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is its apparent uncharitableness, in excluding from salvation those who do not believe what it affirms. Now, with regard to Christian belief in general, we may assert, without fear of contradiction, that whatsoever God proposes for our belief in his Word, must be believed; for otherwise his veracity is impeached, and our faith is imperfect. He has imparted to us a revelation of his will and counsels, and requires our attention to it, as the only rule of our faith and practice. Whatsoever he therein requires and enjoins, we must do, with a ready and cheerful obedience; and whatsoever he declares, we must believe with humility and meekness. And if it be once ascertained, that any doctrine concerning himself is contained and asserted in his Word, who will presume to say that the belief of that doctrine is not necessary to salvation ?
If men are accountable to God for their faith, as well as their practice, it is a necessary consequence that a man must believe rightly in order to salvation. This is the general proposition, which we may lay down broadly. It is limited and qualified by him who searcheth the hearts, and can alone judge of every man's opportunities and means of believing and doing what he requires. The exercise of this prerogative of God's omniscience and goodness is taken for granted through all the formularies of a protestant Church, whose language is, This is what we believe to be the true Christian faith; which, if it be so, must be embraced by all who desire to be saved. Nevertheless we believe it, only because we think that we so read in the Word of God; for “that which is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not a necessary article of faith." Furthermore we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture ;"4 and although the Church be a witness and keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of salvation.” 15 This is the language which our Church holds in her Articles; and I consider it to be evident, that a Church, which holds such language, can never intend to pronounce unqualified sentence of condemnation (or rather to declare that sentence will be given) upon those, who do not implicitly receive these minuter explanations and illustrations of a doctrine, which she herself has laid down as fully and particularly as is necessary in her first five Articles.
Nevertheless, it is certain, that whatever the true faith is, it is necessary to salvation, as far as we can determine. If this be denied, a Christian's belief becomes a matter of no importance. If therefore the Christian faith be rightly set forth in the Athanasian Creed, the Church is justified in saying, that the belief of the doctrines therein contained is necessary to salvation; provided that this be said with those implied limitations, with which all such declarations must be fenced and qualified. Suppose that after a recital of the two great commandments, or a collection of evangelical precepts, the Church were to declare, “ This is the true Christian practice, which except a man perform faithfully, he cannnot be saved;" who would be offended at the declaration? Yet even there, it could not be intended to exclude, but rather to take for granted, the merciful allowances which God will make for natural weakness and inability, and the necessity of repentance and faith. We have reason to think that some wilful errors in belief, as well as wilful defects of practice, may exclude a man from salvation: but we do not presume to limit the goodness of God; nor to pronounce, of any unintentional error, or any sin of infirmity, that it is beyond the reach of his mercy. At the same time, if we know how to estimate the preciousness of that hope, which has been solely and exclusively purchased for us by the death of the incarnate Son; if we value, as they deserve, the sanctifying influences of that Holy Spirit, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son ; we cannot hesitate to declare our belief, (and we shall do so, not from an uncharitable conceit, but under a sorrowful conviction) that he, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counteth the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing," is in great danger of perishing everlastingly. With its condemning clauses, as they are called, thus modestly expounded, the Athanasian Creed was declared, by the scrupulous and pious Baxter, to be the best explication of the doctrine of the Trinity ;'s that is to say, an explanation, not of the nature of the Trinity itself, but of the doctrine contained in holy Scripture.
16 See Waterland on the Athan. Creed, Vol. IV. p. 299.
In this age of what is called a freedom of opinion, how many Christians are there, who, when they have once departed from the primitive rule of faith preserved in the formularies of our Church, shift continually from one set of opinions to another, and are carried about by every wind of doctrine; till some make shipwreck of their faith upon the quicksands of deism, while others lose themselves in the gulph of antinomian wickedness. This is not an age, in which we can hastily consent to relinquish, or remove, any of those standards and boundary marks of the faith, by which the scriptural character of our Church is defined and ascertained; and which, when carefully and candidly examined, are found not to be inconsistent with the moderation and charity by which an evangelical Church will always be distinguished.
17 Heb. x. 29.
18 See Waterland, p. 307, note.
But let us bear in mind, that the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, mysterious as it is, may and ought to be made, in the highest sense of the term, a practical doctrine. The abstract notion of Deity is, in a manner, fixed, and realized, and brought home to the affections of mankind. Is it not an unspeakable enhancement of the gratitude, which is due to the divine author of our redemption, that he effected it, in our nature ? that we have heard, have seen with our eyes, have looked upon, and with our hands have handled the Word of life a 19 that the fulness of the Godhead bodily dwelt in
19 1 John i. 1.