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brought forward one reason in support of the standards of religious faith composed by fallible men; and he supposes that there must have been some sort of Christian doctrine in the early church, as there were
so many councils and synods called to suppress first one and then another heresy.” If there were such standards, R. S. should have referred to them, as we are not inclined to hazard the debate on his supposition. It is all very well for us to be told that there was a " settled standard or code of faith” in apostolic times, when no evidence is brought forward to prove that statement. “R. D. Robjent” has so ably replied to R. S.'s arguments, that we need not say anything more about them.
Another writer, “Austine,” makes some very singular statements, upon which comment is nearly useless. One runs thus :-“It is impossible to revise articles of faith unless you can also revise all the influences of history.” To this we reply that faiths, along with the nations which accepted them, have been swept away in the course of time, while their history and its influences still remain without the aid of any rerision. But fancy this statement supported by such an illustration as Can
revise the flower of which the seed has been planted, which has taken root and grown?” Who ever heard of flowers being revised, and what analogy can this bave with the revision of standards of religious faith: Such is one of the reasons which he assigns why creeds should not be revised. And the conclusion which he gives very emphatically on this evidence is, “No, neither can creeds be revised; they are portions of the souls of men.” Because a flower cannot be revised, à standard of religious faith cannot be revised either! The flower can no more carry this analogy out than can a mere stone. If • they are portions of the souls of men,” surely a revision is impossible, and useless though possible and attempted. But then “ our creeds are the banners of our battles.' Where did “Austine" learn this? “Our creeds are part and parcel of our being.” If he had the fortune or misfortune to be an Esquimaux or a Bushman, we suppose that in such a state his creed would be a “part and portion of his being,” and therefore that a revision would be highly dangerous. But again, “ Nolumus fides Angliæ mutari” might have held the same force in the days of the Druids
He then compares confessions of faith to “ lighthouses," but he ought to have remembered that a lighthouse can be altered and remodelled. His charity is very standard-like indeed, as he says, in allusion to those who maintain that creeds should be revised, "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,' &c. He should have thought that the souls of those who recommend the revision of creeds are just as much entitled to have that effected as he is determined enough that they should pot. On this ground the suggestions and knowledge of the most learned of this generation are to be altogether ignored. He supposes that himself and others who believe in creeds are
quite safe, and that nothing should be done to ease the minds of those who do not believe with him and them. Further reference is superfluous to this mode of argument, as it is altogether at variance with the laws of evidence, and directly opposed to the teachings of history.
No one can deny that standards of religious faith are the productions of men; and different creeds were formed at various times to suit the views of different denominations. Now the fact is that every sect claims infallibility to its own views; and we are at a loss to ascertain the ultimate authority to which we can appeal for an infallible decision upon a disputed point.
We have certainly no idea of the exact number of faiths that exist, yet we are at a loss to know how their standards should suffer no revision when there are so many disputes about them. Surely when there is such a great conflict of opinion about the principles of the gospel, there must be something wrong when there is not the much-crayed unity. The affirmative side would have us to believe that if creeds were never revised, there would be nothing but unity of faith, whereas the fact is evident that if creeds cannot be revised so as to be made more uniform, there never will be unity. On the other hand, if the creeds be revised, there is a probability that they may undergo a more proximate degree of uniformity with one another. But the cause that produces so many divisions in religious faith must be that
upon which these standards are based. They all pretend to be compiled from the Scriptures, yet the most celebrated divines, of every age, creed, and country, disagree on various portions of Scripture, attaching different meanings to nearly all doctrinal passages. Some differ on the translation, others doubt the authenticity of certain passages. Many are tempted to ask for the original MSS., where are they, or what has become of them ?
How came they down in the early ages, and who were their custodians ? Others say that one portion of Scripture contradicts another; and a third party will come forward with an opinion that does not agree with either. The Jews do not receive all the scriptures that we do. We reject the Apocrypha, which the Roman Catholics accept as inspired. The Trinity is affirmed by some to be contrary to about 2,000 texts in the Old Testament, and 1,000 in the New. There are, it is said, several hundred texts pro and con. on the extent of the atonement. The Roman Catholics have their mass; Protestants, the Lord's Supper; and the Quakers say that both are against the inspired doctrines of God. One religious sect practises infant baptism
; another, adult; and a third, argues there is no such ceremony at all in the Christian economy. Well, so far as we have been able to learn, and if like produces like, there cannot be much consistency in creeds formed upon such a contradictory foundation. We question nothing. All we say is that such discrepancies exist, and we have certainly invented none to suit our own purpose. Moreover, we think from the few contradictions we have adduced, that the Scriptures would be nothing the worse of under
going a revision, which would make them more consistent than some portions of them seem to be. Can the affirmative side deny that such discrepancies exist ? The mere fact that we have so many different sects clearly proves this statement. And such an admission would have å tenfold greater force, to render the standards of religious faith compiled by men revisable.
Creeds, as we stated before, are the productions of men, and therefore fallible. When such is the case, we are certainly unable to discover a definite reason why they should be infallible by receiving no revision. A creed is the declaration of the principles of faith professed by a person, as well as the formularies by which they are to be conducted. Since it has always been a few men in council, or at the head of a sect, that have composed creeds, is it right that a dogma which might have been carried by a casting vote should be for ever held as irrevisable, and therefore infallible? For our own part, we are perfectly convinced that all creeds should undergo certain modifications when circumstances might render such necessary. Standards of faith were instituted as a safeguard for the generally received faith, when their adherents commenced to investigate such questions for themselves, lest one faith might come in contact with another nearly similar in views to itself. The only reason that compelled them to do this was the force of circumstances ; and as the compilers could only have giren effect to the want which then existed, it is certainly absurd to plead that they could have made rules and regulations for every future event or circumstance which might hereafter take place, but of which they knew nothing at the time. They are, therefore, incomplete and insufficient for the requirements of this age. Certain misdemeanours, never thought of at the time a creed was formed, will, if creeds be irrevisable, go unpunished, and thus produce much mischief in the religious establishments of the day. On this head alone creeds should be revised. If punishment be inflicted, new rules must be made, to bring the subject under their power, so that in this manner an addition to the standards would be made, which is far more dangerous than a mere revision of the whole.
“ Howard” says that it is unfair to alter the creeds and standards of faith to those who have already subscribed them. But, for aught he knows, the very individuals who subscribed them may be the very parties who wish them revised. This statement is, however, followed by another, to the effect that a party may join a church who will outnumber the original adherents, and, on account of their being in the majority, alter the creed to serve their own consciences, to the prejudice of the minority. The effect of this assertion is premature, as no church receives such a great number of adherents without first compromising their differences, and thus making a new creed. If we were to adopt the policy of those who maintain the affirmative of this question, we would never have unions between churches. But it is not a general rule that those who change their faith wish the creeds of their adopted ones to be revised. On the
contrary, they are kindled by a certain enthusiasm for their new religion, which makes them averse to a revisal. Both in dining and signing'we take the same plan. First swallow all down, then digest as we can. • Howard” professes to be greatly afraid of the consequences resulting from a revisal, but with that we have nothing to do. We have to deal with the matter of right, and the chief question appears to be, Is it proper to trifle with a right which has the interests of souls in the scales, merely for the sake of consequences ? He argues that if a revision should take place, great confusion would ensue, and he states, “Among the Episcopalians we have High Church, Broad Church, and Low Church, men of all shades of opinions." If this statement is true, a creed of any description is useless, as it appears from this argument of his that a person can hold any shade of opinion, and still be a good subject under the infallible Thirty-nine Articles, which, he says, should not be revised. So much for the latitude and purity of the Thirty-nine. This state of the Anglican Church, as described by “Howard,” is one of the greatest confusion; in fact, that you can be anything and shade yourself under its protection ; but if you dare to attempt to put matters right-to bring order out of this admitted confusion,-then, strange to relate, the result of such exertions would only tend to increase the evil. If a church exists in the condition described by “Howard,” there is nothing for it but a revision to its very root and branch. If unity of faith had been one of “Howard's ” aims, certainly then a revision is necessary to give consistency and uniformity.
If the standards of faith were complete and satisfactory, all cavilling on the subject would be unnecessary. The only reason that there is such contention about them is simply because they do not comprehend all that is necessary for the religious requirements of the day. If this were not the case, there would have been, indeed, little debate about their comprehensiveness, power, and infallibility. The affirmative side might never have insinuated anything as to the objects which those had in view who wished standards to be revised. *Howard” insists that a revision has proved nothing except a hotbed for Socinianism, Unitarianism, &c. On the other hand, could those who accepted the views of these sects conscientiously remain in the belief of a different religion other than that which their minds embraced? Yet it would seem by “Howard's" argument, that if they were ever so bad in point of doctrine, they would have been all right had they remained where they were before. The Church of Rome has high pretensions about infallibility, and she has had a great number of obscure fathers whom she has been pleased to elevate into saints. An account of their lives is brought down by tradition, which is an article of the Roman Catholics' faith, as they are bound by the creed of Pope Pious IV. to "steadfastly admit and embrace it.” And can any person see his way through all the superstition, error, and nonsense into which tradition has coiled itself for so many centuries? We would think, when tradi.
tion forms an article of faith, that a revision should be urgently demanded every ten years.
Howard” states that “it is absolutely necessary that every Christian society should have a well-defined and intelligible standard of faith.”. This we admit, and the way by which he would give us such model standards is to leave them as they are! But have we well-defined and intelligible standards ? If we had there might have been no grumble about the matter. Many Christians say that creeds are neither well defined nor intelligible, and who are to be the judges to find out whether they are or are not in that condition ? Howard” proceeds in his argument as if there were the greatest unanimity imaginable about them. If such had been the case, we would certainly not have taken the negative side of this question. The only way in which we can expect to attain to such standards as “Howard” describes, is by a revision; and nothing has been adduced to prove that they should not. In fact, he can. didly admits himself that “we must not exalt them to an undue eminence by considering them absolutely infallible.”... And again he says, “ That human creeds, as the production of fallible mortals, are infallible, is contrary to the voice of both reason and revelation." Now it is distinctly admitted that creeds are the productions of fallible men; and what sufficient reason can be assigned for not revising the works of men whose fallibility is admitted ?
There can be no doubt but that such an absurd claim of infalli. bility tends to retard all progress. If such a claim had been maintained and acted upon when Druidism was in our land, we cannot take upon ourselves to predict the condition we would be in at present; what state of society would then have been had not creeds been rejected at the time of the Reformation. In short, we learn that it was by breaking up the superstitious influence of creeds that we have advanced in liberty of conscience on the everincreasing tide of civilization, borne on by its intelligence, experience, learning, and sagacity, to develop its onward resources.
We are under the impression that an equal number of reasons have been given against this subject as for it. The comprehensive and sound paper of “Ruddy” is an additional bulwark to the negative side. It therefore appears to us, on considering the Scriptures, and the unlimited latitude given by them to all kinds of opinions, that creeds should be revised. This is, moreover, more urgently required in the case of the standards of religious faith for the reason already given, as well as those in the July number of this Magazine. In conclusion, we might say,–
“ There is more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds."
G. M. s.