THE theme selected for the present discourse is by no means a pleasant one. Happy would it have been for us if there had been, and were now, no matters of disagreement on which to discourse. But such is not the state of the case--far otherwise. The world has been full of adverse teaching, and will be, no doubt, for much time to come. We must take the case as it is, and not as we would have it; as we find it, and not as we desire to leave it. These differences are in the world, and we must deal with them as matters of fact, and not of fancy; matters of reality, and not of fiction.
The first teaching of which we have an account, after the Lord gave his law to man, was adverse to the law of God, and certainly most perverse. It started a dispute about the divine penalty threatened in case of a violation of the divine law. It certainly was not that the law was not clear enough, setting forth the divine penalty, nor does there appear to have been any misunderstanding of the law. The case was not more flagrant than has existed in numerous instances since, but it was perverse indeed. The law said: "Thou shalt surely die." The new and opposing teacher faced this, and preached it: "God knows that you shall not surely die." He started out with a disagreement at once. The issue was between the words, "shall surely die," and "shall not surely die." The Lord ended this dispute in a summary way. He inflicted the penalty in accordance with the law, and sent a curse on the preacher that undertook to set aside the divine penalty. This ought to have been a warning to all in after ages, who undertook to set aside the divine penalty. But there have been plenty of teachers since who promise the wicked life, or we should not have the following language from the prophet: "With lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked ways, by promising him life."--See Ezekiel xiii. 22. The Lord adds this to these lying prophets, who deceive the people: "Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I am the Lord."--Ezekiel xiii. 23. This is certainly warning enough for men who promise the wicked life, or try to show that we can obtain the divine blessing without complying with the divine law; the men who call evil good, and good evil, "slay the souls that should not die, " and "save the souls alive that should not live."--See Ezekiel xiii. 19.
But the intention of this discourse is to consider the matters of disagreement that have distracted the body of Christ. These will have to be considered briefly to grasp, in the narrow space to be occupied here, the matters really necessary to accomplish the object in view. Only a few of the more important matters can be considered at all.
1. The doctrine of the Trinity, so-called, was among the early questions of difference; one over which there were as heated controversies, as much strife and alienation, as much discord and confusion, as ever existed over any question ever agitated, and even the most bitter persecution. Men speculated about the mode and nature of the Divine Existence, spun out the most subtile, recondite and speculative theories; preached them and wrote them over and over again, and required the people to believe them; received those who believed them, and anathematized those who did not. The theories not only related to the Almighty Father, but to the Savior, and to the Spirit. In a short time after this discussion was fully under way, there was but little said about the belief of the divine testimony concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; but the question was about the belief of what men were saying about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The theories of uninspired men were written out, systematized, and embodied in writing, and men could not be received on the belief of what God had said of himself, of the Lord Jesus the Christ, and of the Holy Spirit; but were received on the belief of the theories thus written out by uninspired men. If they said they believed those theories, they received them; if they did not believe those theories, they did not receive them; and if they opposed those theories, they anathematized and persecuted them.
It mattered not if a man believed every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God; every word in the revelation from God, concerning the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, if he did not believe their theories about it--that their theories contained the meaning of what God had said, he was anathema. The testimony of God was not the foundation of the faith, or not the matter to be believed, but the theories of uninspired men on it, which must be regarded as the meaning of it. They went on the principle that the wisdom of God either could not, or could, but did not, state the meaning as clearly as they could state it. They wrote, as they claimed, the meaning of what God had said, and required men to believe their meaning or what God had said instead of what he had said itself. Their opponents continually plead that they could not understand their theories. They admitted it, but claimed that the subject was too deep and profound, and that finite creatures must not think to understand it. The question, then, kept recurring, How did you understand it so as to write out your theories.? We can see how men can believe God, though we may not be able to understand it. We can receive it implicitly from God, or believe it because he said it. He can not err.
But this is not the case with the men who wrote out theories about the Trinity. They wrote about a matter which they confessed they could not understand, explained a matter which they confessed could not be explained, and yet required men to believe their theories, on pain of damnation! Had those men boon content with the clear testimony of God, concerning himself, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and enforced that testimony on the people, they would have found but little trouble in prevailing on men to believe it. But their effort was not to lead men to believe God, but to believe them. The untold evils resulting from this speculative dispute will never be computed. They did not dispute about what was in the Bible, but what was not in it; not about what was revealed, but what was not not revealed.
2. Theories about the fall of man, or original sin, as they sometimes phrased it, became bones of contention, grounds of strife, and led to almost endless speculations. Questions arose as to whether the depravity of man was total, whether it was hereditary; what the death was that man died; whether it was temporal, spiritual, or eternal. Large numbers maintained that depravity was total, hereditary; and that it involved man in death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal. This, again, led to as many more speculations about regeneration. To meet this total depravity of man's nature, they invented a theory of irresistible grace, or irresistible converting power. Then, this theory of hereditary depravity involved infants, not only in sin, but hereditary sin; and, as they maintained, guilt, and "liable to eternal damnation!" They were liable to death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal. This laid the foundation for infant regeneration, infant baptism, and infant membership. No set of human theories and speculations has ever led to such untold evils as those now alluded to.
To show that infants should be baptized, it was argued at great length that they were sinners; that they were under the guilt and condemnation of original sin, and unless they were regenerated, they would be lost; and that "this original stain, that cleaves to every soul of man," "can not be washed away except by baptism." This made it of the highest importance that infants all should be baptized, as they held that they could not be saved without baptism. This began in the third century. It was a bone of strife, and opened the way for contention down to the present time. How much further it shall go none but the Omniscient One can tell. The first mention we find of it in history is in contention. The mention of it by Tertullian is the oldest that has been produced, and that mention of it is in controversy. Tertullian is opposing it as an innovation; a new thing but recently introduced. Some say, "It will do no harm." True, when we look at the sprinkling a few drops of water on the face, in itself, the first impression. is that it can do no harm. But there is another chapter to be read. Let us look on the other side of the leaf. What followed when infant baptism became general? The making members of the Church without any faith, repentance, change of heart, or even knowledge of the existence of God, became just as general. In the same proportion, also, the baptism of believers became less and less frequent. In other words, the making of churches of converted or regenerated persons ceased, and the Church was filled with the unconverted, the unregenerated. They were deceived; made to believe they were regenerated when they were infants, when, in fact, they had never been regenerated at all. In this way the line between the Church and the world was blotted out. There was no difference between the Church and the world. Indeed, in a short space, Church and State were united; all personal piety was crushed out. In every Church in the world, where infant membership has gained the ascendency, regeneration has been done away. Look at the Papacy, claiming its two hundred millions to-day, and inquire, Where is regeneration? It is not known in that body. Look at the Greek Church, with its sixty-six millions, and inquire for the regeneration. There is no regeneration there. Look at all made members in the Church of England, the Presbyterian, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, in infancy, and inquire for the regeneration. Take out of these bodies all that were made members without faith, repentance, any change of heart, a single spiritual impression or impulse, and what have you taken out? You have taken out a mass of unconverted or unregenerated humanity.
Here is a matter of difference, not merely in theory, but one in practice, that is of vital importance--one that can not be ignored. There must be a warfare so long as an element like this, insidious, undermining all faith, regeneration, and even volition in making members of the Church, is being thrust into the Church. The battle must be fought through, and this element must be put out, or it will waste away and ruin the Church of God. In the New Institution the basis of membership is not flesh and blood; fleshly relation to a father or mother, to Abraham, or anybody else, but faith in Christ. "We are all the children of God by faith in Christ." "Circumcision avails nothing, and uncircumcision avails nothing, but a new creature." "A new creature, or "a new creation, is a regenerated person--one "born again." Without this no one is in Christ, or in the kingdom of God, no matter how many forms or ceremonies, of infant baptism, dedication, consecration, christening, or giving it to the Lord, there may have been. These are all unauthorized, and perfectly powerless. They can never put one spiritual stone into the spiritual temple.
But some one inquires, "Is there no salvation for infants?" "Are infants all to be lost?" What do you want to save infants from? Do you believe they are in danger of being lost? Are they in danger of hell? You exclaim, No, not while they are in infancy. What, then, do you want to save them from? "From Adam's sin." They are not under the guilt of Adam's sin. So, then, it is not the guilt of the Adamic sin you want to save them from. What, then, is it you want to save them from? "The consequences of Adam's sin." We are not saved from the consequences of Adam's sin ourselves. The consequences of Adam's sin have descended on us, and we must suffer them. The earthly inheritance is from Adam--sickness, sorrow, pain and death; the curse on the ground, inflicted on account of Adam's sin, have descended on us. From those consequences our religion does not save us. They are upon us all alike. We must suffer them. From them there is no pardon. Infants and all are under these, and must suffer them. Infants have no actual sin. They never sinned themselves, and therefore have no guilt. They need no pardon. They need nothing, only what all the saints need, a resurrection from the dead, to be changed and glorified. This is all secured for them in Christ.
But you imply that we have no salvation for infants. Let us consider. What do the believers in infant baptism give them more than we? Do they give them any gospel? No. Do they give them any faith? No. Do they give them any repentance? No. Do their infants pray? No. Do they give thanks? No. Do they give them any communion? No. What, then, do they give them more than we? Nothing but a few drops of water in the face. They have salvation for them, and we have not! It is, then, water salvation, and precious little water at that!
The true ground is, that the gospel is for those who can hear it, understand and believe it. It is for those who are gospel subjects; who can hear it, understand it, believe it and obey it. An infant can not hear the gospel, understand it, believe it, or obey it. It is simply not a gospel subject. Then, it has no personal sin, no guilt, and needs no pardon. It is under no condemnation, and needs no justification. It is under the consequences of Adam's sin, and liable to death, and will need the resurrection, to be changed, glorified, precisely the same as all the saints, and no more. While it is an infant it has no need of the gospel, and is not a gospel subject. The gospel is not preached to it, nor is it required to believe or obey it. It needs no gospel, and can receive none. So far as infants are concerned, the question is not merely about their baptism, or their membership, but about the gospel being for them at all. Look over it and consider. The faith is not for infants. If it is, then "he who believes not shall be damned." Does this apply to infants? Certainly not! The commission has nothing to do with infants; but it has to do with men and women who can hear the gospel, understand, believe and obey it. To these, and not to infants, the Lord says: "He who believes not shall be damned;" but to him "who believes and is baptized," he "shall be saved." These are subjects of the kingdom of God. "They all know the Lord, from the least to the greatest;" "are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus;" have been "born again;" "born of water and of the Spirit;" are "new creatures," and have all been regenerated. Here is a membership of regenerated persons--"lively stones," "builded together for an habitation of God, through the Spirit," a holy temple to offer spiritual sacrifices to God, through Jesus Christ. This is a membership about which there is no dispute.
3. The substitute for immersion was also introduced in the third century. This was not done with any claim to divine authority. The Emperor Novatian had deferred his baptism till a late period in life, with the erroneous view that if he sinned after baptism he could not obtain pardon. He was seized with a violent distemper, and thought he would die. He believed that if he died without baptism he would be lost. With this view, in his extremity, he sent for the bishops. It is to be kept in mind also, that bishops by this time were a very different class of men from the humble overseers in the first century. The bishops came together and held a council over him. They decided that he could not be immersed. What was then to be done? The bishops decided that if they poured water profusely over him, as he lay in his bed, it would be accepted in his case, but that it would not be regular baptism. This was done. We have read many of the debates that have been held in the past forty years, and seen others that we have not read, and think this is the first case mentioned in history of anything short of an absolute immersion. It is almost unanimously received as such. This case became a precedent. Others considered too weak to bear immersion were treated in like manner, and styled clinics, but their baptism was not considered regular, nor were any of this description permitted to hold office in the Church. Cases of the kind became frequent, and less and less water was applied, till moistened fingers laid on the forehead answered for baptism. But Dr. Wall says, "That France was the first country in the world that practiced affusion generally for baptism."
The introduction of this innovation, about the middle of the third century, has furnished a bone of contention, a cause of strife and division from then till now. It is a matter of difference, a matter that can not be compromised; a wedge that has split the friends of the Lord, and is now one of the greatest causes of division in the world. It came not, at the start, claiming any Scripture authority, or any authority except the authority of the bishops; nor did any who practiced it in early times claim any authority from Scripture for it. The Romish Church claims no Scripture authority for it to this day. The same is true of the Church of England. She admits that the first Church immersed; that the word baptizo means immerse; but claims that the substitute is valid. These matters are as well authenticated in history as any others that could be mentioned of the same antiquity. Now we have a country swarming with preachers claiming that they can find plenty of authority in Scripture for the substitute for baptism, and they are practicing the substitute all the time, and the original never. They like the substitute better than the original. They are like one of the opponents of Wickliff, who maintained that the Latin Vulgate was better than the original. With such men, it is no matter if the command was to immerse; nor if the apostles, in obeying the command, immersed; nor if all were immersed during the first two centuries; nor if all history does testify that anything short of immersion is only a substitute for what the Lord commanded, and not what he commanded at all; they can talk on as fast and as loud as ever. With them the substitute is better than the original!
There is but one step necessary to agreement, and that is, to abandon the substitute, and practice the original; abandon what the Lord did not command, and practice what he did command. The disagreement is not about what is commanded, but what is not commanded.
4. No one source of disagreement is greater than the introduction and maintenance of uninspired standards of religious faith and practice, in the form of human creeds, confessions of faith, disciplines, formulas, etc. It is simply a matter of fact, not disputed by any one worth notice, that there wore no human creeds during the first two centuries--no creeds written by uninspired men. This is simply a settled thing, a matter about which there is no dispute. In the age when the religion of Christ was spreading throughout the Roman Empire, making its grandest triumphs, and subduing the souls of men to God by the thousand, the Scriptures of the prophets, from the lips of the Lord, and from the pens of the apostles, were the supreme--the absolute authority. This was the authority that conquered the vast numbers then, and this is the authority to turn the world to God now. This authority must be urged on all men everywhere.
In this authority--the authority of the Scriptures--we find the terms on which the Lord receives men. On these terms the Lord received all who came to him in the apostolic age. But men soon lost sight of the terms on which the Lord received those who came to him, and began to stipulate terms on which they would receive men. It was not enough, with them, to know the terms on which the Lord would receive men, but the people must know the terms on which the clergy would receive them. They set their terms forth in a creed, an authoritative human, or uninspired document. In this they laid down what they styled "articles of faith," "articles of religion." In the place of these being articles of religion, or articles of faith, they were simply articles of the opinions and deductions of uninspired men, to which men were compelled to subscribe before they could be received. They did not inquire of men whether they believed what God had set forth to be believed; whether they believed the testimony of God; believed on God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit; but the question was, Do you believe what we have set forth in the creed? We inquire not whether you believe every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, but whether you believe what we say.
In this way the testimony of God was set aside, and not made prominent in the eyes of the people, and the speculations of men substituted instead of the divine testimony. If Moses shined when he said, "Must we bring water from this rock," and "sanctified not God in the eyes of the people," what have these men done that have made the acceptance of man to depend on believing their articles of opinions, in the place of believing God? We have not now "the unwritten word," as Rome styles a long string of traditions of men which she has handed down through her infallible guardianship, but written traditions in the form of creeds, confessions, disciplines, etc., etc., on which men and women are united. These creeds are supposed to contain the meaning of the Bible. The Prayer-Book of the Church of England contains what they understand the Bible to mean; the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church contains what they understand the Bible to mean; the Philadelphia Confession contains what one branch of Baptists understands the Bible to mean; the Presbyterian Confession of Faith contains what the Presbyterian Church understands the Bible to mean. Now, take these several meanings, and put them together, and see what you have! Does the Bible mean all that? Every man can see that the Bible does not mean all that. Then, what part of it does the Bible mean? You see at once that you must go to work and sift these to separate the chaff from the wheat. Instead of these books being helps, they are sources of confusion. You have to determine what is right independent of them after all.
Do you say you try your creed by the Bible? Then the creed is no use. You have to know the meaning of the Bible, independent of the creed, at last. But what is the difference between these creeds after all? Is it a difference about the meaning of Scripture? Certainly not! The differences are about things mainly not in the Scriptures. It is not anything in the Bible that makes the Prayer-Book Episcopalian. What, then, is it? It is that peculiar to Episcopalians, or what they hold not held by other people. It is not anything in the Bible that makes the Methodist Discipline Methodistic. What then? It is that which is peculiar to Methodists. It is not anything in the Bible that makes the Confession of Faith Presbyterian. What then? It is that which is peculiar to Presbyterians. The same is true all round with all the creeds. It is, then, that which is peculiar to the party that makes it a party, and those who go into it do so for the sake of that peculiarity. That peculiarity is what "we hold." If you receive that we will receive you. The idea is to receive people on what we hold, and not on what the Lord has said.
These human productions, uninspired systems, embodied in creeds, have been most successful sources of discord, strife and division. There is but one sure remedy for the evil, and that is to treat the whole of them as each of you do all but your own; that is, turn away from them all, and treat the Bible as you do your own; that is, receive it with all your heart. Let your faith stand in the wisdom of God, and not in the wisdom of men. Believe the testimony of God; believe all God has said on every subject. This is the broadest faith man can have. Receive that man that believes God, and Christ, and the eternal Spirit; receive him because God receives him, Christ receives him, and the Holy Spirit receives him.
5. Ecclesiastical confederations of churches into a general body have been sources of more disagreement than almost any other. The simple form in which we find the followers of the Lord existing in the time of the apostles, does not suit the pride of men, their ambition for power, pre-eminence and rule. They are not willing to to wait till they can earn influence, gain the confidence of the friends of the Lord, and the regard of good people, by persevering in well-doing, in works of faith and labors of love; by lives of faithfulness and devotion to the Lord; but they want a system of things by which men can spring into power, notoriety and regard, by a turn of an ecclesiastical wheel that brings them to the top at once; where a single promotion can place a man in front, in a position that he has never earned, and of which he was never worthy. The Lord has made no provision of this kind. His divine arrangement is not only the simplest, but the wisest that can be made. He has made no opening for ecclesiastics, clerical dignitaries, lords over his heritage; but has established the most simple order of things ever known, and the most wise and efficient.
The saints brought together in a community, in any one place, who meet and worship according to the Scriptures, are the Church, or congregation of the Lord there. They need no organizing, nor any other procedure, only to be brought together, to meet and worship according to the Scriptures, to constitute them a congregation of God. To set them in order fully, they should each have overseers and deacons, who take the oversight and manage the temporal affairs of the Church. A congregation thus formed and set in order is authorized of the Lord, and has full authority to administer the affairs of the kingdom in every particular. The way is open for her members to grow in grace; to attain to the highest degree in knowledge, in piety, in all that pertains to the good of man or the glory of God. But men have not been contented with this. They have sought many inventions. Among those no one has been more successful in bringing mischief into the Church than the attempts to confederate the churches of the Lord into an organized body, as in the Romish Church, and all those following her model.
In the simple arrangement the Lord has made there is no great position, high office, ecclesiastical function, to which men can aspire. True, if a man has been faithful many years, performed valuable services, imparted important instructions, that have greatly aided others, all this may result in giving him great influence or power; but this is not ecclesiastical power at all, but individual power, or personal influence, that a man has acquired himself, and it is the safest power ever wielded by men.
Any man of intelligence, who will read the New Testament once through, with an eye to this matter, can see that there is no such thing as a general confederation, or organization of congregations into one body in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not an organized body. This is simply a matter of fact; it is the state of the case. The reason is that the Lord did not want an organized body--he had no use for one. The entire work of the kingdom can be done without one. Men have taken two positions in reference to this. The one is, that the Lord made such an organization, and we must learn from the Scriptures what it is, and have the same now; the other is, that the Lord made no such an organization, and therefore man is left free to make one. The first one of these positions is without a semblance of evidence. There is simply not a trace of any such thing in the first two centuries. All the attempts to find any such system of organization have been of the most vague and unsatisfactory kind. There is nothing here worth looking after for a single moment.
The other starts out with matter of fact. It is unquestionably a matter of fact that no such organization existed in the time of the apostles. There is not a trace of anything of the kind in the revelation from God to man. The Lord never gave anything of the kind. Why not? Was it because he left it to the wisdom of man to make such an organization? It was not because infinite wisdom could not do it. Is it true that infinite wisdom could, but would not do it? Infinite wisdom could have made such an organization, but did not. Why not? Because infinite wisdom had no use for such an organization. Infinite wisdom has furnished all things necessary to life and godliness, but furnished no general organization' There is not an exigency in the kingdom of God that is not provided for in the law of God, and there is not a more arrogant and impudent assumption practiced in religion, than the one that the kingdom of God is left incomplete and deficient, and that the wisdom of uninspired men can supply the deficiency. These are the two assumptions on which the kingdom of the clergy is built: 1. That infinite wisdom left the organization of the kingdom incomplete. 2. That the wisdom of man can complete what infinite wisdom left incomplete! The man of sin himself does not stand on a more baseless foundation than this.
6. The difference between Calvinism and Arminianism has furnished ground of contention for the past two centuries. Many have been the heated controversies and bitter strifes over these points of difference. Many sensible people have listened nearly a lifetime and could not see what the difference was. Calvinism has it that a definite number of men and angels were elected to eternal glory before man was and that the number thus elected and predestinated is so definite that it can neither be increased nor diminished. Arminians repudiate this, and John Wesley says it dishonors God, and makes him worse than the devil. But then he turns round and asserts that salvation is conditional--that man is saved on the condition of faith. But then he immediately follows this up by the statement that man can not believe till the irresistible power comes and makes him a believer, and then he is saved on the condition of faith. But suppose the irresistible power does not come! Who is to blame? The sinner, according to the Arminian theory, can not believe without the irresistible power, and can not avoid believing with it. If the irresistible power comes to the sinner, he is made a believer; if it does not come, he is not made a believer. Who is to blame, if he is not made a believer? Who is to be praised, if he is made a believer? If he is made a believer, he could not have avoided it; if he is not made a believer, he could not have helped it. In this view, how can a man be damned for unbelief? He never had any power to believe? Can he be justly condemned for not doing what he never had the power to do? There is something in the human breast that will forever rise up and assert that no man can justly be condemned for not doing that which he never had the power to do. If he never had the power to believe, he can not be justly condemned for not believing. Thus the Arminian is involved in as great absurdity as the Calvinist, for both consign the sinner to eternal punishment for sins which he never had the power to forsake.
The Bible has neither the one nor the other of these theories in it. It condemns no man for not doing what he never had the power to do. It says of all men that "he" (God) "is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." "He has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and determined before the times appointed and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. For in the times of this ignorance God winked at, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, for he has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained, whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead." Here we have a commandment from God to all men everywhere to repent. This proceeds on the ground that all men everywhere can repent. The reason of the commandment is, that he will judge the world in righteousness. This is backed by the assurance God has given to all men, in that he has raised Jesus from the dead. The argument runs thus: God has raised Jesus from the dead, and thus demonstrated him to be divine, and all he said to be true. We may rest assured, then, that he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained. He, therefore, commands all men everywhere to repent. The very circumstance that God commands all men everywhere to repent, proves that all men everywhere can repent. The Lord would not command all men. everywhere to repent, unless he knew that all men everywhere could repent; nor would he condemn men for not repenting, if he knew they could not repent.
The Lord could not say that he came into the world that the world through him might be saved," unless he had opened the way to the world to be saved--given to the world the privilege to be saved. He could not say, "You would not come to me that you might have life," if he knew they could not come to him. He could not say, "All the day long have I stretched forth my hand to a gainsaying and a disobedient people," if he knew they could not come to him. He does not tantalize his creatures by stretching forth his hands to them and calling to them to "come to me, all you ends of the earth, and be saved," when he knows that millions of them never had the power to come. There is nothing clearer than that all to whom the apostles preached were addressed as having the ability to come and be saved. "He came to his own and his own received him not; but to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believed on his name." In this it is manifest that they all had the power to receive him, and to believe on his name; and that to those who exercised this power he gave the additional power, or privilege, to become the sons of God.
This old difference on the two theories, of Calvinism and Arminianism, has been debated for centuries between the two parties, seeming to be wide apart, but both uniting in the absurd theory that the sinner can do nothing; that some kind of immutable disability is on him; that he can not believe, repent, or do anything acceptable to God; and has tied the hands of thousands of as good people naturally as ever lived, and prevented them from ever turning to the Lord. In numerous instances where they are not aware of it, to this day, many are waiting for some kind of irresistible power to come, like that which raised Lazarus from the dead, to give new life, and make him a believer. But when the gospel of Christ came, announcing that God loved the world; that Jesus came into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved; that he died for all; that he tasted death for every man, to make reconciliation for the sins of the whole world; that he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; that he commanded the gospel to be preached to every creature; repentance and remission of sins to be preached in his name to all nations; that the object of the preaching is that all may hear and believe; that he now commands all men everywhere to repent; that he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance; that he invites all men, "Come to me, you ends of the earth, and be saved;" that whoever will may come;" that "now is the accepted time and now is the day of salvation," the way has been opened and multitudes have been liberated from the manacles of these contradictory and absurd theories, and brought into the light and liberties of the children of God. The way is clear, and the gospel once more, in its own native power, is being urged on the attention of men; and it is now being shown that it is God's last appeal to man, his last invitation and warning; to turn him away from his sins and save him.
7. The last instance that can be noticed about differences in the present discourse, is that about names. There has been no settled conviction with many people about names. "Bible names for Bible things," has no significance with them. We have fallen on shocking times. With vast numbers Bible things, or Bible names, amount to but little. A man assumes a doctrine, and away he goes to the Bible for proof of his doctrine. It matters not to him whether the name, or the thing is in the Bible. For example, we have a doctrine, a theory, or whatever you please to style it, called Universalism. The man who receives it we call a Universalist. It matters not with this man that you find no account of Universalism in the Bible, or of a Universalist; he believes it, quotes Scripture to prove it. It never occurs to him to stop and inquire honestly whether our Lord was a Universalist; whether he suffered all he did, and died for telling the people that they would be finally made holy and happy in heaven; for telling them that there is no devil, no hell, no lake of fire, second death; no everlasting punishment, no eternal torment, no fire that shall never be quenched, nor worm that never dies! It never occurs to him to inquire whether the apostles of our Lord were Universalist preachers; suffered all the privations and persecutions that fell on them for preaching to the people that they would all be finally saved; that the Jew, in rejecting Christ and continuing in Judaism, with his victims, altar and priest; and the Pagan, with his idol, his altar and temple, though he know not God, nor Christ, was on his way to heaven as certainly as Peter, James, John, or Paul. It never occurs to him that if our Lord had intended his ministers to preach Universalism, he could have inserted it in the last commission, that all men shall be finally holy and happy, as clearly as he has that "he that believeth not shall be damned." It never occurs to him that if the Holy Spirit had come from heaven, and inspired the apostles to preach Universalism, they could have preached it clear enough, so that there would have been no dispute about it.
Nothing in all literature is clearer than that our Lord and the apostles were not Universalists, and preached no Universalism. Nor is there a trace of any no-future-punishment-Universalism in anything written in the early ages of the Church, on, indeed, that we are aware of till the time of Hosea Ballou. Before that time not a trace of it is to be found. Still there are men who believe it, and are trying to prove it by Scripture! This is a good illustration of the perversity and folly of men, if nothing more.
But we must not stop with a single example. We have a large body of people in this country styled Baptists! It matters not with the man bearing this name that you find no account of any religious body, or order of people, styled Baptists in the Bible; any account of any Baptist doctrine, or Baptist Church; he persists in talking of Baptists, Baptist doctrine, and the Baptist Church, as if the Bible were full of accounts of Baptists, Baptist churches, and Baptist doctrine. It matters not with him that the apostles were not Baptists, that the first followers of Christ were not Baptists, that there is no account of any Baptist preacher, Baptist Church, or Baptist doctrine, in the Bible, or in any other writing of the first thousand years of the Church, he talks on as if the Bible abounded with these matters!
True, some Baptists talk of John the Baptist; but he established no Baptist Church, and his baptism was no door into the Baptist Church, for his baptism was "into repentance for the remission of sins;" and, then, some of his disciples said; "We have not heard whether there be any Holy Spirit."--See Acts xix. 1-6. Peter said, at the house of Cornelius, "That word you know which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached." The word that Peter preached, and that authorized in the last commission, was after the baptism of John. Then, John had no "close communion," for the communion was not given till John was beheaded. The word Baptist means baptizer, or, in English, immerser, and in this instance Ave have a whole body of people, taking as a, religious designation the name of an ordinance of Christ, or the initiatory rite of the New Institution, for a religious designation. The whole people, instead of being named after Him, "of whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named" (See Ephesians iii. 15), are named after the Baptist, or the immerser! This is making little of the Lord, and much of baptism--specially for a people that say that baptism is not essential!
But here comes another name claiming a share of attention. It is called Methodism; the people are called Methodists. One would think, from the air of confidence assumed, that the Bible abounded with such words as Methodism, Methodist doctrine, Methodist Church, and Methodist preachers. It never occurs to the Methodist that the apostles were not all Methodists; that the evangelists and early ministers of Christ were not Methodists; that such a religious designation as Methodist, or Methodist Church, never existed before John Wesley; that there were simply no Methodists, or Methodist churches before his time. It never occurs to him that there is nothing religious in it--nothing spiritual. It simply comes from the word method. But, then, there are good methods and bad methods, and there are methods of doing good things and bad things; so that the name has nothing religious or spiritual in it. Then, other people have just as many methods of doing things as the people called Methodists.
Then we have our stanch old Presbyterian friends, named after an assembly of old men, or seniors, as the original Greek word presbuteros means. Any one can see how absurd it is to take the name of a body of seniors for the whole congregation--men, women and children. It never occurs to the Presbyterians that the apostles were not Presbyterians, nor any one else before the time of John Calvin. Any man can see that the first followers of Christ were not baptized into any of these names, but "into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"--Matthew xxviii. 19--or, "into the name of the Lord Jesus."--Acts xix. 6. Even the great Apostle to the Gentiles would not permit the followers of Christ to say, "I am of Paul." To the Corinthians he said, "I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized into my own name."--1 Corinthians 1. 14, 15.
The whole family are immersed into one name, into one body, into Christ, into the kingdom of God, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. They are all one, and look up to Him "of whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named." Without any regard to the differences introduced in this discourse, men hear the gospel, receive it into good and honest hearts, understand it and believe it; they turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and bring forth much fruit to the honor and glory of God. They are then one, and can wear no human name. May the great Shepherd of the sheep keep us from falling, and present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.