Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

may also

forms; and there is no command, or even the remotest intimation, that these forms should be the same at all times and in all places. As there is a great diversity in the customs and manners of men at different periods, and in different parts of the world, the traditions and ceremonies relative to the form of public worship ought to be accommodated to existing circumstances; they may be changed from time to time, and they

in different churches. Institutions of this kind are only provisions made for the purpose of promoting the great ends of religion according to the present state of things; and, as the affairs of men are ever fluctuating, what was formerly well adapted to the condition of the Christian world, might now be useless or impracticable. That difference, therefore, and constant change, which are observable from the first promulgation of the Gospel to the present day, are not only allowed in Scripture, but are founded in the nature of human things; and consequently we hesitate not to accede to the first part of the Article, IT IS NOT NECESSARY THAT

vary

TRADITIONS

AND CEREMONIES BE IN ALL

PLACES ONE, OR UTTERLY LIKE; FOR AT ALL TIMES THEY HAVE BEEN DIVERSE, AND MAY BE CHANGED, ACCORDING TO THE DIVERSITY OF COUNTRIES, TIMES, AND MEN'S MANNERS,

so

SO THAT NOTHING

BE ORDAINED AGAINST

GOD'S WORD.

It is expressly said, that the traditions and ceremonies to which this Article relates, are such as

ARE NOT REPUGNANT TO THE WORD OF GOD.

No church can have a right to impose terms of communion, which are contrary to the declarations of Scripture; and if it does attempt it, we are by no means bound to comply with them, since we are to “ obey God rather than men (a).” But in matters of indifference, where Scripture is silent, it is the duty of every one to conform to institutions established by proper authority, as the only means of preserving peace and union in the church of God, and of promoting that love and charity which ought to subsist among Christians. Those who act otherwise, not only offend against the general tenor of the Gospel, but they violate its express commands :

Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves (b).—“Let every soul be subject to the higher powers (c).” Any conduct, therefore, which militates against these principles, ought surely not to pass without animadversion and reproof; that is, whOSOEVER, THROUGH HIS PRIVATE JUDGMENT, WILLINGLY AND

PURPOSELY (a) Acts, c. 5. v. 29. (6) Heb. c. 13. v. 17. (c) Rom. c. 13. v. 1,

1

PURPOSELY DOTH OPENLY BREAK THE TRA

DITIONS AND CEREMONIES OF THE CHURCH,

WHICH BE NOT REPUGNANT TO THE WORD OF

GOD, AND BE ORDAINED AND APPROVED BY COMMON AUTHORITY, OUGHT TO BE REBUKED OPENLY (THAT OTHERS MAY FEAR TO DO THE LIKE) AS HE THAT OFFENDETH AGAINST THE COMMON ORDER OF THE CHURCH. This is

agreeable to the direction of St. Paul, “ Them that sin, rebuke before all, that others also may fear (d).” It is scarcely necessary to add, that if every individual were at liberty to use his own private judgment in opposition to the orders and decisions of the church, uniformity of worship would be instantly destroyed, and the dissolution of the church itself would quickly follow.

AND HURTETH THE AUTHORITY OF THE MAGISTRATE. It is evident, from the nature of human society, that every wilful violation of an established religious ceremony must weaken lawful authority, and tend to introduce disorder and confusion; but at no period of the world has this truth been so conspicuous as in the present times.

AND WOUNDETH THE CONSCIENCES OF WEAK BRETHREN, by violating rules which they think ought to be observed; by leading them by the force of example into practices which they themselves condemn; by raising prejudices and scruples in their minds, and by making them dissatisfied with the establishment under which they live; “ and when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ (e).

ther

(d) 1 Tim. c. 5. v. 20.

EVERY PARTICULAR OR NATIONAL CHURCH HATH AUTHORITY TO ORDAIN, CHANGE, AND

ABOLISH

CEREMONIES

OR RITES

OF THE

FYING.

CHURCH, ORDAINED ONLY BY MAN'S AUTHORITY, SO THAT ALL THINGS BE DONE TO EDI

The church of every independent kingdom or nation can best judge what rites and ceremonies are suited to its own peculiar circumstances,

and every such church is free from the influence and control of all other churches. The laws of a

church made in one age do not necessarily bind succeeding ages. Whatever power any church possessed at one period, since the days of the Apostles, it possesses at all periods. But though there may sometimes be sufficient ground for ordaining new ceremonies, or for altering or abolishing old ones, it is to be remembered, that changes in established forms are not to be made for slight causes, or without full deliberation ;

and (e) i Cor. c. 8. v. 12.

ånd we are always to keep in view the apostolical precept alluded to in the article: “ Let us follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith we may edify one another (f).

The principle, upon which the popish ceremonies were rejected at the time of the Reformation, was of a higher nature than that upon which we have been now arguing ; they were condemned because they were inconsistent with the simplicity of Christian worship, and were calculated to perpetuate that superstition to which they owed their origin. It is sometimes objected to the discipline of our church, that several of its ceremonies are still the same as those of the Roman church; but to this it may be answered, that we have retained none which are not authorized by the practice of the early Christians, or suited to the important purposes of religious worship. Such were the moderation and wisdom of our Reformers, that they did not think it necessary to abolish rites, merely because they were used by the church of Rome. Though they loudly exclaimed against the antichristian power which it had usurped, and were fully aware of its numerous corruptions, yet they were sensible that it retained some of the

fundamental

f) Rom. c. 14. v. 19.

« ForrigeFortsæt »