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rulers, in administering the government of that Christian Church. That they are susceptible of this interpretation, if viewed in themselves, without attending to other passages of scripture, I readily grant. But nothing is more common than to represent a thing as done by a body at large, while it is done only by those, in that body, to whom it is competent. Thus we are informed in Scrip. ture that the great city, Rome, reigned over the kings of the Earth (Rev. xvii. 18), while yet we know, that the world was governed at the period referred to, not by the citizens of Rome, but by the Emperor and Senate ; and thus nothing is more frequent, both in speech and writing, than to say, that the people of Great Britain govern their American Colonies, while it is only the King and Parliament who thus govern them. Are not the Jews in general often reproved by the Prophets (see Jer. v. 28, and vi. 5) for most flagrant violations of equity, in the public administration of justice, as well as for other crimes, which could be committed only by their rulers ? But who would imagine from this, that every Israelite was a civil judge, or that it was not the Rulers alone who were responsible for these crimes : and that notwithstanding the general expressions which are employed, that the people were only accessary to the guilt, in as far as they approved of their conduct, and did not witness against it? Besides, is it not, notwithstanding, undeniable, that these passages as plainly and expressly enjoin every 1sraelite to administer public justice with fidelity and impartiality, as the Apostle tells the members of the Church in Corinth, that they might judge them who were within their communion, and might put away from among themselves wicked persons ?
“ Though it should be admitted that the sentence, as we are told (2 Cor. ii. 6), was inflicted by many, it will not follow that it was passed by many, or by all of them, for there is an essential distinction in every Government between the making and the infliction of a sentence. The former might be performed only by a few who were Rulers, while the latter might be executed by all the members of the Church, who were bound to concur with the Elders, by inflicting the sentence; and who were all, as we have said, under an obligation to refuse to have fellowship with him, that he might be ashamed and that others might fear.-All that can be deduced from their being commanded to forgive their offending brother (2 Cor. ii. 7, 10) is, that as they all had been offended by him in their various stations, they were all to forgive upon token of his repentance, and to express their for. giveness in a manner which was suited to their situations in the Church. Those who were Rulers, and were of. fended by him in that capacity, were commanded as such, to forgive him, and restore him again to the privileges of their society: and those who were members and bad been offended by him, as such, on account of the dishonour which he had done to God, were called as such, to express their forgiveness and to restore him once more to the comforts and advantages of private fellowship. Thus it would appear that neither from this in particolar, nor from any other expression contained in this passage, we are warranted to conclude, that the members at large, in common with the Rulers, are entitled to govern the Church of Christ."*
• Mr. Brown's Seventh Letter.
From the view we have taken of the arguments which are advanced for these three different, and even opposite, systems, a few remarks seem to present themselves to our mind. First-It is very desirable that every man should have his judgment satisfied with respect to the doctrine of Scripture on this, as well as on any other subject; and that can only be expected by a patient and candid exami. nation of the evidence, in all its points, and in all its different bearings, and by weighing the different argu. ments against each other.
Secondly—Though it is very necessary that men of learning and penetration should make themselves well acquainted with what has been written by the principal advocates, for each of the three forms of Ecclesiastical Government, yet it is sufficient for men of common education, whose knowledge must be extremely limited, having acquired just as much information as is. requisite to put them in possession of the great points on which the systems differ, without embarrassing themselves with arguments, many of which they are not likely to understand, and entangling themselves in thickets and mazes in which they may be perplexed and lost, to search the New Testament for themselves, carefully marking that form to which it seems to point. study the arguments employed by the advocates of any one form, impartiality requires that they give equal attention to those of the other two, and it is very improbable that they will bring 'minds equal to the decision. Perplexity and doubt will more likely be the result, than rational satisfaction. The special pleader, instead of throwing light opon questions that are difficult, generally scatters darkness on those which, without his comments, would admit of an easy solution. Men of
If they weak understanding, and who can form few accurate ideas on any subject, will employ their time to much better advantage, by studying the great truths of Christianity, which make even babes wise to salvation, and leaving such controversies to those who have an arm that can wield, and an eye that can direct their weapons. But alas! it is seldom indeed that a weak man knows his own character, and every fool will be meddling. In all parties those who are the least qualified, are generally the most ready to decide.
Thirdly—When we reflect that among those who have embraced, and who have defended the three opposite systems, are to be found many writers, eminent for their abilities and for their piety, who had laboriously examined the claims of all ; and who with respect to the vital doctrines of Christianity were in perfect harmony; whose light adorned the Gospel, and reflected the beauties of its holiness ; we may perhaps wonder, that professing to take their information from the same infallible oracles, they should have arrived at conclusions so directly opposite, and yet each so apparently confident that he had embraced the right, and those who differed from him, the wrong form. This circumstance ought surely to impose something more of modesty and selfdiffidence upon every one; and though he be fixed in his judgment to oue system, it should make him more moderate to the rest.
Fourthly-As there is much reason to fear, that, in all the three parties, there are many whose whole religion consists in their attachment to the peculiarities of their party, and the whole of whose zeal is expended in contention for these distinctions, it would be well if the Ministers of the different parties would seek rather to give
their zeal a new direction, than to inflame it in its present
How many have deceived themselves by supposing the effervescence of their passions on such subjects to be the overflow of their love to religion, when they were utter strangers to the love of God and of man !
The advocates of Episcopacy have, very many of them, been no less celebrated for their piety than for their erudition, and for their profound and unwearied investigations on this subject. Nor can there be any reason to suspect in such men as Usher, Leighton, Jewel, Beveridge, Hall, Beddel, Hooker, &c. &c. &c. that ambition tinctured their sentiments on this subject. The same thing may be charitably affirmed of many of the firmest friends of Episcopacy, such as Gisborne, Faber, &c. &c. in our own times.
The claims of the Presbyterians have been enforced by men of piety no less ardent, and of distinguished, talents; and whose researches have been patient and laborious. Besides writers on the Continent, such as Beza, Martyr, Zanchius, Blondel, Salmasius, &c. &c. &c. this island has produced many, Calderwood, Rutherford, Henry, Baxter, Witherspoon, Anderson, and in our times, Hill, Brown, Dick, &c. It is proper to observe that the general body of those who in England are called Presbyterians, have been unjustly called so, as they adopt no part of that system ; and as the form of their government is independent. They indeed differ from the general sentiments of the Independents, in rejecting (many of them at least) the doctrines of Evangelical religion, and in adopting Arianism.
The cause of Independency has been defended by men of the most exalted piety, and of the most respectable abilities, and who formed their judgment on this subject,