You wish to have my opinion on the doctrine of “the Holy Catholic Church,” as contained in Scripture, and taught in the Creed. So I send you the following lines, which perhaps may serve, through GOD’S blessing, to assist you in your search after the truth in this matter, even though they do no more; indeed no remarks, however just, can be much more than an assistance to you. You must search for yourself, and GOD must teach you.
I think I partly enter into your present perplexity. You argue, that true doctrine is the important matter for which we must contend, and a right state of the affections is the test of vital religion in the heart: and you ask, ” Why may I not be satisfied if my Creed is correct, and my affections spiritual? Have I not in that case enough to evidence a renewed mind, and to constitute a basis of union with others like minded? The love of CHRIST is surely the one and only requisite for Christian communion here, and the joys of heaven hereafter.” Again you say, that——and——are constant in their prayers for the teaching of the HOLY SPIRIT; so that if it be true, that every one who asketh receiveth, surely they must receive, and are in a safe state.
Believe me, I do not think lightly of these arguments. They are very subtle ones; powerfully influencing the imagination, and difficult to answer. Still I believe them to be mere fallacies. Let me try them in a parallel case. You know the preacher at———, and have heard of his flagrantly immoral life; yet it is notorious that he can and does speak in a moving way of the love of CHRIST, &c. It is very shocking to witness such a case, which (we will hope) is rare; but it has its use. Do you not think him in peril, in spite of his impressive and persuasive language? Why?—You will say, his life is bad. True; it seems then that more is requisite for salvation than an orthodox creed, and keen sensibility; viz. consistent conduct.—Very well then, we have come to an additional test of true faith, obedience to GOD’S word, and plainly a scriptural test, according to St. John’s canon, “He who doeth righteousness is righteous.” Do not you see then your argument is already proved to be unsound? It seems that true doctrine and warm feelings are not enough. How am I to know what is enough? you ask. I reply, by searching Scripture. It was your original fault that, instead of inquiring what GOD has told you is necessary for being a true Christian, you chose out of your own head to argue on the subject;—e. g. “I can never believe that to be such and such is not enough for salvation,” &c. Now this is worldly wisdom. Continue Reading