« ForrigeFortsæt »
pointed out, and continue the process, until they have brought the matter to a final conclusion. This is agreeable to Christ's platform of church government. " Moreover, if thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tellit unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Christ here gives no direction to the censured person to appeal to any higher tribunal to take off the censure, nor to the church to call a council for advice. The censured person bas no right to appeal to any higher ecclesiastical tribunal for relief, because there is no higher ecclesiastical tribunal on earth to which he can appeal; and the church have no right to submit their decision to the decision of any higher tribunal. But what if the church should misjudge and censure a man unjustly, is there no way to rectify their mistake? If the man feels himself injured, he may ask the church to reconsider the case, and they may comply with his request. Or he may ask them to call a council, and lay his case before a council; and they may comply with his request. But what if they do reconsider his case, and not reverse their decision ? or what if they do call a council, which advises them to reverse their decision, but they will not follow their advice? Is there no other way for him to find relief? None at all. There must be a final decision, and the church must make it. But is not this hard ? It must be allowed that it is hard. But no harder than if his case were referred to a council, and they should not advise the church to reverse their decision; or than if his case should be referred to a second, or third, or ever so many councils, and all advise the church to confirm their decision. There must be a stop somewhere; and it may be as well that the stop should be in the church, as in any other ecclesiastical body; and better, for Christ himself has directed the church to put an end to the process. But after all, the man may be injured. That is true; and no man has reason to expect that justice will always be done him, in this erroneous world. The human device of giving power to associations, or consociations, or councils, to decide in ecclesi. astical causes, has been a fruitful source of ecclesiastical injustice, tyranny, and persecution. The plain and simple congregational mode of deciding ecclesiastical causes and difficulties, is far the easiest, wisest, and best. No ecclesiastical decision ought to be taken out of the hands of a particular church, where Christ has lodged it; for he has appointed no
ecclesiastical tribunal superior to that of an individual church, to which either the body, or members of a church may appeal.
5. Every mode of church government is destructive of the rights and liberties of every christian church, except strict Congregationalism. Presbyterianism is destructive of the independence of every Christian church, and robs it of all the power and authority which Christ has given it. No Presbyterian church has a right to invite a candidate to preach among them, without the consent of the presbytery. And after they have invited him, and are willing to settle him, they cannot get him ordained without the consent of the presbytery. And if he should be corrupt in sentiment or practice, they could not discipline him according to the steps that Christ has pointed out. He would first appeal to the presbytery, and if they should condemn him, he would appeal to the synod; and if they should condemn him, he could appeal to the general assembly, which might be hundreds of miles from his people; and if they should justify him, his people could have no relief. It is easy to see that this mode of church government is destructive to the rights of any particular church. So is Episcopalianism. An Episcopalian church has no independence; the government of it is in the hands of archbishops, bishops, and other inferior clergy.
You know that all the protestant world have loudly complained and justly, of the ecclesiastical tyranny of the church of Rome; which has destroyed the independence of all the churches of the popish religion. Every mode of church government, except strict Congregationalism, is hostile to that perfect platform of church government which Christ has given us in the eighteenth of Matthew; and is more or less tyrannical. These human hierarchies, which have been the source of immense evils in the christian world, ought to be destroyed; and they will undoubtedly be destroyed in the time of the Millennium. They are the bulwarks of error, delusion and every species of moral corruption, and must be purged out of the Christian world, before the church can become universally pure and flourish. We have long been praying for the downfall of unchristian power and tyranny in the church of Rome; and we ought to pray for the downfall of every degree of that unchristian power in every other church in the world.
6. This subject shows the superior excellency of that ecclesiastical government, which Christ has appointed in his church. It is neither monarchical, like the church of Rome, nor aristocratical, like the presbyterian church; but a pure democracy, which places every member of the church upon a level, and gives him perfect liberty with order. If any one commits an offence, he is to be tried by his peers, by his christian friends,
and by the whole ecclesiastical body to which he belongs. The whole plan of government is founded in benevolence; and every step in the execution of it is to be taken in benevolence. The first step of discipline is perfectly benevolent and friendly. The offended brother is to treat the offender in a kind, tender, benevolent manner, by telling him his fault in private, and endeavoring to bring about a cordial reconciliation. But if he fails of obtaining his friendly object in this first step, he is not allowed to bring the offender before the church in a rash and precipitate manner. He must take one or two with him, to act the part of grand jurymen, and determine whether there is ground to bring the cause before the church. If they say there is not sufficient cause to bring the matter before the church, he cannot bring it. This step is perfectly benevolent, and designed to prevent any vexatious complaint from being brought into the church. Or if the case is brought before the church, the offender has a fair trial by his peers and the whole body of his christian friends, and not by the pastor, or one or two brethren, who might possibly be prejudiced against him; and he has no right to think that the whole church are prejudiced against him. If they condemn him, therefore, he has reason to believe that they have acted from pure, benevolent motives, and with a friendly design to bring him to repentance. And to such a sentence, whether correct or incorrect, he ought cordially to submit, and properly improve it.
Now if any should think, that there is something severe and unbenevolent in Christ's directing the church to treat the excommunicated person as an heathen man and publican, it may be proper to explain the meaning of that direction. We are not, perhaps, to understand it, as some have understood it, to forbid The members of the church to eat and drink with an excommunicated man at common meals, or to treat him with the common marks of civility. It only requires them to treat him as a man of the world, and withdraw from him all Christian fellowship and communion. This, and every other step of discipline, is exactly suited to bring the offender to repentance and reformation, and to save his soul from death. It is a dark mark against professors of religion, that they are generally so backward to discharge the duty of gospel discipline towards their offending brethren. By this neglect, they may suffer the leaven of corruption to spread gradually, until it has leavened the whole lump, and ruined the whole church. Let professors keep themselves in the love of God, and purge the beams out of their own eyes, that they may see clearly to purge the motes out of their brother's eye. Perform this duty properly, and you will have the approbation of Christ, of the reproved and reformed of the world, and of your own consciences. And now please to remember, that your peace, purity and edification unitedly bind you, to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free; and maintain your original congregational principles in opposition to every other mode of church government; and especially against Presbyterianism, which so many ministers throughout the United States, are so zealously engaged to promote. If they should tell you that Christ has not instituted any particular form of church government, refer them to the eighteenth of Matthew, which ought to silence them. But if they deny that any platform of government is there instituted, ask them to show you the passage, or the passages in the New Testament, in which christians are required to exercise any kind of ecclesiastical authority, or discipline over one another. No man can tell. All who depart from Christ's platform of church government, make one of their own, which must be unscriptural, unreasonable and tyrannical. This has been, for ages, confirmed by all the persecutions to which christians have been subjected. All persecutions have originated from ecclesiastical iyranny. But it is impossible for persecution to arise in strictly Congregational churches. They inflict no civil penalties on delinquents. Their discipline terminates in excommunication. Maintain Congregational discipline, and you are safe, but not otherwise.
SERMON LX XVII.
A PUBLIC PROFESSION OF RELIGION.
Ons shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and
surname himself by the name of Israel. -- ISAIAH, xliv. 6.
This chapter begins with a prediction of the future prosperity and increase of the church of God. “ Now hear, O Jacob, my servant, and Israel whom I have chosen. Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water cour
One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” Here is a representation of a large and copious effusion of the divine Spirit upon persons of all ages, but more especially upon the young, who resemble the flowers that adorn the face of the earth. And it is plainly intimated that this divine influence should produce one and the same happy effect upon the hearts and conduct of all who should be the subjects of it. It should dispose them to make a public profession of religion, and bind themselves to be the Lord's for ever.
And since the same cause will naturally produce the same effect, we may justly conclude,
That those who become the subjects of special grace, will choose to join the church, and enter into covenant to walk in .all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. I shall,