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sages in which belief of the truth is required, and unbelief forbidden, in which promises are made to faith, and threatenings denounced against unbelief, in which individuals are exhorted “to stand fast in the faith,” “to contend earnestly for the faith,” “ to give attendance to doctrine," "to take heed to doctrine," "to speak the things which become sound doctrine,” would far exceed the limits proposed for this Tract. But this passing allusion to them must be sufficient to convince the candid reader that many of the duties of the gospel cannot be performed without a knowledge of its doctrines. He will perceive that any one, who will be obedient to all the commands of God, or in other words be a consistent and thorough practical christian, must understand the doctrines of the gospel. But it is not sufficient to say that all the duties of the Bible cannot be performed, without a knowledge of its doctrines. Though this is the truth, it is not the whole truth. It may be safely asserted that none of them will be performed without more or less of this knowledge ; for
3. The doctrines of the Bible present the motives by which all its precepts are enforced.
A mere precept or command is not that which produces obedience, or that which is instrumental of producing obedience. This only shows what ought to be done. Other considerations must be presented to influ ence an intelligent being to perform the duty enjoined. Now the doctrines of the Bible furnish the motives suited to influence creatures to obey. In view of these they see the reasonableness of God's commands and the goodness of his character. They see also their obligation to obey, and the consequences both of their obedience, and of their disobedience. Mankind would not be at all influenced by any of the commands of God, if they knew nothing of the doctrines by which his character and government, and their own character and condition are illustrated. Let the motives drawn from the doctrine of God's goodness and mercy, his truth and justice; from the doctrine of his omniscience, omnipresence, and almighty power ; from the doctrine of the atonement by the death and sufferings of the Son of God; and from the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and future
rewards and punishments be removed, and all the precepts, exhortations and commands of the Bible would at once be rendered a dead letter. As the doctrines of the Bible present the motives, and the only motives to obedience, which can operate upon the minds of intelligent creatures; to expect that they will obey its precepts without some knowledge of these doctrines, is to expect that they will act without a motive. And it must be obvious that in proportion as the doctrines of the Bible are obscured, or kept out of view, the motives to obedience must be diminished. Grant then the great importance of practical religion, and admit that this consists in obedience to the precepts of the Bible, still it remains an interesting fact, that without doctrinal knowledge there can be no practical religion. This will appear still more clearly, if it be considered
4. That divine truth is the means by which God sanctifies the hearts of men.
This is the means by which he at first renews their hearts, and afterwards carries on the work of sanctification. From the following words of James, it will be seen that the change by which the sinner is brought from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life, is wrought by the instrumentality of truth : “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” Paul mentions the same thing as the means by which God had enabled him to effect the same change in the character of the Corinthians : “ For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet ye have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." It is implied in what Peter said to those to whom he addressed his Epistles, that the heart is regenerated by the instrumentality of divine truth; for he speaks of them as “ being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."
From other passages it is equally plain that the good work begun in the heart at regeneration is carried on by means of truth. Our Saviour prays for his disciples in the following language : “ Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.”_" For their sake I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the
Now as truth is the means employed by the Holy Spirit in the conversion of sinners, and in their subsequent sanctification, how evidently does it appear that doctrinal knowledge is essential to the existence of true religion. It is a clear case that there can be no true religion without the Holy Spirit, nor without the means by which he chooses to perform his operations. Will it be said that there is truth enough in the precepts of the gospel, with out its doctrines to be the means of the renewal, and sanctification of the heart by the Holy Spirit ? To this it is replied, all the truth which is contained in the precepts of the gospel is the doctrines which these imply. Besides we have seen, that there must be motives to influence an intelligent being to obey a precept, and that the proper, and only motives to obedience to the precepts of the Bible, are found in the doctrines which it contains. Though the Spirit of God turns the hearts of sinners to him, it does not do this without motives. It is easy to see that when the Holy Spirit influences a sinner to love God, it must be in view of his holy character ; that when he influences him to repent of sin, it must be in view of the real evil of sin; and that when he influences him to receive Christ, it must be in view of those traits of character which belong to Christ. It is, therefore, in the nature of things impossible that the sinner should be truly converted, even by the Spirit of God, without knowing something of those doctrines, by which the character of God, and the character of Christ, and the nature of sin, are brought into view. The truth, therefore, by which the Spirit of God converts sinners, and carries on the work of sanctification in their hearts, is the doctrines of the gospel. It is clearly implied in the following words of Paul to Timothy, that it was his doctrine which would save his hearers : “ Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” From the fact that believing is uniformly made a condition of salvation, it is evident that the doctrines of the gospel are the truth by which sinners are savingly converted; for whatever is proposed in the scriptures to our belief, is a doctrine. It could not with propriety be said, that mankind are prepared for heaven " through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief
of the truth ;" or that “ he that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned,” if a knowledge of the doctrines of the Bible were not a necessary means in the conversion of the sinner by the Holy Spirit. But if doctrinal knowledge is essential to conversion, it must be essential to the existence of true religion ; for it is a plain matter of fact that there can be no true religion among men “dead in trespasses and sins," until they are quickened by the Spirit of God. There are those who make much of experimental religion, and doubtless sincerely believe in a change of heart by the influence of the Holy Spirit, who are often heard to speak lightly of doctrinal knowledge. But surely such persons do not understand themselves. All genuine religious experience is founded upon Christian doctrine. This is the sword of the Spirit,—the instrument by which he effects all his mighty conquests. There is not a single holy affection, produced in men by the operation of the Holy Spirit, the object of which is not presented by some doctrine of the Bible, and which does not agree in character with some doctrine of the Bible. All true love to God, to Christ, to man, has for its object something which the Bible teaches, and which is believed respecting these persons. Every exercise of true humility, and every exercise of true repentance, has for its object something which the Bible teaches, and which is believed respecting ourselves. Every degree of true Christian zeal is kindled up in view of something which the Bible teaches, and which is believed respecting Christ and his kingdom. Every exercise of true submission to the will of God arises in view of something which the Bible teaches, and which is believed respecting the government of God. There may be religious exercises, which arise not in view of any thing taught in the Bible, and which agree not in character with any holy object exhibited in the Bible ; but these exercises are not true religion. Men may imagine a character which they call God, and sincerely and ardently love this character ; but if it is not the character which the Bible ascribes to God, the love which is exercised in view of it can have nothing in it of the nature of true religion. They may believe in the existence of a certain character which they call Jesus Christ, and feel a very
deep interest in this character as their Saviour, and a very ardent affection for him on account of what they suppose he has done and will do for them, and still if the character which they have in view is essentially different from that which the scriptures ascribe to the Lord Jesus, their feelings towards it cannot be the religion of the gospel. Men may be greatly alarmed in view of their sins, and very sorry that they have committed them, but if the scriptural representation of the evil of sin be kept out of view, their repentance can be nothing but “the sorrow of the world which worketh death.” They may be very zealous in the promotion of what they call religion, but unless this is something which is in accordance with the doctrines of the Bible, their “zeal is not according to knowledge,” or entitled to the name of Christian zeal.
Other considerations might be urged to show that doctrinal knowledge is essential to the existence of true religion. But enough, it is apprehended, has been said to make this point plain. No one surely will entertain a doubt of this, who admits that the duties of the Bible are founded
upon its doctrines ; that the performance of some of these duties implies a knowledge of the doctrines; that its doctrines are the motives, by which all its duties are enforced ; and that divine truth, by which we must understand the doctrines of the Bible, is the means by which the Holy Spirit renews and sanctifies the hearts of men. And with any one who is disposed to deny these plain facts, any further reasoning on the subject would be useless.
Here, reader, allow me to call your attention to a few things, which, as consequences of the foregoing truth, are worthy of your serious attention.
It must be a fact, if doctrinal knowledge is the foundation of true religion, that no one has any more true religion than he has doctrinal knowledge. If there can be no holy affection, but in view of some object which the doctrines of the Bible present to the mind, the truly religious feelings of every one must be limited by the doctrines with which he is acquainted. If no one can act without a motive, and every motive to obedience is found in the doctrines of the Bible, then the true obedience of every one must be limited by his knowledge of