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courage them, they have the command of Christ to his disciples, to go into all the world, and publish the Gospel to every creature ; as also the various promises of God's word, that the Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world. With such encouragement, all who have embarked in this work, ought to go on. To be workers together with God, is an honour, as well as a duty. Though present exertions do not produce the issue which many expect, yet, unquestionably, great good will result from them. The different Missionary Societies, will deposit the seed of the Gospel in different parts of the earth. There it will abide, and slowly vegetate during that period in which we believe God will purge his Church and visit the world. To this period we are evidently approximating, from the signs of the times. Happy is that servant, whom, when his master comes, he shall find in this way engaged in discharging his duty.
A View of the Constitution of the Church of Scot
land, abridged from the second part of Dr. Hill's Theological Institutes.
(Concluded from page 298.) AFTE
FTER the general account given in the preceding number of the manner in which power is dis tributed among the judicatories of the Church of Scotland, we shall attain a more intimate knowledge of the Ecclesiastical Constitution of this country, if
we take a particular review of the objects in relation to which the judicial power is exercised.
The Lord Jesus having required his disciples to unite in a regular society, hath invested the rulers of that society with the office of admitting those whom they judge worthy, of admonishing and reproving those who are admitted, and of suspending or excluding them from the privileges of the society. To the persons employed in this office he hath left directions, for the observance of which they are accountable to him; and he will give his sanction to the acts which they perform agreeably to his directions. As he has not left them any promise of infallibility, they may unintentionally, or from corrupt motives, pronounce unjust sentences. But this inconvenience, which is incident to every exercise of power vested in the hands of men, does not affect *; the final salvation of his subjects. And even with regard to external privileges, it is not without remedy: for as “Christ, through the Spirit,” in the words of the Confession of Faith, “ worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth ;” so Christians are justified, in cases of necessity, for resorting to an extraordinary method of enjoying that comfort and edification which the established order of the Church was destined to convey to their souls.
The judicial power of the Church, when exercised in consistency with the sovereign authority of Christ, and the liberties of his disciples, may be considered as legitimately extending to the three following objects : Gross Immorality, Heresy, and Schism.
1. Gross Immorality. The Constitution of the Christian Society, the credit of religion, and the conduct of the apostles, teach us, that every flagrant transgression of the laws of Christ calls for the censures of the Church. Yet there has been at differ
ent times a rigour in the discipline of the Church which appears to us excessive, and which the tem. per of our times would not bear. The early Christians, exposed both to obloquy and to persecution, employed this discipline as a method of vindicating their society from the imputation of secret crimes, and of deterring the members from apostacy; and the circumstances which produced this zeal, although they cannot justify, may excuse their rigour. In the third century, Novatian, going far beyond the severity of the primitive discipline, taught, that every sin committed after baptism, and particularly the guilt which Christians contracted by joining in the worship of idols, excluded for ever from the communion of the Church. In the fourth century, the followers of Donatus, who mingled some private causes of separation with this general principle, refused to hold communion with any Church which re-admitted those who had once committed a hei, nous sin, and regarded as invalid the baptism and ordination conferred by any society of Christians who had rendered themselves impure by such readmission. Soon after the Reformation, the Ana. baptists, reviving the principle of Novatian and Donatus, taught, that the Christian Society, whose character is holiness, ought to be inaccessible to sinners, and that any branch of that society which permits a person who is not a saint to remain in its communion, ceases to be a part of the Church of Christ,
The principle of the Donatists and Anabaptists is incompatible with the present state of human nature, which does not admit of perfect virtue in any individual, far less in a large society; and it is contradicted by the exhortations and reproofs which the apostles addressed to the Churches in their days, and by the confessions of sin which Christians are directed to offer when they assemble themselves together. We look indeed for a time which the Church, whichi
Christ hath washed in his blood, shall be presented by him to his father holy and without blemish; and that none shall be found members of the invisible Church hereafter, who do not follow after holiness upon earth. But as the endeavours of the best are attended with much imperfection, and as the visible Church, according to the description given in several parables of our Lord, is to continue till the end of the world a mixed society, the discipline exercised by its rulers, must be relative to the present state of things, or one of the medicines which the Lord Jesus hath provided for the frailties and trespasses of his disciples, will be converted into an oppressive, unmeaning, and capricious tyranny:
In that temperate exercise of discipline which the general practice of the Church of Scotland recognizes as congenial to her Constitution, care is taken to avoid every appearance of intermeddling officiously with those matters that fall under the cognizance of the civil magistrate. No solicitude is ever diseovered to engage in the investigation of secret wickedness. Counsel, private admonition, and reproof, are employed in their proper season; and the public censures of the Church are reserved for those scandalous sins which bring reproach upon religion, which give offence to the Christian Society, and which cannot be overlooked without the danger of hardening the sinner, of emboldening others to follow his example, and of disturbing and grieving the minds of many worthy Christians. Even with regard to such sins, the temper of modern times has adopted the sentence of the lesser rather than what is called the greater excommunication ; that is to say, suspension from the privileges of the Church, and particularly from a participation of the Lord's Supper, is preferred to a public sentence, by which the sinner is declared to be cut off from the commit
Vol. IV.-No, VII.
nion of the Church, and according to the expression of the Apostle, “ delivered unto Satan." When the offender, instead of being reformed by the sen tence of the lesser excommunication presumptuously persists in his former sin, the office-bearers of the Church are directed to proceed, with the greatest possible solemnity, to the greater excommunication. Yet even this sentence is not understood to have any effect in dissolving the relations of civil life. It leaves access to various means of reformation, and it is removed by the sentence of absolution, which the Church is always ready to pronounce upon satisfying evidence of repentance.
In prescribing the manner of making profession of repentance, a prudent accommodation to circumstances may be expected from those who know the spirit of that evangelical precept, “ Let us follow after the things which make for peace, and things tvherewith one may edify another.” In many situa. tions, more good arises from the dread of public rebuke, than from the rebuke itself; and there is always want of wisdom in defeating the end of Church censures, by requiring what we know will not be complied with. In Scotland, where the civil magistrate does not afford his aid in giving effect to excommunication, it becomes the office-bearers of the Church to allow full time for the operation of all lenient methods of reclaiming offenders, before they proceed to that extremity which circumstances may sometimes render indispensable, but which it is desirable to avoid, for this reason among many others, that whatever opinion may be entertained with regard to the sentence of excommunication, whether it be respected or despised, the Church has not the power of doing any thing more.
2. Heresy. Although Protestant Churches, renouncing every claim of infallibility, do not presume to impose upon the consciences of Christians aniy