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different periods. The same faithfulness, which induced Wickliffe to oppose the corruptions and superstitions of his time, would have led him, had he lived in our day, to testify against the Mason oath and public lotteries.
S 83. Alex. You, then, consider the testimony of those you call witnesses of Christ as the same in different periods of time. It seems, that a similar opinion about the oneness of the church of Christ and the identity of the profession which she ought to make in the most distant parts of the world, are the ground of the subordination which the Seceders acknowledge to their general synod in Scotland. The admitting, however, of references and appeals in matters of faith to that synod, in which the secession body here have no representatives, seems inconsistent with Presbyterian principles. It was a sprightly remark that was lately made upon these seceding clergymen in a sermon preached at the opening of the synod of Pittsburgh. “ They frequent“ ly find their lamp so dim," said the preacher, “ that they cannot see to
manage the business that occurs in their own little sphere, untis " they send to Edinburgh for oil.”
Ruf. I apprehend, that there is nothing more in the connexion between the associate synod in Scotland (as it is stated in their act concerning it) than what belongs to the scriptural unity of the church of Christ. For however many particular visible churches of Christ there may be, such as the churches of Judea, Galatia, Ephesus, Corinth, they are all considered in scripture as constituting one general visible church of Christ. The word ecclesia, or church, is often taken in such a large sense as to signify, not any single particular church; but one general visible church : God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. These things I write-that thou mayest know, how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar anck ground of the truth.* In these passages the church of Christ, is spoken of as the general visible church, to which the oracles, the ministry, and the ordinances, including church government, are given. Since, then, there is but one general visible church, having a government set in it of Divine right; and since that government, which belongs prima. rily to the whole church or body of Christ, belongs secondarily to all the parts of it, it may be justly concluded, that the more extensively church government is managed in greater and more general assemblies, the more fully is the edification of the whole body of Christ, which, next to his glory, is the great end of church government, attained ; and that, on the contrary, the less extensively this government is exercised, as only in presbyteries, or congregational elderships, the more imperfect it'is; and the less it is calculated to answer the general end now mentioned. Hence it is manifestly agreeable to the constitution of the church of Christ, that the several particular churches should be united, as far as can be attained, under one general government. The more nearly that we approach to this plan, we approach the more nearly to the form of government delivered to the church by Christ and his apostles. According to these scriptural principles, two particular churches, however great their local distance from one another, while they make, as they ought to do, the same profession of the faith, should consider themselves as one professing body, one church; and for preserving this unity, they ought to submit any controversies, that may arise concerning matters of faith, to a judicature, representing the whole as fully, as their local situation admits. The general associate synod may be considered as such a judicature with regard to the associate body in Britain, Ireland and America. It may be farther observed, that, though every part of an ecclesiastical body, which is subordinate to a representative judicature, ought ordinarily to send mem. bers to it; yet it does not follow, that every remote part of the body, from which it is found impracticable to send members, ceases to be represented by, or subordinate to, such a judicature. It does not appear, that the
* 1 Corinthi xii. 28. 1 Tim. ii. 15.
churches to which the apostles delivered the decrees of the synod at Jerusalem (which we have an account of in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts) were only such as had sent members to that sy. nod. We may not expect to find a synod or council in which all parts of the catholic visible church will have members sent by them as representatives; but if there shall be in it members sent from such a variety of particular churches as may fairly represent the majority of that part of the catholic visible church, whose scriptural profession warrants our sacramental coinmunion with it, submission may be due to its decisions in the Lord, even from a particular chureh which, on account of its local distance, has not had an opportunity of sending any member to it as a representative. For, according to the supposition, that particular church is a minor part of the professing body, the majority of which is sufficiently represented in that synod or council. That such a subordination was acknowledged by the ancient churches appears from the frequent appeals of their bishops and others to councils, and from the regard which was paid to the determinations of councils as ecclesiasti. cal rules of general obligation. In Old Testament prophecy it was foretold as one of the privileges of the New Testament church, that there should be an high way out of one nation into another; that the Assyrian should come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and that the Egyptians should serve with the Assyrians; to intimate, that there should be such a spiritual intercourse among particular churches in different nations, as would serve to manifest their unity, to strengthen one another, and to advance the interest of Christ's kingdom in general. These ends will be eminently promoted, when the ministers and elders of various particular churches, residing in different countries, shall meet in synods and councils, in order to ascertain and exhibit the only true doctrine, worship and government of the church of Christ, according to his word; or, when, however locally distant from one another, they shall acknowledge themselves to be one professing body; of which the several parts are subordinate to the whole. Nor does the subordination of such distant particular churches to a court representing the majority of the whole, which may be called a general synod or council, lessen the authority of those churches, or abridge their liberty in judging cases that belong peculiarly to their respective jurisdictions. For it is not supposed, that such a general synod can meddle in any case, the cognisance of which properly belongs to the courts of any particular church, unless it be brought before that synod by reference or appeal; that is, unless the courts of the particular
church have judged the examination of the case by the general synod
And serious dealing in a serious cause.
$ 84. Alex. I have heard, that this subordination is the principal difference between the Seceders and the associate reformed synod. Though our time will not allow our conversation to be continued much longer, I wish to hear, before we part, some account of that synod.
Ruf. Men's changing their public profession of religion, may be either good or evil, either matter of praise or blame, according to the quality of what they renounce, and of what they embrace. But when a number of ministers and people have determined to take this step, there are two things, which honesty would require them to do: first, they should openly avow their renunciation of one profession, and their adherence to another; and secondly, they should declare the reasons which have determined them to make the change. If the
ministers who joined in the union, which gave birth to the associate reformed synod, had been explicit in these two respects, it would not have been disputed among the people, as it was for several years after the union, whether they had actually changed their public profession, or not. It was then not uncommon to hear persons that had belonged to either of the two parties, which composed the associate reformed body, affirming, that they had made no change. The difference, however, between the public profession of the associate reformed synod, and that which some of them made, while they were connected with the associate courts, was too manifest to be denied.
In the first place, this difference is evident from the articles agreed to in making the union. There was a copy of propositions which had been agreed to by the associate presbytery of Pennsylvania, at Philaladelphia, in April, 1781, as the basis of a union with the reformed presbytery. These articles were rejected by that presbytery. That they were, however, a much fairer representation of the public profession made by the Secession body, than the articles which were carried in the presbytery of Pennsylvania, in June, 1782, was not, and could not be denied: and therefore, the members who receded from the former, and acquiesced in the latter, which were far more general and indeterminate, declined, in so doing, from their former profession.
For example, the first of the articles carried in 1782, in these words: “Election, redemption, and the application thereof, are of 6 equal extent, and for the elect only;" is far from being so explicit as the proposition which was agreed to in 1781, which I shall read. “ There is but one special redemption by the death of Christ for all 66 the objects thereof; as he died in one and the same sense, for all 6 those, for whom in any respect he died. Christ and the benefits of 6 his purchase cannot be divided one from another; and we are only ' partakers of the benefits which Christ purchased by faith; and 66 whatsoever benefits are received, otherwise than by faith, are not “ to be reckoned among the benefits that Christ has purchased."*
The 6th article, which was carried in 1782, was expressed in these words: “ Though no real or practical subordination to the as6 sociate synod of Edinburgh, in à consistency with Presbyterian “ principles, can be pled; yet, from the most wise and important “ considerations, the former connexions, whatever they have been, 6 shall remain as before, notwithstanding this coalescence.” This article seems to be self-contradictory; while it' asserts, that a real subordination cannot be pleaded for on Presbyterian principles; and yet, that the connexion of the presbytery with the synod, which had been a real subordination, should remain, for the most wise and important considerations. For the presbytery, from the time of its erection, had always owned a real subordination to the associate synod, as consistent with Presbyterian principles. The belief of this was undoubtedly professed by the presbytery the year before, when they said, “ Our connexion with the associate synod, we are deter6 mined to maintain agreeably to our ordination vows.” Only about two years before, it was considered by the presbytery as one reason for refusing a protest, offered by one of their members, Mr. Roger, against their determination concerning some points of doctrine, that his protest contained no appeal to the associate synod. In 1771, the same presbytery, owned, that, in making an union with the burgher brethren, they had taken steps inconsistent with their subordination to the synod; to which, said they, we have been, and are subordinate.*
* This last sentence is taken from the 6th article of the synod's act concerning the benefits of redemption, and ought to have been correctly transcribed thus: “We are par"takers of the redemption purchased by Christ, or of the benefits procured by his death, "only through the application thereof to us by his Holy Spirit working faith in us and “thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling-and whatever things are actively re received or used otherwise than by faith in a state of union with Christ, are not to be “ reekoned among the benefits purchased by his death."
The 5th article, carried in 1782, is in these words: “ As no oppo“ sition of sentiment relative to the important duty of covenanting " appears on either side, it is mutually agreed, that the consideration 66 of it be referred to the councils and deliberations of the whole * body." In order to form a judgement of this article, it is neces. sary to observe, that, with regard to this truly important duty, the public profession of Seceders had been ascertained with peculiar precision by the associate presbytery, soon after the secession took place; particularly, in their act for the renewing of the covenants national and solemn league, and in the answers to Mr. Nairn's reasons of dissent. But this article represents the truth on the head of public covenanting, aš still undetermined; and therefore, unless what the associate presbytery determined in these acts was erroneous, the members, who assented to this article, declined from an important part of the scriptural profession of Seceders.
The 3d and 4th articles, which, as they relate to the principal matter in dispute between the two parties which proposed to unite, ought to have been expressed with great precision, run in the following terms: “Whereas magistracy proceeds from God, as the Creator and 6 Governor of the world, and the profession of the true religion is not “ essential to the being of civil magistrates; and whereas protection 6 and allegiance are reciprocal; and whereas the United States, while - they protect us in life and liberty, do not impose any thing unlaw“ ful on us; we therefore judge it our duty to acknowledge the go“ vernment of these states in all lawful commands, that we may lead “ quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty. The above
proposition is not to be understood in an opposite sense to that pro“ position relative to civil government, in which the associate presby
tery of New York, and the reformed presbytery have agreed; but * only as a plain and undisguised explication of one point of truth, 6 in which we have the best reason to suppose, that the whole body is 6 united.”
The proposition here referred to concerning civil goverument, was one of those propositions, which had been agreed to in the year 1779, by the majority of a meeting at Pequea, consisting of members both of the associate presbytery of Pennsylvania, and of the reformed presbytery, with two members from the associate presbytery of NewYork.
* Mr. Marshal's Vindication of the associate presbytery, page 6.
The ministers in the communion of the associate presbytery of Pennsylvania bad ac knowledged this subordination at their ordination. Thid. page 13.