« 上一頁繼續 »
“ That it not only diminishes the value, but supersedes the necessity, and impeaches the propriety, of all that service which, in every age, the churches of God have rendered to pure and undefiled religion,' by their judicial confessions of faith
“That as communion presupposes and is founded upon union, it is a contradiction to hold communion with churches with which we are not united; and, therefore, that all such communion is inconsistent with distinct ecclesiastical organization
“ That whatever may have been the practice of primitive times, the state of the church is so greatly altered as to make the imitation of them inexpedient, if not impracticable, now
“ That whereas the sentiments and examples of holy men and evangelical churches, in later days, may seem to thwart the strain of these objections, and to throw their advocates into the dilemma of either aspersing those whom they profess to venerate, or convicting themselves of schism, all such sentiments and examples were adapted to extraordinary circumstances, and are inapplicable to any regular settled state—and
“. That all Christians, being one in spirit, the best ends of their communion may be answered, in their present state of separation, without the evils incident to its publick extension.”
If there are other objections affecting the general question, they have not come to the authour's knowledge, nor occurred to his reflexions. But if these, or any considerable part of them, are well founded, there can be no doubt that his whole preceding argument is overthrown-that his doctrine labours under some radical fallacyand that the practice which has grown out of it at New-York and elsewhere, has given just offence, and merits severe reprehension.
Yet plausible as they are, and solid as they appear to many honest and respectable men, it may be allowed, without the imputation of arrogance, to try their soundness: and, long as they have had possession of the popular ear, to shew that in this, as in other instances, the popular favour has been unwisely bestowed.
Considering the very great difficulties with which they would press us, it is surprising that not one of them is so much as noticed in the word of God! If the communion of his church is to be so circumscribed, not to say fastidious--If the religious intercourse of his own people with each other is so materially influenced by variance in things which may confessedly stand with the substance of his truth and the power of his grace-if Christians of different name, by meeting at the table of their Redeemer, break down the hedges which he has set about his vineyard; make themselves reciprocally chargeable with whatever errour or sin may be found in their respective denominations; and instead of building up, destroy his kingdom-it is “passing strange" that neither their master nor his apostles should have cautioned them against the peril! Nay, that the language of his word when treating of this very subject; and especially when rectifying abuses and settling controversies, should be absolutely silent on the topics of objection; and rather calculated to lead Christians into mis. take! For it cannot be denied, that while their union, love and fellowship, as members of His body, are inculcated with deep solemnity and enforced by awful motives, those impediments to communion, so formidable in our eyes, have not even a place among the inspired discussions! Did not the Lord Jesus foresee them? Were not human infirmities and passions and sins the same in the days of Paul as they have been ever since? Do not the writings of this wondrous man, and the apostolick history by Luke, record facts which modern opinion and practice—the opinion and practice of many among ourselves—the spirit of the foregoing objections, would consider as not only warranting, but demanding, separate connexions, and interdicting communion between
their members? And yet did either Paul or the other apostles advise or countenance any such measure ? On the contrary, while we seem to dread communion between all those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus," as dangerous to the purity of his church and the answer of a good conscience, did they not seem to dread the disruption of it as inconsistent with her unity, as unfriendly to her peace, and scandalous to her name? And this, notwithstanding objections which, upon the principles of the objectors, were as obvious then as they can be now? Whence this prodigious difference between their views and ours ? Did they not understand the interest of the church? Did they not regard it? Did they leave to the wisdom of these latter days a remedy for evils against which their master made no provision ? and commit to our hands the finishing of His imperfect work? Or in very deed are the objections faulty and false? This is more probable. Let us, then, weigh them in the balances, and see if we can discover wherein they are wanting.
The scope of this treatise being to shew that we are bound to fellowship with those whose
fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ,"'*
* 1. John 1.3,
- I. The first objection is for making short work with the whole matter, by granting the premises and denying the conclusion-maintaining that “God may and does hold communion with those with whom we may not :” and, therefore, that the whole superstructure of church-communion, built upon the foundation of communion with him, falls to the ground.
Such an objection is of strange hearing in Christian ears which have been unaccustomed to it; and may be treated as a phantom which has been raised for the pleasure of laying it again. But it is no phantom-It has a real existence, and a strong power over men respectable for their understanding, amiable for their benevolence, and venerable for their piety. It was urged upon the authour many years ago, by an excellent Anti-Burgher minister,* remarkable for the cheerfulness of his temper and the catholicism of his feelings. The conversation turned upon the separation of the Burgher and Anti-Burgher churches. “Do you not account the Burgher churches to be true churches of Jesus Christ?" "I do. “Do you not believe that the gospel of Christ is purely preached there, his ordinances scripturally administered, his people edified, and his presence enjoyed ???
* The late Reverend Mr. ALICE, of Paisley: