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for no submission to the clergy that may


proved to be incompatible with it; but in doubtful cases, upon which a difference of opinion prevails, we claim that degree of deference to the determination of the appointed guides and teachers of the church, which a respect for their station demands, and the end for which their office was instituted, absolutely requires.

With less authority than this, it is not to be conceived, how it is possible for ministers of the church to execute the duties of their station. For if, in doubtful cases, where no positive law of God is to be found for the direction of the conscience, or where the law produced is differently interpreted, the opinion of the ruler and guide, of him who is appointed by God to teach in the church, is not to overrule that of the party to be taught; we have a government instituted without any authority annexed to it. . For in this case every private Christian is left in a state of independence, to judge and determine for himself; upon which plan, the church, as a visible fociety, (the very being of which implies an authority to command, and an obligation to obey) could no where exist.

Subject to the above limitations, the ecclesiastical authority is no abridgment of Christian liberty. Under these limitations, therefore, we feel ourselves

to set


justified in supporting its cause against the right of private judgment; taken in that unlimited sense, in which its zealous advocates are disposed to consider it.

Whilft, therefore, we protest against the Popish extreme, of leading men blindfold in their Christian profession, as inconsistent with the character of reafonable beings; we at the same time do not scruple to affirm, that every man is not qualified to form a judgment for himself in religious matters, much less

up for a teacher and guide to his brethren. Were this the case, the pastoral office had been an useless and God, who does nothing in vain, would never have delivered a commission to particular persons, which might, with equal advantage, have been exercised indiscriminately by all: 'much less would He have thought it necessary to have furnished those persons with extraordinary powers for the discharge of it.

It was a complaint made by one of the primitive writers of the church, “ that the sense of the scriptures was the only piece of knowledge, which every one thought himself a competent judge of, without pains or study, without the help of a guide or instructor:" a presumption, which the levity and thoughtlessness of the age have tended to increase. But whilst

there are things hard to be understood in the scriptures, which unlearned and unstable men did in the Apostles' days wrest to their own destruction; the notion that any man, without the aid of study or learning, is qualified to be an expounder of the word of God; “ rightly to divide the word of truth," as the Apostle ex; resses it; seems calculated not fo much to serve the cause of religion, as that of folly, enthusiasm, and imposture.

If men, therefore, are determined to exercise this boasted right of private judgment, at all events, upon the idea that Christian liberty authorises every man to worship God in his own way; they should at the fame time remember, that if through pride, or selfconceit, they despise instruction; and by turning their backs upon

those pastors whom God has appointed to direct them, they fall into error, or prove the means of leading others into it; they must thank themselves for the consequences.

Supposing it possible that men might err with the church, they would have this plea in their favour; that they had followed those, whom, according to the constitution of the country in which God had placed them, they had been taught to look up to as their guides. Whereas if they have left the church,


and the truth together, the choice has been their own; and they will have two things to answer for: first, the embracing error, when truth was before them; and in the next place, the breaking the peace of the church, of which, according to Christ's institution, and upon the supposition that no unlawful terms of communion have been required from them, they ought to have continued dutiful members.

The loose way of thinking that prevails upon this subject, can make no alteration in the subject itself. The plan upon which CHRIST has established his church in the world must continue, till its object shall have been accomplished. And though this church, from the days of its first settlement, hath been passing from country to country, as the inhabis tants of each became respectively unworthy of its longer continuance among them; yet for our comfort we are assured, that the gates of hell shall not com. pletely prevail against it. In one part of the world or another, it will be found to the end of time.

How long it may be in the counsel of God to continue it in this country, He only knows. But the present divided state of Christians, so much la. mented by all sound members of the church, together with that too general indifference for all religious opinions, which, under the fallacious term of liberality of sentiment, now prevails, holds out to us no very promising prospect.

So long indeed as a notion prevails, to which the practice of the world gives countenance, that it matters not what religious profession a man makész, or with what religious fociety he connects himself; it will be impossible to say any thing upon the subject of religious conformity, that will not be liable to cavil and objection; because, under these circumstances, we are not dealing with the reason, so much as with the prejudices and passions of mankind; which are always, more or less, in a state of rebellion against every thing that wears the appearance of restraint or submission.

But if men will mistake the liberty with which CHRIST has made them free; namely, a deliverance from the dominion of over-ruling passions, from the absurdities of heathenish idolatry, and the yoke of the Jewish ritual; for a freedom from all restraint, an uncontroled exertion of private judgment in religious matters, and an independence of ecclesiastical institutions; we cannot be surprised, that their conduct upon this subject should militate against the plan laid down by CHRIST for the establishment of his

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