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an error of the understanding, but an error of the will; and this 18 clearly insinuated in Scripture, in the style whereof faith and a good life are made one duty, and vice is called opposite to faith, and heresy opposed to holiness and sanctity. Indeed, if we remember that St. Paul reckons heresy amongst the works of the flesh, and ranks it. with all manner of practical impieties, we shall easily perceive, that, if a man mingles not a vice with his opinion, if he be innocent in his life, though deceived in his doctrine, his error is his misery, not his crime. Now, every man that errs, though in a matter of consequence, so long as the foundation is entire, cannot be suspected justly guilty of a crime to give his error a formality of heresy. If his error be not voluntary, and part of an ill life, then, because he lives a good life, he is a good man, and therefore no heretic. A wicked person in his error becomes heretic, when the good man in the same error shall have all the rewards of faith. For whatever an ill man believes, if he therefore believe it because it serves his own ends, be his belief true or false, the man hath an heretical mind; for, to serve his own ends, his mind is prepared to believe a lie. But a good man that believes what, according to his light and upon the use of his moral industry, he thinks true, whether he hits upon the right or no, because he hath a mind desirous of truth, and prepared to believe every truth, is therefore acceptable to God, because nothing hindereth him from it but what he could not help. A man may maintain an opinion that is in itself damnable, and yet he · not knowing it so, and being invincibly led into it—may go to heaven: his opinion shall burn, and himself be saved. However, I find no opinions in Scripture called "damnable" but what are impious in materia practica, or entirely destructive of the faith or the body of Christianity, such of which St. Peter speaks, chap. ii. 1. Abridged from JEREMY TAYLOR: Liberty of Prophesying, sect. ii. 2, 8, 12, 22, 36; in Works, vol. vii. pp. 456, 461-2, 466, 480, 492.
Deluded people! that do not consider, that the greatest heresy in the world is a wicked life, because it is so directly and fundamentally opposite to the whole design of the Christian faith and religion; and that do not consider, that God will sooner forgive a man a hundred defects of his understanding than one fault of his will. — ARCHBISHOP TILLOTSON: Sermon 34; in Works, vol. ii. p. 333, Eond. edit. of 1748.
Hear me with that remnant of meekness and humility which thou hast left, thou confident, bitter, censorious man! Why must that man needs be taken for a heretic; a schismatic; a refractory, stubborn,
self-willed person; an antichristian, carnal, formal man, who is not of thy opinion in point of a controversy, of a form, of an order, of a circumstance, or subscription, or such like? It is possible it may be so; and it is possible thou mayest be more so thyself. But hast thou so patiently heard all that he hath to say, and so clearly discerned the truth on thy own side, and that this truth is made so evident to him as that nothing but wilful obstinacy can resist it, as will warrant all thy censures and contempt? or is it not an overvaluing of thy own understanding which makes thee so easily condemn all as insufferable that differ from it? . . . . . . . Moreover, your course is contrary to Christian humility, and proclaimeth the most abominable pride of the dividers. That you should call all the rest of the world schismatics and heretics, and say that none are Christians but you, why, what are you above other men, that should say, you "Come not near me: I am holier than you"? Have none in the world, think you, faith, hope, and charity, but you? Can you indeed believe that none shall be saved but you? Alas that you should not only so much overlook God's graces in your brethren, but also be so insensible of your own infirmities! Have you so many errors and sins among you, and yet are none of the church but you? - RICHARD BAXTER: Practical Works, vol. xv. pp. 116–17; and vol. xvi. pp. 323-4.
Why are not ecclesiastical bodies as rigid and severe against heresies of practice as they are against heresies of speculation? Certainly there are heresies in morality as well as in theology. Councils and synods reduce the doctrines of faith to certain propositional points, and thunder anathemas against all who refuse to subscribe them. They say, "Cursed be he who does not believe the Divinity of Christ; cursed be he who does not believe the hypostatical union, and the mystery of the cross; cursed be he who denies the inward operations of grace, and the irresistible efficacy of the Holy Spirit!" I wish they would make a few canons against moral heresies. How many are there of this kind among our people! JAMES SAURIN: Sermons, vol. ii. 17. p.
How much soever of a schismatical or heretical spirit, in the apostolic sense of the terms ["schism" and "heresy"], may have contributed to the formation of the different sects into which the Christian world is at present divided, no person who, in the spirit of candor and charity, adheres to that which, to the best of his judgment, is right, though in this opinion he should be mistaken, is, in the Scriptural sense, either schismatic or heretic; and he, on the contrary, whatever sect he belong to, is more entitled to these odious appella
tions, who is most apt to throw the imputation upon others. Both terms, for they denote only different degrees of the same bad quality, always indicate a disposition and practice unfriendly to peace, harmony, and love. DR. GEORGE CAMPBELL: The Four Gospels, Diss. ix. part iv. sect. 15.
Who authorized either you or the pseudo-Athanasius to interpret catholic faith by belief, arising out of the apparent predominance of the grounds for, over those against, the truth of the positions asserted; much more, by belief as a mere passive acquiescence of the understanding? Were all damned who died during the period when totus fere mundus factus est Arianus, as one of the Fathers admits? Alas! alas! how long will it be ere Christians take the plain middle road between intolerance and indifference, by adopting the literal sense and Scriptural import of heresy, that is, wilful error, or belief originating in some perversion of the will; and of heretics (for such there are, nay, even orthodox heretics), that is, men wilfully unconscious of their own wilfulness, in their limpet-like adhesion to a favorite tenet? - SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE: Literary Remains; in Works, vol. v. p. 386–7, as edited by Professor Shedd.
We know no greater heresy than unnecessarily to divide good men, nor any object more worthy of ambition than to conciliate and unite them. Let the profane calumniate; let the sceptic deride; let the bigot frown; let the base and interested partisan seek to cover with unmerited dishonor all who cannot lend themselves to the support of his darling peculiarities, or his still more darling emoluments: but the Christian should endeavor, above all things, to present in his own practice, and so to win upon his brethren that they may equally present in theirs, the all-attractive spectacle of fidelity, tempered with goodness, and blended with humility and love. — DR. ROBERT STEPHENS M'ALL : Discourses, vol. i. p. 300.
Dr. M'ALL was an English Independent, or Orthodox Congregationalist, whose Discourses were edited after his death by the celebrated Wardlaw. They are replete with Christian sentiment, expressed in a high tone of eloquence.
Meantime, I wish to remind you, that one of St. Paul's favorite notions of heresy is "a doting about strifes of words." One side may be right in such a strife, and the other wrong; but both are heretical as to Christianity, because they lead men's minds away from the love of God and of Christ to questions essentially tempting to the intellect, and which tend to no profit towards godliness. And, again, I
think you will find that all the "false doctrines" spoken of by the apostles are doctrines of sheer wickedness; that their counterpart in modern times is to be found in the Anabaptists of Munster, or the Fifth Monarchy men, or in mere secular high churchmen or hypocritical evangelicals, in those who make Christianity minister to lust, or to covetousness, or to ambition; not in those who interpret Scripture to the best of their conscience and ability, be their interpretation ever so erroneous. Make the church a living and active society, like that of the first Christians, and then differences of opinion will either cease, or will signify nothing. Look through the Epistles, and you will find nothing there condemned as heresy but what was mere wickedness, if you consider the real nature and connection of the tenets condemned. For such differences of opinion as exist among Christians now, the fourteenth chapter of the Romans is the applicable lesson; not such passages as Tit. iii. 10, or 2 John 10, 11, or Jude 3 (that much abused verse), or 19 or 23. There is one anathema which is, indeed, holy and just, and most profitable for ourselves as well as for others, 1 Cor. xvi. 22; but this is not the anathema of a fond theology. DR. THOMAS ARNOLD: Letters 70, 71; in Life and Correspondence, pp. 221–2.
If persons make their own crotchets articles of faith, and insist upon a perfect uniformity where it is not insisted upon by Jesus, they are schismatics of the very worst stamp, while yet they are proclaiming themselves strenuous advocates for the truth. GAVIN STRUTHERS : Party Spirit, its Prevalence and Insidiousness; in Essays on Christian Union, p. 420.
Such sentiments are honorable alike to the heads and the hearts of those who penned them. They are the deductions of sound reason, or the outbursts of virtuous indignation, against the dicta of a presumptuous and an impious Infallibility, which decides, by feeling and prejudice and passion, what are truth and error, saving faith and damnable opinion. They may be regarded as indirect testimonies to the value of Christian Unitarianism; for, attached as the witnesses were to Trinitarian doctrines, they clung still more devotedly to the principles of Christian charity; and these principles are surely better promoted by a belief in the doctrine of One Universal Father, who "is Love," than by that of a Trinity of persons in the Godhead, with its accompanying tenets. Happily, however, for Christendom, the wisdom and goodness which are the legitimate fruits of gospel simplicity have a more powerful influence on the hearts and conduct of many of the professors of reputed Orthodoxy, than the barren crudities, the metaphysical absurdities, and infallible dogmas of creeds.
THE CONSTITUENTS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. WISE AND GOOD MEN IN ALL DENOMINATIONS.
What is a Church? - Let Truth and Reason speak,
He that fears the Lord of heaven and earth, walks humbly before him, thankfully lays hold of the message of redemption by Christ Jesus, strives to express his thankfulness by the sincerity of his obedience, is sorry with all his soul when he comes short of his duty, walks watchfully in the denial of himself, and holds no confederacy with any lust or known sin; if he falls in the least measure, is restless till he hath made his peace by true repentance, is true to his promise, just in his actions, charitable to the poor, sincere in his devotions; that will not deliberately dishonor God, though with the greatest security of impunity; that hath his hope in heaven, and his conversation in heaven; that dare not do an unjust act, though never so much to his advantage, and all this because he sees Him that is invisible, and fears him because he loves him; fears him as well for his goodness as his greatness, such a man, whether he be an Episcopal, or a Presbyterian, or an Independent, or a Baptist; whether he wears a surplice, or wears none; whether he hears organs, or hears none; whether he kneels at the communion, or for conscience' sake stands or sits, he hath the life of religion in him, and that life acts in him, and will conform his soul to the image of his Saviour, and walk along with him to eternity, notwithstanding his practice or non-practice of these indifferents. SIR MATTHEW HALE: A Discourse of Religion, pp. 33-4, Lond. 1684.
It is a hard case that we should think all Papists and Anabaptists and Sacramentaries to be fools and wicked persons. Certainly, among all these sects, there are very many wise men and good men, as well as erring. And although some... do not think their adversaries look like other men, yet certainly we find, by the results of their discourses and the transactions of their affairs of civil society, that they are men that speak and make syllogisms, and use reason, and read Scripture; and although they do no more understand all of it than we do, yet they endeavor to understand as much as concerns them, even all that they can, even all that concerns repentance from dead works,