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On the Reasons generally advanced to justify a
Separation from the Church ;-and first, on the supposed Spiritual Qualification of the Party undertaking the Office of the Ministry.
AVING dispatched the two leading parts of
our subject, which respect the constitution of the church, considered as the body of CHRIST, and the nature of schism or wilful separation from it; we proceed to consider the reasons generally advanced to justify that separation. For at the same time that men scruple not to commit the sin, they feel unwilling to acknowledge themselves finners; and are therefore industrious in finding out pleas, of one kind or another, which may tend, if not to do away, at least to make the fin fit easy upon their minds. Hence it is, that, in the present day, we have so many definitions of schism, differing more or less from the sense originally and properly annexed
to that word, through which the definers for the most
part impose on themselves and others; excluding themselves by the fallacy of words, from the apparent commission of that sin, which at the same time actually attaches to their case. The first and most general plea advanced upon
this occasion respects the holiness, or spiritual qualification, of the pasty
who undertakes the office of the ministry. This is neither more nor less than the plea of KORAH revived. The popular argument in the mouth of Korah was, that “ AARON took too much upon himself; seeing that all the congregation was holy;" the inference from which seems to be, that the people had no need of the ministration of AARON, but could minister unto themselves. Upon this plea, the offspring of spiritual pride, KORAH and his company gathered themselves together against Moses, and AARON; and the sixteenth chapter of the book of Numbers has recorded the fatal event that termi. nated the contest.
But had we no lesson of experience upon this head to draw from the Jewish history, that of our own has taught us to view this plea with a very suspicious eye; because it has been ministerial to the greatest çalamities. We remember, that it was in the reign of the Saints, as they were then called, the invaders of the priesthood in those days of confusion, that the Constitution of this country was completely overturned in the last century; when preaching, and fasting, and praying, were made use of as convenient cloaks for rebellion, facrilege, and murder. We are therefore afraid, when we hear talk of gifted men, lest an increase of their number should lead to a repetition of the same dismal scenes.
But granting that the boliness of the party, on whose account many feel themselves justified in separating from the church, was really such as they think it to be; it does not authorise the possessor of it to take upon himself an office to which he has not been regularly appointed.
Our Saviour, it will be allowed, poffeffed holiness in a superlative degree; for “ to him,” we read, " the Spirit was not given by measure.” John iii. 34. But our SAVIOUR“ glorified not himself to be made an high-priest;” but He that said unto him 46 Thou art my son.” Heb. v. " This honour (says the Apostle) ne man taketh unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was AARON.” Now AARON was called by an outward call from God, communiçated to hira through the medium of Moses; from
whom, as God's prime minister, he received a formal appointment to his high office before all the people. Exod. xxviii. And from the circumstance of our blessed Saviour delivering the commission for collecting and governing his church, not to his disciples at large, but to his eleven Apostles, purposely convened by him on the occasion, (as we read, MATT. xxviii. 16;) the conclusion may be drawn, that it was the design of the Divine Founder of the church, that the facred office of ministering in it should be subject to that control and direction, which was beft calculated to give effect to his Divine institution. Upon this idea have the governors of the church uniformly proceeded, in the discharge of that com. mission, from the days of the Apostles down to the present time.
Thus ftands the fact; a fact not to be controverted; and reason teaches us, that the wisdom of God has been manifested upon this occasion.
The church, as it has already been observed, is a fociety; and every society is distinguished from the general mass of the community by its order and government.
To the establishment of order and government, a regular appointment of chosen men to the administration of particular offices is effential,