Page images
PDF
EPUB

the church are of various kinds. Numb. xxxi. 16. “ behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Jehovah,” compared with Rev. ii. 14. Neh. vi. 6, &c. “ he pronounced this prophecy against me; for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.” Ezra iv. 12. -- the rebellious and the bad city.” See also Neh. ii. 19. Esther iii. 8. “there is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep they the king's laws.”. Jer. xxvi. 8. " the priests took him.” xxix. 26.“ Jehovah hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest.... that thou shouldest put him in prison and in the stocks." Amos vii. 10, 13. “then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent—.” Matt. v. 10, 11. “ blessed are they which are persecuted—” x. 25. “if they have called the master Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household ?” Gal. iv. 29. “but as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” Heb. xi. 36, &c. “ others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings

Hence we are enjoined to flee from persecution, and the precept is confirmed by the example of Elijah, 1 Kings xix. 3. of Joseph, Matt. ii. 13. and x. 16, 17. “ behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves .... but beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils.” v. 23. “when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another;” of Christ, Matt. xii. 15. Luke iv. 30. John viii. 59. xi. 54. of the disciples, Acts viii. 4. of Paul and Barnabas, xiv. 6. 2 Cor. xi. 32, 33. Rev. xii. 6. “ the woman fled into the wilder

v. 14. “ to the woman were given two wings—' Except where flight would not be conducive to the glory of God. Hence St. Paul declares Acts xxi. 13. “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die.”).

There are appropriate consolations for the persecuted. Matt. x. 32. “whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also.” Luke xii. 4, 5, &c. “ be not afraid of them that kill the body.” xxi. 18, 19. “there shall not hair of

your
head perish.”

John xv. 18-20. “if the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.” Acts v. 41. “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” Rom. viii. 35, &c. “ who shall.

ness.

W6

separate us shall persecution ?” 2 Cor. iv. 8, 9. are persecuted, but not forsaken.” Philipp. ii. 17. “if I be offered upon

the sacrifice of your faith, I joy.” 2 Tim. iii. 12. all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 1 Pet. iv. 14. if

ye

be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye.v. 16. “if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed."

A compensation is also promised. Mark. x. 30. “ he shall receive an hundred-fold.” Luke vi. 23. “behold, your reward is great in heaven.” Rom. viii. 18. “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” 2 Thess. i. 6, 7. “ tribulation to them that trouble you ; and to you who are troubled rest with us." Heb. x. 34. “knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” v. 36. “that ye might receive the promise.' xi. 26. "he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”

8

CHAP. XXXII._OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE. The bond by which a particular church is held together, is its DISCIPLINE.'

CHURCH DISCIPLINE consists in a mutual agreement among the members of the church to fashion their lives according to Christian doctrine, and to regulate every thing in their public meetings decently and with order. Rom. xii. 4. to the end of the chapter. Eph. iv. 1–3. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love ; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Col. iii. 16. “ let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord.” 1 Thess. iv. 18.“comfort one another with these words." Heb. iii. 13.“exhort one another daily, while

8 On the subject of this chapter, see Hooker, and Potter On Church Government.

9 • Let whoso will interpret or determine, so it be according to true church discipline, which is exercised on them only who have willingly joined themselves in that covenant of union.' Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclemastical Causes. Prose Works, II. 526.

it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” x. 24. “let is consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” 1 Cor. xi. 17, 18. “I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse ; for first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you.” xiv. 40. “ let all things be done decently and in order." Col. ii. 5. “though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying, and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ."

It is a prudent as well as a pious custom, to solemnize the formation or re-establishment of a particular church by a public renewal of the covenant ; as was frequently done in the reformations of the Jewish church ; Deut. xxix. 1. “these are the words of the covenant which Jehovah commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Koreb.” The same took place under Asa, Ezra, Nehemiah, and others.

So also, when an individual unites himself to a particular church, it is requisite that he should enter into a solemn covenant with God and the church, to conduct himself in all respects, both towards the one and the other, so as to promote his own edification and that of his brethren. This covenant ought properly to take place in baptism, as being the rite appointed for the admission of all persons (that is, of all adults) into the church. Seeing also that most men are liable to a frequent change of residence, it will be necessary that this promise should be repeated so often as they pass from one particular church to another, unless they are provided with the most satisfactory testimonials from some other orthodox church;

this being apparently the only means by which discipline can be adequately maintained, or prevented from sinking into gradual decline and dissolution.

| This is an allusion to the commendatory letters which were anciently granted by the bishops and governors of churches to such of their members as were obliged to travel, on shewing which they were permitted to communicate in all churches through which they passed. Tertullian calls a testimonial of this kind communicatio pacis, et appellatio fraternitatis, et conteperatio hospitalitatis.' De Præscript. Advers. Hæret. p. 76. edit. 1580. Paris. Milton reproaches Morus bitterly because these testimonials had been refused him. • Petit insuper literas impudentissimus homo commendatitias, &c.' Authoris pro se Defensio. Prose Works, Symmons' ed. V. 325.

The custom of holding assemblies is to be maintained, not after the present mode, but according to the apostolical institution, which did not ordain that an individual, and he a stipendiary, should have the sole right of speaking from a higher place, but that each believer in turn should be authorized to speak, or prophesy, or teach, or exhort, according to his gifts; insomuch that even the weakest among the brethren had the privilege of asking questions, and consulting the elders and more experienced members of the congregation. 1 Cor. xiv. 26, &c. " when ye come together, every one of you," &c.

This custom was derived by the apostles from the synagogue, and transferred by them to the churches. Luke ü. 46.“hearing them, and asking them questions."2 iv. 16. “he stood up for to read.” Compare also other places where Christ is related to have taught in the synagogue, and even in the temple, Matt. xxvi. 55. John vii. 14. a permission which was granted to him not as Christ, but simply as a gifted individual, in the same manner as it was afterwards granted to the apostles, Acts xiii. 5. “ they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.” v. 15. “after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye

have
any

word or exhortation for the people, say on.” These rulers of the synagogue were persons appointed to see that all things were done in order. Mark v. 22. “one of the rulers of the synagogue.” Luke viii. 41.“a ruler of the synagogue.” xiii. 14. “the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day.” Acts xiii. 15. as

Women, however, are enjoined to keep silence in the church.' | Cor. xiv. 34, 35. “let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but they are commanded to be under obedience, as saith the law (Gen.

above, &c.

At our great feast
I went into the temple, there to hear
ilie teachers of our law, and to propose
What might improve my knowledge or their own.

Paradise Regained, I. 210. 3 This clause is probably added on account of the doctrines of the Quakers, which in Milton's time began to attract attention.

iii. 16); and if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home; for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” 1 Tim. ii. 11, 12. “ let the woman learn in silence in all subjection : but I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

The administration of discipline is called the power of the keys ; a power not committed to Peter and his successors exclusively, or to any individual pastor specifically, but to the whole particular church collectively, of whatever number of members composed. Matt. xvi. 19. “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven,” compared with xvii. 17—20.“ tell it unto the church .... verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven: again, I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven : for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” John xx. 22, 23. when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them,

4 The texts quoted in this paragraph appear to have been in Milton's mind in that passage of Paradise Lost where Eve is represented as retir. ing from the table as soon as she perceived from Adam's countenance that the conversation was beginning to assume an abstruse cast:

Such pleasure she reserv’d,
Adam relating, she sole auditress ;
Her husband the relater she preferr'd
Before the angel, and of him to ask
Chose rather.

VIII. 50. The same decorum is observed subsequently, when Eve is not permitted to see the vision which Michael displays to Adam from ine highest hill of Paradise. On descending from the specular mount’to the bower where Eve had been left sleeping, the angel says to his companion,

Thou, at season fit,
Let her with thee partake what thou hast heard ;

Chiefly what may concern her faith to know. XII. 597. 6.Surely much rather might the heavenly ministry of the evangel bind himself about with far more piercing beams of majesty and awe, by wanting the beggarly help of hailings and amercements in the use of her powerful keys. Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, II. 489. •The church in all ages, primitive, Romish, or Protestant, held it ever, no less their duty, than the power of their keys,' &c. Tenure of kings and Magistrates, Ibid. 24.

« PreviousContinue »