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ARTICLES OF RELIGION.
1. It appears from the history of the Christian Church, given us in the Acts of the Apostles, that no adult person was received into her communion, without a declaration of his hearty consent to the leading doctrines, delivered by the Apostles and other first Teachers of Christianity. “ If thou believest with all thine heart,” said Philip to the Eunuch, “thou mayest be baptized.” Acts
Much less was any one admitted to the office of Christian Pastor without such a proof, at least, of his embracing the doctrines which he was to deliver to others. Thus the apostolic injunction runs respecting ordination : “ The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy ii. 2. And particular care was taken, that none should be admitted into the ministry, except those who “ held fast the faithful word as they had been taught, that they might be able, by sound doctrine, to convince the gainsayers.” Titus i. 9.
. When the books of the New Testament were all collected, and joined to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, this sacred code contained the Articles to which every candidate for the ministry was to subscribe, that is, to testify his assent in the strongest manner, before he could be admitted to teach others.
So far is plain, and, I apprehend, agreeable to the sentiments of all the professors of Christianity. But here it may be asked, Why is not this simple apostolic method still adhered to? Why are candidates for the ministry now required to subscribe to human formularies, instead of the inspired writings;
and that, by those who acknowledge the Bible to contain a perfect rule of faith and practice?
The reason of such conduct is clearly deducible from the very principles upon which the objection is founded.
To make good this deduction, I shall only take for granted the following plain proposition: that words, being only the signs of our ideas, are nothing independent of their meaning. This being allowed, it will follow; that when assent is required to any form of words, it is to the meaning which those words convey, and not to the words considered in themselves. When, therefore, we speak of subscribing to the Holy Scriptures, we mean (if we mean any thing) that such subscription should be made, or assent testified, to the doctrines contained in the Scriptures, or to the meaning which the words of Scripture were designed to convey.
While the sense of Scripture was fixed by the interpretation of those inspired persons, who were employed in writing it, the words of Scripture conveyed the same ideas to all the sincere members of the Christian Church. When any person, under these circumstances, testified his assent to the words of Scripture, it is plain that he assented to their true