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others, by insisting on the duty of self denial, and in short, by the whole scope of his precepts and doctrines, relating to the intercourse of his disciples with each other. Our blessed Lord practised this duty of forbearance, personally, in his own family of disciples. None can fail to admire his patience with his disciples, in the exhibition of their pride and ambition; with their unreasonable request that he would advance them to the best stations in the temporal kingdom they expected he was about to set up; with their unbelief, so unaccountable to us, of his approaching death, and resurrection, although plainly foretold by the prophets and expressly declared by himself, and with their total ignorance of even the meaning of the resurrection from the dead. How remarkable was his forbearance with their desertion of him in the hour of his extreme distress; with the denial of Peter, with the avarice of Judas, until his apostasy was manifest. And after all his experience of their unteachableness and imperfections, and with the knowledge of their approaching defection, how patiently and affectionately does he address them in the thirteenth and subsequent chapters of John's gospel, as though there had been no other concern in his bosom than to furnish them with matter of consolation, during the short period between his apprehension and his resurrection. All the time of his converse with the disciples, he indeed, faithfully reproved them for their faults, and instructed them as they were able to bear it; but he cherished them as members of his family, so long as they gave evidence of their love to God, and attachment to his cause.
Nor is there a lack of harmony on this topic, between the Saviour and his apostles. In the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians, Paul exhorts the saints
and the faithful, in all loveliness and meekness and long suffering, to forbear one another in love. The Colossian Christians he commends to put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering, forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ also forgave you. Col. iii. 12, 13.
The duty of forbearance is in the Scriptures expressly enjoined in matters of opinion as well as matters of practice. In the fourteenth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, Paul teaches as follows: "Him that is weak "in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. "For one believeth that he may eat all things, another "who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth
despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eat"eth not, despise him that eateth, for God hath received "him. Who art thou that judgest another man's ser"vant? To his own master he standeth or falleth; yea "he shall be holden up, for God is able to make him "stand. One man esteemeth one day above another, "another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man "be fully persuaded in his own mind. For why dost "thou judge thy brother, or why hast thou set at nought
thy brother? For we shall all stand at the judgement "seat of Christ."
Much as these texts are quoted and perverted by latitudinarians, they have notwithstanding, a meaning, and may not be stricken from the Bible. The application of them to our present point is very striking, when we consider that there were among the Christians at Rome, differences of opinion as to what food might or might not be lawfully eaten, and also, as to the observance of particular days. It is easy to perceive that these differen
ces of opinion would introduce different practices in different congregations and in different families, as well as in different individuals of the same congregation and of the same family. What was eaten by the one, another condemned as unlawful; and he who refused to observe a particular day, was deemed disobedient to God's law by him who did observe it. With the spirit of contention these variances of judgement were calculated to break in upon brotherly love, and banish peace from every church and every family; being not merely disagreements on theoretical points of doctrine, but on matters which must directly influence the practice of the parties more or less every day. Should differences of this character arise among Christians at the present time, would they forbear with each other? No; they would separate into distinct sects almost as soon as the difference should be discovered. Why? Because we have so long been accustomed to the false doctrine of the lawfulness of divisions in the church, that we would overlook or disregard the enjoined duty of forbearance. But with the spirit of meekness, Christian love and forbearance, such differences may, in the opinion of the apostle (and he wrote by inspiration of God,) be endured, and notwithstanding such differences, families may remain together, and the church undivided. These points of controversy are not, indeed, the same with those which now divide the church into sects. Our divisions are upon rituals, upon government, and what are called questions of theology. But the law of forbearance extends to all matters of difference between Christians. No line of distinction is drawn in the Scriptures, nor does reason require or admit that there should be any. The ground of the duty, as stated by the apostle, is that
no man shall assume to be master of another. If I may not be the lord of your actions, by what process of reasoning can it be shown that I may lord it over your understanding. If the church must forbear with the wrong conduct or practice of a member, conscientiously believed by him to be in accordance with the Scriptures, why should she not bear with the wrong opinion of a member which he conscientiously judges to be drawn from the Bible?
Let us not be understood as denying the right of individuals or the church, to condemn opinions plainly contrary to the Word of God and of fundamental importance. On this point there is no dispute among Christians. Our object is to exhibit the duty of forbearance, as taught in the Scriptures, and to prove that it is to be exercised in regard to matters of opinion, as well as to matters of practice and ritual observances. We are aware that much more importance is attributed to correctness of theological opinions, than to correctness of moral behaviour. This is an error which has probably arisen from the prominence given to points of theology in the controversies which have been carried on between the various denominations of Christians. The idea is not countenanced in the Scriptures, nor is it supported by the principles of reason. It is highly important that Christians should form correct opinions, and that they should pursue a correct course of conduct. The argument that opinions are most important because they influence our practice, is not a solid one. While the fact that our opinions have more or less influence on our conduct is admitted, we deny the conclusion that opinions are therefore the most important. Our practice goes as far to form our principles, as our opinions go to
determine our practice. A man of corrupt principles will exhibit them in his practice, and a man of corrupt behaviour will form corrupt opinions. No man can be too careful to form correct opinions for himself of what is taught in the Bible, and no man can be too careful to conform his own life to its requirements. We ought to love our neighbour sufficiently to desire that his opinions and conduct may be according to the standard of truth and holiness. We may not tolerate in ourselves any erroneous opinion or conduct. We must exercise forbearance towards our brother in many an opinion and practice, which in our belief is erroneous. This is fully shown in the directions of the apostle Paul in the verses above quoted from the fourteenth chapter of Romans; and his reasoning is as conclusive as his doctrine is plain; namely, that one brother has no right to lord it over another. Nor has any number of brethren whether congregated in a church, or in whatever relation they stand, any more right to exercise dominion over one man's conscience in matters of opinion and practice. Numbers have more power than an individual, but the duty of forbearance is as incumbent upon a church as upon an individual. Nay, the command is expressly given by the apostle to the churches.
We speak of the duty of forbearance, as it is to be exercised towards Christians, members of the church. Those who err, may and ought to be instructed, admonished, exhorted, reproved, or warned according to the directions abundantly given in the Holy Scriptures; but so long as they, in the judgement of charity, may be deemed Christians, there is no warrant to expel them from the church, unless it may be in those cases of error