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preservation of the government of the church constituted an object of that importance in their eyes, as to subject any the least opposition to it to their feverest censure; what must they have thought of that licentious practice, which leads to its total dissolution? when, in consequence of all ideas respecting the nature of the church having been in a great measure lost among us, men look not beyond themselves for that commission, by which they presume to enter upon the ministry of holy things; drawing congregations after them, and thereby dividing Christian professors into as many feets and parties, as there are self-sufficient teachers to be found, who have an end to answer, or a passion to gratify, upon the occafion.

The opinions of the present day, unhappily for us, tend to countenance a general diffolution of establishments; as if men are different creatures now from what they were in any former state of the world; and grown too wise, in this age of reason, as it is called, to submit to any ordinances that have not received the fanction of their own immediate appointment.

But if it be true, that Christ formed only one church, there can be but one communion in it; and if that church be a visible society, distinctly known by its ministers and facraments, as it most certainly


is, a wilful separation from it must be rebellion against the Divine ordinance, whenever it takes place. For ignorance with respect to the nature of the Christian church, can make no alteration in the plan upon which Divine Wisdom has formed it: consequently schism, or a separate communion from that church, must, whatever ideas of prejudice or error may prevail on the subject, be an heinous fin in the eyes of God.

To form a proper judgment upon this subject, we must not be governed by the opinions and practices of the world upon it; because it ever has been the misfortune of the world, to be more fond of its own inventions than of God's commands. And there is this obvious reason for it; what man invents has a more strict correspondence with the corrupt inclinations of his depraved nature, than what God ordains: and hence it is, that we are so readily induced to substitute human imaginations in the place of Divine institutions. The one are creatures of our own, and tend in a greater or less degree to the gratification of our humours and passions; the other, as controling our inclinations, and abridging our liberty, are on that account less welcome to the natural man.

To deal honestly with ourselves, therefore, we Mhould place this subject upon the ground on which

it ought to stand. By proceeding thus, we shall find that one great object in the establishment of the church, was to unite men by the bond of charity in constant communion with God and each other; that by entering upon a life of peace, of love, and fellow. fhip with the Holy Ghost upon earth, the members of it might be prepared for that more perfect state provided for them in a better world.

A church, the members of which were to be thus joined together in Christian fellowihip, presented a picture of too heavenly a fociety for the grand enemy of mankind to behold without envy; and which, if suffered to continue in a perfect state, would most certainly tend to render those beings happy, whom, from the creation of the world, it has been the constant employment of this destroyer, as he is emphatically called, to render miserable. From the moment, therefore, that the church was founded upon earth, the malice of this evil one has been directed against it. And it not being in his power to destroy the church, (the Divine Founder of it having expressly declared, that the gates of hell shall not finally prevail against it) his next object has been to render it as ineffectual to the purpose of its establishment as pol

fible; by fowing the seeds of division where only those of love and harmony were designed to grow.

Herein, then, consists the nature of schism; and fuch is the origin of it: it proceeds, for the most part, from that spirit of pride and independence, which cast the devil out of heaven; and which, it is to be feared, will disqualify many for admission into that blessed place. And the heinousness of the sin consists in this, that it is not only a system of opposition to the Divine will, but that, so far as it prevails, it counteracts the gracious purpose which Christ had in view in the establishment of his church; by dividing and separating those members, which it was his design to unite by an harmonious interchange of service and fellowship.

Wherever, then, there is a wilful separation from the communion of the church of Christ, there, according to the original idea upon this subject, a division of Christ's mystical body takes place; and there this sin of schism is to be found.

Such, then, being the nature and consequences of fchifm, we cannot be surprised at finding the Apostles and primitive writers making use of such strong language, whenever it became the subject of consideration; with the view of guarding their disciples against what

appeared to them, and what, it should be supposed, must appear to every one who duly considers the nature of CHRIST's church, to be a fin of the most dangerous kind; because, to omit leffer confiderations, it is a fin, whereby a man cuts himself off from the means of grace, and exposeth himfelf to the danger of denying the faith. A learned divine* of the last century, who lived to see the effects of this fin fully exemplified in the complete destruction of his own church and country, after having collected the numberless striking passages from the writings of the ancient fathers relative to this subject, thus concludes upon it:

it: “ It is but a small part (says he) of the character of schism, that it is contrary to faith, contrary to charity, and to all the advantages which belong to a member of the church the benefits of prayer and sạcraments; that it is as bad as heresy, and that there never was any heresy in the church which was not founded in it; and that it is constantly forced, in its own defence, to conclude in some heresy or other: each of these particulars, and all of them taken together, are but a small part of the character which the ancient fathers of the church give us of the fin of schism."


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