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sible; by sowing the seeds of division where only those of love and harmony were designed to grow.
Herein, then, consists the nature of schism; and such is the origin of it: it proceeds, for the most part, from that fpirit of pride and independence, which cast the devil out of heaven; and which, it is to be feared, will disqualify many for admission into that blessed place. And the heinousness of the sin consists in this, that it is not only a fystem of opposition to the Divine will, but that, so far as it prevails, it counteracts the gracious purpose which Christ had in view in the establishment of his church; by dividing and separating those members, which it was his design to unite by an harmonious interchange of service and fellowship.
Wherever, then, there is a wilful separation from the communion of the church of Christ, there, according to the original idea upon this subject, a division of Christ's mystical body takes place; and there this fin of schism is to be found.
Such, then, being the nature and consequences of schism, we cannot be surprised at finding the Apostles and primitive writers making use of such strong language, whenever it became the subject of consideration; with the view of guarding their disciples against what appeared to them, and what, it should be supposed, must appear to every one who duly considers the nature of Christ's church, to be a fin of the most dangerous kind; because, to omit lefser considerations, it is a fin, whereby a man cuts himself off from the means of grace, and exposeth himself to the danger of denying the faith. A learned divine* of the last century, who lived to see the effects of this fin fully exemplified in the complete destruction of his own church and country, after having collected the numberless striking passages from the writings of the ancient fathers relative to this fubject, thus concludes upon
it: “ It is but a small part (fays he) of the character of schism, that it is contrary to faith, contrary to charity, and to all the advantages which belong to a member of the church-the benefits of prayer and facraments; that it is as bad as heresy, and that there never was any heresy, in the church which was not founded in it; and that it is constantly forced, in its own defence, to conclude in some hetesy or other: each of these particulars, and all of them taken together, are but a small part of the character which the ancient fathers of the church give us of the fin of schism.”
It would draw out this discourse into an inconvenient length, were I to bring forward one-tenth part of what has been written upon this subject, by those who saw it in the same light in which it was seen by the learned divine just mentioned. One ad ditional quotation from Archbishop SHARP hall, therefore, suffice for our present purpose.
“ If human conjectures (says the Archbishop) about the reasons and causes of Divine judgments may be allowed, it will appear from history and experience, that there has been as much war and blood-lhed caused in the world, as many nations de solated, as many churches ruined, by the malignity and evil influence of this sin of schism, as any other. And if ever God in judgment shall think fit to give over this flourishing church of ours as a prey to its enemies, we shall have good reason to believe, that the unnecessary divisions and quarrels among ourselves had a great hand in bringing on the judgment.”
It must seem strange to a modern Christian, that a sin, of which the world now appears to know nothing, should be thus described. He will be apt to conclude, either that the church of the present day must be a very different society from what it once was, or that the old writers upon this subject were wonderfully mistaken in their opinion. But if he be a wise man, he will consider, that should what has been said upon this subject be true, his past ignorance upon it cannot possibly make it otherwise. He will consequently think it to be his duty to bring the matter to a fair examination, and suffer his judgment to be determined by the evidence.
“ The sum of all (to make use of the words of Bishop Grove) is in short this. Besides these men who justify their separation from the Church of England by charging her with requiring sinful terms of communion, (which is the only thing that can justify their separation, if it could be proved;) there are others who separate lightly and wantonly, for want of a due sense of the nature of church communion, and our obligations to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. They have no notion at all of a church, or no notion of one church, or know not wherein the unity and communion of this church consists: and these men think it is indifferent, whether they communicate with any church at all; or that they secure themselves from schism, by commu. nicating fometimes with one church, and sometimes with another; that they may choose their church according to their own fancies, and change them
again whenever their humour alters. But I hope, whoever considers carefully what I have now writ, and attends to those passionate exhortations of the Gospel to peace, and unity, and brotherly love, which cannot be preserved but in one communion, which is the unity of the body of Christ, and the peace and love of fellow-members; will not only heartily pray to the God of Peace, to restore peace and unity to his church, but be careful how he divides the church himself; and will use his utmost endeavours to heal the present schisms and divisions of the church of CHRIST."*
* Should my reader wish to see the subject of Church Coma munion more fully handled, he will not fail to meet with complete satisfaction, by reference to a discourse, entitled “ A Perfuasive to Communion with the Church of England," by Dr. Grove, bishop of Chichester, to be met with among the “ London Cases.” And should he be desirous of having the ground on which the two preceding chapters ftand, more firmly established, (should such additional establishment be judged necessary) I can refer him to no publication, in which he will find more information on church matters brought into a smaller compass, than: in “ LESLEY's Discourse concerning the Qualifications requisite ta adminifter the Sacraments:" the fupplement to which presents him with a funimary detail of authorities for Episcopacy, taken out of the Fathers and Councils in the first four hundred and fifty years after CHRIST: a detail, which appears to leave now thing undone, that human evidence is capable of doing, for the Satisfaction of every intelligent reader on this subject,