The means by which Jesus relied to bring the world to the knowledge of his doctrine was the union and oneness of his disciples, and of all believers, for which he prayed, “Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, just as we are one.” (John 17:11)
Contrast this with the means by which our ministers are exerting to proselyte the world, are to frighten their hearers with the most awful apprehensions of everlasting torments in the invisible world; and thereby to induce them to raise funds to bear their expenses in frightening the rest of mankind! In these means, and in these alone, are they united!
Numerous creeds have been drawn up by councils, venerable, in the world's estimation, for their profound learning, deep study, and great piety. These wise productions have widely varied from each other, and generally contain the greatest contradictions in themselves.
So deep and profound have been their mysteries, that the learned doctors of the church have found it necessary to write volumes to explain them to the common people.
But the common people can no better understand these explanations, than they can the contradictions in the creeds themselves. We certainly owe it to ourselves to ask why these numerous, and conflicting, and contradictory creeds have been written.
Was it to make divine truth plainer than it is as expressed in the words which the Father gave to the Son, and which the Son gave to his disciples? If the creeds which men have written, make the doctrine of the Savior no plainer, no easier to be understood, than do the words of Jesus, there seems to be no need of their having been written at all.
It is a fact which ought to be seriously regarded, that the example of writing creeds was never set by Jesus or his apostles. Yet no author ever expressed a single tenet more plainly than he expressed all which is necessary for us to believe.
Do we desire to know the disposition of our heavenly Father towards us; and our duty to each other? And do we desire to understand the real difference between what the wisdom of God teaches on these important points, and that which is taught by man's imperfect wisdom?
All this we have in the following words: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, so you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.”
“If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:43-48.)
If Jesus had intended to express the universal love of God to mankind, how could he have expressed it more plainly and clearly than he did in these passages?
Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Hosea Ballou, given in Concord, NH, Sept. 20, 1832