Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

All the Apostles were equal in power, and all bishops are also equal; since the whole Episcopate is one entire thing, of which every bishop has a complete and equal share. Even Gregory the Great declared (Epist. VII. 33.) that the assumption of the title of Universal Bishop savoured of Antichrist. Of the punishment of death, Irenæus (Hær. v. 24.) observes that God imposed the fear of man upon the unruly, the covetous, and murderers, that they might be terrified by the sword which was publicly set before them; and that magistrates, being invested for this end with the laws of justice, are not to be questioned or punished for their proceedings according to law. With respect to the last clause of the Article, the primitive Christians, according to Tertullian (Apol. c. 42.), served in the wars of the heathen emperors; and Augustine (c. Faust. Man. XXII. 74.) speaks of soldiers not as homicides, but defenders of the public safety. He also writes thus in Civ. D. I. 22. He is no murderer, who, God being the arbiter, serves in war; or who, as the representative of the public authority, and acting according to law, punishes the wicked with death.

ARTICLE XXXVIII.

Of Christian men's Goods, I De illicita bonorum Comwhich are not common.

municatione.

The riches and goods of FACULTATES et bona Christians are not common, Christianorum non sunt as touching the right, title, communia, quoad jus et and possession of the same; possessionem ; ut quidam as certain Anabaptists do Anabaptistæ jactant. Debet falsely boast. Notwithstand tamen quisque de his quæ ing, every man ought, of such possidet, pro facultatum rathings as he possesseth, lib- ' tione, pauperibus eleemosyerally to give alms to the

give alms to the nas benigne distribuere. poor, according to his ability.

1. Give an account of the Anabaptists; and quote Luther's summary of their opinions.

The Anabaptists were a sect that sprung up in Germany

about the year 1520, and, influenced by the misguided zeal of their leader, Thomas Muncer, committed the most disgraceful excesses. Among other unwarrantable opinions, they derived from the statement of St. Luke (Acts ii. 44.) that the first disciples had all things common,' that a community of goods was binding upon Christians. The name of the sect is derived απο του αναβαπτίζειν, from rebaptizing those who joined their communion; and Luther (Præf. ad Exam. in Matt. 5.) gives the foliowing account of them:- Docent Christiano nihil esse possidendum, non jurandum, nullos magistratus habendos, non exercenda judicia, neminem tuendum ad defendendum, uxores et liberos deserendos, atque id genus portenta quamplurima.

2. Shew that a community of goods was rever contemplated by Christ and his Apostles as a principle of Christianity.

In the repeated exhortations of Christ and his Apostles to alms-giving and hospitality, as well as to the exercise of those virtues which can only be displayed in the lower ranks of life, it is manifestly implied that there will ever be the rich to give, and the poor to receive : while the contributions which were sent from Macedonia and Achaia to the poor Christians in Judæa, abundantly prove that, even in the Apostles time, there were those who from their private means were able to relieve the necessitous and distressed. There is neither any precept in the Gospel where a

in the Gospel where a community of goods is enjoined ; nor is it consistent with the general welfare of society, or even with its existence, that a renunciation of private property should take place. Such a state of things would be a direct encouragement to idleness, and in manifest opposition to the Apostle's admonition, that'' with quietness men work, and eat their own bread' (2 Thess. iii. 12.).

3. Does it not appear, however, that the early converts had all things common?

It appears indeed that a community of goods was for a time adopted in the infant Church at Jerusalem, and that many of the new converts delivered up their worldly possessions for the use of the brethren. Among others Barnabas,

having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the Apostles feet' (Acts iv. 37.). Some have thought, how

ever, that those only, who were immediately engaged in the work of the ministry, threw their property into a common stock ; but at all events the act was altogether voluntary, and consequent upon no command from any of the Apostles.

4. Whence does it appear that these contributions to a common fund was in no way compulsory?

In the matter of Ananias and Sapphira, though St. Peter denounced the fraudulent and dishonourable object of the transaction, he fully admitted their right of possession. • While it remained,' he said to Ananias, was it not thine

own? After it was sold, was it not in thine own power ?' (Acts y. 4.)

5. Shew that Almsgiving is a paramount Christian obligation; and mark the principle upon which it must be based in order to acceptance in the sight of God.

No duty is more frequently and earnestly pressed upon Christians in the New Testament than that of contributing to the necessities of their poorer brethren. To'give to him

that asketh ;' to 'minister to the necessity of the saints,' according as God bas blessed them with the ability, is recommended as a debt which they owe to the giver of all good; and while Timothy is instructed to charge them that are rich in this world that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to com‘municate' (1 Tim. vi. 17, 18.), those who are not rich are enjoined to work with their hands the thing which is good, . that they may have to give to him that needeth' iv. 28.). God does not regard the value of the gift, but the disposition of the giver; and a principle of love to God and Christ must be the ruling motive of every act of benerolence. All is worthless without this love; and with it even a widow's mite is a 'sacrifice with which God is well ' pleased' (Heb. xiii. 16.).

6. In what light does our Lord regard the practice of almsgiving and brotherly love?

An act of mercy, done even to the most humble of his followers, is accepted and rewarded by Christ, as if it were done to himself. "Inasmuch as ye have done it,' he says,

to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it "unto me' (Matt. xxv. 40.). As therefore the practice of Christian charity in all its branches is so highly estimated by our Lord, so will the neglect be severely punished at the day of final retribution.

7. Quote passages from the early Fathers in support of the doctrine of this Article.

Clem. Rom. Ep. ad Cor. c. 38. Let him that is strong despise not him that is weak, and let him that is weak reverence him that is strong : let the rich give alms to the poor, and the poor give thanks to God. Justin M. Apol. 1. C. 67. Those that have much make their contributions accordingly, which are deposited with the President, for the support of orphans and widows, and the relief of those that are in want by reason of sickness or any other cause, or those that are in bonds, or strangers that have come from a distance. In a word, he takes care of all that stand in need of assistance. Clem. Alex. Quis div. Salv.c. 13. How much better is it, by possessing a competency, to be free from the hardships of want, and to be able to relieve those whom it is proper to relieve! How manifestly would this doctrine of a community of goods be found to be at variance with many of our Lord's precepts? How shall any give meat to the hungry, or perform these other acts of charity, against those who neglect which he denounces everlasting fire (Matt. xxv. 41.), if every one is to be deprived of the means of doing all these things?

ARTICLE XXXIX.

Of a Christian man's Oath.

De jurejurando.

As we confess that vain | QUEMADMODUM juraand rash swearing is for- mentum vanum et temerabidden Christian men by our rium a Domino nostro Jesu Lord Jesus Christ, and James Christo, et Apostolo ejus his Apostle ; so we judge that Jacobo, Chistianis hominiChristian religion doth not bus interdictum esse fateprohibit, but that a man mur ; ita Christianorum remay swear when the Magis- i ligionem minime prohibere trate requireth, in a cause of censemus, quin jubente mafaith and charity, so it be gistratu, in causa fidei et done, according to the Pro- charitatis, jurare liceat, modo phet's teaching, in justice, id fiat juxta Prophetæ doc'udgment, and truth. trinam, in justitia, in judicio,

et veritate

1. What is an Oath; and upon what does the force of it depend ?

An Oath is a solemn appeal to the Supreme Being, eclaratory of the truth of an assertion, or the obligation of a promise. It is made under the persuasion that God will punish, as a deliberate defiance of his wrath, the violation of a pledge thus given between man and man; and it has consequently been always regarded as the most efficient means of securing justice, and preserving confidence, in the transactions of civil and social life.

2. By whom, and upon what grounds, have objections been urged against the lawfulness of oaths ?

The Anabaptists of former times, and the Quakers of the present day, are the principal objectors to the lawfulness of oaths; and their scruples have reference to the prohibition of our Saviour, repeated by St. James, to which this Article alludes.

3. To what description of Swearing do our Lord and his Apostles allude in these prohibitions ?

In our Saviour's time, the Jews were much addicted to the use of profane and unmeaning oaths, in which they swore by Heaven, by Earth, by Jerusalem, and by the head, without attaching any obligation to asseverations thus supported. It is manifestly with reference to this practice of swearing in common conversation, that our Lord says 'Let your communication,' i. e. your ordinary intercourse with each other, ‘be yea, yea; nay, nay: for whatsoever is ‘more than this cometh of evil' (Matt. v. 34.). The precept of St. James (v. 12.) is to the same purpose.

4. Shew that oaths upon occasions of peculiar

« PoprzedniaDalej »