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The very term toleration, is a mark of power existing, like the emblem of the Roman dominion at Jerusalem, “in the holy place, where it ought not :' for what mortal can have a right to determine in what manner men may worship God, so long as their religious practices do not interfere with social order and morals ? Unspeakable as is the blessing of religious liberty, which has grown out of the Reformation, human authority is still enthroned in the sanctuary ; and will, probably, long continue to check the full and proper manifestation of the unity of the church on earth. It is true this authority has altered its character, since the once gigantic throne of the great apostasy has ceased to cast its shadow over all the realms of Christendom; but the principle still remains, and is consolidated with the laws of nations. The theory once was, that the church' was master of the world: the theory now appears to be, that the world is master of the church.'
Hence the christian religion has been placed in such a position, as to be easily made subservient to politics, court-influence, and ambition; human forms, ceremonies, and ecclesiastical canons, have too often been substituted for the genuine influence of the truth; and the semblance of unity has proved a delusive shadow of the real union of Christians, in the faith and charity of the Gospel. Instead of Christianity being left to display its
own true genius, nobly negligent of mere externals, and ever aiming at the inner man ; it has been compelled to fulfil its design, as it could, in the trammels of some one given form and ceremonial; from which it has been reluctantly, if at all, allowed to deviate. Instead of as little of mere human regulation as possible in the church, human authority has obtruded itself throughout; till religion has sometimes appeared rather as a law of man than of God: while the spiritual and unchanging principles, on which the new creation of souls is destined to emerge from the moral ruins of the fall, have been contravened, and the church has been almost confounded with the world.
As ecclesiastical laws have no power to sway the secret convictions and dispositions of men, outward uniformity is the utmost which they can effect; and this may consequently exist, in the absence of those elements of character which are indispensable to Christian unity. This unity, on the other hand, is independent of uniformity in outward observances which Christianity has not made binding; as clearly appears from the facts already adduced, relating to the diversities of practice which existed in the apostolic age, in regard to the Mosaic ritual. The attempt, therefore, to render outward observances essential to visible unity, is an innovation on the laws of Christ. In proportion as human institutions are identified
with Christianity, human authority is put on a level with the commands of God; the unity of Christians is treated as dependent on the will of man ; the professed church spurns from her society some of the most conscientious servants of Christ; the immortal axiom that “THE BIBLE, and THE BIBLE ALONE, is the Religion of Protestants,'' is infringed; the right of private judgment, the fundamental principle of the Reformation, is relinquished; and the main pillar of Romanism, man's dominion over conscience, is retained, as a prop to the Protestant church.-But we will not, here, dwell longer on the monstrous figment, that the visible unity of the church of Jesus Christ, may be made to depend on the policy or caprice of man, and his assumed right
"To force our consciences, that Christ set free.'?
WHEREIN THE TRUE UNITY OF THE CHURCH
The key to real unity, must be sought in the reply which the New Testament gives to the questions
Chillingworth's Works, 1727. p. 271. ? Milton's Poem “On the New Forcers of Conscience, under the Long Parliament.'
already proposed: "Who is a Christian ?' and • What is the Church ?" From this source, we learn that a Christian is a spiritual man; and that the church of Christ is a spiritual institution. Hence the unity of the church is a spiritual unity. A Christian is such, from the state of his mind and heart. A Christian church is a society composed of persons whose minds and hearts are spiritual., The true unity of the church, therefore, is not formal, geographical, political, or dependent on any human laws: it is a unity which has its seat in the minds and hearts of men. Its centre is CHRIST, the head of the church. Its producing agent is the SPIRIT of God. It reigns through the medium of the TRUTH, received by faith. Its
Chap. vi. p. 29. * The author of a recent work, which has already been referred to, quotes the following statements; which will apply to the practice of a vast number of Christian churches, of various denominations: • They are congregations of persons professing to be of a peculiar, that is, of a religious character.' They aim at comprehending none but persons of real piety. These ideas of a church are strongly condemned by the author, as a new method of admission into the church, different from what Jesus Christ appointed.' His argument is founded on the supposed sacramental efficacy of the divine and holy mystery of baptism.'-See Palmer's Treatise on the Church of Christ. Part i. ch. xiii. sect. 3. When will the Protestants be emancipated from the lingering Spirit of Romanism?
conservative principle is devotion. Its bond is the common sympathy of regenerate natures—the attraction of minds, kindred in moral tastes, purposes, and interests. Its spontaneous and proper manifesta tion, is LOVE.
In the Christian record, the unity of the church is a frequent theme. " There shall be one fold, and one shepherd,' In Christ, the Jew and the Gentile are united: 'For he is our peace, who hath made both one. Both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one.' "There is one body, and one Spirit; even as ye are called in one hope of your calling: one Lord; one faith; one baptism ; one God and Father of all; who is above all, and through all, and in you all.' 'Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.' The object which God is declared to have purposed in himself' by the gospel, is : “That he might gather together all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him. '*
Nothing can exceed the force of the terms, in which the New Testament portrays the intimacy of this relation which subsists between Christ and his church, and mutually between all the members. The church is the bride, the Lamb's wife.' He is the vine;' his disciples are
* John x. 16. Eph. ii. 14. Heb. ii. 11. Eph. iv. 4. 5. 6; ii. 15; i. 10.