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of schism, we cannot be surprised at finding the Apostles and primitive writers making use of such strong language, whenever it became the subject of consideration; with the view of guarding their disciples against what appeared to them, and what, it should be supposed, must appear to every one who duly considers the nature of Christ's Church, to be a sin of the most dangerous kind; because, to omit lesser considerations, it is a sin, whereby a man cuts himself off from the means of and grace, exposeth himself to the danger of denying the faith. A learned divine* of the last century, who lived to see the effects of this sin fully exemplified in the complete destruction of his own Church and country: after having collected the numberless striking pas, sages from the writings of the ancient fathers relative 66 It is but to this subject, thus concludes upon it: a small part (says he) of the character of schism, that it is contrary to faith, contrary to charity, and to all the advantages which belong to a member of the Church-the benefits of prayer and sacraments; that it is as bad as heresy, and that there never was any heresy in the Church which was not founded in it; and that it is constantly forced in its own defence, to conclude in some heresy or other: each of these particulars, and all of them taken together, are but a small part of the character which the ancient fathers of the Church give us of the sin of schism."
It would draw out this discourse into an inconvenient length, were I to bring forward one-tenth part of what has been written upon this subject, by
those who saw it in the same light in which it was seen by the learned divine just mentioned. One additional quotation, from Archbishop Sharp, shall therefore suffice for our present purpose.
"If human conjectures (says the Archbishop) about the reasons and causes of Divine judgments may be allowed, it will appear from history and experience, that there has been as much war and blood-shed caused in the world, as many nations desolated, as many Churches ruined, by the malignity and evil influence of the sin of schism, as any other. And if ever God in judgment shall think fit to give over this flourishing Church of ours as a prey to its enemies, we shall have good reason to believe, that the unnecessary divisions and quarrels among ourselves, had a great hand in bringing on the judgment."
It must seem strange to a modern Christian, that a sin, of which the world now appears to know nothing, should be thus described. He will be apt to conclude, either that the Church of the present day must be a very different society from what it once was, or that the old writers upon this subject were wonderfully mistaken in their opinion. But if he be a wise man, he will consider, that should what has been said upon this subject be true, his past ignorance upon it cannot possibly make it otherwise. He will consequently think it to be his duty to bring the matter to a fair examination, and suffer his judgment to be determined by the evidence. "The sum of all (to make use of the words of Bishop Grove) is in short this. Besides these men who justify their separation from the Church of
England, by charging her with requiring sinful terms of communion, (which is the only thing that can justify the separation, if it could be proved;) there are others who separate lightly and wantonly, for want of a due sense of the nature of Church communion, and our obligations to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. They have no notion at all of a Church, or no notion of one Church, or know not wherein the unity and communion of this Church consists: and these men think it is indifferent, whether they communicate with any Church at all; or that they secure themselves from schism, by communicating sometimes with one Church, and sometimes with another; that they may choose their Church according to their own fancies, and change them again whenever their humour alters. But I hope, whoever considers carefully what I have now writ, and attends to those passionate exhortations of the Gospel to peace, and unity, and brotherly love, which cannot be preserved but in one communion, which is the unity of the body of Christ, and the peace and love of fellow-members; will not only heartily pray to the God of Peace, to restore peace and unity to his Church, but be careful how he divides the Church himself; and will use his utmost endeavours to heal the present schisms and divisions of the Church of Christ."*
*Should my reader wish to see the subject of Church Communion more fully handled, he will not fail to meet with complete satisfaction, by reference to a discourse, entitled "A Persuasive to Communion with the Church of England," by Dr. Grove, bishop of Chichester, to be met with among the "London Cases." And should he be desirous of having the
ground on which the two preceding chapters stand, more firmly such additional establishment be judged
established, (sheer him
necessary) I can to no publication, in which he will find more information on Church matters brought into a smaller compass, than in "Lesley's Discourse concerning the Qualifications requisite to administer the Sacraments:" the supplement to which presents him with a summary detail of authorities for Episcopacy, taken out of the Fathers and Councils in the first four hundred and fifty years after Christ: a detail, which appears to leave nothing undone, that human evidence is capable of doing, for the satisfaction of every intelligent reader on this subject.