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in the New Testament, as that men may be genuine, and even intelligent Christians, and yet not view these points in the same light:--and if some may be sincere in adopting forms and modes, which others are equally sincere in declining :—then, considerable diversity of practice, in this respect, may surely consist, as in the case of the Jewish and Gentile converts, not only with fidelity to Christ, but also with charity to ' the brethren.' And if there be no schism in the diversity itself, there needs be none in the name which designates it; provided this name be not assumed in a party spirit.
Hence, the existence of different denominations of Christians, is not necessarily schismatical. That it is a mark of infirmity-of imperfect apprehension of truth; that it is undesirable—is admitted. The millennial glory of the church may cause these lines of demarcation to melt away. That it will render them fainter and less numerous, cannot be doubted. Yet we maintain, that schism, in the sense of the New Testament, is, by no means, of necessity, involved in these distinctions. For, why-notwithstanding such differences of opinion-may there not still be 'unity in essentials; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity ?'
; When the imaginary spell of 'infallibility' was broken by the Reformers, there was no consistent course but for Christians to take the Scriptures
into their own hands, and, with devout minds, to judge for themselves. Chillingworth,' in treating of tradition, justly remarks, that 'Unless the Scripture contain all necessary Divine Truths, it cannot be a perfect Rule of Faith. The author of "A Treatise on the Church of Christ,"? states with approbation, that 'the Anglo-catholic doctrine of tradition, only admits it as confirmatory of the true meaning of Scripture.' To this description of tradition, there can be no objection. The Romish doctrine is, that it is both an independent source of truth, and an infallible interpreter. Tradition, however, is, in strictness, nothing more nor less than historical evidence-to be received or rejected, in every case, according to its real weight. it is human testimony, which comes armed with no divine authority, but is open to the impartial examination of all.
If we regard the Reformation in its true light, it was the dethronement of tradition, and of human authority in general, from sovereignty over the church. It gave an appellate jurisdiction, in all matters of religion, to the court of conscience; against the decisions of which, if they be wrong, there remains but one sole and final appeal -an appeal to the tribunal of God. All that man can do, in the mean time, is, to endeavour, in the
Works, 1727. p. 40.
spirit of christian love, to enlighten, to convince, to persuade his brother-supposed to be in error. If this method fail, the task is over-and provided the error be not essential, 'charity covereth * all things.' Until it be shown that modes, and forms, and church-order, are, in Scripture, put on a level with the great doctrines and precepts of the gospel, every one must, on these points, be left at liberty to follow his own course, without being supposed, for so doing, to have forfeited the affections of his fellow-Christians. If this liberty involve schism in one party, it must do so in another, and in all. Every denomination must be guilty of as many schisms, as there are denominations beside itself: and the whole Protestant church is one mass of schisms. This can be denied, only on the principle of a clear, divine prescription; or a divinely delegated authority. To separate from a church so sanctioned, would doubtless be nothing short of rebellion against Christ. But where is this prescription ?--where are the credentials of this authority ?
The divine Redeemer loved his own. There was a divine love, which embraced all his disciples, equally :-a love, which neither Gethsemane, nor the cross, nor death, could quench. But, having condescended to assume our nature, as a man he obeyed its laws. There was a human
* otéyer. 1 Cor. xiii. 7.
love-the preference of friendship ; ' Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.' There was 'a disciple whom he loved,' and who 'leaned on his breast at supper. Thus, he sanctioned private friendship, as consistent with universal love. May not denominational Christianity, maintained with charity, be regarded as a certain species of christian friendship? Friendship is founded on something more than even grand common principles : it involves a somewhat minute peculiarity of tastes-similar characteristic predilections and objects of pursuit. Let christian denominations, therefore, be conceived of under the idea of societies of private friendship, selected from the universal church, and founded on coincidence in minor opinions and practices, chiefly regarding external points.
Now since but few, comparatively, can meet for public worship under the same roof, there must, of necessity, be different places of assemhly. May not Christians, then, avail themselves of this unavoidable separation, and associate together, according to similarity of sentiments and views :-still preserving unity of spirit; union of effort in doing good; and, to the utmost limit allowed by conscience, occasional interchange and union, in worship and communion ? Christians must worship locally apart :—why may they not so worship, as that the consciences of all may be
satisfied—that all may be fully persuaded in their own minds '--that all may be 'edified ? Let all enjoy this privilege of predilection and selectionyet let all be one. Let their union, in all other respects, be as great as possible—unity of heart being entire. On what just principles can any one, here, discern schism?
Yet how beautiful, some will say, is ecclesiastical uniformity! Though all cannot meet in the same place, why cannot all (at least in the same nation) be conformed to one and the same model? Uniformity, we reply, beautiful as it may be when it is the natural expression of unbiassed unity of conviction, can never be beautiful when forced. On the other hand, provided jealousies and animosities be absent, and unity of heart be preserved, even variety in modes and forms may furnish latitude to Christians for manifesting the strength of those principles in which all are united; and may illustrate the power of that charity which does not require a party dress, but is the universal genius of Christianity. Though it must be admitted that variety of opinion, on any points involving the alternative of truth and error, implies the existence, somewhere, of dim and misty perceptions: yet for these, there appears no immediate remedy. Therefore, it only remains for Christians who are one in essentials, to agree, in other respects to differ.