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“ 1, as pre
JODGED 'already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed: In the name of our Lord Jesus Chrift, when ye are gathered together, and my Spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be faved in the day of our Lord Jesus.” It is evident, beyond the poslibility of a doubt, that the apostle, being fully persuaded of the truth of the fact, took upon himself the whole business of deciding on the guilt and punishment of the incestuous Corinthian. sent in Spirit,” says he, “ have judged already.” He here acts as their chief minister, and requires them to consider bis Spirit prefent with them, as he could not be so personally. They were not to meet, in order to consult whether the offender should be put away or not, but merely to put him from among them, because the apostle was absent.
It may here be asked, Why did not the chief resident minister of the church of Corinth put away the incestuous person, if he posfessed the authority? We answer, because he was unfaithful. He connived at this enormous crime, either because he did not love the « ause of holiness which is the cause of God, or because he gave way to the evil folicitations of the people. This is evident from those words in the pairage before us, “ Ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed, might be taken arvay from among you.” He does not say, Ye have not mourned that you did not fut away this great offender, but « that he might be taken away from among you."
But as the person who had the immediate authority did not take the offender away from among them, St. Paul, as the apostle of the Gentiles, steps into the minister's place, and cuts him off.
It might also be urged, that it was an atofle who thus aded : and we should be ready to admit this as an exempt case, if it were not agreeable to the authority given by Christ himself to his misisters an authority, the due exercise of which by his ministers our Lord highly approves of, and the neglect of which he strongly condemns, as we shall now proceed to shew.
3. Rev. ii. 1, 2. “ Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things faith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right-hand, who walketh in the midst of the feven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and bow thou canst not bear them wbich are evil.” With what high approbation does our Lord here express himself concerning the de termined opposition of the chief minister of the church of Ephesus to all immoral professors." Thou canst not bear them which are evil.” But if this minister had only a single vote against immoral practices in the church, or was only chairman in the meetings of the church, to examine into the conduct of offenders or supposed offenders, is it likely that our Lord would have given fo high an. encomium, so strong a commendation of the conduct of the minifter in this resped? Would he not at least have said something in commendation of the church itself, without whom in this instance, if the power of censure lay in them, the minister would be almost a cypher ? For the minister, in such case, would have little to do in the business, unless as a complainant or informer. Besides, our Lord adds in the ad verse, “ And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not; and has found them liars.” And again, ver. 6. “ But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” From the whole of which it appears, that the minister was the sole judge both of the morals and doctrines of the church which he superintended, the church not being at all mentioned by our Lord as having any authority in these matters.
4. Rev. ii. 12—15. " And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; “ These things faith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges ;-I have a few things against thee, because thou haft there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.” But why should our Lord cast all this blame on the minister alone without taking the least notice of the church, if the power of cenfure rested in the church, and not in the minister; or no farther in the minifter, than as having a single vote in the church? Is it, we must repeat, at all probable, is it morally possible, that our Lord would have written thus to the angel of the church, if that angel, or chief minister had not poffefsed authority to cleanse it from the followers of the doctrine of Balaam, and of the NicoJ'aitans?
5. Rev. ii. 18-20. “ And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; “ These things faith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; -I have a few things against thee, becaufe thou suffereff that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to feduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things facrificed unto idols.” But how could he possibly avoid suffering her to remain in the church, if the church poffeffed the power of cenfure and excommunication, and was determined to keep her in? Or, how could he possibly have prevented her being turned out, if the church had in it the power of expulsion, and had expelled her ?
We may here just observe, that most of the churches of Alia Minor, mentioned in the 2d and 3d chapters of the Revelation, if not all of them, were founded by St. Paul.
6. We shall instance in only two more portions of the word of God on this subject. (1.) Hebi xiii., 7. “ Remember them
which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversati
And (2.) ver. 17. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit your filves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account: that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Observe, (1.) the persons here described as having the rule and a right to obedience and submission, were persons who had spoken the word of God to the people, and watched over their fouls, and consequently were their preachers and paftore But, [2.] To suppose that they ruled in the church, and bud a claim to obedience and submision, and yet had not the authority of cleansing the church from immoral and beretical perfons, would be exceedingly absurd. These last quoted texts are collateral and inferential proofs, the former are expressly fo.
2dly. Let us consider the subject in the light of reason. there any propriety in constituting a husband the judge of the guilt or innocence of his wife, or the wife of her husband; the parent of his child, or the child of his parent; the brother of his litter, or the sister of her brother, &c. Would not natural affection almost unavoidably move them in such cases to be partial to each other? Might not resentment move a master to be partial in his judgment against his servant ? Might not fear, on the contrary, influence the servant in favour of his maiter? Å longo acquaintance also, perhaps even from childhood, has a powerful effect upon the minds of nien, and would strongly tempt them to cover sin, to the destruction, not intentionally but eventually, of the work of God. The intermixture of temporal interests would also be a strong motive to induce many to make large allowances for the offender. My income is small, and my family large: such a one is my custoiner, and also many of his relatie ons; and shall I vote again it him to the injury of my family? Perhaps he may repent, and be better in future. Such a one has obliged me in various respects, and shall I be so ungrateful as to condemn him wholly?” Those who are acquainted with the operations of the human mind, must be very fensible how often these reasonings would warp the minds of the judges, and produce a partiality in their decitions, which would be ruinous in the last degree to the work of God. Additionally to all this, we must recollect, that different countries, and different parts of the fame country, are addicted to particular vices: and those are but little acquainted with human nature, who do not know that men are strongly tempted to cover those fins, which they themselves are inwardly inclined to, or which it is their intereit to commit. For instance, in a part of the country where the maple-tree grows abundantly, and there are various manufactures of sugar, would not the church be strongly inclined to make large allowances for those who would labour their sugar camps on the Lord's day?
Let those answer, who are acquainted with the nature of that manufacture. Again, In a part of the country, where the buying the souls and bodies of men is a common practice, would not many in the church be tempted to favour those who were guilty of that practice, because they themselves might be the next to fall into the snare? Yea, we have had proofs of thi —of private members of the church, who have attempted to assume the power, not only of judging or rather clearing the offender, but of judging the law itself!
To give therefore the authority of judging and censuring offend ers to the private members of a church would be to form a court which in innumerable instances would have the strongest temptations to partiality. We do not mention this to shew the leaft difrespect to the private members of our Society: on the contrary, many of them may exceed us in piety and every grace. But it is .contrary to all the rules of justice to appoint those to be judges, who may in so niany instances be strongly tempted to be partial. At the same time we must observe, that the word of God is that which we principally stand' upon, knowing well that every passage in the New-Testament which relates to the present subject, is wholly on our side.
2. Our original design in forming our religious Society renders the existence of this authority in our ministers absolutely necessary: But what was this design? To raise a holy people. Our plan of economy shuts us up from the influence of any other motive in respect to our ministerial labours. It is impossible for us to enrich ourselves by Methodist-preaching. Again, We bear a constant testimony against the pleasures of the world, and therefore should be esteemed, even by our own people, as the greatest of hypocrites, if we indulged ourselves in them, and would soon be excluded the connection by the various means of trial to which all of us are subject. And as to honour, we are almost the only despised people in Christendom, as a religious body. The secondary rank of mankind and the poor are the cnly persons (with a few exceptions) who receive the Gospel. The rich and great, in general, even those who have not embraced the favourite doctrines of the times, will not submit to the way of the cross, but, on the contrary, look down on the Preachers of it as the greatest enthusiasts. And shall we thus facrifice all that the world holds dea: and at the same time lose the only aim of all our public labours, by false complaifance ? No. We will have a boly people, or none. in every part of our economy, as well as doctrine, we aim at crucifixion to the world and love to God. This mill be the price of our labours. We require not riches, honours or pleasure, but a boly people. We have a right to dispose of our labours as we please, as far as they respect our fellow-creatures: and we will not beflow them on any sther condition. If we labour in any place a sufficient time for a
And we may
trial, and are not able raise a people devoted to God, we will leave it: we have a right fo to do, and none have just ground of complaint. Again, If we have encouragement from any people, but they afterwards deceive us, and return to the world“ like the dog to his vomit,” (2 Pet. ii. 22.) they have broken the condition on which we labour among them; we have nothing more to de with them; and if we continue in that place, it is for the fake of others and not of them. But, blessed be God, if we meet sometimes with discouragements in this respect, they are amply compensated by the increase of vital godliness. We love our people; and they in general amply repay our labours by their holy conversation. They are the joy of our hearts, and will, we trust, be our crown of rejoicing on the great day. But still we must observe, that our immoveable support, on which we rest our sentiments upon this subject, is The WORD OF GOD. add, that the present point has been seldom disputed, as far as we know, by any, except those who have been disaffected to us, or have openly separated from us.
An appeal is allowed in all the cases mentioned in this section, to the following quarterly meeting. For though the power of appeal be not mentioned in the last clause, which relates to the fow. ing of diffentions, yet it certainly is implied. Our work is at prefent in its infancy in comparison to what, we trust, it will be through the blessing of God. Our minifters, who have the charge of cir. cuits may not be always so aged and experienced as we might wish them to be: the appeal to the quarterly meeting is therefore allowed to remedy this defect. And this no one can object to. No one, we think, can imagine, that the members of a claf, or the members of the largest society, would form so refpe&able or so impartial a court of judicature, as the presiding elder, the travel. Ting and local preachers, and the leaders and stewards of the wbole circuit. But the point is quite out of the reach of debate in respect to those who believe the sacred writings and sincerely reverence them. The New-Testament determines beyond a doubt, that judgment and censure in the cases before us, shall be in the minister: nor could we justify our conduct in investing the quarterly meeting with the authority of receiving and determining appeals, if it were not almoft entirely compofed of men who are more or less engaged in the ministry of the word, the stewards being the only exceptions.
We shall now just add some portions of sacred writ, in relation to the immoralities which are referred to in this section, that our ministers who have the oversight of circuits may have them under their eye. Matt. XV. 19. “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, bla? hcmies.'
Luke vi. 44, 45: Every tree is known by bis own fruit." A good man out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good: and an evil man out of the evil trca.