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• How needful, then, was the charge which the apostle subjoins to the bishop of the Ephesians ! 5. But continue thou, in the things which thou hast learned, and been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them that is, not of a self-appointed and fancifal teacher, but of an authorised and faithful minister of Christi (2 Tim. iii.): , ;
Such is the discrimination of error and corruption, and such the freedom of censure and reproof, with which the long-suffers: ing, the charity, and the patience, of the apostles are tempered and qualified ; Eumeeld
, such the charge to avoid the erroneous and the corrupt, and to continue stedfast in the faith and discipline of the Gospel, which marks that very passage, in which these forbearing yirtues are recommended, to the imitation of the ministers of Christ.
Upon the whole, then, it appears, from a due consideration of the precepts of our Lord himself and his apostles, compared with their example and practice, that Christian charity is not a principle which disposes us to please upon all occasions--.to sacrifice conscience and integrity at the altar of peace-to accommodate, or even to
countenance, any kind of disorder in the nominal professors of our religion. The very essence of this virtue is benevolence : it therefore disposes us, at all times, to desire, and, whenever we can, to promote, the good of mankind without distinction-to abstain from evil-to preserve a just regard to the feelings of others, but without violating the integrity of our own consciences. Its operation, therefore, though always salutary, is not always pleasing ; and when duly exercised amongst the faithful and obedient members opaChrist's church, it becomes the great bond of peace and union, which gives to that church its, visible grace, its harmony, and perfection.
: Let us, then, my brethren, in obedience to our Lord's command, have love one to another: for thus shall we be preserved in the unity of his church, and all men shall know that we are his true disciples.
OF THE LAW OF DISCIPLINE.
2 COR. XIII. 10. I write these things, being absent, lest, being present, 1 should use sharpness according to THE POWER WHICH THE LORD HATH GIVEN ME TO EDIFICATION, AND NOT TO DESTRUCTION.
The Christian religion in the days of the apostles, and for some ages afterwards, was not countenanced and supported by any public and national authority. No civil power espoused its cause. Hence it becomes a question worthy of our attention, Under what sanction and by what law was due order maintained amongst its numerous professors, and the censure of discipline, when necessary, effectually enforced?
That there was some such law, that it was a law, of the Lord, and that it was confirmed and ratified by powerful sanctions, so that, upon urgent occasions, it
might be exercised with sharpness, are particulars which we learn from the words of the text, as well as from many other passages of the New Testament.
In order to discover how any law of discipline could be thus sanctioned without the aid of the civil arm, and what that law was to which the primitive Christians actually submitted, let us first of all consider the constitution of the apostólical church.
This church consisted of one community, or spiritual body politić; 'for, however its members were locally dispersed, they were all united into one fraternity, by the pro fession of the same faith, by an uniform obedience to the precepts of the Gospel, and by the common bond of charity or brotherly, love. This fraternity, of believers was placed under the care of the apostles, and of those minişters whom the apostles should officially constitute and appoint. And beyond the limits of this united fraternity, the acknowledged c!urch of Christ did not extend, It included no sectaries. Neither Christ himself nor his apostles recognised, any professors who separated themselves from this constituted body,
either upon principles of faith, or rules of government and discipline. Our Lord, indeed, had foretold, that many such separatists should come in his name, saying, Lo! here is Christ, or Lo, there! but the general charge to his disciples is-Go not after them, nor follow them.
Here, then, we may perceive the grounds of sanction, by which the law of discipline might be enforced. As union and fellowship with the apostolical church were essential to the very being of a Christian, so a due submission to the internal regulations of that church was requisite to preserve the individual in its essential unity. And it was by this sanction that a law of wholesome discipline was ratified and enforced for the edification of the church, for the maintenance of Christian obedience, and the preservation of good order and a godly cona, versation.
Under the operation of this discipline, smaller offences were corrected by admonition, reproof, and brotherly' censure; but the obstinate and irreclaimable was punished by a separation from the communion of the brotherhood.
And such a law of discipline was promul