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who have trodden in the footsteps of the latter
no part of the church of Christ'!-It is worthy of these sentiments, that what is denied to those who are termed 'the Presbyterian and Puritan schismatics, should be freely conceded to Romanists; and that while the Roman churches' are declared 'still to continue a portion of the Catholic church of Christ !'the Puritans, and the Covenanters, and all who have resembled them, should be consigned to perdition, as “totally separated from the church of God.''
As to toleration, what is it, on the above principles, short of ecclesiastical despotism succumbing to necessity; and finally ceasing from the work of persecution, when confiscation, and banishment, and the dungeon, and the rack, and the executioner, have done their worst to produce conformity, in vain ?—But we will not further
pursue these doctrines through the inconsistencies, gratuitous assumptions, and sometimes unintelligible statements, which they involve. It may suffice to leave them to be compared with the inferences, which we shall now endeavour to deduce from the scripture-doctrine respecting Schism. mark, however, may be permitted; which isthat, next to the unfeigned sorrow, which it is most natural for a christian mind to feel, on the ' Ibid. chap. xi. section ii.
3 Ibid. chap. iv. section ii.
perusal of sentiments so contrary to those of the New Testament, the first conviction can scarcely fail to be, that language like the above, issuing from the high places of the church, sounds somewhat ominous :-ominous, not (we would fain trust) of serious danger to civil and religious liberty, or to the cause of true Protestantism, in general;—but ominous of 'danger’ to any church in which such doctrines might prevail. It should be remembered that we are not, now, living in the dead calm of the dark ages, when scarce a breath ruffled the vast expanse of ecclesiastical domination. Nor is the supremacy of our times, practically, the supremacy of Henry, or Elizabeth, or of the Stuarts. Those days are past. living after mighty moral earthquakes have shaken the world, both political and ecclesiastical; and a period is approaching, when the elements of knowledge, and therefore the food of reflection, will be within the grasp of millions, who were previously doomed to ignorance. Religion cannot remain unaffected by the change. It will not always be said that 'Ignorance is the mother of devotion.' Infidelity will, one day, be compelled to fly to other opiates, in order to lull conscience. Religion will be perpetually tending to assert her freedom from the chain of human power, and human invention; and to purify herself from all that is not genuine, and divine, and
really apostolic. The spirit of inquiry and of liberty, that achieved the Reformation, is still awake and abroad; and the degeneracy of that spirit into rationalism and infidelity, which has too often been witnessed within the last half century, does but render still more injurious to Christianity, the opposite extreme, of a Protestantism, so called, which, though boasting of emancipation from the yoke of Rome, seems retrograding, so decidedly, towards the doctrines of the “infallible church,' that even those who are likely to be the most candid judges, admit that it is very difficult to trace any distinction.'
It requires not the gift of prophecy, surely, to justify the assertion—that little more is wanting to any Protestant communion, than for such opinions as those which have of late been advanced, in some quarters, to become general within its pale,-in order to its days, as a denomination, being ‘numbered,' like those of him to whom there was given a mouth speaking great things ;'' and power to continue' for his ' times.'* The CHURCH OF CHRIST will survive all the changes which may occur, in the social and political condition of man; but in proportion as human forms of the church are based on anti-christian principles, these forms will, one day, be found to have been quite distinct from the kingdom which cannot be moved ;' and
* Rev. xiii. 5. Dan. xii. 7.
to have been among the things that are shaken ; that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.''
INFERENCES FROM THE SCRIPTURE-DOCTRINE OF
To every unprejudiced mind that is acquainted with the history of religion, it must appear evident, that there are few terms in theology which have undergone a greater change from their original signification, than the word schism. In the scripture-examples and exhortations, we have seen that schism is viewed in immediate relation to that charity, to which it is really opposed : but, in the sense in which it is commonly understood, it is regarded, almost exclusively, as a sin against church-authority, founded either on a supposed divine right, or on the will of the magistrate.?
" Heb. xii. 27. 28.
* In this country, whatever opinions many may entertain of the former, the latter is evidently the ostensible basis of the Established Churches : for the government, by identifying itself with Presbyterianism in Scotland, as well as with Episcopacy in England, plainly shows that it feels
What sedition and revolt are, in reference to the civil government,—such has schism been considered to be, in regard to power ecclesiastical. Schism has been another name for rebellion against spiritual superiors, and separation from their jurisdiction. Hence, where the civil ruler is also head of the church,' combining, to a certain extent, in his own person, the functions of magistrate and priest, Schism has sometimes been treated, not merely as an ecclesiastical offence, but also as a state-crime: and it has been punished accordingly; as is abundantly exemplified in the history of Protestant Europe.
This departure from the true scripture-use of the term, has contributed, not a little, to increase, and to perpetuate, the real thing signified-dissension among Christians. There has been, as some one has remarked, a “schism' respecting the meaning of the word itself: for the charge of being a'schismatic,' has often been most unjustly made; and has thus served to promote that ill-will and strife, which is of the very essence of the evil of
itself bound by no views of exclusive divine right for either of these forms. For abundant testimonies proving that, in the time of Edward VI., Elizabeth, and James I., Epis. copacy clearly rested on the principle of ' ascribing the particular Form of Government in the Church, to the determination of the Supreme Magistrate ;' - see Stillingfleet's Irenicum, Part ii. chap. viii.