« AnteriorContinua »
we have no warrant to separate from our brethren in Christ. This state of matters calls for long-suffering, forbearance, and endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. If it were our duty to separate from the church on such cases, then all who differed from their brethren would be warranted to separate themselves. If the church indeed departs from the faith of Christ, or rejects his authority, the call would then be, "come out of her my people;" but we should be sure this is the case before we take such a step, lest we be found making a schism in the body.
Let me further observe on this head, that in order to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, we must attend regularly on the ordinances of the Gospel, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. The unity of the Spirit is a unity of obedience to all things whatsoever Christ hath commanded. We are to exhort one another daily;-but both exhorters and the exhorted must be present; and so of other duties as a church of Christ. The Lord's Supper sets forth our union as one body; but if we absent ourselves voluntarily, we are breaking that unity; we are not keeping the unity of the Spirit.
I shall now point out some deviations from the unity here enjoined, to shew when we may be said to act contrary to the exhortation in the text.
1. When we depart from the faith, the bond of our union with God and with one another, we may be said to break the unity of the Spirit. It is only through faith in what the apostles saw and heard of the word of life, that we can have fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, 1 John i. 3. Nor can we then have fellowship with believers in the truth: for a departure from the faith is a forsaking the bond of our union, and the principle of obedience. We love one another for the truth's sake, and should perform every duty from this principle. This is true both as it respects our duty to God and to one another, as brethren in Christ, united together to observe the ordinances of the Gospel. All pretence of doing the will of God without Gospel principles is deceit and hypocrisy, and
at best but as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.
2. Another breach in the unity of the Spirit appears, when we give up with the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ as Lawgiver in his kingdom. Now this is done when we take upon us to alter, subtract from, or add to, any of the laws of Christ, or reject the laws which he hath given for the regulation of our conduct. His disciples are to observe all things whatsoever he hath commanded. But we are not to teach for doctrines the commandments of men. All our conduct as a church or as individuals, must be regulated by the laws of Christ, otherwise, we are rejecting the authority of Christ as our Lawgiver. Now, as our union is founded, not only upon the faith, but also upon the obedience of the Gospel, we destroy the unity of the Spirit, if we walk not in the observance of his laws. Then we shew that our faith is dead, being alone. And if such repent not, they must be cut off as unfit members of a church of Christ. Thus the peace and unity of the church is broken, by the unworthy conduct of professors.
3. A voluntary separation from a church of Christ, which keeps the faith and commandments of God, stands opposed to the keeping of the unity of the Spirit. None have a warrant to separate from a church as described above. Indeed, I apprehend, there is no scriptural authority to separate from a church, unless we are prevented from doing the will of the Lord, or are obliged to act contrary to his authority; then we ought to obey God rather than men. Some justify themselves for leaving a church, because something hath displeased them; or because they are dissatisfied with some decision of the church, or with some member or members of it, &c. But any, or all of these together, in so far as they do not unhinge the Gospel, or the authority of Christ, give no warrant for separation.* Our minds may be uneasy on these accounts, and we may suppose that we cannot remain with any degree of comfort, and that all this arises from our regard to the will of Christ. But after all, the fault may be in ourselves. This uneasiness may arise from not exercising that lowliness, meek
It would seem that the late Archibald M'Lean was of a somewhat different opinion from our correspondent on this point. See his life by W. Jones, p. 20, Note. But we are aware, that it is a sentiment which some churches in the Scotch Baptist connexion have lately found it very convenient to inculcate. We mean no offence to our friend by this hint. EDITOR.
ness, long-suffering, and forbearing one another in love, which we should exercise towards our brethren, in order to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Such, indeed, is the weakness of our minds under opposition, that we are apt to conceive that our brethren have fallen from the truth, and given up the authority of the Lord, when they only swerve through prejudice, weakness, or temptation, and not from any fixed principle, either with respect to the Gospel, or the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is possible we may be overmuch righteous, and run
309 which will require self-denial, longsuffering, forbearance and forgiveness. We must exercise Christian charity. The want of this has been the source of strife and division; hence arises the complaint of the want of love and its fruits, and upon this ground many forsake or stand aloof from the churches of Christ. But our duty is to exemplify the law of love, and to call our brethren to do the same.
5. A neglect of our duty to one another, is another deviation from the duty enjoined in the text. We cannot expect unity of affection, if we are not
thren; but in doing so, we lose sight of
to extremes of strictness with our bre-united in our exertions to promote the welfare of one another. If men, engaged in any cause of importance, do not unite in promoting it, the work will go heavily on; but if they thwart one another in their exertions, it will likely come to nought; and whenever such things take place, they mar the confidence, and damp the affections of one towards another. Just so is it in a church of Christ. Every one can make the application.
6. If we cease to pray for the unity of Christ's people, we are departing from the unity of the Spirit. Our Lord and his apostles frequently prayed for this, John xvii. 20, &c. It is one grand end of his ascension and giving gifts to men, "Till they all come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, and the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." If such be the example of Christ and his apostles, and such the design of the Saviour in giving gifts unto men, should it not be our earnest prayer, that this end may be fully answered? Surely it ought; and a neglect of this duty argues a want of the Spirit of unity, or shews that we are not interested in it as we should be. Indeed, it is the work of God to unite men to himself, and to one another in the truth. He pours his love into our hearts, and teaches us to love one another, and to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. He also allays all those passions which engender strife and divisions, &c. Let us, therefore, look to him, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper who love her. Then will contending passions cease, and unity and love be promoted. Then shall we blush and be ashamed for our ignorance and perverseness; and
IN THE BOND OF PEACE.
4. Standing aloof from the churches of Christ upon similar grounds with the above, may be viewed as opposed to the injunction in the text. Perhaps some member or members are not so agreeable as is wished; therefore we will not unite with the church to do the will of the Lord. Or, a church may have done some deed, of which we do not approve; therefore, we will not join with the church to observe the will of Christ. But what is, the amount of this? It is because professors and churches are not in all respects what we would have them, or because they are not perfect; therefore, we will not take part with them to observe the laws of Jesus. But the question with every fearer of the Lord should be-Does this church hold the truth as the ground of their hope, and the bond of their union? and are they observing all things whatsoever Christ hath commanded? If so, the duty of such is clear, viz. to take part with them, resolved to do the will of Christ; that they may build up one another in their most holy faith; and glorify their heavenly Father. We are not to look for perfection even in a church of Christ; but while we enjoy its privileges, we should lay our account with things
shall learn from sad experience the importance of keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
7. I only add further upon this, that when we refuse to be reconciled to our brethren, we are not endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit. We may form excuses for this, but we should beware of making such excuses as will not stand the test of the word of God, or his judgment at last. Some may say, our offending brethren are not sufficiently humble and contrite, or have not repented of their sins; perhaps there may be too much truth in this. But are we as willing to forgive and to forbear as we should be? If our brethren shew any relenting for sin, we should hope all things, and believe all things, and endure all things. This is more our duty, than to take our brother by the throat, saying, "Pay me what thou Thou shouldest forgive thy brother, even as thy Lord forgave thee. Mutual concessions should be madesoothing considerations should be used: "confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed."
Original Letter of the late MR. JOHN
[Extracted from the new edition of Dr. Stennett's
But, Sir, the principal reason of my writing is most sincerely to thank you for the many, many pleasant hours I have had in reviewing the notes I have taken of the Sermons I had the happiness to hear under your ministry; these, Sir, with many of your petitions in prayer, have been, and are, the songs in 'the house of my pilgrimage.
Let us then, brethren, be besought to attend to the exhortation of the apostle, by all the means in our power. This is the way to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, ver. 1. Above all, let us hold fast the Gospel as the ground of our hope, and the bond of our union. Let us also revere the authority of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, both as individuals, and as a church of Christ. Thus shall we prevent offences, maintain peace and unity, and enjoy the comforts of love, Phil. ii. 1,2,3. Cultivate a spirit of love and unity. Be solicitous to unite brethren in the truth; both such as have not been in the fellowship of the church, and those who have left it. To all our endeavours add fervent prayer to God, the God of all grace, that he would crown our endeavours with abundant success; that all whom the Father hath given to his Son may be one in him, and in the Father; and also appear as one body, that the world may know and believe that the Father sent the Son; that they may all be united in the service and enjoyment of God and of the Lamb, where all jarrings shall for ever cease, and perfect love and peace shall reign for ever. Amen.
With unabated pleasure I have attended your ministry; no man ever entered more into my religious sentiments, or more happily expressed them: it ever was some little disappointment when any one occupied your pulpit: Oh, Sir, how many Sabbaths have I ardently longed to spend in Wild Street; those days I generally rest, or if at sea, keep retired in my little cabin; it is you that preach; and I bless God I attend with renewed pleasure; God in Christ is my rock, the portion of my soul. I have little more to add, but accept my renewed thanks. I bless God for your ministry; I pray God reward you a thousand fold. My friend, you have an honourable work, many seals you have to your ministry; your very valuable life I trust will be prolonged, as with sincere affection and great esteem I shall ever remain, Dear Sir, Your obliged Friend and Servant, (Signed) JOHN HOWARD.
LETTER FROM THE CHURCH AT TOTTLEBANK.
P.S. My best compliments wait on Mrs. Stennett and son. I was at Constantinople a month; a person informed me, that a fortnight before my arrival the grand Vizier had examined the biscuit of the Janisaries, and finding it deficient in weight and quality, ordered the Contractor to come before him; his excuse not being satisfactory, on his return, he sent immediately and cut off his head in the street, there to remain under the arm of the corpse three days, having some of the biscuits placed before himi, and a label on his breast. It being very hot weather, I said it was impossible to remain three days in the middle of the street; yes, it did, said he, for our three days may only be five or six and twenty hours; if one half hour before sun set, we ever call it a day, and so if half an hour after sun rise, it is another day. My mind reverted to the glorious event that is our joy and rejoicing.
Adieu, adieu, my dear Friend,
P.S. Our Ambassador shewed me in the Magazine what gave me great concern; such a hasty measure I hope will be stopped; for alas! our best performances have such a mixture of folly and sin, that praise is vanity and presumption, and pain to a thinking mind.
Copy of a Letter from the Church at Tot
tlebank to the Yorkshire and Lancashire Association, in 1726.
We presume the principal design of this letter is, to give an account of our state and condition, &c. It is now almost fifty-seven years since this church was constituted, and sat down together in the fellowship and order of the Gospel of Christ, (being Aug. 18, 1669,) under the pastoral care of Mr. Camelford; some of the first members whereof are yet alive, and some of the third generation in communion with us; since which time we have met with various dispensations and revolutions. Sometimes we have been in a reviving, flourishing condition, and sometimes under decays and declensions; having sometimes a standing ministry among us, and sometimes none; being glad of a supply from strangers, and the small despised gifts of our brethren being acceptable to us. And thus we continued for some years, of late to our disadvantage, till it pleased God through your instrumentality to direct us unto, and fix brother Sedgfield among us: who coming at a time when there has been a matter of nineteen the fields were white unto the harvest, added to our number, besides some others baptized; and we hope the Lord will yet be adding to us such as shall be saved.
We have now nothing to complain of so much as the want of the power of godliness among us, which having been so long lost will be a hard matter for us to revive; but that we may be found using the means on our part, we have proposed some methods to be observed by us in our private meetings; viz. an examination of one another into our experiences of God's dealings with usinto our profiting by the word of God preached among us-giving our sentiments of profitable places of Scripture-answering questions and cases of conscience-with prayer and supplication, and other things necessary for the carrying on meetings of conference among us.
And we shall be willing to take the advice of brethren in practising any other thing necessary to our growth in number, grace, and holiness. To which end we appointed these our brethren, John Sedgfield, Wm. Benson, Edward Park, and John Christopherson, our Messengers to represent us, who are capable of informing you in any thing you may further enquire into with respect to our circumstances.
To the Ministers and Messengers of the Associate Congregations, met and assembled at Tottlebank in Furnessfells, June 8th and 9th, 1726. The church of Christ usually meeting at Tottlebank and Broughton, wisheth grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and
the Lord Jesus Christ.
With hearts full of joy we welcome you into this part of the country, where the Lord hath cast the bounds of our habitations, and among that part of the Lord's vineyard, into which the great Householder of Heaven hath hired us to be labourers.
We bless the Lord we are now favoured with this opportunity which we have long desired to enjoy, and which some of our number desired to see also, but were not permitted, being gone to a more glorious assembly, even the general assembly and church of the first-born above.
To the Editor of the New Evan. Magazine. | rejected Christianity have exhibited a SIR, strength of intellect, and splendour of talent, which have seldom been exceeded; and that it does not follow that every one who denies the divine mission of Jesus, must necessarily be more depraved than his neighbour, who merely professes to believe it; or that at the final judgment, an uninfluential assent to the truths of revealed religion, will give to the vicious man who has yielded it, any pre-eminence over another, who has rejected the name of Christianity as well as its substance."
I do not know whether it be customary with you to write the Review of a publication before you have read it; but from the "mis-statements," contained in the Review of a pamphlet, entitled, "An Address to Deists," in the Baptist Magazine for this month, I am inclined to think that this is sometimes the case with the conductors of that
The Reviewer commences his remarks by stating, that "it is the design of this writer to prove to the satisfaction of Deists, that in the recent prosecution of persons for vending infidel and blasphemous publications, the prosecutors, juries, and judges, have all acted in direct violation of the spirit and precepts of Christianity, the example of Christ, and the writings of the apostles." Now it happens unfortunately for this Reviewer, that the Author of the "Address to Deists" has never attempted to prove any of these things-it formed no part of his design to do it, nor can the Reviewer quote one paragraph from the pamphlet which will warrant him in imputing such "a design" to the Author. After thus stumbling at the threshold, the Reviewer proceeds in the second paragraph to represent the Author of the Address," as an apologist for infidelity and blasphemy! His words are, "We greatly fear he has not maturely considered the magnitude of the guilt of the parties whom he has undertaken to defend!!" Undertaken to defend? Why, can this sapient Editor produce one paragraph from the pamphlet which goes, even in the smallest degree, to extenuate the guilt of these persons? If he can let him produce it, and let the author "bear his faggot ;" but if he fail to do this, what are the public to think of a man, who can "bear such false testimony against his brother?”
The Reviewer goes on to quote a paragraph from the first page of the "Address," which states a fact that is incontrovertible, and that will be admitted by every man of common candour, because it is supported by Revelation itself; to wit, that "many who have
There never was a position better supported by the New Testament than this; yet "the tone" of it is mighty offensive to the Reviewer, who appears to be so partial to law, that instead of attempting to disprove the fact, he immediately meets it with a quotation from Blackstone's Commentaries, which he thinks quite sufficient to convince us without an appeal to any higher authority. But, notwithstanding the preference which the Reviewer gives to Blackstone, I must be permitted to adhere to that old-fashioned book, the Bible, until the Editor of the Baptist Magazine furnish me with evidence of the learned Judge's inspiration, which he will probably do in due time. At present it is enough for me to hear the Messiah himself say, to those who have yielded an uninfluential assent to the truths of Revelation," Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" If these words have any meaning, they teach us, that such a mere nominal profession of Christ's name is exceedingly odious to him, as giving a false view of his religion, and that their conduct is much more hateful in his sight than that of heathens, infidels, or deists.
Having dismissed Blackstone, the Reviewer next professes to furnish his readers with a quotation from the pamphlet before him; but in doing which he has been guilty of the grossest misrepresentation of the Author's sentiments. In fact the whole paragraph is so singular, that it deserves to be quoted at length. Thus the Reviewer writes
*The reader may find our notice of this pamphlet in our last volume, p. 364, but at the time of writing it we were entirely ignorant who the Author was. It has lately obtained a very favourable notice in the third number of the Westminster Review, though not more favourable than it deserved; for it is a pamphlet of unquestionable merit, and ought to be well considered by all who would form a judgment according to truth on this subject, notwithstanding the puny efforts of the conducter of the Baptist Magazine to cry it down.-EDITOR.