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the heavenward and homeward journey it is taking ? It is a serious responsibility indeed which men undertake, when they offer to supplant the creeds of our age. The fable of " new lamps for old ones has a meaning suitable to our church days as well as to the “Arabian Night's Entertainments." The old oil has not yet, we believe, burned out of the old lamps, which our forefathers lighted to welcome the coming of the Lord with, and we do not think that we ought yet to go and buy for ourselves. If a title to the skies has been securely gained in times gone by with the articles of faith we have, let us Have faith still that they will serve our turn and procure us the approving smile of Heaven.

Confessions of faith are landmarks and lighthouses. If these shift and yary, how shall we plough the rough seas of public opinion, or escape by their aid from the storms that may overtake us in life; or even direct our course to life's true haven? The things that are “most surely believed among us " must be contained in articles of faith. An indefinite belief is altogether nugatory. It is trust in cloudland, belief in the transitory as the enduring, and taking dew for sunshine. Faith is not of this sort.

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Oh no,

it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken,

And is the star to every wandering bark.”
Steering by which, it attains to the quiet rest of safe barbourage -
" beatitude past utterance.", Such should faith be--something on
which we can really rely. How can consistency of life be secured,
how can constancy of hope and endeavour be procured, unless what
a man believes in be distinctly irrevisably made up in his mind?
It is true that'"articles of faith” are easily found fault with, and
are not easily made perfect : that there are many men who can
bring forward grave objections to many articles of religious credence,
but can they 'substitute anything better, more trustworthy, or more
scriptural, in the room of that which they propose to take away?
Is such a one not well sketched in the following lines of Hudibras?

"He a rope of sand could twist;
As tough as learned Sorbonist,
And weave fine cobwebs, fit for scull
That's empty when the moon is full;
Such as take lodgings in a head
That's to be let unfurnished.
He could raise scruples dark and nice,
And after solve them in a trice,
As if Divinity had catched

The itch on purpose to be scratched."."
If we are to listen to the suggestions of men of this sort, and
afflict our souls on account of their objections to the creeds, con-
fessions, and articles of the churches, how shall we ever be able to
“be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you

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à reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fearp” (1 Pet. iii. 15.) And still imore pertinently we may ask, how shall we, if creeds are to be regarded as revisable, be able to keep “the unity of the faith?” Our faith in God should be like God himself, changeless. Truth cannot change, error alone is changeable. If we believe our church articles to be erroneous, then of course we can believe them to be capable of revision. In that case, however, they should endure the decree of " my Lord Hamlet,” or be subjected to the advice given by Doudney about the tailor's bill—" Reform it altogether.

If any man has given the assent and consent of his mind and heart to certain formularies, in which the common faith of the church to which he adheres is written and contained, he cannot desire that the church should revise them; for they may then be altered to signify something different from that which he believes ; or else by the very fact of their being altered it is admitted that they were formerly wrong, and that all their former holders were in error

those who altered them included. If they have been wrong previously, how shall we be certain that they shall be right in their revision ? May they not as probably go further wrong?

If, again, a church has appointed certain articles of faith to be most surely believed by its members, and this is laid before the various communities of professing Christians for their judgment, and for reference or information, how unstable would all things become if these were to be made subject to revision? There would be no systematic theology at all. If he is to be accursed who removes his neighbour's landmarks regarding the things of earth, how much more vitally wicked is he who would remove the landmarks on the way to the celestial city? There could be no approach made to having one faith, one hope, one baptism,” if there were not publicly acknowledged digests of doctrine, to which appeal might be made.

Aware as I am of the popular prejudices against the doctrines of Christianity held by many, I cannot but think that any attempt to meddle with the current articles of the Christian faith would be likely only to muddle the subject and gratify the scepticallyminded. Allow a similar latitude in the interpretation of confessions and creeds as is permitted in the interpretation of the Scriptures, and every useful and necessary concession is made. “ Articles of Faith” ought to be irrevisable in their terms, though they should be always liberally interpreted—not otherwise is it possible that they can be usefully employed; and without them how incompetent is man to live aright!

66

“ 'Tis a thing impossible to frame
Conceptions equal to the soul's desires ;
And the most difficult of tasks to keep
Heights which the soul is competent to gain.

Man is of dust ; ethereal hopes are his,
Which, when they would sustain themselves aloft,
Want the consistence; like a pillar of smoke
That with majestic energy from earth
Rises, but having reached the thinner air

Melts and dissolves, and is no longer seen." Let us not tamper with the precious beliefs of men. Science may change, laws may be altered, politics may be revolutionized, customs may be abrogated or fall into desuetude, but faith is the life-blood of the soul. It has a preciousness far excelling these “ things of a day." We dare not risk the dissolving of all the honest associations of men with the faith which has made holy lives, happy homes, joyful deathbeds ; which have been to many souls the pledges of the promises of God and the sure mercies of David, so that even in the hour of death they can say exultantly

“ With faith I plunge me in this sea,

Here is my bope, my joy, my rest,
Hither, when death assails, I flee,

I seek my safety in Christ's breast;
Away sad doubt and anxious fear,
Mercy is all that is written there."

AUSTINE.

NEGATIVE ARTICLE.-II.

“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and bath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to bis word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.' The requiring of an implicit faith and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.”—“Westminster Confession of Faith," chap. xx. § 2.

TAKEN in one sense this question would admit of an affirmative reply only. Assume the perfectibility of human nature, and that the immediate and infallibly correct conception of everything in the Scriptures possesses men's minds without a possibility of error, and under such conditions standards of religious faith, being unsullied by even unconscious mistake, would rightly claim exemption from future revision or alteration. But, unhappily, “to err is human ;” and therefore no implicit, unshaken reliance can be placed in any purely human composition on matters of faith. The Holy Scriptures must inevitably be the final court of appeal; but from the fact that passages of the sacred writings have the appearance of being contradictory, a necessity is created for creeds' or standards, in which these seeming inconsistencies may be reconciled, and the teachings of Scripture methodized for ready reference and comparison.

The Church of Rome claims to be the sole guardian interpreter and expositor of Christian doctrine, contending that certainty is impossible beyond her pale, infallibility alone sure in her keeping. Notwithstanding this superhuman profession, glaring inconsisten. cies obstinately obtrude beneath the smile of holy mother Church, affording proofs of man's deplorable liability to miss or misrepre

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sent the truth. Other communions have too frequently manifested the same pretension to actual infallibility, though unavowed as such, elevating creeds, confessions, or articles, to at least a level with the Bible itself. Now, seeing that this has notoriously been the case, and considering the tenacity with which people cling to old opinions as such, stopping their ears to the persuasive exposition of truths, newly discovered or applied to the pulling down of some superfluous sand-founded outpost of their religious belief, is it not a likely conclusion that, to obviate this evil in a quiet way, a periodical, or at least fixed revision of standards of faith would be advisable! The march of truth, the growth of intelligence, the cautious painstaking years of research employing great minds in investigating the foundations, and re-testing the doctrines of religion, are surely productive of stancher adherence to the grand old truths that,

“Moored in tbe rifted rock,

Proof to the tempest's shock,

The firmer are rooted the ruder the blow," as well as in detecting the omissions, and rectifying as they are recognized, the blunders of a former age. Truth is thus freed from some of its encumbering error, and the consciences of standard subscribers are, to a certain extent, relieved from the galling yoke of error. Examples could be multiplied ad infinitum in support of the foregoing considerations. To show that this is no empty makebelieve, no vague boast of what cannot be produced, the following is submitted. In 1647, when the Confession of Faith was framed at Westminster, it was the common belief that the creation simply occupied six ordinary days, and so it appears in this Confession ; while the rigorously tested results of geological science have since plainly demonstrated that the term day in Genesis i., as rendered in the English version, denotes thousands of years. Similarly, the opinions of the magistrate's functions, &c., expounded by the venerable Confession, are being incessantly combated, with telling success, by those who have subscribed to this standard. The Thirtynine Articles of the Church of England have likewise lost their former firm hold of the Church in some points, though scruples have been judiciously repressed by the Act lately passed to regulate the footing on which the Articles are now accepted. Sufficient reason is thus given to justify the revision of documents that labour under the drawback of being composed when the study of the original languages of Scripture, and the investigation of science in relation to scriptural subjects, were not so advanced as at the present day; and therefore so much greater chance, and proved actual existence of error in dogmatizing on points on which we have now fuller light, because several later centuries have elapsed of surpassing mental activity. Is the revision of these standards, then, reasonably forbidden? And yet, both with the Articles and the Westminster Confession, there are persons who gravely signify

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their full concurrence in every jot and tittle, lustily, though too often blindly, erecting tradition into the proper seat of personally tested truth; taking it as once and for all settled that the creed of the church is "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” they proceed indiscriminately to anathematize any one who protests against their view on any point held by their formulary. No matter the reasoning that is marshalled against the old opinion, it is amply sufficient for the guardian of the intact creed that an attack is being made upon it, and instantly instruments suited to every such occasion, reiterated general assertions of the creed's veracity in toto, are held to confound and shame the gainsayer.

R. S. asks, " What good end will be served by having standards revisable?” (p. 39). Briefly, to take judicious advantage of the labours of pious and learned men of ages following the first issue of the creed. Is to be asserted that once a creed is written every word is irrevocable, that the good men its authors have left a fair and faultless monument of absolute truth behind them which coming ages may admire, but shall in vain try to improve, purify, or remodel i Did wisdom die with our fathers, that later genera- tions are incapacitated from framing a standard for themselves ; or at least conscientiously examining, pruning, and supplementing the existing creed, as the fathers, in their day, took the liberty of doing by former abstracts of faith The Reformation would never have thrown off the trammels from conscience but for this manly principle of individual responsibility in matters of faith ; and if, in conscience, a man cannot acquiesce in a certain standard, whether in respect to doctrine, ceremony, discipline, or government, let him be true to himself, and profess his belief in what his conscience, interpreting the word of God, lays down as truth. The right of private judgment goes thus far. Suppose many Christians in this state of discontent with their formularies (as undoubtedly there » are at this day), does R. S. really think it would be ruinous to

appoint in the proper way an official inquiry into the teaching of these - standards, adjusting them in conformity to the ascertained findings

of theology and its kindred seiences since the appearance of the ori. ginal formularies. If done with prayerful deliberation, surely such a course would be quite innocent, instead of producing the dreadful calamity of utter confusion, with no real belief existing anywhere” (p. 39). »1...17

Bishop Butler speaks very decidedly on this point, scattering to the winds the grountless fears of those who regard independent investigation and decision in religion as synonymous with watering doubt. and as certain harbingers of desolation to the peculiar temple of truth in which the fearful ones ensconce themselves. Butler thus testifies his full reliance in a leading principle of Protestantism:

"As it is owned, the whole scheme of Scripture is not yet under. stood , so if it ever comes to be understood before the restitution ! of all things, and without miraculous interpositions, it must be in

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