[NOTE: The following is from a book of sermons delivered and written when the word "Universalist" referred to a particular church, or denomination. The Universalist denomination eventually merged with the Unitarian denomination and which became the Unitarian-Universalist (UU) denomination. Even though the Universalist Church no longer exists as a separate church, or denomination today, the principles and Theology of Universalism is still very much alive and growing among individuals and members of the UU and various other church denominations. The following sermon was written when there was much more dissention and condemnation between various denominations of Christians than exists today. It was written during a time when the main thrust in many sermons was "my denomination, or church is the only one that is right, the only one that is Christian. All others are wrong and not Christian." Methodists condemned Baptists as non-Christian. Baptists condemned Methodists as non-Christian, etc. I Thank God that this is not the general attitude of most churches today and that more of a spirit of true brotherhood exists between Christians of different persuasions.
When denomination, or church, or Universalist, is mentioned to in the following sermons, it refers to these principles of Theology and not to a particular, or separate denomination that exists today.
This principle of the Theology of Universalism was well stated by Thomas Whittmore in his book "Plain Guide to Universalism" written in 1840, where he wrote, "The glory of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ, as manifested in the final holiness and happiness of all men, is the central sun of Universalism."]
Having in the preceding discourses fully established the doctrine of Universal Salvation, I propose, in the remaining three of this series, to consider, first, the FAITH NECESSARY TO CONSTITUTE A CHRISTIAN; second, EXPERIMENTAL RELIGION; and third, THE PRACTICE OF A TRUE CHRISTIAN. My object in discussing these subjects is to refute the charge that Universalists cannot be Christians. You are all aware how industriously this has been urged, and of the untiring measures taken to prejudice the Christian community against us. In this discourse, I shall ask your attention to the faith necessary to constitute a Christian. I begin by observing that the inspired writers dwell much upon the necessity of faith. They speak of it as the medium through which we obtain life and salvation, and as the means by which we become united to the Savior. Their language is, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." "Without faith it is impossible to please God."
In this necessity of faith, all Christians are agreed. I know of no exception among various sects of the world. Not one can be found which does not urge upon its members its necessity, and does not pronounce those infidels who are without faith.
But though all are thus agreed, there is a wide difference of opinion in regard to the faith required. The various sects have each a system of faith, for which they contend with great zeal, and which they hold up as essential; and many, in the warmth of their feelings condemn as infidels all who dissent from their views. All Protestant sects are thus condemned by the Catholics; and many of the Protestants thus condemn the Catholics. Not only so -- the Protestants condemn each other. The Calvinists condemn the Arminians, and the Arminians condemn the Calvinists. The Pedobaptists condemn the Anti-Pedobaptists, and the Anti-Pedobaptists condemn the Pedobaptists.
It gives me great pleasure to know that the denomination to which I belong never thus condemns any. It says to no class who acknowledge the Scriptures as a revelation from God, you are infidels. We condemn unchristian conduct, and set the seal of reprobation upon actions which are wrong, but we say no man is an infidel, because he believes differently from what we do. This is a peculiarity in which I rejoice; a characteristic in which I glory. I would not own myself a Christian, did Christianity foster a spirit so exclusive and illiberal as that which says to all of a different creed -- YOU ARE BOUND TO PERDITION -- YOU ARE HERETICS. If there is anything I abhor, which I loathe from the depths of my soul, it is such illiberality. It is a disgrace to the cause of truth, a curse to society, and an enemy to the peace of the world. I stand ready to extend to any sincere believer in the holy book, the warm hand of Christian fellowship.
But with all others it is not so. Many, very many, are ready to denounce as infidels all who do not adopt their creed. We are daily classed with infidels and told that we have no right to the Christian name. This is the CONSTANT talk of some preachers. They give utterance to it in public and private, in the labored review and the weekly journal. They preach it, and pray it, and sing it. They instil it into their children, and spread it on the wings of every wind. UNIVERSALIST ARE NOT CHRISTIANS -- UNIVERSALISTS ARE INFIDELS. Hardly any assertions are more frequent than these -- hardly any are made with so much assurance -- hardly any are so industriously circulated.
But why are we thus assailed? Do we not believe the Bible? Our views of the authority and authenticity of this book are the same as those entertained by other Christians. We receive it as the word of God, as his revealed will, as our authoritative guide in all the concerns of faith and practice. We bow before it with the most profound reverence. We read it in our public and private devotions, and with us, its decisions are final. We also believe in Christ as the promised Messiah, as the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. We believe in the necessity of religion, its power to give peace, to guide in the way of duty, and to inspire with hope in the hour of death. Why, then, are we infidels? Why does our faith disqualify us to be Christians? Do infidels believe in Christ as the Son of God, and in the truth of his holy religion? Do they acknowledge the worth of Christianity, and urge its claims upon the attention of the world?
Turn your attention a moment to the condition of the church during the first four centuries. Then Universalists were treated as Christians, and esteemed as the true followers of Christ. Clemens, a distinguished Universalist, was at the head of one of the largest and most flourishing schools then known. Origen was a celebrated lecturer and commentator, and was regarded, not only by the people, but by the clergy, as one of the greatest and best men of the church. The Universalists were in full fellowship, and belonged to what was termed the orthodox party. This happy state of things continued till the doctrine of endless misery gained the ascendancy, and then Universalism was condemned. It was not, however, till A.D. 553 that it was suppressed.
Thus, for several of the first centuries of the church, Universalists were cordially fellowshipped as true Christians. Nothing was know of those denunciations against them, so common among the bigoted and illiberal of the present day. Then there was truly an exhibition of the real spirit of the Gospel, for Christians, instead of seeking to devour and destroy each other, lived together like brethren.
How does this union condemn those who are so industrious in accusing us of infidelity, and in dealing out their vials of condemnation! What a lesson could they learn by reading the early history of the church! How far are they behind the early Christians in candor, love, charity, and brotherly kindness! How does their deficiency in these virtues serve to disturb the church, hinder the progress of truth, and engender feelings of bitterness and dislike!
I know our opposers justify their course by saying we deny some of the essential doctrines of Christianity. It is true we do deny the doctrine of the trinity and of the eternity of suffering. We look upon these as wholly unscriptural, and entirely without foundation. But suppose we are wrong here, and that these doctrines are true,. Does that prove that we are Not Christians? In order to give a correct answer to this inquiry, we must know whether a perfectly correct faith is essential to constitute a Christian. I do not ask whether we must believe in God and Christ and the Bible to be Christians, but I ask whether we must be PERFECTLY CORRECT in all our religious opinions.
Do not give me a hasty answer. Deliberate upon the question. Survey it in all its bearings. Suppose we give an affirmation answer. Who would dare say that he is a Christian? What man of information and reflection would claim that he holds to nothing erroneous? Why, consider the changes of opinion constantly taking place among Christians. Look at the creeds of the popular sects. They are, in many respects, entirely different from what they were twenty years ago. Indeed, every person who reads and thins for himself, finds frequent occasion to change his opinion on something connected with Christianity. Not only so -- we are constantly advancing in religious knowledge. How much light is there now compared with what was possessed fifty years ago! The progress of every sect in knowledge is very great. New truths are constantly being discovered, and old truths are seen in new lights.
How arrogant, then, for any man to say he has discovered all the truth, that he has explored the whole field, and knows all that ever will be known! And yet, such is the vain pretense of the man who denounces me as an infidel, because I happen to reject one or two doctrines which he receives.
All Protestants complain of the Catholics, because they claim that their church is infallible and cannot err. But here is something which far outdoes Catholicism. For we are told, not only that the church is right, but that each of its members is infallible; that each one has embraced the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is a pretension which none but the ignorant and bigoted would make, for every man of common reflection and information knows that there are many things in Christianity about which we can form no positive opinions. Not only so -- in very many things we all differ. Consequently, if a faith perfectly correct is essential, there cannot be more than one Christian on the earth. Indeed, there is no reason to suppose that there is even one, for it would be highly irrational to conclude that any one man is so infinitely superior to all others.
Not only so, the distinguished clergymen of the past centuries, to whom we look up with reverence, and whose memory we cherish with profound respect, were not Christians, for in many, very many things, they differed from the men who now compose their denominations. Accordingly, we must condemn as infidels such men as Luther and Calvin, Wesley and Clarke, Gill and Baldwin, and say they have gone to hell.
Perhaps I shall be told a man is not to be condemned for holding a minor error, and that perfect correctness of faith is not essential to the Christian character. This is precisely my opinion, and therefore, I claim a right to the Christian name, even though it can be proved that I entertain many views which are wrong, for why should a wrong opinion disqualify me to be a Christian, more than any other? If my partialist neighbors can be Christians, while they hold to much that is wrong, why may not Universalists, when they hold to much that is wrong?
I know it well be said -- our errors are not of a minor character, that they are cardinal errors, and that the latter disqualify a man to be a Christian, while the former do not.
But who shall decide what are cardinal errors? The Catholics say, that all Protestants hold to cardinal errors, and will be lost. Some Protestants say the same of the Catholics. Different Protestant sects say the same of each other. Calvinists have denounced the Methodist, and Methodists have denounced the Calvinists. The Baptists too have denounced, and been denounced in the same manner. Would it not be well for those who declare that we are not Christians, to decide first, among themselves, what doctrines are essential to the Christian character, before they condemn us?
Do I hear it said, we reject doctrines which all acknowledge are essential? I answer -- this is very far from being the case. There are thousands, who believe in the trinity and endless misery, that acknowledge we have in our denomination many of the best Christians they ever saw. There is scarcely a limitarian church in New England which does not contain those who have no faith in the eternity of suffering, or in the trinity. In very many cases, this is known to the ministers having charge of the churches, but they are willing to retain in full membership such persons, providing they will not very publicly avow their opinions, and will do nothing for their propagation. I have letters now in my possession from and orthodox clergyman, addressed to a member of his church, who had become a Universalist, saying he might retain his membership and be a Universalist, but that, if he persisted in urging his request for a dismission, he would be excommunicated for his faith.
In some churches the principal members are know to be with us in faith, and yet, they are allowed to hold offices, to lead in prayer, and exhort in meeting. Now this would not be, if it were believed no one can be a Christian who rejects the trinity and the eternity of suffering. For would any clergyman consent to have an infidel for his deacon or a superintendent in his Sabbath school?
It is but a few weeks since two Methodist clergymen, of this city, acknowledged to me that a Universalist might be a Christian. Some of you may recollect that when our brother Hanscom died, a Methodist paper alluded to his death and admitted that he died the death of a Christian. It gave as a reason, his faith in the Savior, as expressed in the following hymn, on which he dwelt with inexpressible satisfaction:
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
O may I there, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away!
Dear, dying Lamb! thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved to sin no more.
Ere since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die."
That a great proportion of our limitarian friends would agree in saying, the man who thus relied upon his Savior was a Christian, I have no doubt. It is not true, therefore, that they are united in saying we are infidels. We know that such is not the case. The more candid and sensible and intelligent part of all limitarian sects, are ashamed of the bitter denunciations dealt out against us, and reprobate the course pursued by those of their brethren who have more zeal than knowledge, more sectarism than love, and more bigotry than candor. I aver, therefore, that our opposers are very far from being agreed in saying, no man can be a Christian who denies the trinity and the eternity of suffering.
But suppose they wee agreed in saying this. There would be more important questions to settle before we could be condemned. They must first decide what the trinity is. Here, however, is a difficulty which cannot be surmounted. There are hardly any two Trinitarian writers who state the doctrine of the trinity alike. Bishop Stillingfleet, it has been said, speaks of five different theories. Another writer has discovered forty particulars in which Trinitarians are not agreed. He could with the save ease have found forty more.
In a work published some years ago, the author gives a classification of the opinions which have been entertained concerning the trinity, by some of the most eminent English divines, and in this classification, he gives ten different systems which have been adopted. And even here, he says "we have only the outlines, the elements of general systems, which have been divided and subdivided into innumerable new and peculiar forms, bearing little resemblance to their original". Dr. Gill, in explaining the sense in which God is one, speaks against several forms of the trinity. He says: "Nor is this language to be understood in the Sabellian sense, that God is but one person, for though there is but one God, there are three persons in the Godhead, which the Sabellians deny, who are so called from one Sabellius, who lived in the middle of the third century. But of this more hereafter. Nor is this doctrine to be understood in a TRITHEISTIC sense. That is, that there are three essences or beings numerically distinct, which may be said to be but one, because of the same nature, as three men may be said to be one, because of the same human nature. But this is to assert three Gods and not one. This the Trinitarians, indeed, are often charged with, and they as often deny the charge. For they assert that there is but one Divine essence, though there are three different modes of subsisting in it, which are called persons, and these possess the whole essence undivided. And this unity is not a unity of parts, which makes one compositum, as the body and soul of man do, or God is a simple and uncompounded Spirit, not an unity of genus and species, under which may be many singulars of the same kind. But God is one in number and nature, and stands opposed to the polytheism of the heathens, who had gods many and lords many. (1 Cor. 8:4-5) Nor are those passages of Scripture which assert the unity of God, to be appropriated to one person only, to the exclusion of the others, but to be considered as including each."
Here we see the endless diversity of opinion among Trinitarians. Which of these opinions shall we believe? Which is the one essential to the Christian Character? When an answer shall have been given to this question, there may be some little propriety in condemning us for not being Trinitarians.
There is the same diversity of opinion in regard to the eternity of suffering. Some think the punishment will consist of a literal fire, and that sinners will be roasted in hell. To prove and illustrate this, Wesley refers to the Linum asbestum, or incombustible flax, known is most parts of Europe. Cloth made of this may be thrown into the hottest fire, and when taken out again, it will be observed, upon the nicest experiment, not to have lost one grain of its weight. Therefore, he concludes, that if this can remain in the fire without being consumed, the soul may do the same. He says, too, that you may as well talk about immaterial water or earth, as immaterial fire, that both the one and the other is absolute nonsense! And he wishes to know if God intended to frighten his creatures with scarecrows, or vain shadows of things which have no being? Those who adopt this opinion are requested to explain how a material substance can act upon spirit and show why a spirit should be affected by fire any more than by air or water. Others have said, the punishment will consist in being shut up in a gloomy prison, where the light can never come, and where the sinner will be held in endless bondage with Satan and all his troops of angels. Others have said, it will consist in a horror of conscience, in reflecting upon laws transgressed, offers slighted, favors abused, and time misspent. And others, that wit will consist in endless hunger and thirst, in an endless desire after what cannot be obtained. Now the Bible cannot give support to all these views, for they are essentially different from each other, and the question arises, Which must we believe? As the mere assent to language we cannot understand is of no importance, would it not be well to settle which the true doctrine is before any are condemned for not believing it?
But I fear that I am dwelling too long on this part of our subject. I must, therefore, leave it and ask your attention to the following question, viz.:
This is a question of great importance, and I am anxious that it should be duly considered. The apostolic confession is very brief. It consists of one short article -- I BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD. It occurs several times in the New Testament. "Dost thou believe on the son of God?" (John 9:35) "I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world." (John 11:27) "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16:31) "To you, therefore, which believe, he is precious." (1 Peter 2:7)
IF THE DOCTRINES OF ENDLESS MISERY AND THE TRINITY ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER, WHY DID THEY NOT MAKE IT A PART OF THE APOSTOLIC CONFESSION OF FAITH?
There, brethren, is the apostolic confession of faith. It is perfectly simple, and yet comprehensive. But do you find the doctrine of the trinity in it? Do you find the doctrine of endless suffering in it? If not, you have no authority for saying these are essential to the Christian character, for we must conclude that the essential points would have been embraced in the apostolic confession. This is an inference to which all will cheerfully assent, for surely, in the first announcement of Christianity, those doctrines essential to the Christian character would be fully and distinctly stated, and yet no man will pretend that the doctrines in question are embraced in this confession.
Suppose a case. Here are ten men who present themselves to a limitarian bor baptism. He asks them to read his confession of faith. They do so. Five say they can subscribe to it, but five say they cannot. These tell him that they can adopt the apostolic confession; they can believe all that is required in the New Testament; but they cannot believe in all the articles embraced in his creed; they cannot admit the trinity, or the eternity of suffering. Now would they be baptized? Would subscribing to the apostolic confession be satisfactory? All know that it would not, and that the man who should make that confession, and yet deny the trinity and endless misery, would be denounced as an infidel. I do not say all limitarian clergymen would pursue this course, but many, very many, we know would.
Thus, those who denounce us as infidels, are not satisfied with the apostolic confession of Christian faith, and they will not own a man a Christian in belief, when he adopts this confession. They must have something more -- they must have an assent to their man-made creeds!
As I have no wish to mislead any who listen to my teachings, I will ask your attention to the connection in which our text is found. "And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, arise, and go toward the south, unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts: 8:26-37) Now in all this, what is said about the trinity? What about the eternity of suffering? If these doctrines are taught here, then we are wrong. If not, then we are right.
Let us turn to the sermon of Peter, delivered on the day of Pentecost. In that he says, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:22-36)
Such is the sermon. But does it teach the doctrine of the trinity? Does it give any countenance to the eternity of suffering? What was its effect upon the people? Let the sacred record answer. "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation." (Acts 2:37-40) They were pricked in their hearts. They saw that they had crucified the Son of God, and they asked what they must do. But they said nothing about being exposed to endless perdition, nothing about being willing to be damned, and nothing about a vicarious atonement.
It will be of no avail to say, other portions of Scripture teach the doctrines in question, for that is a point which has nothing to do with our present discussion. Our position is, that the doctrines in question are not contained in the apostolic confession, and, therefore, if revealed truths, not essential to constitute a Christian.
In the correctness of this opinion I entertain the fullest confidence, for sure I am that the inspired teachers would introduce into their confession of faith all that is absolutely requisite to make a Christian. They would not leave out the great essentials -- the chief doctrines. And yet, this they have done, according to those who denounce us, for they say, though we believe in all truth, save the trinity and the eternity of wo, we are not Christians! Why, then, were not these doctrines included in the apostolic confession? Let the question be answered. Let those who are perpetually crying, Infidel! infidel! give the answer, or keep silence. We say the Scriptures teach that Christ is the Son of God, and not the eternal Father, and that his death was a manifestation of Divine love. We say, also, they teach that God is the Savior of all men, and that, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, all men will be restored to bliss, and made children of God. We consider these doctrines highly important, and calculated to exert a great practical influence upon the heart, and give a peculiar efficacy to the truths of the gospel. In our view, they have power to draw out the soul in love to God and man, make us live together like brethren, refine the feelings, elevate the affections, and fit us for all the allotments of the Divine Providence. Indeed, we believe, if they universally prevailed, they would convert this world into a paradise. But still, we do not say, they are indispensable to the Christian character, and we allow that thee are many good Christians who do not believe them. He that believed Jesus Christ is the Son of God, was recognized by the Savior and apostles, as a disciple. "He", says John, "who confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God; and he that confesseth not this, is not of God".
Such is the apostolic confession of Christian faith. Such is the faith essential to make a Christian. He that makes this confession believes in God as the author of all things, and the Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth, and feels himself accountable to him for his thoughts, words, and actions. He fears to violate his law, because he knows that Jehovah is a great God, and strict to mark all the iniquity of his people. He knows, also, his righteous disapprobation of sin, and that it is infinitely odious in his sight. He sees this in the expensive measures employed for its destruction, and the rescue of man from its degrading and enslaving power. He, therefore, loathes sin, and turns from it as his worst and most terrible enemy, as that which has done more for the ruin of the hopes and happiness of man than all other causes combined.
But while he sees God's hatred of sin, he sees also his unbounded and unchanging love for the sinner, the infinite riches of his grace in providing redemption for a lost and guilty world. Beholding this, his heart is transported with the liveliest emotions of gratitude and praise; his soul leaps with joy, and sends forth the voice of thanksgiving to the throne of the infinite Father. His eye is lighted up with hope, and he offers a pure spiritual sacrifice, which is more pleasing to God, than to witness countless millions bending in lavish fear before him.
Not only so, he recognizes in Jesus the Son of God, the Savior of sinners, who gave himself a ransom for all men; who died the just for the unjust; and through him alone does he look for salvation. He, therefore, receives him as the one of whom Moses and the prophets spake; who was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; who, though rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich; who died for our offences, and rose again for our justification. When he sees the greatness of the sacrifice made, and realizes the vastness of the Savior's love, his heart heaves with the deepest emotions of pentinence and gratitude, and he meekly throws himself at the foot of the cross saying,
"Alas! and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Jesus die?
Would he devote his sacred head
For such a warm as I?
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
But floods of tears can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
'T is all that I can do."
Nor is this all. He that makes the apostolic confession, acknowledges Jesus as a teacher form God. He goes to him for truth, and receives all his instructions as divine. He studies to obey his commands, and walk in his footsteps. He owns that:
"God, in the gospel of his son,
Makes his eternal counsels known,
And sinners of an humble frame,
May taste his grace, and learn his name."
Now, why cannot such a faith constitute a Christian? In what consists its defect? Wherein is it wanting in power to lift the soul above the dominion of sin, and illumine it with the splendors of truth? Why can it not soften the heart, humble it before God, and make it rely for salvation on the mercy of Jesus? Why can it not work by love, and elevate the affections? It can. It can do all things. It can make us love God with all the soul, and our neighbor as we love ourselves. It can turn us away from sin, and make us delight in prayer and praise. It can open our whole heart to the influence of love divine, and inspire with a hope which will sustain the afflicted in the darkest scenes of trial.
Let me urge you, therefore, to seek for faith in the Lord Jesus. Reflect upon his character, upon the miracles he wrought, the doctrines he proclaimed, the death he died, and I know you will be constrained to say, "I BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD".