« PreviousContinue »
The Directory for Family Worship. 445
Acts of Aflembly relating to Family
A Table of the Matters contained in the
Confession of Faith and larger Ca-
HE Gentlemen who have taken Care of this Wurk,
being convinced that a full Account and Vindica
tion of Confessions of Faith was very necessary at this Time and a proper Subject of a PREFACE to a Collection of this Nature; And being perswaded, that the following ESSAY, composed by a private Hand at their Defire, may be very serviceable for this End, and of use to give the World juster Notions of CREEDS and ARTICLES OF FAITH, and to vindicate them from the many Calumnies wherewith they are so injuriously loaded : They have presumed to prefix it to this Volume; and hope it will be acceptable to the Publick, and favourably received by all who are sincere Members of the CHURCH OF SCOTLAND.
T a Time when Creeds and Confessions of Faith are fo generally decried, and not only exposed to Con tempt as ufeless Inventions, without any force and Efficacy to promote the Interests of Truth and Religion, but are loaded, by many Writers of distin
guithed Wit and Learning, with the most fatal and dangerous Consequences; and represented as one of the most plentiful Sources of these angry Debates and fierce Contentions, which have for fo many Ages distracted the Christian Church :
We thought it might be of fome Ufe, and a fuitable enough Proface to a new Edition of the Confeflions of Faith, &c. embraced by this Church, to give a short Account of the End and Design of Compofures of this Nature, and of the chief Purposes which the Christian Churches intended to promote, in framing and publishing their several Confessions, and 'tis hoped these will be found to be se considerable for their Number and Value, as to convince the impartial Reader, that there is no Occasion for treating them with Dirdain or Neglect, and that we are justly to be excus'd who retain a Veneration and Esteem of them, as Works both founded on Reason, and supported by many advantageous Consequences,
And since Creeds in general are not only, of late Years underyalued, as mean and useless; but exclaimed against as unjust, arbitrary and inconsistent in their Frame_and Tendency with the Liberty of Mankind, and the noble Freedom of the Christian Faith, we shall endeavour to vindicate the present Practice of the Church of Scotland, and the Use which she, at least, makes of her Confeffion; wipe off the Aspersions which have been thrown on her by Writers, who (how justly foever valued on many Accounts, yet) appear not fo throughly acquainted with our Conftitution, or perhaps not altogether impartial in their Sentiments of it. And, Lastly, We shall answer some of the most plausible Objections, which have been made against the using Confessions as à Means of preserving the Christian Doctrine from impure Mixtures, and of preventing the Breaking in of Heresies and Diforder into the Church. After all which it will be easier to determine, if they ought to be accounted arbitrary Impositions, and destructive Engines of spiritual Tyranny, and the Luit of Power over the Consciences of Men; or if they be not rather very consistent with all the Privileges and Freedoms of a Man or a Christian,
The several Purposes which the Churches designed to promote by their Confessians, may be distinguished into these Three Heads, I. Some of them were of a very, general and extensive Design, having a Regard not only to the whole Body of Christians, buc
to all Men, even their Enemies, who had any Knowledge of them. II. Other Uses of these Coufefions peculiarly respected the Ministers of the Gospel, who were obliged to declare their Afsent to the Doctrines contain’d in them. III. Confeffions of Faith were also designed for Purposes of a more extensive Nature than the second, and yet not fo general as the fạrft Class, namely, fuch as respected the whole Body of the People as well as the Ministers; but were particularly calculated for the Members of that Church to which the Corifession belonged, and had à fpecial Regard to them more than to the whole world, or to other Christians who were Members of other Churches. In examining a little these Things, we hall have Occasion to consider all that is proper to be observed in a Work of this Nature.
Fir, Some Ends of Creeds and Confeßions were of a general and
extenfive Nature, being intended to reach not only the whole Christian Church, but to make an Impression on the World round about it, which maintain’d a different Religion; and of this Sort there were several considerable Designs in View. That which seems to have been most directly intended by the several Churches who have framed Confeffions, was to publih a fair and authentick Account of the Doctrine which they maintain’d, whereby a juft Idea of their Religion might be given to the World, who fo frequently mistake or misrepresent the Opinions of one another, and the Afperfions and Calumnies that were thrown upon it by Adverfaries might be wiped off: This was one main_End of the Creeds compos'd by the primitive Church, and by our Fathers at the Reformation ; and 'tis a Purpose that our Confefion is very necessary to.
There are too frequent Occasions to observe, that all Sects and Parties are byassed by undue Prejudices against one another; Selflove (which is so deeply interwoven with our Natures in this degenerate State of Things, and shows its Power in the whole Train of our Thoughts and Actions) insensibly determines us to entertain a fond Opinion of any Scheme or Party which we are engaged in, and to look at it in a flattering, tho’it thould be a false Light; and at the fame time, to take up with us mistaken Notions of our Adversaries, impute abfurd_Opinions to them which they never entertained, and paint the Errors they may have been really led astray by to the Disadvantage, and more crooked and deformed than the Life. And as this inhumane and uncharitable Treatment of one another, is owing rather to the Temper of our Minds, than any particular Principles of the Doctrine which we embrace; it may be equally charged upon Perfons of every Side, who have not learned to fubdue their own Spirit, nor endeavoured to govern their Passions by Reason, and sweetned their Tempers by Humility, and Meekness, and Charity ; Virtues which have become as admirable for their Rareness, as for their Excellency.
It is this, which, amongst the numberless Crowd of Authors, makes it so very difficult to find one that does Justice to an Adversary, or treats his Person with Gentleness, or even good Manners, and his Opinions with an open and candid Impartiality: And those who have been at all acquainted with Controverfy, will find it the hardest Thing for two warm Disputants, when struggling hard for Victory, not to throw about that Dirt whereby, it they can't overthrow, they are sure to blacken and belpatter each other.
But as Truth of every Kind hath most Reason to complain of this inhumane Usage ;. The Christian Religion, during its tender Years, was in a peculiar Measure expos’d to all its Fury and Barbarity. Its bleffed Author was allaulted both by the Tongues and the Hands of his implacable Enemies, they reviled him by Calum, ny while they persecuted him by Force, and when they crucified and tormented his Body, they intilted him with the most bitter Reproaches, and endeavoured to blacken his Memory and Doctrine by the falfest Afperfions. Thus the Apostles and primitive ChriItians were exposed to Contempt as the Off-fcourings of all Things ; and to popular Hatred and Anger, as Movers of Sedition, and Enemies to the publick Peace : Besides all which, their Religion as wellas their Perfons was in like Manner defamed.
by a 4
The Do&rines and Precepts of the Holy Jesus were founded on so many convincing Reasons, and supported by tých amazing Miracles; they were fo admirably suited to the Dignity of the huinane Nature, the Peace and Happiness of Mankind, and to all the great Interests and the most enlarged Desires of an immortal Spirit ; and at the same Time in every Respect worthy of the supreme Being; that they could scarce have missed to make their way into the Elteem and Love of Mankind, and be profess'd at least, if not practis’d, by the World, if they had been fairly represented and set in a just Light;, there needed nothing to gain this End but what the Apologist mentions, Unum geftit ne igrorata damnetur, Christianity desires no Favour of its Judges, but that they be care ful to understand it. Upon this Account, ámongst all the Arts of Hell, none seemed more effe&ual to stop its Progress, or maintain the Kingdom of Darkness and the Idolatry, of the blinded Națions, tļian Fallhood and Misrepresentation, by which not only the Glory of Christianity might be obscured, and Men keeped from seeing the
Beauties and Excellencies of that Religion in their native Light and Purity; but it would likewise be exposed to publick View disguised with a false Face, which was rendred as deform’d and monerous as Calumny and Reproach could make it: That fa the World might be determined in their Opinion thereof, not by whai įt was really in it felt; but by the quite contrary Idea, that the lying Malice of Hell, and the impetuous Parlions of its Votarjes gave of the Doctrine and Disciples of the Messiah. So that the lealt Acquaintance with the History of the Church, will convince us, that tho the Power of the Roman Empire, the Learning, and Sophifry of Philosophers, and the perfwasive Allurements of Wit and Eloquence, were all imployed in fighting with the greatest Fury against the Kingdom of our Messiah, yet Čalumny was still the most successful Engine used by the Devil in this infernal War, from this Quarter the most violent Affaults were made; and the Father of Lies was the Character he acted under with the greatest Malice and Dexterity, and whereby he gave Force and Vigour to his other Instruments. It is indeed surprizing to think how far he prevailed, and what Notions the People generally were impreised with; they not only despised the Professors of Christianity as mean and ignorant, perfecuted them as Enemies to the Laws and Disturbers of Order and Government; But fancied therh to be the molt impious and flagitious Sea that had ever appeared in the World, without the lcast Remains of Honour and Virtue; no Crime foblack, but it was charged on them; nor any Lufts and Pleasures fp unnatural and filthy, but they were thought gụilty of them thci Allemblies for Divine Worthip, were traduced as Rendevou