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The sum of the matter as here set before you is this. If a man's separation from the Church be upon grounds which he really believes to be of vital importance, I have nothing to do with him. He acts from conscientious motives, and cannot remain in communion with a Church, which teaches what he holds to be false doctrines. "To his own master he standeth or falleth ;" and it is not for me to judge how he has come to this conclusion. I can, however, fully understand, that so long as he holds such an opinion about our Church, he cannot have
any thing to do with it, but must come out from it. But if I see a man attending the Church occasionally, as if he thought there was no positive harm in what is taught there, then I say, that man has not done rightly in becoming a Dissenter, because I gather from Scripture that it is a duty to submit to established authorities in religious matters, just as in political and civil matters, so long as there is no vital and essential difference between his own articles of faith, and those which the established Church maintains. He ought to submit in all things indifferent for conscience’ sake. And his only sound and sufficient defence for separating from the Church, is a belief, that he cannot be saved in it on account of its holding false doctrine. If he cannot say this, he has no sufficient reason for thus “rending Christ's body,” by removing himself out of the Church, and for giving an example to others to set up some new sect for themselves upon any trifling ground of difference.
I will add only one more remark in conclusion, which is this. You read in the New Testament of great and important promises made to the Church, whatever that Church be: you read also of many very strong and sharp rebukes given to those, who caused dissensions and disputes in the Church, during the time of the Apostles : you read also of the heavy condemnation, which will come upon those who have been partakers in these sins; and also
you know the warrings of our Saviour and of the apostles, that in the latter days, the danger and subtilty of these errors and heresies would increase, so as to deceive (if it were possible) even the elect; and, lastly, you know, that even though persons think they are conscientiously obliged to make a schism, still they may be condemned for this very false conviction of their deceitful hearts. Now, since all this is the case, would it not be prudent for a single man, who thinks of becoming a Dissenter, to consider seriously where he is most likely to come within the terms of these promises, and where he is least likely to be liable to the threats and denunciations above alluded to? Would it not be well to reason with himself somewhat on this wise : “ The Church may not mean the Church, as some people understand it, who suppose that Dissenters are left out of it; but still as I never heard any one say, that the Dissenters were the only true Church, and that the Established Church was shut out of the promises, because she was no part of the true Church, surely I am more safe, more likely to come in for a share of these blessings, if, while in other things I strive to do my duty without troubling myself to decide things, which in truth are too hard for me, I continue a member of the Established Church. By so doing, I follow the example of my forefathers, of my country, of holy martyrs before me, and rest my faith on the authority of those, who are, by virtue of their office, successors of the Apostles; whereas, in the other case, I must, on my own judgment, set aside all this weight of authority, and do that, which is as much as to say, that till within the last three hundred years
the whole world has been in darkness, and that I can see clearer than all those great, and good, and pious, and learned persons, who have lived and died before me in the faith.” Surely it is the safer course to remain stedfastly in the Church, without halting between two opinions; there is more chance of your being right there.
Ν Ο Τ Ε.
P. S. In order that you may know whom you ought to look upon as your proper spiritual guides and governors, I lay before you the description given of them by the famous Dr. Isaac Barrow, “ Those, I say, then, who constantly do profess and teach that sound and wholesome doctrine, which was delivered by our Lord and his Apostles in word and writing, was received by their disciples in the primitive Churches, was transmitted and confirmed by general tradition, was sealed by the blood of the blessed martyrs, and propagated by the labours of the holy fathers ; the which also manifestly recommendeth and promoteth true reverence and piety towards God, justice and charity towards men, order and quiet in human societies, purity and sobriety in each man's private conversation.
" Those who celebrate the true worship of God, and administer the holy mysteries of our religion, in a serious, grave, and decent manner, purely and without any notorious corruption, either by hurtful error, or superstitious foppery, or irreverent rudeness, to the advancement of God's honour, and edification of the participants in virtue and piety.
“Those who derive their authority by a continued succession from the Apostles, who are called unto and constituted in their office in a regular and peaceable way, agreeable to the institution of God, and the constant practice of His Church, according to rules approved in the best and purest ages ; who are prepared to the exercise of their functions by the best education, that ordinarily can be provided under sober discipline, in the schools of the prophets ; who thence, by competent endowments of mind and useful furniture of good learning, acquired by painful study, become qualified to guide and instruct the people ; who, after previous examination of their abilities, and probable testimonies concerning their manners (with regard to the qualifications of incorrupt doctrine and sober conversation, prescribed by the apostles), are adjudged fit for the office ; who, also, in a pious, grave, solemn manner, with invocation of God's blessing, by laying on of the hands of the presbytery, are admitted thereunto.
“Those whose practice in guiding and governing the people of God, is not managed by arbitrary, uncertain, fickle, private fancies or humours, but regulated by standing laws; framed (according to general directions extant in holy Scripture) by pious and wise persons, with mature advice, in accommodation to the seasons and circumstances of things, for common edification, order, and peace.
“ Those, who, by virtue of their good principles, in their dispositions and demeanour appear sober, orderly, peaceable, yielding meek submission to government, tendering the Church's peace,
upholding the communion of the saints, abstaining from all schismatical, turbulent, and factious practices.
“Those, also, who are acknowledged by the laws of our country, an obligation to obey whom is part of that human constitution unto which we are in all things (not evidently repugnant to God's law) indispensably bound to submit; whom our Sovereign, God's vicegerent, and the nursing father of His Church among us, (unto whom in all things high respect, in all lawful things entire obedience, is due) doth command and encourage us to obey.
Those, I say, to whom this character plainly doth agree, we may reasonably be assured, that they are our true guides and governors whom we are obliged to follow and obey; for what better asurance can
we in reason desire? what more proper marks can be assigned to discern them by? what methods of constituting such needful officers can be settled more answerable to their design and use ? how can it be evil or unsafe to follow guides authorized by such warrants, conformed to such patterns, endowed with such dispositions, acting by such principles and rules ? Can we mistake or miscarry, by complying with the great body of God's Church through all ages, and particularly with those great lights of the primitive Church, who, by the excellency of their knowledge, and the integrity of their virtue, have so illustrated our holy religion ?"
(Barron, Serm. LVI. p. 284–287. vol. iii.)
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TRACTS FOR THE TIMES.
SERMONS FOR SAINTS' DAYS AND HOLIDAYS.
(No. 1. ST. MATTHIAS.)
“ Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained
you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain."-St. John xv. 16.
The service of this day invites us to consider the nature and commission of that ministry, by which Christians all over the world are made partakers of heavenly and spiritual blessings.
On this point, as on most others, it is obvious that the New Testament does no where furnish a regular and orderly course of instruction, such as on many great subjects we find in our Creeds, Articles, and Catechism. But the mind and will of our Divine Master may be gathered plainly enough, at least by those who are willing to show a reasonable respect to the witness of the early Church.
St. Luke, in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, informs us, that our Lord was not taken up, until “after that He, through the Holy Ghost, had given commandments unto the Apostles whom He had chosen ;-being seen of them” at various times during as much as “ forty days,” and “ speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." Then, doubtless, He gave them instruction in what method and order to proceed, what kind of ministry to settle in His Church. Who would not wish to know what was the tenor of those conversations? But the Holy Ghost, in His unsearchable wisdom, has not seen fit directly to put them on record : an omission which appears very significant, when compared with the minute register which the Gospels supply of many former discourses. So it is, that on the occasion, which would seem to promise most information concerning the nature of Christ's kingdom, instead of finding any report of what our blessed Saviour said, we find a report of what His Apostles did. Their Acts and Letters take place of the desired memorial