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done him, if his title to the name of Christian be denied him. Believing that Jesus is the Messiah, he believes that he was sent of God, that he was divinely raised up and commissioned, that his religion is not, therefore, the offspring of human genius, that it had a supernatural, a miraculous origin; in other words, that it was the immediate gift of God, that it was in the strictest sense a revelation from heaven. The infidel denies this; he supposes that Christianity originated in second causes, that it was the invention of man, a work either of imposture, or of enthusiasm. There is then a broad line of distinction between the infidel and the Christian. The Christian believes in the miraculous origin of christianity, believes that it proceeded from God, Jesus as the Messiah having received his commission from Him to teach and to save. The infidel believes nothing of all this, but supposes that Christianity started up, and was propagated in the world by mere human means.
This, we conceive, is the sense of the term Christian, as distinguished from infidel. Whoever employs it in any other sense, departs from primitive usage; he assigns to it a meaning which was unknown to Jesus and his apostles; sets up a test not sanctioned by their example.
That the simple proposition, Jesus is the Messiah, or Christ, the son of God, expressions, which, in the Janguage of the Jews, were considered as synonymous, was, as we have asserted, the only article of belief required by the Founder of our religion and by his apos
tles, the first preachers of christianity, in order to the enjoyment of the christian name and privileges, is too obvious to need formal proof. St John tells us expressly that his design in writing his gospel was to establish a belief of this one plain and intelligible proposition; and this in his view was sufficient to the obtaining of eternal life. These are written,' says he, 'that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might have life through his name.'-John xx. 31. This too was Peter's confesson, which was followed by the declaration of our Saviour, upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'-Matt. xvi. 16-18. This too, as we are informed in the Acts, was the burden of the Apostles' preaching. What was the word, which Peter preached, which we are told, was gladly received,' and upon the reception of which three thousand converts were baptised? 'Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ,' or Messiah.-Acts, ii. 36. We might go on and quote passage after passage, in which it is distinctly asserted, or plainly implied by Jesus and his apostles, that this was the grand article of faith, and the only one, regarded by them as necessary to constitute a Christian, as distinguished from an unbeliever.
The same may be obsved of the early Fathers of the church. All who acknowledged a belief of the
above mentioned proposition, were viewed by them as Christians. Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho, the Jew, speaks of those of his time who affirmed that Jesus was the Messiah, though they regarded him as a man, born in the ordinary way. From this latter opinion, he says, he dissents, but he does not hesitate to call those who asserted it, Christians. The great point with him was, that Jesus was the Messiah, and of this he felt sure. Though he might fail of proving the correctness of his opinions concerning his preexistence, it could be demonstrated that he was the Christ of God, that is, the Messiah, and this was enough. This was absolutely necessary to be believed; nothing else was so. Such is the obvious purport of his language. We find him alluding to the subject in his parting words with Trypho, of whom he takes leave with the prayer, that all the Jews may be led 'to think with us [Christians] that Jesus is the Christ of God,' a prayer in which no genuine Unitarian of his, or any age, would hesitate cheerfully to unite.
Justin wrote in the former part of the second century. For some time after his death the catalogue of articles deemed fundamental, was very short. The most ancient creeds which have been transmitted to us, of which we have specimens in Irenæus, Tertullian, and others, and in the document called the Apostles' creed, are exceedingly brief and general, and we discover in them no trace of what are now dignified with the name of the distinguishing doctrines of the gospel. In those times Christians were allowed much greater
liberty of judging and speaking than was afterwards enjoyed. In proportion as creeds were lengthened, this liberty was abridged, and pride, uncharitableness, schisms, and strife, were the consequence.
The Catholic church, however, with all its pretentions to infallibility, never went the length of denouncing as infidels those who acknowledged the divine mission of Jesus, however they might depart, in other respects, from the orthodox standard. They anathematized them as heretics, it is true, but heretic and infidel were never, until recently, regarded as terms of the same import. A heretic is an erring Christian, or one who is supposed to err. A person must be a Christian, therefore, before he can be denominated a heretic. If he afterwards renounce christianity, believing that it originated in delusion or craft, he becomes an apostate and infidel, but not before. He may reject the explanations, which others give of the instructions of Jesus, but as long as he reverences those instructions as having a divine sanction, he is a Christian,-not prehaps an orthodox Christian, in the opinion of some of his fellow men, but still a Christian. Orthodoxy, as the term is used, is exceedingly mutable. It is one thing at Rome, another in London; one affair at Princeton, but quite another matter at Andover. Our Puritan Fathers had their standard, and Dr Beecher, we suppose, has his. Human opinions are undergoing perpetual modifications and changes. It is impossible to predict from the orthodoxy of one age, which will be deemed orthodox in the succeeding. A man must be a very
shrewd calculator, and a very nice observer of the signs of the times, or he may inadvertently incur the imputation of heresy. If he stand still, when he should move onward, or aside, or move onward, when he should remain still, his reputation for orthodoxy is gone forever.
But we are digressing from our subject. Romish presumption, we observed, never went so far as to withhold the name of Christian from those who, acknowledgeing the divine authority of the religion of Jesus, dissented in several particulars from the catholic standard. It has denied them a title to be called sound Christians, but not to be called Christians. It has branded them as heretics, but not as unbelievers. In this respect it has stopped short of modern arrogance.
Nor does the practice of which we complain, derive sanction from the example of the most venerable names in the Protestant world, from the time of the reformation down to the present day.
It is unnecessary to quote from writers of the school of Chillingworth and Locke. They were convinced of the folly and iniquity of imposing human interpretations, and ‘human senses' of the words of scripture, as necessary to be believed. They contended that a sincere acknowledgement of belief in Jesus as the Messiah, that a reverence for the Bible as a rule of faith, was enough.* But these men, it may be said, were
* That an acknowledgement of the position, Jesus is the Messiah, is all that was originally required to constitute a believer, is argued with great clearness and strength of reason by Locke, in his 'Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures.' To those