صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

the end of its establishment, that they are thus induced to act in contradiction to it.

It is a prevailing notion of modern times, that where the Gospel of CHRIST is preached, there the church of CHRIST is affembled.

This notion, from its plaufibility, has with many gained a degree of credit, to which, upon examination, it will not be found entitled. In fome fenfe, indeed, every private Chriftian family, affembled for the pur pofe of religious worship, may be confidered as a church of CHRIST; but when we fpeak of the church as a public body, under the direction of its appointed ministers, this mode of expreffion is certainly not to be admitted. As the church does not make the doctrine, fo neither does the doctrine make the church. These two ideas, though designed to be infeparably connected, have nevertheless each a diftinct and appropriate meaning. The church is the candlestick; the doctrine the light fet upon it, for the purpose of illuminating the place where it is fixed. The candlestick without the light is an useless piece of furniture. On the other hand, the light without the candlestick to hold it is in continual danger of being thrown down and extinguished.

In the book called the Revelation of ST. JOHN, the explanation of the firft vifion given by the angel was, that the Seven candlesticks fignified the feven churches of Afia; and the feven stars, which he held in his right-hand, the feven angels (or bishops) of thofe feven churches. Our SAVIOUR, in allufion to his Gospel, is emblematically stiled "the day-star from on high;" "the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." JOHN the Baptist is called "a burning and a fhining light;" and his Apostles, "the light of the world." In conformity with this idea of giving light to a world in darkness, the angel, in the vifion above-mentioned, calls the bishops of the churches stars, in allufion to their office, which was to fpread the light of Gospel truth through their respective dioceses.

The threat, in the course of this vifion, pronounced against the church of Ephefus, was, that if she did not repent, and do her firft works, her candlestick should be removed, i. e. her ministry should be taken away, and the fhould be no longer an Apoftolic church. A threat which has been fince carried into complete execution, in the cafe of all the churches above-mentioned.

From hence we fee, that the church, as it was established, that it might be (what the Apostle calls it) "the ground and pillar of the truth," fo it is preferved in the world for the fake of the truth. When that truth is turned into a lie; in other words, when the doctrine of the church becomes fo corrupt, as no longer to promote the end for which the church was originally established; the candlestick, we have to expect, will be removed; the ecclefiaftical edifice, originally built upon the Apoftles, will be taken down; and men left in that state of darkness, in which the experience of the world tells us they must live, when the light which shineth from on high is withdrawn.

From the position here advanced then, upon the authority of the Apostle, that the church is preserved in the world for the fake of the truth contained in it; the inference is, that the truth, abstractedly confidered, does not conftitute the church; for, upon that fuppofition, the establishment of the church, as its guardian and prefervative, had been unneceffary. The circumftance of their having been joined together by GOD leads us to conclude, that the church and the truth cannot long exift in a perfect ftate, independent of each other; and the experiment of feparating them has never been attempted by man,

without the evil confequences attendant upon it hav ing been manifested in a greater or lefs degree.*

But allowing that the Gospel may be preached out of the church, and it is not faid that the removal of the light from the candlestick is always immediately followed by its extinction, ftill the members of the church ought not to go out of the church after it; for this appears to be doing evil that good may come of it, by making an obedience to God's ordinance give way to a fuppofed fpiritual advantage.

It will be urged, perhaps, that, in a matter of that effential concern as the falvation of a foul, all attention to the nature of the Chriftian church will be swallowed up in the grand confideration of

In all the annals of the church, whether under the Law or the Gospel, there is not one inftance of a fchifm against the priesthood which God had appointed, but great errors in doctrine and worship did follow it. Thus the priesthood which MICAH fet up of his own head, and that which JEROBOAM fet up in oppofition to that of AARON, both ended in idolatry. Thus the Novatians and Donatifts, who made fchifms against their bishops, fell into grievous errors, though they did not renounce the faith.

"What hydra herefies, and monftrous fects, fifty or fixty at one time, flowed like a torrent into England, in the times of forty-one, after epifcopacy was thrown down.

"So evident is that faying, that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, that we can hardly find any error which has come into the church, but upon an infraction made upon the epifcopal authority." LESLEY.

following the found of the Gofpel, wherever it is to be heard.

Had man been left to judge abfolutely for himself in this business, it might have been difficult to have found an answer to the foregoing pofition; but GOD having judged for him, the most certain provifion for man's falvation will doubtlefs be found in the use of the means appointed by God for that purpose; and these are to be had in the church.

It is not, therefore, a confideration of fo little importance as fome men imagine, by whofe ministry our prayers are offered up to GOD, or through whose hands Divine ordinances are received: for we are affured, the bleffings and graces which Christianity teaches us to expect from these ordinances, can ordinarily be derived from them, only when administered according to CHRIST's inftitution, by perfons regu larly called, as he has directed. Where fuch may be had, and we may lawfully join with them, and use their miniftry; to feparate from them, is to rebel against the authority of CHRIST, who appointed them.

But it is alleged by thofe who occafionally feparate from our church, that the clergy of it poffefs neither that zeal nor knowledge, which ought to characterize their profeffion; that their preaching is

« السابقةمتابعة »