Abbildungen der Seite

knowledge of it? In other words, was the New Testament designed to teach Christianity to believers; or to those who do not yet know Christianity ?

But the use of the New Testament in teaching believers no Christian will dispute. Not even those who entertain the most extravagant fears of the various mischiefs which may attend the misdirected study of the sacred volumes, not even the Romanist will deny the design of the New Testament to instruct believers. Every part of it was addressed to Christians originally, and is in fact addressed to Christians now. And its use consists not simply in proving the truth of the doctrines of our faith, but in demonstrating their importance, and deepening their impression upon our minds ; in purifying our souls, detaching us from the world, expanding and exalting our affections, our feelings, our hopes; in making us intimate, as it were, with the holy A postles, and with the blessed Saviour himself, so that we may entirely believe in Him and affectionately love Him as a tried and long-valued friend. Of the New Testament, in a word, as well as of the Old, it is true, or rather it is most exactly true of both together, that they are “given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.)

To those who do not believe, on the contrary, the New Testament is not, strictly speaking, addressed. I would not of course assert that it may not benefit even these. Undoubtedly it may benefit them even in the very highest degree. It may make them wise unto salvation. And among the complex purposes of Him who inspired the sacred writers this may be one. But it may be safely asserted that this is not the great, leading, direct purpose of the New Testament. This book was not designed to introduce unbelievers to Christianity, but to improve the Christian principle of believers.


The two great proofs of this position are—the institution of the Christian church and of its ministers—and again, the very form of the Christian Scriptures.

For observe the form of every one of the books of the New Testament. There is not one of them that is not addressed to persons already initiated into the Christian faith. No one will deny this with respect to the Epistles and the Book of the Revelation. But it was denied by a very celebrated man with respect to the Gospels; and hence the imperfect conceptions of Christian truth which he formed unhappily at one period of his life, and published to the world in his “ Reasonableness of Christianity." Yet of the historical books of the New Testament, St. Luke's Gospel is expressly addressed to a Christian believer ; and the book of the Acts, we know, was subsequently addressed to the same party ; whilst the other Gospels, though they do not open with so explicit a declaration of their design, yet shew by continual and palpable implication that they also were written for the improvement of persons already instructed in Christianity.

. And no wonder; since our Lord himself by no means commenced the propagation of Christianity by issuing a book which should evangelize the world. Men were to teach men. Mankind are of one family, and no man is independent of his brethren. It is a truth most solemn and mysterious and awful, that every one of us is entrusted in a greater or a less degree with the eternal interests of the souls of other men. Christians accordingly were to form a society. Christ instituted the Christian church. And in the first instance,“ the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts ii. 47.) The Apostles, in a word, were introduced to the knowledge of Christianity by our Lord himself; and all

Christians afterwards, with very few exceptions, were to be taught Christianity by those who had been Christians before them—the early Christians by the Apostles and first teachers ; the next generation by the successors of the first teachers; and children by their parents, pupils by their appointed guardians and teachers—all men by the Christian ministers.

The institution, then, of the Christian Church and of its ministry is in harmony with the form of the Christian Scriptures. And from both it appears that the New Testament was never in strictness of speech designed to teach Christianity to unbelievers, that is to say, to introduce men to the knowledge of Christian truth.


That it was designed to teach believers, in another sense of the word " teaching,” has been already admitted; for indeed it is evident and indisputable ; and it is admitted not only without reserve, but with the most humble and devout gratitude.

Yet not in this nor in any sense is it designed to teach exclusivelyfor if so, to what end that other bequest of our blessed Lord, the appointment of a Christian Church and Christian ministers ?—But this, it is to be feared, is indeed the aim and tendency of such a phrase as "the religion of the Bible.” It would insinuate some such exclusive use of the Christian Scriptures, as would virtually set aside the use of the Christian Church—as if Christianity were a system of doctrines and precepts to be gathered by each individual from the Scriptures by his own independent study; and Christians were not so much the members of one religious society, as believers in one book. The use of the phrase too often implies some vague, indefinite conceptions of this kind. It originated perhaps in a wholesome jealousy of the usurped authority of the Church, but it tends to discredit and supersede her legitimate authority and legitimate functions.

What then, it may be said, is Christianity after all the religion OF THE CHURCH ? Is the Church superior to the Bible ? or is the right of private judgment denied ?

We may devote a few moments to the consideration of these questions.

1. And, truly, if we were concerned only with a question of names and phrases, it might be less objectionable to call Christianity the religion of the Church than the religion of the Bible. The Church existed, and Christianity existed in the

« ZurückWeiter »