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it might become one great comprehenfive fociety continually increasing in numbers and in strength; a firm, compact, indiffoluble body, fo fitly joined together, and connected by the harmony of its component parts, as thereby to be beft calculated to produce glory to GOD, and love among men.
"The church (fays Bishop GROVE, in his discourse. on Church Communion) is a body of men, feparated from the reft of the world, or called out of the world, as the word exaλɛw, to call out, from whence Ecclefia is derived, fignifies) united to GOD and themfelves by a divine covenant. The church is united to Gop, for it is a religious fociety inftituted for the worship of GOD; and they are united among them. felves, and to each other, because it is but one body, which requires an union of all its parts. This union with Gop, and to each other, which conftitutes a church, is made by divine covenant. For the Chriftian church is nothing else but fuch a fociety of men, as is in covenant with GOD through CHRIST." Now as no covenant can originally be made for Gov, but by God himself; it hence follows, that God only can make or conftitute a church.
From this description of the church, as the body of CHRIST, the term fchifm, in its application to it,
denotes a division among the members of which that body is compofed; occafioned by a want of obedience to the government which CHRIST, by his Apoftles, fettled in the church; and a confequent feparation from its communion, in contradiction to the divine plan of its establishment; the defign of which was, that all Christians fhould be joined together in the fame mind, and in the fame worship; "continuing," according to the primitive pattern, " in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Acts ii. 42.
Such is the nature and quality of schism; which fin confists in its being a direct violation of the order and government established in the church, thereby conftituting a fpecies of rebellion against its Divine Founder.
Indeed as the word church, through the modern confufion of language, is understood to be applicable to all focieties of profeffing Chriftians, by what authority and under what teachers foever they may be affembled, there can be no fuch fin as that of fchifm in the world. For the fin of fchifm pre-supposes the establishment of a certain fociety by Divine authority, with which all Chriftians are obliged to communicate. Now if the church, instead of being a fociety efta
blished under a particular government, for the purpofe. of Chriftians living in communion with it, is any thing, and every thing that men please to make it, a feparation from it becomes impracticable; because a fociety must have acquired fome regular and collected form, before a feparation from it can take place. But upon the fuppofition that every fociety of profeffing Chriftians is the church of CHRIST; the church, in that cafe, confists of as many separate societies under differrent forms, as there are fanciful men to make them; and, confequently, is no longer in that collected state, in which it is poffible to live in communion with it. For before the members of the church can live in communion with each other, the church, as a fociety, must be at unity in itself.
To determine upon the legality or illegality of a practice, from man's opinion concerning it, is to fet up a ftandard of judgment which is perpetually varying, and on that account ever liable to deceive. Christians, in religious matters at least, have a more fure word than that of man to depend upon; if they are wife, therefore, they will not fuffer themselves to be governed by a leffer authority, when they have a greater at hand always to direct them. Custom has, indeed, fo far reconciled us to the divifions that have
taken place among Christians, that they are no longer seen in the light in which they were seen in the primitive days of the church; whilft charity, forbidding us to speak harshly of the spiritual condition of our brethren, has in a manner tended to efface the fin of fchifm from our minds. But though we prefume to judge no man, leaving all judgment to that Being who 'is alone qualified to make allowance for the ignorance, invincible prejudice, imperfect reafonings, and miftaken judgments of his frail creatures; yet muft it not from hence be concluded, that it is a matter of indifference, whether Chriftians communicate with the church or not; or that there is a doubt upon the subject of schism, whether it be a fin or not.
"There is one plain rule to direct all men in this enquiry; that wherever there is a church established by public authority, if there be nothing finful in its constitution and worship, we are bound to communicate with that church, and to reject the communion of all other parties and fects of Chriftians. For the advantage always lies on the fide of authority. No publick establishment can justify finful communion; but if there be nothing finful in the communion of the national church, which is eftablished by publick authority, to feparate from fuch a church, is both difo
bedience to the fupreme authority in the state, and a fchifm from the church." "Now (proceeds the Bishop, in another part of his discourse) if fchifm be an innocent thing, and the true Catholic fpirit, (as from the present too prevailing practice among Christians we might be induced to think it was) I have no more to fay, but that the whole Chriftian church, ever fince the Apostles' times, has been in a But if fchifm be a very great very great mistake. fin, and that which will, according to the judgment of the primitive church, damn us as foon as adultery and murder, then it must be a dangerous thing to communicate with fchifmatics."*.
Indeed, with refpect to the reality and heinous quality of this fin of fchifm, it scarcely feems poffible for Christians, who enter fufficiently deep into the fubject, to entertain two opinions.
Looking into the writings of St. PAUL, I fee fchifm. fpoken of as a carnal fin; and that this fin confifts. in a feparation from the communion, and a fetting up of teachers independent of the government, and deftructive of the unity of the Christian church. A fin, which, befides its being the parent of confufion
*Difcourfe of Church Communion, by Bishop GROVE. See London Cafes, No. 1.