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think • Search the Scriptures ; for in them
have eternal life : and they are they which testify of Me.'
JOHN v. 39.
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.'
Acts xvii. 11.
Prove all things.'
1 Thess. y. 21.
* Follow on, to know the Lord.'
Hosea, vi. 3.
*It is owned that the whole scheme of Scripture is not yet understood; so, if it ever come to be understood before the restitution of all things, and without miraculous interpositions, it must be in the same way that natural knowledge is come at, by the continuance and progress of learning and liberty, and by particular persons attending to, comparing, and pursuing intimations scattered up and down it, which are overlooked and disregarded by the generality of the world. For this is the way in which all improvements are made, by thoughtful men tracing out obscure hints, as it were dropped us by nature accidentally, or which seem to come into our minds by chance. Nor is it at all incredible that a book which has been so long in the possession of mankind should contain many truths as yet undiscovered.'-Bishop Butler.
If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am verily persuaded – I am very confident—the Lord has more truth yet to break forth out of His holy word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the Reformed Churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no further than the instruments of the first Reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; whatever part of His will our good God has imparted and revealed unto Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it. And the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented.'—Robinson's Last Charge, A.D. 1620.
• The Christian Church is even yet but very imperfectly freed from the unholy influence and the mischievous operation of human authority. The house requires to be more carefully swept than it was at the Reformation from Popery, and a more thorough search must be made for the old leaven, that it may be more completely cast out.'—Dr. Brown.
'Is God's purpose, though declared in Scripture, to be damned as false doctrine simply becau the Church is blind to it? Is Israel's path to teach us nothing ? Are men's traditions as to God's purpose to be preferred to His own unerring Word? When I see the Church's blindness at this day, almost unconscious of the judgment which is coming on it-when see that if I bow to the decisions of its widest branch, I must receive not Transubstantiation only, but the Immaculate Conception also, I can only fall back upon that Word which, in prospect of coming apostasy, is commanded to the man of God, as the guide of his steps, and the means to perfect him. It is indeed a solemn thing to
differ with the Church, or, like Paul, to find oneself in a “way which they call heresy,” simply by “believing,” not some, but “all the things which are written in the law and in the prophets.” But the path is not a new one for the sons of God. All the prophets perished in Jerusalem. And, above all, the Lord of prophets was judged as a deceiver by those whom God had called to be His witnesses. The Church's judgment, therefore, cannot decide a point like this, especially if it be in opposition to Holy Scripture.'- Andrew Jukes.
• How important to the cause of our heavenly Master is the free discussion of religious topics, which we are naturally so anxious to repress when it goes against our faith. Yet we need not. We dislike being called to account for our more sacred opinions, especially those which we hold with an uncertain grasp; and we equally dislike to study the reasons advanced by our opponents, without which it must needs be impossible either to persuade or to be persuaded. “ Prove all things” is a counsel of Christian perfection beyond most men's observance, though it is the only way to “holding fast that which is good.”'—J. P. Gell.
• The hope of the millennial kingdom of Christ [and, we may add, the hope of “life and immortality” in Christ alone, with the ultimate “reconciliation of all things "] has naturally encountered the suspicions of those Christians whose faith has been crystallised and frozen down in artificial systems of theology. When the doctrines of the gospel have once been compacted together by a logical process, and the result is conceived to embody the whole counsel of God, every new truth drawn fresh from the Scriptures is an unwelcome guest or even a suspected enemy. It wears a strange and foreign aspect, and disturbs the symmetry of a laboriously-constructed system.'—T. R. Birks.
It is not all truth that triumphs in the world, nor all good; but only truth and good up to a certain point. Let them once pass this point, and their progress pauses. Their followers in the main cannot keep up with them thus far. Fewer and fewer are those who still press on in their company; until at last even these fail, and there is a perfection at which they are deserted by all men, and are in the presence of God and of Christ alone.'-Dr. Arnold.
• Deliver me from the narrowing influence of human lessons, from human systems of theology; teach me directly out of the fulness and freeness of Thino own word. Hasten the time when, unfettered by sectarian intolerance, and unawed by the authority of men, the Bible shall make its rightful impression upon all; the simple and obedient readers thereof, calling no man Master, but Christ only.'--Dr. Chalmers.
• The truth has a vitality in it still; and many dry rudiments of it, which at present lie dull and uninteresting in our minds, are yet destined to expand and acquire a new significance. Let the mind be frankly open to any and every Truth, however unfamiliar to us the first view of it, which may turn out to be in accordance with the teaching of the Apostles.'-Dr. Goulburn, Dean of Norwich.
TRUTH AND LOVE.
Letter to a Clergyman. I should not have troubled you with another letter, but for the avowal with which you conclude, that you feel bound to withdraw from Christian intercourse with any who 'cause to err'-i.e. who differ from you in any religious opinion, and venture to express their opinion; including, of course, all Baptists, Arminians, anti-Millennarians, and others, whom you must necessarily consider amongst those who 'cause to err.' This spirit, or principle if you prefer it, has been the bane of the Church in all ages; it was the life and soul of the Inquisition, it is the essential virus of the worst kind of schism, and is that which enables the world to say, 'See how these Christians hate one another.'
In this question of eternal suffering you have not even the excuse of its being a matter of faith; it is simply a matter of opinion. I do not say merely of interpretation, because a matter of faith, such as the Deity of Christ or the Atonement, may depend on interpretation; but this doctrine, however important in its practical bearings, and therefore however worthy of earnest discussion, is purely a matter of opinion.
I might have some excuse for elevating it into a matter of faith. For my enjoyment in looking forward to eternity depends in great measure on the assurance that God will be ' all in all;' that sin and misery will come to an end.
I can rejoice even now, notwithstanding the existence of present evil, 'in hope of the glory of God;' in the prospect not merely of being myself delivered from the power of evil, but of forming part of God's glorious Universe, when evil has been banished from it for ever.
I should be sorry to be able to rejoice in the prospect of an eternity, throughout which the wailings of despair would be continually ringing in my ears, and the writhings of agony be ever before my eyes; and equally sorry to think that I could ever sink to such an unutterable depth of selfishness as to be able to spend an eternity of happiness in forgetfulness of the fact that such things were going on, even though they were put far away out of sight and out of sound.
Furthermore, my hope of personal immortality depends upon the plain natural meaning of those innumerable texts, which you are obliged to rationalise upon, and interpret in a non-natural sense, in order to maintain the traditional philosophy about man's inherent immortality.
But you have no such pretext. Your faith and hope cannot in the slightest degree depend upon your interpretation of those passages being correct. They centre in the salvation which Christ offers from sin and all its consequences. What those consequences will ultimately be to such as are not saved is a matter of opinion, and cannot possibly, in your view of it, touch the foundation at all. The eternal life, which we have in Him, is precisely the same thing, whatever be the alternative
to those who refuse it. So too are the means by which He obtained it for us, and communicates it to us.
If, indeed, we believed your view to be taught in Scripture, and still denied its truth, the case would be different; for we should then be shaking the foundation of all faith. But you know that this is not the case. You may think that our judgment is biassed by our feelings, as we may think that yours is biassed by traditional opinion and party discipline. But when Christians of approved character and undoubted credibility on both sides solemnly declare their belief, that the view they hold is in accordance with the teaching of Scripture as a whole, then for either party to break fellowship with the other on such a matter as this, because they refuse to do violence to their own convictions, and to accept the dictum of those who take another view, is in the last degree unchristian in principle, and disastrous in its effects upon the Church and the world. Whereto we have already attained let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.'
That the difference of opinion is a very serious and important one, as bearing upon the success of the Gospel, from a human point of view, I not only admit but strenuously maintain. I believe that your doctrine is the fruitful parent both of infidelity and of indifference; that it weakens the Gospel message, and in a variety of ways does incalculable mischief. You, on the other hand, think that my doctrine will make sinners less anxious to be converted, because less afraid of the ultimate consequences of sin. No doubt this difference of opinion, like every difference in a greater or less degree, must interpose some difficulty in our working together, and detract somewhat from the pleasure of mutual intercourse. But to refuse to hold communion with one another, to denounce one another, or to change countenance towards one another on that account would be a grievous sin—a sin of ignorance perhaps, but still a sin.
Do not they who are looking for the Lord's speedy, coming believe that those who expect the world to be converted by missionary agency * cause to err,' and weaken the force of the cry, ‘Prepare to meet thy God ?' And, on the other hand, do not they who believe that expectation to be scriptural, consider that you and other Millennarians cause to err?' Do they not believe that you will probably be the cause of many heathens spending an eternity in torment, by damping the missionary zeal of those whose enthusiasm would otherwise have been kindled at the prospect of converting the world ? It is no doubt the duty of both, according to the strength of their convictions, to endeavour to spread their own opinions. But are they to excommunicate one another, or look coldly upon one another, on account of this difference? Is it to embitter their intercourse, or to debar them from all intercourse? Is the one to call the other heretic,' 'infidel,' and so forth, because he 'perverts' or ó corrupts' what appears to his opponent's eyes so 'plainly revealed, so explicitly declared' in Scripture? Alas for our Master's seamless robe! Alas for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace ! How long, O Lord, how long?