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Arility, delight, and resolution, on the part of the diiciples.
:. iOfacceptance, as faithful and true. -Of approbation, as suitable and excellent.— Of gratitude, for the preciousness; —humility, for the freeness;—</*L light, for the sweetness of the blessing :- and of resolution, through grace, to reduce the will of the decree, • instantly - uniformly— and perpetually to practice. t ,
v That siich deference, is the indispenfible duty <©f church members to their pastors and rulers, will appear sarther, from the various lights in which the scriptures represent it.
Christians, for instance, are bound by divine authority, to consider their pastors and rulers as— their peers ?—only on a level with themselves ?-— not at all j- but, as " over them in the Lord," 1 ThesT.v. n. To be over them, and yet but joined with them, in their judicative capacity, are, in our apprehension, incompatible views.
Besides, the same apostle makes use of that very verb *, in representing the capacity of a man at the head of his own samily, 1 Tim. iii. 4. But, would it be proper, would it be scriptural, from thence, to infer, that his children and servants were ib sar on a level with him, a? to have a' vote, in the managniem of his domestic affairs?
When, therefore, the apostle exhorted the Christians at Theflalonica to consider tbeir office-bearers eu tver them,---would it not be equally absurd to alledge that those Christians were, at the same-rime, to sit,and judge alongst with these officers, in the management of the church?
Again, Christians are called to " esteem them *' which labour among them, very highly in love, "for their work's lake," 1 Thess. v. 12. 13. i. e.
on account of their office itself, as well as of thefc labours in the dilcharge of it. )
But, if the brethren ai< upon an equal footing with, their elders in judging of church-affairs, why should they esteem them so much more highly than their sellow church members ?- -And yet the apo^istle,- -aware of the great necessity of being explicit, uscth a variety of words to express that mud superior veneration *. 1
• Upon the supposition, therefore, that the brethren are co-rulers with their officers, it is impossible to form a conception of Paul's design, in the .peculiar emphasis of that exhortation.
Once more, submission, in the Lord, is due by Christians to those who labour among them in the. work of the Gospel.---For, concerning Timothy and Apollos, Paul laid to the Corinthians, "submit "yourselves dnto such, and to every one *hat help^ .'' eth with us and laboureth," i Cor. xvi. 16.
The word made use of, in that passage, + naturally implieth, an acquiescing in their judgment, as to what decrees, respecting the church, they may make; and a readiness to sall in with the design of them.
This view of the exhortation, however forbiding at sirst sight, will not appear so unreasonable, if it is observed,---that Paul used the fame verb to press the submission of subjects to civil magistrate*; Rom. xiii. 1. of wives to their own husbands.; Eph. v. 27. of servants to their masters: Tit. ii. 9. and Lake useth it, to express the submission of children to their parents, Luke ii. c1.
To this, it may, reasonably enough, be objected, that, according to such a view, Christians may
* Not only peri few, and rcperijsow; but vperecperijsovi. $ Upotaffcsthe,
fcmetimes be called to an act of submission, by their rulers, which would be unlawful for thtm, in the fight of God.
Doubtless they may. But then, will not the same objection hold-in all the other relations mentioned?
And, therefore, as the orders of magistrates, husbands, masters, and pirents may,- -in as far as they are sinful, be disregarded by subjects, wives, servants, and children: -so, in fimilar circumstances, the decrees of church officers may be treated, .by church-members, with all the contempt which •they deserve. ,
But, because ecclesiastical rulers may sometimes . issue out wrong decrees; will it follow from thence •<hat Christians are not bound to submit to them, #nsuch deliverances .as arc supported by scripture?
This reasoning will appear still more conclusive, if it is jnst added, that the verb, now under consideration, is likewise used, by the Holy Ghost, to express submiflion incases where no degree of parity .can be supposed. The submiflion, for instance, of devils tp the disciples, in the name of Christ; Luke x. 17. and the submission of all the creatures to the SON himself, 1 Cor. xv. 27. Eph. i. 22. Heb. ii. 8. The whole of this doblrine may be summed up in the following aphorisms, or propositions.
*' That office-bearers and private Christians have "distinct provinces in the New Testament church. *' While the former have a judicative capacity; "the latter have a right to weigh their decisions -** in the balance of the sanctuary. And though "the power as authorizing be lodged in those;-— "the right os election is peculiar to these.
"That church.officers may have different fen'* timents concerning doctrines and duties both. *' What apptareth of weight and importance to *' one, may be less considerable in the eye of ano'
"thef. "thtr. Nay, the same doctrine or duty may be "urged and expkded, with equal zeal, by differ' "ent persons, of the same order, in the church.
•' I hat, as courts of review, in the church of "Christ, are justisied by apostolic practice, they "ought to be admitted and regarded, as sar as the "ends of order, peace, and edisication, may ren' "der them necessary.
,. " That where inserior judicatorles cannot be "unanimous in their deliverance,—REFERENCE "is the most eligible and scriptural way of carrying "such litigated causes to the bar of their siipe"riors.
"That church-officers alone, can properly con"stitutc ecclesiastical courts;—and, therefore, to "such, only, causes should be brought,—whether "by complaint, reserence, or appeal.
"That all sentences, which must be sinal, should "be framed, with the utmost possible precision, "according to the mind of the Holy Ghost, reveal"ed in the sacred volumes; or made known by the "dispensations of providence.
"That though screes,.ib qualisied, are bind"ing in their own nature;—yet, in announcing "and applying them, they should, as reason and "scriptural prudence may direct, be cautiously re"commended to the approbation and acceptance "of all concerned. And,'
"That, in as sar as decisions are conducted by "such iules.'—submission and obedience car.not be "with held, by church members, but at the ex"pence of rebelling against God."
We conclude with observing, that in as sar as the disciples—either claim a right of acting in a judicative capacity, -or decline compliance with such decrees of their pastors and rulers, as are evidently justisied by the word of God; —they go from their
spheres, act out of character, and contribute greatly toward the production or promotion of schism in the church of Christ.
.* As you would not chuse that church officers make encroachments upon your piivileges,—be exhorted to guard against usurping to yourselves any part of that province, which Jesus Christ hath rendered peculiar to them.
The beautiful order of each member, in the natural body, is not more necessary for the various purposes of life; than your keeping by your-own spheres, in the body ecclesiastic, is for the purposes of edification.
Though you have no right to teach, no right
to rule in the church; you should not peevishly undervalue the place you fill, as if your spheres of action were chimeras in themselves, and of no importance to the church at all. For, in the language of the apostle, " If the foot shall say, because "I am not the hand, I am not of the body;—Is it,
•** therefore, not of the body? And if the ear
"shall say, because I am not the eye, I am not of ** the body ;-- Is it, therefore, not of the body?" 1 Cor. xii. 15, 16.
If, according to our former reasoning, you were all to act in the teaching and ruling capacities,---then, you could no more be achurch constituted according to the doctrine of the New Testament; than a number of hands or feet, ears or eyes, joined together, without other members, could constitute a proper human body. The former would be equally monstrous in the moral, as the latter would be in thenatural world. For, "if the whole body were an eye, "where were the hearing? If the whole body were "hearing, where were the smelling?" vers. 17.
But if you should imagine, that it is' competent for you, as church-members, to bring the decisiN • ons