« PreviousContinue »
I never acknowledged you as my ministers, or appointed you to teach in my name -depart from me, ye that work iniquity! --ye that transgress the law of order which I established in my church . * This dreadful sentence, it is fully evident, does not apply to those servants who have abused thie talents committed to their charge. The men, we see, are treated as absolute strangers, who, notwithstanding they profess to have preached the Gospel, had never been appointed or acknowledged as ministers in the church of Christ. Again :-The seven sons of Sceva, and other vagabond Jews, assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus, and even pretended to work miracles in his name: but the evil spirit leaped upon them and overcame them, and they found, to their cost, that Christ was not in the midst of them.
This promise, then," of the spiritual presence of Christ, is, like the other promises of the Gospel, to be understood with due limitation, and referred to those who, in the profession of the true faith, in the practice of unfeigned obedience, and in union with say, and
the apostolical church, are gathered together in his name:
It is in vain to look further for either au, thority or countenance to an act of separą. tion from that church. There is no such thing to be found. Separation is expressly forbidden in the word of God; and that word does not
unsay ;-it is not
yea but yea
and amen! It therefore behoves every man who con. temns this great law of order-who offends against the unity of the church-however truly he may teach the general trụth of the Gospel-however fervent his feelings, or sin çere his devotion-to reflect with seriousness and awe, that the most specious form of god, liness, will never compensate for his perse, ; verance in a system of disobedience. For the Scripture declares, that they who support this conduct, while they promise, liberty to their disciples, are themselves the şlaves of corruption.
REFORMATION TO BE EFFECTED WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH
REV. II. 5. Remember, therefore, from whence thou arh fallen, and repent, and do the first works: or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick -out of his place, except thou repent.
By those who set at nought the great pring ciple of union in the church of Christ, and occasion schisms and contentions amongste bis disciples, various pleas have been urged in justification of their favourite schemes.
With this view we have been often asked, Where is a true apostolical church now to be found upon earth? And as to the church of England, some have reproached it with holding many things in common with the degenerate church of Rome; whilst others represent'it only as a branch cut off from that church, and maintain that the separation, which we censure in others, is authorised by the conduct of our own reformers.
That we may be enabled to appreciate the validity of all such objections, and stem their force, it will be expedient to advert to the constitution of the apostolical church; to consider the power which its local branches possessed, to reform error and abuise, without dissolving the unity of the body; and then to examine the case of our national establishment.
That the apostolical constitution of the church was the proper model for the imitation of succeeding ages, is à proposition which few sincere Christians will be disposed to deny or controvert. Still, however, it must be granted, that, though the church was established by the apostles in purity of faith, in a uniform course of obedience to the laws of Christ, and in the most harmonious órderit was yet liable to a depression far below the perfection of this standard. As those ministers who officially succeeded the apostles in the government of the church were not visibly supported by that extras ordinary endowment of the Holy Spirit, which would have infallibly, guided them into all truth; and guarded them from error and corruption, it was possible for them to depart from that perfect rule which was set before them from the plan already laid down in the Christian Scriptures, and to which they were now referred; and thus to disfigure the beauty of the sacred edifice. And history too plainly demonstrates, that these ministers had their treasure in earthen vessels, and that human infirmity, introduced many pernicious errors and gross abusesa')
At the same time it must be maintained, that every degree of abuse or; corruption does not immediately affect the very existence of the church, and destroy its constitution. For we often hear the apostles reproving abuses, in those congregations which they had formed, and which they still acknowledge as branches of the true church of Christ.
It is, therefore, matter of importance to enquire how such abuses, in the local churches of succeeding ages, are to be rectified ;--whether this is to be done by utterly dissolving the constitution of that church in which they are detected, and setting up another in its place, upon a plan perfectly.