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run the church, have originated with the clergy.94 But in a ministry having no dependence upon a people, will be found, if any where, irreligious, speculative, dangerous men, who, caring little for their flocks, will substitute their own delusions,95 for the simple truths which an intelligent and virtuous people delight to hear, and which a godly ministry, such as they would choose, would desire to preach. Leave the choice of the ministry, then, in the hands of the people. They will most carefully seek for one who is sound in the faith, and honest in the sacred cause; they will soonest reject one who may seek to prevent the truth of God. In the laity alone is there safety, who will see that the church is furnished with a ministry who shall be the best defenders of the faith, by the authority of their learning and the piety of their lives.
7. The right of suffrage promotes a mutual endearment between pastor and people; and the spiritual edification of the church. They receive instruction, with affectionate interest and confidence, from the lips of the preacher whom
94 "If you were to take the great mass of the people of England, you would find a burst of righteous indignation against them (the Tractarians). They would say, If we are to have popery, let us have honest old popery, at once. If you are right, you do not go far enough; and if you are wrong, you go too far "—Rev. Mr. Sewell, cited in Letters to the Laity.
95 "When the prerogative and pre-eminence of any single person in the church began to be in esteem, not a few who failed in their attempts of attaining it, to revenge themselves on the church, made it their business to invent and propagate pernicious heresies. So did Thebulis, at Jerusalem, Euseb., lib. 4, cap. 22, and Valentinus, Tertul. ad. Valentin., cap. 4, and Marcion, at Rome, Epiphan. Hæres, 42. Montanus fell into his dotage on the same account; so did Novitianus, at Rome, Euseb., lib. 7, cap. 43, and Arius, at Alexandria. Hence is that censure of them by Lactantius, lib. 4, cap. 30, 'Ii quorum fides fuit lubrica, cum Deum nosse se et colere simularent, augendis opibus et honori studentes, affectabant maximum sacerdotium,et a potioribus victi, secedere cum suffragatoribus maluerunt, quam eos ferre præpositos quibus concupierant ipsi ante præponi."-Owen, Works, Vol. XX, p. 169.
they have appointed over themselves, the man of their choice; while he, in turn, speaks to them in the fulness and confidence of reciprocal love. The ministry of a priesthood, on the other hand, which is imposed upon a people, is a hireling service, in which neither speaker nor hearer can have equal interest.
Finally. It produces the most efficient ministry.
This is a general conclusion, drawn from the foregoing considerations, and a position established by the whole history of the church. It contradicts all history, and all the principles of human conduct, to suppose, that an independent establishment, in which the priesthood are settled down at ease in their livings, can have the efficacy and moral power of a clergy, the tenure of whose office depends upon their activity and usefulness.
DISCIPLINE BY THE CHURCHES.
THE discipline of the apostolical churches was administered by the body of believers collectively; and continued to be so directed until the third or fourth century. About this period of time, the simple and efficient discipline of the primitive church was exchanged for a complicated and oppressive system of penance administered by the clergy. But the church itself possesses the only legitimate authority for the administration of their discipline. They are a voluntary association. They have the right to enact their own laws, and prescribe such conditions of membership with themselves as they may judge expedient, agreeably to the word of God. The right to administer ecclesiastical discipline was guaranteed to the churches from their first organization under the apostles; but was finally lost by the usurpation of the priesthood under the Episcopal hierarchy.
I. The right to administer ecclesiastical discipline was originally vested in the church itself.
The argument in support of this proposition is derived: 1. From the Scriptures.
2. From the early Fathers.
3. From the authority of ecclesiastical writers.
4. From the fact, that the entire government of the church was vested in that body itself.
1. The argument from Scripture.
Our Lord himself is generally supposed to teach, in Matt. 18: 15-18, that the public discipline of offenders should be administered by authority of the church.
These instructions are understood to have been given prospectively, and to contain the rules by which the discipline of the Christian church should be administered. But whether given prospectively with reference to the Christian church which was about to be established, or designed to exhibit the proper mode of procedure in the discipline of the Jewish synagogue, they doubtless develop the principle on which ecclesiastical censure should be conducted under the Christian dispensation. Lightfoot and Vitringa have clearly shown that the directions of our Lord, in this instance, accord with the established usage of the synagogue, which, as we have already seen, was the pattern of the primitive church, both in its government and forms of worship. Vitringa has shown, at length, that this sentence was to be pronounced by a popular vote in public assembly, and that the same course of procedure was to be the rule of the Christian church. The church therefore, collectively, like the synagogue,1 is the ecclesiastical court of impeachment for the trial of offences. If private remonstrance proves ineffectual, the case is to be brought before the church in public assembly convened; to be adjudged by a public vote of that body, after the manner of the Jewish synagogue.
This rule of discipline was also established in the Christian church by apostolical authority.
We have on record one instance of a trial before the church which was instituted by the command of the apostle Paul, and conducted throughout agreeably to his instructions. A Christian convert in Corinth, and a member of
1 Vitringa, De Synagoga Vet., Lib. 3, p. 1, c. 9. Augusti's Denkwürdigkeiten, Vol. IX, p. 43, seq. Pfaff, De Originibus Juris Eccles., p. 99.
the church which had recently been established in that city, had maintained an incestuous connexion with his father's wife. This shocking sin, unexampled even among the Gentiles, the apostle rebukes with righteous abhorrence. The transgressor ought to be put away from among them; and, uniting with them as if present in their assembly convened for the purpose, he resolves to deliver him unto Satan, in the name, and with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, i. e., by the help and with the authority of the Lord, 1 Cor. 5: 3—5.
Upon this passage we remark:
1. The decision was not an official act of the apostle, a sentence pronounced by his authority alone. It was the act of the church. Absent in body, but present in spirit with them when assembled together, the apostle pronounces his decision as if acting and co-operating with them. By this parenthetic sentence, "When ye are gathered together and my spirit," he indicates the intervention and co-operation of the church in the sentence pronounced upon the transgressor. "The apostle," says De Wette,2 "qualifies the earnestness with which he speaks in the third verse, by reference, first, to the authority of Christ, and secondly, to the co-operation of the church; agreeably to the republican spirit of ancient Christianity, personating himself as present in spirit in their assembly." Such also is Neander's interpretation of the passage. "When the apostle speaks of an excommunication from the church, he regards himself as united in spirit with the whole church, 1 Cor. 5: 4, setting forth the rule, that their action is requisite in all such concerns of general interest."3 Even in this very chapter, he refuses himself to judge in such cases, submitting them to the church themselves. "What have I to do to judge them that are without?" i. e., men of the world,
2 Comment. ad locum.
Allgem. Gesch., 1, p. 292. Comp. p. 350. Apost. Kirch., 1, pp. 319, 320.