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Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” The word of God is no less plain, than powerful. It must be plain, because the truths contained in it, naturally result from the character of God, and from the various relations which mankind bear to him and to one another. All who are capable of knowing that they are the creatures of God, are equally capable of knowing what he has required them to believe concerning himself, and concerning their own character, their present situation, and their future state. This may be easily illustrated. The doctrine of moral depravity, for instance, is agreeable to the observation and experience of all the children of men. The doctrine of divine decrees is level to every one's capacity, who is able to form any just conception of the existence and character of God. The doctrine of Christ's atonement is agreeable to the common sense of mankind, who have always entertained some idea of a Mediator between them and their oflended Sovereign. The doctrine of divine influence
the human heart, in the production of its moral exercises, has been generally believed, by heathens as well as Christians. The doctrine of God's existing a Trinity in Unity, and the doctrine of the personal union of humanity and divinity in the glorious Immanuel, are as easy to understand, though not so easy to explain, as any other doctrines in scripture. Nor is it any more difficult to remove all plausible objections against these high points in theology, than to remove all plausible objections against the existence of motion, or spirit, or personal identity, or any other visible or invisible object. These observations might be extended to every doctrine of the gospel; but there is a shorter and easier way to demonstrate the plainness of that
rule of faith, which we find in the sacred oracles. The Bible is the word of God; he gave it to be a rule of faith to all; he knew the characters, the circumstances, and the capacities of all; it must therefore, be plain and intelligible to all. To deny this, is to inpeach both the wisdom and goodness of God in giying us his word. Now, if God has given a perfect rule of faith to all, which all are capable of understanding, then there appears to be a propriety, in his requiring all to believe and speak the same things in matters of religion. It is no less proper, that he should require all to believe alike in respect to the whole system of revealed truth, than that he should require all to believe alike in respect to any single article of Christianity. But who will say, that it is not proper, that he should require all to believe alike in respect to any one doctrine of the gospel? But if we allow the propriety of his requiring all to believe alike in one, in two, or in ten points, we must be constrained to allow, that it is equally proper, that he should require all to believe alike, in all points. No reason can be assigned for a single exception in this case, if the rule of faith be perfectly right, and altogether intelligible.
Though these few observations may be deemed sufficient to establish the propriety of God's requiring Christians to be united in their religious sentiments, yet candor seems to demand a fair and distinct consideration of some of the most ingenious and plausible things, which have been urged against this unpalatable doctrine.
The objection, which first occurs to the mind upon this subject, arises from the great and visible diversity in the intellectual powers and external circumstances of Christians. It is supposed to be naturally as well as morally impossible, that they should all think alike
upon religious subjects, so long as this internal and external difference remains.
The whole force of this objection will vanish, if we only consider, that unity of sentiment does not require equality of knowledge. Ten, or twenty, or twenty thousand persons, of different degrees of knowledge, may be united in the same sentiment, or in the same scheme of sentiments. A pastor and his people may embrace the same religious opinions in general, though as individuals, they may possess very different powers of mind, and very different degrees of mental improvement. A whole denomination of Christians may be united in their distinguishing tenets, though some may be much better able than others, to explain and defend their peculiar system of doctrines. It is easy to see how such a unity of sentiment may take place among such a variety of individuals, without an equality of knowledge. For, so far as they all know the same scheme of sentiments, they all agree;
and so far as some feel their deficiency in knowledge, they do not pretend to judge; and, of consequence, do not presume to differ. And it is only in this way, that there can be perfect unity of sentiment in heaven As one star differs from another star in glory, so angels will differ from saints, and one saint differ from anoth er, in the state of perfection. But their difference in knowledge will not create any diversity of opinions respecting the same subjects. Saints will agree with angels so far as their knowledge extends; but so far as it fails, they will wait for further light. And just men made perfect in holiness, will conduct in the same manner towards those, who had been endowed with superior powers, and had been longer instructed in the school of heaven. It is, therefore, just as easy to see how Christians may, notwithstanding their dif ference in knowledge and talents, come to an entire unity of faith, in this life, as in the life to come.
The wide difference in the education and instruction of Christians, is often supposed to be an insuperable bar in the way of their becoming sentimentally united, in their present imperfect state.
There is no doubt but Christians are extremely prone to imbibe and retain the peculiar doctrines, in which they have been early and uniformly instructed. But since they have the word of God in their hands, it is completely in their power, to bring their own opinions and the opinions of their instructors to an infallible standard, and to decide for themselves what they ought to believe, or to disbelieve. Neither their private nor public teachers can lay them under a natural necessity of thinking, or reasoning, or believing wrong; but only throw difficulties in the way of their thinking, or reasoning, or believing right. And it is their indispensable duty, if they meet with such diffculties, to surmount them, and form their religious sentiments according to the holy scriptures, which will necessarily unite them in the truth. It was in this way, that Paul, and all the primitive Christians, whether Jews or Pagans, divested themselves of the errors and prejudices of education, and became united in the belief of the gospel.
Another thing strenuously urged against the doctrine we are pleading for, is the right of private judgment, which is supposed to give Christians full liberty to disfer in opinion as much as they please.
It is readily granted, that every Christian has a right to think, to read, and to converse upon any religious sentiment, in order to collect evidevce of its truth, or falsehood; and after that, to judge according to the evidence which he has collected. But he has no right, in any case, to examine and judge under the influence of prejudice, and form his opinion contrary to the dictates of reason and the declarations of scripture. Though the Bereans were commended for searching the scriptures, in order to determine whether Paul preached the truth; yet we have no ground to suppose, that they would have been commended, if they had rejected the truth, after they had searched the scriptures. What they were commended for was, their honestly seeking the best evidence of the truth, and their heartily embracing it upon that evidence. This was their duty as well as privilege; but it was neither their privilege nor duty, to examine and reject the doctrines of the apostle, which were perfectly agreeable to the word of God. In this instance, we see the nature and extent of the right of private judg. ment. It is a right which all Christians have, to see with their own eyes, and to form their religious sentiments according to the infallible standard of truth. So that the proper exercise of this right will not suffer them to differ, but constrain them to see, and to embrace the same truths.
There is but one other objection, which appears to be worthy of notice; and this is drawn from the fourteenth chapter of Romans, in which the apostle is supposed to allow Christians to differ in their religious sentiments, and only exhorts them to view their difference in opinions with a candid and charitable eye.
This is rather an objection against the apostle bimself, than against the leading sentiment in this discourse; for it supposes, that in writing to the Romans, he contradicts what he had written five or six years before to the Corinthians. But who can really suppose, that he would require the Corinthians to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment, and yet expressly allow the Romans