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DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS.
As the Apostle Jude has declared it to be a duty of Christians, to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; it becomes us to understand what that faith is, and to consider whether we are doing our duty in this particular. To aid us in this is the design of the following pages.
By the faith once delivered to the saints, we understand the Christian Religion;—those truths which were taught by our blessed Saviour for the instruction, the regeneration, and the salvation of man. If it be inquired what these truths are, we should say they seem to be mainly and chiefly comprised in the following summary.
That there is one Infinite and Eternal Being, the source of all existence, the author of all blessing, the ruler of all worlds, who exercises an unreserved and impartial sovereignty over all beings and events:
That this God is one only, without equal, rival, or part
That this Being, infinitely perfect in his moral attributes, maintains a moral government over his creatures,
the end of which is the promotion of the greatest virtue and the greatest happiness.
That man is the subject of this moral government, beneath which he is treated as a free moral agent, capable of choosing between right and wrong, and accountable for his choice:
That in this world he is placed in a state of trial and probation, for the purpose of forming and bringing out his character, in preparation for a final allotment of condition in conformity with his character:
That into this state of preparatory discipline he comes, not with a character already fixed, but with certain rational faculties and moral capacities, in themselves neither good nor evil; that he himself on entering life is neither virtuous nor vicious, neither holy nor sinful; neither an object of praise nor of blame; but possesses such powers as when developed will render him one or the other, according to the objects to which they become attached and the habits which they form:
These powers are Reason and Conscience-which approve and lead to goodness; and the Passions and Appetites-which, being connected with sensual objects. and present gratifications, incline to self-indulgence and sin :
That man's trial consists principally in the struggle for mastery between these two parts of his constitution, (in the language of scripture, the law in the members and the law in the mind-the flesh and the spirit') and its object is to exalt and purify his spiritual nature, and deliver it from subjection to the sensual:
That in order to aid man in this great struggle-to which from natural infirmities and strong temptations, he was so often found unequal-it pleased God to commission his son Jesus Christ, to communicate all the know
ledge, encouragement, and aid, and to set before him all the powerful motives, which might be necessary to his success and happiness :
That in the truths and institutions of his Gospel, he has made a provision of means, which it is for man himself to use, and which he is left at liberty to use or to refuse; so that none will be saved except through his own exertion, nor will fail except through his own fault :
That these means are, his own instructions as recorded in the scriptures, and as connected with a previous dispensation; the worship and ordinances of his institution; the spiritual influences granted in answer to prayer; his own life, death, and example, so fitted to affect and influence the heart and character; and the promises and threatenings of future retribution:
faith That the terms of acceptance to divine favour are, in Christ, repentance of sin, and an obedient life; that future happiness is suspended on these conditions; those who comply with them shall be abundantly rewarded of divine grace, those who hold out against them shall deservedly suffer from the divine displeasure in a future condemnation :
That as man had no claim to this revelation and aid from God, it is to be accounted the free gift of his grace, and therefore those who are saved by the Gospel, are saved, not because of their own independant and unassisted righteousness, but by the grace of God; a grace, which makes merciful allowance for human weakness and imperfection, while it imparts all needed assistance toward accomplishing the great end of man's spiritual improvement and moral perfection.
This view of the system of the divine administration and purposes, as gathered from the Christian Scriptures, may be thus presented in a more naked and compact
form: That there is one God over all—that Jesus is the Son of God, the predicted Messiah-That man is placed here in a state of probation-That the Gospel is the final dipensation of religion-originating in the compassion of God for his sinful offspring and founded in the placability of his nature having for its object to make men holy that they may be happy-establishing as the terms of pardon and acceptance, faith, repentance of sin and obedience of life-using for its means the labors, instructions, and institutions of Jesus Christ-and asserting the sanctions of a future state of retribution.
In this brief summary we have, as we conceive, the substance of the faith once delivered to the saints. We do not profess to have put down all its minute lineaments; but those general and fundamental traits which constitute it what it is, and which cannot be removed or denied without affecting its essential character. It is obviously a plain, simple, intelligible statement, with nothing in it to perplex the understanding, to contradict the judgment of sound reason, or to oppose the kind affections which God has planted within us.
For this system we are to contend-not only because it was once delivered to the saints, and is Christ's saving truth-but because there have prevailed in its place other systems, in many respects different-systems obscure, complicated, mysterious, and less agreeable to the simplicity which is in Christ. In contradistinction to them we have sometimes found occasion to denominate this the Rational system—not as arrogating any claim to intellectual superiority in its supporters, for we do not suppose them to possess any; much less as being independent of revelation, or opposed to it, for it is expressly founded on revelation;-but because all the doctrines which it contains are agreeable to right reason, while the opposing
systems are admitted, even by some of their advocates, to be partly made up of doctrines repugnant to human reason. We beg that this explanation may be candidly regarded, when, for the sake of convenience, we use the expression rational system.
The faith, which we thus suppose to constitute the essence of the Christian Religion, has our deep reverence and strong attachment. We have gathered it from our knowledge of the Scriptures; we have found it corroborated by the testimony of nature; we have strengthened our conviction of its truth by reflection and experience; we have seen its power in the regulation of the affections and the life; we have tasted its comforts in trial; and we place our confidence in it to sustain us in death, as we have known it to sustain others, with its cheering assurance of divine mercy and the animation of heavenly hope. How can we fail, then, to feel it a duty to contend for it? We should esteem ourselves unworthy of its privileges and pleasures, if we were ashamed to confess and vindicate it. We should deserve to be forsaken of its peace, if we should pusillanimously forsake its defence. May God give us wisdom and zeal successfully to maintain the truth which we conscientiously hold.
It will be our present object to bring forward a few of those general considerations which have tended to confirm us in the persuasion, that the system above exhibited is indeed the faith once delivered to the saints. We cannot but think that there is force in them, and that they are calculated to recommend and establish its claims.
1. The plainness and intelligibleness of this system is favourable to its claims.
We hear a great deal in the New Testament about "the simplicity that is in Christ." We are told that the Gospel was "revealed to babes," and "preached to the