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members ?" No such thing. Yet we, directly in the face of apostolick principle and precedent, we seize upon an ungracious term; we apply it without ceremony to the churches around; and then shelter our sects and our schisms under the
, that the Lord Jesus has commanded his people to break up his church into shreds and fragments; and to have no communion with each other; upon the pretext, alike convenient for them all, that they “walk disorderly!"
But have we well considered what we are doing when we brand a Christian or a Christian church as disorderly? Have we weighed the sense, have we measured the opprobrium, of that epithet? Have we remembered that as used by the apostle it marks a character utterly inconsistent with the power of true religion? a character which dishonours the name of the Lord Jesus? And are we prepared to judge thus of all the Christians and churches whose communion we shun?
Unveil thy face, O Truth, lift up thy voice, and shake thy hand! Not the law of God-not scriptural interpretation—not the spirit of brotherly-kindness—but Ignorance, but Jealousy, but Vanity, but Passion, but Pride, occupy the seat of Judgment, and fulminate the charge, “ Disorderly," against individuals and churches
in whom the “ Refiner's fire” may find less dross to “purge away” than in their self-pleased ac cusers. Here is the mischief. Every one accounts that to be order which he has himself been accustomed to practise: and whoever does not move precisely in his track, “walks disorderly."
The question concerning a church, in order to communion, ought to be,“ What is her substantial character ? Has she the truth, the ordinances, the Spirit, of Christ ? Does she own“ the Head,” and the Head own her? Then whatever be her failings, I too will own her. I shall condemn them, lament them, pray over them, and bear with them. I will not quarrel with her about forms, about ceremonies, about any of those points in which our disagreement does not prevent us from being one in our Lord Jesus Christ. For the sake of that transcendant common interest I will walk with her in love and fellowship.” And thus it was once. But all is re
The question is no longer about substance, but about accident-not about those vital principles and virtues which constitute the solid glory of a church, and are the seal of God's own Spirit; but about imperfections which yet do neither destroy their being, nor hinder their predominance: and especially about those things in which
she differs from our own peculiarities. Here is the huge stumbling-block-the inexpiable transgression. One of our churches breaks her sacramental bread in company with a sister-church, where the “Spirit of grace" sheds down his holiest influence where the gospel “has a free course and is glorified”—where the “image of the FIRST-BORN," throws its radiance around; and love of the brethren" flows from heart to heart till the swelling tide burst forth in streams of hallowed transport; and the scene compels that reverential testimony, “How venerable is this place! Surely this is none other than the house of God! and this is the gate of Heaven!” 66 But with whom has she taken this sweet counsel.' Do they follow us ?” “Alas, no! they only follow Christ!” The charm is dissolved They are a "disorderly” church: Their communion is foul! O my soul, how shall these things appear when GOD arises to judgment ?
IV. It is contended, that free communion" by giving publick countenance to churches erroneous or corrupt, destroys the force, or at least shackles the freedom of a faithful testimony for Christ and his truth."
If that publick countenance which is given to a church by communion with her, were of course ma publick countenance to her errours or corruptions, the objection would be unanswerable. For it would be with the worst imaginable grace that a man could remonstrate against sins which he openly encourages by his own example. But such is not the fact, as was largely proved in the preceding article. And it is surprising that they who make the objection do not perceive that, like the former, it strikes, with double force, at communion with our own church so long as an errour or corruption adheres to her. For if occasional and partial fellowship with a church is to shut the mouth, or diminish the boldness, of our testimony against her faults ; much more will that be the effect of a fellowship complete and permanent. And so in its zeal for pure communion, this objection would banish all communion from the face of the earth!
But that the reply may be more direct and ample, let us strip the objection of its form and examine its substance-its principle. This manifestly is, that friendship and intimacy are incompatible with proper admonition! What say Nature and Experience? Who may, ,
with the least hazard of displeasing, take the greatest liberty of expostulation and rebuke ? One who treats me coldly, who avoids my company, and spurns an invitation to a meal in my house ? or one who is kind, sociable, affectionate in his intercourse with me? There can be but one answer; and that answer is in every man's bosom. If you hope that I shall profit by your reproofs, you must convince me of your
love. I will listen with candour and submission to a friend who avails himself of his known regard for me to tell me my faults frankly, yet tenderly, with an evident concern for my improvement: while resentment, resistance, and recrimination will probably reward the officiousness which has no claim to such a freedom, and delights to mortify if not to expose me. It is human nature, in the child and in the man in the individual and in society: and all human experience attests it.
Nothing, therefore, could be more unfortunate than this objection. The very contrary is the truth. They who respect a church; who honour in her the ordinances of Jesus Christ, get an access to her confidence which will be denied to others. They acquire, by their affection, a right which she will concede, to point out wherein she "walks not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel :” and they are likely, in this way all, to be instrumental in doing her good. ACknowledge, commend, rejoice in, her excellencies; and you may speak to her freely, perhaps effectually, of her deficiencies.*
* This is after the example of Christ himself. Rev. ii. 12--17.