« AnteriorContinuar »
his meaning by observing, that their divisions are a sign that they ko walk as men; that is, after the manner of men, and not as Christians ought to walk; following the example of the heathen philosophers, who arranged themselves in sects, and assumed the names of their respective teachers, as party distinctions; instead of submitting with humility to one common head, and regarding the ministers set over them only as instruments in his hand, who was the Author of their faith, and alone entitled to their obedience.
It appears then that St. Paul, far from considering the maintenance of different religious opinions, or the formation of separate societies under teachers of their own selection, to be practices in which Christians had a natural and unalienable right to indulge, regarded the tendency to such conduct, which he observed in the Corinthians, as a proof that they were not wholly !“ renewed in the spirit of their “ minds.” Christianity, he argued, was a
k See Note LXXXVIII. Appendix.
1 Eph. iv. 23.
religion of unity and peace; and “ envy
ing, strife, and divisions” could only prevail among those who were yet “ babes in “ Christ,” but partially acquainted with the doctrines they had embraced, and little conversant in its duties. If then such evils are to be attributed to the prevalence of a carnal spirit over the influence of our holy faith; it will follow, that the sources of disunion are to be sought in those characteristic propensities of our nature, which it is the object of the Gospel to rectify or restrain; we must inquire into the motives by which men, as men, are engaged to resist authority, and to contend with one another; and then we shall have discovered the causes of every struggle, and every separation, which has hitherto disgraced the name and diminished the benefits of Christianity.
Solomon, whose intimate 'acquaintance with the human heart will not be disputed, assures us, that only by pride cometh “ contention;" and in confirmation of his
m Prov. xiii. 10.
assertion it will be found, that every
rebellious opposition to lawful authority in religious matters ; every instance of debate, of strife, or of schism recorded in the Scriptures, may be traced to the uncon- , trolled indulgence of this passion. The first blood spilt upon the earth stained the hand of one, who, having set up his own judgment and his own wisdom as the rule by which he was to serve God, presumed thus to assert his right to alter the divinely instituted worship of his Maker. And did the present occasion allow us to investigate the circumstances attending this earliest effect of the depravity entailed by the sin of Adam upon his posterity, it would not be difficult ton shew, that pride sowed the seeds of dissension, and finally raised the arm of the murderer against his brother's life and a
The Apostle St. Jude, when dehorting Christians from the evil and the gu of rebellion against lawful authority in the Church, mentions also another model,
» See Note LXXXIX. Appendix.
which such violators of Christian unity appeared to him to have adopted.
They “ have gone in the way of Cain,” says he, " and perished in the gainsaying of Core." The origin of p Corah's rebellion was evidently pride. He could not submit to that subordination of ranks in the Jewish church which God had established. In his eyes, all the congregation was equally holy; and therefore he and his company were as much entitled to bear rule as Moses and Aaron. In their own estimation, they had the necessary personal qualifications for spiritual authority; and they presumed that these qualifications were sufficient evidence of their right to assume the power they coveted. Any attempt therefore to control them they denounced as tyranny and usurpation, which they were fully determined to resist. So great was this infatuated self-conceit, that they were content to appeal to God himself for the decision of their claim ; thus challenging their Creator to defend his own appointments, and to disprove their right to new model the o Jude 11.
P See Note XC. Appendix.
public service which he required, according to the dictates of their own inclinations.
The event of this appeal proves, that no fancied qualifications for the ministerial office can supersede the necessity of divine appointment, or justify any man in 966 taking this honour unto himself,” or exercising its functions, until he has received a regular commission. Even Jesus Christ, we are assured, “glorified not him;" self to be made an high priest,” but submitted to the necessity of an outward calling; thus teaching us his disciples, that no inward " gifts, however extraordinary, no .conviction of holiness, however well founded, can authorize any man to act as his ambassador, (the character with which every priest is necessarily invested,) until he has received his credentials from God himself, through the hands of those who have succeeded the Apostles in their liar office and power.
These examples then, drawn from the sacred pages, suggest to us the two principal causes of religious disunion. The one, 9 Heb. v. 4, 5.
* See Note XCI. Appendix.