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all societies, which may become a lure to unprincipled and ambitious men? And, is there not this decided advantage, in the case of those societies in which confessions are adopted, that, if the wolf enter into the fold at all, he must steal in, and in sheep's clothing? In which case, his propensity to plunder must be checked; or, if. n course of time, it is evinced, there are effectual means at hand, by which to drive him away from the pasture into which he has intruded. Again,it is to be observed, that the influence of an acknowledged creed, as a security against erroneous doctrine, is seen in the attempts made by those who entertain opposing sentiments, to discard it altogether. The history of our own Church illustrates this observation. The Westminster Confession was her original bond of union. But, in the lapse of time, and owing to a want of vigilance in its application, there crept in an order of men, who disowned all its peculiar principles, and departed from sound doctrine. And, what was the result? An avowed disuse, if not departure from this venerable symbol; in consequence of which, our Church was overrun with heresy, and lost her character as a witness for the truth. The confession of our fathers was felt to be a burthen by their degenerate sons; and, therefore, they renounced it altogether, leaving to their successors of the present day, the duty and the toil of reasserting the old doctrine of the Reformation, and, through a host of difficulties, of replanting the old standard of the faith upon the battlements of Zion.
In fine, in answer to all objections, it ought to be stated, that they (the advocates of creeds and confessions,) never have maintained that the end of their adoption can be gained without a faithful application of the Church's discipline. A creed is, to all purposes, useless, unless its authority is maintained. Its principles may be the purest ever drawn from revelation; yet will they be of no avail, unless they regulate its application. The Church must sink into contempt, if, while she professes to know God, and to maintain his testimony, she practically denies him. Discipline is the defence of all the glory of Zion. If she maintain its fences strong and unbroken, she will stand secure, and bid defiance to every intruder into the Lord's heritage. If, with a pure and Scriptural confession, she sinks into indifference, and neglects to maintain it faithfully, her confession will only serve to exhibit present degeneracy; as contrasted with past attainments, it will be a standing memorial of her apostacy and weakness. And, if it be demanded what discipline should be inflicted on a man who avows opinions different from the profession of the Church, we
would reply, with the Apostle, "a man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject." "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, from such, withdraw thyself." "He that troubleth you shall bear his udgment, whosoever he be. I would they were even cut off vo trouble you."
We had intended, in this article, to have noticed some of the grounds of objection made to certain passages of the Westminster Confession. Our space, however, does not, at present, admit that we should enter more at large, and another opportunity may soon offer, at which we may recur to the subject. We regret that any division should yet exist among the brethren, in reference to the Westminster Confession,-we respect the scruples of conscientious men, and would deal with them accordingly; and we are not without a hope, that at the adjourned meeting of the Synod of Ulster, many of their difficulties will be obviated and removed. Meanwhile, we solicit, for the Church to which we belong, the prayers and sympathies of all her people; and we express our fervent hope, that she will, ere long, be at rest from all her agitations, -that, having adjusted whatsoever may not yet be settled in her order and administration, she will enjoy a long cessation from the assaults of controversy, and, in this day of change and of excitement, may exhibit to the world the goodly spectacle of a Church, fixed on the immoveable foundations of truth and righteousness,
THE HON. BARON SMITH ON CREEDS AND CONFESSIONS.
[NOTWITHSTANDING the length of the preceding article, we cannot resist the temptation of subjoining the following argument for Creeds and Confessions, from a quarter all the more gratifying, because wholly unexpected,- -we refer to the speech of Baron Smith, in giving judgment in the Clough Case. It is seldom, indeed, that this subject is approached by any save ministers of the Gospel; and their arguments, « unhappily, are often regarded as the efforts of men to defend a mere selfish interest. But here we have the words of one to whom it cannot be said, your craft is in danger,-and not only of a disinterested, but most able advocate, Baron Smith is one of the most profound lawyers, accomplished scholars, and acute metaphysicians, of the day; and, we <repeat; it is with delight we refer to his words. They contain, in a brief space, an admirable exposition of the principle, and a sound de fence of the use of Creeds and Confessions.]
“I UNHESITATINGLY agree with him, (Mr. Holmes,) that the Bible is the rule, the only rule of faith; that it is the star which
is wanting to guide the wisest amongst us to the true sanctuary, where we should bow and devoutly offer the incense and worship of the heart. I agree with him, that to appeal from the Word of God to the opinions or decrees of man, is, as irrationally as impiously, to withdraw our faith and allegiance from perfection, infallibility, and truth, and transfer them to infirmity, fallibility, and error; and I also agree with him, that we are not to coerce our neighbour into an adoption of our belief; but I at the same time hold, first, that the Scriptures must be interpreted, before they can become a rule of common faith; that men's interpretation of the Bible constitutes the foundations of their faith; that the members of a community, who, after having searched the Scriptures, all concur in giving one interpretation to these fundamental and essential contents, that these, I say, form one religious body or Church; while those who construe the Scriptures differently from them, but in concurrence with each other, form another distinct religious community or Church. Again, I do not conceive that I appeal from the Word of God to that of man, by proclaiming or attesting, by my signature, that I concur in the interpretation given by a body of my fellow Christians to certain passages of Scripture. They agree with me, I agree with them, in interpretation and consequent creed; but neither takes his belief on the authority of the other's; both draw their faith from the Bible as its common source; both consider the Bible as containing the only rule of, and furnishing the only unerring guide to, a true faith; each, with God's assistance, and the subordinate and pious aid of human instruction, interprets, as well as man's infirmity will permit; both coincide in the same interpretation; that interpretation regulates their faith; and all who thus coincide, become members of the same religion. And thirdly, we do not coerce our neighbour by calling for his signature to our profession or articles of faith; we leave him free to adopt or repudiate that faith, according as his reason, his conscience, and the grace of God may direct him. We but say to him, if you agree with us, affix your signature to certain articles, or in some way testify your recognition of their truth; or if you disagree, withhold such signature or declaration. And we say of him in the former case, that he is, and in the latter case that he is not of our religion; we do not compel him to hold our faith, we but ask him to inform us, by certain acts, whether he does hold it, or does not; and we ask this only, if he claim to be enrolled as one of our body, and to be in religious communion with us. In the absence of such
a test, an establishment would not be a rock, cemented into solidity by harmonious uniformity of opinion. It would be a mere incongruous heap of, as it were, grains of sand, thrown together without being united, each of these intellectual and isolated grains differing from every other; and the whole forming a but nominally united, while really unconnected mass, fraught with nothing but internal dissimilitude, and mutual and reciprocal contradiction and dissension: hic dextrorsum abil ille sinistrorsum. This indeed I should hold to be, in the language of a late prelate, a Church without a religion.' But all, it may be said, admit the Scriptures to form the only rule of faith. Is this a bond of union? Alone, the admission is not a sufficient one; it is but a part of such a bond. It is, no doubt, indispensable and fundamental, but not furnishing, of itself, a sufficiently broad foundation, upon which to rear a concordant and uniform faith. I admit,' says one, 'the Scriptures as the only rule of faith; and therefore I am a Trinitarian.' 'I, too,' says another, admit the Bible to be the only rule of faith; but therefore I am a Unitarian. I admit the mediation, the inspiration, perhaps the pre-existence, and even more than angelic nature, but I utterly deny the divinity of Christ.' A third, perhaps, goes farther, and while he professes and honestly intends to derive his creed from the Holy Scriptures, insists that our blessed Saviour was merè man, a prophet, a divinely inspired person, but a mere man. Do these three theologians belong to the same religion; do they maintain the same doctrine; do they concur in the same faith? If they do, then, as Pilate said, 'what is truth?' I should be disposed to inquire, what is faith?' Yet these three individuals all admit the Bible as the rule or guide of faith; this admission cements a momentary union, but their mutually contrarient interpretation of that Bible, in the next moment crum. bles that precarious and transient union into dust. No; admission of the divine authority of Scripture, compounded with concordant interpretation of it, is what permanently consolidates a Society of Christian worshippers into one and the same religion."
AN ATHEIST CONVERTED BY ONE WORD.
In a work entitled "Religion considered as the only basis of happiness and true philosophy," is mentioned the following incident:-"Others, after having doubted all their lives, change, in a moment, their sentiments and dispositions. I know a man
of great sense, and very high character, whose conversion was brought about by a single word. He was yet in the age of the passions; he had never possessed the least principle of reli gion; and he prided himself upon being an Atheist. One day, in the presence of an ecclesiastic, equally distinguished by his eminent virtues and talents, he affected to brave all decorum, which ought, at that instant, to have constrained him to hold his tongue, at least; and, after having given him a detail of his sentiments and opinions, he ironically added, that, according to every appearance, he should never be converted. 'Ab,' exclaimed the ecclesiastic, who till then had been silent, "if you could, then, but hope! He said no more, he got up, and went out. But these words made a deep impression upon the heart of the Atheist. He had no difficulty to comprehend their energetic meaning. He felt himself moved and affected. A crowd of new reflections presented themselves to his mind, -he longed to see and converse with the man who had produced in him so strange a revolution. The next day, he even went in search of him, he opened to him his heart, asked his advice, hearkened to him with attention, with eagerness: and from that moment renounced, for ever, the vain sophisms of false philosophy. Such is the power of grace; it can produce in a moment the most surprising metamorphosis, and its effects ever confound the incredulous observer, who shall be acquainted with the human heart."
BELFAST SABBATH-SCHOOL UNION.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ORTHODOX PRESBYTERIAN.
SIR,-The following paper has been issued by the members of the Belfast Sabbath-School Union; and it seems so important, that I think it worthy of circulation, as far as your valuable periodical extends. It contains a pressing call to the members of the Christian Church, in Belfast, to come forward, with more zeal, in the great cause of Sabbath-school instruction. It is my earnest desire, that this call should be heard, through the length and breadth of the land, by all professing Christians, who have not yet put their hands to this most interesting and necessary work,-who are living in unholy apathy, in the midst of multitudes of young persons, who are nearly as ignorant of the doctrines and duties of Christianity as the natives of Tartary. Do such professors reflect, that if they have opportunity and ability to engage in this work and labour of love, and refuse to do so, they are acting in the spirit of Cain, when he said, "Am I my brother's keeper ?" and at the day of judgment, the blood of neglected souls may be found on the skirts of their garments? Do they reflect,