tion of error. most important doctrines of Thirdly. By confessions of Christianity, which were reput- faith the churches mey contribute ed of the highest value at the much to mutual comfort and edifireformation, and were received cation, and promote brotherly love with the warmest affection by and unity. the primitive worthies of New
They, who are animated by England, are not only disbeliev, fervent zeal for religion, feel sened, but branded with the most sible pleasure when it Aourishes odious epithets, as the offspring in the world, especially when it of narrow, gloomy bigotry, and maintains its ground in the midst even abhorred, as blasphemous. of vigilant and powerful enemies., This is particularly the case with The faithful subjects of Messiah the doctrines of man's native de- love him with the warmest afpravity, the deity and atonement fection. The glory of his em. of Christ, God's eternal decrees pire is the dearest object of their and electing love, his absolute desires. The more that empire dominion over all creatures, and flourishes and the more his his distinguishing, sovereign throne is exalted, the greater grace toward his people.
joy flows into their hearts. Er. In such circumstances, ery victory of truth over error, ought to stand forth, as faithful and of grace over sin, yields witnesses for the truth, to assert them exquisite delight. When, with boldness the principles of therefore, cliurches, which emChristianity in their full extent, brace the same Christian doc
trines, publish authentic declarations of their faith, they give pious satisfaction to each other. They afford the whole body of believers that pleasure, which those, who are inspired with the highest esteem for the truth, must receive from its establishment and propagation in the world. Every view which a saint has of a church, or a person maintaining the same faith with himself, especially when it is abandoned by others around him, enlivens his feelings and comforts his heart.
The only reason why men do not see and feel, how excellent is this end of confessions, is because they have not an affectionate regard for religion, and do not make Jerusalem their chief joy. The bulk of professors, lukewarm and degenerate, prefer their own interests before the interests of Christ, and so are little affected with the boldness of his enemies, the wounding of his cause, or the triumph of his grace.
All the real churches of Christ scattered over the earth, by whatever peculiarities they may be distinguished from each other, compose only one society, are animated by one Spirit, governed by the same maxims, invigorated by strength derived from the same source, and are all members of that body, of which Christ is the head. Thus all the subjects of Christ's kingdom are joined together by the strictest bonds, and are laid under invio-' lable obligations to the most intimate friendship, the most ardent love. They should persevere in uninterrupted harmony, and keep up that holy fellowship with each other, which they all
enjoy with the Father and with the Son.
One means, by which the different parts of Christ's church are to maintain a good correspondence and happy communion, is the sameness of their faith, or their agreement in the same gospel doctrines. The apostle mentions faith, as one thing which constitutes unity among Christians. "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." It is easy to perceive that creeds are well adapted to promote among the churches the happy communion here recommended. By publish ing their confessions, they express Christian affection and fel-' lowship towards all in every place, who receive the same com mon faith.
It can, indeed, be hardly ex pected, that sincere Christians, while inhabitants of these cloudy regions, will perfectly agree in their religious opinions. This' happiness is reserved for that world, where God himself is the Sun. But it is a most melan-' choly consideration, that Christians are more divided in their affections, than they are in their sentiments. Love is the peculiar character of our religion. And it is one of its precepts, that whereunto we have already attained, we should all walk by the same rule and mind the same things. Now there are few means better calculated to promote mutual love and fellowship, than a right use of confessions. This would directly distinguish between those who are infected by prevailing error, and those who held the un corrupted faith of the gospel; and, at the same time, would make it evident, that all the true servants of Christ harmonize not only in