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The influence which ecclesiastical organizations exert upon the great questions of reform, for which this age is so noted, is, or may be known to all. By those who have spoken and written so largely on this point, it has been abundantly shown that these organizations oppose almost the greatest obstacles to their progress with which they have to contend.
This opposition to independent enquiry after truth, and to the progress of moral reformation, is not merely an incidental thing; being constituted as these organizations are, it cannot be otherwise. Like popery they are national in their formation. One part cannot act without the other. Their influence is a unit. On the subject of free investigation and reform in general, they must of necessity exert vast moral power; and of equal necessity that power must be for or against. They cannot be neutral. "Nor can they favor any given reform until the prevailing influence which controls these organizations is brought to take right ground respecting it; and all history shows that men occupying high ecclesiastical stations are the last to be true reformers their reforms are almost invariably backward. The conclu-. sion is, that every reform in which new principles are brought to view, or old ones receive new applications, in its beginnings, when it most needs aid, is sure to receive from the powers that rule the church, cold neglect, or heated opposition. When this reform is well nigh carried among the people, and not before, these same powers will give it their support, and in all probability, profess at the same time to have always been its friends—to have been opposed only to the fanatical measures by which it was advanced.
Now the last great question, and one which has been kept in view from the commencement of our remarks, isWhat, in respect to those church organizations, which, as we have seen, in matters of religion are despotic in their nature and action, ought to be aimed at? Will anything less than revolution in their leading features of government, enable them to meet the wants and demands of the church and world? If they are fundamentally opposed to the form of church government laid down in the scriptures; if they adopt as their own the great pillar of popery, and maintain the right in matters of religious faith and practice, to hold over the intellect and conscience, of the bulk of their members, despotic power; if they are necessarily at war with the true principles of government and the legitimate objects of church organization; if they are the great antagonists of free thought
and moral reformation all of which we have endeavored to show; the inevitable inference is, that revolution is indispensable. In view of the premises, the correctness of this conclusion is so manifest and logical, as to need no further support by argument. Let these organizations be conducted as well as their nature admits of a thing which we cannot expect -still all the above objections lie against them; for they are objections which affect not so much their abuses, as their vital principles of existence. If the positions on which this conclusion rests have been sustained, of which the reader must judge, the conclusion itself is irresistible.
Our original design of concluding this article with a statement of the nature and philosophy of those operations by which this great revolution in the government of the church is to be effected, and pure independency be substituted in the place of what now exists, must of necessity, for want of space, be abandoned. We will simply add that among the thousands who would rejoice to see this change effected, there will be found three classes of persons, and three kinds of policy. All will feel that the work is great, difficult and delicate. One class, pained at the evils which exist, like Erasmus of the sixteenth century, will fear to speak lest they should do more harm than good, or lest they should arouse against themselves an influence which they have not the self-denial and moral firmness to resist. From these but little can be expected. Another class, losing all self-control, and urged on by the spirit of impatience and hate, will attack these institutions with the most vindictive epithets, and treat all connected with them as if they were in league with the prince of darkness. It is to be hoped that between these two another class will be found, who shall realize the greatness of the work, and the impracticability of effecting it fully for a long time to come; and who, prompted by the spirit of wisdom, meekness and Christian love, shall speak and act with firmness, and never tire or faint, till the government of the church is established on the true basis, or they are called home to their great reward. To this class mainly, under God must we look for valuable and efficient effort in all true reform; and especially in this, which requires so much of firmness on the one hand, and of forbearance and kindness on the other.
Scriptural Doctrine and Duty of Faith.
By Rev. S. D, COCHRAN.
THERE is not a more important subject, nor one demanding more profound consideration, in the whole circle of Theology and pure morality than that of Faith. The uniform representations of the Bible place it in the very foreground of doctrine and duty, making its exercise the connecting and vital bond between the renovated soul and God.
There are three obvious, grand reasons why the Bible gives it this prominence; namely,
1, Its intrinsic nature, and the relations it sustains to genuine virtue.
2, The difficulty with which mankind conceive of its true nature; and,
3, Their extreme proneness to endeavor to become virtuous without it, whenever they put forth any endeavors at all in reference to that end.
It should, perhaps, be noted here that a perversion or rejection of the doctrine of faith invariably characterizes every form of error which has ever corrupted the Church or tainted its members. Its history in all past ages shows this fact on every page. In the times of Christ and his apostles, it was almost impossible to find faith on the earth, only as they promoted it. The Jews were relying on their traditions and ceremonies, and their relation to Abraham, as the grounds of their salvation; and consequently repudiated the doctrine of dependence on the grace of God. Their perverted faith led them simply to an outward observance of rites and ceremonies, in which no loyalty of heart was found.
Such also was the case with the nominal church for a long time previous to the Reformation. With rare exceptions, here and there, all christendom had departed from the conception and exercise of true faith, and was whirling round in the maelstrom of mere outward forms, corrupted moralities and vitiated worship. They neither knew nor practiced the doctrine of simple reliance on the grace of God in Christ Jesus for justification and sanctification. So far were they estranged from the truth on this subject, that, when Luther raised his Lion voice, proclaiming it, they were not only startled but shocked at it as audacious and damning heresy. But a small portion, comparatively, hailed it as 'truth, while the mass, with the Pope at their head, have to this day, just as the Jews have done since the days of Christ, persisted in the error of their ways.
Such too was the case in England, quite generally, in the established Church, when the Wesleys and Whitfield and their compeers and coadjutors sounded the alarm and summoned them back to a pure faith and a pure worship; and, even to this day, high churchism turns away the mass of its adherents from this vital source of true godliness, and leads them to rituals and hollow observances. Modern Puseyism, seeking a deeper plunge in the ditch of Romanism, is but the ripening result of its estrangement from this cardinal condition of sound Christianity.
Nor is Antinomianism in any of its forms less void of this element. Supposing that faith releases from obligation to obey the law, and denouncing as legality and rejection of the gospel the enforcement of its claim, it “ becomes as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal."
This same grand defect or perversion characterizes modern Transcendentalism. It has as much to say about faith as if it actually meant it, and not something else directly contrary to it. The faith of which it talks so much through the pages of Carlyle and Emerson and its minor oracles, scouts a propitiatory atonement and involves no dependence on God for redeeming and sanctifying grace. It is faith in the godlikeness and progressiveness of man, and anticipates no difficulty in finding acceptance with, or absorption into God, without any such useless process as regeneration and reliance on a Mediator. It expects to scale heaven with the upright wing if not of its own merit, at least of its own innocence!
Thus every perversion of Christianity repudiates or perverts the glorious doctrine and high duty of faith; some turning into mere intellectual belief; some into superstitious credulity; and some into impious self-reliance. How important then must it be to ascertain its true nature, conditions, implications, grounds and relations; and to distinguish it from all its theoretical and practical counterfeits. It is the design of this article to aid in the achievement of this all-important result. We will be guided in pursuing the subject by the following method:
1. Show that there are two essentially distinct kinds of faith which we can exercise, and designate them.
II. Show the conditions of exercising each of them.
III. Show that, of these two kinds of faith, that which we denominate intellectual is not, and that which we denominate voluntary is, the faith, which, in the Bible, is enjoined as the essential condition of justification, sanctification and eternal salvation.
IV. Show the main grounds which constitute the warrant and obligation to exercise it.
V. Show what is essentially involved in the exercise of voluntary faith.
VI. Show what is the proper evidence to any one that he exercises it.
I. Discriminate between and designate two essentially distinct kinds of faith which mankind are capable of exercising.
To illustrate the existence and difference of these two kinds of faith, suppose two persons hear a discourse fraught with sacred inculcations, and both assent to the truth of every proposition and presentation which falls from the preacher's lips, and say they believe it. But suppose one of them goes away as he came, exercising no confidence in the character or promises of God, and expecting no communications of sanctifying and saving grace at his hand. He assents merely but does not consent to the truth, and goes forth as formerly to will and work as if it were a falsehood or a fable. He believes, but his belief does not embrace his will nor his works as the truth demands; it does not control and direct his life. Or, if you please, he goes away convicted and distressed by what he has heard of the character and government of God, of the justice of his threatenings, and of his own guilt and danger. Perchance he even tries to pray, and resolves to amend his life. He believes, according to this supposition, in a more positive sense than according to the former. His belief now prompts him to put forth action; but still he does not actually confide in the character and promises of God—he does not commit and relinquish himself unreservedly to the sovereign and gracious disposal of God.
Now suppose, on the contrary, the other goes away in this very respect altogether different from what he came. He goes away consenting as well as assenting to the truth-relying on God, according to his invitations and promises for grace and salvation. He has unconditionally and unreservedly committed himself to his sovereign and all gracious disposal, as one would commit himself to a friend in whom he knew there was no guilt, and now confidently expects the fulfillment. of all his declarations.