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tions very unlike, especially when wholly opposed, it is impossible for them to act together with harmony or success. Religion is an object of so much importance, that by men, really religious, it cannot be given up. It cannot be given up in parts : it cannot be modified, softened, or in any manner altered, so as to make it more palatable, or less offensive, to those, with whom they have intercourse. All its doctrines are taught, and all its duties enjoined, by the authority of God. Pious men, therefore, can neither add, diminish, nor alter. Yet such alterations would often be very convenient, and therefore very pleasing, to their unrenewed brethren: and such, as refuse to make them, would be pronounced illiberal, imprudent, unkind, and bigoted. Among persons, so circumstanced, harmony is already destroyed.
One of the great Christian duties is the Reproof of our brethren for their faults. A religious man is prepared by his religion both to administer, and receive, Evangelical reproof with the meekness, and gentleness, of the Gospel. In his view a sin is a great evil; to reclaim, or be reclaimed, from which is a pre-eminent blessing. Reproof is the proper, efficacious, and Evangelical means of communicating, or acquiring, this blessing; and will, therefore, be administered, and received, with the kindness of the Gospel.
But to sinners, Reproof is the pain ; and Sin, the pleasure; for. reproof will always be regarded merely as the means of restraining, and lessening, this pleasure. It will be viewed, therefore, with feelings of hostility: and he, who administers it, will be considered as an enemy. Nor will the sinner himself ordinarily administer it to others, unless when prompted by some selfish motive; nor without very visible emotions of superiority, resentment, or contempt. Sinners, therefore, are plainly unqualified to take any useful part in this important branch of Christian communion.
Nor are they better fitted either for giving, or receiving, Religious Consolation. It is plainly impossible for them to enter cordially, and deeply, into interests, which they never felt; to indulge emotions, which they never experienced; to feel the force of motives, whose import they cannot understand ; or to derive either peace, or hope, from the truths, or promises, of a Religion, to which, though professing it, they are still strangers.
But a single point will set this part of the subject in the clearest light. It is this: Christ has enjoined upon all his followers, Brotherly Love. This affection, as I ħave formerly observed, is that, which is commonly called Complacency, or the love of Virtue; and is directed, not like benevolence towards the happiness of Intelligent beings, but towards the Virtue of Good beings. That sinners cannot exercise this affection will not be questioned. But this is not the point, at which I aim. Christians cannot exercise this affection towards Sinners; because sinners do not possess the virtue, which this command requires Christians to love. Christ cannot require VOL. IV.
of his disciples any thing, which is physically impossible: but it is physically impossible to love virtue in those, who have it not. Yet Christ has required all the members of his Church to exercise this affection towards all. He intended, therefore, in this command, as well as elsewhere, that all the members of his Church should be such, as could be the objects of this affection.
To this command he accordingly subjoins the following declaration : Hereby shall all men know, that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another. But it is impossible, that sinners, who are not his disciples, should be known to be his disciples. Sinners, therefore, were not included by him in the number of those, of whom he speaks in these passages : or, in other words, are not proper members of his Church.
Universally ; There is, there can be, between Christians and sinners, as members of the Church of Christ, no community of interests, views, affections, or designs. A church, intentionally made up of these discordant materials, may be a decent company of men ; but it will very imperfectly sustain the character of a church of Christ.
V. With similar clearness is the Doctrine illustrated by the Nature of Christian Discipline.
Of this subject 1 can give only a very summary exhibition. Christian Discipline consists of Private Exhortation, Public Admonition, and Excommunication. The end of all these administrations is the amendment of the offender, and the peace, purity, and edification, of the Church. By every Christian they will be regarded as institutions, eminently useful to himself, and eminently beneficial to that great interest, which supremely engrosses his heart. To him, therefore, they will be objects of affection and reverence. When a fellow-Christian expostulates with him kindly, evangelically, and between themselves, concerning a fault, which he has really committed, he will be gained by his brother; because, with a Christian spirit, and with Christian views, he will feel, that his brother has designed good to him, and conscientiously performed his own duty. Under the influence of the same spirit, he will receive an admonition from the Church with reverence and awe, because he knows, that the Church is merely discharging the same duty, and aiming at the same benevolent end. Even if he · should be excommunicated; an event, which in such a Church will rarely take place ; he will of course, when his passions have subsided, and the period of self-examination has returned, resume the character of a penitent; humbly acknowledge the rectitude of the administration, and by an ingenuous confession of his fault, and the reformation of his life, become reconciled to his fellowChristians.
Sinners, on the contrary, will receive all these acts of discipline with reluctance, and resentment; and will never realize their necessity, nor their usefulness. The faults, for which discipline is
instituted, they will usually consider as commendable actions, as matters of indifference, or at the worst as mere peccadillos, about which no man ought to feel any serious concern. Remonstrances against them they will regard as flowing from personal pique, pride, or a spirit of meddling; and every subsequent measure of discipline, as springing out of bigotry, persecution, or revenge. An ecclesiastical process will be viewed by them as a mere prosecution; and those, concerned in it against them, as mere litigants, influenced only by selfish passions, and not by a sense of duty.
In the administration of discipline, unless stimulated by such passions, they will either not unite at all, or unite with indifference and reluctance. They will be too prudent to provoke their neighbours, and too worldly to trouble themselves about the peace, or purity, of the Church. It may, I believe, be truly said, that Christian discipline never was, and never will be, for any length of time maintained, where the majority of those, entrusted with it, áre, or have been, men of this character.
VI. This truth is decisively proved by the manner, in which the Christian Church is spoken of in the New Testament.
The common name for the Church in the Old Testament is Zion. Under this name it is spoken of as a Holy Hill; as loved by God; as the Heritage of God; as the Zion of the Holy One of Israel. It is said, that Christ is her King ; that God will place Salvation in her; that he will reign in her; that he commands there the blessing, even life for ever more. In these, and a multitude of other, instances, exactly the same character is given of the Church, under the Mosaic, which was afterward given of it, under the Christian, Dispensation. This fact furnishes unanswerable proof, that the Church was intentionally formed, and is actually regarded, in the same manner by God in every age.
The character of the Church, as given in the New Testament, will be sufficiently learned from the following passages.
To the Church at Rome, St. Paul writes in these terms. whom are ye also, the called of Jesus Christ. To all that are in Rome, Beloved of God, called to be Saints. First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all; that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. Rom. i. 6–8.
And I myself am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. Rom. xv. 14.
To the Corinthians he writes, Unto the Church of God, which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God,
. which is given you by Christ Jesus. 1. Cor. i. 2, 4.
To the Galatians he writes, Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise. Gal. iv. 28.
Among To the Ephesians he writes, Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the Saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. Eph. i. 1.
To the Philippians he writes, I thank my God for your fellowship in the Gospel, from the first day until now: being confident of this dery thing, that He, who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. i. 3, 5, 6.
To the Colossians he writes, Paul, an Apostle, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, who are at Colosse; We give thanks to God, since we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the Saints, for the hope, which is laid up for you in Heaven. Col. i. 1-5.
To the Thessalonians he writes, We give thanks to God alway for you all, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God, even our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 1 Thess. j. 4.
To the Hebrews he writes, Brethren, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany Salvation. Heb. vi. 9.
St. James, speaking of himself, and of the Churches to whom he wrote, says, Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures. James i. 18.
St. Peter writes to the Churches in Pontus, &c. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through Sanctification of the Spirit' unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. 1 Pet. i. 2.
St. John says, I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. 1 John ii, 12, 13.
St. Jude, addressing his epistle to the Churches generally, writes, To them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. Jude 1.
With this language every thing, found in the New Testament, perfectly harmonizes. One character, and one only, is given in it of the Church; and that is, the character of Christians. There is no mixture of any other character. Even when the faults of its members are mentioned, they are mentioned, solely as the backslidings of Christians; and never as the sins of unbelieving and impenitent men. How, then, can we entertain a rational doubt, that God, when he instituted his Church, intended it to be an assembly of belieders?
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.OFFICERS OF THE
CHURCH-MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL.-WHO ARE MIN-
1 PETER v. 143.- The Elders, which are among you, I exhort, who am also an El
der, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God, which is among you; taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; nol for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
In the preceding discourse, concerning the Constitution of the Christian Church, I observed, that the Church is composed of its Ordinary Members, and its Oficers. The character of its Ordinary Members I investigated at that time. I shall now consider,
The Character of its Officers.
Before I commence the direct examination of this subject, I shall make a few preliminary observations.
1. The Scriptures have actually constituted certain Officers in the Church.
Whatever differences of opinion exist concerning the kinds of officers in the Church, designated by the Scriptures, it is agreed by most, if not all, Christians, that such officers, of some kind or other, are established by the Sacred Volume. We there read of Ministers, Pastors, Teachers, Bishops, &c. By these names, it is generally acknowledged, officers of one or more classes were denoted, who were intended always to be found in the Christian Church. Certain powers, also, they were intended to possess, and certain duties to perform.
2. Whatever the Scriptures have said of these men is of Divino Authority and Obligation : but nothing else is of such authority, nor at all obligatory on the consciences of mankind.
Whatever the Scriptures have instituted, required, or directed, is instituted, required, and directed, by God; and is invested with his authority. All else, by whomsoever said, or in what age soever, is said by man. But man has no authority over the conscience ; and can never bind his fellow-man in any religious concern whatever. If, then, we find in the present, or any past age, any thing said on the subject, whether by divines or others, however learned and esteemed they may have been, which at the same time is not said in the Scriptures; it is totally destitute of any authority or obligation with respect to us. It may, or may not, be said wisely.