« PreviousContinue »
judge the world, but to save the world. But, lest it should be inferred from hence that the laws of the Gospel might be contemned with safety, it is immediately added
-He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him : the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John, xii. 47, 48.)
Whence it appears that, as there is a day appointed for the judgment of the dis-, obedient, the ministers of Christ must refer the obstinate and contumacious to the ultimate decision of that day: they can only, agreeably to the import of the words, (Anathema Maran atha), set them apart till the Lord comes. They cannot, in the mean time, claim : a power to inflict temporal punishments beyond the verge of that law of discipline, which was committed to them for the preservation of due order in the church-a power which is directed to edification, not to destruction.
Our Lord's precepts are enforced and explained by his practice: and upon the present subject it may be remarked, that when he cleansed the temple from those profane traffickers who were polluting that
holy place, he made him a scaurge of -small cords, and drove them out. (John, ii, 15.) He did not handle the sword, the spear, or the bow. The instrument which he used might produce present smart, but it could not endanger the lives of men.
His design was not to destroy, but to correct.
And when he sets forth the state of his household—the church, in succeeding agesand delineates the character of those servants who should be entrusted with its government during their Lord's absence, he thus speaks of the persecuting steward :If that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken ;, the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him off, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites : there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. xxiv. 48, &c.)
The ruler of Christ's household was not authorised to smite in wrath : therefore, St. Paul, with manifest allusion to these words of our Lord, gives this instruction to Timothy
A bishop must be blameless ; not given to wine ; no striker. (1 Tim. iii. 3.)
This is a general rule; for it is again repeated to the apostolical bishop of the Cretians—A bishop must be blameless, as the servant of God; not self-willed; not soon angry; not given to wine ; no striker. (Tit. i. 7.)
The steward of Christ's household, or the Christian bishop, is invested with an authority which no member of the church can safely despise; but his authority is spiritual, as the same apostle declares : The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds ---- (2 Cor. x. 4.).
that is, as he proceeds to explain to the casting down of imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. But these weapons are not to be used in the indulgence of human passion and revenge: for the apostle presently speaks of his aùthority as given him by the Lord, for edification, and not for de struction.
And the use of carnal weapons, or the ex. ercise of a power to punish and destroy, in
order to correct errors in religion, is not conceded in a single page of the Gospel of Christ. Our Lord often instructs his disciples how to endure persecution ; but I find no direction how to persecute: When, ever, therefore, persecution is mentioned, the saints are represented as merely passive. The active part of their commission goes no farther than this-Let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican; and Shake off the very dust of your feet, for a testimony against them. (Luke, ix. 5.) It therefore stops short of the very first step of persecution.
As an indulgence of the angry passions denotes an unchristian Spirit, so it is wholly inadequate to any purpose for which the Gospel was designed. It may destroy the body, but it cannot reform the heart. For St. James has justly remarked--The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (James, i. 10.) Our penal laws may teach thieves to act with caution; but they have no power to render them sincerely honest: and such, likewise, is the defect of persecution. It may produce many hypon
crites; but it can never make a real Christian.
In our age and country the thing itself is happily unknown. The trial of saints, at present, is not by the fire of persecution, but by the desolating waters of indifference: Persecution is not seen nor felt amongst us, though its name is often heard, and many are ambitious of the credit of having submitted to its stroke. During many ages, it was the part of the most approved Christians to suffer for righteousness' sake. The enduring of evil wrongfullý, was the mark which distinguished a saint. It is, therefore, no matter of surprise, that the hypocrite should still be desirous of counterfeiting the mark, in order to give a currency to his own character. 11 *Hence, it is no uncommon thing for those who would appear righteous before' men, to boast of their sufferings, to complain of the Jash of persecution, and pretend to have encountered it in the place where it was not to be found.
But few counterfeits will bear the test of accurate comparison; and this, in the pre