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the distinction between greater and minor points of Christianity. By points, I suppose you mean doctrines. You very properly say—“If we would not go all lengths in seeming liberality, until it terminates in indifference, or absolute infidelity, we must firmly maintain even the smallest known truth; we must strive for every 'jot and tittle' of the Gospel." And, Reverend Sir, for this you give a very excellent reason: “All its truths are sacred," i. e. they have been revealed by Christ; for, Reverend Sir, if there be in that Gospel any thing not revealed by him, it must have been an interpolation; and if there is an interpolation which I cannot with infallible certainty separate from what is genuine, I cannot be infallibly certain which part is genuine, and if I cannot be infallibly certain what part is genuine, I cannot by the Gospel have certain evidence of what Christ has taught; and, if I cannot have certain evidence of what Christ has taught, I am no longer bound to believe any doctrine as revealed by Christ. In this case, there is an end to Christianity. To assert that I would be bound in such a case, would be to assert that a man is bound to believe what he has neither the certain evidence of God, or of his own reason to believe. Hence, Reverend Sir, I agree fully.in your conclusion; and say, that Christian faith consists in believing the whole and every part of what has been revealed by Christ; and thus the "faith once delivered to the saints" evidently consists in the (summary of] doctrines delivered by Christ, to be by them believed and transmitted to after ages. And the abandonment of one "jot or tittle" thereof, necessarily leads to infidelity; because it destroys the principle that our belief must be upon the authority of our teacher, and not according to our own choice. Upon this, you remark very well: “If you
strive not for the integrity of the parts, what, my brethren, is to become of the whole? Let each attack that doctrine or duty, which is exceptionable in his eyes, and what part of the body of doctrine will not be wounded? Let one level the doctrine of the Saviour's Deity; another that of his atonement; another that of the influence of the Spirit; another that of our present depravity; another, the justice and impartiality of God; another, the fact that the Church is a divinely constituted body, the ministry and ordinances of which owe their efficacy solely to the appointment of Christ. Stand by calm spectators while different enemies thus take fortress after fortress, suspending your efforts because in such case it is only a part and not the whole of the Gospel that is assailed; and assuredly, brethren, your spiritual weapons will not be brought into exercise, until there is nothing left for them to protect or defend. No, brethren, it becomes us not thus to act. All doctrines and duties may not possess precisely the same importance, but it is dangerous to prefer one thing to another; to dwell upon the distinction between greater and minor points in Christianity. All its truths are sacred. Each one of them is worthy of notice and of maintenance. For each one of them are we bound to strive."
And thus you very fully and forcibly prove, by exemplification to which daily experience, adds melancholy confirmation of truth, the correctness of your leading assertion, viz:
“Proceeding on the principle, that it is commendable to strive for the Gospel as a whole, but to be indifferent to its specific doctrines; and it is no improbable supposition, brethren, considering the proneness of man to novelty, that if we strive at all, it would be for something in which there was not one feature of the original Gospel left.”
You did then, Reverend Sir, “urge the plainest considerations of necessity and duty" to support your reply to your query:
“Whether we are to strive for this very faith, and it only, in oppo. sition to any other modifications of it? In other words, whether the obligation we are under to contend for the faith of the Gospel, generally, should constrain us to contend particularly also for each one of its doctrines ? Unhesitatingly we answer that it should. And for this reply, we urge the plainest considerations of necessity and duty.”
Now, Reverend Sir, the sum of our reasoning amounts to this: Christian faith is the belief upon the authority of Christ, of all the doctrines which he has revealed. The essence of faith consists in the principle that we must believe upon the authority of Christ; and as his authority is equally great in the revelation of any one doctrine as of another, faith cannot admit any distinction between his doctrines, because the admission of any such distinction would be the rejection of his authority, as far as that doctrine which we undervalue is concerned; and if we undervalue his authority in any one point, we destroy it altogether; for if in any, even the least point, Christ could deceive us or be himself deceived, the same could occur in a variety of other cases, and we could have no certainty from the testimony of our Saviour of the truth of any doctrine revealed by him. To escape this blasphemous alternative, we assert, with good reason, that as he neither is capable of deceit, or liable to be deceived, his testimony in all things, great and small, is the testimony of Infallible Truth; and that man is bound to believe every one of his doctrines, and that Christian faith consists in believing them all. This result of reason and basis of religion, Reverend Sir, is the only principle of the Roman Catholic Church. How then does it happen that we differ so very widely in its application to practice, if you and I are agreed as to its truth? I assume that one of the causes of our difference arose from your frequently contradicting the principle itself; whilst I adhere to a Church which has never deviated from its letter or spirit. Allow me to shew you how you have done so in some instances in this same sermon. The very commencement of the extract which I made in my former letter furnishes me with a palpable instance of this description.
“Thus, then, it appears, that there has been but one sentiment in the Christian world, as to the duty of 'contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the Saints,' when that faith was assailed; and that, in reference to this general defence, those who differ from each other on minor points, may and ought to strive together.'
Now, Reverend Sir, we agreed, that no distinction "between greater and minor points in Christianity" could be allowed without the destruction of the principle of faith, or "absolute infidelity,” yet here, you not only allow the distinction, but you assure us that “those who differ from each other on minor points may and ought to strive together" in defence of what their difference destroys. To your erudition, Reverend Sir, I consign the reconciliation of your own assertions.
According to our former view of Christian faith, it was the belief of all the doctrines which Christ revealed. It is manifest that truth is in unison with truth: Christ could reveal only truth: his revelation must then have all its parts in perfect union; they must coalesce into one consistent system. His revelation was the teaching us facts or doctrines which could not admit of different views. The fact cannot be changed by any view, the doctrine must under every view be the same doctrine. From the first quotation I make from you in this letter, it is clear that you could not admit any part of his revelation to be rejected,-from the second it is plain that you do not admit any specific doctrine to be a matter of indifference. And from common reason you must say the God of truth must give a system of revelation in union with itself, all the parts (of which] are in union with each other. I believe you will find all those positions contradicted in your following passage, which is the sequel of that which I have above taken.
"Not, however, that union or coalition, which from the infirmity of our nature, and from a warm attachment to different views, never can exist; that union, which, forced and almost unnatural, instead of tending to harmony, too frequently ministers to strife; not by being ‘unequally yoked together' by a yoke that will prove galling to both."
Because here you say it is impossible for those who strive together for the truth of the Christian system, to be in union or coalition: you say they must be “warmly attached to different views” of the same facts or doctrines. I assure you, Sir, that I cannot reconcile you to yourself.
View calmly your next passage.
“No, not thus, brethren, are they who believe in Christianity but differ as to its peculiarities; not thus are they to strive together; but by marching in separate columns to the defence of the truth, by separately directing their efforts to one and the same point, and causing them to meet in the same centre; thus, securing the benefits of combined exertion while they avoid the dangers of collision."
Pray, Reverend Sir, if there exists a belief of all that Christ has taught; if there be no distinction admissible between greater and minor point; in what will consist the difference as to the peculiarities of what he taught? How can they strive together who differ as to the object for which they strive Different divisions have different systems of doctrine, which systems are contradictory, and they have been divided because of the incompatibility of their contradictory systems the establishment of one system inevitably destroys what that system contradicts. How can you make two contradictory propositions be true together? Sir, when you marshalled your columns upon the circumference, and gave the command to march upon the centre, you indeed were a thoughtless general, or you intended a merciless carnage; because each division was armed against the other. For instance, you say that Christ established Episcopal government in the Church, and that Presbyterial ordination is invalid. The leader of a Presbyterian column denies that Christ taught either of those propositions, but asserts that he taught the necessity and validity of infant baptism. The leader of another of your columns denies that he taught either the necessity or the validity of this baptism, but assures us that Christ taught that he was God-co-equal with his Father. The Unitarian assures us that this is a mistake, for that if we examine the Bible, with the aid of enlightened reason, we shall be convinced that this contradicts the doctrine of the Saviour. My leader declares that St. Peter was constituted head of the Church by the Redeemer, who taught that we should all be one visible body on earth under one visible head, and all believing in the same doctrines, which are all those, and only those, which Christ has taught. We are assailed on every side, and called idolaters and full of error. We are told, even by you, Reverend Sir, that a difference upon minor points is not only allowable but unavoidable—though you assured us that this difference, if allowed, would be destructive of Christianity; as I verily believe it would. And now, Reverend Sir, having left your columns striving together in a not very enviable state, I leave you to make peace between them if you can, without having recourse to one of two modes. Either admit the distinction between greater and minor points of faith, and you [will] destroy Christianity; or, admit no such distinction, and be consistent in reducing your principles to practice, and you will infallibly become a Roman Catholic. I am aware the state in which this places you is not the most enviable; but, Reverend Sir, you would have been spared from this, had you, at Macon, left untouched that main error of Popery, which alone can save you from scepticism and doubt. I remain, Reverend Sir, yours, and so forth,
A ROMAN CATHOLIC.
CHARLESTON, S. C., Aug. 7, 1826. To the Rev. Hugh Smith, A.M.
Rev. Sir,-In my second letter, I showed that you asserted that Christian faith requires of us firmly to maintain even the smallest known truth; that we must strive for every “jot and tittle” of the Gospel; and that you also assert, that they who differed as to the peculiarities, that is the peculiar truths of the Gospel, who were warmly attached to different views of the same revelation, who differed from each other on minor points, were bound by duty to contend earnestly for the “faith once delivered to the saints;" although in doing so there was not one of them who, in the estimation of the rest, did not omit striving for many jots and several tittles of the Gospel-and who, in the opinion of his fellows, did not in several instances contradict that Gospel. I leave to yourself the task of reconciling those assertions. Perhaps you have succeeded in so doing. You will, therefore, have leisure for much similar employment.
In the second paragraph which I quote from you, is the following :
“There is a general coincidence then, brethren, as to what is the faith of the Gospel, viz: the Revelation of God contained in the Bible; and for this faith, it is admitted, that all should, in a certain sense, strive together. But when we leave this general ground; when we ask what the 'faith of the Gospel' is, in all its parts, coincidence of sentiment is at an end, and many contradictory replies meet our ear. How, then, are we to choose amidst all those conflicting opinions of men! How is this faith of the Gospel to be more minutely ascertained ?”
With your own expressions then, Reverend Sir, you confirm the concluding assertion of my second letter-that those who strive together according to you, are in truth and in fact, not one body professing the same doctrine, but several sects holding contradictory opinions. And