Imatges de pÓgina
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gifts of which they were in possession, would prove no justification for their disturbing the peace and order of the Church, as to leave nothing necessary to be added on that subject. In the judgment of St. Paul, the gift of prophecy, the understanding all mysteries, and all knowledge, and all faith, were as nothing in comparison with that charity, by which it was designed that the members of the Christian Church should be joined together.

In the judgment of the world, what was of such consequence in the early days of the Church, is now, we are sorry to think, become of no consequence at all; and that harmony among Christians, for which our Saviour earnestly prayed, and which the Apostles and primitive rulers of the Church laboured so constantly to promote, is now become a matter of comparative indifference: as we must conclude to be the case, when we see men, not only without those miraculous gifts, upon which the Corinthians presumed, but oft times without that degree of knowledge necessary to qualify them to understand the letter of the Gospel, which they undertake to publish; drawing congregations after them, and making the support of some private conceit, or the slightest difference of opinion upon matters not essential to the Christian cause, a sufficient ground for separation from their appointed

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But would men consider, that charity and humility are two distinguishing marks of a Christian, they would feel themselves disposed to believe more, and to dispute less. Would the men to whom particularly allude, consider that the

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submission of human reason to the revealed word of God is part of that self-abasement, which the Christian is called upon to practise; whose every "thought is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ;"* they would stand with less confidence upon ground of their own choosing, than they do at present; and would feel themselves more in a disposition to be taught, than to teach. For, without being an advocate for blind credulity, the evils of which have been abundantly manifested, we do not hesitate to say, that there are in religion many things which, by the generality of mankind, must in some degree be taken upon trust; because the generality of mankind are not qualified to form a competent judgment of the evidence upon which they stand.

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Whilst the best informed will, upon the consideration that now "we know only in part," be most ready to subscribe to the idea, that in certain cases the honour of God is more advanced by the submission, than by the exertion, of the human understanding.

And if this idea prevail, when applied to subjects of primary consideration, as revealed articles of faith; it will not surely, when the peace of the Church is concerned, be found inapplicable to matters, which revelation may have left more undetermined. "For the spirit of Christ, (as Bishop Andrews long since observed) is the spirit of ingenuity, which will freely submit itself to that which is expedient, even in things of their own nature lawful. The not observing whereof, with good heed +1 Cor. xiii. 9.

* 2 Cor. x. 5.

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and discretion, hath in old time filled the world with many a superstitious imagination; and in our days hath healed the imagination, and superstition, and hypocrisy, with another of riot and licentious liberty, as bad as the former, and a great deal worse."

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The only remedy for this evil, the fruitful source of all sin and heresy in the world, is to be found in the promotion of that charitable spirit of the Gospel, which "envieth not;" which "is not puffed up;" which doth not behave itself unseemly;" which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; "* rather than that. brotherly love, the bond of Christian perfectness, should be broken. A spirit, which it is my duty to press most earnestly upon Christians; from the full conviction, that envyings, divisions, and heresies, are those works of the flesh, which most effectually serve the cause of that grand enemy, whose constant employment it is, so far as in him lies,` to render abortive the Christian scheme for the salvation of fallen man.

* 1 Cor. xiii. 4, &c.

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DISCOURSE X.

On the Advantages attendant upon a conscientious Communion with the CHURCH; together with the Disadvantages consequent upon a wilful Separation from it.

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THE weight which any practice or opinion ought to have upon the mind, must depend, in a great degree, on the conclusion to be drawn from it. Were not the advantages and disadvantages consequent on a communion with, or separation from, the Church to be made apparent; all that has been written on these subjects might, for the most part, be considered as waste paper. For if nothing is to be gained or lost by the determination of man's conduct in this respect, it certainly becomes a matter of indifference, with what society of Christians he is connected; and in this case he might, in religious matters at least, be left at liberty to follow the guidance of his own fancy or opinion.

But if the Church is to be seen in the light in which we have placed it, as a society of Christ's forming, for the express purpose of men being saved in it from the corruption and condemnation

VOL. I.

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