[The Christian Messenger 1 (March 24, 1827): 110-116.]

      We find that the grand objection made against Christian union, or against rejecting all authoritative human creeds and party names, and adopting the Bible alone [110] and the name Christian, is, that on this plan all the various, heterogenous mass of sectarians, of every name, would amalgamate, to the real injury of religion.

      Answer. Let us suppose that the various denominations of Christians in the West, from reading the scriptures, have learned that it is the will of God that all his people should be one; that they should walk by the same rule; and that there should be no divisions or schisms among them; that the opposite to these is contrary to the will of God, and to the order established by the Head of the Church. And what Christian, acquainted with the Bible, can be blind to these facts? Let us again suppose, that under the conviction of these facts, they all agree to meet at a specified time and place, and to confer together respecting some plan of reform, so as to sink into the will of God and do it. They meet. It is at once discovered that they cannot unite on any one of their particular creeds. It is equally impossible for them to make a creed in which they can all unite, without giving up their different systems; the Calvinists must give up the five points, and the Arminians must relinquish their opposites; the Trinitarians so divided among themselves, could never unite in an article on that subject; and the Unitarians, also divided among themselves, could never unite in a creed on this subject. All attempts at union on these plans are vain. We may rest assured, that the will of God can never be done in this way. It is as evident as demonstration, that as they all believe and receive the Bible as divine, and as the only authoritative creed and bond of union, on the Bible alone they can and must united, or still remain in disobedience to the will of God.

      Objection.--If we unite on the Bible, without an explanation of its doctrines, as a bond of union, we shall all soon be disunited again.

      Answer.--Will the case be better if an explanation is made the bond of union? This has long been tried, and the history of the church for fifteen centuries proves, that from the very introduction of these explanations, as bonds of union, evils have been [111] accumulating, schisms increasing, and union appearing more distant. Were we all agreed to take the Bible alone, and to labor to conform our lives and hearts to its holy precepts, to provoke one another to love and good works, to exhort, admonish and comfort one another, would not the Lord be pleased with such a plan? Would he not perfect the union by pouring out upon us his uniting spirit? Surely he would bless his own doctrine. Unbelief and distrust in God can only doubt it. It will be realized, though our unbelief may repel the blessing from us.

      Objection.--The precious doctrine of the Bible must be respected; and certainly the denial of any should be discountenanced, and made a term of fellowship.

      Answer.--We must distinguish between a doctrine of the Bible, and human opinion of that doctrine. No Christian of any name among us, but receives every doctrine of the Bible clearly stated; yet Christians may have various opinions respecting the doctrine. Here let the old neglected virtues of forbearance and long suffering be cultivated, and the spirit of humility and brotherly love be maintained, and the soul-revolting idea of a general union of Christians will be banished, and religion, in its glory, be restored. Do we ever read in the scriptures of any being excluded from the church, but for ungodly conduct or immorality, or for doctrines which necessarily led to, and were connected with, sin? The person who was to be accounted by the church as a heathen man, or a publican, had previously transgressed, and every attempt to reclaim him had failed. The person excluded from the Corinthian Church was guilty of incest: So they who held the doctrines of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans, should be justly excluded, because those doctrines were immediately connected with sin. Rev: ii.

      Will a good king punish or expatriate his subjects for not apprehending the meaning of some of his laws?--Does he not rather inflict this punishment on those alone, who presumptuously violate them? In the empire of Great Britain, the kingdom of Ireland has [112] formed opinion of some of the laws of the government, different from the opinions formed by the kingdom of Scotland; and the kingdom of Scotland has formed opinions of the same laws different from the opinions, which the kingdom of England has formed. Yet they all live united in the bonds of peace; all are attached to their king and his government. Would this diversity of opinions be so offensive to the king, that his indignation should burst forth in vengeance upon them? If he should, would he not be justly execrated as a merciless tyrant? And will the merciful King of Kings deal thus with his poor ignorant subjects for not perfectly understanding all his laws, or for forming different opinions of some of his doctrines, while they are honestly and sincerely labouring to know and do his will? We think not. And if any, professing to act by his authority, should act otherwise from him, would they not betray their profession? Undoubtedly they would.

      But suppose each of these kingdoms in the empire of Great Britain, should deem its opinions of the King's laws so sacred and correct, as to warrant a disunion from those who differed from it; suppose each kingdom should establish a government on its peculiar notions, and should exclude from the kingdom all who differed from it: would not this be called rebellion against the government of the empire! Would not every local subject in the empire, uninfluenced by sinister or party views, oppose it? And in acting thus, would he not equally incur the displeasure of every party? That the application may be easily understood, we observe: in the empire of heaven, there are many kingdoms. They have all formed different opinions of some of the doctrines of the government, and deem those opinions so sacred as to warrant a separation from, and exclusion of, all that differ from them. They have all established separate governments on their peculiar notions of the doctrine of their lawgiver and king, and they exclude from their communion and kingdom all that differ from them. Is not this rebellion against the King of Kings and his government?--his government, designed to unite all his [113] subjects in the strong bonds of love and peace? If it be not rebellion, we know not by what name to call it. Who should be accounted a loyal subject to the King of heaven? Surely the man who defends and supports the government of heaven, in opposition to partyism, and who labors in the meekness of wisdom to convince the different parties of their error, and to reclaim them to the right way. Such a man may expect to incur the displeasure of every party spirit, and be strenuously opposed in such a worthy cause. Let us persevere, and success will crown our endeavors. Our works will follow us in time and in eternity; in time, for posterity will profit from our labors; in eternity, for God, we believe will own them.

      Objection. If what you state be correct, why has the Church been permitted to err so long?

      Answer. Why has the church been permitted to be driven into the wilderness for 1260 years? Why was the apostacy of which Paul prophesied, ever permitted to take place? Will any say that the Church of Rome is the church driven by the dragon into the wilderness for 1260 years? No Protestant will say it, and no Roman Catholic will own it. Will any one say, that any one of the existing sects is that church? Not one can or will say it. Who, then, and where is that church? It is composed of all the humble obedient believers of every name. They are all in the wilderness of the confusion existing among the various, jarring, and discordant sects, called in the Revelations, Babylon, which literally signifies confusion. All think the 1260 years are nearly closed. The signs of the times are visible to such as are observant. The Christians in this wilderness of confusion are beginning to see and lament their situation, and the evils of partyism, of human authoritative creeds and party names. In fact they begin to make a solemn move out of Babylon, or out of the wilderness, leaning, not on man, but on their beloved, whom they acknowledge alone as their leader. They will be one in spite of all opposition from earth or hell. Vain are their opposing efforts! The weak and tearful [114] may, for a while, be influenced by the fear of man and the terrors of expulsion from their party; they may dread the dangers and evils of a reform, portrayed in glowing colors by their leaders; yet on earth shall God's will be done as it is in heaven. In heaven all are one; so shall it be on earth among the saints.

      Obj. If you be correct, why have the great, the learned, and the pious, so long and so universally erred?

      Answer. These characters are found in every sect, teaching and defending contradictory doctrines, with all confidence and boldness, and endeavouring to build up and establish their various parties. Are they all right? Are they not all wrong, the Bible being judge? Various reasons might be given; but we think that hinted at in the objection, is not among the least. It is this: some great, learned, and pious man, in his speculations, has invented a doctrine; this he has published and defended; this is received by many, who may also be great, learned, and pious. Thus the doctrine gains credit through its great, learned, and pious propagators and advocates. That such were surely right, has greater weight on the mind than is generally admitted, and inclines it to that way which they have shewn; especially if relatives, friends, or associates are walking in this way. Temporal emolument may influence some, (not the pious) and a popular party many more.

      Obj. But why has God blessed them with his saving mercy, if they have so egregiously erred?

      Ans. Because he is God and not man. He is long suffering and forbearing; and in this has set us an example for our imitation. Alas! how far all have erred from this copy! Had the Lord confined his favors to one sect only, then the conclusion would almost be irresistible, that that sect was only right, and all others wrong. But as he condescends to bestow favors on all, and to commune with the good of every name, surely we should be imitators of him as dear children. To act otherwise would be to act ungodly. If we make it an argument, that people are not in error, because God blesses them with his grace and communion, then must [115] we conclude that no sect is in error; for it is evident that all experience these his blessings. This conclusion is irresistible. Therefore we are obliged to admit the argument fallacious, or to make no distinction between right and wrong, truth and error. This cannot be admitted by any.

      This subject shall be farther considered in our subsequent numbers. As we learn the objections made to Christian union, we shall notice them.