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It only remains
3. To compare the sense thus ascertained of the phrase "communion of saints,” and of the chapter under that title in the Westminster confession of faith, with the views of church-communion which are known to have prevailed at and about the time when it was drawn up. Take such facts as the following.
There had been previously published, by the joint authority of the French and Dutch churches, a harmony of the Reformed confessions, digested under distinct heads: So that whatever is contained in the several confessions on any one subject was gathered into one chapter of the “harmony." And it was compiled for the very end of showing to the world the concord of Protestants, not excepting the Lutherans, in all matters which ought to form the bond of union and communion; and thus to repel the reproach of the Pa
things, as was most meet. But among them there is another reference to quotations under letter (c); which are alleged to prove that saints, are obliged to the performance of such duties, publick and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man." One of them is 1 Thess. v. ii. " Wherefore comfort your. selves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” There is not a syllable about temporal things in the whole chapter : and surely no one will be so gross as to maintain that the mutual edification of believers is to be limited to their communion in temporal things to what has been called by an expression facetiously severe." nion in beef and cabbage."
pists, that they were separated from each other as much as from Rome. The preface concludes with the following apostrophe.
“ Ye, therefore, most gracious Kings, Dukes, Earls, Marquises, most famous Barons and noble Lords; ye cities and commonwealths; ye most wise Pastors, Doctors, and to be short, all Christian People professing the truth of the Gospel, be present in souls and bodies, suffer not the poison of discord to spread any farther : but kill this hurtful serpent; and receive with a Christian mind, as is meet, and as is offered unto you, this most sure token and earnest of the everlasting friendship of the French and Belgian churches with you,
offered to you in the face of the whole world; that we, being by a friendly league coupled together in Christ, may vanquish all Antichrists, and may sing that Hymn to the Lord our God, Behold! how good and joyful a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
This book was translated into English and published in London, 1643, during the sitting of the Westminster Assembly; and not only so, but " allowed by publique authoritie.” This publique authoritie,” without which no book might be printed, was lodged, by parliament, in June, 1643, for the department of Theology, in the hands of twelve divines, seven of whom were mem
bers of the Assembly.* Now it is hardly possible. that such a committee should have licensed a book containing any thing materially at variance with an important Christian doctrine as received by themselves, when they formed part of a body of men who were about to assert that very doctrine as so received ; and concerning which there does not appear to have been any difference
The Assembly itself addressed an official letter, of November 30th, 1643, “ To the BELGICK, FRENCH, HELVETIAN, and other Reformed churches ;" whom they style “Right Reverend and dearly beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 6 The inscription was,
66 To the Reverend and learned pastors and elders of the classes and churches of ZEALAND, our much honoured brethren." This letter was subscribed not only by the Prolocutor, Assessors, and Scribes of the Assembly, but by all the commissioners from the church of Scotland; among
whom were the ever famous and venerable SAMUEL RUTHERFORD, and GEORGE GILLESPIE. The letter is full of affection, and evinces peculiar anxiety for the good opinion, sympathy, and prayers of those churches. It states, in so many words, that the object of the
NEAL, Vol. II. p. 33. compared with p. 38~~41.
Assembly was “to commend such a platform to our Zerubbabels” (the political governours) may be most agreeable to God's sacred word, NEAREST IN CONFORMITY TO THE BEST REFORMED CHURCHES, and to establish unity among our
It is worthy of remark, that this letter, in its general address, specifies the Belgick, French, and Helvetian churches. Now these are the very churches which signalized themselves on the side of Catholick communion. The efforts of the French church were formerly noticed-the dispositions of the Belgick church in unison with the French were sufficiently manifested by the preface to the “Harmony” just quoted: And the Helvetick church had declared she should be guilty of a NEFARIOUS SCHISM, should she withdraw from communion with other churches of the Reformation. Yet these are the very churches to which the Westminster Assembly wished most nearly to conform the church in England: and in that wish they were one with the Scottish Commissioners. What shall we say to such a fact? Shall we say that the churches of England and Scotland, through the medium of their representatives at Westminster, tripled with the foreign
* NEAL, Vol. II. p. 62. 65.
churches ! 'That they would not hold communion with those to whom they aimed at the “NEAREST' conformity?” That they approached these churches with a lie in their mouth ? and were guilty of such cursed hypocrisy, as to hail them as their “ dearly beloved—their much honoured brethren, in our Lord Jesus Christ,” while at the very same moment they did not account their ministers to be worthy of appearing in their pulpits, nor their people of a seat with themselves at the table of the Lord ? If not: if we recoil with horrour from such an imputation, the alternative is clear; they embraced, and were ready to exemplify, equally with the Dutch, French, and Swiss churches, the most liberal doctrine of communion with all, of every name, “who held the HEAD."
That such was then the true state of principle on the subject of communion—That it was so intended to be expressed, and was so understood when expressed, in the consession—that like the LUTHERS, and Calvins, the MELANCTHONS, and BUcERs, and MARTYRS; like the Dutch, French, and Swiss churches, the Westminster Assembly, and the evangelical interest generally, was desirous of bottoming the communion of the church upon
the broad foundation of the common faith, without regard to minor differences, is one of the most incontestible facts in ecclesiastical story.