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Titus i. 9.
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been
taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gain
a person well grounded in the principles of Revealed Religion, and whose faith has never yet been shaken by any attempts to subvert it, matter of astonishment and perplexity is continually presented, in contemplating the prodigious diversity of religious opinions which agitate the Christian world. That Christianity itself should be opposed by any who have had sufficient opportunities of examining its pretensions, is a phenomenon not easily explained upon the ordinary principles of human conduct. But still more inexplica
ble does it appear, that among those who professedly agree as to the general truth of the Gospel, there should be found any irreconcileable difference respecting its particular doctrines; and that such a difference should exist even on points acknowledged, on all sides, to be of fundamental importance. It also increases this perplexity, that the Sacred Writers strenuously urge unanimity, as well as sincerity, in the profession of the Faith. They exhort that all dissensions and divisions should be avoided, although they allow not of any compromise of truth for the sake of
peace and amity. Whence we are naturally led to infer, that truth is certainly attainable by a right application of the rule of faith which these inspired Teachers have left us; and that a disagreement in the application of it indicates, on the part of some of its interpreters, a deviation from the rule itself. Nevertheless, it is a fact beyond dispute, that these apostolical injunctions have not hitherto produced their full effect; since, from the earliest ages of the Church to the present day, heresies and schisms have
arisen in rapid succession, baffling every attempt at their entire extirpation.
This would be a circumstance very discouraging to the sincere believer in God's word, had not that same word forewarned him of the event; giving also directions for conducting this warfare betwixt truth and falsehood, and clearly predicting its successful issue.
Among many other instructions to the same effect, St. Paul, in the words of the text, warns the Christian minister to be prepared for the work of controversy. “ To “ exhort and to convince the gainsayers,” he represents as an indispensable part of the pastoral office. He represents it also as a duty, for which he is to qualify himself by “ sound doctrine;” by doctrine obtained from the fountain-head of Scripture truth, “ the faithful word;" the word delivered by holy men, inspired of God, who exhibited incontrovertible credentials of their Divine commission to instruct mankind.
No great research is requisite, to shew the necessity of this admonition, or to
prove how large a portion of good has, under Divine Providence, resulted from the apparent evil which renders it necessary. Every day's experieneé testifies, that the truth is more and more illustrated by that investigation which the perverseness of its opponents continually calls forth. This benefit the Christian Church has abundant reason to acknowledge. What article of the Faith has not received some additional confirmation ; nay, what support has not the Faith itself, in general, received; from the profound and elaborate disquisitions which its adversaries have
provoked? So ample, indeed, have been the contributions thus made to the stores of theological knowledge, that, on many of its weightiest subjects, more information perhaps is now to be obtained from polemical than from merely didactic treatisés. Of this description were the greater part of the writings of the early Fathers of the Church; occasioned by the efforts, either of Infidels, to 'subvert the whole fabric of Christianity, or of Heretics, to despoil it of its essential doctrines. Nay, the writings