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is suggested which has any the least relation to the doctrines of religion, or to any opinions that might be formed concerning them. The fault which he stigmatised with that odious appellation consisted then solely in an undue attachment to particular persons, under whom, as chiefs or leaders, the people severally ranked themselves; and thus, without making separate communions, formed distinctions among themselves, to the manifest prejudice of the common bond of charity, classing themselves under different heads.” This is a partial rather than a general description of schism ; and to prove it so, we would only employ Dr. Campbell's own argument in examination of the context. Paul, Peter, and Apollos, certainly preached one doctrine ; had the Corinthians duly heeded what either of these masters taught, there could have been no “ distinctions among themselves.” It was misapprehension that created distinction ; believing that each taught a different doctrine, they attached themselves accordingly, and since supposed superiority of doctrine was, and alone could be, the subject of preference, such attachment must have constituted separate communion. Wesley taught the doctrine of the National Church; but his followers, by misapprehension, and by attachment to a name and an individual, now form a great schism within her walls, and maintain a partially separate communion. “ I am of Wesley," is as common an expression at the present day as—“I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas," was in the time of the Apostle. And the analogy may be carried yet farther; for St. Paul mentions some who said “ I am of Christ." Such persons have we now, who pretend to the exclusive title of “ the Church of God;" but we find that they insist on separate communion.
The Romanists have always been forward to taunt us with the sin of schism; and perhaps it has been for this reason that Protestants have often had recourse to forced and fanciful explanations of the term. They have avoided the stroke where they ought to have parried it, and left a presumption of weakness where they were bound to give an exhibition of strength. They have not fairly reminded the world that there is a great difference between the absence of all right to separate from a spiritual communion, and the right to separate for any cause whatever. To ascertain the limits of this right is to ascertain the nature of schism. While the Romanists annihilate all private judgment, some Protestants almost exalt it into a divinity; and it is easy to perceive that such persons must approach the subject of schism with great prejudice and difficulty.
Nothing can be more notorious, than that duties will occasionally present a mutual interference; in which cases a choice will occur, which must be guided by fixed and consistent principles. The law of Moses declared, that on the Sabbath “no manner of work" should be done; the Jews implicitly obeyed, and included works of charity in the prohibition. Our Lord, however, though he came to fulfil the law, judged otherwise : he told them that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath ;" and that “ it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath-day.” Here, then, was an instance of conflicting duties ; work must be done, and thus the divine injunction violated, or mercy must be neglected, and thus an equally positive command disobeyed. The higher duty then must be chosen ; and this would be found by comparing the reasons of the several commands. The institution of the Sabbath was evidently intended to call the thoughts of men to religious reflection; to give their minds opportunities of acquiring religious knowledge. For this purpose all work was prohibited. But charity is above knowledge ; and its interests are always to be preferred. For mercy is better than sacrifice, and the alternative can leave no choice. It is lawful, therefore, to do good on the Sabbath-day.
In conformity with the above illustration, the duty of spiritual unity may come in collision with a higher duty; and then the higher must, of course, prevail. The right of private judgment (a right, however, to be exercised with great wariness, deliberation, and serious reflection, besides a profound acquaintance with Scripture, and the subject in debate) is to instruct a man how far he can conscientiously hold communion with a particular church ; how far such church has departed from the Scripture path : and if it appears to him that she has so far departed that it is eternally unsafe to remain in her communion, he is obliged to separate. Not that in such separation he entertains any uncharitable feeling towards the communion which he deserts; he may believe that every individual in that communion is capable of salvation, because he believes him sincere ; but he believes that his own salvation would be endangered by remaining there, because he finds himself at variance with such church on the most vital points. This is the ground of our separation from the Church of Rome. Many of the Romish ceremonies, though childish and superstitious, are too harmless to be bought off at the price of spiritual disunion. It is otherwise, however, with the deposition of Scripture from its supreme authority; with a claim to indefectible infallibility; and with a consequent demand to be obeyed and recognised, where the genuine word of God revolts and refuses to acknowledge. But as this is a sufficient reason for separation, so nothing less than this can be deemed sufficient. For if salvation be not endangered, there seems to be no inferior reason which can outweigh the Apostle's impressive adjuration, “ BY THE NAME OF THE LORD Jesus Christ,” to speak the same thing, to have no schisms, and to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment.
Schism, then, understood in its ordinary acceptation, as a sin, is not a mere separation from church communion, considered in itself; because such separation may, in extreme cases, become lawful and necessary; but it is SEPARATION FROM AN ESTABLISHED OR PREVALENT CHURCH, WITHOUT THE BELIEF ON THE PART OF THE SEPARATIST THAT SUCH SEPARATION IS ESSENTIAL TO HIS ETERNAL WELFARE.
That our definition may be yet clearer, we shall further define what we mean by the words “church,"_" established," and—“prevalent."
For the first, we are content to abide by the definition of our 19th Article. “ The visible church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men (fidelium, Christians), in the which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly administered, according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.” An established church we define to be that christian communion which is expressly sanctioned and maintained by the law; and a prevalent church, that which embraces a majority of the population. If an established church require no terms of communion which endanger salvation, that church has a right to our communion, even although we may think some other communions in some respects superior. For as no church is absolutely perfect, it will always be possible, in idea at least, to suggest improvements; spiritual communion will, therefore, become matter of taste instead of duty : and the great obligation of christian unity will be sacrificed to private opinion and caprice. “No public establishment,” says Bishop Grove, “ can justify sinful communion; but if there be nothing sinful in the communion of the National Church, which is established by public authority, to separate from such a church is both disobedience to the supreme authority in the state, and a SCHISM from the Church.”
Where there is no establishment, the interests of religion always point out concurrence with the prevalent form of Christianity (always supposing such form to be of such a nature as is not in conscience believed to endanger salvation) as the best means of promoting the unity of spirit, which all Christians are charged to endeavour to keep.*
From the above definition of schism it will appear
I. That it is schismatical to depart from a church on matters of external discipline. What the discipline of the Church was in the primitive ages may be partly gathered from the New Testament and early Fathers. That such discipline was the best government of the then Church must be admitted, and an adherence to it appears the wisest course. Nevertheless we have no positive commands in Scripture for affairs of discipline ; but all is expressed in general terms. It does not, therefore, involve the question of salvation.
II. That it is schismatical to depart from a church on matters of mere CEREMONY, such ceremonies not being of divine appointment, nor supposed essential to salvation.
A mere ceremony may be thought, in a man's private judgment, insignificant and objectionable ; and it may really be so. In such case, the proper authorities should remove or reform it. But till this is done, the acquiescence in a mere ceremony, is a much less evil than the rupture of spiritual unity.
III. That it is schismatical to depart from a church on OBJECTION TO ITS FORMS AND LITURGIES; such objections not referring to essential
* Lest the above remarks should seem to imply any censure on our Episcopal brethren in Scotland, let it be remembered, that the present Church of Scotland is a seceder from the ancient Church of England and Scotland, whose doctrines the Episcopalians maintain. Indeed their case is totally different from that of any Dissenters.
doctrines. The least imperfect forms are not invulnerable by cavil, nor indeed by just argument: for this plain reason ;-- they are not, and cannot be, perfect. The schismatic may purify his liturgy, but another schismatic will carry the work of purification yet further. There is no limiting the extent of this principle when once allowed. Its tendency is the utter destruction of the visible church, and the total dissolution of the mystical body of Christ; while, by the hypothesis, the consideration of salvation is no where involved.
We have repeatedly examined this reasoning, and we cannot discover in what respect it is unsound. The cases of separation on account of the lives of ministers, or from private dislike to individuals, we omit to notice, as any remark on such a subject would be an insult to the plain sense of such readers as our pages aspire to. Difference of opinion is no more than what all experience leads us to expect : but this is no excuse for difference of communion, unless it affects points of indispensable necessity.
“Tres mihi convivæ propè dissentire videntur,
Poscentes vario multum diversa palato." Perhaps no two men were ever ininutely agreed : and if minute agreement were the condition of communion, it is evident that there could be no such thing as a visible church ; not even “two or three” would ever be gathered together in the name of their common Master. And when it is asked, “ How far may this disagreement be allowed to proceed before it advances to open rupture ?" it appears to us that the limit is broadly and decisively marked where the dissentient conceives his salvation in danger.
Having premised thus much on the general question of schism, we should deem our observations incomplete without some examination of a defence of it; for which the extraordinary title of “ unanswered and unanswerable" has been claimed. These appellations have been given by a Mr. Lant Carpenter, in a sermon preached before a Socinian congregation at Exeter, to Towgood's “ Dissent from the Church of England fully justified." The editor of a late impression of that book speaks of it in the same terms. We have perused it, and how unanswered soever it may be, unanswerable it certainly is not, as we think we can presently demonstrate. It is a reply to some letters of the Rev. J. White, on Nonconformity. It is a very confused and self-repeating performance, and so far it is difficult to answer; because it is difficult to bring its allegations into a form capable of methodical treatment. Its whole substance, however, may be divided into-I. False and ignorant objections. II. Mistakes. III. Statements true in themselves, but invalid as reasons of dissent. Under these three heads we shall reduce the substance of the work.
I. False and ignorant objections.
1. Mr. Towgood objects to the Established Church, because it is established. The concluding words of his work run thus :
When that slavish ignoble principle, that we are to conform to the established worship of the country where we dwell, whatever it be, shall be held in deserved reproach,-a principle that greatly debases and corrupts the human soul, puts
VOL. XI. NO, IL
put its intellectual eye, chains up its noblest powers, robs it of its highest glory, viz. the searching into religious subjects, and offering to its Creator a reasonable service; in short, a principle that directly tends to banish every thing that deserves the name of religion, to drive all truth, and honour, and honesty from among men ; that will justify a man's professing himself a Mahommedan at Constantinople, a Pagan at Pekin, a Papist at Rome :-when, I say, this infamous and base principle shall be treated with just contempt, and men shall be every where disposed to seek with impartiality, and to practise without disguise, righteousness and truth :—then, Sir, will the character of a rational dissenter be had in universal honour : then will such appear to have been the only consistent Protestants, the true patrons of Christian liberty, church unity, and Catholic communion, and the only body of Christians upon whom the guilt of schism does not really rest, because they open their communion to every sincere Christian, and require no terms but such as Christ and his Apostles have required in the church. -Pp. 267, 268.
Now, we apprehend, that the “slavish ignoble principle" here spoken of, is held in deserved reproach,” and “ treated with just contempt ;" it is therefore a false and ignorant objection to put “ this infamous and base principle” for the argument or doctrine of the Church of England. The “ whatever it be," has nothing to do with our reasoning. Supply, instead of “ whatever it be," “ if it be such as we conscientiously believe we may join without endangering our salvation." This is the churchman's argument, an argument founded on a tender regard for the unity of the Christian Church; an argument which, if slighted in practice, cannot fail to produce dissention and confusion in infinitum : an argument for the “ slavishness, "_" ignobleness," “ infamy,"—and “baseness” of which we are ready to stand responsible.
That Mr. Towgood's objections lie against an establishment as such, is further evident from what he says in p. 11.
The subjection to higher powers, and obedience to magistrates, which the Scriptures enjoin upon Christians, relates only to civil, not at all to religious matters; for this obvious reason, that the magistrate at that time was every where Pagan. The Apostles therefore, instead of paying, or exhorting Christians to pay, any subjection to him in religious affairs, strenuously exhorted them to renounce and disavow it—to come out from ainong them and be separate. They were every where, you know Sir, Dissenters from the Established Church.
The Apostles, indeed, were Dissenters (to retort Mr. Towgood's own words) “ for this obvious reason, that the magistrate at that time was every where pagan.” They were dissenters from the established religion, but they could not dissent from the established church, forasmuch as there was no such thing in existence. Here is a very gross MISTAKE of a system of worship for a church, which we will notice cursorily, although it might otherwise be referred to our Second head. The same occurs again in p. 241, where we read of “ the Pagan Ephesian Church.”
If it be an objection against an established church that the primitive church was not established by the state, in like manner it must be an objection against the dissenting communions, that they are not persecuted by the state, as the primitive church was. That the Church of Christ is itself an establishment, independent of any countenance