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humility of children; who encourage envy. ings, strife, and divisions; are accused by St. Paul of carnal-mindedness, and sharply corrected with the rod of censure. (1 Cor. iii. 1, &c.
It is not, then, every constitutional weakness, and wayward perversity of temper, in which petulant or unsteady professors may choose to indulge themselves, that Christian ministers are authorised to connive at, under the name of a tender conscience.
That the rights of conscience are recog nised in the New Testament, is an undoubted truth; and St. Paul, in particular, impresses the duty of making allowance for the scruples of weak Christians. But this allowance has its proper place, and its just limitation. It is to be exercised, not in favour of schism and heresy, but in the unity of the apostolical church, and towards those members whose faith is pure, whose obedience to the laws of Christ is sincere and uniform, and who have preserved unbroken the great bond of charity. And it is limited to things merely circumstantial and indif ferent; things of so little importance, as not to have been determined by a divine revela
tion. It is not extended to the contempt of any positive ordinance of God, or lawful authority of man. No such allowance is made to those who resist the laws of good order, despise government, or set up their own opinions against the express declarations of the Gospel.
Thus, when St. Paul commands the church, Let every soul be subject to the higher powers--he gives the reason why all its members should persevere in this subjection -for there is no power, but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And to this it is added-Wherefore YE MUST NEEDS BE SUBJECT, not only for wrath-for fear of punishment-but also FOR CONSCIENCE SAKE. (Rom. xiii. 1, &c.)
Here is a just limitation of the rights of a Christian's conscience. Here we are taught, that in things expressly ordained and declared by the Gospel, it has no liberty to hesitate its duty is, to submit and obey.
The same duty of submission to human authority, in things lawful, is inculcated by St. Peter:Servants, be subject to your mar
sters with all fear: not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward, For this is thankworthy, if a man, FOR CONSCIENCE TOWARD GOD, endure grief, suffering wrongfully. (1 Pet. ii. 9.)
Here the conscience of Christians is restrained within the bounds of order and discipline; and when it overleaps these limits, it becomes an evil conscience. Its tenderness is no longer acknowledged.
Wherefore, St. Paul says of those who, in the latter days, should depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, that they have THEIR CONSCIENCE SEARED WITH A HOT IRON. (1 Tim. iv. 1, 2.) And again:-There are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not: wherefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. Perhaps these men teach according to the dictates of their conscience ; no doubt they pretend as much: their pampered vanity may have furnished them with many scruples against the word of truth, and the laws of good order; and these they may call scruples of conscience. But
such scruples are not respected by the Gospel; for, as the apostle proceeds, unto them that are defiled and unbelieving—that is, who disallow the true evangelical faith, for they do profess and teach a faith of their own-unto them is nothing pure; but even
THEIR MIND AND CONSCIENCE IS DE
FILED. They profess that they know God, but in works deny him, being abominable and DISOBEDIENT, and unto every good work, reprobate. (Tit. i.)
Thus we see, that St. Paul makes no allowance for any scruples of conscience, in those disorderly, presumptuous, and diso bedient teachers, who, either in matter of faith or of discipline, offend against the unity and harmony of the church.
In what, then, consists that allowance which the apostle does really make, for the consciences of weak Christians; and which is, therefore, to be admitted as a rule, by the ministers of the Gospel?
In order to discover this, we need no more than to consult the fourteenth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, and the eighth and tenth chapters of the first epistle to the Corinthians, where St. Paul treats at large of
this subject. In the first of these chapters, he thus begins his exhortation to the church: -Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye; but not to doubtful disputations.-RECEIVE YE! How were the brethren to receive him? Certainly, into the unity of the visible church of Christ. He could not be received by the members of that church, as a separatist from their communion. And-receive him ; but not to DOUBTFUL disputations-perplex him not with questions which are of such trivial moment, as not to have been resolved and determined by any express declaration. of the Gospel, or definite rule of good order.
Of the general nature of such unnecessary questions, we may judge, by the instances adduced throughout this chapter. And these refer only to the ritual distinction between clean and unclean meats, and the observance of days, which had been set apart by the Levitical law. An attention to such things was no longer required; as, the ceremonial ordinances of the law of Moses were now superseded by the Gospel dispensation. But the late converts from Judaism could not neglect them with a safe conscience, as they were the known or