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much designed to teach them new truths, as to remind them of "the certainty of those things wherein they had been instructed1." They exhort them " to hold fast the form of sound words, which they had heard," to "stand fast, and hold the traditions, which they had been taught, whether by word or epistle" "to continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and not to be moved away from the hope of the gospel, which they had heard, and which was preached to them." To "continue in the things which they had learned, and had been assured of, knowing of whom they had learned them." To "hold fast the faithful word as they had been taught." The epistles abound in expressions of this kind, all pointing to the truth, that the scheme of Christian faith was conveyed to the first converts by the preaching of the Apostles; and that it was the office of those, who were duly authorised for this purpose, to "commit to faithful men, able to teach others, the things that they had themselves heard of the Apostles among many witnesses." The Apostolic writings therefore were never intended to teach the body of Christian doctrine to persons utterly ignorant of the truth. This was the office of the Apostles themselves in their preaching, and of those who were duly commissioned by them to carry on this
1 Luke i. 4.
4 Col. i. 23.
2 2 Tim. i. 13.
7 2 Tim. xi. 2.
3 2 Thess. iii. 15.
work. The scriptures came in to explain, to establish, to correct, to edify. The church taught that, which it had received as a precious deposit from the Lord. The written word was given as the perpetual rule of faith, to which all teaching was to be referred, and on which alone its authority was to rest. And for this purpose its sanctions were so fully supplied, that no portion of necessary truth has been left without this confirmation. Therefore, though the scriptures were not the primary or sole channel of conveying the revelation of God to man-though the scheme of Christian faith was not drawn out of them, but they arose out of it; still is it the case, that, "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith"."
It might not perhaps be difficult, on a fitting occasion, to point out advantages, obvious even to our capacities, which arise from the method, in which it has pleased the Almighty to reveal his will. We might remark, that, while in this manner the whole of God's counsels, which it was needful for us to know, have been fully declared, they have been throughout revealed in a more striking and intimate connection with our practical
8 Art. vi.
duties than, as far as we can judge, would have been the case, had they been set forth in the form of a systematic statement of doctrinal truth: while at the same time the evidence for the genuineness of the revelation has been increased to no inconsiderable extent.
We are at present however only so far concerned with this subject, as to set before us the fact, that such is the character of the revelation contained in the scriptures; and that these Apostolic epistles especially are simply letters, written to the different churches of the Christian world on the occasion of such circumstances, as naturally called them forth. Here was a church, to which for its steadfast perseverance in well doing the expression of its founder's approbation might seem justly due. There was one, the largeness of whose contributions to the necessities of the saints called for thanks from him, who ministered to those necessities. Here, through the agency of false teachers, errors and superstitions were creeping in. There the prejudices of judaism, or the corruptions of heathenism were but imperfectly rooted out. A fuller knowledge of the doctrines of Christianity was required in one place: a firmer faith in the hopes it supplied was needed in another: and the courage and constancy of those who were fainting under tribulation, or giving way under persecution, was in a third to be confirmed by all the encou
ragements the gospel could hold out-by all the consolations the Apostle could suggest.
It is true that, as the remedy for all faults, and the balm for all sorrows, were alike to be found in the great principles of Christian faith, circumstances, however different, did but call out from the Apostles a varied exhibition of revealed truth. Still, as the immediate object of each epistle depended on the peculiar state of the church to which it was addressed, it follows necessarily, that a very large part of their contents relate to subjects, which do not immediately concern us.
Two errors have arisen from this. The one from ignorance or forgetfulness of this point: the other from the misapplication of the knowledge of it. The first is that of those persons, who apply strictly to our own times and circumstances what was never meant so to apply, and thus pervert scripture to a very different effect from what it was intended to have. The second is the mistake of those, who treat discussions, on points which do not directly concern us, as altogether incapable of application to ourselves; and are thus led to neglect much of those scriptures, which were written for our learning. Thus the church of Rome has extended a temporary recommendation to an universal rule in enforcing the celibacy of the clergy. Are not we too apt to overlook altogether what the Apostle says on this subject, and to treat
marriage as a question entirely distinct from religious grounds? Whereas the truth is, that a principle is involved in St. Paul's directions on this subject, viz. the principle, that, in forming the marriage relation, the glory of God should be kept in view. All therefore, but the clergy more especially, are bound to take this into account, considering that where marriage does not interfere with this higher duty, it is permitted: where it does, it is not.
Now, without stopping to consider which of these branches of error is the most pernicious, it may suffice thus to mention both; and to point out, that the true mode of using such passages of scripture, as those to which I allude, may be drawn from that chapter of the epistle to the Corinthians, from which I have taken my text; as indeed it seems to be precisely laid down by St. Paul in the preceding one, where he says, that the direction in the law with respect to not muzzling the ox that treadeth out the corn "was written altogether for our sake." This mode is, without straining facts, and enforcing literal injunctions, which no longer apply, to extract the spirit of the example, and to expound the precept, so as to open its comprehensive character. And this is precisely what a judge does in the interpretation of the law; the whole force and spirit of which depend on the application of former precedents to fresh circumstances. The