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principle of our church, which is, that she always attaches privileges, and always confines them to a true one.
It is to no purpose to object here that ministers are not constituted judges. They are constituted judges by Christ himself. In public instruction and general addresses, it belongs to their office to encourage and to denounce, to hold forth God's promises and to proclaim his threatenings. Yet this is done hypothetically, that is, on the supposition of men having or not having a Christian character, a life and spirit corresponding with their profession. So much most clearly belongs to their office; and nothing more in this respect is needed. As ministers they speak in Christ's name, and stand, as it were, in his place, and in his stead beseech men to be reconciled to God: and they declare and pronounce in his name, what belongs both to the penitent and impenitent. And thus what they “ bind” and “loose” on earth is bound, and loosed in heaven.
To say that the minister has no right to undo what the church has already done, has no application. For the church has in fact done nothing but pronounce blessings dependent on character. We mistake and pervert the whole case, if we consider the church as pronouncing her blessings on baptism, independently of the profession of character made at baptism. The truth is, she does not, any more than the Scripture, pronounce salvation, or any of its concomitants, on persons as being baptised, but on them as believing and being baptised. Nor does she at any time allow her “ministers to declare and pronounce" “ absolution and remission of sins," on the supposition of persons merely professing to be God's people; but only upon those who truly repent and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel.” She does indeed, as all must, accept on some occasions the profession of repentance and faith, as a charitable evidence of their reality; but she never pronounces peace but on them in whom she conceives them to exist.
The homilies which some writers consider as an exception to the general meaning of regeneration, afford a very fair and suitable illustration of our subject. These homilies are sermons; they therefore regard regeneration, not in the abstract as we do in baptism, but in the concrete, or as it is found or claimed by those who have been baptised. And how do these faithful monitors deal with
persons of this description ? Do they refer them to baptism for their saintship and regeneration, and allow their claim, and defend it on that ground? No, surely. They often, indeed, address the body of professors, as every one does and must, by the name which they bear, as persons who "profess and call themselves Christians:" but they go to character and spirituality of mind to seek for regeneration, as all faithful instructors ought to do. So that instead of the homilies affording an "exception " to the general rule," respecting the use of the term regeneration, as pleaded for by some, and thereby exhibiting an anomalous kind of instruction, they actually pursue the very plan we are advocating. They afford a striking illustration of it: they show us clearly how we are to deal with people under similar circumstances. And it appears to us evident, that we should depart from the principle, upon which regeneration, in our church and in the Scripture, is built, were we to act otherwise.
Persons, it is true, are called “ saints, and faithful brethren,” both in the Bible and in our Prayer Book, who are “professors of Christianity in common :" but that does not affect our present argument. If we, like St. Paul, were writing to a Corinthian church, we should consider it no inconsistency to address the whole church as a body of saints, or faithful brethren, even were we intending to carry on the severest scrutiny as to character that could be exercised. Nor should we hesitate to address our congregations as “ dearly beloved brethren,” were we at the same time purposing to enter on the discussion of such principles and doctrines as would exclude nine out of ten of them from the faith they professed, and from the privileges they might wish to claim ; yea, were we obliged, after describing such characters as “extortioners, sensualists, and infidels," in fidelity to say, that they were of their father, the Devil, instead of being “ the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
Discipline is mentioned by our author as necessary to protect his principle from abuse.” The principle itself, as we have shown, is misapplied. “The judgment of faith and charity” ought not to be exercised, in our instruction, one jöt further than truth and conduct warrant. If we keep not to this perfect rule, the only rule sanctioned by Scripture and our church, we shall open the door to licentiousness and antinomianism. Surely that charity,
which judgeth favourably, when character is professed or asserted, must and will judge according to truth, when the actual conduct gives the lie to the profession. And what about discipline? We hold it impracticable to protect such a principle from abuse, if consistently carried out. Were the minister absolute as to discipline, how could he make it work without violating his own principle? He speaks of the church as needing “efficiency to divide the professed communion of saints from the community of natural men. These natural men are, we suppose, in the church, but deserve to be excluded from it. Are they to be separated by excommunication, and not by doctrine? Where would be the charity in banishing those from the church, who had not been first taught and warned, while there, that they were no better than “natural," that is, unregenerate men, notwithstanding their profession and their baptism?
Were our brother, or any one else, to follow the advice he gives, and try the experiment of “excommunication" on his own principle, he would, we suspect, find, that no minister could exercise discipline christianly, who, in his instructions, does not enter into such “nice distinctions” as would be sufficient to convince “ natural men” that they are not "spiritual men;" and that though they had thrust themselves in among the saints, they had yet no communion with them, were not of theni, and deserved to be cast out. No man, certainly no wise and pious man, would himself exercise, or wish others to exercise, discipline in such a way as would be a standing reproach to his own instruction. And doubtless, every person so excommunicated, would have great cause to complain, that he had been grievously deceived; for, as he had been baptised, and had not renounced the Christian name ; and as the minister had always taken great pains to teach him, that, as such, he is a “child of God by promise," what will he think when he shall, on his banishment, be told, though not a single sermon intimated any such idea before, that he is viewed as a child of the Devil, and, as such, must be cast out “ from the communion of saints.”
Again, would our author expel “regenerate" souls from his communion of saints? Will he justify the “ banishing." of these “ regenerate” persons, because they are not." converted ?" Will he not then explain at large from
the pulpit the "manifold advantages,—which flow” from his making these “ nice distinctions” between the “
regenerate" and the “ converted,” and prove to his congregation how these “nice distinctions,” which neither the Scripture nor our church makes, will promote in a church of baptised people “the communion of saints?” The truth is, we must frequently, or rather constantly, make “distinctions” among our audiences, where we cannot resort to expulsions. Otherwise, how can we exemplify our Lord's direction, --"Let both grow together until the harvest.” We are not in this case allowed, by an overrigorous “ discipline,” to root out all the “ tares,” lest we endanger the wheat also. Such a severe inquisition, as would “ efficiently” divide the community of natural men from the communion of saints, as is pleaded for, would in various cases require a judgment and discernment far above human. But still, every faithful minister ought to endeavour, in his instruction, to describe, as minutely and scripturally as possible, the real nature and difference, both in the character and expectations of those who are the wheat and of those who are tares. Or, how will he be “ free from the blood of all men,” if he treat those as saints, and delude them under that expectation, whom the “great shepherd” at his coming shall separate as “goats from his flock," and say to them, “ Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Delusion, manifest delusion, is the cause of all this pertinacious adherence to a dangerous theory. If we once suffer the mind to adopt confused ideas of things which differ, we know not where the evil may end. This is a right principle, but a wrong application. This misapplication confounds,-devotion and instruction-praying and preaching,-giving credit to profession and trial of character,-admission of sincerity and discovery of deception,-a charitable hope and a cautious admonition, All these are built on the same principle, but vary essentially in their operations.
DEVOTIONAL Institutions must needs allow to all their profession, and pray for and encourage them accordingly. But INSTRUCTION and preaching must inquire into and try the character which has been admitted on profession. It is the business of the preacher to form the character, to detect self-deception, and to give to each member as he rises before him his due portion. All must conform to “ the law and to the testimony.” The rule of “judgment” must be enforced upon them : and baptised professors must be set to “judge” themselves, whether they be “ in the faith.” And while they are taught that devotion assumes that their heart is right, it is the duty of instruction to point out its evidence and its tendencies.
So that if there be bad characters in the congregation,
“ sensualists, extortioners, infidels,”—the minister is bound to delineate and to denounce them, and to warn them, as the Scripture does, that “such cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”—The necessary inference is irresistible, that such persons are not regenerate, are not saints, are not holy, unless they who are regenerate, holy, and saints, can be shut out of heaven! And if they can, another inference follows, that is, that their regeneration, their holiness, and their saintship, are worthless. Then why contend for them! Why delude precious souls with a name!
Dangers and delusions seem to threaten us here on all sides. Mr. Cole, as our author complains, would, by substituting“ fellow-creature" for “dear brother," in the Burial Service, well nigh “ heathenise" the church of Christ; and our author, by considering “all baptised" professors as “regenerate,” would thereby nearly absorb and lose the 66 world” in the church. This danger is great. With us, who are chiefly baptised in infancy, there is as truly “ the world” within the professing Christian church, as there was in our Saviour's days among the circumcised children of Abraham. Out of that world Christ chose his disciples, and the “world hated them ;” though all were of the same religion by profession, yet many were of their “ father the devil,” notwithstanding their professed subjection to a true and spiritual revelation.
[The next number will examine Dr. Pusey's views of the institution of baptism, and the interpretation of John iii. 5.]
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