« AnteriorContinuar »
as the Apostle calls it, cannot be a partaker in that fellowship, which connects him with Christians as a member of the same body, and with Christ as its head. est
They who have perversely wandered from the true faith, have therefore ever been considered as destroyers of Christian unity. St. Paul indeed declares, that • heresy may be made to serve a good purpose, as it affords an opportunity to true believers to shew their faith, by a stedfast opposition to it; but in another place he reckons it among those pk works of the “ flesh, which may exclude a man from an inheritance in the kingdom of God; and he directs Titus to reject a heretic, after due admonition, considering him as one that p« is subverted, and sinneth, being “ condemned of himself;" “ that is," says the learned Hammond,“ inflicting upon “ himself that punishment, which the “ Church is wont to do upon malefactors,
by cutting himself off from her commu“nion.”
ni Cor. xi. 19. P Gal. v. 20,
o See Note LIV. Appendix. 9 Tit. iii. 10, 11.
The language of those who immediately succeeded the Apostles in the government of the Church, and who must be supposed to have been intimately acquainted with their sentiments and practice, may also be allowed to have considerable weight in determining this question : and they are runanimous in considering a departure from the fundamental articles of the Christian faith, as a breach of Christian unity; separating those who are guilty of it from the flock of Christ, and depriving them of the privileges of his covenant. ::
It is indeed impossible to conceive, that real ünity can exist without the one faith is preserved; and all attempts to s promote it by stifling controversies, and concealing breaches which we cannot heal; by unwarrantable compromises, or mere external conciliation ; will either wholly fail, or will produce, at best, a temporary union, by the permanent sacrifice of truth. The history of eighteen centuries has suffici
r See Note LV. Appendix.
ently proved to all who are inclined to learn wisdom from experience, that there can be no real concord among Christians, but that which is built, as the unanimity of the first converts at Jerusalem was, upon
stedfast 'adherence to the doctrine and fellowship of the Gospel."
sind, Religion is a matter, too nearly and too deeply interesting, to be compatible with indifference. Where every thing which can awaken the feelings or influence the hopes of mankind is at stake, it will be ever difficult to prevent men from contending even about points of little mo. ment; much more so, to temper a laudable zeal for doctrines of real importance with charity towards their opponents. Even where this is most perfectly done, unity must be lost, though charity be preservedi For though our detestation of heretical opinions be joined with pity for those who unfortunately hold them; though we be ready earnestly and sincerely to pray, that such persons may once more be brought home to the flock of Christ; until that desired event be accomplished, we cannot
but regard them-as straying from the fold, exposed to: enemies, whom they may be umáble to encounter, and violating the integrity of the Christian Church. But ifo unmoved by these considerations, we seek to build up the breaches in the Church t" with untempered mortar;', and to make all men, of all persuasions, dwell together as the brethren of the Lord, by teaching, that unity in fundamentals is not necessary; or by inducing the unwary. to believe, that no doctrines which have been made the subjects of controversy are in themselves fundamental.; open dissensions may for a time be prevented, and the voice of controversy may be heard no longer : but it is to be feared, that Christianity it, self may perish with the contests, by which its truth has hitherto been maintained; and the silence which will follow, may be the silence of death. For they who are once taught that all modes of faith are equally right, will soon persuade themselves that none are nécessary; and the useful, though
t Ezek:-xiii. 10.
sometimes excessive, and often ill direct, ed zeal, with which men, have, hitherto
striven together for the faith of the Gospel,” will be succeeded by the dull and heartless apathy of a deistical philo, sophy.
irit ITION) The language of our Saviour and his Apostles appears to warrant an opinion, that the latter days will be marked by the prevalence of infidelity... For the many intimations to be found in the New Tess tament, of a remarkable ,defection from the saving doctrines of the Gospel, which is to precede the great and terrible day of the Lord, although, in their primary sigs nification, they may have referred to the falling away of the Jews, before the de.. struction of their city and temple; ,haye , been generally expected to receive their final accomplishment in a more extensive apostasy, by which the Church, itself would be nearly brought to desolation. Various bave been the events, to which these predictions have been supposed to
u Phil. i. 27.;