« PoprzedniaDalej »
ment to erect a strong barrier against their encroachments. It is neither harsh nor intolerant to counteract or suppress by coercive means those principles which are destructive of the dearest interests of social life, and even subversive of the foundations upon which the social edifice is built. Of this the decision must be left to the magistrate's judgment and discretion, who, in granting a toleration, is called upon, as guardian of the public welfare, to limit it with such restrictions as may be necessary to secure the peace, the safety, and the civil good of society.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE CHRISTIAN
I. It has been shewn in the former part of this work, that it is the duty of the chief magistrate to make choice of that form of religion which he believes to be in accordance with the sacred Scriptures, and to support it by such means as are consistent with the same authority, and with the principles of sound policy. He can neither exercise nor confer spiritual functions; he can neither decree nor expound articles of faith; he can neither lawfully alter nor abridge spiritual jurisdiction; all that he is empowered to do by virtue of his civil supremacy is, to invest with such civil privileges as have been described, that system which he believes to be strictly conformable to the Gospel; and the annexation of these privileges constitutes a national religion, or Established Church. Hence arises the important inquiry, What that system really is ? In other words, what is a truly scriptural Church, both in regard to doctrines and outward constitution; for that alone is the religious society, or Church, which he ought to support.
The word “ Church” is used by the sacred writers in various senses; sometimes for the whole society of believers in Christ wherever dispersed throughout the world; sometimes for the faithful of a city or province; sometimes for a particular congregation; sometimes for the Church triumphant in heaven; sometimes, perhaps, for the governors of the Church, and for the edifice or place where a congregation assembled. These applications of the term it is quite superfluous to discuss, as the present enquiry relates solely to the nature of a particular and visible Church. What kind of community do the scriptures represent it? What are its discriminating marks and characters'?
1 According to the 19th Article, “ The visible church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached,” &c. ; where the word “ congregation” is used as equivalent to “ society;" for 1st, the Article is not “Of A Church,” but “ Of The Church;" i. e. it defines not a particular, but the universal visible Church. 2ndly, the word is used in this extensive sense in the 55th Canon, which enjoins prayers “ for Christ's holy catholic Church, that is, for the whole congregation of Christian people dispersed throughout the whole world.” The sense of the Article then
As doctrinal questions are designedly omitted in this treatise, the investigation will be confined to its external constitution; and for this purpose it will be requisite to inquire into the true character of the Church-state, or Church considered as a society, of its government, of its officers, of its authority, and of the outward worship, rites and ordinances which it prescribes. Having collected what the Scriptures teach concerning each of these branches of the subject, we shall be enabled to ascertain the true nature and constitution of a christian Church.
II. 1. In regard to the first branch of inquiry, the Church-state, all the members have a certain union among themselves, as well as with their common Head, and consequently are a society. A number of persons united together, whatever may be the bond of union, constitute a society; and, as Christian believers are not a confused multitude each independent of the other, but are connected by the ties of mutual relationship, the Church in reference to its members is a society. In this light it is represented by the inspired writers, who designate it a family, the members of which have some common relation to one another and to its Master, Matt. x. 25; Luke xii. 42; Eph. ii. 19;
is, that the visible Church of Christ is a society formed of the whole aggregate of those faithful men, among whom the pure word of God is preached, &c. ?
II: Ephes. iii. 15; Heb. xii. 22; a house which is built upon a rock, and in which the Master assigns to every one his proper gifts and his proper office, Matt. xvi. 18; 1 Cor. iii. 9, 10; Eph. ii. 21; 1 Tim. iii. 15; Heb. iï. 5, 6; 1 Pet. ii. 5: a city, where the inhabitants enjoy certain rights of citizenship, Gal. iv. 26; Phil. iii. 20; Heb. xii. 22: a kingdom, having common laws, and a government administered under a sovereign, Matt. xvi. 19, xxviii. 18, 19; Col. i. 13; 1 Thess. ii. 12. The Church is also denominated the body of Christ, Rom. xii. 4, 5; 1 Cor. xii. 12, et seq. ; Eph. iv. 4, et seq., v. 30; Col. i. 18; the spouse of Christ, Matt. xxii. 2, xxv. 1; Eph. v. 25, 32; Rev. xix. 7; a flock under one Shepherd, John X. 16, xxi. 15, 17; Acts xx. 28; Heb. xiii. 20; 1 Pet. ii. 25, v. 2. 4; the mountain of the Lord, Isa, ii. 22; Micah iv. 1; an elect generation, a holy priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, 1 Pet. ii. 9. As all these designations imply an association under the bonds of some common relationship, the church must be a regular society. ,
2. But it differs from all other societies in this, that it is a spiritual society ; being founded not for secular but spiritual objects, not for securing temporal privileges and rewards, but those which are spiritual and eternal. It extends to both worlds, and is partly on earth and partly in heaven; but though in the world it is not or the world, being wholly distinct from