« VorigeDoorgaan »
of procedure will break the deep slumbers of many a sleeping sinner! Thus we might proceed to show, how the exercise of discipline will preserve the purity of the church-be a public testimony, borne by it, against all unrighteousness &c. &c. &c! But the advantages already adverted to, are abundantly sufficient for our purpose. Once more, the importance of discipline is evident.
c. From the evils attending its neglect.
Next to an ungodly minister, we regard a lax discipline or the entire absence of all discipline, as the most awful curse that can be inflicted on a christian congregation. It has been well said by a distinguished living author: "The church that neglects this duty, resembles a state in which the administration of justice is omitted, and crime is permitted to be perpetrated with impunity. That part of the design of church union, which consists in mutual watchfulness, is lost. Members may go astray, adding offence to offence, and heaping vice upon vice, and there is none, in a christian and fraternal tone to lift up the voice of warning. Young Christians just introduced into communion by confirmation, may grow languid and careless, and instead of receiving timely admonition, and being tenderly led back to the people of God, the unpardonable dereliction of duty on the part of the Church, encourages them in their treachery and hastens their ultimate and aggravated ruin. Hypocrites are countenanced in their self-delusion, and supported in the imposition they practise upon the community. Heretics and Schismatics are patronized, profligates are urged onward, gainsayers and opponents to the truth and God's Ministers, become more overbearing and despotic, the word preached is thrown away upon captious and rebellious hearers, scoffers and infidels are encouraged, the weak staggered in their faith, religion compromised, the church corrupted, the ruin of immortal souls abetted, sinners of all descriptions hardened, ministers distressed, slandered and persecuted till their hearts are ready to rend with anguish, and the church becomes more like a callection of transgressors, than an association of pious followers of Jesus Christ We may well say, that when Epimetheus opened Pandora's box, there did not issue from it so great a multitude of evils and distempers to afflict the human race, as are let loose upon a congregation, when scriptural discipline ceases to be exercised. It was this sin (says a modern writer) which the apostle describes in those awful words, "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy." 1 Corinthians iii, 17. The church is that temple, and to defile it, is to introduce improper members to its communion, or to tolerate them in the practice of sin. A single unpunished transgressor troubled the whole camp of Israel, and brought calamity upon a nation, nor could the favour of God rest upon the people, till Achan was discovered and destroyed. vide Josh. vii. 11, 12. Nothing can be conceived, of, more likely to grieve the Holy Spirit, or to induce him to withdraw his gracious influence from a church, than a neglect of scriptural discipline. And here we would pause, and beg our beloved brethren in Christ, to inquire whether our remissness in attending to this duty
is not our principal cause of the various evils peculiar to our Lutheran Zion. That there are such evils, may be gathered from the remarks already made, and indeed is too palpable to be disputed. There manifestly is a want of attachment to the church and her ministers among us a disregard of church privileges, an unwillingness to engage in and promote benevolent societies and religious institutions, a neglect of public worship and the Holy Sacraments, a miserly withholding from the church and her laborers that small stipend to which they are so justly entitled, a proneness to take offence at and traduce the minister, and indeed in some instances, our members rule and lord it over us with a more despotic spirit than ever characterized the most arbitrary acts of Napoleon. These and numerous other disorders are more frequently the bane of our congregations than of those of some other denominations. They do not exist certainly not to the same extent, in the Moravian, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, and some other churches. Hence, their foundation must be sought for in something that is not to be found in those churches, but which exists in our own. And after the most serious investigation of this subject, aided by some 15 or 16 years experience and observa tion in the Lutheran ministry, we are convinced that they proceeed mainly from a want of proper discipline. A certain reverend and respected brother of the Presbyterian church, in a late sermon on confirmation, censures us for "the very loose and superficial manner in which young persons are often catechised into the church, without due vigilance in requiring an experimental acquaintance with religion." But we ought to know something of our own church as well as strangers, and whatever grounds the learned Doctor may imagine he has for the above censure, we are confident that our fault does not so much lie in our " very loose and superficial manner of catechising," as in our want of proper treatment of individuals after we have catechised and admitted them into the church. Few, if any, of our clergymen will admit that their manner of catechising lies open to the charge of "looseness and superficiality" but all will perhaps readily grant that in the subsequent treatment of those confirmed, they may have been derelict in duty.
We have dwelt a good deal longer on the importance of discipline than we intended, let us hasten to consider
2. What offences require its exercise.
The offences which should subject a member to discipline, may be comprized under two general heads, and be denominated:-a. Errors of Faith.
With respect to creeds or confessious of faith, which have lately formed a subject of rather keen and pointed discussion in a sister church, we take a middle course, believing, that in this, as in many other religious controversies, the truth lies at nearly an equal distance from each of the belligerent parties. This tutissimus in medio. We are not a stickler for "human systems," so called, nor yet entirely opposed to them. We conceive that every church should have a written creed, but that that creed should embrace only fundamentals or essential doctrines, whilst every member should enjoy the privilege
of believing in minor points what appears to him to he most consistent with divine truth. Indeed we think it impossible for a christian congregation to exist without a creed of some kind or other; even those who are most opposed to creeds, have a creed of their own, if not written, it is unwritten-(which, by the bye, is among the worst kind of creeds) if unwritten, it is imprinted upon their memories, and according to that, they test the soundness or unsoundness of the doctrines of others. If they say the bible is their "creed-book," and not a catechism or a form of doctrines of human invention, the case is not altered at all for they select their own laws of interpretation, and determine for themselves how the bible is to be construed and divine truth understood, and what else is this but making a creed of their own? No christian creed professes to be any thing but an epitome of christian doctrine extracted from God's word, and their principles of faith, though not embodied in a catechism or confession, amount to neither more nor less than this, with the exception of this very objectionable difference, that theirs is a system of doctrine that has no home or local habitation, but floats and fluctuates unfixed, unsettled, without shape or form in their own minds; and they cannot, any more than others, worship in harmony with those who essentially differ from them in faith, or if you chose, in their manner of interpreting the truths of the Gospel. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed ?" Amos 3, 3.
As every church therefore must have a creed, so every church has an indisputable right to determine for themselves what they consider to be fundamental truths, but they aresolemnly bound to be careful not to set up other truths than those which are established in the word of God, and when they have done so, every one who denies any one of those articles declared to be essential, must be called to an account, and if he persist in his error, ultimately be excluded. In confirmation of this position we appeal to the following passages, viz: "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the words of Christ and sound doctrine, according to godliness from such withdraw thyself." 1 Tim. 6, 3-5. "Of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus, who, concerning the truth, have erred saying the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some-whom I have delivered to Satan." 2 Tim. 2.17-18 compared with, 1 Tim. 1, 20. " But though we, or an angel from Heaven preach any other gospel to you than that we havə preached, let him be accursed." Gal. 1. 8. vide also 2 John 10. 11. If these passages do not require us to put out of the church all who deny the fundamental truths of the Gospel, then we can see no meaning in them at all. Should we be asked, what we mean by fundamental truths? our reply is: those principles of faith, the belief or rejection of which involves our future destiny, or without which it is absolutely impossible to be saved; as, for instance, the divinity, atonement and spiritual influences of our blessed Lord. With a person who denies any of these doctrines, it is not practicable to have any spiritual communion, and we dare not regard him as a brother and member of Christ's church. Reason as well as revelation forbids it.
b. Errors of practice, to which belong-1. Open immoralities, such as profaneness, intemperance, gambling, &c. "Not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one, no not to eat-put away from yourselves that wicked person" (mentioned verse 1,) 1 Cor. 5, 11–13.
2. Continued enmity with the minister or any of the brethren, and refusing to make suitable concession for an injury inflicted. "Agree with thine adversary quickly," &c. Matthew v, 25. "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell-but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and publican," i. e. have no religious communion with him, though it is still thy duty to cherish good will, and perform acts of kindness toward him. Matt. 18, 17.
3 Permitting one's family or near relations to want the necessaries of life, when able to make provision for them. "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than infidel." 1 Tim. 5, 8.
4. Habitual and open neglect of religious duty. Every adult member is under the most solemn obligations to be regular and con stant in his attendance at public worship and the Lord's supper-If he be a parent, he must bring up his children in the fear of the Lord, and send them to religious instruction or catechise-if a child, he owes affection and obdience to his parents, &c. &c. and the continued neglect of any of these or other important duties, forms one of the most legitimate occasions for the exercise of discipline. Vide Discipline of the Church, chap. 5, sec. 3 with scriptural references below,
5. Disturbing the peace of the church in any way whatever. The unity of the church may be broken in a variety of ways. To enumerate all the stratagems employed by the Devil and his subordinate spirits, to produce discord in a congregation, would be an endless task. But whatever may be the nature of that discord, whoever submits to be used by the arch-enemy of peace, as an instrument to interrupt congregational harmony,—mark that man and call him to an account without delay. Depend upon it, a member who is " captious and factious" in a church, is a dangerous member, and if he does not reform, the sooner you can get rid of him the better. If he be a moral, and in appearance a holy man, he is only the more dangerous and the more to be dreaded. A professed infidel or openly vicious man can do but little injury. His infidelity or immorality has a repellent power and carries its antidote with it. But a cavilling fault-finding, contentious, temper, when united with reputed sanctity, is the most insidious and venomousreptile-I had almost said, that can creep about in the congregation. "A man (says a respectable author) who under the guise of piety, becomes a troubler of Israel, will be a troubler indeed. Instead therefore of hesitating to deal with him as an offender, because of his "decent exterior," he should for that very reason be instantly called to an account, and if not reclaimed by mild and affectionate
entreaty, separated from the church of God. As long as the church contains such an individual, it is cherishing a viper in its bosom. Hence the following emphatic directions: "Mark them that cause divisions, and avoid them." Rom. 16, 17. "We command, you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly." 2 Thes. 3, 6. I would they were cut off that trouble you." Gal 5, 12. A man that is a heretic* after the first and second admonition reject." Titus 3, 10. [To be continued.]
*The Greek word translated "heretic" does not here signify a person who is obstinately attached to an unscriptural opinion or false doctrine but one who tries to get up an opposing party in a church, an author or leader of a faction, one who goes about sowing discord and prompting others to opposition. Michaelis has rendered the word "Sectenmacher." Such an one must be excommunicated, and shunned as a "Disturber of the peace."
MORE PROTESTANT MONEY WANTED.
Although some persons seem to think, that nothing should be said in opposition to Popery that it is unpopular and perhaps dangerous, yet we do not think that we are so far gone, as to be compelled to swallow, whatever transpires. The great majority of our citizens, are Protestants, and whilst Papists enjoy the liberty, to write and speak incessantly against the Protestant religion-whilst they are permitted, to employ all their arts and devices, to increase their number, Protestants must certainly be allowed, to continue to protest against them, especially, when they endeavour to aggrandize themselves, with means drawn from Protestants.
Our readers have seen, what progress has been made in Frederick, and how zealous and successful the Jesuitical lecturer was, it building houses for nurseries of monks and nuns, with Protestant money, although no Papist ever contributes, to aid any denomination of Protestants. True, the late conversion of several Papists to Evangelical religion-the readiness of Protestants to bring the whole subject before the people as it is, and the determination to make another effort, to extend Jesuitical influence over us, has closed for the present, the ingenious lectures against Protestants and their religion. Still art and cunning exist, and operate. Why do not Protestants learn from the zeal and untiring operations of Papists? Although they establish schools, entirely under the super