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schism. Is it not high time that the professed followers of Christ, no longer carried away with a zeal that is ‘not according to knowledge,' should cease to use technical terms of mutual reproach, without discrimination; and should endeavour, with seriousness and candour, to ascertain the real character of the mischief which they condemn?
With a further view to this object, several inferences appear capable of being deduced from those facts and statements of Scripture, which have already been brought forward. From these, it is evident, that in its immediate reference to the church of Christ, SCHISM IS AN EVIL EXISTING PROFESSED CHRISTIANS, AS SUCH,
The division (schism) which took place respecting the Messiah, between those Jews who rejected, and those who appeared willing to receive him,* was an opposition of parties; one of which, it would seem, was composed of decidedly worldly men:—the other, of those who were inclined to become Christians. Schism, in its church-sense, however, does not imply a contention between the world on the one side, and the church on the other ; but is limited to the pale of visible Christianity. As natural benevolence is not christian love; so schism is something different from the mere interruption of earthly friendship, or neighbourly feeling, either between men of the world
John vii, 20. 41.
among themselves, or between them and Christians. Schism, as related to the church, is a spiritual sin, opposed to spiritual unity. The dislocation of a limb, implies its connexion with the human frame; and schism supposes a previous union of the members of the mystical body of Christ; a union in 'one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism' of the Holy Ghost.
Hence, the persecution of the church, by unbelievers, grievous as is this offence against Christ, is not schism. It is true that, in some cases, the line of demarcation between such persecution and schism, may be difficult to define : for, in the erection of the christian church, unwise builders have ever used 'untempered mortar;'? and have piled up wood, hay, and stubble," instead of living stones,'* on the ' foundation, which is Jesus Christ.' 5 There has been, as in the case of the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, a juxta-position of discordant materials, but no amalgamation. The true, simple, apostolical idea of the church, as consisting of persons who give evidence of possessing a certain state of mind, has been lost sight of, and buried, under that mass of human invention and corruption, which had been accumulating from the second century, till the time when this Augean stable began to be cleansed by the Reformation. 1 Acts ix. 4.
2 Ezek. xiii. 10. 3 1 Cor. iii. 12. 41 Pet. ii. 5.
51 Cor. iii. 11.
Under the appellation of ‘ the church, there has still too often remained, a mere accidental, geographical, political, nominal association—not a spiritual union ;-an admixture-not a combination. It may not always, therefore, be easy to say where schism among Christians ends, and persecution from worldly men, nominally of the church, begins. But, at all events, it will be granted that a 'schismatic' is properly such-only as an avowed and professed Christian.
It is plain, also, that schism, in its strictest sense, takes place BETWEEN MEMBERS OF ONE AND THE SAME PARTICULAR CHURCH OR ASSEMBLY OF CHRISTIANS. The church at Corinth was society of persons, whom, in the judgment of charity, the apostle addressed, as "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints;' and who came together in the church,' or 'into one place,' for the celebration of divine ordinances. * They were in the habit of worshipping and communing with each other : and, no doubt, the closest intimacy had prevailed between them, as collected from the heathen world, and thus belonging to the same individual church, or (in the language of the New Testament) assembly, of Christians. Their schisms consisted, as we have seen, in their mutual contentions, their internal and party divisions. Hence, Dr. Owen remarks, that he who is guilty of
* 1 Cor. i. 2 ; xi. 18. 20.
the sin of schism, ‘inust be a member of some one church constituted by Jesus Christ: in it he raises causeless differences with others, to the interruption of christian love, and to the disturbance of the due performance of the duties required of the church in the worship of God.'*
Yet, though the actual examples of the New Testament, are confined to the dissensions of one particular society, it appears to be perfectly consistent with the spirit of the scripture-meaning of the term, to regard schism as that which, virtually, and in substance, MAY EXIST BETWEEN PROFESSED CHRISTIANS WHO BELONG TO DIFFERENT CONGREGATIONS, OR TO DIFFERENT DENOMINATIONS. Though the union which subsists between members of the same assembly, and who unite together in the same communion, ought to be specially marked by mutual confidence and charity; yet this particular relation by no means interferes with the sense of unity which Christians should feel, with the universal church. On the contrary, as the domestic circle, which draws forth the private affections, is the best nursery for general benevolence; so the fellowship of Christians in a church, prepares them to exercise an expansive charity towards the whole household of faith. The attraction which holds together among themselves, the particles of each of the planetary bodies, intimate as
* Owen Of Schism. Oxon. 1657.
it is, does not prevent each body, and each particle of it, from feeling the force of the attraction of all the rest. And as it is conceivable, not only that one of these bodies might be shattered by an internal convulsion; but that either the whole of it, or a separated fragment, might wander from its centre, and lose its connexion with the system : so may Christians not only be alienated from each other, in the same society; but also, from Christians of other societies : or one Christian community may have uncharitable differences with another. When the apostle Paul, representing the church, allegorically, under the image of the human frame, teaches that God has so 'tempered the body together, as 'that there should be no schism in the body;' we cannot suppose that the application was intended to be restricted to the avoidance of internalSchism in particular churches, merely ; but rather that the allegory was designed to have a reference to the whole, and every part of the spiritual body of Christ. Hence the general definition of Schism, given by Firmin, as • the solution of that unity, which Christ requires in his church.':
Again : ALL SCHISM, HOWEVER ARISING, AND TO WHATEVER DEGREE MANIFESTED, IS, IN ESSENCE, A DISRUPTION OF THE BOND OF CHARITY. Love is the one soul of unity ; but the
• Giles Firmin Of Schism, 1658.