« PreviousContinue »
hurtful error, or superstitious foppery, or irreverent rudeness, to the advancement of God's honor, and edification of the participants in virtue and piety.
Those who derive their authority by a continued succession from the Apostles; who are called unto and constituted in their office in a regular and peaceable way, agreeable to the institution of God, and the constant practice of his church ; according to rules approved in the best and purest ages : who are prepared to the exercise of their function by the best education that ordinarily can be provided, under sober discipline, in the schools of the prophets, who thence by competent endowments of mind, and useful furniture of good learning, acquired by painful study, become qualified to guide and instruct the people; who, after previous examination of their abilities, and probable testimonies concerning their manners, (with regard to the qualifications of incorrupt doctrine and sober conversation prescribed by the Apostles,) are adjudged fit for the office; who also in a pious, grave, solemn manner, with invocation of God's blessing, by laying on the hands of the presbytery,' are admitted thereunto.
Those whose practice in guiding and governing the people of God is not managed by arbitrary, uncertain, fickle, private fancies or humors, but regulated by standing laws; framed (according to general directions extant in holy Scripture) by pious and wise persons, with mature advice, in accommodation to the seasons and circumstances of things for common edification, order, and peace.
Those who, by virtue of their good principles, in their disposition and demeanor appear sober, orderly, peaceable, yielding meek submission to government, tendering the church's peace, upholding the communion of the saints, abstaining from all schismatical, turbulent, and factious practices.
Those also, who are acknowleged by the laws of our country, an obligation to obey whom is part of that human constitution, unto which we are in all things (not evidently repugnant to God's law) indispensably bound to submit; whom our sove.. reign, God's vicegerent and the nursing father of his church among us, (unto whom in all things high respect, in all lawful
things intire obedience is due,) doth command and encourage us to obey.
Those, I say, to whom this character plainly doth agree, we may reasonably be assured that they are our true guides and governors, whom we are obliged to follow and obey : for what better assurance can we in reason desire ? what more proper marks can be assigned to discern them by ? what methods of constituting such needful officers can be settled more answerable to their design and use ? how can it be evil or unsafe to follow guides authorised by such warrants, conformed to such patterns, endowed with such dispositions, acting by such principles and rules ? can we mistake or miscarry by complying with the great body of God's church through all ages, and particularly with those great lights of the primitive church, who by the excellency of their knowlege, and the integrity of their virtue, have so illustrated our holy religion ?
There are, on the other hand, sufficiently plain characters, by which we may descry seducers, and false pretenders to guide us.
Those who do erepodidackaleiv, ' teach otherwise,' or discost from the good ancient wholesome doctrine, revealed in the holy Scripture, attested by universal tradition, professed, taught, maintained to death by the primitive saints and martyrs; who affect novelties, uncouth notions, big words, and dark phrases; who dote on curious empty speculations, and idle questions, which engender strife, and yield no good fruit.
Those who ground their opinions and warrant their proceedings not by clear testimonies of divine revelation, by the dictates of sound reason, by the current authority of wise and good men, but by the suggestions of their own fancy, by the impulses of their passion and zeal, by pretences to special inspiration, by imaginary necessities, and such like fallacious rules.
Those who, by counterfeit shows of mighty zeal and extraordinary affection, by affected forms of speech, by pleasing notions, by prophesying smooth things, daubing and glozing, by various artifices of flattery and fraud, attract and abuse weak and heedless people.
Those who, without any apparent commission from God, or allowable call from men, or extraordinary necessity of the case, in no legal or regular way, according to no custom received in God's church, do intrude themselves into the office, or are only assumed thereto by ignorant, unstable, giddy, factious people, such as those of whom St. Paul saith, that according to their own lusts they heap up teachers to themselves, having itching ears.'
Those who are not in reasonable ways fitly prepared, not duly approved, not competently authorised, not orderly admitted to the office, according to the prescriptions of God's word, and the practice of his church; not entering into the fold by the door, but breaking through, or clambering over the fences of sober discipline.
Those who in their mind, their principles, their designs, and all their practice, appear void of that charity, that meekness, that calmness, that gravity, that sincerity, that stability, which qualify worthy and true guides: who in the disposition of their mind are froward, fierce, and stubborn ; in their principles loose and slippery; in their designs and behavior turbulent, disorderly, violent, deceitful : who regard not order or peace, but wantonly raise scandals, create dissensions, abet and foment disturbances in the church : who under religious appearances indulge their passions, and serve their interests, using a guise of devotion, and talk about holy things as instruments to vent wrath, envy, and spleen ; to drive forward designs of ambition and avarice: who will not submit to any certain judgment or rule, will like nothing but what their fancy suggests, will acknowlege no law but their own will ; who for no just cause, and on any slender pretence, withdraw themselves, and seduce others from the church in which they were brought up, deserting its communion, impugning its laws, defaming its governors, endeavoring to subvert its establishment: who manage their discipline (such as it is of their own framing) unadvisedly and unsteadily, in no stable method, according to no settled rule, but as present conceit, or humor, or advantage prompteth ; so that not being fixed in any certain judgment or practice, they soon clash with themselves, and divide from one another, incessantly roving from one sect to another; • being carried
about with divers and strange doctrines; like children, tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.'
Those, the fruits of whose doctrine and managery amount at best only to empty form of godliness, void of real virtue ;' while in truth they fill the minds of men with ill passions, ill surmises, ill will; they produce impious, unjust, and uncharitable dealing of all kinds, particularly discontentful murmurings, disobedience to magistrates, schisms and factions in the church, combustions and seditions in the state.
In fine, those who in their temper and their deportment re semble those ancient seducers, branded in the Scripture, those 'evil men, who did seduce, and were seduced :'
Whose dispositions are represented in these epithets : they were árunóraktol, unruly, or persons indisposed and unwilling to submit to government; rolunrai, avbáders, presumptuous, and self-willed, or self-pleasing darers; yoyyvorai, uendi potpoi, murmurers, complainers, or conjunctly discontented mutiners; aürokardkpitol, self-condemned, namely, by contradictious shuffling and shifting, or by excommunicating themselves from the church ; yontes, bewitchers, inveigling and deluding credulous people by dissimulation and specious appearances; • having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof;' • being wolves in sheep's clothing, grievous wolves, not sparing the flock; deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the servants of Christ, and ministers of righteousness ;' lovers of themselves, covetous, boasters, proud, revilers, truce-breakers, false accusers, traitors, heady, high minded, vain talkers, deceivers, ignorant, unlearned, unstable :
Whose practices were; to cause divisions and offences contrary to received doctrine; by good words and fair speeches to deceive the hearts of the simpie;—to swerve from charityhaving turned aside to vain jangling, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm :' 'to beguile unstable souls;' 'to lie in wait to deceive;' * to speak perverse things that they may draw disciples after them;' 'to creep into houses, captivating silly women ;' 'to dote about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings ;' 'to speak swelling words of vanity;' 'to admire persons because of
advantage,' (or out of private design, for self-interest ;) 'to subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not for filthy lucre's sake;' to speak lies in hypocrisy;' 'to preach Christ out of envy and strife, not out of good-will, or pure intention, (oux yvūs,) not purely; to promise liberty to their followers; to walk disorderly ;' (that is, in repugnance to order settled in the church ;) to despise dominion, and without fear to reproach dignities;' to speak evil (rashly) of those hings which they know not,' (which are beside their skill and cognisance;) “to separate themselves' from the church. Such
persons as these, arrogating to themselves the office of guides, and pretending to lead us, we must not follow or regard; but are in reason and conscience obliged to reject and shun them, as the ministers of Satan, the pests of Christendom, the enemies and murderers of souls.
It can indeed nowise be safe to follow any such leaders, (whatever pretences to special illumination they hold forth, whatever specious guises of sanctity they bear,) who in their doctrine or practice deflect from the great beaten roads of holy Scripture, primitive tradition, and catholic practice, roving in by-paths suggested to them by their private fancies and humors, their passions and lusts, their interests and advantages : there have in all ages such counterfeit guides started up, having debauched some few heedless persons, having erected some tapaovraywyàs, or petty combinations against the regularly settled corporations; but never with any durable success or countenance of divine Providence; but like prodigious meteors, having caused a little gazing, and some disturbance, their sects have soon been dissipated, and have quite vanished away; the authors and abetters of them being either buried in oblivion, or recorded with ignominy : like that Theudas in the speech of Gamaliel, who rose up, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves; who was slain, and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.'
But let thus much suffice to have been spoken concerning the persons to whom obedience must be performed.