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These are positions for which it can hardly be requisite to adduce proofs before a professor of Christianity. Not only is the word of God evidently designed to be rightly understood, but it is the universal desire of all sincere believers in Scripture, at least to attain to a just perception of it in all its necessary doctrines. It is equally undeniable, that whatever it is in the word of God which is to be received by men as necessary for their salvation, or as conducive and useful towards it, there cannot possibly be more than one mode of understanding it faright: The word of God, in its separate texts, in its individual subjects, in the scope and design of its parts, and in its general purport, can have, respectively, but one genuine signification. Truth, considered as the word of God, intended for the salvation of men, must be one in the gross and in detail. It is perfectly impossible that there should be two ways of understanding it, in either respect, both disagreeing and inconsistent, and yet both right. The slightest contradictions among interpreters are proofs of error. It may be considered as an established and irrefragable axiom, that the word of God cannot in the least contradict itself. There being then but one true interpretation of that divine will which we have to obey, it is our duty to learn that particular signification: - And the word of God itself strongly evidences the same faet, and enforces the same obligation. In a variety of texts the "truth” evidently indicates the doctrines of Christ which are to be believed and obeyed for salvation, and at the same time their singleness. Truth in that sense is spoken of as if it
were a definite and individual object, and the highest spiritual benefits to men are ascribed to its operations. In one place it is written, “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (John xvii. 17, 19.) In another: “God will render to every man according to his deeds; unto them that are contentious and do not obey the truth, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish.” (Rom. ii. 6, 8, 9.) In a third : “If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” (Heb. x. 26.) Several other quotations might be adduced to the same effect. In a few passages, indeed, the signification of the word is more definitely expressed, and the truth as it is in Jesus is described as an emanation from the third person in the Godhead, to which, in its revealed form, the same divine Being conducts the faithful and wise inquirer. The fruit of the Spirit is represented in all goodness and righteousness and truth; and that they should be guided into all truth by the Holy Ghost, was a promise of Christ to his Apostles.
It is not, however, always in the texts which lite. rally refer to the truth, under that appellation, that its unity and the importance of its reception in all its purity are implied or expressed with the greatest plainness. Nor can the assertions of the unity of the faith (Eph. iv. 5, 13.) be regarded as most declaratory of the duty of attaining it. The strongest evidences of both the unity in question, and the contingent duty, are contained in certain proofs of God's providential care and design, that the truth should be communicated to mankind with as little admixture as possible of error. These proofs are given in the declarations of the inspired writers, with reference both to their own ministerial labours and to those of preachers of inferior authority. The Apostles have in several instances borne written testimony to the fidelity and exactness with which they delivered the oracles of God. They affirm that they knew the truth and proclaimed it; that they preached, warning every man in all wisdom, and that their preaching was not with enticing words, and that they handled not the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commended themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. iv. 2.) They were directed by that power which gave them utterance, to command their disciples to “stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Phil. i. 27.) They were inspired to instruct mankind that Christ
gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come, in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, &c.; but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up unto him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Eph. iv. 11-_15.) But nothing evinces more satisfactorily the duty of adhering closely to a standard of truth, than the admo. nitions addressed in Scripture to less gifted teachers; particularly the directions given to Timothy and Titus. By referring to 1 Tim. i. 3; iv. 16 : 2 Tim. i. 13; ii. 15; iv. 3: Tit. i. 9, and ii. 1, 7, 8, it will be seen that the Scripture directs these two illustrious ministers, in a great variety of expressions, to watch against error in others; to be cautious of admitting into the ministry those who were not qualified to preach the truth, and to be careful in maintaining that correctness of doctrine which is agreeable to the word of God, and such as no gainsayer could refute. They, one or both, were to charge some that they taught no other doctrine_to take heed to themselves and to the doctrine, to hold fast the form of sound words which they had heard—to study to show themselves approved unto God, workmen that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth : they were warned that the time would come when men would not be able to bear sound doctrine, but would turn away their ears from the truth_that a pastor was to hold fast the faithful word as he had been taught, that he might be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers, and to speak those things which become sound doctrine ; in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned.
These texts abundantly prove the duty of knowing the will of God truly, and of its being taught by ministers with accuracy: and so far are dissenters from the Church of England from disallowing the justice of these observations, that they assign to the propagation of truth a place among the highest rank of duties, and constitute it, if not the very chief, a principal qualification of a minister of Christ. One of them writes-“But some will say, why disturb the harmony that now subsists between churchmen and dissenters? To this I reply, that the authority of truth is paramount and supreme; that the most kind and friendly office we can perform to any of our neighbours is to place before their eyes the truth of Christ, because, as the late venerable Thomas Scott used to say, truth is the only seed from which real holiness or happiness can grow; that the nearer we approach to truth, the nearer we approach to each other, and the sweeter our union will bę.'” (Palmer's Protest. Diss. Catechism, by Newman.) But Mr. Josiah Conder, in his celebrated work on Protestant Nonconformity, has exalted the truth so highly as to make the knowledge of it almost, or quite, of itself a commission, a warranty, to preach. In attestation of which sentiment, I need refer the reader only to his sections (book ii. ch. 2) on the apostolic commission, and the source of ministerial authority; wherein are several dicta like the following: “The ministerial office consists in preaching the gospel, and if the gospel is faithfully and intelligently promulgated, the office is fulfilled. The building up of the body of Christ by the accession of these living stones, the evangelizing of all nations by the foolishness of preaching, is the work of the ministry-it is the same in every age.” ($7.) “Every faithful preacher of the gospel, in fulfilling the will of Christ," claims to be invested with a necessary ministerial authority, an authority simply resulting from the message which he promulgates, and the command which he fulfils. We maintain that the authority