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case the gifts of the holy spirit; the other openly withstood the apostle, and sought to turn away the deputy from the faith. But these Cases, though the judgment passed in each had not referred to the conduct of the offenders, would not justify Mr. Fuller, or myself, or any one else, in judging the hearts of others, unless we possessed with the apostles the like authority and the like gift of discerning spirits.
Mr. Fuller, indeed, allows, that we should never attempt to judge others but “ by their words and actions." Will he, however, contend, that every judgment formed on these grounds is candid and just ? Words and actions may, and do appear in different lights to different persons. They are often ambiguous and capable of a different construction. They are often mistaken. They are often misrepresented. On the ground of his words Jesus Christ was accused of blasphemy. On the ground of his actions " the holy one and just's was charged with being a friend of publicans and sinners. Mr. Fuller, with propriety, therefore, grants, that we cought to be cau. " tious of judging others.” The point, then, which remains for his calm and sober review, and which is open to the judgment of the public, is, whether he hath been cautious and candid ; whether misconceptions have not deceived himn : whether prejudices have not warped him: whether eagerness to establish his conclusion hath not bem trayed him into rashness, when writing concerning the Socinians ? Whether this hath not been the case, when he asserts that the avenue to Socinianism is a heart secrectly disaffected to the true character and
government of God and dissatisfied with the gospel-way of salovation ?" If the heart be secretly disaffected, is not this a judgment that goes beyond the evidence of words and actions ? If the heart be secretly disaffected, how came Mr. Fuller to know it ? by what gift of discerning spirits, and penetrating into the inward recesses of the mind, lying beyond the human ken? To many, after all he has advanced in defence of it, this will appear a presumptuous sentence “ proceeding from a presumptuous spirit.” And in this decision he will be judged by his words and actions.
In p. 39, and following, Mr. Fuller argues for “the right of chris"stians to refuse communion with those who avow Socinian princi.
ples, from the right of any individual to separate himself from any 6: community, whose sentiments he considers in a similar light.” F
It is to be granted, that the christian, who would keep the commandments of Jesus, pure and undefiled, must have a right to do this; that is, to do his duty. The necessity of using this right ariseth, when any christian community assumes a power (which Mr. Fuller contends, they have a right to assume) of so incorporating their peculiar views of christianity with the profession of it, and of blending them with their worship, that a conscientious man, who differs from them, and considers their sentiments and worship as corruptions of the gospel, can not join in their worship, or subscribe to their creed, with sincerity, and consistently with his obligations to maintain the gospel in its original simplicity and purity, But on the principles of protestants, of dissenters, among whom Mr. Fuller classes himself, and of christianity, no individual christian, no body of christians hath a right of so modelling the christian profession and worship, as to make it inconsistent with any sincere christian to join in it, or to bring themselves under a sense of obli. gation to exclude any such. If Mr. Fuller will justify a community of Calvinistic and Trinitarian dissenters in the claim and use of such a right, he must also grant, that the church of England, as a christian community, has also a right to exclude those, who do not believe all the thirty-nine articles. On the same ground the church of Rome has a right to exclude those, who deny the doctrine of transubstantiation, and the decrees of the council of Trent, or the creed of pope Pius. Each community excludes only those, whose sentiments they consider as subversive of the gospel. Each community, in these cases, sets up a standard of christianity, of its own framing. If this be not to become lawgivers and masters in the church of Christ, I know not what can answer the character.
In these cases, not the gospel, as it lieth in the New Testament, becomes the rule of faith, but as it exists in the formularies and devotional services of certain churches: not the profession of faith in Christ, as our only master and lawgiver, is made the term of communion ; but an acquiescence in the right assumed by such a body of christians : not the belief of the New Testament, and taking that as the sole rule of our faith and practice; but a conformity to another rule, to another scheme of sentiments, offered, at least, as explanatory of it : to their
gospel, or the gospel according to their views of it, is the prescribed term of fellowship. This is going much beyond the rule of communion laid down by the apostle, which is to " receive one another
as Christ also hath received us.” Rom. xv. 7. From the New Testament it is apparent, that professing their belief, that Jesus was the Christ or Messiah, was the only requisition, on which men were baptized and received into the christian church. On what authority can more be, now-a-days, insisted on; that “ the thing professed “ be christianity ?'If any christian community hath received from Heaven a commission to demand more, let the credentials of its authority be produced.
But Mr. Fulter urges, p. 40, that, " to oblige a christian com" munity to hold fellowship with persons, between whom and " themselves there is an entire want of concord, would be to chain “ down the whole christian world in slavery, and to establish the " liberty of the individual at the expense of the society."—Will not Mr. Fuller grant, that cases may arise, when the liberty of the individual should be asserted and vindicated at the expense of the society; as, when a society is governed by wrong principles, is actuated by the mere spirit of domination, and its claims resolve · themselves into usurpations? Is not this the state of the individual negro ? Was it not the state of Martin Luther, and of many indi. vidual protestants, with respect to the Popish hierarchy ?
Again, can it be said that “ there is an entire want of concord " between those who believe that God is, and that he is the rewarder " of them that diligently seek him ? between those to whom there " is one Master and Saviour, one hope of their calling ? between " those who are turned from idols to serve the living and true God, H and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the is dead, even Jesus, which delivereth us from the wrath to come ?!! The violatian of the concord, however, liệth not at the door of those, who would adhere to this simple faith, to these general prin.. ciples; but at their door, who would blend other principles with these, as of equal authority.
Qace more shall a christian community complain of slavery, of in infringement of its liberty, because it is brought back to the . F 2
original, christian rule of fellowship; the acknowledgment of the divine mission of Jesus Christ; or that Jesus is the Christ? Is it slavery to conform itself to the authority of the great Lawgiver ? Is it slavery to adhere to that principle, on which he declared he would build his church ? Mat. xvi. 16, 18. If this be slavery, I will hug my chains, and boast in my slavery.
Mr. Fuller will, probably, reply here in the words we have p. 41, viz.In our view, our opponents have renounced the prin. “ cipal ideas included in those primitive forms of confession,
Jesus is the Christ,'' Jesus Christ is the Son of God;' and as cha" rity itself does not require us to acknowledge and treat that as
christianity, which in our judgment is not so, we think it our “ duty, in love, and with a view to their conviction, both by our “ words and actions, to declare our decided disapprobation of their s principles.”
The actions, meant here, extend beyond discussion, reasoning, and remonstrance, which may all be conducted in a spirit of love, and yet strongly express a disapprobation of any principles, to a sentence of exclusion from communion. This sentence, it is pleaded, is incurred by those, who “renounce the principal ideas included “ in the primitive forms of confession.” Mr. Fuller's assertion amounts to a claim of right in a society, to explain scriptural forms, not for their own satisfaction only, but authoritatively, as a test of faith to others. On this principle these primitive forms may swell into a large body of metaphysical and abstruse theology. They may include, in the first instance, the Nicene creed. They may comprehend the Catholic faith, as cast into the paradoxical propositions of the Athanasian creed. They may divide into the five points, established in the decrees of the Synod of Dort. They may, in the church of England, expand into thirty-nine articles. They may be moulded, in the hands of a Committee of Missionaries to the South Seas, into twenty-one principles of religion. And by Mr. Fuller, there is no doubt, they may be digested into the Trinitarian and Calvinistic systems. But where, we ask, is the authority for including in these primitive forms such a compass, variety, and multiplicity of principal ideas ? This is to make those forms to
contain, not only primary and leading ideas, but a number of secondary, subordinate, and consequential ideas; all which must be admitted to compleat the idea of christianity, and be embraced as a term of communion. Where the line is to be drawn; where the boundary is to be placed, between articles essential or nonessential to communion, it is not easy to say. Thus a single proposition, that Jesus is the Christ, i.e.'the anointed, or, an equivalent one, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, expressed in a few, plain terms, that have a clear, definite, and precise meaning, multiplies into a number of intricate and abstruse points. The simplicity of the first times of the gospei is destroyed: the scriptural formulary is lost in human formularies : and, as it hath been well expressed, “ it becomes a
matter of much subtilty and wit for a man to be a christian.” Yet the persons, who argue for including in these primitive forms all hey deem "principal ideas, lay no claim to infallibility any
more than their opponents." P. 41. It is surprising, that men can thus deceive themselves with an affectation of disclaiming, with a verbal renunciation of infallibility, when their conduct can be justified on no other principle than really possessing it. It gives one concern to have occasion to remonstrate, on this subject, with a gentleman, who is Dissenting and a Baptist Minister.]