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them regularly into the assembly of the faithful, and their choice could not be compelled. Irreligion is the patrimony of the family; and the general abuse which has grown out of the lenient spirit of toleration, leaves the children in quiet possession of their inheritance. They have no invariable rule of faith impressed upon their infant minds, no sacred laws which demand obedience, no discipline which may restrain the conduct of men under religious sanctions. In all these particulars, toleration admits of diversity and dispensation; and custom, which perverts the spirit of toleration, connives at their total dereliction.
Thus multitudes grow up in ignorance and profaneness. Beholding religion only at a distance, and remarking the discord and vanity of its nominal professors, they rashly conclude that religion itself is nothing more than a solemn delusion or weak affectation, and treat it with absolute neglect.
Thus the tolerant laws of our land, which, if properly understood, go no farther than to renounce persecution-to suspend temporal penalties, without abrogating or altering the decrees of the Gospel-are made in the
opinion of the multitude, the great rule of faith and practice. That multitude seldom reflects that no man can be admitted into heaven by the operation of human laws; and, in consequence of this woeful inattention, the Holy Scriptures, which, alone, are sufficient for salvation, are either overlooked or perverted-those Scriptures which teach us that the church of Christ is one undivided body, and enjoin that there should be no schism in that body, but that all the members should have the same care one for another
OF CERTAIN PLEAS WHICH HAVE BEEN URGED, IN DEFENCE OF SEPARATION.
2 PETER II. 19.
While they promise them liberty, they them selves are the servants of corruption.
THAT there are men who prevail upon weak and unstable Christians to contemn those laws of order and decency which our Lord himself and his apostles have laid down for the government and edification of the church, is a subject of daily but melancholy observation. And it is no less so, that they pervert the plainest principles of the Gospel, for the purpose of justifying their own irregular conduct.
Thus, the indulgence which the apostles concede to the scruples of a tender conscience, and the doctrine of Christian liberty which they maintain, have been perversely urged, as authorising a deviation from the common faith, a contempt of the censure of
discipline, and an absolute separation from the apostolical church.
Now, it may be presupposed, that neither the allowance to which the scruples of conscience have an evangelical claim, nor the true principle of Christian liberty, can even countenance any of these disorders. They cannot be regarded as equivalent to self-will and insubordination: for the apostles repeatedly, and most impressively, inculcate the duty of receiving one invariable faith, and submitting to the laws of order in the unity of the church. And the apostles are consistent teachers: they do not in one place enjoin a thing as absolutely necessary; and in another place leave the same thing to individual choice, as matter of total indifference. But, let us enquire→
As to the claims of a tender conscience; we may remark, in the first place, that our Saviour forbids, under severe penalties, the offending of one of those little ones that believe in him. Here the word which we translate offend, properly signifies, to put an ob struction or snare in the way, so that the traveller is reduced to the necessity of either stumbling upon it, or turning aside out of
the road, in order to avoid the danger, Wherefore it is evident that the threat of our Lord applies to those who obstruct the direct path in which his disciples are command. ed to proceed. Be it further remarked, that the believers here spoken of (are characterised by the humility, simplicity, and innocence, of little children; not by the fickleness, caprice, and perverse humours, which too often disgrace a tender age. And those who receive the Gospel with the humility and simplicity of little children, receive it as it has been delivered, and as it is taught by the authorised ministers of Christ. They are consequently to be found in unity with his church, and are there to be treated with gentleness and forbearance; not to be perplexed with curious and doubtful questions, those stumbling-blocks which compose the fabric of many of our conventicles; but instructed with meekness in the fundamental principles of religion, till their minds be enlarged, and their faith confirmed and established.
And such alone are intended by these little ones. For those babes in Christ, who manifest rather the perverseness than the