Insights From Ephesians (part 1)

Posted by on March 28, 2008 under Sermons

There are people in life we choose to be with or not to be with.

When we are young, parents commonly choose for us and force their decisions on us. Often children wonder why they can or cannot be around the people their parents approve of or reject. Often children are told (upon their inquiry), "They are not good for you," or, "They are the ‘right kind of people’ for you." Yet, the fact our parents chose or reject them does not determine if children "like" those people or not. Even if our parents choices are forced on us as children, that commonly still does not determine who we "like."

As teenagers, the choice is no longer the parents in most cases. In fact, for a parent to seek to tell an older teen whom he or she can be friends with usually results in a declaration of war or in alienation. Teens usually find a way to associate with the people they want to befriend. If it is a choice between friends or parents, most of the time parents lose, even when parents don’t know it.

When a person leaves home for an independent life, or for college, or for a new work opportunity, he or she usually likes whom he or she wants to and associates with whom he or she wants to. Commonly, parents have little to do with that decision.

Whether parents like it or not, that also includes God. It is amazing to note how the spiritual habits and orientation of many children change when they leave home. And most of us parents know that to be the truth. And that truth scares most of us parents to death.

So what is the key to a healthy, continuing relationship with parents and a healthy, continuing relationship with God? The answer is basically the same. Parents early need to form and then continue a relationship of blessing with children so the children always value their relationship with their parents. Form a relationship between your children and God that blesses your children to the extent that they cherish their relationship with God.

Consider our text in Ephesians 1:3-10: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth."

  1. I want you to look at our text, follow me, and note several things.
    1. Note these things:
      1. We have reason to bless God for what God has done for us in Christ.
      2. Every good thing God wants to do for us He has done for us in Jesus Christ.
      3. Good thing # 1: God chose us in Christ before the world began, long before we were born.
        1. Does that mean we are locked into being a saved person or a lost person, and there is nothing we can do about that situation? No, that is not what it means.
        2. It means everyone who accepted Jesus Christ can not be lost.
        3. It is impossible to be ‘in Christ’ and lost at the same time.
        4. Long before anyone was born, God decided those who accepted His son would be His people.
        5. However, if we choose God by accepting Jesus Christ, we assume the responsibility to be God’s holy people who refuse to rebel against Him.
        6. We chose God by accepting God’s adoption of us through Jesus Christ.
          1. That adoption is God’s kind intention–His desire!
          2. It is about God, not us!
          3. This adoption exists, so there is obvious reason for us to praise God!
      4. Good thing # 2: In Christ we have redemption in Christ’s blood.
        1. Redemption is the concept of ‘buy back’–God buys us back from the consequence of every mistake we have made.
        2. The result of that ‘buy back’ is the forgiveness of our mistakes.
        3. That redemption, that forgiveness is a result of God’s goodness (grace), not the result of any claimed human goodness.
        4. God lavishes that goodness on us; God’s grace is given to us in abundance!
      5. Good thing #3: God always intended good things for all people who would enter Christ.
        1. That always has been God’s purpose.
        2. God always intended for Jesus Christ to be the summation of every good thing God intended and wanted for us.
          1. Consider God’s promise to Abraham (in the Bible’s first book).
            Genesis 12:3, "And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.
            And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

          2. Paul understood Jesus Christ to be the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Listen:
            Galatians 3:8, The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”
            Galatians 3:16, Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
          3. The God Who does not lie promised Abraham good things would happen because of Jesus Christ, and God kept His promise.
          4. All we who are Christians are blessed because of what God did and does in Jesus Christ.
    2. I want you to listen carefully to a statement Jesus made to Nicodemus in John 3:16-21 and see if it does not sound a lot like Paul’s statement in Ephesians 1:3-10.
      John 3:16-21, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
      1. God’s love for people sent Jesus to this world.
      2. God sent Jesus because He wants people to have eternal life (the problem is not with God’s desire, but with people’s desire).
      3. God did not send Jesus to judge people (people were already judged by their own wickedness–God did not have to send a judge).
      4. God did not send Jesus to be a judge, but to be a solution.
      5. God sent Jesus so faith in Jesus could become the avenue to Him instead of human perfection–Jesus came so people could escape rightful condemnation as a rightful consequence to their mistakes.
      6. The people problem:
        1. Jesus came to bring people light.
        2. However, some people did not want light because they enjoyed evil and did not want to see themselves–they did not want the light to expose them.
        3. Yet, people who value truth come to the light (Jesus).
          1. They do not mind seeing themselves for who they are.
          2. They want to act in ways that belong to God.
  2. As Christians, we need some basic understandings.
    1. Understanding #1: God is not our enemy and never has been.
      1. Sin is our enemy.
        1. Sin wants to hide the consequences of our actions from us.
        2. God wants to release us from the consequences of our actions.
        3. Sin wants to deceive us into believing everything is okay when it is far from okay–as if deception could make everything okay.
        4. God says we have nothing to fear in seeing ourselves for who we are with all our needs because He can care for any problem we have–loving truth is not a problem, is not dangerous, regardless of what truth reveals.
    2. Understanding #2: Salvation is not the product of human goodness, but the product of God’s goodness expressed in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
      1. People of themselves are not good, and never have been.
        1. People abuse people.
        2. People love selfish indulgence regardless of who it hurts or how it hurts.
        3. People exploit people for their own purposes.
        4. People love power, arrogance, control, and importance.
        5. People start wars and continue the destruction of wars.
        6. People justify evil behavior.
      2. God is good, and loves to share His goodness with us.
        1. He lavishes His grace on us–your needs can never be bigger than God’s grace!
        2. God’s forgiveness is always greater than a person’s sins if the person has the courage to place his or her faith in Jesus Christ and let that faith determine his or her attitudes and behavior.
        3. God is good in His compassion, mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness.
          1. All we can do is respond to His goodness.
          2. We cannot forgive ourselves or make ourselves perfect–we can only accept God’s forgiveness and sanctification (see 1 Corinthians 1:30).
          3. That understanding does not limit the importance of obedience; it just addresses the motive of obedience.
          4. A person obeys God to accept God’s kind gifts, and to show appreciation for God’s gifts inherited in Jesus Christ.
          5. In true appreciation of what God did in Jesus’ death and our individual salvation, a person will be more obedient–not less obedient.
          6. An appreciative Christian wants God’s will to be more dominate in his or her life, not less dominate.
    3. Understanding # 3: It is Jesus Christ who gives us access to God’s immediate presence.
      1. Consider Hebrews 4:14-16: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
      2. Take note of some things in this scripture:
        1. Jesus is the Christians high priest (a high priest was the main representative of people to God and God to people–the high priest was "the middle man.")
        2. Christians have reason to place their confidence in Jesus Christ because he "has been there, been exposed to that!"
          1. His experience equips Jesus Christ to represent us to God!
          2. He has had experience–he understands how we feel when we are tempted!
          3. He knows what it is like to be weak!
        3. That is the reason we can draw near to God with confidence!
        4. That is why we know we are coming to grace when we come to God’s throne!
        5. That is why we will find mercy and grace at God’s throne!
        6. That is why our needs do not turn us away from God but lead us to God!
      3. Without God’s gift to us of Jesus His son, none of us could ever stand before God uncondemned.
        1. The only reason we can approach God is because of what God did for us in giving us Jesus.
        2. The only help to us that is eternal is our right to come to God in Jesus Christ.

Do not put your confidence in yourself. Do not put your confidence in your deeds. Do not put your confidence in another human. Do not put your confidence in the congregation. Put your confidence in Jesus Christ. Only he is our source of every spiritual blessing and gives us access to God.

Focus on God’s Purposes

Posted by on March 27, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

God always has had a purpose. God made it clear He had a purpose in the Bible’s first book in Genesis 12:3. Paul confirmed that the divine promise to bless all families of the earth through Abraham’s descendants was a reference to God’s intention to send Jesus to be the Christ (Galatians 3:8, 16). In Romans 3:21-26, this same Paul declared how much God accomplished in Jesus’ sacrifice-righteousness, the power to save gentiles by faith, justification, grace, redemption, propitiation, a demonstration of God’s righteousness in pre-Jesus forbearance, and a declaration of God’s justice in mercy.

God has never bumbled along achieving good by accident. God is and always has been intentional. He intended to achieve in Jesus what He achieved. Long before Jesus’ birth, God intended for Jesus’ life and death to be the core (the centerpiece) of every good thing He did and would do for sinful humans.

Healthy congregations are filled with intentional people who surrender to an intentional God. These Christians are not accidental in the way they live their lives for Jesus Christ. They serve their Lord Jesus Christ with thought, planning, reason, and purpose. They understand one of God’s purposes is for Jesus to be their example!

A person has to be intentional to believe that good is stronger than evil (Romans 12:21), to pray for his/her enemies (Matthew 5:44), to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), to understand God’s grace covers all our flaws (Ephesians 2:4-9), and to grasp that God rewards the righteous after physical death (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). Healthy congregations are the result of the members’ faith in God. These God-focused members understand physical life is an investment in the life that exists after physical death. Physical life is not about one’s earthly lifestyle, but about life with God-now and in Heaven! Poverty is no hindrance to God’s blessings! Poverty is not proof of God’s lack of concern!

To be a healthy congregation, it is not enough to believe God exists! It is only enough to believe God exists and has objectives! The healthy congregation allows God to declare His objectives as believers in God adopt His objectives rather than making our objectives God’s purposes. Our objective: to grasp all God’s purposes in Jesus Christ.

The Air We Breathe: Hope and Grace Through Christ

Posted by on March 23, 2008 under Sermons

Please ask Chris Benjamin for permission before reproducing
any of the images, graphics, or charts on this page.

Thomas Campbell

  • Son of Anglican minister
  • Thomas served as a Presbyterian minister in Rich Hill, Ireland
  • Old Light, Anti-Burgher, Seceder Presbyterian Church
  • Campbell tried to unite the factions of the Seceder church
  • T. Campbell preached in Rich Hill, Ireland, from 1798 – 1807
  • Rebellions and Revivals in Rich Hill
  • The Haldanes Reform Movement
  • T. Campbell believed that everyone could agree on doctrine of New Testament

Christian Association of Washington, Pennsylvania

Declaration and Address (1809)

  • Fervent call to Christian unity.
  • Strong condemnation of division among Christians.
  • Doctrinal differences not based on the express teachings of the New Testament are the causes of division.
  • Confession of faith in Jesus, not agreement with a creed.
  • Desire to return to the purity of the first century church.
  • Appeal for love and understanding among Christians.
    [Read the entire document below.]

Brush Run Congregation
May 4, 1811

Alexander Campbell

  • Son of Thomas Campbell
  • born 1788, died 1866
  • Attended University of Glasgow (1808-1809)
  • Arrived in America in 1809
  • Preached at Brush Run with Thomas Campbell

Scottish Independents

  • James Haldane
  • Robert Sandeman

Reunion and Marriage

  • A. Campbell married Margaret Brown in 1811
  • Margaret’s father owned property in (West) Virginia
  • This would become the site of Bethany College and the Campbell homestead
  • “Wrestling With God” movie

Bethany – Headquarters for the Restoration Movement

Campbell’s Study

Old Main, Bethany College

Disciples of Christ

  • Brush Run was independent in 1811
  • The name “Disciples” was used to identify the new group
  • Campbell published Christian Baptist (1823-1830) and Millennial Harbinger (1830 – 1863)

Alexander Campbell’s Theology

  • Unity
    • Ecumenical
    • Agreement on essentials
  • Ancient Gospel and Ancient Order
    • Primitive religion
    • Rational thought
  • Millennium
    • Postmillennial
    • Optimistic of progress and American government

The Tension in His Theology

  • Unity vs. Restoration
    • General faith vs. Orthodox faith
    • Enlightenment (reasonable agreement) vs. Puritanism (purity and exclusion)
  • Primitivism vs. Postmillennialism
    • Past vs. Future
    • Regression vs. Progression

The Two Alexander Campbells

  • Sectarian vs. Ecumenical
  • Debating vs. Cooperative
  • Rigid vs. Open
  • Primitive vs. Common

Campbell: Postmillennialist

  • Unity and Restoration are means to an end.
  • The Millennial Hope was Campbell’s Polar Star.
  • It connected his complex views on restoration and unity.

Campbell: The Sage of Bethany

  • America’s Millennial dreams faded by 1866 [due to Civil War].
  • Campbell’s followers, not sharing the millennial hope, began to divide.
  • Each side held a place of honor for and laid claim to the legacy of Alexander Campbell.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 23 March 2008

Declaration and Address

NOTE: This document, published in 1809, is in the public domainand may be copied and distributed at will.

FROM the series of events which have taken place in the churches formany years past, especially in this Western country, as well as from what weknow in general of the present state of things in the Christian world, we arepersuaded that it is high time for us not only to think, but also to act, forourselves; to see with our own eyes, and to take all our measures directly andimmediately from the Divine standard; to this alone we feel ourselvesDivinely bound to be conformed, as by this alone, we must be judged. We arealso persuaded that as no man can be judged for his brother, so no man canjudge for his brother; every man must be allowed to judge for himself, asevery man must bear his own judgment–must give account of himself to God.We are also of opinion that as the Divine word is equally binding upon all, soall lie under an equal obligation to be bound by it, and it alone; and not by anyhuman interpretation of it; and that, therefore, no man has a right to judge hisbrother, except in so far as he manifestly violates the express letter of the law.That every such judgment is an express violation of the law of Christ, a daringusurpation of his throne, and a gross intrusion upon the rights and liberties ofhis subjects. We are, therefore, of opinion that we should beware of suchthings; that we should keep at the utmost distance from everything of thisnature; and that, knowing the judgment of God against them that commit suchthings, we should neither do the same ourselves, nor take pleasure in themthat do them. Moreover, being well aware, as from sad experience, of theheinous nature and pernicious tendency of religious controversy amongChristians; tired and sick of the bitter jarrings and janglings of a party spirit,we would desire to be at rest; and, were it possible, we would also desire toadopt and recommend such measures as would give rest to our brethrenthroughout all the churches: as would restore unity, peace, and purity to thewhole Church of God. This desirable rest, however, we utterly despair eitherto find for ourselves, or to be able to recommend to our brethren, bycontinuing amid the diversity and rancor of party contentions, the veeringuncertainty and clashings of human opinions: nor, indeed, can we reasonablyexpect to find it anywhere but in Christ and his simple word, which is thesame yesterday, to-day, and forever. Our desire, therefore, for ourselves andour brethren would be, that, rejecting human opinions and the inventions ofmen as of any authority, or as having any place in the Church of God, wemight forever cease from further contentions about such things; returning toand holding fast by the original standard; taking the Divine word alone for ourrule; the Holy Spirit for our teacher and guide, to lead us into all truth; andChrist alone, as exhibited in the word, for our salvation; that, by so doing, wemay be at peace among ourselves, follow peace with all men, and holiness,without which no man shall see the Lord. Impressed with these sentiments, wehave resolved as follows:

I. That we form ourselves into a religious association under thedenomination of the Christian Association of Washington, for the solepurpose of promoting simple evangelical Christianity, free from all mixture ofhuman opinions and inventions of men.

II. That each member, according to ability, cheerfully and liberallysubscribe a certain specified sum, to be paid half yearly, for the purpose ofraising a fund to support a pure Gospel ministry, that shall reduce to practicethat whole form of doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, expresslyrevealed and enjoined in the word of God. And, also, for supplying the poorwith the holy Scriptures.

III. That this Society consider it a duty, and shall use all proper means inits power, to encourage the formation of similar associations; and shall for thispurpose hold itself in readiness, upon application, to correspond with, andrender all possible assistance to, such as may desire to associate for the samedesirable and important purposes.

IV. That this Society by no means considers itself a Church, nor does atall assume to itself the powers peculiar to such a society; nor do the members,as such, consider themselves as standing connected in that relation; nor as atall associated for the peculiar purposes of Church association; but merely asvoluntary advocates for Church reformation; and, as possessing the powerscommon to all individuals, who may please to associate in a peaceable andorderly manner, for any lawful purpose, namely, the disposal of their time,counsel and property, as they may see cause.

V. That this Society, formed for the sole purpose of promoting simpleevangelical Christianity, shall, to the utmost of its power, countenance andsupport such ministers, and such only, as exhibit a manifest conformity to theoriginal standard in conversation and doctrine, in zeal and diligence; only suchas reduce to practice that simple original form of Christianity, expresslyexhibited upon the sacred page; without attempting to inculcate anything ofhuman authority, of private opinion, or inventions of men, as having any placein the constitution, faith, or worship, of the Christian Church, or anything asmatter of Christian faith or duty, for which there can not be expressly producea “Thus saith the Lord, either in express terms, or by approved precedent.”

VI. That a Standing Committee of twenty-one members ofunexceptionable moral character, inclusive of the secretary and treasurer, bechosen annually to superintend the interests, and transact the business of theSociety. And that said Committee be invested with full powers to act and do,in the name, and behalf of their constituents, whatever the Society hadpreviously determined, for the purpose of carrying into effect the entire objectof its institution, and that in case of any emergency, unprovided for in theexisting determinations of the Society, said Committee be empowered to call aspecial meeting for that purpose.

VII. That this Society meet at least twice a year, viz.: on the firstThursday of May, and of November, and that the collectors appointed toreceive the half-yearly quotas of the promised subscriptions, be in readiness, ator before each meeting, to make their returns to the treasurer, that he may beable to report upon the state of the funds. The next meeting to be held atWashington on the first Thursday of November next.

VIII. That each meeting of the Society be opened with a sermon, theconstitution and address read, and a collection lifted for the benefit of theSociety; and that all communications of a public nature be laid before theSociety at its half-yearly meetings.

IX. That this Society, relying upon the all-sufficiency of the Church’sHead; and, through his grace, looking with an eye of confidence to thegenerous liberality of the sincere friends of genuine Christianity; holds itselfengaged to afford a competent support to such ministers as the Lord maygraciously dispose to assist, at the request, and by invitation of the Society, inpromoting a pure evangelical reformation, by the simple preaching of theeverlasting Gospel, and the administration of its ordinances in an exactconformity to the Divine standard as aforesaid; and that, therefore, whateverthe friends of the institution shall please to contribute toward the support ofministers in connection with this Society, who may be sent forth to preachat considerable distances, the same shall be gratefully received andacknowledged as a donation to its funds.


To all that love our Lord Jesus Christ, in sincerity, throughout all theChurches, the following Address is most respectfully submitted.


That it is the grand design and native tendency of our holy religion toreconcile and unite men to God, and to each other, in truth and love, to theglory of God, and their own present and eternal good, will not, we presume,be denied, by any of the genuine subjects of Christianity. The nativity of itsDivine author was announced from heaven, by a host of angels, with highacclamations of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace andgood-will toward men.” The whole tenor of that Divine book which containsits institutes, in all its gracious declarations, precepts, ordinances, and holyexamples, most expressively and powerfully inculcates this. In so far, then, asthis holy unity and unanimity in faith and love is attained, just in thesame degree is the glory of God and the happiness of men promoted andsecured. Impressed with those sentiments, and, at the same time, grievouslyaffected with those sad divisions which have so awfully interfered with thebenign and gracious intention of our holy religion, by exciting its professedsubjects to bite and devour one another, we can not suppose ourselvesjustifiable in withholding the mite of our sincere and humble endeavors toheal and remove them.

What awful and distressing effects have those sad divisions produced!what aversions, what reproaches, what backbitings, what evil surmisings,what angry contentions, what enmities, what excommunications, and evenpersecution!!! And, indeed, this must, in some measure, continue to be thecase so long as those schisms exist; for, saith the apostle, where envying andstrife is, there is confusion and every evil work. What dreary effects of thoseaccursed divisions are to be seen, even in this highly favored country, wherethe sword of the civil magistrate has not as yet learned to serve at the altar.Have we not seen congregations broken to pieces, neighborhoods ofprofessing Christians first thrown into confusion by party contentions, and, inthe end, entirely deprived of Gospel ordinances; while, in the mean time, largesettlements and tracts of country remain to this day entirely destitute of aGospel ministry, many of them in little better than a state of heathenism, theChurches being either so weakened with divisions that they can not sendthem ministers, or the people so divided among themselves that they will notreceive them. Several, at the same time, who live at the door of a preachedGospel, dare not in conscience go to hear it, and, of course, enjoy little moreadvantage, in that respect, than if living in the midst of heathens. How seldomdo many in those circumstances enjoy the dispensations of the Lord’s Supper,that great ordinance of unity and love. How sadly, also, does this broken andconfused state of things interfere with that spiritual intercourse amongChristians, one with another, which is so essential to their edification andcomfort, in the midst of a present evil world; so divided in sentiment, and, ofcourse, living at such distances, that but few of the same opinion, or party, canconveniently and frequently assemble for religious purposes, or enjoy a duefrequency of ministerial attentions. And even where things are in a better statewith respect to settled Churches, how is the tone of discipline relaxed underthe influence of a party spirit; many being afraid to exercise it with duestrictness, lest their people should leave them, and, under the cloak of somespecious pretense, find refuge in the bosom of another party; while lamentableto be told, so corrupted is the Church with those accursed divisions, that thereare but few so base as not to find admission into some professing party orother. Thus, in a great measure, is that Scriptural purity of communionbanished from the Church of God, upon the due preservation of which muchof her comfort, glory, and usefulness depend. To complete the dread result ofour woeful divisions, one evil yet remains, of a very awful nature: the Divinedispleasure justly provoked with this sad perversion of the Gospel of peace,the Lord withholds his gracious influential presence from his ordinances, andnot unfrequently gives up the contentious authors and abettors of religiousdiscord to fall into grievous scandals, or visits them with judgments, as he didthe house of Eli. Thus, while professing Christians bite and devour oneanother, they are consumed one of another, or fall a prey to the righteousjudgments of God; meantime, the truly religious of all parties are grieved, theweak stumbled, the graceless and profane hardened, the mouths of infidelsopened to blaspheme religion, and thus the only thing under heavendivinely efficacious to promote and secure the present spiritual and eternalgood of man, even the Gospel of the blessed Jesus, is reduced to contempt,while multitudes, deprived of a Gospel ministry, as has been observed, fall aneasy prey to seducers, and so become the dupes of almost unheard ofdelusions. Are not such the visible effects of our sad divisions, even in thisotherwise happy country. Say, dear brethren, are not these things so? Is it notthen your incumbent duty to endeavor, by all Scriptural means, to have thoseevils remedied. Who will say that it is not? And does it not peculiarly belongto you, who occupy the place of Gospel ministers, to be leaders in thislaudable undertaking? Much depends upon your hearty concurrence andzealous endeavors. The favorable opportunity which Divine Providence hasput into your hands, in this happy country, for the accomplishment of so greata good, is, in itself, a consideration of no small encouragement. A countryhappily exempted from the baneful influence of a civil establishment of anypeculiar form of Christianity; from under the direct influence of theantichristian hierarchy; and, at the same time, from any formal connectionwith the devoted nations that have given their strength and power unto thebeast; in which, of course, no adequate reformation can be accomplished, untilthe word of God be fulfilled, and the vials of his wrath poured out upon them.Happy exemption, indeed, from being the object of such awfuljudgments. Still more happy will it be for us if we duly esteem and improvethose great advantages, for the high and valuable ends for which they aremanifestly given, and sure where much is given, much also will be required.Can the Lord expect, or require, anything less from a people in suchunhampered circumstances–from a people so liberally furnished with allmeans and mercies, than a thorough reformation in all things, civil andreligious, according to his word? Why should we suppose it? And would notsuch an improvement of our precious privileges be equally conducive to theglory of God, and our own present and everlasting good? The auspiciousphenomena of the times furnish collateral arguments of a very encouragingnature, that our dutiful and pious endeavors shall not be in vain in the Lord. Isit not the day of the Lord’s vengeance upon the antichristian world–the yearof recompenses for the controversy of Zion? Surely, then, the time to favor heris come; even the set time. And is it not said that Zion shall be built introublous times? Have not greater efforts been made, and more done, for thepromulgation of the Gospel among the nations, since the commencement ofthe French revolution, than had been for many centuries prior to that event?And have not the Churches, both in Europe and America, since that period,discovered a more than usual concern for the removal of contentions, for thehealing of divisions, for the restoration of a Christian and brotherlyintercourse one with another, and for the promotion of each other’s spiritualgood, as the printed documents upon those subjects amply testify? Should wenot, then, be excited by these considerations to concur with all our might,to help forward this good work; that what yet remains to be done, may be fullyaccomplished. And what though the well-meant endeavors after union havenot, in some instances, entirely succeeded to the wish of all parties, should thisdissuade us from the attempt! Indeed, should Christians cease to contendearnestly for the sacred articles of faith and duty once delivered to the saints,on account of the opposition and scanty success which, in many instances,attend their faithful and honest endeavors; the Divine cause of truth andrighteousness might have long ago been relinquished. And is there anythingmore formidable in the Goliah schism, than in many other evils whichChristians have to combat? Or, has the Captain of Salvation sounded a desistfrom pursuing, or proclaimed a truce with this deadly enemy that is sheathingits sword in the very bowels of his Church, rending and mangling his mysticalbody into pieces? Has he said to his servants, Let it alone? If not, where is thewarrant for a cessation of endeavors to have it removed? On the other handare we not the better instructed by sage experience, how to proceed in thisbusiness, having before our eyes the inadvertencies and mistakes of others,which have hitherto, in many instances, prevented the desired success? Thustaught by experience, and happily furnished with the accumulated instructionsof those that have gone before us, earnestly laboring in this good cause, letus taken unto ourselves the whole armor of God, and, having our feet shodwith the preparation of the Gospel of peace, let us stand fast by this importantduty with all perseverance. Let none that love the peace of Zion bediscouraged, much less offended, because that an object of such magnitudedoes not, in the first instance, come forth recommended by the expresssuffrage of the mighty or the many. This consideration, if duly weighed, willneither give offense, nor yield discouragement to any one that considers thenature of the thing in question in connection with what has beenalready suggested. Is it not a matter of universal right, a duty equallybelonging to every citizen of Zion, to seek her good? In this respect, no onecan claim a preference above his fellows, as to any peculiar, much lessexclusive obligation. And, as for authority, it can have no place in thisbusiness; for, surely, none can suppose themselves invested with a Divineright, as to anything peculiarly belonging to them, to call the attention of theirbrethren to this dutiful and important undertaking. For our part, we entertainno such arrogant presumption; nor are we inclined to impute the thought toany of our brethren, that this good work should be let alone till such time asthey may think proper to come forward and sanction the attempt, by theirinvitation and example. It is an open field, an extensive work, to which all areequally welcome, equally invited.

Should we speak of competency, viewing the greatness of the object,and the manifold difficulties which lie in the way of its accomplishment; wewould readily exclaim, with the apostle, Who is sufficient for these things?But, upon recollecting ourselves, neither would we be discouraged; persuadedwith him, that, as the work in which we are engaged, so, likewise, oursufficiency is of God. But, after all, both the mighty and the many are with us.The Lord himself, and all that are truly his people, are declaredly on our side.The prayers of all the Churches, nay, the prayers of Christ himself (John xvii:20, 23), and of all that have ascended to his heavenly kingdom, are with us.The blessing out of Zion is pronounced upon our undertaking. “Pray for thePeace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee.” With suchencouragements as these, what should deter us from the heavenly enterprise,or render hopeless the attempt of accomplishing, in due time, an entire unionof all the Churches in faith and practice, according to the word of God? Notthat we judge ourselves competent to effect such a thing; we utterly disclaimthe thought; but we judge it our bounden duty to make the attempt, by usingall due means in our power to promote it; and also, that we have sufficientreason to rest assured that our humble and well-meant endeavors shall not bein vain in the Lord.

The cause that we advocate is not our own peculiar cause, nor the causeof any party, considered as such; it is a common cause, the cause of Christ andour brethren of all denominations. All that we presume, then, is to do what wehumbly conceive to be our duty, in connection with our brethren; to each ofwhom it equally belongs, as to us, to exert himself for this blessed purpose.And as we have no just reason to doubt the concurrence of our brethren toaccomplish an object so desirable in itself, and fraught with such happyconsequences, so neither can we look forward to that happy event which willforever put an end to our hapless divisions, and restore to the Churchits primitive unity, purity, and prosperity, but in the pleasing prospect of theirhearty and dutiful concurrence.

Dearly beloved brethren, why should we deem it a thing incredible thatthe Church of Christ, in this highly favored country, should resume thatoriginal unity, peace, and purity which belong to its constitution,and constitute its glory? Or, is there anything that can be justly deemednecessary for this desirable purpose, both to conform to the model and adoptthe practice of the primitive Church, expressly exhibited in the NewTestament? Whatever alterations this might produce in any or in all of theChurches, should, we think, neither be deemed inadmissible nor ineligible.Surely such alteration would be every way for the better, and not for theworse, unless we should suppose the divinely inspired rule to be faulty, ordefective. Were we, then, in our Church constitution and managements, toexhibit a complete conformity to the apostolic Church, would we not be, inthat respect, as perfect as Christ intended we should be? And should not thissuffice us?

It is, to us, a pleasing consideration that all the Churches of Christwhich mutually acknowledge each other as such, are not only agreed in thegreat doctrines of faith and holiness, but are also materially agreed as to thepositive ordinances of the Gospel institution; so that our differences, at most,are about the things in which the kingdom of God does not consist, that is,about matters of private opinion or human invention. What a pity that thekingdom of God should be divided about such things! Who, then, wouldnot be the first among us to give up human inventions in the worship of God,and to cease from imposing his private opinions upon his brethren, that ourbreaches might thus be healed? Who would not willingly conform to theoriginal pattern laid down in the New Testament, for this happy purpose? Ourdear brethren of all denominations will please to consider that we have oureducational prejudices and particular customs to struggle against as well asthey. But this we do sincerely declare, that there is nothing we havehitherto received as matter of faith or practice which is not expressly taughtand enjoined in the word of God, either in express terms or approvedprecedent, that we would not heartily relinquish, that so we might return tothe original constitutional unity of the Christian Church; and, in this happyunity, enjoy full communion with all our brethren, in peace and charity. Thelike dutiful condescension we candidly expect of all that are seriouslyimpressed with a sense of the duty they owe to God, to each other, and to theirperishing brethren of mankind. To this we call, we invite, our brethren of alldenominations, by all the sacred motives which we have avouched as theimpulsive reasons of our thus addressing them.

You are all, dear brethren, equally included as the objects of our loveand esteem. With you all we desire to unite in the bonds of an entire Christianunity–Christ alone being the head, the center, his word the rule; an explicitbelief of, and manifest conformity to it, in all things–the terms. More thanthis, you will not require of us; and less we can not require of you; nor, indeed,can we reasonably suppose any would desire it, for what good purpose wouldit serve? We dare neither assume nor propose the trite indefinite distinctionbetween essentials and non-essentials, in matters of revealed truth and duty;firmly persuaded, that, whatever may be their comparative importance,simply considered, the high obligation of the Divine authority revealing, orenjoining them, renders the belief or performance of them absolutely essentialto us, in so far as we know them. And to be ignorant of anything God hasrevealed, can neither be our duty nor our privilege. We humbly presume, then,dear brethren, you can have no relevant objection to meet us upon thisground. And, we again beseech you, let it be known that it is the invitation ofbut few; by your accession we shall be many; and whether few, or many, inthe first instance, it is all one with respect to the event which must ultimatelyawait the full information and hearty concurrence of all. Besides, whatever isto be done, must begin, some time, somewhere; and no matter where, nor bywhom, if the Lord puts his hand to the work, it must surely prosper. And hashe not been graciously pleased, upon many signal occasions, to bring topass the greatest events from very small beginnings, and even by means themost unlikely. Duty then is ours; but events belong to God.

We hope, then, what we urge will neither be deemed an unreasonablenor an unseasonable undertaking. Why should it be thought unseasonable?Can any time be assigned, while things continue as they are, that would provemore favorable for such an attempt, or what could be supposed to make it so?Might it be the approximation of parties to a greater nearness, in point ofpublic profession and similarity of customs? Or might it be expected from agradual decline of bigotry? As to the former, it is a well-known fact,that where the difference is least, the opposition is always managed with adegree of vehemence inversely proportioned to the merits of the cause. Withrespect to the latter, though we are happy to say, that in some cases andplaces, and, we hope, universally, bigotry is upon the decline; yet we are notwarranted, either by the past or present, to act upon that supposition. We have,as yet, by this means seen no such effect produced; nor indeed could wereasonably expect it; for there will always be multitudes of weak persons inthe Church, and these are generally most subject to bigotry; add to this, thatwhile divisions exist, there will always be found interested men who will notfail to support them; nor can we at all suppose that Satan will be idle toimprove an advantage so important to the interests of his kingdom. And, let itbe further observed upon the whole, that, in matters of similar importance toour secular interests, we would by no means content our selves with such kindof reasoning. We might further add, that the attempt here suggested not beingof a partial, but of general nature, it can have no just tendency to excite thejealousy, or hurt the feelings of any party. On the contrary, every effort towarda permanent Scriptural unity among the Churches, upon the solid basis ofuniversally acknowledged and self-evident truths, must have the happiesttendency to enlighten and conciliate, by thus manifesting to each othertheir mutual charity and zeal for the truth: “Whom I love in the truth,” saiththe apostle, “and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for thetruth’s sake, which is in us, and shall be with us forever.” Indeed, if no suchDivine and adequate basis of union can be fairly exhibited, as will meet theapprobation of every upright and intelligent Christian, nor such mode ofprocedure adopted in favor of the weak as will not oppress their consciences,then the accomplishment of this grand object upon principle must be foreverimpossible. There would, upon this supposition, remain no other way ofaccomplishing it, but merely by voluntary compromise, and good-naturedaccommodation. That such a thing, however, will be accomplished, one wayor other, will not be questioned by any that allow themselves to believe thatthe commands and prayers of our Lord Jesus Christ will not utterly proveineffectual. Whatever way, then, it is to be effected, whether upon the solidbasis of Divinely revealed truth, or the good-natured principle of Christianforbearance and gracious condescension, is it not equally practicable,equally eligible to us, as ever it can be to any; unless we should supposeourselves destitute of that Christian temper and discernment which isessentially necessary to qualify us to do the will of our gracious Redeemer,whose express command to his people is, that there be “no divisions amongthem; but that they all walk by the same rule, speak the same thing, and beperfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment?” Webelieve then it is as practicable as it is eligible. Let us attempt it. “Up, and bedoing, and the Lord will be with us.”

Are we not all praying for that happy event, when there shall be but onefold, as there is but one chief Shepherd? What! shall we pray for a thing, andnot strive to obtain it!! not use the necessary means to have it accomplished!!What said the Lord to Moses upon a piece of conduct somewhat similar?”Why criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they goforward, but lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand.” Let the ministersof Jesus but embrace this exhortation, put their hand to the work, andencourage the people to go forward upon the firm ground of obvious truth, tounite in the bonds of an entire Christian unity; and who will venture to say thatit would not soon be accomplished? “Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way,take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people,” saith your God. Toyou, therefore, it peculiarly belongs, as the professed and acknowledgedleaders of the people, to go before them in this good work, to remove humanopinions and the inventions of men out of the way, by carefully separating thischaff from the pure wheat of primary and authentic revelation; casting out theassumed authority, that enacting and decreeing power by which those thingshave been imposed and established. To this ministerial department, then, dowe look with anxiety. Ministers of Jesus, you can neither be ignorant of norunaffected with the divisions and corruptions of his Church. His dyingcommands, his last and ardent prayers for the visible unity of his professingpeople, will not suffer you to be indifferent in this matter. You will not, youcan not, therefore, be silent upon a subject of such vast importance to hispersonal glory and the happiness of his people–consistently you can not;for silence gives consent. You will rather lift up your voice like a trumpet toexpose the heinous nature and dreadful consequences of those unnatural andantichristian divisions, which have so rent and ruined the Church of God.Thus, in justice to your station and character, honored of the Lord, would wehopefully anticipate your zealous and faithful efforts to heal the breaches ofZion; that God’s dear children might dwell together in unity and love; but ifotherwise . . . we forbear to utter it. (See Mal. ii: 1-10.)

O! that ministers and people would but consider that there are nodivisions in the grave, nor in that world which lies beyond it! there ourdivisions must come to an end! we must all unite there! Would to God wecould find in our hearts to put an end to our short-lived divisions here; that sowe might leave a blessing behind us; even a happy and united Church. Whatgratification, what utility, in the mean time, can our divisions afford either toministers or people? Should they be perpetuated till the day of judgment,would they convert one sinner from the error of his ways, or save a soul fromdeath? Have they any tendency to hide the multitude of sins that are sodishonorable to God, and hurtful to his people? Do they not rather irritate andproduce them? How innumerable and highly aggravated are the sins they haveproduced, and are at this day producing, both among professors and profane.We entreat, we beseech you then, dear brethren, by all those considerations, toconcur in this blessed and dutiful attempt. What is the work of all, must bedone by all. Such was the work of the tabernacle in the wilderness. Such is thework to which you are called, not by the authority of man, but by Jesus Christ,and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. By this authority are youcalled to raise up the tabernacle of David, that is fallen down among us, andto set it up upon its own base. This you can not do, while you run every man tohis own house, and consult only the interests of his own party. Until youassociate, consult, and advise together, and in a friendly and Christian mannerexplore the subject, nothing can be done. We would therefore, with all duedeference and submission, call the attention of our brethren to the obvious andimportant duty of association. Unite with us in the common cause of simpleevangelical Christianity; in this glorious cause we are ready to unite with you.United we shall prevail. It is the cause of Christ, and of our brethrenthroughout all the Churches, of catholic unity, peace, and purity; a cause thatmust finally prosper in spite of all opposition. Let us unite to promote it.Come forward, then, dear brethren, and help with us. Do not sufferyourselves to be lulled asleep by that siren song of the slothful and reluctantprofessor: “The time is not yet come, the time is not come; saith he; the timethat the Lord’s house should be built.” Believe him not. Do ye not discern thesigns of the times? Have not the two witnesses arisen from their state ofpolitical death, from under the long proscription of ages? Have they notstood upon their feet, in the presence, and to the consternation and terror oftheir enemies? Has not their resurrection been accompanied with a greatearthquake? Has not the tenth part of the great city been thrown down by it?Has not this event aroused the nations to indignation? Have they not beenangry, yea, very angry? Therefore, O Lord, is thy wrath come upon them, andthe time of the dead that they should be avenged, and that thou shouldest givereward to thy servants the prophets, and to them that fear thy name, both smalland great; and that thou shouldest destroy them that have destroyed the earth.Who among us has not heard the report of these things, of these lightnings andthunderings and voices; of this tremendous earthquake and great hail; of theseawful convulsions and revolutions that have dashed and are dashing to piecesthe nations, like a potter’s vessel? Yea, have not the remote vibrations of thisdreadful shock been felt even by us, whom God has graciously placed at sogreat a distance?

What shall we say to these things? Is it time for us to sit still in ourcorruptions and divisions, when the Lord, by his word and providence, is soloudly and expressly calling us to repentance, and reformation? “Awake,awake; put on thy strength, O Zion, put on thy beautiful garments, OJerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come unto thee theuncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust, O Jerusalem;arise, loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.”Resume that precious, that dear-bought liberty, wherewith Christ has made hispeople free; a liberty from subjection to any authority but his own, in mattersof religion. Call no man father, no man master on earth; for one is yourmaster, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. Stand fast, therefore, in thisprecious liberty, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Forthe vindication of this precious liberty have we declared ourselves hearty andwilling advocates. For this benign and dutiful purpose have we associated,that by so doing we might contribute the mite of our humble endeavors topromote it, and thus invite our brethren to do the same. As the first-fruits ofour efforts for this blessed purpose we respectfully present to theirconsideration the following propositions, relying upon their charity and candorthat they will neither despise nor misconstrue our humble and adventurousattempt. If they should in any measure serve, as a preliminary, to open up theway to a permanent Scriptural unity among the friends and lovers of truth andpeace throughout the Churches, we shall greatly rejoice at it. We by no meanspretend to dictate, and could we propose any thing more evident, consistent,and adequate, it should be at their service. Their pious and dutiful attention toan object of such magnitude will induce them to communicate to us theiremendations; and thus what is sown in weakness will be raised up in power.For certainly the collective graces that are conferred upon the Church, if dulyunited and brought to bear upon any point of commanded duty, would beamply sufficient for the right and successful performance of it. “For to one isgiven by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge bythe same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the discerningof spirits: but the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profitwithal. As every man, therefore, hath received the gift, even so ministerthe same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Inthe face, then, of such instructions, and with such assurances of anall-sufficiency of Divine grace, as the Church has received from herexalted Head, we can neither justly doubt the concurrence of her genuinemembers; nor yet their ability, when dutifully acting together, to accomplishanything that is necessary for his glory, and their own good; and certainly theirvisible unity in truth and holiness, in faith and love, is, of all things, the mostconducive to both these, if we may credit the dying commands and prayers ofour gracious Lord. In a matter, therefore, of such confessed importance, ourChristian brethren, however unhappily distinguished by party names, will not,can not, withhold their helping hand. We are as heartily willing to be theirdebtors, as they are indispensably bound to be our benefactors. Come,then, dear brethren, we most humbly beseech you, cause your light to shineupon our weak beginnings, that we may see to work by it. Evince your zeal forthe glory of Christ, and the spiritual welfare of your fellow-Christians, by yourhearty and zealous co-operation to promote the unity, purity, and prosperity ofhis Church.

Let none imagine that the subjoined propositions are at all intended asan overture toward a new creed or standard for the Church, or as in any wisedesigned to be made a term of communion; nothing can be further from ourintention. They are merely designed for opening up the way, that we maycome fairly and firmly to original ground upon clear and certain premises, andtake up things just as the apostles left them; that thus disentangled from theaccruing embarrassments of intervening ages, we may stand withevidence upon the same ground on which the Church stood at the beginning.Having said so much to solicit attention and prevent mistake, we submit asfollows:

PROP. 1. That the Church of Christ upon earth is essentially,intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every placethat profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all thingsaccording to the Scriptures, and that manifest the same by their tempers andconduct, and of none else; as none else can be truly and properly calledChristians.

2. That although the Church of Christ upon earth must necessarily existin particular and distinct societies, locally separate one from another, yet thereought to be no schisms, no uncharitable divisions among them. They ought toreceive each other as Christ Jesus hath also received them, to the glory ofGod. And for this purpose they ought all to walk by the same rule, to mindand speak the same thing; and to be perfectly joined together in the samemind, and in the same judgment.

3. That in order to do this, nothing ought to be inculcated uponChristians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion,but what is expressly taught and enjoined upon them in the word of God. Norought anything to be admitted, as of Divine obligation, in their Churchconstitution and managements, but what is expressly enjoined by the authorityof our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles upon the New Testament Church;either in express terms or by approved precedent.

4. That although the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments areinseparably connected, making together but one perfect and entire revelationof the Divine will, for the edification and salvation of the Church,and therefore in that respect can not be separated; yet as to what directly andproperly belongs to their immediate object, the New Testament is as perfect aconstitution for the worship, discipline, and government of theNew Testament Church, and as perfect a rule for the particular duties of itsmembers, as the Old Testament was for the worship, discipline, andgovernment of the Old Testament Church, and the particular duties ofits members.

5. That with respect to the commands and ordinances of our Lord JesusChrist, where the Scriptures are silent as to the express time or manner ofperformance, if any such there be, no human authority has power to interfere,in order to supply the supposed deficiency by making laws for the Church; norcan anything more be required of Christians in such cases, but only that theyobserve these commands and ordinances as will evidently answer the declaredand obvious end of their institution. Much less has any human authority powerto impose new commands or ordinances upon the Church, which our LordJesus Christ has not enjoined. Nothing ought to be received into the faith orworship of the Church, or be made a term of communion among Christians,that is not as old as the New Testament.

6. That although inferences and deductions from Scripture premises,when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word, yetare they not formally binding upon the consciences of Christians farther thanthey perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faithmust not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power and veracity of God.Therefore, no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but doproperly belong to the after and progressive edification of the Church. Hence,it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have anyplace in the Church’s confession.

7. That although doctrinal exhibitions of the great system of Divinetruths, and defensive testimonies in opposition to prevailing errors, be highlyexpedient, and the more full and explicit they be for those purposes, the better;yet, as these must be in a great measure the effect of human reasoning, and ofcourse must contain many inferential truths, they ought not to be made termsof Christian communion; unless we suppose, what is contrary to fact, thatnone have a right to the communion of the Church, but such as possess a veryclear and decisive judgment, or are come to a very high degree of doctrinalinformation; whereas the Church from the beginning did, and ever will,consist of little children and young men, as well as fathers.

8. That as it is not necessary that persons should have a particularknowledge or distinct apprehension of all Divinely revealed truths in order toentitle them to a place in the Church; neither should they, for this purpose, berequired to make a profession more extensive than their knowledge; but that,on the contrary, their having a due measure of Scriptural self-knowledgerespecting their lost and perishing condition by nature and practice, and of theway of salvation through Jesus Christ, accompanied with a profession of theirfaith in and obedience to him, in all things, according to his word, is all that isabsolutely necessary to qualify them for admission into his Church.

9. That all that are enabled through grace to make such a profession,and to manifest the reality of it in their tempers and conduct, should considereach other as the precious saints of God, should love each other as brethren,children of the same family and Father, temples of the same Spirit, membersof the same body, subjects of the same grace, objects of the same Divine love,bought with the same price, and joint-heirs of the same inheritance. WhomGod hath thus joined together no man should dare to put asunder.

10. That division among the Christians is a horrid evil, fraught withmany evils. It is antichristian, as it destroys the visible unity of the body ofChrist; as if he were divided against himself, excluding and excommunicatinga part of himself. It is antiscriptural, as being strictly prohibited by hissovereign authority; a direct violation of his express command. It isantinatural, as it excites Christians to contemn, to hate, and oppose oneanother, who are bound by the highest and most endearing obligations to loveeach other as brethren, even as Christ has loved them. In a word, it isproductive of confusion and of every evil work.

11. That (in some instances) a partial neglect of the expressly revealedwill of God, and (in others) an assumed authority for making the approbationof human opinions and human inventions a term of communion, byintroducing them into the constitution, faith, or worship of the Church, are,and have been, the immediate, obvious, and universally acknowledged causes,of all the corruptions and divisions that ever have taken place in the Church ofGod.

12. That all that is necessary to the highest state of perfection and purityof the Church upon earth is, first, that none be received as members but suchas having that due measure of Scriptural self-knowledge described above, doprofess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to theScriptures; nor, secondly, that any be retained in her communion longer thanthey continue to manifest the reality of their profession by their temper andconduct. Thirdly, that her ministers, duly and Scripturally qualified, inculcatenone other things than those very articles of faith and holiness expresslyrevealed and enjoined in the word of God. Lastly, that in all theiradministrations they keep close by the observance of all Divine ordinances,after the example of the primitive Church, exhibited in the New Testament;without any additions whatsoever of human opinions or inventions of men.

13. Lastly. That if any circumstantials indispensably necessary to theobservance of Divine ordinances be not found upon the page of expressrevelation, such, and such only, as are absolutely necessary for this purposeshould be adopted under the title of human expedients, without any pretense toa more sacred origin, so that any subsequent alteration or difference inthe observance of these things might produce no contention nor division in theChurch.

From the nature and construction of these propositions, it will evidentlyappear, that they are laid in a designed subserviency to the declared end of ourassociation; and are exhibited for the express purpose of performing a duty ofprevious necessity, a duty loudly called for in existing circumstances at thehand of every one that would desire to promote the interests of Zion; a dutynot only enjoined, as has been already observed from Isaiah lvii: 14, but whichis also there predicted of the faithful remnant as a thing in which theywould voluntarily engage. “He that putteth his trust in me shall possess theland, and shall inherit my holy mountain; and shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up,prepare the way; take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people.”To prepare the way for a permanent Scriptural unity among Christians, bycalling up to their consideration fundamental truths, directing their attentionto first principles, clearing the way before them by removing thestumbling-blocks–the rubbish of ages, which has been thrown upon it, andfencing it on each side, that in advancing toward the desired object they maynot miss the way through mistake or inadvertency, by turning aside to the righthand or to the left, is, at least, the sincere intention of the above propositions.It remains with our brethren now to say, how far they go toward answeringthis intention. Do they exhibit truths demonstrably evident in the light ofScripture and right reason, so that to deny any part of them the contraryassertion would be manifestly absurd and inadmissible? Considered as apreliminary for the above purpose, are they adequate, so that if acted upon,they would infallibly lead to the desired issue? If evidently defective ineither of these respects, let them be corrected and amended, till they becomesufficiently evident, adequate, and unexceptionable. In the mean time let thembe examined with rigor, with all the rigor that justice, candor, and charity willadmit. If we have mistaken the way, we shall be glad to be set right; but if, inthe mean time, we have been happily led to suggest obvious and undeniabletruths, which, if adopted and acted upon, would infallibly lead to the desiredunity, and secure it when obtained, we hope it will be no objection that theyhave not proceeded from a General Council. It is not the voice of themultitude, but the voice of truth, that has power with the conscience; that canproduce rational conviction and acceptable obedience. A conscience thatawaits the decision of the multitude, that hangs in suspense for the castingvote of the majority, is a fit subject for the man of sin. This, we are persuaded,is the uniform sentiment of real Christians of every denomination. Would toGod that all professors were such, then should our eyes soon behold theprosperity of Zion; we should soon see Jerusalem a quiet habitation. Union intruth has been, and ever must be, the desire and prayer of all such; “Union inTruth” is our motto. The Divine word is our standard; in the Lord’s name dowe display our banners. Our eyes are upon the promises, “So shall they fearthe name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun.””When the enemy shall come in like a flood the Spirit of the Lord shall lift upa standard against him.” Our humble desire is to be his standard-bearers, tofight under his banner, and with his weapons, “which are not carnal, butmighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;” even all thesestrong holds of division, those partition walls of separation, which, like thewalls of Jericho, have been built up, as it were, to the very heavens, toseparate God’s people, to divide his flock and so to prevent themfrom entering into their promised rest, at least in so far as it respects thisworld. An enemy hath done this, but he shall not finally prevail; “for the meekshall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance ofpeace.” “And the kingdom and dominion, even the greatness of the kingdomunder the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the MostHigh, and they shall possess it forever.” But this can not be in their presentbroken and divided state; “for a kingdom or a house divided against itselfcan not stand; but cometh to desolation.” Now this has been the case with theChurch for a long time. However, “the Lord will not cast off his people,neither will he forsake his heritage; but judgment shall return untorighteousness, and all the upright in heart shall follow it.” To all such, andsuch alone, are our expectations directed. Come, then, ye blessed of the Lord,we have your prayers, let us also have your actual assistance. What, shallwe pray for a thing and not strive to obtain it!

We call, we invite you again, by every consideration in these premises.You that are near, associate with us; you that are at too great a distance,associate as we have done. Let not the paucity of your number in any givendistrict, prove an insuperable discouragement. Remember Him that has said,”If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, itshall be done for them of my Father who is in heaven: for where two or threeare gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” With sucha promise as this, for the attainment of every possible and promised good,there is no room for discouragement. Come on then, “ye that fear the Lord;keep not silence, and give him no rest till he make Jerusalem a joy and apraise in the earth.” Put on that noble resolution dictated by the prophet,saying, “For Zion’s sake will we not hold our peace, and for Jerusalem’s sakewe will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and thesalvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” Thus impressed, you will find meansto associate at such convenient distances, as to meet at least once a month; tobeseech the Lord to put an end to our lamentable divisions; to heal and unitehis people, that his Church may resume her original constitutional unity andpurity, and thus be exalted to the enjoyment of her promised prosperity, thatthe Jews may be speedily converted, and the fullness of the Gentiles broughtin. Thus associated, you will be in a capacity to investigate the evil causes ofour sad divisions; to consider and bewail their pernicious effects; andto mourn over them before the Lord–who hath said: “I will go and return tomy place, till they acknowledge their offense and seek my face.” Alas! then,what reasonable prospect can we have of being delivered from those sadcalamities, which have so long afflicted the Church of God; while a partyspirit, instead of bewailing, is everywhere justifying, the bitter principleof these pernicious evils; by insisting upon the right of rejecting those,however unexceptionable in other respects, who can not see with them inmatters of private opinion, of human inference, that are nowhere expresslyrevealed or enjoined in the word of God. Thus associated, will the friends ofpeace, the advocates for Christian unity, be in a capacity to connect inlarger circles, where several of those smaller societies may meetsemi-annually at a convenient center; and thus avail themselves of theircombined exertions for promoting the interests of the common cause. Wehope that many of the Lord’s ministers in all places will volunteer in thisservice, forasmuch as they know it is his favorite work, the very desire of hissoul.

You lovers of Jesus, and beloved of him, however scattered in thiscloudy and dark day, you love the truth as it is in Jesus (if our hearts deceiveus not); so do we. You desire union in Christ with all them that love him; sodo we. You lament and bewail our sad divisions; so do we. You reject thedoctrines and commandments of men, that you may keep the law of Christ; sodo we. You believe that the word itself ought to be our rule, and not anyhuman explication of it; so do we. You believe that no man has a right tojudge, to exclude, or reject his professing Christian brother, except in so far ashe stands condemned or rejected by the express letter of the law; so do we.You believe that the great fundamental law of unity and love ought not to beviolated to make way for exalting human opinions to an equality with expressrevelation, by making them articles of faith and terms of communion; so dowe. You sincere and impartial followers of Jesus, friends of truth and peace,we dare not, we can not think otherwise of you; it would be doing violence toyour character; it would be inconsistent with your prayers and profession so todo. We shall therefore have your hearty concurrence. But if any of our dearbrethren, from whom we should expect better things, should, throughweakness or prejudice, be in anything otherwise minded than we haveventured to suppose, we charitably hope that, in due time, God will revealeven this unto them; only let such neither refuse to come to the light, nor yet,through prejudice, reject it when it shines upon them. Let them ratherseriously consider what we have thus most seriously and respectfullysubmitted to their consideration; weigh every sentiment in the balance of thesanctuary, as in the sight of God, with earnest prayer for, and humble relianceupon, his Spirit, and not in the spirit of self-sufficiency and party zeal; and, inso doing, we rest assured, the consequence will be happy, both for their ownand the Church’s peace. Let none imagine, that in so saying, we arrogate toourselves a degree of intelligence superior to our brethren; much less superiorto mistake. So far from this, our confidence is entirely founded upon theexpress Scripture and matter-of-fact evidence of the things referred to; whichmay, nevertheless, through inattention or prejudice, fail to produce theirproper effect, as has been the case with respect to some of the most evidenttruths in a thousand instances. But charity thinketh no evil; and we are farfrom surmising, though we must speak. To warn, even against possible evils,is certainly no breach of charity, as to be confident of the certainty ofsome things is no just argument of presumption. We by no means claim theapprobation of our brethren as to any thing we have suggested for promotingthe sacred cause of Christian unity, further than it carries its own evidencealong with it; but we humbly claim a fair investigation of the subject, andsolicit the assistance of our brethren for carrying into effect what we have thusweakly attempted. It is our consolation, in the mean time, that the desiredevent, as certain as it will be happy and glorious, admits of no dispute,however we may hesitate or differ about the proper means of promoting it. Allwe shall venture to say as to this is, that we trust we have taken the properground; at least, if we have not, we despair of finding it elsewhere. For, ifholding fast in profession and practice whatever is expressly revealed andenjoined in the Divine standard does not, under the promised influence ofthe Divine Spirit, prove an adequate basis for promoting and maintainingunity, peace, and purity, we utterly despair of attaining those invaluableprivileges, by adopting the standard of any party. To advocate the cause ofunity, while espousing the interests of a party, would appear as absurd as forthis country to take part with either of the belligerents in the present awfulstruggle, which has convulsed and is convulsing the nations, in order tomaintain her neutrality and secure her peace. Nay, it would be adopting thevery means by which the bewildered Church has, for hundreds of yearspast, been rending and dividing herself into factions, for Christ’s sake, and forthe truth’s sake; though the first and foundation truth of our Christianity isunion with him, and the very next to it in order, union with each other in him–“that we receive each other, as Christ has also received us, to the glory ofGod.” “For this is his commandment: That we believe in his Son Jesus Christ,and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth hiscommandments dwelleth in him, and he in him; and hereby we know that hedwelleth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us,” even the spirit of faith,and of love, and of a sound mind. And surely this should suffice us. But howto love and receive our brother, as we believe and hope Christ has receivedboth him and us, and yet refuse to hold communion with him, is, we confess,a mystery too deep for us. If this be the way that Christ hath received us, thenwoe is unto us. We do not here intend a professed brother transgressing theexpress letter of the law, and refusing to be reclaimed. Whatever may be ourcharity in such a case, we have not sufficient evidence that Christ has receivedhim, or that he has received Christ as his teacher and Lord. To adopt means,then, apparently subversive of the very end proposed, means which theexperience of ages has evinced successful only in overthrowing the visibleinterests of Christianity, in counteracting, as far as possible, the declaredintention, the express command of its Divine author, would appear in no wisea prudent measure for removing and preventing those evils. To maintain unityand purity has always been the plausible pretense of the compilers andabettors of human systems, and we believe, in many instances, their sincereintention; but have they at all answered the end? Confessedly, demonstrably,they have not; no, not even in the several parties which have most strictlyadopted them; much less to the catholic professing body. Instead of hercatholic constitutional unity and purity, what does the Church present us with,at this day, but a catalogue of sects and sectarian systems–each bindingits respective party, by the most sacred and solemn engagements, to continueas it is to the end of the world; at least, this is confessedly the case with manyof them. What a sorry substitute these for Christian unity and love! On theother hand, what a mercy is it that no human obligation that man can comeunder is valid against the truth. When the Lord the healer descends upon hispeople, to give them a discovery of the nature and tendency of those artificialbonds wherewith they have suffered themselves to be bound in their darkand sleepy condition, they will no more be able to hold them in a state ofsectarian bondage than the withes and cords with which the Philistines boundSamson were able to retain him their prisoner, or than the bonds of Antichristwere to hold in captivity the fathers of the Reformation. May the Lord soonopen the eyes of his people to see things in their true light, and excite them tocome up out of their wilderness condition, out of this Babel of confusion,leaning upon their Beloved, and embracing each other in him, holding fastthe unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. This gracious unity and unanimityin Jesus would afford the best external evidence of their union with him, andof their conjoint interest in the Father’s love. “By this shall all men know thatyou are my disciples,” says he, “if you have love one to another.” And “This ismy commandment, That you love one another as I have loved you; that youalso love one another.” And again, “Holy Father, keep through thine ownname those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are”; even”all that shall believe in me; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art inme and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believethat thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have giventhem; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me,that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thouhast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” May theLord hasten it in his time. Farewell.

Peace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.Amen.



To prevent mistakes, we beg leave to subjoin the followingexplanations. As to what we have done, our reasons for so doing, and thegrand object we would desire to see accomplished, all these, we presume,are sufficiently declared in the foregoing pages. As to what we intend to do inour associate capacity, and the ground we have taken in that capacity, thoughexpressly and definitely declared, yet these, perhaps, might be liable to somemisconstruction. First, then, we beg leave to assure our brethren that we haveno intention to interfere, either directly or indirectly, with the peace and orderof the settled Churches, by directing any ministerial assistance with which theLord may please to favor us, to make inroads upon such; or by endeavoring toerect Churches out of Churches, to distract and divide congregations. We haveno nostrum, no peculiar discovery of our own to propose to fellow-Christians,for the fancied importance of which they should become followers of us. Wepropose to patronize nothing but the inculcation of the express word of God,either as to matter of faith or practice; but every one that has a Bible, and canread it, can read this for himself. Therefore, we have nothing new. Neitherdo we pretend to acknowledge persons to be ministers of Christ, and, at thesame time, consider it our duty to forbid or discourage people to go to hearthem, merely because they may hold some things disagreeable to us; muchless to encourage their people to leave them on that account. And such do weesteem all who preach a free, unconditional salvation through the bloodof Jesus to perishing sinners of every description, and who manifestly connectwith this a life of holiness and pastoral diligence in the performance of all theduties of their sacred office, according to the Scriptures, of even all of whom,as to all appearance, it may be truly said to the objects of their charge: “Theyseek not yours, but you.” May the good Lord prosper all such, by whatevername they are called, and hasten that happy period when Zion’s watchmenshall see eye to eye, and all be called by the same name. Such, then, havenothing to fear from our association, were our resources equal to our utmostwishes. But all others we esteem as hirelings, as idle shepherds, and should beglad to see the Lord’s flock delivered from their mouth, according to hispromise. Our principal and proper design, then, with respect to ministerialassistants, such as we have described in our fifth resolution, is to direct theirattention to those places where there is manifest need for their labors; andmany such places there are; would to God it were in our power to supplythem. As to creeds and confessions, although we may appear to our brethrento oppose them, yet this is to be understood only in so far as they oppose theunity of the Church, by containing sentiments not expressly revealed in theword of God; or, by the way of using them, become the instruments of ahuman or implicit faith, or oppress the weak of God’s heritage. Where they areliable to none of those objections, we have nothing against them. It is theabuse and not the lawful use of such compilations that we oppose. SeeProposition 7, page 46. Our intention, therefore, with respect to all theChurches of Christ is perfectly amicable. We heartily wish their reformation,but by no means their hurt or confusion. Should any affect to say that ourcoming forward as we have done, in advancing and publishing such things,has a manifest tendency to distract and divide the Churches, or to make anew party, we treat it as a confident and groundless assertion, and mustsuppose they have not duly considered, or, at least, not well understood thesubject.

All we shall say to this at present, is, that if the Divine word be not thestandard of a party, then are we not a party, for we have adopted no other. Ifto maintain its alone sufficiency be not a party principle, then are we not aparty. If to justify this principle by our practice, in making a rule of it, and of italone, and not of our own opinions, nor of those of others, be not a partyprinciple, then are we not a party. If to propose and practice neither more norless than it expressly reveals and enjoins be not a partial business, then are wenot a party. These are the very sentiments we have approved andrecommended, as a society formed for the express purpose of promotingChristian unity, in opposition to a party spirit. Should any tell us that to dothese things is impossible without the intervention of human reason andopinion, we humbly thank them for the discovery. But who ever thoughtotherwise? Were we not rational subjects, and of course capable ofunderstanding and forming opinions, would it not evidently appear that, to us,revelation of any kind would be quite useless, even suppose it as evident asmathematics? We pretend not, therefore, to divest ourselves of reason, that wemay become quiet, inoffensive, and peaceable Christians; nor yet, of any of itsproper and legitimate operations upon Divinely revealed truths. We onlypretend to assert, what every one that pretends to reason must acknowledge,namely, that there is a manifest distinction between an express Scripturedeclaration, and the conclusion or inference which may be deduced fromit; and that the former may be clearly understood, even where the latter is butimperfectly if at all perceived; and that we are at least as certain of thedeclaration as we can be of the conclusion we drew from it; and that, after all,the conclusion ought not to be exalted above the premises, so as to make voidthe declaration for the sake of establishing our own conclusion; and that,therefore, the express commands to preserve and maintain inviolate Christianunity and love, ought not to be set aside to make way for exalting ourinferences above the express authority of God. Our inference, upon the whole,is, that where a professing Christian brother opposes or refuses nothing eitherin faith or practice, for which there can be expressly produced a “Thus saiththe Lord,” that we ought not to reject him because he can not see with our eyesas to matters of human inference, of private judgment. “Through thyknowledge shall the weak brother perish? How walkest thou not charitably?”Thus we reason, thus we conclude, to make no conclusion of our own, norof any other fallible fellow-creature, a rule of faith or duty to our brother.Whether we refuse reason, then, or abuse it, in our so doing, let our brethrenjudge. But, after all, we have only ventured to suggest what, in other words,the apostle has expressly taught; namely, that the strong ought to bear with theinfirmities of the weak, and not to please themselves; that we ought to receivehim that is weak in the faith, because God has received him. In a word, thatwe ought to receive one another, as Christ hath also received us to the glory ofGod. We dare not, therefore, patronize the rejection of God’s dear children,because they may not be able to see alike in matters of human inference–ofprivate opinion; and such we esteem all things not expressly revealed andenjoined in the word of God. If otherwise, we know not what private opinionmeans. On the other hand, should our peaceful and affectionate overture forunion in truth prove offensive to any of our brethren, or occasion disturbancesin any of the Churches, the blame can not be attached to us. We have onlyventured to persuade, and, if possible, to excite to the performance of animportant duty–a duty equally incumbent upon us all. Neither havewe pretended to dictate to them what they should do. We have only proposedwhat appeared to us most likely to promote the desired event, humblysubmitting the whole premises to their candid and impartial investigation, tobe altered, corrected, and amended, as they see cause, or to adopt any otherplan that may appear more just and unexceptionable. As for ourselves,we have taken all due care, in the mean time, to take no step that might throwa stumbling-block in the way, that might prove now, or at any future period, abarrier to prevent the accomplishment of that most desirable object, either byjoining to support a party, or by patronizing anything as articles of faith orduty not expressly enjoined in the Divine standard; as we are sure, whateveralterations may take place, that will stand. That considerable alterations mustand will take place, in the standards of all the sects, before that glorious objectcan be accomplished, no man, that duly considers the matter, can possiblydoubt. In so far, then, we have at least endeavored to act consistently; and withthe same consistency would desire to be instrumental in erecting as manyChurches as possible throughout the desolate places of God’s heritage,upon the same catholic foundation, being well persuaded that every sucherection will not only in the issue prove an accession to the general cause, butwill also, in the mean time, be a step toward it, and, of course, will reap thefirst-fruits of that blissful harvest that will fill the face of the world with fruit.For if the first Christian Churches, walking in the fear of the Lord in holyunity and unanimity, enjoyed the comforts of the Holy Spirit, and wereincreased and edified, we have reason to believe that walking in their footstepswill everywhere and at all times insure the same blessed privileges. And it isin an exact conformity to their recorded and approved example, that we,through grace, would be desirous to promote the erection of Churches; andthis we believe to be quite practicable, if the legible and authentic records oftheir faith and practice be handed down to us upon the page of NewTestament Scripture; but if otherwise, we can not help it. Yet, even in this case,might we not humbly presume that the Lord would take the will for the deed?for if there be first a willing mind, we are told, “it is accepted according towhat a man hath, and not according to what he hath not.” It would appear,then, that sincerely and humbly adopting this model, with an entire relianceupon promised grace, we can not, we shall not, be disappointed. By this, atleast, we shall get rid of two great evils, which, we fear, are at this daygrievously provoking the Lord to plead a controversy with the Churches: wemean the taking and giving of unjust offenses; judging and rejecting eachother in matters wherein the Lord hath not judged, in a flat contradiction to hisexpressly revealed will. But, according to the principle adopted, we canneither take offense at our brother for his private opinions, if he be content tohold them as such, nor yet offend him with ours, if he do not usurp the placeof the lawgiver; and even suppose he should, in this case we judge him,not for his opinions, but for his presumption. “There is one Lawgiver, who isable to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” But further, toprevent mistakes, we beg leave to explain our meaning in a sentence or twowhich might possibly be misunderstood. In the first page we say, that no manhas a right to judge his brother, except in so far as he manifestly violates theexpress letter of the law. By the law here, and elsewhere, when taken in thislatitude, we mean that whole revelation of faith and duty expressly declared inthe Divine word, taken together, or in its due connection, upon every article,and not any detached sentence. We understand it as extending to allprohibitions, as well as to all requirements. “Add thou not unto his words, lesthe reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” We dare, therefore, neither do norreceive anything as of Divine obligation for which there can not be expresslyproduced a “Thus saith the Lord,” either in express terms or by approvedprecedent. According to this rule we judge, and beyond it we dare not go.Taking this sentiment in connection with the last clause of the fifth resolution,we are to be understood, of all matters of faith and practice, of primary anduniversal obligation; that is to say, of express revelation; that nothing beinculcated, as such, for which there can not be expressly produced a”Thus saith the Lord,” as above, without, at the same time, interfering directlyor indirectly with the private judgment of any individual, which does notexpressly contradict the express letter of the law, or add to the number of itsinstitutions. Every sincere and upright Christian will understand and do thewill of God, in every instance, to the best of his skill and judgment; but in theapplication of the general rule to particular cases there may, and doubtlesswill, be some variety of opinion and practice. This, we see, was actuallythe case in the apostolic Churches, without any breach of Christian unity; andif this was the case at the erection of the Christian Church from among Jewsand Gentiles, may we not reasonably expect that it will be the same at herrestoration from under her long antichristian and sectarian desolations?

With a direct reference to this state of things, and, as we humbly think,in a perfect consistency with the foregoing explanations, have we expressedourselves in the thirty-ninth page, wherein we declare ourselves ready torelinquish whatever we have hitherto received as matter of faith or practice,not expressly taught and enjoined in the word of God, so that we and ourbrethren might by this mutual concession, return together to the originalconstitutional unity of the Christian Church, and dwell together in peace andcharity. By this proposed relinquishment we are to be understood, in the firstinstance, of our manner of holding those things, and not simply of the thingsthemselves; for no man can relinquish his opinions or practices till onceconvinced that they are wrong; and this he may not be immediately, evensupposing they were so. One thing, however, he may do: when not bound byan express command, he need not impose them upon others, by anywiserequiring their approbation; and when this is done, the things, to them, are asgood as dead, yea, as good as buried, too, being thus removed out of theway. Has not the apostle set us a noble example of this in his pious andcharitable zeal for the comfort and edification of his brother, in declaringhimself ready to forego his rights (not indeed to break commandments) ratherthan stumble, or offend, his brother? And who knows not that the HebrewChristians abstained from certain meats, observed certain days, kept thepassover, circumcised their children, etc., etc., while no such things werepracticed by the Gentile converts, and yet no breach of unity while theycharitably forbore one with the other. But had the Jews been expresslyprohibited, or the Gentiles expressly enjoined, by the authority of Jesus, toobserve these things, could they, in such a case, have lawfully exercised thisforbearance? But where no express law is, there can be no formal, nointentional transgression, even although its implicit and necessaryconsequences had forbid the thing, had they been discovered. Upon the whole,we see one thing is evident: the Lord will bear with the weaknesses, theinvoluntary ignorances, and mistakes of his people, though not with theirpresumption. Ought they not, therefore, to bear with each other–“to preservethe unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; forbearing one with another inlove?” What says the Scripture? We say, then, the declaration referred to is tobe thus understood in the first instance; though we do not say but somethingfurther is intended. For certainly we may lawfully suspend both declarationand practice upon any subject, where the law is silent; when to do otherwisemust prevent the accomplishment of an expressly commanded and highlyimportant duty; and such, confessedly, is the thing in question. What says theapostle? “All things are lawful for me; but all things are not expedient. Allthings are lawful for me; but all things edify not.” It seems, then, that amonglawful things which might be forborne–that is, as we humbly conceive, thingsnot expressly commanded–the governing principle of the apostle’s conductwas the edification of his brethren of the Church of God. A Divine principlethis, indeed! May the Lord God infuse it into all his people. Were all thosenonpreceptive opinions and practices which have been maintained and exaltedto the destruction of the Church’s unity, counterbalanced with the breach of theexpress law of Christ, and the black catalogue of mischiefs which havenecessarily ensued, on which side, think you, would be the preponderance?When weighed in the balance with this monstrous complex evil, would theynot all appear lighter than vanity? Who, then, would not relinquish a cent toobtain a kingdom! And here let it be noted, that it is not the renunciation of anopinion or practice as sinful that is proposed or intended, but merely acessation from the publishing or practicing it, so as to give offense; a thingmen are in the habit of doing every day for their private comfort or secularemolument, where the advantage is of infinitely less importance. Neitheris there here any clashing of duties, as if to forbear was a sin and also topractice was sin; the thing to be forborne being a matter of private opinion,which, though not expressly forbidden, yet are we by no means expresslycommanded to practice; whereas we are expressly commanded to endeavor tomaintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And what saysthe apostle to the point in hand? “Hast thou faith,” says he; “have it to thyselfbefore God. Happy is the man that condemneth not himself in the thing whichhe alloweth.”

It may be further added, that a still higher and more perfect degree ofuniformity is intended, though neither in the first nor second instance, whichare but so many steps toward it; namely: the utter abolition of those minordifferences, which have been greatly increased, as well as continued, by ourunhappy manner of treating them, in making them the subject of perpetualstrife and contention. Many of the opinions which are now dividing theChurch, had they been let alone, would have been long since dead and gone;but the constant insisting upon them, as articles of faith and terms ofsalvation, have so beaten them into the minds of men, that, in many instances,they would as soon deny the Bible itself as give up one of those opinions.Having thus embraced contentions and preferred divisions to thatconstitutional unity, peace, and charity so essential to Christianity, it wouldappear that the Lord, in righteous judgment, has abandoned hisprofessing people to the awful scourge of those evils; as, in an instancesomewhat similar, he formerly did his highly favored Israel. “My people,” sayshe, “would not hearken to my voice. So I gave them up to their own hearts’lusts, and they walked in their own counsels.” “Israel hath made many altars tosin: therefore altars shall be unto him to sin.” Thus, then, are we to beconsistently understood, as fully and fairly intending, on our part, what wehave declared and proposed to our brethren, as, to our apprehension,incumbent upon them and us, for putting an end forever to our sad andlamentable schisms. Should any object and say that, after all, the fullestcompliance with everything proposed and intended would not restore theChurch to the desired unity, as there might remain differences of opinion andpractice; let such but duly consider what properly belongs to the unity ofthe Church, and we are persuaded this objection will vanish. Does not thevisible Scriptural unity of the Christian Church consist in the unity of herpublic profession and practice, and, under this, in the manifest charity of hermembers, one toward another, and not in the unity of private opinion andpractice of every individual? Was not this evidently the case in the apostles’days, as has been already observed? If so, the objection falls to the ground.And here let it be noted (if the hint be at all necessary), that we arespeaking of the unity of the Church considered as a great, visible, professingbody, consisting of many co-ordinate associations; each of these, in itsaggregate or associate capacity, walking by the same rule, professingand practicing the same things. That this visible Scriptural unity be preservedwithout corruption, or breach of charity, throughout the whole, and in everyparticular worshiping society or Church, is the grand desideratum–the thingstrictly enjoined and greatly to be desired. An agreement in the expresslyrevealed will of God is the adequate and firm foundation of this unity; ardentprayer, accompanied with prudent, peaceable, and persevering exertion, in theuse of all Scriptural means for accomplishing it, are the things humblysuggested and earnestly recommended to our brethren. If we have mistakenthe way, their charity will put us right; but if otherwise, their fidelity toChrist and his cause will excite them to come forth speedily, to assist with usin this blessed work.

After all, should any impeach us with the vague charge ofLatitudinarianism (let none be startled at this gigantic term), it will prove asfeeble an opponent to the glorious cause in which we, however weakand unworthy, are professedly engaged, as the Zamzummins did of old, toprevent the children of Lot from taking possession of their inheritance. If wetake no greater latitude than the Divine law allows, either in judging ofpersons or doctrines–either in profession or practice (and this is the very thingwe humbly propose and sincerely intend), may we not reasonably hopethat such a latitude will appear, to every upright Christian, perfectly innocentand unexceptionable? If this be Latitudinarianism, it must be a good thing,and, therefore, the more we have of it the better; and may be it is, for we aretold, “the commandment is exceeding broad;” and we intend to go just as faras it will suffer us, but not one hair-breadth further; so, at least, says ourprofession. And surely it will be time enough to condemn our practice, when itappears manifestly inconsistent with the profession we have thus precisely andexplicitly made. We here refer to the whole of the foregoing premises. Butwere this word as bad as it is long, were it stuffed with evil from beginningto end, may be it better belongs to those that brandish it so unmercifully attheir neighbors, especially if they take a greater latitude than their neighborsdo, or than the Divine law allows. Let the case, then, be fairly submitted to allthat know their Bible, to all that take upon them to see with their own eyes, tojudge for themselves. And here let it be observed once for all, that it is only tosuch we direct our attention in the foregoing pages. As for those that eithercan not or will not see and judge for themselves, they must be content tofollow their leaders till they come to their eyesight, or determine to make useof the faculties and means of information which God has given them;with such, in the mean time, it would be useless to reason, seeing that theyeither confessedly can not see, or have completely resigned themselves to theconduct of their leaders, and are therefore determined to hearken to none butthem. If there be none such, however, we are happily deceived; but, if so, weare not the only persons that are thus deceived; for this is the common faultobjected by almost all the parties to each other, namely, that they either can notor will not see; and it would be hard to think they were all mistaken; the fewerthere be, however, of this description, the better. To all those, then, that aredisposed to see and think for themselves, to form their judgment by theDivine word itself, and not by any human explication of it, humbly relyingupon and looking for the promised assistance of Divine teaching, and notbarely trusting to their own understanding–to all such do we gladly commitour cause, being persuaded that, at least, they will give it a very serious andimpartial consideration, as being truly desirous to know the truth. Toyou, then, we appeal, in the present instance, as we have also done from thebeginning. Say, we beseech you, to whom does the charge ofLatitudinarianism, when taken in a bad sense (for we have supposed it maybe taken in a good sense), most truly and properly belong, whether to thosethat will neither add nor diminish anything as to matter of faith and duty,either to or from what is expressly revealed and enjoined in the holyScriptures, or to those who pretend to go further than this, or to set aside someof its express declarations and injunctions, to make way for their ownopinions, inferences, and conclusions? Whether to those who profess theirwillingness to hold communion with their acknowledged Christian brethren,when they neither manifestly oppose nor contradict anything expresslyrevealed and enjoined in the sacred standard, or to those who reject such,when professing to believe and practice whatever is expressly revealed andenjoined therein, without, at the same time, being alleged, much less foundguilty, of anything to the contrary, but instead of this asserting and declaringtheir hearty assent and consent to everything for which there can be expresslyproduced a “Thus saith the Lord,” either in express terms or by approvedprecedent? To which of these, think you, does the odious charge ofLatitudinarianism belong? Which of them takes the greatest latitude? Whetherthose that expressly judge and condemn where they have no express warrantfor so doing, or those that absolutely refuse so to do? And we can assure ourbrethren, that such things are and have been done, to our own certainknowledge, and even where we least expected it; and that it is tothis discovery, as much as to many other things, that we stand indebted forthat thorough conviction of the evil state of things in the Churches, which hasgiven rise to our association. As for our part, we dare no longer give ourassent to such proceedings; we dare no longer concur in expressly asserting ordeclaring anything in the name of the Lord, that he has not expressly declaredin his holy word. And until such time as Christians come to see the evil ofdoing otherwise, we see no rational ground to hope that there can be eitherunity, peace, purity, or prosperity, in the Church of God. Convinced of thetruth of this, we would humbly desire to be instrumental in pointing out to ourfellow-Christians the evils of such conduct. And if we might venture to giveour opinion of such proceedings, we would not hesitate to say, that theyappear to include three great evils–evils truly great in themselves, and atthe same time productive of most evil consequences.

First, to determine expressly, in the name of the Lord, when the Lordhas not expressly determined, appears to us a very great evil. (See Deut. xviii:20:) “The prophet that shall presume to speak a word in my name, which Ihave not commanded him to speak, even that prophet shall die.” The apostlePaul, no doubt, well aware of this cautiously, distinguishes between his ownjudgment and the express injunctions of the Lord. (See 1 Cor. vii: 25 and 40.)Though, at the same time, it appears that he was as well convinced of the truthand propriety of his declarations, and of the concurrence of the Holy Spiritwith his judgment, as any of our modern determiners may be; for “I think,”said he, “that I have the Spirit of God;” and we doubt much, if the best of themcould honestly say more than this; yet we see that, with all this, he would notbind the Church with his conclusions; and, for this very reason, as heexpressly tells us, because, as to the matter on hand, he had no commandmentof the Lord. He spoke by permission, and not by commandment, as one thathad obtained mercy to be faithful, and therefore would not forge his Master’sname by affixing it to his own conclusions, saying, “The Lord saith, when theLord had not spoken.”

A second evil is, not only judging our brother to be absolutely wrong,because he differs from our opinions, but more especially, our judging him tobe a transgressor of the law in so doing, and, of course, treating him as suchby censuring or otherwise exposing him to contempt, or, at least, preferringourselves before him in our own judgment, saying, as it were, Stand by, I amholier than thou.

A third and still more dreadful evil is, when we not only, in this kind ofway, judge and set at naught our brother, but, moreover, proceed as a Church,acting and judging in the name of Christ, not only to determine that ourbrother is wrong because he differs from our determinations, but also, inconnection with this, proceed so far as to determine the merits of the cause byrejecting him, or casting him out of the Church, as unworthy of a place in hercommunion, and thus, as far as in our power, cutting him off from thekingdom of heaven. In proceeding thus, we not only declare, that, in ourjudgment, our brother is in an error, which we may sometimes do in a perfectconsistence with charity, but we also take upon us to judge, as acting in thename and by the authority of Christ, that his error cuts him off from salvation;that continuing such, he has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ andof God. If not, what means our refusing him–our casting him out of theChurch, which is the kingdom of God in this world? For certainly, if a personhave no right, according to the Divine word, to a place in the Church of Godupon earth (which we say he has not, by thus rejecting him), he can have noneto a place in the Church in heaven–unless we should suppose that those whomChrist by his word rejects here, he will nevertheless receive hereafter. Andsurely it is by the word that every Church pretends to judge; and it is by thisrule, in the case before us, that the person in the judgment of the Churchstands rejected. Now is not this, to all intents and purposes, determiningthe merits of the cause? Do we not conclude that the person’s error cuts himoff from all ordinary possibility of salvation, by thus cutting him off from aplace in the Church, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation?Does he not henceforth become to us as a heathen man and a publican? Is henot reckoned among the number of those that are without, whom Godjudgeth? If not, what means such a solemn determination? Is it anything or isit nothing, for a person to stand rejected by the Church of God? Ifsuch rejection confessedly leave the man still in the same safe and hopefulstate as to his spiritual interests, then, indeed, it becomes a matter of mereindifference; for as to his civil and natural privileges, it interferes not withthem. But the Scripture gives us a very different view of the matter; for therewe see that those that stand justly rejected by the Church on earth, have noroom to hope for a place in the Church of heaven. “What ye bind on earthshall be bound in heaven” is the awful sanction of the Church’s judgment, injustly rejecting any person. Take away this, and it has no sanction at all. Butthe Church rejecting, always pretends to have acted justly in so doing, and, ifso, whereabouts does it confessedly leave the person rejected, if not in a stateof damnation? that is to say, if it acknowledge itself to be a Church of Christ,and to have acted justly. If, after all, any particular Church acting thus shouldrefuse the foregoing conclusion, by saying: We meant no such thingconcerning the person rejected; we only judged him unworthy of a placeamong us, and therefore put him away, but there are other Churches that mayreceive him; we would be almost tempted to ask such a Church, if those otherChurches be Churches of Christ, and if so, pray what does it account itself? Isit anything more or better than a Church of Christ? And whether, if thoseother Churches do their duty as faithful Churches, any of them would receivethe person it had rejected? If it be answered that, in acting faithfully, none ofthose other Churches either could or would receive him, then, confessedly, inthe judgment of this particular Church, the person ought to be universallyrejected; but if otherwise, it condemns itself of having acted unfaithfully, naycruelly, toward a Christian brother, a child of God, in thus rejecting him fromthe heritage of the Lord, in thus cutting him off from his Father’s house, as theunnatural brethren did the beloved Joseph. But even suppose some one orother of those unfaithful Churches should receive the outcast, would theirunfaithfulness in so doing nullify, in the judgment of this more faithfulChurch, its just and faithful decision in rejecting him? If not, then,confessedly, in its judgment, the person still remains under the influence of itsrighteous sentence, debarred from the kingdom of heaven; that is to say, if itbelieve the Scriptures, that what it has righteously done upon earth isratified in heaven. We see no way that a Church acting thus can possibly getrid of this awful conclusion, except it acknowledges that the person it hasrejected from its communion still has a right to the communion of the Church;but if it acknowledge this, whereabouts does it leave itself, in thus shutting outa fellow-Christian, an acknowledged brother, a child of God? Do we find anyparallel for such conduct in the inspired records, except in the case ofDiotrephes, of whom the apostle says, “Who loveth to have the pre-eminenceamong them, receiveth us not, prating against us with malicious words: andnot content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, andforbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the Church.”

But further, suppose another Church should receive this castaway, thisperson which this faithful Church supposed itself to have righteously rejected,would not the Church so doing incur the displeasure, nay even the censure ofthe Church that had rejected him? and, we should think, justly too if hedeserved to be rejected. And would not this naturally produce a schismbetween the Churches? Or, if it be supposed that a schism did already exist,would not this manifestly tend to perpetuate and increase it? If one Church,receiving those whom another puts away, will not be productive of schism, wemust confess we can not tell what would. That Church, therefore, must surelyact very schismatically, very unlike a Church of Christ, which necessarilypresupposes or produces schism in order to shield an oppressedfellow-Christian from the dreadful consequences of its unrighteousproceedings. And is not this confessedly the case with every Churchwhich rejects a person from its communion while it acknowledges him to be afellow-Christian; and, in order to excuse this piece of cruelty, says he may findrefuge some place else, some other Church may receive him? For, as we havealready observed, if no schism did already exist, one Church receiving thosewhom another has rejected must certainly make one. The same evils also willas justly attach to the conduct of an individual who refuses or breakscommunion with a Church because it will not receive or make room for hisprivate opinions or self-devised practices in its public profession andmanagements; for does he not, in this case, actually take upon him to judgethe Church which he thus rejects as unworthy of the communion ofChristians? And is not this, to all intents and purposes, declaring it, in hisjudgment, excommunicate, or at least worthy of excommunication?

Thus have we briefly endeavored to show our brethren what evidentlyappears to us to be the heinous nature and dreadful consequences of that trulylatitudinarian principle and practice which is the bitter root of almost all ourdivisions, namely, the imposing of our private opinions upon each other asarticles of faith or duty, introducing them into the public profession andpractice of the Church, and acting upon them as if they were the express lawof Christ, by judging and rejecting our brethren that differ from us in thosethings, or at least by so retaining them in our public profession and practicethat our brethren can not join with us, or we with them, without becomingactually partakers in those things which they or we can not in conscienceapprove, and which the word of God nowhere expressly enjoins upon us. Tocease from all such things, by simply returning to the original standard ofChristianity, the profession and practice of the primitive Church, as expresslyexhibited upon the sacred page of New Testament scripture, is theonly possible way that we can perceive to get rid of those evils. And wehumbly think that a uniform agreement in that for the preservation of charitywould be infinitely preferable to our contentions and divisions; nay, that sucha uniformity is the very thing that the Lord requires if the New Testament be aperfect model, a sufficient formula for the worship, discipline, andgovernment of the Christian Church. Let us do as we are there expressly toldthey did, say as they said; that is, profess and practice as therein expresslyenjoined by precept and precedent, in every possible instance, after theirapproved example; and in so doing we shall realize and exhibit all that unityand uniformity that the primitive Church possessed, or that the law ofChrist requires. But if, after all, our brethren can point out a better way toregain and preserve that Christian unity and charity expressly enjoined uponthe Church of God, we shall thank them for the discovery, and cheerfullyembrace it.

Should it still be urged that this would open a wide door tolatitudinarianism, seeing all that profess Christianity profess to receive theholy Scriptures, and yet differ so widely in their religious sentiments, wesay, let them profess what they will, their difference in religious professionand practice originates in their departure from what is expressly revealed andenjoined, and not in their strict and faithful conformity to it, which is the thingwe humbly advise for putting an end to those differences. But you may say,Do they not already all agree in the letter, though differing so far in sentiment?However this may be, have they all agreed to make the letter their rule, or,rather, to make it the subject-matter of their profession and practice? Surelynot, or else they would all profess and practice the same thing. Is it not asevident as the shining light that the Scriptures exhibit but one and theself-same subject-matter of profession and practice, at all times and in allplaces, and that, therefore, to say as it declares, and to do as it prescribes in allits holy precepts, its approved and imitable examples, would unite theChristian Church in a holy sameness of profession and practice throughout thewhole world? By the Christian Church throughout the world, we mean theaggregate of such professors as we have described in Propositions 1 and 8,pages 48 and 50, even all that mutually acknowledge each other as Christians,upon the manifest evidence of their faith, holiness, and charity. It is such onlywe intend when we urge the necessity of Christian unity. Had only such beenall along recognized as the genuine subjects of our holy religion, there wouldnot, in all probability, have been so much apparent need for human formulasto preserve an external formality of professional unity and soundness in thefaith, but artificial and superficial characters need artificial means to train andunite them. A manifest attachment to our Lord Jesus Christ in faith, holiness,and charity, was the original criterion of Christian character, thedistinguishing badge of our holy profession, the foundation and cement ofChristian unity. But now, alas! and long since, an external name, a mereeducational formality of sameness in the profession of a certain standard orformula of human fabric, with a very moderate degree of what is calledmorality, forms the bond and foundation, the root and reason of ecclesiasticalunity. Take away from such the technicalness of their profession, theshibboleth of party, and what have they more? What have they left todistinguish and hold them together? As for the Bible, they are but littlebeholden to it, they have learned little from it, they know little about it, andtherefore depend as little upon it. Nay, they will even tell you it would be ofno use to them without their formula; they could not know a Papist from aProtestant by it; that merely by it they could neither keep themselves nor theChurch right for a single week. You might preach to them what you please,they could not distinguish truth from error. Poor people, it is no wonder theyare so fond of their formula! Therefore they that exercise authority upon themand tell them what they are to believe and what they are to do, are calledbenefactors. These are the reverend and right reverend authors, upon whomthey can and do place a more entire and implicit confidence than upon theholy apostles and prophets; those plain, honest, unassuming men, who wouldnever venture to say or do anything in the name of the Lord without anexpress revelation from Heaven, and therefore were never distinguished by thevenerable titles of Rabbi or Reverend, but just simple Paul, John, Thomas, etc.These were but servants. They did not assume to legislate, and, therefore,neither assumed nor received any honorary titles among men, but merely suchas were descriptive of their office. And how, we beseech you, shall this grossand prevalent corruption be purged out of the visible professing Church but bya radical reform, but by returning to the original simplicity, the primitivepurity of the Christian institution, and, of course, taking up things just as wefind them upon the sacred page. And who is there that knows anything of thepresent state of the Church who does not perceive that it is greatly overrunwith the aforesaid evils? Or who that reads his Bible, and receives theimpressions it must necessarily produce upon the receptive mind by thestatements it exhibits, does not perceive that such a state of things is asdistinct from genuine Christianity as oil is from water?

On the other hand, is it not equally as evident that not one of all theerroneous tenets and corrupt practices which have so defamed and corruptedthe public profession and practice of Christianity, could ever have appeared inthe world had men kept close by the express letter of the Divine law, had theythus held fast that form of sound words contained in the holy Scriptures, andconsidered it their duty so to do, unless they blame those errors andcorruptions upon the very form and expression of the Scriptures, and say that,taken in their letter and connection, they immediately, and at first sight, as itwere, exhibit the picture they have drawn. Should any be so bold as to assertthis, let them produce their performance, the original is at hand; and let themshow us line for line, expression for expression, precept and precedent forpractice, without the torture of criticism, inference, or conjecture, and then weshall honestly blame the whole upon the Bible, and thank those that will giveus an expurged edition of it, call it constitution, or formula, or what youplease, that will not be liable to lead the simple, unlettered world into thosegross mistakes, those contentions, schisms, excommunications, andpersecutions which have proved so detrimental and scandalous to ourholy religion.

Should it be further objected, that even this strict literal uniformitywould neither infer nor secure unity of sentiment; it is granted that, in acertain degree, it would not; nor, indeed, is there anything either in Scriptureor the nature of things that should induce us to expect an entire unity ofsentiment in the present imperfect state. The Church may, and we believewill, come to such a Scriptural unity of faith and practice, that there will be noschism in the body, no self-preferring sect of professed and acknowledgedChristians rejecting and excluding their brethren. This can not be, however, tillthe offensive and excluding causes be removed; and every one knows whatthese are. But that all the members should have the same identical views of allDivinely revealed truths, or that there should be no difference of opinionamong them, appears to us morally impossible, all things considered. Norcan we conceive what desirable purpose such a unity of sentiment wouldserve, except to render useless some of those gracious, self-denying, andcompassionate precepts of mutual sympathy and forbearance which the wordof God enjoins upon his people. Such, then, is the imperfection of our presentstate. Would to God it might prove, as it ought, a just and humblingcounterbalance to our pride! Then, indeed, we would judge one another nomore about such matters. We would rather be conscientiously cautious to giveno offense; to put no stumbling-block or occasion to fall in our brother’s way.We would then no longer exalt our own opinions and inferences to an equalitywith express revelation, by condemning and rejecting our brother for differingwith us in those things.

But although it be granted that the uniformity we plead for would notsecure unity of sentiment, yet we should suppose that it would be asefficacious for that purpose as any human expedient or substitute whatsoever.And here we would ask: Have all or any of those human compilations beenable to prevent divisions, to heal breaches, or to produce and maintain unityof sentiment even among those who have most firmly and solemnly embracedthem? We appeal for this to the history of all the Churches, and to the presentdivided state of the Church at large. What good, then, have those devisiveexpedients accomplished, either to the parties that have adopted them, or tothe Church universal, which might not have been as well secured by holdingfast in profession and practice that form of sound words contained in theDivine standard, without, at the same time, being liable to any of thosedangerous and destructive consequences which have necessarily ensued uponthe present mode? Or, will any venture to say that the Scriptures, thus kept intheir proper place, would not have been amply sufficient, under the promisedinfluence of the Divine Spirit, to have produced all that unity of sentimentwhich is necessary to a life of faith and holiness; and also to have preservedthe faith and worship of the Church as pure from mixture and error as theLord intended, or as the present imperfect state of his people can possiblyadmit? We should tremble to think that any Christian should say that theywould not. And if to use them thus would be sufficient for those purposes,why resort to other expedients; to expedients which, from the beginning to thisday, have proved utterly insufficient; nay, to expedients which have alwaysproduced the very contrary effects, as experience testifies. Let none hereimagine that we set any certain limits to the Divine intention, or to thegreatness of his power when we thus speak, as if a certain degree of purityfrom mixture and error were not designed for the Church in this world, orattainable by his people upon earth except in so far as respects the attainmentof an angelic or unerring perfection, much less that we mean to suggest thata very moderate degree of unity and purity should content us. We only take itfor granted that such a state of perfection is neither intended nor attainable inthis world, as will free the Church from all those weaknesses, mistakes, andmismanagements from which she will be completely exempted in heaven,however sound and upright she may now be in her profession, intention, andpractice. Neither let any imagine that we here or elsewhere suppose or intendto assert that human standards are intentionally set up in competition withthe Bible, much less in opposition to it. We fairly understand and considerthem as human expedients, or as certain doctrinal declarations of the sense inwhich the compilers understood the Scriptures, designed and embraced forthe purpose of promoting and securing that desirable unity and purity whichthe Bible alone, without those helps, would be insufficient to maintainand secure. If this be not the sense of those that receive and hold them, for theaforesaid purpose, we should be glad to know what it is. It is, however, in thisvery sense that we take them up when we complain of them, as not onlyunsuccessful, but also as unhappy expedients, producing the very contraryeffects. And even suppose it were doubtful whether or not those helps haveproduced divisions, one thing, at least, is certain, they have not been able toprevent them; and now, that divisions do exist, it is as certain that they haveno fitness nor tendency to heal them, but the very contrary, as fact andexperience clearly demonstrate. What shall we do, then, to heal our divisions?We must certainly take some other way than the present practice, if they everbe healed; for it expressly says, they must and shall be perpetuated forever. Letall the enemies of Christianity say Amen; but let all Christians continually say:Forbid it, O Lord. May the good Lord subdue the corruptions and heal thedivisions of his people. Amen, and amen.

After all that has been said, some of our timid brethren may, possibly,still object, and say: we fear that without the intervention of some definitecreed or formula, you will justly incur the censure of latitudinarianism; forhow otherwise detect and exclude Arians, Socinians, etc? To such we wouldreply, that if to profess, inculcate, and practice neither more nor less, neitheranything else nor otherwise than the Divine word expressly declaresrespecting the entire subject of faith and duty, and simply to rest in that, asthe expression of our faith and rule of our practice, will not amount to theprofession and practical exhibition of Arianism, Socinianism, etc., but merelyto one and the self-same thing, whatever it may be called, then is the groundthat we have taken, the principle that we advocate, in nowise chargeable withlatitudinarianism. Should it be still further objected that all these sects, andmany more, profess to receive the Bible, to believe it to be the word of God,and, therefore, will readily profess to believe and practice whatever isrevealed and enjoined therein, and yet each will understand it his own way,and of course practice accordingly; nevertheless, according to the planproposed, you receive them all. We would ask, then, do all these profess andpractice neither more nor less than what we read in the Bible–than what isexpressly revealed and enjoined therein? If so, they all profess and practice thesame thing, for the Bible exhibits but one and the self-same thing to all. Or, isit their own inferences and opinions that they, in reality, profess and practice?If so, then upon the ground that we have taken they stand rejected, ascondemned of themselves, for thus professing one thing when in fact andreality they manifestly practice another. But perhaps you will say, thatalthough a uniformity in profession, and it may be in practice too, might thusbe produced, yet still it would amount to no more than a mere uniformity inwords, and in the external formalities of practice, while the persons thusprofessing and practicing might each entertain his own sentiments, howdifferent soever these might be. Our reply is, if so, they could hurt nobody butthemselves. Besides, if persons thus united professed and practiced all thesame things, pray who could tell that they entertained different sentiments, oreven in justice suppose it, unless they gave some evident intimation of it?which, if they did, would justly expose them to censure or to rejection, if theyrepented not; seeing the offense, in this case, must amount to nothing lessthan an express violation of the expressly revealed will of God–to a manifesttransgression of the express letter of the law; for we have declared, that exceptin such a case, no man, in our judgment, has a right to judge, that is, tocondemn or reject his professing brother. Here, we presume, there is nogreater latitude assumed or allowed on either side than the law expresslydetermines. But we would humbly ask, if a professed agreement in the termsof any standard be not liable to the very same objection? If, for instance,Arians, Socinians, Arminians, Calvinists, Antinomians, etc., might notall subscribe the Westminster Confession, the Athanasian Creed, or thedoctrinal articles of the Church of England. If this be denied, we appeal tohistorical facts; and, in the mean time, venture to assert that such things areand have been done. Or, will any say, that a person might not with equal ease,honesty, and consistency, be an Arian or a Socinian in his heart whilesubscribing the Westminster Confession or the Athanasian Creed, as whilemaking his unqualified profession to believe everything that the Scripturesdeclare concerning Christ? to put all that confidence in him, and to ascribe allthat glory, honor, thanksgiving, and praise to him, professed and ascribed tohim in the Divine word? If you say not, it follows, of undeniable consequence,that the wisdom of men, in those compilations, has effected what the DivineWisdom either could not, would not, or did not do, in that all-perfect andglorious revelation of his will, contained in the Holy Scriptures. Happyemendation! Blessed expedient! Happy, indeed, for the Church thatAthanasius arose in the fourth century to perfect what the holy apostlesand prophets had left in such a rude and unfinished state. But if, after all, theDivine Wisdom did not think proper to do anything more, or anything elsethan is already done in the sacred oracles, to settle and determine thoseimportant points, who can say that he determined such a thing should be doneafterward? Or has he anywhere given us any intimation of such an intention?

Let it here be carefully observed that the question before us is abouthuman standards designed to be subscribed, or otherwise solemnlyacknowledged, for the preservation of ecclesiastical unity and purity, andtherefore, of course, by no means applies to the many excellent performances,for the Scriptural elucidation and defense of Divinely revealed truths and otherinstructive purposes. These, we hope, according to their respective merit, weas highly esteem, and as thankfully receive, as our brethren. But further, withrespect to unity of sentiment, even suppose it ever so desirable, it appearshighly questionable whether such a thing can at all be secured, by anyexpedient whatsoever, especially if we consider that it necessarily presupposesin so far a unity or sameness of understanding. Or, will any say, that from theyouth of seventeen to the man of fourscore–from the illiterate peasant, upto the learned prelate–all the legitimate members of the Church entertain thesame sentiments under their respective formulas? If not, it is still but a mereverbal agreement, a mere show of unity. They say an amen to the same formsof speech, or of sound words, as they are called, without having, at the sametime, the same views of the subject; or, it may be, without any determinateviews of it at all. And, what is still worse, this profession is palmed upon theworld, as well as upon the too credulous professors themselves, for unityof sentiment, for soundness in the faith; when in a thousand instances, theyhave, properly speaking, no faith at all; that is to say, if faith necessarilypresupposes a true and satisfactory conviction of the Scriptural evidence andcertainty of the truth of the propositions we profess to believe. A cheap andeasy orthodoxy this, to which we may attain by committing to memory acatechism, or professing our approbation of a formula, made ready to ourhand, which we may or may not have once read over; or even if we have, yetmay not have been able to read it so correctly and intelligently as to clearlyunderstand one single paragraph from beginning to end, much less to compareit with, to search and try it by the holy Scriptures, to see if these things be so.A cheap and easy orthodoxy this, indeed, to which a person may thus attain,without so much as turning over a single leaf of his Bible, whereas Christknew no other way of leading us to the knowledge of himself, at least hasprescribed no other, but by searching the Scriptures, with reliance upon hisHoly Spirit. A person may, however, by this short and easy method, becomeas orthodox as the apostle Paul (if such superficial professions, such merehearsay verbal repetitions can be called orthodoxy) without ever onceconsulting the Bible, or so much as putting up a single petition for the HolySpirit to guide him into all truth, to open his understanding to know theScriptures; for, his form of sound words truly believed, if it happen to beright, must, without more ado, infallibly secure his orthodoxy. Thrice happyexpedient! But is there no latitudinarianism in all this? Is not this taking alatitude, in devising ways and means for accomplishing Divine and savingpurposes, which the Divine law has nowhere prescribed, for which theScriptures nowhere afford us either precept or precedent? Unless it can beshown that making human standards to determine the doctrine, worship,discipline, and government of the Church for the purpose of preserving herunity and purity, and requiring an approbation of them as a term ofcommunion is a Scripture institution. Far be it from us, in the mean time, toallege that the Church should not make every Scriptural exertion in her powerto preserve her unity and purity; to teach and train up her members in theknowledge of all divinely revealed truth; or to say that the evils abovecomplained of attach to all that are in the habit of using the aforesaid helps; orthat this wretched state of things, however general, necessarily proceeds fromthe legitimate use of such; but rather and entirely from the abuse of them,which is the very and only thing that we are all along opposing when weallude to those subordinate standards. (An appellation this, by the by, whichappears to us highly paradoxical, if not utterly inconsistent, and full ofconfusion.)

But, however this may be, we are by no means to be understood as at allwishing to deprive our fellow-Christians of any necessary and possibleassistance to understand the Scriptures, or to come to a distinct and particularknowledge of every truth they contain, for which purpose the WestminsterConfession and Catechisms may, with many other excellent performances,prove eminently useful. But, having served ourselves of these, let our profitingappear to all, by our manifest acquaintance with the Bible; by making ourprofession of faith and obedience; by declaring its Divine dictates, in whichwe acquiesce, as the subject-matter and rule of both; in our ability to take theScripture in its connection upon these subjects, so as to understand one part ofit by the assistance of another; and in manifesting our self-knowledge, ourknowledge of the way of salvation and of the mystery of the Christian life,in the express light of Divine revelation, by a direct and immediate referenceto, and correct repetition of what it declares upon those subjects. We take itfor granted that no man either knows God, or himself, or the way of salvation,but in so far as he has heard and understood his voice upon those subjects, asaddressed to him in the Scriptures, and that, therefore, whatever he has heardand learned of a saving nature, is contained in the express terms of the Bible.If so, in the express terms, in and by which “he hath heard and learned of theFather,” let him declare it. This by no means forbids him to use helps, but, wehumbly presume, will effectually prevent him from resting either in themor upon them, which is the evil so justly complained of; from taking up withthe directory instead of the object to which it directs. Thus will the wholesubject of his faith and duty, in so far as he has attained, be expressly declaredin a “Thus saith the Lord.” And is it not worthy of remark, that of whateveruse other books may be, to direct and lead us to the Bible, or to prepare andassist us to understand it, yet the Bible never directs us to any book but itself.When we come forward, then, as Christians, to be received by the Church,which, properly speaking, has but one book, “For to it were committed theoracles of God,” let us hear of none else. Is it not upon the credible professionof our faith in, and obedience to its Divine contents, that the Church is boundto receive applicants for admission? And does not a profession of ourfaith and obedience necessarily presuppose a knowledge of the dictates weprofess to believe and obey? Surely, then, we can declare them, and as surely,if our faith and obedience be Divine, as to the subject-matter, rule, and reasonof them, it must be a “Thus saith the Lord”; if otherwise, they are merelyhuman, being taught by the precepts of men. In the case then before us, that is,examination for Church-membership, let the question no longer be, What doesany human system say of the primitive or present state of man? of the person,offices, and relations of Christ, etc., etc.? or of this, that, or the other duty?but, What says the Bible? Were this mode of procedure adopted, how muchbetter acquainted with their Bibles would Christians be? What an importantalteration would it also make in the education of youth? Would it not lay allcandidates for admission into the Church under the happy necessity ofbecoming particularly acquainted with the holy Scriptures? whereas,according to the present practice, thousands know little about them.

One thing still remains that may appear matter of difficulty or objectionto some, namely, that such a close adherence to the express letter of theDivine word, as we seem to propose, for the restoration and maintenance ofChristian unity, would not only interfere with the free communication of oursentiments one to another upon religious subjects, but must, of course, alsonecessarily interfere with the public preaching and expounding of theScriptures for the edification of the Church. Such as feel disposed to make thisobjection, should justly consider that one of a similar nature, and quite asplausible, might be made to the adoption of human standards, especially whenmade as some of them confessedly are, “the standard for all matters ofdoctrine, worship, discipline, and government.” In such a case it might, withas much justice, at least, be objected to the adopters: You have now no moreuse for the Bible; you have got another book, which you have adopted as astandard for all religious purposes; you have no further use for explaining theScriptures, either as to matter of faith or duty, for this you have confessedlydone already in your standard, wherein you have determined all matters of thisnature. You also profess to hold fast the form of sound words, which you havethus adopted, and therefore you must never open your mouth upon anysubject in any other terms than those of your standard. In the mean time,would any of the parties which has thus adopted its respective standard,consider any of these charges just? If not, let them do as they would be doneby. We must confess, however, that for our part, we can not see how, with anyshadow of consistency, some of them could clear themselves, especially of thefirst; that is to say, if words have any determinate meaning; for certainly itwould appear almost, if not altogether incontrovertible, that a book adopted byany party as its standard for all matters of doctrine, worship, discipline, andgovernment, must be considered as the Bible of that party. And after all thatcan be said in favor of such a performance, be it called Bible, standard, orwhat it may, it is neither anything more nor better than the judgment oropinion of the party composing or adopting it, and, therefore, wants thesanction of a Divine authority, except in the opinion of the party which hasthus adopted it. But can the opinion of any party, be it ever so respectable,give the stamp of a Divine authority to its judgments? If not, then everyhuman standard is deficient in this leading, all-important, and indispensableproperty of a rule or standard for the doctrine, worship, discipline, andgovernment of the Church of God. But, without insisting further upon theintrinsic and irremediable deficiency of human standards for the abovepurpose (which is undeniably evident if it be granted that a Divine authority isindispensably necessary to constitute a standard or rule for Divine things, suchas is the constitution and managements, the faith, and worship of the ChristianChurch), we would humbly ask, Would any of the parties consider as just theforegoing objections, however conclusive and well founded all or any of themmay appear? We believe they would not. And may we not with equalconsistency hold fast the expressly revealed will of God, in the very terms inwhich it is expressed in his holy word, as the very expression of our faith andexpress rule of our duty, and yet take the same liberty that they do,notwithstanding their professed and steadfast adherence to their respectivestandards? We find they do not cease to expound, because they have alreadyexpounded, as before alleged, nor yet do they always confine themselves tothe express terms of their respective standards, yet they acknowledge them tobe their standards and profess to hold them fast. Yea, moreover, some of themprofess, and, if we may conclude from facts, we believe each of them isdisposed to defend by occasional vindications (or testimonies, as some callthem) the sentiments they have adopted and engrossed in their standards,without at the same time requiring an approbation of those occasionalperformances as a term of communion. And what should hinder us, or any,adopting the Divine standard, as aforesaid, with equal consistency to do thesame for the vindication of the Divine truths expressly revealed and enjoinedtherein? To say that we can not believe and profess the truth, understand oneanother, inculcate and vindicate the faith and law of Christ, or do the dutiesincumbent upon Christians or a Christian Church without a human standard,is not only saying that such a standard is quite essential to the very being ofChristianity, and, of course, must have existed before a Church was or couldbe formed, but it is also saying, that without such a standard, the Bible wouldbe quite inadequate as a rule of faith and duty, or, rather, of no use at all,except to furnish materials for such a work; whereas the Church of Ephesus,long before we have any account of the existence of such a standard, is notonly mentioned, with many others, as in a state of existence, and of highattainments too, but is also commended for her vigilance and fidelity indetecting and rejecting false apostles. “Thou hast tried them which say theyare apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” But should any pretendto say that although such performances be not essential to the very being ofthe Church, yet are they highly conducive to its wellbeing and perfection. Forthe confutation of such an assertion, we would again appeal to Church historyand existing facts and leave the judicious and intelligent Christian todetermine.

If after all that has been said, any should still pretend to affirm that theplan we profess to adopt and recommend is truly latitudinarian, in the worstand fullest sense of the term, inasmuch as it goes to make void all humanefforts to maintain the unity and purity of the Church, by substituting a vagueand indefinite approbation of the Scriptures as an alternative for creeds,confessions, and testimonies, and thereby opens a wide door for the receptionof all sorts of characters and opinions into the Church. Were we notconvinced by experience, that notwithstanding all that has been said, suchobjections would likely be made, or that some weak persons might possiblyconsider them as good as demonstration, especially when proceeding fromhighly influential characters (and there have not been wanting such in all agesto oppose, under various plausible pretenses, the unity and peace of theChurch), were it not for these considerations, we should content ourselveswith what we have already advanced upon the whole of the subject, as beingwell assured that duly attended to, there would not be the least room forsuch an objection; but to prevent if possible such unfounded conclusions, or ifthis can not be done, to caution and assist the too credulous and unwaryprofessor, that he may not be carried away all at once with the high-tonedconfidence of bold assertion, we would refer him to the overture for union intruth contained in the foregoing address. Union in truth, among all themanifest subjects of grace and truth, is what we advocate. We carry our viewsof union no further than this, nor do we presume to recommend it upon anyother principle than truth alone. Now, surely, truth is something certain anddefinite; if not, who will take upon him to define and determine it? This wesuppose God has sufficiently done already in his holy word. That mentherefore truly receive and make the proper use of the Divine word forwalking together in truth and peace, in holiness and charity, is, no doubt, theardent desire of all the genuine subjects of our holy religion. This, we see,however, they have not done, to the awful detriment and manifest subversionof what we might almost call the primary intention of Christianity. We darenot, therefore, follow their example, nor adopt their ruinous expedients. Butdoes it therefore follow that Christians may not, or can not take proper steps toascertain that desirable and preceptive unity which the Divine word requiresand enjoins? Surely no; at least we have supposed no such thing; but, on thecontrary, have overtured to our brethren what appears to us undeniably justand Scripturally evident, and which, we humbly think, if adopted and actedupon, would have the desired effect; adopted and acted upon, not indeed as astandard for the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the Church,for it pretends not to determine these matters, but rather supposes theexistence of a fixed and certain standard of Divine original, in whicheverything that the wisdom of God saw meet to reveal and determine, forthese and all other purposes, is expressly defined and determined; between theChristian and which, no medium of human determination ought to beinterposed. In all this there is surely nothing like the denial of any lawful effortto promote and maintain the Church’s unity, though there be a refusal of theunwarrantable interposition of an unauthorized and assuming power.

Let none imagine that we are here determining upon the merits of theoverture to which, in the case before us, we find it necessary to appeal in ourown defense against the injustice of the supposed charge above specified. Tothe judgment of our brethren have we referred that matter, and with them weleave it. All we intend, therefore, is to avail ourselves so far of what we havedone, as to show that we have no intention whatsoever of substituting a vagueindefinite approbation of the Scriptures as an alternative for creeds,confessions, and testimonies, for the purpose of restoring the Church to heroriginal constitutional unity and purity. In avoiding Scylla we wouldcautiously guard against being wrecked upon Charybdis. Extremes, we aretold, are dangerous. We therefore suppose a middle way, a safe way, soplainly marked out by unerring wisdom, that if duly attended to under theDivine direction, the wayfaring men, though fools, need not err therein, and ofsuch is the kingdom of God: “For he hath chosen the foolish things of theworld to confound the things that are wise.” We therefore conclude it must bea plain way, a way most graciously and most judiciously adapted to thecapacity of the subjects, and consequently not the way of subscribing orotherwise approving human standards as a term of admission into his Church,as a test and defense of orthodoxy, which even the compilers themselves arenot always agreed about, and which nineteen out of twenty of the Lord’speople can not thoroughly understand. It must be a way very far remote fromlogical subtleties and metaphysical speculations, and as such we have taken itup, upon the plainest and most obvious principles of Divine revelation andcommon sense–the common sense, we mean, of Christians, exercised uponthe plainest and most obvious truths and facts divinely recorded for theirinstruction. Hence we have supposed, in the first place, the true discriminationof Christian character to consist in an intelligent profession of our faith inChrist and obedience to him in all things according to the Scriptures, thereality of which profession is manifested by the holy consistency of thetempers and conduct of the professors with the express dictates andapproved examples of the Divine word. Hence we have humility, faith, piety,temperance, justice, charity, etc., professed and manifested, in the firstinstance, by the persons professing with self-application the convincing,humbling, encouraging, pious, temperate, just and charitable doctrines andprecepts of the inspired volume, as exhibited and enforced in its holy andapproved examples, and the sincerity of this profession evidently manifestedby the consistency of the professor’s temper and conduct with the entiresubject of his profession, either by an irreprovable conformity, like goodZachariah and Elisabeth, which is of all things most desirable, or otherwise, incase of any visible failure, by an apparently sincere repentance and evidentreformation. Such professors, and such only, have we supposed to be, bycommon consent, truly worthy the Christian name. Ask from the one end ofheaven to the other, the whole number of such intelligent and consistentprofessors as we intend and have described, and, we humbly presume, therewill not be found one dissenting voice. They will all acknowledge, with oneconsent, that the true discrimination of Christian character consists in thesethings, and that the radical or manifest want of any of the aforesaid propertiescompletely destroys the character.

We have here only taken for granted what we suppose no rationalprofessor will venture to deny; namely: that the Divine word contains anample sufficiency upon every one of the foregoing topics to stamp the abovecharacter, if so be that the impressions which its express declarations areobviously calculated to produce be truly received; for instance, suppose aperson profess to believe, with application to himself, that whole descriptionof human depravity and wretchedness which the Scriptures exhibit of fallenman, in the express declarations and dismal examples of human wickednesstherein recorded, contrasted with the holy nature, the righteous requirements,and inflexible justice of an infinitely holy, just, and jealous God, would not thesubject-matter of such a profession be amply sufficient to impress thebelieving mind with the most profound humility, self-abhorrence, and dreadfulapprehension of the tremendous effects of sin? Again, should the personprofess to believe, in connection with this, all that the Scriptures declare of thesovereign love, mercy, and condescension of God toward guilty, depraved,rebellious man, as the same is manifested in Christ, and in all the graciousdeclarations, invitations, and promises that are made in and through him forthe relief and encouragement of the guilty, etc., would not all this, takentogether, be sufficient to impress the believing mind with the most livelyconfidence, gratitude, and love? Should this person, moreover, profess thatdelight and confidence in the Divine Redeemer–that voluntary submission tohim–that worship and adoration of him which the Scriptures expresslydeclare to have been the habits and practice of his people, would not thesubject-matter of this profession be amply sufficient to impress the believingmind with that dutiful disposition, with that gracious veneration and supremereverence which the word of God requires? And should not all this takentogether satisfy the Church, in so far, in point of profession? If not, there isno alternative but a new revelation; seeing that to deny this, is to assert that adistinct perception and sincere profession of whatever the word declares uponevery point of faith and duty, is not only insufficient, as a doctrinal means, toproduce a just and suitable impression in the mind of the believing subject,but is also insufficient to satisfy the Church as to a just and adequateprofession; if otherwise, then it will necessarily follow, that not every sort ofcharacter, but that one sort only, is admissible upon the principle we haveadopted; and that by the universal consent of all that we, at least, dare ventureto call Christians, this is acknowledged to be, exclusively, the true Christiancharacter. Here, then, we have a fixed point, a certain description of character,which combines in every professing subject the Scriptural profession, theevident manifestation of humility, faith, piety, temperance, justice, andcharity, instructed by, and evidently answering to the entire declaration of theword upon each of those topics, which, as so many properties, serve toconstitute the character. Here, we say, we have a fixed, and at the same timesweeping distinction, which, as of old, manifestly divides the whole world,however, otherwise distinguished, into but two classes only. “We know,” saidthe apostle, evidently speaking of such, “that we are of God, and the wholeworld lieth in wickedness.”

Should it be inquired concerning the persons included in this descriptionof character, whether they be Arminians or Calvinists, or both promiscuouslyhuddled together? It may be justly replied, that according to what we haveproposed, they can be nominally neither, and of course not both, for we callno man master on earth, for one is our Master, even Christ, and all we arebrethren, are Christians by profession; and as such abstract speculation andargumentative theory make no part either of our profession or practice. Suchprofessors, then, as we intend and have described, are just what theirprofession and practice make them to be; and this we hope has beenScripturally, and we might add, satisfactorily defined, in so far, at least, asthe limits of so brief a performance would admit. We also entertain thepleasing confidence that the plan of procedure which we have ventured tosuggest, if duly attended to, if fully reduced to practice, would necessarilysecure to the professing subject all the advantages of divinely revealed truth,without any liability to conceal, to diminish, or to misrepresent it, as it goesimmediately to ascribe everything to God respecting his sovereignty,independence, power, wisdom, goodness, justice, truth, holiness, mercy,condescension, love, and grace, etc., which is ascribed to him in his word,as also to receive whatever it declares concerning the absolute dependence ofthe poor, guilty, depraved, polluted creature, upon the Divine will, power, andgrace for every saving purpose; a just perception and correspondent professionof which, according to the Scriptures, is supposed to constitute thatfundamental ingredient in Christian character: true evangelical humility. Andso of the rest. Having thus, we hope, Scripturally and evidently determined thecharacter, with the proper mode of ascertaining it, to the satisfaction of allconcerned, we next proceed to affirm, with the same Scriptural evidence, thatamong such, however situated, whether in the same or similar associations,there ought to be no schisms, no uncharitable divisions, but that they ought allmutually to receive and acknowledge each other as brethren. As to the truth ofthis assertion, they are all likewise agreed, without one dissenting voice. Wenext suggest that for this purpose they ought all to walk by the same rule, tomind and speak the same thing, etc., and that this rule is, and ought to be, theDivine standard. Here again we presume there can be no objection; no, not asingle dissenting voice. As to the rule itself, we have ventured to allege thatthe New Testament is the proper and immediate rule, directory, and formulafor the New Testament Church, and for the particular duties of Christians, asthe Old Testament was for the Old Testament Church, and for the particularduties of the subject under that dispensation; at the same time by no meansexcluding the Old as fundamental to, illustrative of, and inseparably connectedwith the New, and as being every way of equal authority, as well as of anentire sameness with it in every point of moral natural duty, though notimmediately our rule, without the intervention and coincidence of the New, inwhich our Lord has taught his people, by the ministry of his holy apostles, allthings whatsoever they should observe and do, till the end of the world. Thuswe come to the one rule, taking the Old Testament as explained and perfectedby the New, and the New as illustrated and enforced by the Old; assuming thelatter as the proper and immediate directory for the Christian Church, as alsofor the positive and particular duties of Christians as to all things whatsoeverthey should observe and do. Further, that in the observance of this Divine rule,this authentic and infallible directory, all such may come to the desirablecoincidence of holy unity and uniformity of profession and practice, we haveovertured that they all speak, profess, and practice the very same things thatare exhibited upon the sacred page of New Testament Scripture, as spokenand done by the Divine appointment and approbation; and that this beextended to every possible instance of uniformity, without addition ordiminution, without introducing anything of private opinion or doubtfuldisputation into the public profession or practice of the Church. Thus and thushave we overtured to all intents and purposes, as may be clearly seen byconsulting the overture itself; in which, however, should anything appear notsufficiently explicit, we flatter ourselves it may be fully understood by takinginto consideration what has been variously suggested upon this importantsubject throughout the whole of these premises; so that if any due degree ofattention be paid, we should think it next to impossible that we could be so farmisunderstood as to be charged with latitudinarianism in any usual sense ofthe word. Here we have proposed but one description of character as eligible,or, indeed, as at all admissible to the rights and privileges of Christianity. Thisdescription of character we have defined by certain and distinguishingproperties, which not only serve to distinguish it from every other, but inwhich all the real subjects themselves are agreed, without one exception, allsuch being mutually and reciprocally acknowledged by each other aslegitimate members of the Church of God. All these, moreover, agreeing inthe indispensable obligation of their unity, and in the one rule by which it isinstructed, and also in the preceptive necessity of an entire uniformity in theirpublic profession and managements for promoting and preserving this unity,that there should be no schism in the body, but that all the members shouldhave the same care one for another; yet in many instances, unhappily, and, wemay truly say, involuntarily differing through mistake and mismanagement,which it is our humble desire and endeavor to detect and remove, by obviatingeverything that causeth difference, being persuaded that as truth is one andindivisible wherever it exists, so all the genuine subjects of it, if disentangledfrom artificial impediments, must and will necessarily fall in together, be allon one side, united in one profession, acknowledge each other as brethren,and love as children of the same family. For this purpose we have overtured acertain and determinate application of the rule, to which we presume there canbe no reasonable objection, and which, if adopted and acted upon, must, wethink, infallibly produce the desired effect; unless we should suppose that tosay and do what is expressly said and done before our eyes upon the sacredpage, would offend the believer, or that a strict uniformity, an entire Scripturalsameness in profession and practice, would produce divisions and offensesamong those who are already united in one spirit, one Lord, one faith, onebaptism, one hope of their calling, and in one God and Father of all, who isabove all, and through all, and in them all, as is confessedly the case with allof this character throughout all the Churches. To induce to this we have alsoattempted to call their attention to the heinous nature and awful consequencesof schism, and to that evil anti-scriptural principle from which it necessarilyproceeds. We have likewise endeavored to show, we humbly think withdemonstrable evidence, that there is no alternative but either to adopt thatScriptural uniformity we have recommended, or else continue as we are,bewildered in schisms and overwhelmed with the accursed evils inseparablefrom such a state. It remains now with our brethren to determine upon thewhole of these premises, to adopt or to reject, as they see cause; but, in themean time, let none impeach us with the latitudinarian expedient ofsubstituting a vague, indefinite approbation of the holy Scriptures as analternative for the present practice of making the approbation of humanstandards a term of communion; as it is undeniably evident that nothing canbe further from our intention. Were we to judge of what we humbly proposeand urge as indispensably necessary for the reformation and unity of theChurch, we should rather apprehend that there was reason to fear a charge ofa very different nature; namely: that we aimed at too much strictness, both asto the description of character which we say ought only to be admitted, andalso as to the use and application of the rule. But should this be the case, weshall cheerfully bear with it, as being fully satisfied that not only the commonsentiment of all apparently sincere, intelligent, and practical Christians is onour side, but that also the plainest and most ample testimonies of the inspiredvolume sufficiently attest the truth and propriety of what we plead for, asessential to the Scriptural unity and purity of the Christian Church, and this,we humbly presume, is what we should incessantly aim at. It would bestrange, indeed, if, in contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to thesaints, we should overlook those fruits of righteousness, that manifesthumility, piety, temperance, justice, and charity, without which faith itself isdead, being alone. We trust we have not so learned Christ; if so be we havebeen taught by him as the truth is in Jesus, we must have learned a verydifferent lesson indeed. While we would, therefore, insist upon an entireconformity to the Scriptures in profession, that we might all believe and speakthe same things, and thus be perfectly joined together in the same mind and inthe same judgment, we would, with equal scrupulosity, insist upon and lookfor an entire conformity to them in practice, in all those whom weacknowledge as our brethren in Christ. “By their fruits ye shall know them.””Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom ofheaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Thereforewhosoever heareth those sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likenedunto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand. Woe unto you scribesand Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye say and do not.” We therefore conclude thatto advocate unity alone, however desirable in itself, without at the same timepurging the Church of apparently unsanctified characters, even of all thatcan not show their faith by their works, would be, at best, but a poor,superficial, skin-deep reformation. It is from such characters, then, as theproposed reformation, if carried into effect, would entirely deprive of a nameand a place in the Church, that we have the greatest reason to apprehend adetermined and obstinate opposition. And alas! there are very many of thisdescription, and in many places, of considerable influence. But neither shouldthis discourage us, when we consider the expressly revealed will of God uponthis point, Ezek. xliv: 6, 9, with Matt. xiii: 15, 17; 1 Cor. v: 6, 13, with manyother scriptures. Nor, in the end, will the multitude of unsanctified professorswhich the proposed reformation would necessarily exclude, have any reason torejoice in the unfaithfulness of those that either through ignorance, or forfilthy lucre’s sake, indulged them with a name and place in the Church of God.These unfaithful stewards, these now mistaken friends, will one day beconsidered by such as their most cruel and treacherous enemies. These, then,are our sentiments upon the entire subject of Church-reformation; call itlatitudinarianism, or Puritanism or what you please; and this is thereformation for which we plead. Thus, upon the whole, have we brieflyattempted to point out those evils, and to prevent those mistakes which weearnestly desire to see obviated for the general peace, welfare, and prosperityof the Church of God. Our dear brethren, giving credit to our sincere andwell-meant intention, will charitably excuse the imperfections of our humbleperformance, and by the assistance of their better judgment correct thosemistakes, and supply those deficiencies which in a first attempt of this naturemay have escaped our notice. We are sorry, in the mean time, to have felt anecessity of approaching so near the borders of controversy, by brieflyattempting to answer objections which we plainly foresaw would, throughmistake or prejudice, be made against our proceedings; controversy makingno part of our intended plan. But such objections and surmises having alreadyreached our ears from different quarters, we thought it necessary to attend tothem, that, by so doing, we might not only prevent mistakes, but also save ourfriends the trouble of entering into verbal disputes in order to remove them,and thus prevent, as much as possible, that most unhappy of all practicessanctioned by the plausible pretense of zeal for the truth–religious controversyamong professors. We would, therefore, humbly advise our friends to concurwith us in our professed and sincere intention to avoid this evil practice. Let itsuffice to put into the hands of such as desire information what we herebypublish for that purpose. If this, however, should not satisfy, let them give intheir objections in writing; we shall thankfully receive, and seriously consider,with all due attention, whatever comes before us in this way; but verbalcontroversy we absolutely refuse. Let none imagine that by so saying, wemean to dissuade Christians from affording all the assistance they can to eachother as humble inquirers after truth. To decline this friendly office would beto refuse the performance of an important duty. But certainly there is amanifest difference between speaking the truth in love for the edification ofour brethren, and attacking each other with a spirit of controversial hostility,to confute and prove each other wrong. We believe it is rare to find oneinstance of this kind of arguing that does not terminate in bitterness. Let us,therefore, cautiously avoid it. Our Lord says, Matt. xvii: 7: “Woe unto theworld because of offenses.” Scott, in his incomparable work lately publishedin this country, called his Family Bible, observes in his notes upon this place,”that our Lord here intends all these evils within the Church which prejudicemen’s minds against his religion, or any doctrines of it. The scandalous lives,horrible oppressions, cruelties, and iniquities of men called Christians; theirdivisions and bloody contentions; their idolatries and superstitions, are at thisday the great offenses and causes of stumbling to Jews, Mohammedans, andpagans in all the four quarters of the globe, and they furnish infidels of everydescription with their most dangerous weapons against the truth. Theacrimonious controversies agitated among those who agree in the principaldoctrines of the Gospel, and their mutual contempt and revilings of eachother, together with the extravagant notions and wicked practices foundamong them, form the grand prejudice in the minds of multitudes againstevangelical religion, and harden the hearts of heretics, Pharisees, disguisedinfidels, and careless sinners against the truths of the Gospel. In these andnumberless other ways, it may be said: ‘Woe unto the world because ofoffenses,’ for the devil, the sower of these tares, makes use of them indeceiving the nations of the earth and in murdering the souls of men. In thepresent state of human nature, it must needs be that such offenses shouldintervene, and God has wise and righteous reasons for permitting them; yet weshould consider it as the greatest of evils to be accessory to the destruction ofsouls; and an awful woe is denounced against every one whose delusions orcrimes thus stumble men and set them against the only method of salvation.”We conclude with an extract from the Boston Anthology, which, with toomany of the same kind that might be adduced, furnish a mournful commentupon the text; we mean, upon the sorrowful subject of our woeful divisionsand corruptions. The following reply to the Rev. Mr. Cram, missionary fromMassachusetts to the Senecas, was made by the principal chiefs and warriorsof the six nations in council assembled at Buffalo creek, State of New York,in the presence of the agent of the United States for Indian affairs, in thesummer of 1805. “I am come, brethren,” said the missionary, “to enlightenyour minds and to instruct you how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably tohis will, and to preach to you the Gospel of his Son Jesus Christ. There is butone way to serve God, and if you do not embrace the right way, you can not behappy hereafter.” To which they reply: “Brother, we understand that yourreligion is written in a book. You say that there is but one way to worship andserve the Great Spirit. If there be but one religion, why do you white peoplediffer so much about it? Why not all agree as you can all read the book?Brother, we do not understand these things. We are told your religion wasgiven to your forefathers; we, also, have a religion which was given to ourforefathers; it teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive; to loveone another, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion. We are toldyou have been preaching to the white people in this place. Those people areour neighbors, we are acquainted with them. We will wait a little to see whateffect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makesthem honest, and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again ofwhat you have said.” Thus closed the conference. Alas, poor people! how doour divisions and corruptions stand in your way! What a pity that you find usnot upon original ground, such as the apostles left the primitive Churches!Had we but exhibited to you their unity and charity; their humble, honest, andaffectionate deportment toward each other and toward all men, you would nothave had those evil and shameful things to object to our holy religion, and toprejudice your minds against it. But your conversion, it seems, awaits ourreformation; awaits our return to primitive unity and love. To this may theGod of mercy speedily restore us, both for your sakes and our own, that hisway may be known upon earth, and his saving health among all nations. Letthe people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Amen, and amen.


NOTE.–The source of this edition ofThomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address is C. A. Young’sHistorical Documents Advocating Christian Union (Chicago: TheChristian Century Co., 1904, pp. 71-209).

The Air We Breathe: Hope and Grace Through Christ

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Once there was a church that had a lot of problems. The members were at odds with each other and ugly conflicts arose among them. People had formed camps around some of the strongest personalities who were and had been part of that church. People were described as being “for” this person or “against” this person. Their brokenness was visible even in their worship. Their attitudes were such that when they gathered for worship they discouraged each other with their attitudes rather than encourage each other with hope and grace. They debated issues of church practice and policy. They disputed over matters of morality and purity.

As they became more and more fractured, they finally decided to appeal to a well-known minister for advice about their many issues. He considered all of their various issues and responded to each with his judgments, but he closed his advice to them with something so very basic, but so very important. Something he felt they needed to recover in the midst of their turmoil …

          Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
          For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
          For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

The wise minister, the least of the apostles, is Paul. The church with problems is the congregation in Corinth. Paul’s advice is recorded in 1 Corinthians 15. They had many problems and Paul responded to each of them, but he brought them back to the center of their faith and one can look back from there to see that he addressed all of their problems from the center of reality based on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul is a witness that all of our brokenness, all of our identity, all of worship, all meaning and purpose come back to this fundamental event. Not only is it a significant event of the past, it is an enduring event in the present and determines the shape of our future together.

It is as if this gospel truth and this cross-to-resurrection event is the atmosphere and environment in which Christ’s followers thrive. It is the air that we breathe. It is the food that we eat. It is the water that we drink. We know how all of that can affect us. Do we know how the good news affects us?

All of our efforts to be a congregation that “makes disciples for Jesus who are eager to serve others” will be meaningless if we are not breathing the air of the gospel. Just as fire cannot burn without oxygen, our efforts to expect the best from one another, to encourage spiritual formation, to shepherd and minister to others will all fail if do not function in the environment of hope and grace that is produced by taking the gospel of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection very seriously.

Without hope and grace our efforts devolve into despair, bitterness, suspicion, and control.

Hope gives us perspective. We survey the cross and focus on the agony and suffering – it is real. It is part of the story and that can never be denied. Christ died because of sin and he was buried according to Scripture. But then he rose again and appeared in the flesh to eyewitnesses. This is a hope that reminds us that when Christ is involved then the worst things that happen are never the last things.

Grace gives us the ability to live in that hope – not only for ourselves but also for one another. It isn’t easy to make it through this life. Things break down and fall apart. Our bodies, our homes, our work, our society, our relationships and even our churches. It isn’t always easy to live together. But we have hope that comes from seeing a glimpse of what is to come in Christ. We have been shown grace and we can extend grace because of that hope. After all, Christ had mercy when he appeared to us – even though he died for our sins. And God is working all of this out because his love is going to absorb all of our brokenness and weakness – all of our shame, worry, and sin.

These aren’t just happy thoughts. It is a life-changing reality. It permeates our life so that we actually feel differently, think differently, and act differently. Paul believed it was that critical. This wasn’t additional concerns for him. He said it made all the difference in the world whether we believed that Christ is risen:

And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day-I mean that, brothers-just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God-I say this to your shame.

Yesterday an article from the Associated Press reported how the belief of the resurrection is variously understood and misunderstood by scholars and Christians. Thankfully, there were some of the scholars who pointed out that physical and spiritual reality of the resurrection demonstrates that God cares about creation; he intends to redeem and renew it and Jesus is the “pilot project for that renewal.” We are also part of the project.

So, does it really make any difference, this belief in the resurrection?

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

We are a people who live in the environment of the resurrection. It is the air that we breathe. It matters.
Pink Flamingo seems sort of redundant. What other color would a flamingo be? Well as I understand it, flamingos can actually be lots of different colors and pink isn’t their natural color. Flamingos are not naturally pink. They are pink because they absorb the pigment from their environment – from the food they eat and the water they drink.

We are also shaped by the environment we live in. We thrive in an atmosphere of hope and grace through Jesus Christ. What is the air we breathe? Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58.)

Jumping Boxes

Posted by on March 20, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

In a book (The Purse-Driven Life by comedienne Anita Renfroe) given to Joyce, Renfroe discussed growth as changing boxes. “If people’s expectations of us put us ?in a box,’ it seems to me that we spend a good deal of our time on earth just swapping boxes. We get some knowledge in one area of our life and realize we have been enslaved to an idea or expectation. We leave that mindset, only to find that we miss the structure the box afforded us, so we find another one to climb into. We say we don’t like them, but we keep climbing in” (pp. 44, 45).

Spiritual growth accurately can be compared to outgrowing boxes. While my graduate degree is in Bible, my college undergraduate degree is in chemistry (long story). I remember spending a lot of time learning a view of an atom, only later to be told the view must expand. That happened over and over as we moved to bigger boxes!

A time in life was when parents had the answers, then when a gifted Sunday school teacher had the answers, when a beloved preacher had the answers, when an insightful professor had the answers, or when a movement had the answers. Parents had some of the answers-as did Sunday school teachers, preachers, professors, movements, etc.

Why only some answers? As we grow, have new experiences, and age, we discover dimensions of questions that were unknown to us. You provide yourself insight. Was any spiritual question “the same” at age 15 as it was at age 8? Or at age 25 compared to age 15? Or at age 40 compared to age 25? Or at age 65 compared to age 40?

Do you realize how much you have grown? There was the “all black and white with no gray” age; the “black, white, and a little gray” age; the “black, white, and expanding gray” age; and the age when wisdom confessed “I don’t know”-which was completely unacceptable in the “all black and white” age. Pick your subject-child rearing, godly marriage, unity, love, forgiveness, holiness, Christian service-and watch scripture cause godly people to grow into the Lordship of Jesus Christ and God’s character and purposes. A 15-year-old will conclude things that cause a 40-year-old to shake his or her head because the 15-year-old has not even seen all the question.

A “think about” question: was God with you in your small box? When your growth demanded a bigger box, did God go with you? Was He in the bigger box ahead of you? Can you put God in a box, or is God bigger than all boxes? Do you understand that healthy congregations are made of people who do not fear spiritual growth? Never stagnate where you are! Never stop growing closer to God!

The Reading of the Will

Posted by on March 16, 2008 under Sermons

Please ask Chris Benjamin for permission before reproducing
any of the images, graphics, or charts on this page.

Barton W. Stone (1772-1844)

  • Born 1772 in Port Tobacco, Maryland
  • Episcopalian, Baptist and Methodist influences
  • Ordained Presbyterian minister in 1796
  • Ministered in Western frontier of Kentucky

The “Log College” Years

  • 1790 – Enrolled in “Log College” and studied law from David Caldwell
  • James McGready – Revival
  • Ended study of law to preach the gospel

Camp Meetings and the Frontier

  • 15th – 17th States
    • Kentucky (1792)
    • Tennessee (1796)
    • Ohio (1803)
  • James McGready:
    • 1800 Revival
    • Logan County, Kentucky

Cane Ridge Meeting House
Cane Ridge Meeting House, Kentucky

Cane Ridge Revival, August 7-12, 1801

  • The “Exercises” – Stone’s Report
    • Falling, Jerking, Barking, Running, Dancing, Laughing, Singing
  • The Significance of Cane Ridge
    1. Sign of God’s Approval
      • The “American Pentecost”
    2. Confirmed Free Will
    3. Importance of Christian Unity

The Springfield Presbytery

  • The Presbyterian Synod of Kentucky questioned Stone and five other ministers …
    1. Their support of the revival
    2. Their cooperation with other Christians
    3. Their doubts about Calvinism

  • They formed a new association – the Springfield Presbytery at Cane Ridge

The Last Will and Testament

    “We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.”
    [Read the entire document below.]

“Like Fire in Dry Stubble”

  • Christians or Churches of Christ
      – unifying name
  • 12,000 members by 1820’s
  • Kentucky and Ohio to Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, and Illinois
  • Christian Messenger (1826-1844)

Stone’s Beliefs

  • Unity through the Spirit
    • “Let unity be our polar star”
  • Apocalyptic
  • Trinity & Atonement
  • Baptism
    • Practiced immersion but not an absolute test of fellowship

Christian Movements – 1820

  • Leaders
    • Barton Stone, Christian Churches & Churches of Christ
    • Smith-Jones, Christian Connection
    • James O’Kelly, Christian Churches
  • Common Teaching
    1. Bible alone as creed.
    2. The name “Christian.”
    3. Organized congregationally.
    4. Promote Christian unity.
    5. Evangelistic.

The Life of Elder Stone

  • 1819-1828: Established congregations in Kentucky
  • 1824: Met Campbell in Georgetown, Kentucky
  • 1832: The Union
  • 1841: Stroke, paralysis
  • 1844: Died in Hannibal, Missouri, on November 9

Chris Benjamin at Cane RidgeCane Ridge Revival Bicentennial, August 2001
“Let Unity Be Our Polar Star”

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 16 March 2008

The Last Will and Testament of the

For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of the testator; for atestament is of force after men are dead, otherwise it is of no strength at all, while thetestator liveth. Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die. Verily,verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground, and die, it abidethalone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. Whose voice then shook the earth; butnow he hath promised saying, yet once more I shake not the earth only, but alsoheaven. And this word, yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that areshaken as of things that are made, that those things which can not be shaken mayremain.–Scripture

      The Presbytery of Springfield, sitting at Caneridge, in the county of Bourbon, being through a gracious Providence, in more than ordinary bodily health, growing in strength and size daily, and in perfect soundness and composure of mind; but knowing that it is appointed for all delegated bodies once to die and considering that the life of every such body is very uncertain, do make and ordain this our Last Will and Testament, in manner and form following, viz:

      Imprimis. We will that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large: for there is but one body and one spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.

      Item. We will, that our name of distinction, with its Reverend title, be forgotten, that there be but one Lord over God’s heritage, and his name one.

      Item. We will, that our power of making laws for the government of the church, and executing them by delegated authority, forever cease; that, the people may have free course to the Bible, and adopt the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

      Item. We will, that candidates for the Gospel ministry henceforth study the holy scriptures with fervent prayer, and obtain license from God to preach the simple Gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, without any mixture of philosophy, vain deceit, [2] traditions of men, the rudiments of the world. And let none henceforth take this honor to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

      Item. We will, that the church of Christ assume her native right of internal government–try her candidates for the ministry, as to their soundness in the faith, acquaintance with experimental religion, gravity and aptness to teach; and admit no other proof of their authority, but Christ speaking in them. We will that the church of Christ look up to the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into his harvest; and that she resume her primitive right of trying those who say they are Apostles, and are not.

      Item. We will, that each particular church, as a body, actuated by the same spirit, choose her own preacher, and support him by a free will offering without written call or subscription–admit members–remove offences; and never henceforth delegate her right of government to any man or set of men whatever.

      Item. We will, that the people henceforth take the Bible as the only sure guide to heaven; and as many as are offended with other books, which stand in competition with it, may cast them into the fire if they choose: for it is better to enter into life having one book, than having many to be cast into hell.

      Item. We will, that preachers and people, cultivate a spirit of mutual forbearance, pray more and dispute less; and while they behold the signs of the times, look up and confidently expect that redemption draweth nigh.

      Item. We will, that our weak brethren, who may have been wishing to make the Presbytery of Springfield their king, and wot not what is now become of it, betake themselves to the rock of ages, and follow Jesus for the future.

      Item. We will, that the Synod of Kentucky examine every member, who may be suspected of having departed from the Confession of faith, and suspend every such suspected heretic immediately; in order that the oppressed may go free, and taste the sweets of Gospel liberty.

      Item. We will, that Ja———, the author of two letters lately published in Lexington, be encouraged in his zeal to destroy partyism. We will, moreover, that our past conduct be examined into by all who may have correct information; but let foreigners beware of speaking evil of things which they know not.

      Item. Finally we will, that all our sister bodies, read their Bibles carefully, that they may see their fate there determined, and prepare for death before it is too late.

  Springfield Presbytery,
June 28th, 1804.

} (L. S.)

[The Herald of Gospel Liberty (Vol. 1, No. 1, September 1, 1808, pp. 2-3).]

NOTE: This document is in the public domainand may be copied and distributed at will.

Every Shepherd Needs a Sheepdog: One Another Ministry

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Focus: Equip the entire church for shepherding in the congregation.

The origin of the phrase: “Every shepherd needs a sheepdog.”

The shepherds described in the bible do not have sheepdogs. Shepherds are leaders and the various leaders of God’s people – kings, judges, elders – are described as shepherds. sheepdogs are not known in any of the biblical literature. It wouldn’t be a good image anyway as herding dogs are not what biblical leadership is all about. But there is a biblical idea of other leaders who are a companion and support to the leaders – like a sheepdog is for a shepherd. Now that’s biblical …

Read Exodus 18
Focus: Biblical teaching affirms that there is a place for those who help the shepherds shepherd.
Isn’t it great that God’s Word recalls a time when Moses, the great hero and leader of God’s people, gets some advice from his father-in-law! That makes sense, too: Since Moses was raised in Egypt, we might safely assume that it was his father-in-law who taught him how to shepherd …

  1. Jethro’s wisdom to Moses affirms that God’s spirit may be shared with others. Jethro affirms that leadership may be shared. Even though Jethro isn’t an Israelite, he knows a lot about the Most High God. He knows that God is not threatened by others who can administer his grace and wisdom. In fact, when more people are equipped to administer God’s grace and spirit it makes all of God’s people healthier. (verse 23)
  2. It is also good for God’s leaders. Jethro is giving Moses a little lesson in preventing burnout. Burnout is a bad thing when we ignore its message. The ultimate message of burnout is: You are not God. Let’s encourage all ministry leaders to equip others to do what they do. There will be countless leaders among God’s people – ministers, elders, ministry leaders. We come and go – but only God remains. So it isn’t just a good idea to equip others to do what we do – it is God’s idea, too!
  3. In the early church, this principle was put into practice by the apostles. (Acts 6.) They entrusted seven men to lead the distribution of food to widows. They shared God’s leadership and equipped others to minister in their stead. They equipped others to “shepherd” in response to church conflict and the church was healthier as a result. But the mission of God was also supplied. After appointing Phillip to this ministry we don’t read about his adventures in the food pantry, rather we see that he is doing an apostle’s work – he’s making disciples! Equipping others to shepherd in God’s name furthers the mission of God.

Concern: But if we permit everyone to “shepherd” then who’s in charge? Who has authority?

  1. Let’s be clear – When we say that we are the “Church of Christ” that means that all authority among us belongs to Christ Jesus. Who’s in charge? Christ is Lord.
  2. Christ is so clearly Lord that his authority can be dispensed among those who develop his character and spirit. Now that certainly includes elders. When the “qualifications” of an elder are mentioned it turns out that those are characteristics. All of these characteristics are the sort of behavior that should be standard for all of God’s people. The authority of elders is rooted in their credibility to teach and model how we ought to behave. Their main task is to lead us – or shepherd us – to become more like Christ.

    • In the early centuries, what was the focus of shepherding: spiritual care, care of souls, spiritual formation, tending to people and their needs?

    • What do we typically associate with shepherding now? (Over the last 100 years) – Board meetings, decisions, building budgets, property projects. This is not classical shepherding.

In Christ’s church, the Holy Spirit of God equips members to minister to one another. (See Ephesians 4:11). Let’s do two things:

  1. Let’s affirm others gifts for ministry and encourage them to minister to the church. [Several of our Lions for Christ college students are making a trip this week to Texas to do ministry. Shane is their leader, their “shepherd” of sorts, but he has equipped these young adults to minister to others and to minister to one another.]

  2. Let’s all make a personal commitment to step up with whatever God has given us and find a way to minister to others with the resources and talents that God has given us.

I am thankful that our elders and ministers have the wisdom of Jethro and Moses and they are prepared and ready to encourage each of you to minister to others. They believe in the words that Paul wrote to the Romans …

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. – Romans 15:14

The Victim With a Choice

Posted by on March 13, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

Years ago we as a society were introduced to the many facets of “blame.” We correctly understood that every person is a composite of his or her experiences. Before that understanding, our response as a society to a person who endured unjust situations was this: “Suck it up!”

There are lots of ways to illustrate this attitude from the past. “So, you married an abusive man and have a horrible marriage. Suck it up and quit crying!” “So, years ago as a child, you had a mother who vented her rage on you. Suck it up and pretend it never happened!” “So, your parents do despicable things to you that make you feel more like a slave or property. Suck it up and stop whining!” “So, you have a boss who exploits his power over you. Suck it up-you have a job!” The prevailing attitude was, “So, you have (had) it tough! Big deal! So do (did) many other people!”

Gradually, we understood there are horrible experiences we endure that are neither ignored, forgotten, nor easily escaped. Gradually, we grasped the powerful impact of unjust relationships in people’s lives. Gradually, we understood that horribly unjust experiences often have a radical impact on a person’s behavior.

As usual, the pendulum tends to swing too far with new insights. Our society went from ignorance (and unjust conclusions) to blamelessness where nothing is “my” fault (and unjust conclusions). In our circuit, we returned to the same situation-from no responsibility due to an absence of insight to no responsibility because of insight. The result: we went from irresponsible conduct produced by ignorance to irresponsible conduct produced by a refusal to accept any fault. Both produce irresponsible conduct.

Facts to be accepted: (1) No one’s past is perfect. (2) No matter how hard we try, we cannot make things perfect for the next generation. (3) We live in an unjust physical world, and the next generation will live in a similar physical world.

Two things I can do: (1) I can be honest with myself concerning the impact of my past on me. (2) I can let Christ make me the best me I can be. If I am honest with myself about the impact of my past on me, I can encourage you in your transition. If I let God’s grace in Jesus’ death free me from my guilt, I can be an example to you as I challenge you to find hope in God.

If I ignore my past, I condemn myself to exist in a feeling of guilt. If I let God teach me freedom in Christ, I exist in forgiveness. In the first, I make others miserable-often including those I love the most. In the second, I bless others’ lives just by being the “me” God makes “me” in Christ. In spite of my past, I choose who I am. I can’t be perfect, but I can be better! Thank You, Lord, for freedom in Jesus Christ!

Christianity and Relationships (part 4)

Posted by on March 11, 2008 under Sermons

Sacrificing animals, animal blood, the first fruits of a crop, and crop products to God was a way of showing dependence on and appreciation for God. For generations, people who sought God and depended on God sacrificed. Abel sacrificed. Abraham sacrificed. Sacrificial acts were a part of worship for Isaac, Jacob, the nation of Israel, and devout Jews early in New Testament history. The core of Passover involved sacrifice. Deuteronomy 16:16 instructed all the men of Israel to gather in the place God chose three times a year with gifts (sacrifices). Leviticus 1-7 states sacrifice was involved in burnt offerings, in peace offerings, and in sin and guilt offerings.

When God solved our problems produced by alienation through sin, He sacrificed. We have forgiveness available to us because God offered an enduring sacrifice. We can escape the eternal consequences of our sins because God sacrificed. We can become God’s people because He sacrificed. We can enter an eternal agreement or covenant with God because He sacrificed.

Today you can refer to yourself as a Christian because Jesus was the sacrifice. His body assumed our sins.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed (1 Peter 2:21-24).

His blood atoned for our failures (Hebrews 9:11, 12). It is Jesus’ blood that makes possible our righteousness, justification, redemption, and propitiation.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).

Literally, we can come into God’s presence because God sacrificed Jesus for our benefit, and every Sunday we acknowledge that sacrifice in communion. We also acknowledge His sacrifice for us every day in the way we live our lives.

Without God’s willingness to sacrifice Jesus for us and Jesus’ willingness to be God’s sacrifice for us, there would be no Christianity, no church, and each of us would be helplessly ruled by our mistakes.

  1. At some point, sacrifice and the proper motive for sacrifice were separated in the human thought process.
    1. I challenge you to give some serious consideration to the way we think about spiritual realities.
      1. First, many of us think relationship with God is a matter of procedure, not a matter of motives and procedure.
      2. Second, many of us think if we do the correct things, those correct acts of themselves will produce a wonderful relationship with God.
      3. Let’s put those two observations in words we use every day.
        1. We often think relationship with God is just a matter of doing the right acts at the right time.
        2. What we really feel about God does not actually matter as long as we do the right things.
        3. Let me give you an example.
          1. Sunday morning it is essential that I be in a church building at the proper time for worship.
          2. When the congregation sings songs to praise God, I either need to listen to the singing or sing.
          3. When the congregation prays, I need to bow my head.
          4. When the congregation takes communion, I need to take communion.
          5. When the preacher preaches, I need to at least pretend to be listening.
          6. I simply cannot be anywhere else doing anything else until I have worshipped.
          7. However, why I come and what I feel is unimportant.
          8. I do not have to mean anything that I sing, I just have to sing or to listen.
          9. I do not have to pray; I just have to bow my head.
          10. I do not need to gratefully remember Jesus’ sacrifice; I just have to take communion.
          11. I do not have to think as the preacher preaches; I just have to pretend to listen.
          12. I do not have to engage my heart in praising God; as long as I do the right things, worship occurs.
    2. Long ago in 1 Samuel 15 God told King Saul explicitly how to avenge God’s wrath on the Amalekite people for their attack on Israel when Israel left Egypt.
      1. Contrary to God’s directions, King Saul spared the best of the animals.
      2. King Saul declared "the people" (his army) spared the best of the livestock for "sacrifice" to the Lord (1 Samuel 15:15).
      3. Samuel made this statement to King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22,23:
        “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”
      4. I want you to note one point: sacrifice to God is meaningless if it comes from a rebellious heart.
    3. Generations did not understand this truth.
      1. Once, the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of violating the Sabbath because they picked and ate some raw grain.
      2. Jesus refuted their conclusion in three ways–two were examples they regarded as coming from an authoritative source, and one was a scripture they attributed to the will of God.
      3. The scripture Jesus’ quoted to them was from Hosea 6:6:
         But if you had known what this means, ?I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent (Matthew 12:7).
        1. On God’s priority list, concern for people was as significant as sacrifice.
        2. To give God a sacrifice while having no concern for people is of no significance to God.
        3. Their problem was not created by not knowing what God said, but from not knowing what God meant by what He said–they saw the words, but they did not see the meaning.
  2. The problem.
    1. The problem existed because sacrifice to God was separated from love for God.
      1. The ancient concept that continues in human thinking today is this: what matters is a person’s acts.
      2. His or her motives behind the act do not matter.
      3. So, in worshipping God or living for God, acts matter, but motives do not matter.
    2. That has never been true!
      1. That is not true in human to human acts!
      2. Why should we decide that is true in acts dedicated to God?
  3. Let’s make an application of this incorrect view to marriage and the home.
    1. In your relationship with your spouse, are you happy and fulfilled if your spouse does the right things, but has no concern for you as a person?
      1. Are you happy and fulfilled as a person if your spouse tells you the right words but has no feeling for you behind the words?
      2. Are you happy and fulfilled as a person if your spouse tells you the right things in order to get you to do what he or she wants done?
    2. Before we go further, let’s make a clear distinction.
      1. We are NOT talking about toleration of a bad situation because you decide it is better to get something instead of getting nothing–so if your spouse does something right for the wrong reason, at least your spouse did something.
      2. We are NOT talking about giving up, saying to yourself nothing is ever going to change, nothing is ever going to get better–so, I best get what I can get.
      3. We are NOT talking about learning to "play the game"–whatever the form "the game" takes.
        1. Not the game of "it is my time to win."
        2. Not the game of "if I approach you right, you have to do what I want."
        3. Not the game of "you owe me because of what I did for you."
        4. Not any other game that basically says that you are not important as a person, and I will use you in any way I must to get what I want to get.
    3. If in your marriage, one or both of you function on the basis of words or actions without regard to motives, honestly tell yourself how you feel.
      1. Do you feel appreciated as a person?
      2. Do you feel respected as though you matter?
      3. Do you feel used?
      4. Do you feel manipulated?
      5. Do you feel worthless?
      6. Do you feel you do not belong to yourself?
      7. Does your spouse have any idea of how you feel? Do the two of you talk and share or do the two of you fight and argue?
    4. And both of you are Christians?
      1. As Christians, do you fight or argue Sunday morning until you get to the church building, then behave like the ideal Christian family while you are at the church building, then fight and argue the rest of the day?
        1. Does that fit your definition and concept of being a Christian?
        2. Is that the way you treat everyone else?
      2. If someone came into your home unexpectedly, could the visitor slice the tension between you and your family as if were a block of cheese?
        1. Does that fit your definition and concept of being a Christian?
        2. Is that the way you act in other circumstances?
      3. Does what happen in your home depend on who gets and can maintain control?
        1. Does that fit your definition and concept of being a Christian?
        2. Is that the way you act in other contexts?
  4. May I make the point I have repeatedly made.
    1. If knowing God through Christ has increased your understanding of the link between godliness and respect, the first person who should benefit from your understanding of the importance of expressing respect because you are a godly person should be your spouse, and the second people should be your children.
    2. If knowing God through Christ has increased your understanding of the link between godliness and kindness, the first person who should benefit from your understanding of the importance of expressing kindness because you are a godly person should be your spouse, and the second people should be your children.
    3. If knowing God through Christ has increased your understanding of the link between godliness and love, the first person who should benefit because of your understanding of the importance of showing love because you are a godly person should be your spouse, and the second people should be your children.
    4. Think with me for just a moment.
      1. Is being respectful, being kind, being loving a part of godliness?
      2. Should a Christian be respectful, kind, and loving to all people–even strangers–because the Christian understands people are made in God’s image?
      3. Then why should you treat strangers whom you do not know in ways you won’t treat your family?
      4. Why should a stranger respect your beliefs if your beliefs do not bless your family?
  5. Is it easy to be respectful, kind, and loving?
    1. No! Being a godly person is not easy!
    2. Will being a godly person require that I make sacrifices? Yes!
    3. Will being a godly person in my family require sacrifices? Yes!
    4. Then why will I make such sacrifices?
      1. I do it for God in appreciation of what He has done and continues to do for me!
      2. I do it because it is an important part of who I am as a person who belongs to God.

If you do not know how to be respectful, kind, and loving to your family, allow someone who knows how to teach you (not judge and condemn you) how to show and express positive qualities in your family relationships.

Learn how to be a respectful, kind, and loving person so your behavior encourages others to show you kindness, respect, and love. Learn how to talk and share. Let people learn from you that they matter.

Please, remember that sacrifice and love are inseparably linked as we devote ourselves to godly living. Please, understand that respect, kindness, and love are a part of being godly. Please, learn that showing these things to your family is truly an important part of being godly. Sacrifice for these things because these things are a part of God’s ways. Never forget that God made great sacrifices to extend you His respect, kindness, and love!

Old Country and Promised Land

Posted by on March 9, 2008 under Sermons

Please ask Chris Benjamin for permission before reproducing
any of the images, graphics, or charts on this page.

  1. Protestant Reformation

    16th century challenges to authority of the Pope in Western Europe

    • Lutheran Reformation [Luther, 1517]
    • Reformed Reformation [Zwingli & Calvin, 1518]
    • Radical Reformation/Anabaptists [Menno Simons, 1520’s]
    • English Reformation [Henry VIII & Cromwell, 1530’s]
    • Scottish Reformation [John Knox, 1559]

    “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils … my conscience is captive to the Word of God.” — Martin Luther

    “We acknowledge and confess that we now … have two sacraments only, instituted by the Lord Jesus … baptism and the supper, or table of the Lord Jesus.” — Scottish Confession of Faith (1560)

    Legacy of the Reformation

    1. Papal authority rejected
    2. Biblical authority emphasized
    3. Worship simplified
    4. Baptism and Communion essential sacraments
  2. The Enlightenment

    • Philosophical movement during 17th and 18th century.
    • Confidence in the power of human reason.
    • Knowledge comes through experience and observation.
    • All assumptions about life, world and humanity are reconsidered.

    Ren? Descartes (1596-1650)

      “I think, therefore I am.”

    Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

    • Introduced empirical method
    • Promoted Christian unity as reasonable
    • Truth is fruit of experience, not authority

    John Locke (1632-1704)

    • Founder of Empiricism
    • Human Reasoning and the Tabula Rasa
    • Separation of Church and State
    • Power resides with the people

    Thomas Reid (1710-1796)

    • Scottish “Common Sense” School of Philosophy
    • We know things directly
    • University of Glasgow professor

    Legacy of the Enlightenment

    1. Emphasis on Human Reason
    2. Truth is perceived through experience and human senses
    3. Common Sense – “We know things directly and do not infer them through ideas.”
  3. Religious Revival

    • Religious revivals generated new religious movements.
      • Anglican
        • Congregationalists (Cotton, 1636)
        • Quakers (Fox, 1647)
        • Methodists (Wesley, 1729)
      • Reformed
        • Baptists (Williams, 1639)
    • The Great Awakening of 18th century [Johnathan Edwards& George Whitefield] split some mainline churches.
      • Presbyterians
      • Episcopalians

    Legacy of the Revivals

    1. Church autonomy
    2. Evangelicalism – personal saving faith rather than routine membership in the national church
    3. Fractured fellowships – Presbyterians & Anglicans especially
  4. American Democracy

    • The American Colonies are religiously diverse and a refuge from persecution.
    • America is regarded as uncorrupted
    • American democracy appeared to be God’s government.
    • America was destined to be the land of the millennial dawn.

    Great Seal of the United States
    the Great Seal of the United States
    ANNUIT COEPTIS = He has smiled on our beginnings
    NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM = A New Order of the Ages
    “There’s an all-seeing eye …”

    God’s Promised Land

      A battle flag of the Revolution read: “Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God”

    Freedom from Church Control

    • Casting out the Anglican Bishop (1769)
    • “No lords spiritual or temporal in New England!”
    • Banner: “Liberty and Freedom of Conscience.”

    The U.S. Constitution

    • If God-ordained nation was possible, why not religion?
    • Many churches organize to become independent American churches.

    Primitive Religion

      “When we shall have unlearned everything which has been taught since [Jesus’] day, and got back to the pure and simple doctrines … if nothing had ever been added … the whole world would at this day have been Christian.” — Thomas Jefferson (1821)

    Christians Only

    • James O’Kelly (1735-1826)
    • Methodist; North Carolina & Virginia
    • “I am for Bible government, Christian equality, and the Christian name.”

    Religious Freedom

    • Abner Jones – Vermont
    • Elias Smith – New Hampshire
    • Baptists
    • New England Christian Connection

    Legacy of American Democracy

    1. Millennial expectations
    2. Independence from older state churches
    3. Primitive, simple religion
    4. Independent churches – religious freedom