« PreviousContinue »
I have confidence that the day is fast approaching, when, according to the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah, “ he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people, and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah ii. 4. and Micah iv. 4. But there will be a qualification to say one to another, “ Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Isaiah ii. 5.
CHURCH GOVERNMENT. :
HAVING now completed a summary of the profession of the society of Friends, respecting ministry, worship, and doctrines, I come in the next place to speak of church government. That it is consistent with the practice of primitive believers in Christ to adopt some form of government, will appear from many passages in the Scriptures; and that they were united for this purpose, we may surely take for granted. But it is possible, and even probable, that after the apostles had received the promise which was
made unto the Fathers, and were united in the Holy Spirit, that they did not, at their memorable meeting on the day of Pentecost, agree upon all the orders and rules, which, by the light of Christ, they in process of time were led into; for they were not then aware, that their ministry was to extend to the Gentiles, or that these also were to become members in the same spiritual family. I shall, in the first place, introduce such testimony as has served to satisfy me, that they were in some general connexion, and that they held certain powers and instructions which their Holy Head had delivered to them. The first which relates to the foundation whereon the church should be built, appears when our Lord asked them, “ Whom say ye that I am ? and Simon Peter answered, and said, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered, and said unto him, blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on
earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsaever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” Mat. xvi. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. Our Lord, knowing that his disciples were to receive a divine impression, by which they should clearly understand in whose company they were, makes use of this opportunity to inform them on what foundation his church should stand; and having noticed to Peter, that the knowledge which he was then favoured with was spiritual and divine; he holds up the principle by which this knowledge was obtained, as a principle capable of giving access to the knowledge of the mind of God. But this was not only given to Peter; for if that had been the ease, all others must have been excluded; which cannot be admitted; for the same spirit opened the hearts of all the living and spiritually begotten children, in every age of the world. Now, all they that have submitted to the mani. festation of the spirit, and stand in the life and power of it, are made capable of looking into the mind of the spirit. We therefore believe, that the church of Christ is built upon this foundation, this corner stone, which the prophet spoke of. “ Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, behold, I lay in Zion, for a foundation,
a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation." Isaiah xxviii. 16. To this same foundation hath the testimony of the faithful been given, and it has by them been esteemed, though others have rejected it, and have sought to build upon outward forms and opinions, denying that God has continued this spiritual principle of light; an error which was foreseen and foretold. " The stone which the builders refused, is become the head stone of the corner." Psalm cxviii. 22. And our Lord inquires of the Pharisees, “ Did ye never read in the Scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doings, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” Mat. xxi. 42. And. the apostles have given testimony that this corner stone was Jesus Christ. “ Neither is there salvation in any other.” Acts iv. 12. We, of consequence, are convinced, that the church of Christ being built upon him, and by him, its members have fellowship with him, and one with another. He it is, therefore, by whom all who are opened in spirit, are opened into the kingdom of God; and by him, all that are bound on earth are bound in heaven, and all that are loosed on earth, are loosed in hea
The apostles and true believers in the inward life of him who is the light of men, being built up in him, a spiritual building, and having received from him this wisdom and power of God, while they remain in him, and act under his government, whomsoever they bound on earth was bound in heaven, and on the other hand, whomsoever they loosed on earth was loosed in heaven. But though it is consistent with the doctrine of the Scriptures, for a spiritual building possessing unity and power to be built up, yet it also appears, that among the members of this building, there may be want of watchful and faithful obedience; in which case, the unity is interrupted, and offences are given. Our Lord, knowing the frailty of man, has therefore condescended to instruct his followers how to proceed in such instances. “ Moreover, if thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone, and if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Mat. xviii. 15. Here it may be remarked, that it is allowed to be possible that a brother may so far depart from the influence and government of the head of the church, as to be guilty of a trespass; but though this should be the case, lie is not;