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On the Reasons generally advanced to justify a Separation from the Church;-and first, on the supposed Spiritual Qualification of the Party undertaking the Office of the Ministry.
HAVING difpatched the two leading parts of
our fubject, which respect the constitution of the church, confidered as the body of CHRIST, and the nature of fchifm or wilful feparation from it; we proceed to confider the reasons generally advanced to justify that feparation. For at the fame time that men scruple not to commit the fin, they feel unwilling to acknowledge themselves finners; and are therefore industrious in finding out pleas, of one kind or another, which may tend, if not to do away, at least to make the fin fit eafy upon their minds. Hence it is, that, in the prefent day, we have fo many definitions of fchifm, differing more or less from the fense originally and properly annexed
to that word, through which the definers for the most part impose on themselves and others; excluding themselves by the fallacy of words, from the apparent commiffion of that fin, which at the fame time actually attaches to their case.
The first and most general plea advanced upon this occafion refpects the holiness, or spiritual qualification, of the party who undertakes the office of the ministry. This is neither more nor less than the plea of KORAH revived. The popular argument in the mouth of KORAH was, that "AARON took too much upon himself; seeing that all the congregation was holy:" the inference from which feems to be, that the people had no need of the miniftration of AARON, but could minister unto themselves. Upon this plea, the offspring of fpiritual pride, KORAH and his company gathered themselves together against MOSES and AARON; and the fixteenth chapter of the book of Numbers has recorded the fatal event that terminated the conteft.
But had we no leffon of experience upon this head to draw from the Jewish hiftory, that of our own has taught us to view this plea with a very fufpicious eye; because it has been ministerial to the greatest calamities. We remember, that it was in the reign
of the Saints, as they were then called, the invaders of the priesthood in those days of confufion, that the Constitution of this country was completely overturned in the last century; when preaching, and fafting, and praying, were made ufe of as convenient cloaks for rebellion, facrilege, and murder. We are therefore afraid, when we hear talk of gifted men, left an increase of their number fhould lead to a repetition of the fame difmal scenes.
But granting that the boliness of the party, on whose account many feel themselves juftified in feparating from the church, was really fuch as they think it to be; it does not authorise the poffeffor of it to take upon himself an office to which he has not been regularly appointed.
Our SAVIOUR, it will be allowed, poffeffed holiness in a fuperlative degree; for " to him,” we read, the Spirit was not given by measure." JOHN iii. 34. But our SAVIOUR "glorified not himself to be made an high-prieft;" but He that faid unto him "Thou art my fon." Heb. v. "This honour (fays the Apostle) no man taketh unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was AARON." Now AARON was called by an outward call from GOD, communicated to him through the medium of Moses; from
whom, as God's prime minister, he received a formal appointment to his high office before all the people. EXOD. xxviii. And from the circumftance of our bleffed SAVIOUR delivering the commiffion for collecting and governing his church, not to his disciples at large, but to his eleven Apostles, purposely convened by him on the occafion, (as we read, MATT. xxviii. 16;) the conclufion may be drawn, that it was the defign of the Divine Founder of the church, that the facred office of ministering in it fhould be fubject to that control and direction, which was beft calculated to give effect to his Divine inftitution. Upon this idea have the governors of the church uniformly proceeded, in the discharge of that commiffion, from the days of the Apostles down to the present time.
Thus ftands the fact; a fact not to be controverted; and reafon teaches us, that the wisdom of God has been manifefted upon this occafion.
The church, as it has already been obferved, is a fociety; and every fociety is distinguished from the general mafs of the community by its order and government. To the establishment of order and government, a regular appointment of chofen men to the administration of particular offices is effential