Imatges de pàgina
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vealed Religion had reference to the special exigencies of mankind at certain periods, as well as to the general purpose of Divine Revelation. The Sacred Writings, therefore, were particularly adapted to the improvement of those to whom they were at first addressed, whilst they at the same time shed a light intended to be universally beneficial. Hence they admit a somewhat. diversified mode in the arrangement or classification of their contents, although the truths they deliver are substantially the same. But, whatever be the method pursued, the same leading principles must be adhered to, and the same accuracy of discrimination will be requisite, in examining the constituent parts of so stupendous a work.

In discoursing then upon the injunction in the text, we may consider it as comprising, in general terms, whatever is necessary for the clear analysis of Scripture truth. Rightly to divide the truth,” is. rightly to separate what ought to be kept distinct. And how important this rule is, to a correct interpretation of Holy Writ,

may

may be evidenced by a brief examination of the following points:—First, the general distinction between what is properly fundamental in Scripture truth, and what is not so ;--Secondly, the specifio distinctions to be observed in the several dispensations of Revealed Religion, by which, at different periods, the Almighty saw fit to communicate his will to mankind;Thirdly, the variety of subject-matter contained in the Sacred Writings, and connected with these particular dispensations ; -Fourthly, the immediate occasions and purposes, whether general or special, for which certain books or portions of Holy Writ appear

to have been composed. I. First then, we are to consider the general distinction, as far as it can be made, between what is properly fundamental in Scripture truth, and what is not so.

It is not every truth clearly deducible from Scripture, or manifestly necessary to be believed, that can with propriety be called fundamental. For though no man may safely deny any doctrine proved from

Scripture;

us:

Scripture ; yet all truths, however certain and indisputable, are not to be placed on the same level, with respect to their essential importance. Some it is the direct purpose of Scripture to reveal to others it recognizes only as truths already received, or collaterally connected with its design : and greater stress is evidently laid upon some of these points than upon others. Hence we find reiterated injunctions respecting particular doctrines and duties, as if almost the whole of religion consisted in these; and many compendious rules of faith and practice, which, if taken in the abstract only, might seem to preclude the necessity of inquiring farther into what we are to believe or to do.

But though truths thus urged may justly claim especial consideration, yet the number of those which are to be regarded as fundamental will be too much circumscribed, if we attempt thus to reduce them to one or two comprehensive articles. It seems indeed impracticable to frame articles so comprehensive as some desire to have them, without giving latitude to a

great

great diversity and even contrariety of opinions which may be engrafted upon them. If, for instance, from St. Paul's general maxim, “ Other foundation can no man

lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus “ Christ,” it were inferred that the bare acknowledgment of this one truth,

- Jesus “ is the Christ,” is sufficient in itself as a creed in which all may conscientiously unite; what security could be had again a multitude of erroneous tenets respecting the various points virtually included in that general proposition? or what difficulty would be found, even by men holding the most opposite opinions on those points, in acceding to so broad and indefinite a rule of Faith? Yet, it is not evident, that the several specific truths inseparable from that proposition are no less essential to a right profession of the Faith, than the proposition itself? For, when the Apostle speaks of Jesus Christ as the foundation of our Faith, must we not infer, that whatever necessarily belongs to it becomes, in effect, a fundamental article of Belief? The question, therefore, what is fundamental, still remains open to inquiry; and the answer is to be sought for in the developement of the Apostle's aphorism. The aphorism itself may contain all that is necessary to be believed, and may afford a clue to the discovery of such contents :- but it does not itself give the definitive answer. It only cuts off every pretence for establishing any opposite principle of religion to that which rests on faith in Christ; by declaring the authority of the Christian Revelation to be that to which -every other must bow

b i Cor. iii. ll.

and obey.

In like manner, wherever compendious texts occur in Scripture, which seem to comprise in one single proposition all that is necessary in faith or practice, they are to be considered either as combining several essential truths, or as intended to be taken in conjunction with others, no less essential, dispersed through the Sacred Writings. Scripture indeed no where sets before us a synopsis, or collective

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