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members than they have in their whole number. But his head, his heart, the substance of his body, are essential. Lop off his arm, and his recovery may be dubious-death may ensue. But cut off his head, cleave his heart, divide his body, and the blow is fatal—there is an end of the
Thus also in the system of revelation. All, the very least, of its truths belong to its perfection. Not one of them may voluntarily be renounced; nor any contrary errour be knowingly embraced. Because, he who does either, resists the obligation to receive and obey the truth.” Just as he who “ keeps the whole law, and yet offends in one point, is guilty of all.”* The entire authority of the lawgiver is in every precept. Sin, therefore, which is “transgression of the law,”. whatever precept it may happen to infringe, strikes at the principle of obedience; and is ready, as occasion shall offer, to assume any and every form of transgression—to violate all the precepts of the law in succession, when impelled by adequate inducement. For he-to continue the Apostle's reasoning—he who “kills," though he may “not commit adultery,” abstains
* JAMES, i. 10
from the latter crime through the influence of other considerations than the sacredness of the law, or the majesty of the lawgiver; otherwise he would have refrained from “killing;” seeing that “he who said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill.” Consequently, he who breaks one commandment while he keeps another, when both are enjoined by the same authority, shows that he is prepared, on the occurrence of a suitable temptation, to break the other also. And whoever disbelieves this of himself, “deceiveth his own heart;" for sin is universal opposition to all of God in all of his law : and, therefore, according to the inspired ethics, the transgression of one precept is accounted simply “ a transgression of the law;" being an act of rebellion against its whole obligation as operating in that precept. It is upon this ground, that living in the commission of any known sin, however small it may appear, proves men to be destitute of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because they are under the power of the principle of sin, which is “enmity against God;" and have not been “reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” So that to venture upon sin, knowing it to be sin, is a desperate experiment in any one who does not intend to lose his soul."
In like manner, resistance to God's truth, to any of his truths when perceived to be truth, argues the predominance of the spirit of falsehood_a spirit which, as opportunity should serve, would not hesitate to relinquish every truth of his most holy word. Hence no Christian can surrender the least tittle of that truth which he believes to be the testimony of his God; nor do any act which implies such a surrender. Thousands of the“ martyrs of Jesus,” might have saved themselves from the wild beast or the stake, would they only have thrown a handful of incense on a Heathen altar. But they were aware of the construction which their persecutors would put upon this deed ; and, rather than do it, “loved not their lives unto the death.” No motives, then, of conscience, peace, charity, good to be effected, or of what kind soever, can justify, much less require, under any possible circumstances, the sacrifice of a known truth. Such a sacrifice might end in eternal ruin. On the other hand, mistakes concerning particular truths, may consist with the general power of truth over the heart. Nay, it is nothing uncommon for men's notions to be at war with their principles-Their speculative judgment with their practical habits. Many times a sound head is joined to a rotten heart; and a sound heart to a rotten head. Some
perish because they do not follow out their professed faith : and others would perish if they did. The not perceiving, and therefore not embracing, the consequences of their errour preserves them “ from going down to the pit.” And as there is not a human being perfectly exempt from errour, there is not one of all them who “ shall see the Lord,” but owes more or less to the same protection. How far erroneous conceptions of divine truth may be compatible with a state of pardon and heavenly adoption, it would be presumptuous in us to define. That is the prerogative of him who, searching the heart, can weigh all its influences, interests, and difficulties. But to try how far we may go before we discern our salvation to be in jeopardy, is the insanity of one who should have his limbs amputated higher and higher in order to try how near the operation might approach his vitals without destroying his life. In judging for himself, every one must make sure work by keeping on the safe side, not wilfully rejecting any truth, or adopting any er
In judging of others, he must go every length which the charity of the gospel dictates; i. e. every length consistent with his own'attachment to, and support of, the truth; and which does not rank, among matters of forbearance, a clearly vital doctrine of Christianity. This would be not charity, but treason and murder-Treason to the
AMEN, the faithful and true witness”-murder to the soul of our deluded neighbour. For as there are injuries which infallibly kill the body, so there are errours which infallibly kill the soul. If a man be run through the heart, whether by accident or design, whether by his own or another's hand, he dies. And if a man, from whatever cause, renounce the obviously vital doctrines of the gospel-he is not, cannot be, a Christianthere is no relief for him; no help ; no hopehe DIES THE DEATH. Those doctrines, therefore, must be the basis of all Christian communion; and maintaining those doctrines pure and entire, “holding the HEAD,” Christ Jesus, as saith his apostle, his followers may and should have open fellowship with each other, on the ground of their common faith; and ought not to refuse each other on the ground of their inferiour differences.
Should it be asked, how shall I distinguish an essential from a subordinate doctrine of the
gospel? The answer has been chiefly anticipated. You are not under the necessity of nice and subtle discriminations; and can certainly distinguish with sufficient accuracy for every practical purpose. You are in no danger of mistaking a man's arm for his finger-his head for his foot; nor of supposing that they are equally important to his life.