« السابقةمتابعة »
the end of its establishment, that they are thus induced to act in contradiction to it.
It is a prevailing notion of modern times, that where the Gospel of CHRIST is preached, there the church of CHRIST is afsembled.
This' notion, from its plausibility, has with many gained a degree of credit, to which, upon examination, it will not be found entitled. In some sense, indeed, every private Christian family, assembled for the purpose of religious worship, may be considered as a church of Christ; but when we speak of the church as a public body, under the direction of its appointed ministers, this mode of expression is certainly not to be admitted. As the church does not make the doctrine, so neither does the doctrine make the church. These two ideas, though designed to be infeparably connected, have nevertheless each a distinct and
appropriate meaning. The church is the candlestick; the doctrine the light set upon it, for the purpofe of illuminating the place where it is fixed. The candlestick without the light is an useless piece of furniture. On the other hand, the light without the candlestick to hold it is in continual danger of being thrown down and extinguished.
In the book called the Revelation of St. John, the explanation of the first vision given by the angel was, that the seven candlesticks signified the seven churches of Asia; and the seven stars, which he held in his right-hand, the seven angels (or bishops) of those seven churches. Our SAVIOUR, in allusion to his Gospel, is emblematically stiled “ the day-star from on high;” “the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John the Baptist is called “ a burning and a shining light;" and his Apostles, “ the light of the world.” In conformity with this idea of giving light to a world in darkness, the angel, in the vision above-mentioned, calls the bishops of the churches stars, in allusion to their office, which was to spread the light of Gospel truth through their respective dioceses.
The threat, in the course of this vision, pronounced against the church of Ephesus, was, that if she did not repent, and do her first works, her candlestick should be removed, i. e: her ministry should be taken away, and she should be no longer an Apostolic church. A threat which has been since carried into complete execution, in the case of all the churches above-mentioned.
From hence we see, that the church, as it was established, that it might be (what the Apostle calls it) “ the ground and pillar of the truth,” so it is preserved in the world for the sake of the truth. When that truth is turned into a lie; in other words, when the doctrine of the church becomes fo corrupt, as no longer to promote the end for which the church was originally established; the candlestick, we have to expect, will be removed; the ecclesiastical edifice, originally built upon the Apostles, will be taken down; and men left in that state of darkness, in which the experience of the world tells us they must live, when the light which shineth from on high is withdrawn.
From the position here advanced then, upon the authority of the Apostle, that the church is preserved in the world for the sake of the truth contained in it; the inference is, that the truth, abstractedly confidered, does not constitute the church; for, upon that supposition, the establishment of the church, as its guardian and preservative, had been unnecessary. The circumstance of their having been joined together by God leads us to conclude, that the church and the truth cannot long exist in a perfect state, independent of each other; and the experiment of separating them has never been attempted by man,
without the evil consequences attendant upon it hava ing been manifested in a greater or less degrees
But allowing that the Gospel may be preached out of the church, and it is not faid that the removal of the light from the candlestick is always immediately followed by its extinction, still the members of the church ought not to go out of the church after it; for this appears to be doing evil that good may come of it, by making an obedience to God's ordinance give way to a supposed spiritual advantage.
It will be urged, perhaps, that, in a matter of that essential concern as the salvation of a soul, all attention to the nature of the Christian church will be swallowed up in the grand consideration of following the sound of the Gospel, wherever it is to be heard.
* " In all the annals of the church, whether under the Law or the Gospel, there is not one instance of a schism against the priesthood which God had appointed, but great errors in doctrine and worship did follow it. Thus the priesthood which Micah set up of his own head, and that which JEROBOAM set up in opposition to that of AARON, both ended in idolatry. Thus the Novatians and Donatifts, who made schisms against their bishops, fell into grievous errors, though they did not renounce the faith.
“ What hydra heresies, and monstrous sects, fifty or fixty at one time, flowed like a torrent into England, in the times of forty-one, after episcopacy was thrown down.
“ So evident is that saying, that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, that we can hardly find any error which has come into the church, but upon an infraction made upon the episcopal authority.". LESLEY.
Had man been left fo judge absolutely for himself in this business, it might have been difficult to have found an answer to the foregoing position; but God having judged for him, the most certain provision for man's salvation will doubtless be found in the use of the means appointed by God for that purpose; and these are to be had in the church.
It is not, therefore, a consideration of so little importance 'as fome men imagine, by whose ministry our prayers are offered up to God, or through whose hands Divine ordinances are received: for we are assured, the blessings and graces which Christianity teaches us to expect from these ordinances, can ordinarily be derived from them, only when administered according to CHRIST's institution, by persons regularly called, as he has directed. Where such may be had, and we may lạwfully join with them, and use their ministry; to separate from them, is to rebel against the authority of Christ, who appointed them.
But it is alleged by those who occasionally separate from our church, that the clergy of it possess neither that zeal nor knowledge, which ought to characterize their profesion; that their preaching is