Page images

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

[ocr errors]

ground on which the two preceding chapters stand, more firmly established, (should such such additional establishment be judged necessary) I can refer him 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.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


On the Reasons generally advanced to justify a
Separation from the Church; and first, on the
supposed Spiritual Qualification of the Party
undertaking the Office of the Ministry.

HAVING dispatched the two leading parts of our subject, which respect the constitution of the Church considered as the body of Christ, and the nature of schism or wilful separation from it; we proceed to consider the reasons generally advanced to justify that separation. For at the same time that men scruple not to commit the sin, they feel unwilling to acknowledge themselves sinners; and are therefore industrious in finding out pleas, of one kind or another, which may tend, if not to do away, at least to make the sin sit easy upon their minds. Hence it is, that, in the present day, we have so many definitions of schism, differing more or less from the sense originally and properly annexed to that word, through which the definers for the most part impose on themselves and others; excluding themselves by the fallacy of words from the apparent commission of that sin, which at the same time actually attaches to their


The first and most general plea advanced upon this occasion, respects the holiness or spiritual qualification of the party who undertakes the office of the ministry. This is neither more nor less than the plea of Korah revived. The popular argument in the mouth of Korah was, that Aaron took too much upon himself, seeing that all the congregation was holy: *the inference of which seems to be, that the people had no need of the ministration of Aaron, but could minister unto themselves. Upon this plea, the offspring of spiritual pride, Korah and his company gathered themselves together against Moses and Aaron; and the sixteenth chapter of the book of Numbers has recorded the fatal event that terminated the contest.

But had we no lesson of experience upon this head to draw from the Jewish history, that of our own has taught us to view this plea with a very suspicious eye, because it has been ministerial to the greatest calamities. We remember that it was in the reign of the Saints, (as they were then called) the invaders of the priesthood in those days of confusion, that the Constitution of this country was completely overturned in the last century; when preaching, and fasting, and praying, were made use of as convenient cloaks for rebellion, sacrilege, and murder. We are therefore afraid when we hear talk of gifted men, lest an increase of their number should lead to a repetition of the same dismal scenes.

But granting that the holiness of the party, on whose account many feel themselves justified in

* Numbers xvi. 3.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »