Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

greater account than purity of heart. In the apostolic age, which may be styled the reign of charity, their mutual forbearance in regard to such differences, was at once an evidence and an exercise of this divine principle. "Him that is weak in the faith," says our apostle, "receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations: For one believeth that he may eat all things; another who is weak eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not; and let not him who eateth not judge him that eateth," Rom. xiv. 1-3. "One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike." As to these disputable points, "let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind," (ch. xiv. 5,) and, as far as he himself is concerned, act according to his persuasion. But he does not permit even him who is in the right, to disturb his brother's peace by such unimportant inquiries. "Hast thou faith?" says he; the knowledge and conviction of the truth on the point in question? "Have it to thyself before God. Happy is he who condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth," ch. xiv. 22. And in another place, "Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing," Philip. iii. 15, 16. We are to remember, that " as the kingdom of God is not meat and drink," so neither is it logical acuteness in distinction, or grammatical accuracy of expression; but it is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of men," Rom. xiv. 17, 18.

6. Now, if we inquire, by an examination of the context, into the nature of those differences among the Corinthians to which Paul affixes the name oxiouara, nothing is more certain than that no cause of difference is suggested, which has any the least relation to the doctrines of religion, or to any opinions that might be formed concerning them. The fault which he stigmatized with that odious appellation, consisted then, solely, in an undue attachment to particular persons, under whom, as chiefs or leaders, the people severally ranked themselves; and thus, without making separate communions, formed distinctions among themselves, to the manifest prejudice of the common bond of charity, classing themselves under different heads. "Now this I say," adds the apostle, "that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ," 1 Cor. i. 12. It deserves to be remarked, that of the differences among the Roman converts, concerning the observance of days and the distinction of meats, which we should think more material, as they more nearly affect the justness of religious sentiments and the purity of religious practice, the apostle makes so little account, that he will not permit them to harass one another with such questions; but

enjoins them to allow every one to follow his own judgment-at the same time, that he is greatly alarmed at differences among the Corinthians, in which, as they result solely from particular attachments and personal esteem, neither the faith nor the practice of a Christian appears to have an immediate concern. But it was not without reason that he made this distinction. The hurt threatened by the latter was directly against that extensive love commanded by the Christian law, but not less truly, though more indirectly, against the Christian doctrine and manners. By attaching themselves strongly to human, and consequently fallible teachers and guides, they weakened the tie which bound them to the only divine guide and teacher, the Messiah, and therefore to that also which bound them all one to another.

7. What it was that gave rise to such distinctions in the church of Corinth we are not informed, nor is it material for us to know. From what follows in the epistle it is not improbable, that they might have thought it proper in this manner to range themselves under those who had been the instruments of their conversion to Christianity, or perhaps those by whom they had been baptized, or for whom they had contracted a special veneration. It is evident, however, that these petty differences, as we should account them, had already begun to produce consequences unfriendly to the spirit of the gospel; for it is in this point of view solely that the apostle considers them, and not as having an intermediate bad influence on its doctrine. Thus, resuming the subject, he says, "Ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul, and another I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal?" 1 Cor. iii. 3, 4. Thus it is uncontrovertible, in the first place, that the accusation imports that the Corinthians by their conduct had given a wound to charity, and not that they had made any deviation from the faith and in the second place, that, in the apostolical acceptation of the word, men may be schismatics, or guilty of schism, by such an alienation of affection from their brethren as violates the internal union subsisting in the hearts of Christians, though there be neither error in doctrine nor separation from communion, and consequently no violation of external unity in ceremonies and worship. Faustus, a Manichean bishop in the fourth century, (however remote from truth the leading principles of his party were on more important articles,) entertained sentiments on this subject entirely scriptural; "Schisma," says he, "nisi fallor, est eadem opinantem atque eodem ritu colentem quo cæteri, solo congregationis delectari dissidio." Faust. 1. xx. c. iii. ap. August.

8. After so clear a proof of the import of the term, if it should be thought of consequence to allege in confirmation what must be acknowledged to be more indirect, you may consider the only other passage in which the term is used in the New Testament,

and applied metaphorically to the human body. In the same epistle, the apostle, having shown that the different spiritual gifts bestowed on Christians rendered them mutually subservient, and made all, in their several ways, harmoniously contribute to the good of the Christian community, gives a beautiful illustration of this doctrine from the natural body, the different functions of whose members admirably conduce to the benefit and support of one another, and to the perfection and felicity of the whole. He concludes in these words: "God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked, that there should be no schism in the body," iva un n σχισμα εν τῳ σωματι, “but that the members should have the same care one for another; and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it," 1 Cor. xii. 24-26. It is obvious that the word schism is here employed to signify, not a separation from the body, such as is made by amputation or fracture, but such a defect in utility and congruity, as would destroy what he considers as the mutual sympathy of the members, and their care one of another.

9. As to the distinctions on this subject which in after-times obtained among theologians, it is proper to remark, that error in doctrine was not supposed essential to the notion of schism; its distinguishing badge was made separation from communion in religious offices, insomuch that the words schismatic and separatist have been accounted synonymous. By this, divines commonly discriminate schism from heresy, the essence of which last is represented as consisting in an erroneous opinion, obstinately maintained, concerning some fundamental doctrine of Christianity; and that whether it be accompanied with separation in respect of the ordinances of religion or not. We have now seen that the former definition does not quadrate with the application of the word in the New Testament, and that schism in scriptural use is one thing, and schism in ecclesiastical use another.

PART IV.

OF HERESY.

LET us now inquire, with the same freedom and impartiality into the scriptural use of the other term. The Greek word dipeous, which properly imports no more than election or choice, was commonly employed by the Hellenist Jews in our Saviour's time, when the people were much divided in their religious sentiments, to denote, in general, any branch of the division, and was nearly equivalent to the English words class, party, sect.

The word was not, in its earliest acceptation, conceived to convey any reproach in it, since it was indifferently used either of a party approved, or of one disapproved, by the writer. In this way it occurs several times in the Acts of the Apostles, where it is always (one single passage excepted) rendered sect. We hear alike of the sect of the Sadducees, αίρεσις των Σαδδουκαίων, Acts v. 17, and of the sect of the Pharisees, aiperiç Twv Papioaiwv, chap. xv. 5. In both places the term is adopted by the historian purely for distinction's sake, without the least appearance of intention to convey either praise or blame. Nay, on one occasion, Paul, in the defence he made for himself before king Agrippa, where it was manifestly his intention to exalt the party to which he had belonged, and to give their system the preference to every other system of Judaism, both in soundness of doctrine and purity of morals, expresses himself thus: "My manner of life, from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews, which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify,-that after the most straitest sect of our religion,” κατα την ακριβεστατην αίρεσιν της ἡμετέρας θρησKELAç, "I lived a Pharisee," Acts xxvi. 4, 5.

,.

2. There is only one passage in that history, (Acts xxiv. 5,) wherein there is an appearance that something reproachful is meant to be conveyed under the name aipeous. It is in the accusation of Paul by the orator Tertullus, on the part of the Jews, before the governor Felix; where, amongst other things, we have these words: "We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes,” πρωτοστατην τε της των Ναζωραίων αἱρέσεως, I should not, however, have imagined that any part of the obloquy lay in the application of the word last mentioned, if it had not been for the notice which the apostle takes of it in his answer: "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy,” ἣν λεγουσιν αἵρεσιν, so worship I the God of my fathers," chap. xxiv. 14.

66

3. Here, by the way, I must remark a great impropriety in the English translation, though in this, I acknowledge, it does but follow the Vulgate. The same word is rendered one way in the charge brought against the prisoner, and another way in his answer for himself. The consequence is, that though nothing can be more apposite than his reply in this instance, as it stands in the original, yet nothing can appear more foreign than this passage in the two versions above-mentioned. The apostle seems to defend himself against crimes of which he is not accused. In both places, therefore, the word ought to have been translated in the same manner, whether heresy or sect. In my judgment, the last term is the only proper one; for the word heresy, in the modern acceptation, never suits the import of the original word, as used in Scripture. But, when one attends to the very critical circum

[ocr errors]

stances of the apostle at this time, the difficulty in accounting for his having considered it as a reproach to be denominated of a sect disclaimed by the whole nation, instantly vanishes. Let it be remembered, first, that since the Jews had fallen under the power of the Romans, their ancient national religion had not only received the sanction of the civil powers for the continuance of its establishment in Judea, but had obtained a toleration in other parts of the empire; secondly, that Paul is now pleading before a Roman governor, a Pagan, who could not well be supposed to know much of the Jewish doctrine, worship, or controversies; and that he had been arraigned by the rulers of his own nation, as belonging to a turbulent and upstart sect: for in this way they considered the Christians, whom they reproachfully named Nazarenes. The natural consequence of this charge, with one who understood so little of their affairs as Felix, was to make him look upon the prisoner as an apostate from Judaism, and therefore as not entitled to be protected, or even tolerated, on the score of religion. Against a danger of this kind it was of the utmost importance to our apostle to defend himself.

4. Accordingly when he enters on this part of the charge, how solicitous is he to prove, that his belonging to that sect did not imply any defection from the religion of his ancestors; and thus to prevent any mistaken judgment on this article of his arraignment, into which a heathen judge must have otherwise unavoidably fallen. His own words will, to the attentive, supersede all argument or illustration: "But this I confess to thee, that after the way which they call a sect, so worship I-" Whom? No new divinity, but, on the contrary, "the God of our fathers:" He adds, in order the more effectually to remove every suspicion of apostasy, "Believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets; and have the same hope towards God which they themselves also entertain, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust," Acts xxiv. 14, 15. Nothing could have been more ridiculous, than for the apostle seriously to defend his doctrine against the charge of heterodoxy before an idolater and polytheist, who regarded both him and his accusers as superstitious fools, and consequently as, in this respect, precisely on a footing; but it was entirely pertinent in him to evince, before a Roman magistrate, that his faith and mode of worship, however much traduced by his enemies, were neither essentially different from, nor any way subversive of, that religion which the senate and people of Rome had solemnly engaged to protect; and that therefore he was not to be treated as an apostate, as his adversaries, by that article of accusation that he was of the sect of the Nazarenes, showed evidently that they desired he should. Thus the apostle, with great address, refutes the charge of having revolted from the religious institution of

[ocr errors]
« ÎnapoiContinuați »