Page images
PDF
EPUB

harvest, it cannot alter the nature of the one or the other ; since we are expressly taught, that they will be accurately distinguished in the great day, and duly disposed of, agreeably to the superior law of Christ.

Hence it becomes the sacred duty of every faithful minister of the Gospel, to warn his Christian hearers of the danger which may arise from a misconception of this subject: for though it is not our province to persecute the disobedient, it does not follow that we are, in silence, to pass over every irregular opinion, or disorderly practice, which may arise from an abuse of religious toleration. If the servants of the Lord are restrained from gathering up the tares before the harvest, they are not reproved for having distinguished them from the wheat, and marked their character: nor are they forbidden to point them out, and declare, in the words of their Master-An enemy hath done this.

And here we are particularly called upon to efface any wrong impression which may have been made, by the perversion of the Holy Scripture; and to resist the misapplication of those texts which have been adą duced in favour of latitude in faith and doctrine, under the pretence of Christian liberty.

amongst the passages thus perverted, I know of none upon which greater stress has been laid, by some modern separatists, than these words of St. Paul to the church of Corinth-Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for, by faith ye stand. This passage

has been ostentatiously brought forward, as an illustrious proof of the liberality of the apostles ; as supplying an argument, that they disclaimed all authoritative controul over the faith of their converts, and conceded to them the full liberty of exercising their own judgment upon all speculative points of religious doctrine, and of regulating their conduct agreeably to such principles as they should choose to adopt : provided only that they gave a general assent to the Gospel history, as far as it approved itself to their reason, observ. ed its moral precepts, and maintained a decency of deportinent in civil society.

Such is the doctrine which has been extorted from the words of my text. But it is manifestly contrary to other passages in the writings of St. Paul, where we find him strenuously insisting upon the purity of one immutable faith, the unity of the Christian church, and the maintenance of due order in that church upon Christian principles. And, not to insist

upon

the authority of the Spirit of truth, by which every word is established, it must be supposed, that the instructions of the apostles, rightly understood, are consistent with themselves; otherwise, they cannot be allowed to constitute any rule at all. It therefore follows, that no such doctrine as that which has been asserted can be implied in this place.

Let us, then, endeavour to ascertain what the words do really import. And here it must be remarked, in the first place, that our translators have not preserved the full emphasis and definite meaning of the latter clause : for, in the original, it is not said, By faith ye stand, but, In the faith ye' have stood ; signifying one, definite, and determinate faith, not faith in general. It is that immutable faith to which the apostle alludes in the former part of this chapter, where he says-We write none

other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge, and I trust ye shall acknows ledge, even to the end. And here it is plainly admitted that the Corinthians had, hitherto, stood in this faith.

Now, to return to the text, it would be a most inconclusive mode of reasoning, and very

different from the manner of St. Paul, to say, We have no controul over your faith, because ye have stood in the faith. The reason given clearly implies, that the apostle did possess some power of controul, and the whole period naturally resolves itself into this meaning-We have an authority, as ministers of Christ, to superintend your faith; but, on the present occasion, it is not requisite for us to exert this power : it is our place rather to congratulate with you ироп the purity of your profession, because your faith has been stedfast and incorrupt. It

may, however, be proper to consider the words more at large, in connection with some passages to which they have a mani. fest reference.

St. Paul, in his former epistle, had sharply reproved the Corinthians, not for the corsuption of their faith, but for several

gross

[ocr errors]

offences against the laws of decency and good order. He had threatened to come to them with a rod, for the correction of these offences. But he delayed his journey, in the hope that his reproof would produce the desired effect of reformation. This effect was produced. And consequently, in this second epistle, we are told of the great joy which the reformation of the Corinthians afforded to the apostle, who had been waiting in earnest expectation of such a proof of their obedience, as might render it unnecessary for him to enforce the rigour of discipline. Accordingly, he says, in the verse preceding my text-I call God for a record upon my soul, that, tó SPARE YOU, I came not, as yet, unto Corinth. And to this he immediately adds—Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy : for, in the faith ye have stood. This is as much as if he had said I have delayed coming to Corinth, waiting for your reformation, that I might spare you that severity of censure which I must otherwise have pronounced upon your irregular conduct : at the same time I certify, that, if I had come amongst you, ye had

« PreviousContinue »