Images de page
PDF
ePub

justify his withdrawing from it. But as long as he continues in “ it, professes regard for it, and reaps the emoluments of it, if he “ refuses to obey its laws, he manifestly acts both a disorderly and “ dishonest part : he lays claim to the privileges of the society while “ he contemns the authority of it; and by all principles of equity " and reason is justly subjected to its censures. They who " maintain that such disobedience deserves no censure, maintain «s in effect, that there should be no such thing as government and “ order. They deny those first principles by which men are unit“ ed in society; and endeavour to establish such maxims, as will

justify not only licentiousness in ecclesiastical, but rebellion and “ disorder in civil government. And therefore, as the Reverend “ Commission have by their sentence declared, that disobedience “ to the supreme judicature of the Church neither infers guilt, nor “ deserves censure; as they have surrendered a right essential to " the nature and subsistence of every society; as they have (so far “ as lay in them) betrayed the privileges and deserted the orders of “ the constitution; we could not have acted a dutiful part to the “ Church, nor a safe one to ourselves, unless we had dissented “ from this sentence; and craved liberty to represent to this vene-“ rable Assembly, that this deed appears to us to be manifestly be

yond the powers of a Commission.

2. “ Because this sentence of the Commission, as it is subversive “ of society in general, so, in our judgments, it is absolutely incon“ sistent with the nature and preservation of ecclesiastical society “ in particular.—The characters which we bear, of Ministers and “ Elders of this Church, render it unnecessary for us to declare, “ that we join with all Protestants in acknowledging the Lord Jesus

[ocr errors]

“ Christ to be the only King and Head of his Church. We admit that “ the church is not merely a voluntary society, but a society found“ed by the laws of Christ. But to his laws we conceive it to be “ most agreeable, that order should be preserved in the external ad“ ministration of the affairs of the church. And we contend, in the “ words of our Confession of Faith, · That there are some circum“ stances concerning the worship of God, and the government of “ the church, common to human actions and societies, which are “ to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence ac“ cording to the general rules of the word, which are always to be s observed.' It is very evident, that unless the church were sup“ ported by continual miracles, and a perpetual and extraordina“ This is called asserting liberty of conscience, and supporting the

ry interposition of Heaven, it can only subsist by those funda* mental maxims by which all society subsists. A kingdom divid" ed against itself cannot stand. There can be no union, and by " consequence there can be no society, where there is no subordi- , “ pation; and therefore since miracles are now ceased, we do con“ ceive that no church or ecclesiastical society can exist without “ obedience required from its members, and enforced by proper “ sanctions. Accordingly, there never was any regularly constitut« ed church in the Christian world, where there was not at the

same time some exercise of discipline and authority. It has in“ deed been asserted, “That the censures of the church are never « to be inflicted, but upon open transgressors of the laws of Christ

himself; and that no man is to be constructed an open transgres

sor of the laws of Christ for not obeying the commands of any as“ sembly of fallible men, when he declares it was a conscientious

regard to the will of Christ that led him to this disobedience.'quires at once a right of doing whatsoever is good in his own

rights of private judgment; and upon such reasonings the Reve“ rend Commission proceeded in coming to that decision of which

we now complain. But we think ourselves called on to say, and

we say it with concern, that such principles as these appear to us “ calculated to establish the most extravagant maxims of indepen“ dency, and to overthrow from the very foundation that happy ec“ clesiastical constitution which we glory in being members of, and “ which we are resolved to support. For upon these principles,

no church whatever, consisting, as every church on earth must « consist, of fallible men, has right to inflict any censure on any « disobedient person.

Let such person only think fit boldly to use “ the name of conscience, and, sheltered under its authority, he ac- ber of that church, who is not resolved to conform himself to its “ administration. We think it very consistent with conscience for “ inferiors to disapprove, in their own mind, of a judgment given “ by a superior court, and yet to put that judgment in execution

eyes. If anarchy and confusion follow, as no doubt they will, “ there is, it seems, no remedy. We are sorry to say, that brethren « who profess to hold such principles, ought to have acted more " consistently with them, and not to have joined themselves to any ... church till once they had found out an assembly of infallible

men, to whose authority they would have acknowledged submis“ sion to be due. We allow to the right of private judgment all the “ extent and obligation that reason or religion require ; but we can “ never admit, that any man's private judgment gives him a right “ to disturb, with impunity, all public order. We hold, that as

every man has a right to judge for himself in religious matters, “ so every church, or society of Christians, has a right to judge 6 for itself, what method of external administration is most agree

able to the laws of Christ, and no man ought to become a mem

+

as the deed of their superiors for conscience sake; seeing we

humbly conceive it is, or ought to be, a matter of conscience " with every member of the church, to support the authority of • that church to which he belongs. Church-censures are declared NOTE (M), P. 293.

by our Confession of Faith to be é necessary, not only for gaining “ and reclaiming the offending brethren, but also for deterring of " others from the like offences, and for purging out the leaven “ which might leaven the whole lump.' What these censures are, " and what the crimes against which they are directed, is easily to “ be learned from the constitution of every church, and whoever 66 believes its censure to be too severe, or its known orders and laws “ to be in any respect iniquitous, so that he cannot in conscience

comply with them, ought to beware of involving himself in sin “ by entering into it; or if he hath rashly joined himself, he is “ bound, as an honest man and a good Christian, to withdraw, and “ to keep his conscience clear and undefiled. But on the other

hand, if a judicature, which is appointed to be the guardian and “ defender of the laws and orders of the society, shall absolve them “ who break their laws, from all censure, and by, such a deed en

courage and invite to future disobedience, we conceive it will be “ found, that they have exceeded their powers, and betrayed their u trust in the most essential instance."

[ocr errors]

ز

“ Dr Robertson's system with respect to the Law of Patronage “ proceeded on the following principles : That as patronage is the " law of the land, the courts of a national church established and “ protected by law, and all the individual ministers of that church,

are bound, in as far as it depends upon exertions arising from the “ duties of their place, to give it effect: that every opposition to " the legal rights of patrons tends to diminish that reverence which “ all the subjects of a free government ought to entertain for the “ law; and that it is dangerous to accustom the people to think “ that they can elude the law or defeat its operation, because success “ in one instance leads to greater licentiousness. Upon these prin“ ciples Dr Robertson thought that the church-courts betrayed their “ duty to the constitution, when the spirit of their decisions, or negligence

in enforcing obedience to their orders, created unnecessary " obstacles to the exercise of the right of patronage, and fostered in the “ minds of the people the false idea that they have a right to choose " their own ministers, or even a negative upon the nomination of “ the patron. He was well aware, that the subjects of Great Bri“ tain are entitled to apply in a constitutional manner for the re

peal of every law which they consider as a grievance. But “ while he supported patronage as the existing law, he regarded it “ also as the most expedient method of settling vacant parishes. “ It did not appear to him that the people are competent judges “ of those qualities which a minister should possess, in order to be a “ useful teacher either of the doctrines of pure religion, or of the

« PrécédentContinuer »