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It remains to trace the consequences of sectarian, as opposed to Catholick, communion.
These may be viewed in relation to ourselves -to the church of God at large--and to the surrounding world.
1st. The first and most obvious consequence is an utter self-excision or excommunication from all the rest of Christ's church upon earth.
That such is the fact, it would be illuminating the sun to prove. For if there be on earth Christian churches beside our own; and if we will have no communion with them, to what less does our conduct amount than an open renunciation of all visible concern with them in the kingdom of God? If, indeed, we do not hold them to be Christian churches--if we claim the sole
possession of that blessed character; and arrogate to ourselves the exclusive privilege of being the “ General Assembly and Church of the First
* The authour speaks in the person of any sect which is in the habit of confining its fellowship to its own members.
Born,” we may escape from the charge: But if we dare not proceed to such a fearful length, our escape is impossible.
Here then we are, in a state of excommunication: or, if you prefer the term, in a state of non-communion with the church of the living God. Isolated by our own act-under a practical, and in some instances a doctrinal, protest against fellowship with her in ordinances which we enjoy only as a part of the great whole. Yet with the “great whole," we as a part will have no intercourse will have nothing to do. Is fellowship, then, with the acknowledged church of God-fellowship direct and avowed before angels and men, so vile in our eyes? Are we so lost to all sense of the beauty, efficacy, and glory of the “unity of the Spirit,” as to be satisfied with our disunion ? and so infatuated as to imagine that in fostering it we are “doing God service?” Shall a church turn her back upon the whole visible interest of the Lord Jesus in the world, by refusing the “right hand of fellowship” to every portion of it but her own-and thus turn her back upon all the manifestations of his power, grace, love, faithfulness, which he there displays, and still hope for his blessing upon herself? hope for his presence, for his Spirit, for that holy “dew" under which she “shall grow as
the lily, and cast forth her roots as Lebanon; her branches shall spread, and her beauty shall be as the olive tree, and her smell as Lebanon ?" Has she a right in such a temper to hope for such things ? Let the question be answered by them who have life enough left to tremble at that word of the Lord, “Whoso shall offend one of these lit“ tle ones which believe in me, it were better for “him that a mill-stone were hanged about his
neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
2d. Our sectarian communion stamps the brand of inconsistency, and throws an air of insincerity, upon our most solemn professions.
We talk of the Catholick church-of her unity -of her character--of her prerogatives; and yet act as if these were unmeaning terms; and all that we have to say of her, an “idle tale." In words we found our title to our church-privileges in our union with her-in deeds we avoid every publick, social expression of that union, as if it were our dishonour, and might prove to be our ruin. We laud her to the heavens in theory : we call her Christ's spouse and our mother--in practice we shun her embrace, her touch, her atmosphere cane pejus et angue ; as if she were a rabid or venomous animal. There is not a room in God's house, a place in his temple, a province in his kingdom, fit for us to inhabit, or even to visit, but the one in which we have been accustomed to dwell. When we spread our table, we call it the table of the Lord. We invite his friends and prohibit his enemies, according to his own rules. But any who should imagine that we mean nothing more than we say—that our invitation is honestly intended for our master's friends; and, acceding to our own declared conditions, should take us at our word, would grievously mistake. They would find that not one in ten thousand of them that "love the Lord Jesus Christ,” and endeavour to “walk even as he also walked," comes within our scope-that all our descriptions of Christians are only for Christians of our sect. Is this “simplicity and godly sincerity ?" Are unbelieving eyes shut to the contradiction, or believing hearts untouched by the insult? Be fair at least. Come out openly and tell your hearers, that however your language may sound, you mean by the people of God, neither more nor less than the members of your own church! You startle; you recoil; you sicken. Why? Because the injustice is too flagrant, the inconsistency too gross, to bear the light. And shall we pertinaciously do, under cover of a flimsy veil, that which we have not the courage so much as to look at when it stands before us with the veil stripped off?
3d. Upon the individuals of a sect, their restricted communion exerts an unhappy influence, with regard
To their religious intellect-
Upon the religious intellect sectarian feelings and fellowship produce an effect analogous to that of the division of labour upon mechanical ingenuity. By concentrating its operations in a few points, or perhaps in a single one, they render it peculiarly acute and discriminating within those limits, at the expense of enfeebling or destroying its general power. Conversations, are cherished; books read; time expended; faculties employed; not for the purpose of acquiring larger views of the Redeemer's truth, grace, kingdom, and glory: but for the purpose of train. ing more accurate disputants upon the heads of sectarian collision. Here men distinguish themselves; here they shine; here they gratify their vanity, which they often mistake for their conscience: “What difference," exclaimed a zealous member of a nameless judicatory, when he was contending for a 'testimony' over and above the recognised confession of faith, “what difference will there be between you and the General Assembly, if you have not a testimony ?” Such an