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tarian principles. Accordingly, they set out with condemning Erastian principles, according to which the government and discipline of the church are devolved upon the civil magistrate, by declaring, that the magistrate may not take upon him either the ministerial dispensation of the word and sacraments, or the judicial management of religious matters. But, although they deny him all ministerial or judicial power in the church, in opposition to Erastians, yet, to guard against the other extreme, they assert, in opposition to the Sectarians of that age, that it is his duty to employ the influence of his high station and office for the good of the church, and the advancement of the interests of pure and undefiled religion; and in doing so, he does not go beyond his proper sphere, as the advancement of religion in a country is the most effectual means of promoting the public good of society, as has been fully stated in the former propositions. Hence it is added, “ Yet it is his duty, and he hath authority, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the church,” &c. These things they consider as peculiary obligatory upon those at the head of a christian community: for it must always be kept in view, that they speak of the magistrate, not merely as a magistrate, but as a christian magistrate, who is bound, as by the moral law, so also by his christian vocation, not only to regulate his private conduct, but to order the whole of his public administration so as to prove subservient to the interests of evangelical truth and holiness, and the advancement of the kingdom of Christ; and it is by uniting the exertions of the pious christian and the enlightened magistrate, that he is to endeavour to have the ends here specified accomplished.
With regard to the means which he is to employ for this purpose, they set out, as we have already seen, with declaring negatively that he must not attempt to effect these things himself ministerially or judicially. “He may not assume to himself the administration of the word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven;" yet they assert positively, “ that it is his duty, and he hath authority, to take order," that it may be done otherwise, and by persons to whom the cognizance of such business properly belongs,-not by subverting ecclesiastical authority, but by endeavouring to bring it into free and legitimate operation, after the exercise of it has been in a great measure suspended, not by taking the doing of ecclesiastical business into his own hands, but by taking order that it be done by rightly constituted ecclesiastical courts. Hence it is added in the end of the section, “For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods.” &c.
This is the only means specified by the compilers, and consid ered by them as the most effectual; but the phrase, “ for the better effecting whereof,” obviously supposes that there are other means competent to him from which he is not precluded. To remove all difficulties as to the nature and extent of these, it may be necessary to remark, Ist, That they are to be limited by the negative assertion mentioned above, viz: That he is not to interfere either ministerially or judicially in the internal affairs of the Church; 2dly, With this limitation, the christian magistrate may nevertheless, in a number of particulars, bring the influence and anthority of his station to bear directly upon the objects specified. First, As a pious Christian, he may promote these ends more effectually than others by advice and example, as his advice and example are calculated to have more weight owing to the high station which he fills in society; and secondly, as an enlightened and patriotic magistrate, he may contribute to the same ends, in a variety of ways, as we have already seen (art. 3.) in the due exercise of his official authority, “ by recognising and giving public countenance to the profession of true religion,-by removing from the civil constitution of the country, whatever may be found to stand in the way of its progress,—by endeavouring in every way competent to him, and consistent with its peculiar nature and laws, that its salutary influence have free course, and be diffused through all orders and departments of society.” &c. All this may be done without encroaching upon
business of the Church, or violating the rights of conscience. It is necessary, however, to remark, that, so far as any of the things mentioned in this section may be justly viewed as civil crimes, or gross violations of the moral law, the magistrate cannot be viewed as precluded from exercising his coercive authority for their suppression, as stated in the preceding article.
To return to the means specified in the section, and considered by the compilers as the most effectual, viz: bringing the matters specified under the cognizance of church-courts,—they allow him, for this purpose, power to call Synods.” &c. With regard to this power, which has given rise to much discussion, we may observe, 1st, That they could not understand by it, a power lodged in him by virtue of any supposed supremacy over the Church, after the explicit manner in whicn they elsewhere assert the sole Headship of Christ over her as his independent kingdom or by virtue of any official character in her, after declaring, that the Lord Jesus, the Head of the Church, hath therein appointed a government in the hand of church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate. His calling Synods must then be viewed by them, not as an ecclesiastical ordinance in the Church, but mereTy as a moral means to excite, and bring forward her office bearers to the discharge of their duty; 2dly, That the doctrine of the Confession on this head both here and in the 31st chapter, has always been received by the Secession Church, and continues to be received by us, as explained by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in their act 1647, approving of said Confession, in which they declare, that “his calling Synods, without any other call, is to be understood of kirks not settled or constituted in point of government, and not to the prejudice of the intrinsic power of the church received from Christ, to call her own assemblies."
With respect to the last clause, where a right is conceded to him, “to provide that what is transacted in them be according to the mind of God;" it may be observed, that it cannot mean, consistently with the doctrine of the Confession itself, that the magistrate, acting as such, is directly to provide what the decisions of Synods shall be, for this would amount to sustaining himself an official judge in matters properly religious, would be inconsistent with his calling of them ministerially to judge and determine in these matters, and would amount to a very glaring assumption of the power of the keys.
We shall only farther add, that, to assert that the Church has not an intrinsic right to call her own assemblies,—that the civil magistrate has a right to do this in ordinary cases, or that he has a right to do it in any case, by virtue of a pretended supremacy over the Church, and in matters ecclesiastical,—that his presence is necessary to give validity to their proceedings,--that he sits as a preses or director of the deliberations and votes,—that he has a right to prescribe or dictate to them what their decisions shall be-or that, after they have deliberated and decided, he may receive appeals from their judgment, and review, alter, or reverse their sentences,—to 'assert any or all of these things, is to assert what is not only without countenance from the words of the Confession, but contrary to its express declarations, and utterly inconsistent with the common principles of Presbyterians; and, in particular, with the well known principles and
which persons bind themselves to God, and solemnly confederate among themselves, in the cause of religion in general, or as to any thing connected with its interests, having the same origin and warrants, and being moral-natural, and not positive institutions, are capable of various modifications, and cannot be restricted to men merely in the character of church members. The moral law cannot be confined to men as members of the church: and moral obligations may be contracted by them in their various capacities, as subjects of the moral government of God. No duties, moral or religious, can be acceptably performed, but by those who are savingly acquainted with the gospel, and instated in the covenant of grace; but this must not be confounded with their warrant or obligation, and does not narrow either the one or the other. Such vows to God, and confederations with one another, may relate to the intrinsic concerns of the church, or they may be extended to the external state and interests of nations, in reference to religion. These covenants may be properly termed religious, in which there is not only a vow to God, but in whose matter or ends religion is the main thing; though other things may be introduced as connected with and subordinate to it; as was the case in the Solemn League and Covenant of Britain.
A nation may enter into such a vow or covenant in its religious character, the public authorities, ecclesiastical and civil, concur ring to promote it, and the rest of the people cleaving to them. and entering into the oath. Besides this case, we are plainly to be understood as maintaining, that the national will, however expresed in the way of engagement, agreeably to the divine law, even when the rulers are not concurring, brings its members under covenant obligation. This, however, is not to be understood to the prejudice of that covenanting which is strictly ecclesiastical. Vowing and swearing to God is a religious exercise pe culiarly suited to the Church, and which may be, and often has been, an eminent means of reviving religion, of establishing Christians in the present truth, and cementing the different parts
of an ecclesiastical body in their adherence to their common
the ends of them according to their opportunity, and agreeably to the circumstances in which they are placed; “ for there is a great difference between the renewing of national covenants, and a national renewing of them. In this case, the bond entered into should be purely a Church-bond, framed by her supreme judicatories, and entered into only by persons in her religious fellowship
These are not to be vi ed as mere general principles, founded in reason and revelation, but as bearing directly upon the cause of the Secession. One main design of the religious association, formed by the ministers and people who seceded from the National Church of Scotland, was to assert, and vindicate, and, by all means competent to them, revive that religions Reformation which had been happily attained in this land, agreeably to the word of God, ratified by sacred covenants, and secured by laws, both ecclesiastical and civil. Accordingly, in their Testimony, and other judicial papers, declaratory of their principles and views, they not only approve of the Westminster Formularies, as standards of uniformity for the three nations, and of what the judicatories of the Church did in the way of reforming and settling religion, but also of what was done by the public authorities of the State, especially in Scotland, in carrying on a civil Reformation, in connection with, and subservience to, the ecclesiastical, particularly by settling the civil constitution of this country on a reformed footing; “which deed of constitution (say they) in all moral respects is morally unalterable, because of its agreeableness to the divine will, revealed in the word, and because it was attained and fixed in pursuance of our Solemn Covenants.” At the same time, their approbation of what was done during the period of reformation was limited, and they never pledged themselves, by approving all the acts or proceedings either of the State or of the Church at that time. So far as it can be shewn that any acts of the Church encroached on due Christian liberty, or that any acts of the State subjected good and peaceable subjects to punishment for matters purely religious, the principles of Seceders do not permit them to justify their conduct.
The founders of the Secession did not bring forward any new or peculiar principles, but declared their cordial adherence to those of the Reformed Church of Scotland, as stated from the Word of God in her subordinate standards, by which they were willing that all differences between them and the judicatories