And being fully persuaded that their commission came from God, the supreme

Lord of all, they not only made it the great rule of their own ministerial conduct, but also, in the most authoritative language, impressed upon their converts the absolute necessity of complying with its terms in their fullest éxtent.

Thus, 'for example, St. Paul addresses the churches of Galatia :-I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another Gospel, which is not another-for, in reality, the doctrines of men, the suggestions of human judgment, are no Gospel at all :--but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ : But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach' any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you,

let him be accursed. Such is the apostolical sentence. And, lest the church should deem this strong language, as the sudden and unguarded effusion of zeal, it is again repeated deliberately—As we said before, $o say I now again, If any man teach any other Gospel unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accursed ! (Gal. i. 8, 9.)

To those ears which have been softened down by the lenient spirit of our laws, and by that laxity of principle, and contempt of discipline, which have sprung from the abuse of those laws—to those who imagine that, because all religions are equally toler. ated, one must be as good as another; and that it does not signify what faith a man professes, provided he conduct himself regularly in civil society, and serve God according to the free dictates of his own conscience, or the choice of his judgmentto these



which I have now recited must carry a harsh and dictatorial sound.

But such passages demand attention. They are addressed to us individually; for they are the words of that law by which we must all be judged in the last day. I therefore justify my own conduct, in recalling them to your notice, by the language of the same apostle :-Do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be

the servant of Christ. (Gal. i. 10.) It is, then, my duty to remark, that the anathema which is here pronounced upon any man, or even an angel from heaven, who should preach another Gospel, or deviate from the common faith, brings into narrow limits that freedom of opinion which is often claimed in our land as the right of private judgment.

Private judgment, according to the apostle's absolute decision, has no right to touch the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. These doctrines are derived from heaven, and must be received as they are given, without the alloy of philosophical speculation or human device. And the apostles, though they possessed not that arbitrary dominion over the faith of the church, which would have entitled them to teach an optional doctrine of their own,. were yet invested with full authority to propagate the one faith, once delivered to the saints, and censure and restrain every deviation from its purity and integrity.'

But it will be asked, How is this categorical position to be reconciled to the lenity

of the British laws ? It is not necessary to the truth or obligation of the Gospel, that it should be reconciled at all. Human laws may err, and they have often erred; but the Gospel is the word of God. In this instance, however, the equity of our laws may be vindicated and illustrated by a familiar similitude, which will also shew their consistency with the Spirit of our religion.

Under our present government, we are as mariners in a free port. Every man is at liberty to depart when he pleases, and to shape his course, as he thinks most convenient. At the same time it is permitted to those officers who are stationed in this port for the preservation of good order, and it is their duty, to caution the unadvised not to put to sea in a storm, not to embark in a rotten vessel, or steer to a coast where the pestilence walketh in darkness.

This is not persecution. It is no restraint on civil liberty: it is only salutary admonition. The wanderer is invited, he is in treated to remain in a place of safety : he is warned of the danger which may attend his rash departure. This is a friendly office. The advice is good; but it is not enforced by compulsion. It is sanctioned only by the consequential risk and hazard which await him who shall refuse to hear, or treat with neglect, the things that make for his



« VorigeDoorgaan »