Part 1 ~ Introduction and State of the Question
There is nothing in which the great Apostle of the Gentiles seems more to glory than in his ardent zeal for the salvation of souls, and in the sincerity of his heart in delivering to the world the sacred truths of eternity pure and uncorrupted. He was not ashamed of these Divine truths; he rejoiced when he was called to suffer for them; he had no worldly interest in view in preaching them; he sought not the esteem and favor of men in delivering them; his only view was to promote the honor of his blessed Master, and to gain souls to Him, and therefore he had no idea of using flattering words, or of accommodating the doctrine of the Gospel to the humors of men.
He knew that the truths revealed by Jesus Christ are unalterable; that “heaven and earth shall pass away, but His words shall never pass away;” and that, therefore, to corrupt these sacred words, though but in one single article, would be “a perverting the Gospel of Christ,” [Gal. 1: 7], —–a sin so grievous that the Holy Ghost, by His mouth, pronounces a curse upon anyone, though an angel from Heaven who shall dare to be guilty of it.
Hence he describes his own conduct in preaching the Gospel as follows: “Ye know from the first day that I came into Asia, in what manner I have been with you for all the time. . . . How I have kept back nothing that was profitable to you, but have preached it to you, and taught you publicly, and from house to house,” [Acts xx: 18, 20] “We had confidence in our God, to speak unto you the Gospel of God in much carefulness; . . . not as pleasing men, but God, Who proveth our hearts; for neither have we used at any time the speech of flattery, as you know, nor taken occasion of covetousness; God is witness. Nor sought we glory of men, neither of you, nor of others.” [1 Thess. ii: 2,4] “For we are not as many, adulterating the Word of God; but with sincerity, but as from God, in the sight of God, we speak in Christ,”[2 Cor. ii: 17]. “We renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor adulterating the Word of God, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience, in the sight of God. . . . for we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord,” [2 Cor. iv: 2,5]. “Do I seek to please men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be a servant of Christ.” [Gal. i: 10] Now, “Christ sent me to preach the Gospel, not in wisdom of speech, lest the Cross of Christ should be made void; for the word of the Cross to them, indeed, that perish is foolishness; but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God. . . . And it pleased God by the foolishness of our preaching to save them that believe. . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than man: . . . and the foolish things of the world God hath chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen that He may confound the strong, . . . that no flesh should glory in His sight.” [1 Cor. i: 17] “But I am not ashamed of the Gospel; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” [Rom. i: 16]. And, therefore, “I, when I came among you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom, declaring to you the testimony of Christ; and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in showing of the Spirit, and in power; that your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” [1 Cor. ii: 1]
The Church of Christ, animated by the same Divine Spirit of truth which inspired this holy Apostle, has at all times regulated her conduct according to the model set before her in his words and example,”earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints,” [Jude, ver. 3]; her continual care is “to keep that which is committed to her trust” pure and undefiled, “avoiding all profane novelties of words . . .” [1 Tim. vi: 20]; that the sacred words of God, “once put into her mouth, may never depart from her, from henceforth and for ever,” [Isa. lix: 21] She therefore knows not what it is to temporise in religion, in order to please men, nor to adulterate the Gospel of Christ to humor them; she declares the sacred truths revealed by Jesus Christ in their original simplicity, without seeking to adorn them with the persuasive words of human wisdom, much less to disguise them in a garb not their own. Truth, plain and unadorned, is the only weapon she employs against her adversaries, regardless of their censure or their approbation. “This is the truth,” she says, “revealed by God; this ye must embrace, or ye can have no part with Him.” If the world look upon what she says as foolishness, she is not surprised, for she knows that “the sensual man perceiveth not the things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand,” [1 Cor. ii: 14]; but that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men;” and pitying this blindness, she earnestly prays God to enlighten them, “with modesty admonishing them, . . .if, peradventure, God may give them repentance to know the truth.” [2 Tim. ii: 25].
If ever there was a time when this conduct of the Church was necessary, the present age seems particularly to demand it. At present the gates of Hell seem opened, and infidelity of every kind stalks lawless on the earth; the sacred truths of religion are reviled and denied, the Gospel adulterated by countless contradictory interpretations; its original simplicity disfigured by loftiness of speech and the persuasive words of human wisdom. A thousand condescensions and compliances are permitted in the unchangeable doctrines of faith and the pure maxims of morality and “the narrow way that leads to life” converted into “the broad road that leads to destruction.” This observation applies particularly to that latitudinarian opinion so common nowadays, that a man may be saved in any religion, provided he lives a good moral life according to the light he has; for by this the faith of Christ is made void, and the Gospel rendered of no avail. A Jew, a Mahometan, a heathen, a deist, an atheist, are all comprehended in this scheme, and if they live a good moral life, have an equal right to salvation with a Christian! To be a member of the Church of Christ is no longer necessary; for whether we belong to her or not, if we live a good moral life, we are in the way of salvation! What a wide field does this open to human passions! What license does it give to the caprice of the human mind! It is therefore of the utmost consequence to examine the ground of this opinion, to see if we can safely trust our salvation to it. It is doubtless the interest of atheists and deists to adopt this opinion, to extol it with the highest praises for liberality of sentiment and charity; but a Christian who believes the Gospel will not receive it so readily: he knows that the Scriptures contain the truth of God, and; that it is unsafe to trust our soul to any maxim, however specious, which is not, grounded on their sacred oracles; and therefore, before he adopts it, he will rigorously scrutinize it by comparing it with what they teach.
To do this is the design of the following inquiry, or rather to show, from the precise declaration of the Word of God, that the above free-thinking maxim is diametrically opposed to the light of revelation; for there we learn that the Son of God became man and appeared among men, in order to instruct them in the knowledge of those Divine truths on which their salvation depends; and therefore that He absolutely requires true faith in Him, and, in the sacred truths which He revealed, as a necessary condition of salvation. There also we learn that He instituted a holy Church on earth, to be the depository of these truths, and that He absolutely requires all to be united with that Church in order to be saved. In the belief of these two truths “Christian” Churches in general agree. The Churches of England and Scotland, no less than the, Catholic Church, solemnly acknowledge them, and hold that, without the true Faith of Jesus Christ, and without being a member of His true Church, there is no salvation. They all agree in the belief of these truths, however much they differ in their application. In this inquiry, then, it is the common cause of Christianity which is defended. To which Church the author belongs will easily appear; and if he applies these general truths to his own Church, it is because he believes it to be the true Church. A member of any other must do the same if he reason consequentially; wherefore, without any further preamble, we shall proceed to the point, and show, in the words of the Confession of Faith of the Church of Scotland, that out of the Church of Christ there is no ordinary possibility of salvation [Confession of Faith, chap. xxv]
Taken from “The Sincere Christian volume II“
By Bishop Hays