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First of all, a disposition constantly to defend one's principles argues a distrust in their truth. When new truth is discovered, and the convert is fresh in his zeal, it is natural that special attention should be given to the foundations of faith. The believer wishes to feel secure in his position—to make even “assurance doubly sure.” He will be anxious to explore the structure of his theology to its very substratum, that he may see the rock on which it stands. Criticism, argument, defence, all naturally spring from this stage of belief; and they prove the convert to be in earnest,—they are evidence that his faith is alive, and has a hold upon his sympathies. But after a reasonable degree of attention to these points, the mind naturally rests upon its conclusion. Confidence being established, the believer naturally assumes, as not needing proof or defence, the correctness of his principles. He gradually comes to look upon his faith, as a matter of course, as undebatable.
The same law of progress holds of sector ecclesiastical body. Its past history discloses a criticising, defensive, argumentative state of mind. But this gradually passes into a more quiet, satisfied state, in which doctrines once urgently defended are taken for granted. The theology comes in course of time to be undebatable. So natural and so general is this state of things, that any exception thereto justifies a suspicion that there is a lack of confidence on the part of those who constantly defend their doctrines. It is a significant fact that after a lapse of many centuries, the Catholic theologians were never more active than now in the defence of Catholic principles. Protestants justly. presume that such a state of things in the Catholic communion can only be accounted for by supposing a lack of confidence in the stability of those principles.
It is a common instinct that truth, when seen, will commend itself, and, by its own force, compel men to acknowledge it. It cannot therefore need much support from extrinsic sources. No man, with his eyes open, asks for proof that the sun shines at mid-day. To make such a demand would simply imply blindness on his part. If men are continually eager to multiply proofs of the opinions they profess, it is fair to presume that they have but faint perceptions of intrinsic proof in those very opinions. It is impolitic, therefore,-if questions of policy can, in any
sense, be entertained in such a connection—to be over anxious to state the arguments on which our convictions rest. To induce men to have confidence in us as exponents of certain principles, we must show our faith in those principles by assuming them to be true, rather than by constantly justifying a doubt of their truth by condescending to prove them to be true. To compel confidence in ourselves we must have an undebatable theology.
Remembering that theology is of value chiefly as it relates to human conduct—as it encourages pious thought and feeling, pure intentions and circumspect action,-we cannot too carefully guard against any method of presenting it which shall weaken its power over men. Speculative inquiry as to the grounds of faith in the being of God, are more likely to chill than to call into life fervent emotions. Disquisitions on morality, the nature of sin, and reasons for repentance, thoughby no means to be discountenanced, may nevertheless be presented with so much of exclusiveness as to make human hearts insensible to the intrinsic claims of holiness. Especially is there danger of this result, if by a course of argumentation we tacitly imply a doubt as to the reality of evil, and the dreadfulness of guilt. To have any effect upon the life of man, theological truth must act with promptness, and speak with unquestioned authority. In a word, it must, in its essence, be undebatable.
In what we have said we would not, however, be unmindful of an important distinction between showing the pooofs upon which our faith rests, and a controversial use of those proofs. It may be the mere joy of confidence which leads us to comply with the invitation of the Psalmist, to “ walk about our Zion, and go round about her,” to “ tell the towers thereof,” to “ mark well her bulwarks, and consider her palaces,” that we may “tell it to the generation following it.” That people should be educated in the essential principles of Christian faith, that they shall be led to see the rock on which the temple of Divine truth securely stands, --all this is well. But all this may be done without once entertaining a question as to the solidity of this basis of truth. The evidences of Christian doctrine may be stated in such a way, as, of themselves alone, not to awaken even a suspicion that any one had ever called them in question.
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In this, however, we do not debate our theology; we assume its essential truth, and merely exhibit its secure foundations.
As a Christian body, as the exponents of a system of doctrines, we shall have power over our fellow-men, shall be able to reclaim them from evil, and to incite them to good, precisely to the extent in which we lead them to feel that we are the ambassadors of a truth too palpable to need argument, too authoritative to admit of question. Our rightful influence decreases precisely to the extent in which we consent to establish, in every case, a right to declare God's aversion to sin and his command that men live in holiness and filial fear. As Christian teachers, as empowered to rebuke sin and exhort men to repentance and Godly lives, we must have, as the basis of power and authority, not simply theology, but an undebatable theology.
G. H. E.
The Apostle Peter.
The disciple and apostle, Simon Peter, appears in the New Testament records first among the leaders in the Christian cause while its divine author communed with men in the flesh, and immediately after his resurrection and ascension into the heavens. Although others, his contempo. rariesmas Paul and John-occupy their honorable places under the new dispensation, the name of Peter, in the list of the Apostles, has been synonomous with wakeful and ready Christian zeal, holy devotion, towering strength, and unfaltering fidelity, in every age.
We derive the history of this apostle from three sources,
the Evangelists, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and early historians of the Christian church. He was born in Bethsaida, Galilee. The name of his father was
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Jonas, or John, as we read in the Gospels of his being called Simon Barjona, that is, son of Jona. His occupation was that of a fisherman, in which business his brother Andrew was engaged with him. They were probably disciples of John the Baptist. Although living in the same neighborhood with Jesus, we have no account that Peter had any special knowledge of him until the day after our Lord's baptism, the attention of his brother Andrew and another disciple, (probably the apostle John,) was directed by the Baptizer to him whom he designated as “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” They came to Christ, and heard and received his instructions. Shortly afterwards, Andrew prevailed upon his brother Simon to accompany him in a visit to the new teacher. The interview resulted in the connection of Simon with the Christian cause. On receiving him as his disciple, Jesus bestowed upon him the sirname by which he has ever since been known in Christian history. “ When Jesus beheld him he said, • Thou art Simon the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.'” After this interview, the two brethren returned home to pursue for a season their usual occupations.
Previous to his temptation and entrance upon the active work of the ministry, Jesus called forth the two brothers to be co-operators with him. The allusion in his summons to their occupation is characteristic of the Master, and significant of the future work of the servants addressed. The brothers, with their attendants, had toiled all the night and caught nothing. They are encouraged, by the direction of Jesus, to make one more effort; Peter, in confidence, saying, as he alluded to their fruitless exertions, “ Nevertheless, at thy command I will let down the net.” The draught was immense, so that the ships were imperilled, and the impulsive cry came from Peter, “ Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord !” “ Fear not!" was the reply of the Master ; “ from henceforth thou shalt catch men ; " or, as another evangelist has recorded it, as applied to both brethren, “ I will make you fishers of men,”—a prediction gloriously fulfilled in after time.
And now began the new work of this earnest disciple, He entered upon it with his whole heart; and the prominent incidents connected with his history in the evangelists, serve to present, in various aspects, the character of the
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The teacher and his disciples come to Cesarea Philippi. He asks them the question, “ Whom do men say that I am ?” Hearing their answer, he still further inquires, “ But whom say ye that I am ?” None there were more in readiness to answer than Simon Peter, “ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The special approval of Jesus followed these words ; and the eminent favor granted to the Apostle is thus declared ;-" Thou art Peter--the rock, as has already been affirmed of thee and upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” First among the apostles doth this appointment render him ; first in order and dignity, as it was God's will he should be, but not as the errors of men have pretended concerning him. “Upon this foundation on which thou standest,--honor to Christ, and trust in him as the true messenger of God to man, shall the true church be reared ; and this favored one shall stand the first at its door of welcome to all the faithful. “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” Of the nature of this dignity we will elsewhere speak.
He ascends with Jesus, in company with James and John, the Mount of Transfiguration. These two disciples had, just before, beheld together the raising of Jairus’s daughter. Moses and Elias appear, and the Old dispensation and New are in communion amid the light of " the excellent glory” there shining forth in the person of the Messiah. The ardent Peter is the first again to speak, “ Lord, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.” But it is not for this purpose that the scene is given. The pre-eminence of the Gospel, as well as its harmony with the law and the prophets, come in this wonderful presentation. The scene is changed. The prophets have departed, and Jesus alone is before the marvelling disciples.
It was not far from the shore of the Lake Genesareth, that the miracle of the loaves and fishes took place. Jesus