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and it would certainly be so, and it would be the most powerful means of restraining vice and impiety, if Christians would but consider, that although it be a sentence passed by men, yet it is a sentence passed by men commissioned by God, and who are answerable to God, if their sentence be not worthy of him, and agreeable to his word;
Even as the civil magistrate has; by God's word, a right to do, in civil matters, whatever he judges necessary and lawful for the good of the society over which he is set.
And if either the civil or ecclesiastical magistrate mistake in their duty, or wilfully follow their own humour, they are answerable to God. And all that we have to do, if there be no superior to appeal to for redress, is to submit with patience, always remembering, that this is not the world we were made for; which will help to render the troubles of this short life more easy to be borne.
In short; church discipline is necessary, as it is appointed by Jesus Christ. The ends proposed by it are, to reform wicked men, to remove scandals, and to prevent the judgments of God:--and to obstruct, or to discountenance it, is to oppose an order of God for the good of the world, and for the salvation of particular men; a fin which will draw after it great judgments.
And sad experience may convince us, that where church censures are set at nought, or
ridiculed, ridiculed, the most damnable fins become the subject of mirth and laughter, rather than of horror, forrow, and shame. A sure symptom of approaching judgments, when men are not content to neglect their own salvation; but take pains to pervert and ruin others!
And this brings me to consider the duty of private Christians, with respect to the discipline of the church, as it regards the fuppression of vice and impiety, the subject we are upon. And for this we have express rules in the word of God: We command you, (faith St. Paul, 2 Thess. ii. 6.) We command you, by the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye
withdraw yourselves from every brother, that is, every Christian, that walketh disorderly. And in case of obstinacy, he gives this farther order; Note that man, and have no company with him, that he
тау be ashamed.
So that as sure as this is God's word, there is nothing which Christians ought more carefully to avoid, than the giving of countenance to disorderly livers.
But this is not all: Them that hn, (saith the same apostle) rebuke before all, for this reason, that others also may fear. And surely Chriftians, who are not afraid for themselves when they see others called to an account for their fins, are not far from falling into the same, or into greater fins themselves.
To conclude, therefore, this head of our discourse:- When discipline is administered
and obeyed, according to these rules of the gospel, it must be one of the most effectual means of bringing sinners out of the snare of the devil, of restraining vice, and averting impending judgments; and therefore, being an institution of the gospel, is not to be set aside by any human law.
This will not depreciate the use of human laws, or the authority of the civil magistrate; which being another appointment of God, for the punishment of vice and impiety, is now to be considered.
It is very sure, that men will not always be governed by motives of reason, religion, and conscience; if they would, there would be no need of any other authority than that of church discipline, and the laws of the gospel, to keep the world in order. But the good of the commonwealth requires, that such as will not be governed by religion and conscience, shall be restrained by outward force.
God has therefore given authority to the civil magistrate over the persons, estates, and even over the lives of men, to keep them from doing mischief to the publick, and from ruining themselves.
But then this does not supersede, or make unnecessary, the use of church discipline; for no Christian fure can be fo absurd as to imagine, that because a man has been punished by the civil magistrate, for stealing, or for drunkenness, or for perjury, or any other crime, that
therefore he is qualified to receive the holy communion, or that he ought to be admitted to it, without giving marks of his repentance. This would be (with a witnefs) to give that which is holy unto dogs, contrary to our Lord's command; and to prostitute religion, and its mysteries, to the utmost contempt, and fcorn of infidels.
And therefore my Lord Coke very justly reasons, when he faith, “ that the ecclesiasti« cal and temporal laws have several ends, the "one to inflict punishment upon the body, “ to punish the outward man; and the other “ to reform the inward; that both may be " reformed.”
For nobody ever questioned, but that the civil magistrates have their authority from God for this end, “ That knowing whose mi“ nisters they are, they may above all things “ seek God's honour and glory; that they may
truly and indifferently minister justice to the
punishment of wickedness and vice, and to “ the maintenance of true religion and virtue."
And their power will go a great way towards the doing of this. For instance:
They can encourage such only as are good and virtuous, and take care that profaneness and impiety shall never be thought any qualification for favour or preferment,
They can put marks of disesteem, and of infamy, if it be necessary, upon such as disho, nour God and religion by their wicked lives. • See Codex Eccl. Angl. p. 1077.
They can take care, that fins against God shall always be punished, at least with as great severity as those against men; or else God has given them a share of his own power to very little purpose.
They can take care, that the laws, which are made for the punishment of vice, and for the support of religion, be duly executed: and they will find it their intereft, as'well as duty, to do so, left the example prove fatal ta their own authority.
If they see wickedness increase, they can search into the cause of it; and if it be in their power (as generally it is) they can put a stop to growing vices; or else they do, in some sort, commend what is in their power to prevent.
If drunkenness, for instance, or whoredom, or profaning the Lord's day, become reigning vices, they who are clothed with the authority of God, and zealous for his honour, will not find it difficult to discover the causes of such, cor, ruption, if they have a mind to remove them.
If profaneness, and making a jest of i religion and; of every thing that has relation to God, if these vices prevail, a magistrate will easily fee, that the furest foundation of his own authocity is undermined, and will take timely care to prevent the mischiefs that may fallow.si!
They can take care, that such as are in the way of their duty, and doing all in their power to suppress. impiety, shall have proper
assistance, countenance, and encourageVOL. II.