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meat in the market, they were not bound to inquire whether it had been offered to an idol, or not; and on visiting a heathen family, they were at liberty to eat what was set before them, asking no questions for conscience' sake. Yet if any person should say, 'This has been offered to idols,' they were to receive the remark as implying that their partaking of the meat was liable to be construed into some encouragement of idol-worship. A heathen might now suppose that a compliment was paid to his god. A Jew, or a weak Christian, erroneously attaching a certain idea of reality and power to the idol, might be offended; or be led, perhaps, in some cases, to partake, without the full consent of conscience. 'Eat not, therefore, for his sake that showed it, and for conscience' sake-conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other.' Still, meats are, in themselves, indifferent. Meat commendeth us not to God: neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we eat not are we the worse:' 'wherefore,' adds the generous apostle, “if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.'
Such was the charity inculcated by the inspired messengers of Christ. Such is the genius and spirit of the Gospel, in relation to practices which may vary, while its doctrines and its morality re
ii Cor. viii ; x. 25—29.
main unchanged. That one individual was of the Jewish, another of the Proselyte, or a third of the Gentile denomination of Christians, was no lawful obstacle to entire unity of heart. The kingdom of God was 'not in meat and in drink; but in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.' It did not consist in things external, but in things spiritual. Its genuine subjects were to be known by their cherishing a certain delicacy of feeling respecting each others conscientious scruples, on points not affecting the essence of Christianity; and they were to reverence each others liberty, as a trust belonging to those who must, each, 'give an account of himself to God.' 'No man’ was to put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall, in his brother's way.' 'Every man' was to be “fully persuaded in his own mind, that his
peculiar observances were his duties in the sight of God; and all were to follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.' 2
Now, do not these apostolic facts and testimonies furnish, in themselves, a strong presumption that the essential unity of the christian church is independent of uniformity in things external ? Where is the evidence to the contrary? Is there any scriptural reason why the manner in which the apostles dealt with the different convic* Rom. xiv. 17.
Rom. xiv. 12, 13, 5, 19, 20, 21.
tions of various classes of Christians, should not be regarded as illustrating a principle which is capable of being applied, extensively, and in all ages, to everything in Christianity which relates merely to outward form ? Surely the above examples were not mere accidental and passing aspects of the new religion: they mark its permanent character and spirit. The tone and temper of the christian precepts and precedents which arose out of these cases of conscience in the apostolic age, may be viewed as furnishing an analogy by which Christians, in general, may be guided respecting the manner in which they ought to regard the differences which subsist among them, on the circumstantial points connected with church-government, rites, and ceremonies.
THE RELATION OF THE FORM AND ORDER OF THE
CHURCH OF CHRIST, TO ITS ESSENTIAL UNITY, AND
THERE has been no greater barrier to the visible demonstration of the unity of Christians before the world, than the tendency which has so much prevailed among them, to attach undue importance to
precise agreement in outward discipline. Yet it may safely be affirmed that the whole genius of Christianity, and the manner in which all that is external is treated of in the New Testament, warrant the conclusion that UNIFORMITY OF CHURCHORDER, EITHER ECUMENICAL OR NATIONAL, IS NOT ESSENTIAL TO THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH OF
I. This is true of particular FORMS, RITES, AND CEREMONIES of worship. None will contend, for example, that any precept can be found in the New Testament, rendering imperative the use of liturgical forms of prayer. Prayer is of the heart. It consists not essentially in words, but in faith and devotion ; compared with which, the mode of utterance is of little moment. ' Liturgies not being enjoined or forbidden in scripture,' says Paley, *
must be judged by their expediency;—a sentiment which, understood as it ought to be, leaves their use or non-use, as in the case of the Mosaic meats and days, to the conscientious option of Christians, according to their convictions of what is most consonant with the scriptural view of prayer, and with edification. Into the abstract question of the comparative merit of liturgies and free prayer, or whether a judicious combination of the two might not be attended with advantage, we do * Moral Philosophy, book v. oh. 5.
not enter. But can it be doubted for a moment that there are thousands who follow each practice, and equally draw nigh to God' with the heart?'
Liturgies, it is true, have been ascribed to St. Peter, St. Mark, and St. James; and some have supposed that a liturgy may have been alluded to by our Saviour, when he made the promise that if
any two should agree' on earth’ in prayer, they should be heard. Few, however, it is presumed, would place any dependence, and still fewer lay a basis for necessity, on arguments so apocryphal, or on a criticism so obscure. Nor does the Jewish synagogue furnish a more valid ground for insisting on a liturgy ; for though we should grant that human forms of prayer were there read in the time of Christ, by what analogy is such a practice binding on Christians ? ? Besides, the Jewish
loupowvhowow, Matt. xviii. 19.
2 The Rev. G. Townsend, in his elaborate and excellent . work on the New Testament, (chap. iii. sect. 4,) says that the example of Christ, at Nazareth, (Luke iv.) 'sanctions to us the use of liturgies, vestments, etc., in all churches.'
Could this be clearly proved, it would be difficult to perceive how any christian church were justified in not adopting these observances. But if the presence of Christ in the synagogue, and his express testimony to the inspired prophecy of Isaiah, be interpreted as giving a divine right or sanction to any human forms which might be in use, where can we draw the line? Did our Saviour, then, by his attendance, sanction everything in the Jewish