« PreviousContinue »
er. And how few are to be selves to a reproof like that, found, who have their Master's which Christ gave to the church interest so affectionately at heart, 'in Pergamos; “I have a few as to raise them above selfish things against thee, because thou motives. Is not that, which af- hast them that hold the doctrine fects the honour of God and rę. of Balaam, and thou hast them ligion, of more consequence, also, who hold the doctrine of the than any personal consideration ? Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.” We ought to feel a holy offence If it be asked, who shall deterat every thing, which wounds mine, what is false doctrine, or the church of Christ. We heresy. It is asked in return, should lament and reprove the who shall determine what is immisconduct of our brethren, con- moral practice, "or sin ? The sidered as sin against God, and church has the same advantage
not as personal injury to us. to judge what'is heresy, as they : Every act of church discipline have to judge what is immorali
should spring from sincere af- ty, and the same authority to fection to the Redeemer's cause censure members for the one, as and glory.
for the other. To connive at an It is the direction of Scripture, essential deviation from gospel that one, who is proved guilty of faith is as real a violation of intransgressing the laws of Chris- spired precepts, as to connive at tianity, and, after proper steps
a deviation from gospel practaken in private, shows no marks tice. of penitence, shall be cited be- It is deemed a mistake of evil fore the church; and that, after tendency in our churches, that the church has dealt with him private confession is accepted for in love and faithfulness, if he re- public sins. If a Christian commains incorrigible, he shall be mit a fault, which is a discredit excommunicated. But do not not only to himself, but to the our churches greatly neglect thịs cause of Christ;' how is the bad duty ? Is it any thing uncom. consequence of his transgression mon for persons, who are in- removed, except by '
manifesting temperate, or profane, or in some his repentance as publicly, as his other way grossly immoral, to guilt is known. The enlightencontinue in full communion with ed penitent will rest in nothing our churches, without ever be- short of this. He will wish the ing called to account for their : surrounding world, who know crimes ?
his offence, to know how he How rarely do our churches views his own conduct, and what take any proper notice of men, sentence he passes' upon himwho deny the essential truths of self. How eminently was this Christianity. In some instances spirit exemplified in David, after they suffer those, who reject the "lie had sinned in the matter of gospel and embrace the tenets of "Uriah. “Considering bis rank, infidelity. Thus they trans- his age, and a variety of circumgress the apostolic command; stances relating to his family, to
a man that is an heretic, after persons disaffected to his govern. the first and second admonition, ment, and to his character among reject;" and they expose them- 'the surrounding nations, it miglis Vol. II. No. 4.
have been thought expedient for "conduct of David is that of nomihim to be satisfied with secrét ‘nal Christians in general, 'who acts of contrition and devotion, transgress the laws of Christ. and with bringing forth fruits What a backwardness do they meet for repentance.
But he show to confess their sin's. It viewed the subject in a different often appears to be their notion, light, when brought to reflect that the great evil consists, not seriously on his conduct and its in transgression, but in confesprobable consequences. The sion. If they acknowledge their honour of God and of true reli- sins, it is with manifest rélúc. gion was deeply concerned, and tance, and in a manner far less with it the best interests of vast particular and public, than the multitudes. Nor did there ap- nature of their offence, and the pear any other way, in which 'honour of Christ's cause require. the bad effects of his crimes And what is to be particularly recould be so thoroughly prevent-marked here, the church, forgeted, as by his publicly taking the ful of the Redeemer's command deepest shame to himself for and glory, and governed by 'having acted directly contrary to worldly motives, accept a very that holy religion, which he pro- mutilated, inadequate confession. fessed. Whatever might be the Many more particular defects consequences to himself and his
or irregularities in the treatreputation, he seems to have re- ment of offenders might be mensolved, without delay, to publish tioned. But it may be sufficient to his family, his subjects, the 'to observe in general, that our world at large, and alt future churches at large seem in a great generations, the judgment which, measure destitute of the spirit in the sight of God, he now enter- of fidelity: Neglecting the word tained of his late behaviour. He of 'God, they are governed by therefore not only composed the personal regards. The authorififty first Psalm, for his private ty, with which Christ invested use, or to show to his friends, or the church, is nearly lost. The leave among his writings; but arm of salutary discipline is palhe gave it to the chief musician, “sied. Human friendship, or the that it might form a part of the fear of man outweighs the honpublic psalmody at the tabernacle, "our of the Redeemer and the and in consequence be circulated welfare of Zion. through all the land, and among One disorder connected with other nations, and continue in the general neglect of discipline the church, for the instruction "is, that when a brother offends, and warning of mankind in all fu- individual members, without tature ages. Nothing can be well king the regular measures to conceived more humiliating, than 'bring him to repentance, withsuch a measure ; nothing could draw on his account from spe. more decidedly show how much cial ordinances. On communion he preferred the honour of God days this disorder sometimes apto his own credit; in short, noth- pears great. Particular meming could more decidedly mani. bers of the church, conceiving a fest the depth of genuine repent- dislike or prejudice against a ance.” How different from the certain communicant, absent
themselves from the Lord's sup- tian calling, their common diffiper. "If you inquire the reason culties, dangers, hopes, and comof their conduct, their answer is, forts, in a word, their common that their feelings are such, they cause should prompt them to a cannot sit down with a particular free and unreserved intercourse brother. Thus they substitute and friendship. But instead of their own feelings in the room of this, what a distance is there begospel precepts. What a mani- tween them. Children of the fest irregularity. Because a same father, heirs of the same brother has incurred our resent- kingdom, travellers in the same ment or displeasure, shall we vio- heavenly road, yea, members of late our covenant engagements, the same body, though they have disobey Christ's dying com frequent opportunity to meet mand, retire from his church, and converse, hardly know one and deprive ourselves of the another. Christians are stranblessings of his table? Yet so gers to the spiritual condition of lax is the discipline of their brethren, in consequence of . churches, that, generally speak- which they are incapable of ing, they tolerate such disorderly alleviating their sorrows, of aidwithdrawment:
ing their progress in religion, It would be a great omission and of promoting, or participafo close these remarks, without ting their joys. This want of noticing the almost entire neg. free intercourse among believers lect of baptized children. How and an intimate knowledge of little is done for their religious each other's state directly tends instruction! Whạt friendly, pa- to prevent unity of sentiment ternal discipline does the church and fervency of affection, and to extend over them? Are they diminish all the comforts of treated as children of the cove- social piety. nant ? Do they feel themselves The disorders, which have to be under the watch and care "been hinted at, in different deof the church? What a wide de- grees, characterize the generaliparture is there in this respect, ty of New England churches; I say not from the practice of the though we may still notice many father's of New England, but pleasing exceptions. The consefrom the practice of primitive quences of these disorders are Christian churches. The cove- lamentable indeed, with referpant, which graciously comprises ence to the prosperity and honour children with their believing par- of the Christian cause, and the ents, is ungratefully overlooked, welfare of individual believers. its advantages spurned, and even One sad consequence of the the reality of it called in question, evils, which mark the internal and denied.
state of our churches, is, that maAnother subject of regret in ny good men are hindered from the internal state of our church- entering into a visible church es is, the want of intimate ac- state. quaintance and fervent affection Many, whose lives are examong brethren. The covenant emplary, and whose Christian inin which church members are fuence is greatly needed in the joined, the nature of the Chris: church, are perplexed, and kept
back by the disorders among which, at the same time, requires Christians. Seeing little that is no sacrifices and imposes no reinviting, or that promises utility straints. Is not this a subject of in a church standing, they neg. pious grief? Who can think it a lect a public profession. They Smail evil for tares to be so abun, are fearful of forming a connex- dantly sown in God's field, as to ion with a church, in which overpower and almost eradicate there is such a frequency of irre- the wheat ? What advantage can ligious, and even profune charac- be derived to the church from ters, and which is so poorly the introduction of those, who distinguished by its purity from have not the spirit of the gospel, the civilized world. It is not and are in heart foes to Christian pretended that prevalent disor. truth and sanctity? What will ders justify such Christians, or they do to advance the purity and furnish them with any apology glory of Zion ? What will they for neglecting their duty. But, do, but embarrass the efforts of in many instances, they conspire believers, efface more and more with other things to occasion of- the sacred beauty of Christianity, fence in pious minds, especially & level its honour with the dust? where there is a depression of This leads to another evil spirit and weakness of resolu- connected with the internal state tion, and to beget habitual hesi- of many New England churches, tancy with regard to an open pro. It was the original design of the fession of Christianity.
Redeemer, in the gospel dispenIt may seem strange to rank sation, to purify a people to him. under the same head an undesira- self; to establish a kingdom, ble increase of church members. which should evidently appear Yet in many cases, this stands in not of this world ; a holy church, near connexion with the last which should bear the resem: particular. Remove from the blance of its Head, and thus be church of Christ that strictness distinguished from every other of aiscipline, which he ordained; society of men. But in the pres. extinguish the light of Christian ent state of Christianity, where doctrines and Christian practice, is the line of discrimination be: which shone in primitive ages; tween the church and the world? and you open a door for the ad- What excellence of character, mission of an unholy throng. what sanctity of life distinguishThat very state of the church, es the bulk of nominal Christians which discourages the scrupulous from others ? What purity of conscience and the lowly heart, doctrine or discipline marks our invites the self confident and the churches at large, as parts of the worldly. As the spirit of Redeemer's kingdoin ?
With Christianity is corrupted or sunk, what propriety can they be adunrenewed men find less in the dressed in the words of Christ, church to awe their consciences, “ Ye are the salt of the earth, a to humble their pride, and to city set on a hill, the light of the abridge, their pleasures. They world ?" Christ broke down readily take upon them a profes- the wall of separation between sion, which custom stamps as Jews and Gentiles; but his proprecious and honourable, and fessed friends have since broken
down the wall of separation be- laws of Christ is a stumbling tween his church and the ungod- block to the unenlightened world. ly world,
It tends to keep sinners ignorant The lax discipline and other of the glory of the gospel, to internal disorders of most New confirm their prejudices, and bar England churches produce very their minds more and more ahurtful effects upon the personal gainst it. The enemies of relig, character of real believers. If ion make our irregularities the they had the advantage of being topic of malignant declamation connected with a church, where and triumphant reproach, and faithful discipline was maintain the foundation of those argued, where eminent goodness ments, which are most injurious was constantly exhibited before to the cause of truth. In addithem in the example of fellow tion to all this, the church has Christians, and where it was the little prospect of rearing a pious constant endeavour of the whole race, who shall be the safe debody to promote the edification positaries of our holy religion, of every member, they would We have gone back from God, rise to higher attainments in and, according to the natural knowledge and holiness ; they course of things, Christianity is would bear more abundant fruit, in great danger of an increasing and enjoy more consolation. But declension. Return, we beseech now they are like trees set in an thee, O God of hosts, look down unfriendly soil. 'Though not from heaven, and behold, and visit wholly barren, their fruit is less this vine, and the vincyard which abundant and less salutary, than thy right hand hath planted, and it would otherwise be. Their the branch that thou madest strong spiritual health is impaired by for thyself.
Pastor. the noxious atmosphere they breathe. The errors and vices, with which they are surrounded, have, though insensibly, a conta
DOCTRINE OF THE gious influence upon them. They
TRINITY. embrace wrong principles and At a time, when the attention are betrayed into wrong prac- of this part of the Christian tice, without being aware of their world is turned upon that imdanger. It is to be expected, portant and fundamental article that a general declension in the in our holy religion, the divinity spirit of the churches will be at- of Christ, it is seasonable to tended with a correspondent de- bring into view the best lights on clension in the piety of individ- this subject, to aid investigation, ual believers.
and direct to a right result. Drs. The moral disorders found in Watts and Doddridge have deour churches furnish infidels servedly obtained high reputawith their most successful weap- tion in the Christian world for ons against revealed religion, and their piety, candour, talents and present the greatest hinderance learning; and though we would to its general reception. The call no man Master, yet their want of visible harmony between opinions on controverted points our religious state and the holy are to be respected, as valuable