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to what has been said in a former discourse upon the advantages attendant upon communion with our church; the forms of which are neither so multiplied as to engrofs the attention, nor yet so insignificant as not to convey a sufficiently instructive meaning to the mind, of the worshipper. Indeed, if any church has been so judicious, as to keep the golden mean between loading the service of God with external forms on the one hand, and stripping it so bare on the other, as not to leave sufficient for the purposes of bodily worship and mental contemplation, the Church of England may justly lay claim to this distinction. And he who persuades himself that religion is to be preserved in the world without forms, makes himself wiser than God; at the same time that he manifests his ignorance of the nature and character
The general view of the subject, which has been here laid before the reader, is designed to lead him to the consideration of his own particular case.
The established church of this kingdom is a branch of the church of CHRIST. The congregation to which fôme Christians are joined, is a manifest feparation from it. The teachers to whose care they have committed themselves, own no relation to that spiri
tual society, to which all Christians ought to be united. To make use, then, of the language of the primitive church, here is altar set up against altar, and pastor against pastor. From whence it follows, that if there ever were such a sin as that of schism, in any age of the Christian church, it is now to be found among us. It behoves those, therefore, whom it may concern, to take this subject into serious consideration. Should our church require any terms of communion with which they are persuaded they ought not to comply, so long as that persuasion lasts, their separa, tion from the church ought to continue. But it must be remembered at the same time, that their persuasion in this case will be their justification in the fight of God, in proportion only as it has been built upon rational and conscientious conviction. Should it have been taken up with passion or prejudice, or adopted without examination; and should any means of information have been neglected, which might have been made use of for the direction of their judgment, their error in this case will be their sin, because it has been derived from their neglect; and their consequent separation from the church will be also a fin; for one sin will not be permitted to be pleaded in excuse for another
Let me intreat such Christians, then, to examine fairly the ground upon which their separation stands. Let the objections which they have to communion with our church be brought to a fair trial; laying aside every prejudice, not being too wise in their own conceits, but advising with those who are better qualified to judge than themselves, and from whom they have a right to expect light and direction: remembering, that the Christian ministry was instituted for the very purpose of preventing Christians “ being carried to and fro with every wind of doctrine, by the fleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; and that professing the faith in the unity of the spirit, and in the bond of peace, they might be edified in truth and love."
Having thus brought to recollection the principal design of the foregoing Discourses; which was to furnish that uniform and consistent notion of the nature, design, and constitution of the Christian church, which might qualify the reader to judge of the consequences attendant upon a wilful separation from it, I hasten to a conclufion; craving time only to press that part of the subject upon his mind, which it was one object of the establifhment of Christ's church upon earth to promote; namely, that whilst men with one mind and one mouth glorified God, their communication with each other in the same acts of religious worship, might form a bond of Christian fellowship, effectual for the security of peace and good-will among themselves.
It was a remark long since made by a learned writer, that the same fate (if the expression may be admitted) has attended the Christian, which of old attended the Jewish, religion. The great commandment, which constituted the foundation and principal characteristic of the Jewish religion was, that the Ifraelites should worship the LORD their God, and that to Him only their service should be dedicated. But, alas! this was the commandment which they were most disposed to break; idolatry being that prevailing fin of the Jewish people, to reclaim them from which all the methods of Divine Providence proved for a long time ineffectual.
Charity, or a disposition to peace and unity, is the fecond great commandment of the Gospel, and a principal characteristic of the Christian religon. “By this shall all men know," says CHRIST,“ that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” But of all the commandments obligatory upon the Christian professor, this, perhaps, is the one to which leaft attention has been paid. Indeed, through the num
berless divisions which have unhappily taken place among Christians, and that alienation of mind from each other consequent thereupon, it is a command ment which seems almost entirely to have lost its force. Hence it has happened, that Christians, so called, have too frequently borne no resemblance to that amiable character, by which, in conformity with the Gospel standard of perfection, they ought to be distinguished.
The first and great design of Christianity was to reconcile man to God; the fecond, to reconcile men to each other,
If then we are right in our principle, that one object which the Friend of fallen man had in view in the establishment of his church upon earth was, to promote peace and good-will, by engaging the members of it in the uniform and social pursuit of the same interesting concern; we shall not be wrong in our conclusion, that the cause which has produced an effect lo contrary to this beneyolent object, must proceed from the very opposite quarter; and that the grand enemy of man, consequently, is the parent of division. « The greatness of God," as a sound writer* of our church has well expressed himself, « is measured by his goodness; his power is exercised in communicating
* W. JONES