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figned to fecure it, having been removed, the law to which they were annexed is left to stand upon the original grounnd of its fuppofed agreement with the revealed will of GOD; confequently, the obligation to church unity is juft what it was in the primitive days of the church, before civil policy interfered with the business.

And though in this cafe civil policy, by withdrawing its influence, cease to affift the operation of the Divine law, it does not, therefore, leffen its obli gation. For by whatever rules of political expedi ency the conduct of the magiftrate may be governed, certain it is, that the greater power cannot be overruled by the leffer one. The fin of schism, therefore, or a wilful feparation from the church of CHRIST, is just what the word of God has pronounced it to be, whatever may be the determination of the magif trate upon the subject; and all that he has hitherto determined upon it in this country, has been to leave it to the judgment of its proper tribunal.


It is to be lamented, indeed, that an indulgence, originating, we truft, in charity, and defigned to produce good effects, fhould have operated to the more general difunion of the members of the Christian church. But certain it is, that the Act which

fufpends the penalties which were defigned to enforce the obligation to church communion, has, in its opeation, tended to increase the evil, which the original interference of the legislature was in this cafe intended to prevent. That fanction which the legislature has been supposed (by a mifinterpretation of the Act in queftion) to give to every feparation from the Chriftian church, has in fact proved the most fatal blow that the unity of that church ever received. For, according to the remonftrance of the House of Commons, in answer to CHARLES the Second's declaration from Breda, " it has (in a manner) established fchifm by a law; made the whole government of the church precarious, and the cenfures of it of no moment or confideration; and been the caufe of increasing sects and fectaries, by introducing that loofe way of thinking upon the fubject of church communion, which makes it a matter of indifference with many people, what place of worship they frequent, or with what fociety of religionifts they are connected: a circumftance, which annihilates, as it were, the fin of fchifm, by removing out of fight all those discriminating marks, to be found in the writings of the Apostles and first Christians, by which the

church of CHRIST, as a fociety at unity within it

felf, is distinguished."

Before we finish this head, it may be proper to say one fhort word to guard against wrong conclufions.

As minifters of the church of CHRIST upon conviction, we must lament, in common with all found members of it, that there fhould be any fuch thing as feparation from it; and it is our duty, fo far as perfuafion and argument will go, to prevent it. But knowing that diverfity of opinions in religious matters is the unavoidable refult of human imperfection and human liberty, and that offences must come; we are prepared, in what we conceive to be the true spirit of our religion, to accompany fuch events with that charitable hope which one Christian may bestow upon another, though of a different opinion. At the fame time we fhould do lefs than our duty, did we not clearly point out what has been here attempted, the light in which, according to our judgment, the Act of Toleration fhould be seen by every member of the Chriftian church; reminding him, that, upon the fuppofition that a wilful feparation from the church is finful in the eyes of GOD, of which, it is prefumed, no reasonable doubt can

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be entertained, no act of any human legislature can make it otherwife.

Separatists from the church, therefore, under the fùppofed countenance of Government, would do well to confider, that a civil act in this cafe (as we have above observed) refpects them only as members of a civil fociety; but furnishes no proper standard of judgment for their conduct as Chriftians; in which character, they become amenable to the law of that LORD, by whom they will be judged, and from whose sentence there lies no appeal,


On the Right of PRIVATE JUDGMENT in
Religious Matters.

[PON the right of private judgment in religious


matters much more perhaps has been said,

than the fubject will warrant.


The Apostle, indeed, directs us to prove all things," but at the fame time to "hold fast that which is good." From whence it may be concluded, that there is a difference between a blind and implicit obedience to authority in religious matters, and a total exemption from obligation on that head; between taking our religion entirely upon trust from others, or thinking it to be a part of Christian liberty, to make what religion we please for ourselves. The one leads back to the dark days of bigotry and superstition, the other renders the establishment of a church, as a fociety under regular government altogether impracticable,

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