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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Religion and Dogma

Religion and Dogma.

Let us have done with theological refinements. There is an excuse for the Fathers, because the heretics forced them to define particular points; but every definition is a misfortune, and for us to persevere in the same way is sheer folly. Is no man to be admitted to grace who does not know how the Father differs from the Son and both from the Spirit? or how the nativity of the Son differs from the procession of the Spirit? Unless I forgive my brother his sins against me, God will not forgive me my sins. Unless I have a pure heart—unless I put away envy, hate, pride, avarice, lust, I shall not see God. But a man is not damned because he cannot tell whether the Spirit has one principle or two. Has he the fruits of the Spirit? That is the question. Is he patient, kind, good, gentle, modest, temperate, chaste? Inquire if you will but do not define. True religion is peace, and we cannot have peace unless we leave the conscience unshackled on obscure points on which certainty is impossible. We hear now of questions being referred to the next Æcumenical Council (A.D. 1512)—better a great deal refer them to doomsday. Time was, when a man's faith was looked for in his life, not in the Articles which he professed. Necessity first brought Articles upon us, and ever since we have refined and refined till Christianity has become a thing of words and creeds. Articles increase—sincerity vanishes away—contention grows hot and charity grows cold.—Erasmus.