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view, of such essentials. This is left to be done by those whose charge it is to feed the flock of Christ : and in this the skill of the judicious interpreter will be most profitably displayed.
The desire, however, of simplifying, as much as possible, the truths of the Christian Faith, and of cutting off occasions of disputation, seems to have led many to attempts at generalizing its system, more than is consistent with a distinct delineation of its design. Thus it has been affirmed, that nothing is fundamentally necessary to be believed, but that Jesus is the Messiah ; or that those articles alone are fundamental, on which all Christians are agreed ; or, again, that what is essential to the Faith is to be determined solely by its practical tendency and effect :-all which are but ambiguous or defective criterią of a right belief; affording no direct evidence of the specific articles which constitute the faith itself, much less of the sense in which they are to be received, so as not to be rendered inconsistent with each other. Such indefinite views of the
subject tend indeed to create indifference to correct apprehensions of the truth, and to shelter dangerous errors under the cover of a latitudinarianism specious, but delusive.
Among the many directions, therefore, which have been given for our guidance in this respect, none, perhaps, is so entirely unexceptionable, as the rule laid down by an eminent Divine of our Church”, that “ whatever verities are found to be plainly “ and directly essential to the doctrine of “ the Gospel-Covenant, they are funda
mental verities ; and whatever errors are
plainly and directly subversive of it, “ they are fundamental errors.”
That such fundamental truths are discernible in the Holy Scriptures, may be inferred from the purpose for which those Scriptures were written. Every thing in the Sacred Volume tends to one great central point, the Covenant of God with man for his final justification and acceptance. Whatever inseparably appertains to this, is fundamental in its kind, and indispensable to a saving faith. Whatever is repugnant to
a Dr. Waterland.
this, is an error that endangers salvation. Numberless other truths there may be, consequent upon these, or collaterally connected with them, or even entirely distinct from them, which, as Scripture-verities, we are also bound to believe. But those only are strictly fundamental in the system, which immediately affect that great charter of our salvation, the Christian Covenant. And what these are, the nature and the terms of the Covenant will sufficiently ascertain.
The Gospel presupposes, not only the existence of God, but the mode of his existence as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and those essential attributes by which he was moved to bestow this inestimable blessing upon mankind. It also presupposes the contraction of actual guilt on the part of man; whence arose the necessity of this merciful interposition of the Almighty, to save him from destruction. It further assumes, that man has freedom of will to accept or reject the proffered mer
and that it is the indisputable right of his Divine Benefactor to prescribe the sti
pulations, or conditions, on which its benefits shall depend.
The points thus assumed are therefore to be regarded as forming the basis of the Christian system, and, consequently, as fundamental doctrines. They involve the truth and the validity of the whole scheme of religion deduced from revelation. Hence it is our first concern, to form correct opinions on these topics. To know God, and to know in what relation we stand to Him under this gracious dispensation, are essential to a right apprehension of the dispensation itself, as well as to the profitable application of it to ourselves. Contrariety of sentiment on such leading questions must not only preclude accommodation as to many lesser points, but will make each party appear to the other as virtually renouncing Christianity itself.
For similar reasons, the acknowledgment of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Mediator between God and man, combining in his person the twofold nature, human and Divine, must, if the doctrine be true, bé essential to the Covenant; and,
therefore, to err on this point, is to err fundamentally. Inseparably connected with this, is the doctrine also of Atonement through the Redeemer; according to our belief or disbelief of which, Christianity assumes a totally different character; different in kind and in substance, not merely in form and circumstance.
The same may be said respecting the conditions of salvation through Christ. A Covenant without condition seems to be a contradiction in terms. If the Gospel were simply a Promise of salvation, it might be absolute and unrestricted. But as a Covenant, it is necessarily conditional. Therefore, though it originated in God's free Gráce, and is founded entirely on His Promises, which are “yea and amen," and which he might have withholden or not, at his good pleasure ; yet these Promises being delivered under the form, and substance, and denomination of a Covenant, they must be regarded in that light: and to represent the Almighty as making this offer irrespectively and unconditionally, is to undermine the very foundations of the