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tidings of joy. - Thou shalt call his name JESUS, “ for he shall save his people"- from what ?“ from their sins.” To see children, therefore, wandering in darkness, ignorant of God and of Christ, reprobate to every good work, and every notion of good; and to continue idle spectators of such a scene, without making those exertions which it is in our power to make—this can never be right in any of us, clergy or laity: but must contribute much to the weight of that charge which shall one day be brought against us. On the contrary, to succour those who are thus distressed for want of spiritual aid ; to preserve little children in a state of innocence, or reclaim them from one of error and vice, by leading them in the ways of truth and holiness; these, says one, who has spent his life in the service of mankind, readily and zealously giving his countenance and assistance to every scheme of piety and charity that in a long course of years has been set afoot among us, and to whom many of them owe their original * : “ These are imperial works, and worthy the im“ mediate disciples of our Lord;" to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit, three Persons and one God, be ascribed, as is most due, all blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, might, majesty, and dominion, now and ever. Amen.
• Jonas Hanway, Esq.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto
you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.
It has been a doubt among expositors, whether by the terms “common salvation" and "the faith once “ delivered to the saints,” the apostle intended different things, or the same thing differently expressed. The latter seems most probable. “The “ faith once delivered to the saints" seems necessarily to involve in it “the common salvation.” But as this is a matter of no great consequence,
it shall not detain us from the consideration of that which certainly is such, the duty here so evidently enjoined of" contending for the faith.” To take in the whole subject, and discuss it as fülly as the time usually allowed to an exercise of this kind will permit, it may be expedient to bestow some reflections on the OBJECT to be contended for, the NECESSITY of contending for it, and the MANNER in which the contention should be carried on.
I. The object to be contended for is, “the faith “ once delivered.” A question is at present warmly agitated amongst us—What that faith is ? A question somewhat extraordinary at this time of day; but certainly no trifling one; since either our opponents are guilty of degrading and dishonouring the Son of God and the Holy Spirit; or the Christian church has been guilty of idolatry from the very days of the apostles. This faith, as we say, is that system of truths revealed in the holy Scriptures concerning the dispensations of the God whom we adore, and into whose name we are baptized; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit ; three Persons in one God. These truths are proposed to us as the ground of our hope, our comfort, and our joy; as the principles on which the conduct of life is to be framed, accepted, and rewarded. We receive the revelation which contains the truths, upon that plenary and satisfactory evidence youchsafed us of its authenticity; and we receive the truths which it contains, on the authority of the Revealer. There can be no better reason for receiving them, when that revealer is God. Ignorance and malice have sometimes pronounced faith to be want of sense; but, surely there is as little sense in withholding assent when it ought to be given, as in giving it when it ought to be withholden.
The different articles of our belief, dispersed in the Scriptures, were very early collected in summaries, styled Creeds, recited at baptism, and constituting thenceforth the badge and test of a man's profession *
By a formulary of this kind, the catechumen himself was instructed; the faith once delivered, transmitted down to posterity; the members of the spiritual society were kept together ; the doctrines by them believed and taught, made known to the world, and distinguished from a multitude of heterogeneous and erroneous opinions, by them disclaimed; a connexion with the maintainers of which would justly have brought discredit on themselves and their cause.
For these reasons, the use of creeds appears to have been at first introduced, and since continued. They who have at any time thought proper to depart from such as were established in the body to which they originally belonged, soon found it necessary to establish some of their own. The Arians, rejecting that agreed upon at Nice, drew up successively many others; I think, not fewer than seventeen in the space of forty years. And remarkable are the words of Mosheim concerning the Socinians : “ They dreaded the effects of in
Nothing can be stronger for the doctrine of the Trinity, as one of its ablest advocates justly observes, than that the most ancient creeds should have been comprised (for so many learned men, upon good grounds, have conceived that they were comprised,) in these few words: “I believe in God the Father, the "Son, and the Holy Ghost ;" since it is declaring the Sacred Three to be the One God; and no man, who had been baptized according to this form, could be ignorant of the doctrine.See Waterland's Importance of the Doctrine of the Trinity, with the authors there referred to, p. 203.
“ testine discord, which portended the ruin of their
community, before it could arrive at any mea
sure of stability or consistence. “ hension was too well founded; for, as yet they “ had agreed upon no regular system of principles, “ which might serve as a centre and bond of “union. A summary of their religious doctrine “was first published in the year 1574. Their
system, afterwards changed and new modelled, “required a new confession of faith, to make “ known its principles, and give a clear and full
account of its present state. A new form was “ drawn up by Socinus himself, and styled the “ RACOVIAN CATECHISM, which is still considered “ as the CONFESSION OF FAITH of the whole sect *."
The true question, therefore, concerning creeds seems to be; not whether any shall be imposed, but who shall be the imposers ? Now let us only suppose that the direction of ecclesiastical matters in this kingdom should pass into the hands of those persons, whio regard the doctrine of the Trinity as involving in it an absurdity equal to that of transubstantiation, and as being the grand obstacle to the conversion of Jews, Mahometans, and Deists; who deem the worship of Christ to be gross idolatry, and high treason against the majesty of the one supreme God; must not the new Unitarian church, with its confession and services, be so constituted as utterly and for ever to exclude us from becoming members of it? Most undoubtedly, and of necessity, it must. "An
* Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. cent. xvi. sect. iii. part ii: chap. iv. § ix.