« AnteriorContinuar »
any sanction given to persecution r God commanded Moses, and Joshua, and Israel, to execute his vengeance on certain nations who had "filled "up the measure of their sins:" and he commanded that idolaters and blasphemers should be put to death, as violators of the fundamental laws of that community to which they belonged. But where did he command or sanction persecution? Were the Israelites ever required to make war against the surrounding nations, and compel them, at the point of the sword, to be circumcised and embrace the religion of Moses? Were they required to use compulsion in bringing back the ten tribes, even when they had set up an idolatrous and schismatic religion under Jeroboam? Was Rehoboam even allowed to make war against them? Did David, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah effect their several revivals of true religion by persecution; or by scriptural instruction, invitation, persuasion, and kindness? All that looks like persecution in the Old Testament, is the reprobated conduct of Saul towards the Gibeonites;1 that of Jeroboam towards the priests and Levites, and pious Israelites;2 and that of the princes of Ahab's line towards the prophets, and worshippers of Jehovah; and that of Jehu towards the worshippers of Baal, which received no divine sanction: and in general the persecution of prophets and saints by wicked kings:—unless it were persecution in Elijah to put the priests of Baal to death, as condemned to die by God himself.—I must, therefore, consider all such intimations,
'2 Sam. xxi. '2 Chron. xi.
whether hy papists or others, as a kind of slander on the Old Testament, and on God who gave it: as if he were not the same unehangeable God who gave the New Testament also. But, alas! such slanders are very common; and not unfrequently adopted even by pious men!
When the incestuous Corinthian was separated from the church of Corinth and the intimate communion of Christians, and specially from the Lord's supper, was he excluded also from public worship, and all public means of grace? Might he not, if desirous, attend as a hearer of the gospel; at least in the same manner as the unbelievers were admitted ?l If he might not, how was he to be restored i Without means, or by means? An exclusion from all public means of grace would certainly give a new view of that subject, as implied in excommunication; and is a topic in this controversy of peculiar importance, and requires some clear answer to the question; though I merely hint at it. This, however, every one, who has tried and observed, may know, that the person himself, and all whom it concerns, within or without, do understand sufficiently, for all practical purposes, the censure under which a man lies, while excluded from the Lord's supper, and withdrawn from by Christians, (except as his good and recovery is attempted,) though he be allowed in other respects to attend the place of worship as before.
Disputants often speak of the whole population of a parish, whatever their profession and their conduct, being recognised as participants. On this I would inquire, What is meant by participants and communion ? If merely being nominal members of the church, whether of England or Scotland, be intended, then let it pass: but, if communion implies admission to the Lord's table, the assertion is very far indeed from being well founded. In most parts of England especially, it is well known that by far the greater number of the population of almost every parish, in fact, in this particular excommunicates itself. In parishes of a thousand inhabitants, frequently there are not more than thirty or forty communicants, and often much fewer; and the whole number who at any time attend, comes much short of a hundred. In one view this is very lamentable: yet, as far as the situation of a pious minister is concerned, it gives him considerable advantage, in preserving his increasing number more pure than our opponents are aware of;-for he may expect an increase of the number, but should not too eagerly press it. In general, except in a few individuals, (seldom of openly irreligious or immoral character,) who have been accustomed to attend too often in a formal or self-righteous manner, he finds more difficulty in prevailing with the people to come to the Lord's supper, than in preventing their attendance. The rubric also is so worded as to give an important advantage to those ministers, who are desirous to “do what they “can" to prevent the profanation of the Lord's supper. “So many as intend to be partakers of ‘the holy communion shall signify their names to ‘the curate, at least some time the day before.
1 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25.
* And, if any of those be an open and notorious
* evil liver, or have done any wrong to his neigh
* bours by word or deed, so that the congrega'tion be thereby offended; the curate, having 'knowledge thereof, shall call him, and advertise 'him, that in any wise he presume not to come to 'the Lord's table, until he hath openly declared
* himself to have truly repented, and amended his
* former naughty life; that the congregation may
* thereby he satisfied, which before were offended.'1 It is, indeed, to be regretted, that this is so very seldom acted upon: yet it sometimes is; and I will venture to affirm, in part from experience, that, in proportion as it is acted upon, a great part of the evil objected to our establishment, on this ground, may be prevented, without having recourse to authoritative and legal excommunication. Where a pious and consistent clergyman (at least in a country parish,) impartially proceeds in the method prescribed by the rubric, with mildness and firmness, he will not find many, if any, continuing to attend at the Lord's table, after he has solemnly warned them not to presume to do so, unless they give satisfactory proof of repentance and amendment; appealing to the rubric as his rule and authority in thus warning them. There are indeed cases in many congregations, in which a man, to act faithfully, must venture painful consequences, which he ought to do without shrinking; and this indeed too often, proving
rng temptation, shews that the communion so pure as it might be; but not that it is' as '-. before Communion Service.
'impure as it can be.' And the objection even here lies against the particular establishment, nay generally in great measure on the ministers, and is not essential to the very nature of an establishment.
Besides this, much, very much, may be done by faithful preaching, and clear explanations of the nature, profession, and obligation of baptism and the Lord's supper; by private counsel and admonition; and in a variety of ways, which I the more wonder should never have occurred to the thoughts of those opposers who have been ministers of an establishment. By means of this kind, I have generally been able to induce most of those whose presence I did not approve, quietly to withdraw. At the same time that I state this, as my experience, / deeply regret that I have attempted nothing more regular and consistent in the admission of communicants; and in superintending, instructing, and admonishing such as attended. Much more, I am persuaded, might be done, according to the rubric, in most situations, without either an appeal to the diocesan, or giving umbrage to him. And were these means more generally adopted, they would gradually become less offensive, even to superior neighbours; if in other things, ministers acted inoffensively, kindly, courteously, and peaceably:—at least it would be well worth their while to make the trial.
Many opponents of establishments assert, that the word rendered church, when applied to the Christians in any city or place, means one single congregation meeting for worship in the same place. But is this scriptural? We frequently