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consequently of that fraternal attachment, which our opponents themselves profess to feel.
The Practice of Open Communion argued, from the
express Injunction of Scripture respecting the Conduct to be maintained by sincere Christians who differ in their Religious Sentiments.
We are expressly commanded in the Scriptures to tolerate in the church those diversities of opinion which are not inconsistent with salvation. We learn from the New Testament that a diversity of views subsisted in the times of the apostles, betwixt the Jewish and Gentile converts especially, the former retaining an attachment to the ancient law, and conceiving the most essential parts of it to be still in force; the latter, from correcter views, rejecting it altogether. Some declined the use of certain kinds of meat forbidden by Moses, which others partook of without scruple: “one man esteemed one day above another,” conscientiously observing the principal Jewish solemnities; “ another esteemed every day alike.” Among the Jewish converts, very different sentiments were entertained on the subject of circumcision, which all appear to have observed, though upon different principles; the more enlightened, like St. Paul, from a solicitude to avoid unnecessary offence; the more superstitious, from persuasion of its intrinsic obligation ; and some because they believed it impossible to be saved without it; by which they endangered, to say the least, the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith. Against the sentiment last mentioned, we find St. Paul protesting with vehemence, and affirming with all the authority of his office, that “if any man was circumcised” with such views, Christ “profited him nothing;” but on no occasion proceeding to excommunication. The contention arising from the discussion of these points became so violent, that there appeared no method of terminating it, but to depute Paul and Barnabas to go up to Jerusalem, to consult the apostles, who, being solemnly convened on the occasion, issued the famous decree contained in the fifteenth of the Acts, by which the liberty of the gospel was confirmed, and the domineering spirit of Jewish zealots repressed. Though the success of this measure was great, it was not complete; a contrariety of opinion and of practice prevailed in the church respecting Jewish ceremonies and observances, which considerably impaired its harmony. But instead of attempting to silence the remaining differences, by interposing his authority, St. Paul enjoins mutual toleration. “ Him that is weak in faith receive ye, not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things ; another who is weak eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise
him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not, judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? unto his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up; for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."*
To the same purpose are the following injunctions in the next chapter :-“We then that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Now the God of peace and consolation grant you to be like-minded one towards another, according to Jesus Christ, that ye may with one mind, and with one mouth, glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” It cannot be denied that the passages we have adduced contain an apostolic canon for the regulation of the conduct of such christians as agree in fundamentals, while they differ on points of subordinate importance : by this canon they are commanded to exercise a reciprocal toleration and indulgence, and on no account to proceed to an open rupture. In order to apply it to the question under consideration, it is only necessary to consider to what description of persons the rule extends. The persons we are commanded to receive are the weak in faith. From the context, * Rom. xiv. 1--5.
* Rom. xv. 1, 6, 7.
as well as from other parts of his epistles, it is certain that St. Paul means to designate by that appellation, sincere though erring christians; and in the instance then under contemplation, persons whose organs were not yet attempered to the blaze of gospel light and liberty, but who still clung to certain legal usages and distinctions, which more comprehensive views of revelation would have taught them to discard. The term weak is employed by the same writer in his epistle to the Corinthians, to denote an erroneous conscience, founded on a false persuasion of a certain power and efficacy attached to idols, of which they are really destitute.
“ For himself,” he tells us, “he knew that an idol was nothing, but every one was not possessed of that knowledge; for some with conscience of the idol, with an interior conviction of its power, eat of the sacrifice, as a thing offered to an idol, and their conscience being weak, is defiled.” In the chapter whence these words are quoted, the term weak occurs not less than five times, and in each instance is used as synonimous with erroneous. I have insisted the more on this particular, in order to obviate a misconception which may arise from the acknowledged ambiguity of the word weak, which might be supposed to intend not a mistaken or erring mind, but a mind not sufficiently confirmed in the truth to which it assents. The certainty of its comprehending the case of error being once admitted, it is not necessary to multiply words to evince its bearing on
the present controversy; all that remains to be considered is the principle on which toleration is enforced, which every impartial reader must perceive is the assumption that the errors and mistakes to be tolerated are not fundamental, not of such a nature, in other words, as to prevent those who maintain them from being accepted with God. “Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not, judge him that eateth; for God hath received him.” What can this mean but that the error in question, to whichsoever side it be imputed, was of a description not to exclude its abettor from being an accepted servant of God, who, as he at present bears with his infirmity, is well able, whenever he pleases, to correct and remove it? He further proceeds to urge a spirit of forbearance from a consideration of the perfect integrity with which both parties maintained their respective opinions. Both were equally conscientious, and therefore neither deserved to be treated with severity. " Wherefore receive ye one another,” he adds, “ even as Christ has received you to the glory of the Father.” When he thus commands christians to receive each other, and enforces that duty by the example of Christ, it surely requires little penetration to perceive that the practice enjoined ought to be commensurate to that example, and that this precept obliges us to receive all whom Christ has received. To interpret it otherwise, is to suppose the example irrelevant, and at once to