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I have admitted that Christ censured the scribes and pharisees; but for what did he censure them? Was it for any error at all resembling the supposed errors of opinion by which Christians at this day are divided into sects? or for which Christians of one sect denounce those of another ? On the contrary, was it not for immorality in practice, and for such errors relating to the law of God, as encouraged immorality? Let any one impartially examine what Jesus said of these men in the chapter which has been mentioned, and on other occasions; and he will find that so far as his censures had any reference to error of opinion, they were such errors as encouraged immorality and crime. By their expositions of the law and their regard to traditions, the scribes and pharisees made “ the word of God of no effect," and made their religion a cloak for their covetousness. They “ devoured widow's houses," while “ for a pretence they made long prayers"they “paid tithes of mint, annise, and cummin," while they “passed over the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith," or "justice, humanity and fidelity."* They made “clean the outside of the cup and the platter," while “ within they were full of extortion and excess.
They professed a great regard for the Sabbath, while they could spend it in calumniating the Saviour for his beneficent miracles on that day. Yes, and while such was their own inconsistency, they could “trust in themselves that they were righteous and despise others"-even the Messiah himself.
* Campbell's translation.
Such were the grounds on which the Saviour censured the scribes and pharisees. How very dissimilar are these from such supposed errors of opinion as are at this day made the grounds of reproach by the partizans of different sects ! When men of licentious habits give such expositions of divine precepts, as are adapted to countenance their immoral conduct, we have then reason to fear that their errors of opinion proceed from depravity of heart. Such appears to have been the fact with the scribes and pharisees. This was known to our Lord; for he knew what was in man. But no one of these facts afford any proof that the differences of opinion among Christians, which do not relate to moral precepts, are the fruit of depravity, on which side soever the error may be found. Much less, if possible, do such facts prove that the errors are on the part of the accused, and not on the part of accusers ; nor that the censures may on either part be justified. How does it appear that the accused sects are more liable or more likely to be in error than their accusers ? I know not : and I suspect that there are few persons who will be able to answer the question in a manner satisfactory even to themselves.
It is worthy of serious inquiry whether the opinion which leads partizans to think they may be justified in reproaching others for supposed misinterpretations of Scripture, is not in fact an error of the same nature of those for which Christ' reproved the scribes and pharisees--an error that makes "the word of God of no effect," which forbids censorious
judging, and speaking evil one of another. If any. thing is immoral, it is immorality to violate these precepts.
PAUL'S CENSURES OF SCHISMATIC TEACHERS.
My Christian Brethren,
Perhaps there is not another passage in the Bible which has been more frequently perverted than the following: -“ I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace
of Christ, unto another Gospel, which is not another ; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you, than that which we preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Gal. i. 6, 7, 8.
This language of Paul to the Galatians is one of the strong holds to which censorious Christians of all sects resort in justification of schismatic conduct, or such reproachful language as tends to alienate Christians from each other. By this example of Paul, the Catholics justify their anathemas against Protestants; and Protestants of different sects on
the same ground justify their censures of the Catholics and of one another. But to the Pope himself, and to every minister of the Gospel, who like the Pope denounces fellow Christians on account of difference of opinion, these questions may be urged, Art thou like Paul, invested with apostolic authority and miraculous powers ? Hast thou like him, been inspired to teach the doctrines of Christ, and to distinguish between truth and error ? And what analogy is there between the doctrine which Paul censured, and any doctrine which in modern times has divided Christians of our land; or on account of which they have censured one another?
From the contents of the epistle to the Galatians, it appears, that soon after they had received the Gospel, and had been formed into a church state, certain teachers came among them who were zealous for the Mosaic rituals, and who ventured to teach these Christians that circumcision was necessary to salvation.
The same doctrine had been taught at Antioch, and had occasioned the council which was held at Jerusalem ; the records of whose proceedings we have in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. This council decided that circumcision was not to be required of the Gentile converts. But this result seems not to have been satisfactory to all the Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah. Some of them were disposed to make circumcision an essential article of the Christian religion, and thus taught the gentile converts, “except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be
saved ! Had these teachers merely practised circumcision to satisfy their own consciences, Paul would probably have made no objection. For he was himself so liberal on this point that he readily consented to the circumcision of Timothy, whose father was a Greek, when he found this to be necessary to satisfy the consciences of othersry to the usefulness of his son in the faith.* But the teachers whose conduct was censured by Paul, undertook to introduce an article as essential to the salvation of others, which the Messiah had not enjoined; and on this ground they were disposed to make a division in the church, by excluding those who dissented from their creed, and also reviled the
apostle himself. It was for this schismatic conduct that they were censured. In Paul's view they preached another Gospel, or a pretended Gospel, contrary to the one he had taught, and which the Galatians had received—and contrary, too, to the great doctrine of union and peace. From Paul's writings, it is very clear that his prayer was the same as that of Christ, that believers might be one, and be preserved from division. Of no other persons did he speak with such severity as of schismatic teachers. The language quoted at the head of this letter, is awfully severe ; and in another part of the same epistle, he said to the Galatians, “I would that they were even cut off who trouble you.”
Paul also exhorted the Christians at Rome, in the following manner :-"Mark them who cause divis
* Acts xvi. 1.