« FöregåendeFortsätt »
man-pleasing, while they see that some connection is clearly allowed in the Bible, may imagine that every species of it, in turn, may be connived at, when convenient. Meanwhile, by a mistake as to the import of the term in question, a conscientious disciple, eager at all risks to clear his skirts of sin, may be so misled as to waste his energies—and then his spirit will deteriorate, and his influence be destroyed. Moreover, the Pharasaical and censorious may so interpret the Word as to feel justified in giving a wide range to the exhibition of their unlovely and invidious spirit towards their erring fellow-men; and then others, irritated by their folly, may rush in the same spirit to the opposite extreme, and sur pass them in the absurdity and ferocity with which they will advocate what is wrong.
Thus professors of religion, instead of presenting the dignified spectacle of wise men, by kind discussion and enlightened investigation seeking to unite on the best means of removing evil, may appear involved in a confused tumult, where the dust of the conflict, and the fantastic tricks of the combatants blind men's eyes to the question at issue : and the attractive Christian graces shrink into oblivion, while wrath, clamor and evil-speaking sweep like a whirlwind over the arena. Instead of trusting to our fallible powers of ratiocination, let us in the light of the Scripture endeavor to discriminate between what is and what is not the fellowship forbidden.
1. All and every kind of intercourse with evil-doers is not included; for we are commanded to rebuke, and this implies some intercourse. Besides, we are exhorted to do good unto all men, as we have opportunity.
2. All friendly intercourse with even gross sinners is not prohibited. Out Saviour sat at meal with publicans and sinners and Pharisees; and Paul instructs Christians how to conduct themselves when invited to a feast by an unbeliever ; and in 1 Cor. 5: 10, expressly says, that they cannot avoid the company of grossly wicked men who are unbelievers, “for then must ye needs go out of the world.” It may be noted that the self-banishment of the ascetic is treated by the Apostle as a thing entirely out of the question.
3. All business intercourse is not interdicted. In 1 Cor. 10: 25, permission, and even advice is given : "whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no questions for conscience sake ;' and that too, when the buying of the article in question might well be thought to encourage idolatry, for the heathen priests were accustomed to sell in the shambles meat that had been sacrificed to idols, and thus converted it into a source of revenue and reward for their idol service.
4. · The discharge of the relative duties which arise out of the family relation is not included in the prohibition. The connection of consanguinity is not to be disregarded or dis
rect to the Christ. his relati
reputed. The reciprocal obligations of parent and child, for instance, remain unimpaired, though the one remain a sinner, while the other becomes a saint. Even where the connection arises on voluntary compact, and one of the parties subsequently becomes a Christian, the continuance of the relation and of its duties is so far from being forbidden, that it is even enjoined, although under the Mosaic law such ties were sundered. The difference between the two dispensations in this matter is explained by the fact, that the former was partly national, and had for its object the preservation of religious truth rather than its diffusion, which last is the characteristic aim of the gospel ; and this appears in the reason adduced by the Apostle: "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband ? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife ?”—1 Cor, 7 : 16.
5. Civil connection with wicked governments is not forbidden. Subjection to rulers is permitted and directed by the precept of Paul, in Rom. 13 : 1, "Let every soul be subject to the powers that be.” It is also sanctioned by the example of Christ. A state of mind and a course of conduct consistent with this relation is urged by Jeremiah, upon the captive Jews in Babylon, that metropolis of vice and oppression : " Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto the Lord for it ; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace." -Jer. 29 : 7.-Respect to magistrates is also enjoined by Paul and Peter. "Honor the king," is the phrase used by the latter-meaning any supreme magistrate. Paul, when on trial before Festus, calls him “most noble," even when rudely interrupted by him ; and although the character of Festus was certainly no ways remarkable for virtue.
Tribute also is to be paid, though the government be unjust; though it be a supporter of idolatry, and oppressive in its rule, as was that of the Romans over the Jews ; yet Christ paid his tax to Cæsar. It is allowed to hold office ander a wicked government. Joseph held office under the despot of Egypt. Daniel did likewise under the kings of Babylon and Persia, and while so doing was greeted by the angel with the title “ well-beloved," and a miracle was wrought for his delivery from the lions, when cast into their den. When Sergius Paulus was converted, we do not learn that he resigned his office, nor that any such thing was ever expected from a convert.
6. Not all ecclesiastical connection with wrong-doers is forbidden. Where there is room for honest intention on either side, such connection may be continued indefinitely, as may be seen in Paul's decision on certain controverted points in Rom. 14. Where a church-member is clearly in the wrong, it is necessary to wait until appropriate efforts for reclaiming the offender have been faithfully tried, and
have not met with the desired result ;-where even the cburch at large may be persuaded that an individual member has not the spirit of Christ, but yet his general conduct may be such that no overt act can be proved against him. To exclude a member in such a case would be to hazard the good name of all, for every one is liable to misconstruction. Besides, our Saviour insists on every word being established ; and for this end it is necessary not only that the witnesses be credible, but that the charge be based on facts capable of proof. An adherence to this rule may often seem vexatious in the case of an individual concerning whose character a series of peculiar ambiguous actions may present an accumulative evidence which will leave but little room for a rational hope in his favor, while he manages after all to keep on the right side of church as well as state law; but it will be best to leave the matter to the decision of the all-seeing Judge, who trieth the reins and the heart.
Where the friends of the right, in a given case, are in a minority, and therefore powerless as to direct action, they are not guilty in retaining their ecclesiastical connection with wrong-doers, so long as they maintain their testimony. In Matt. 23 : 2, 3, our Saviour thus advises his discipies : “ The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat ; all therefore wbatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do ; but do not ye after their works; for they say and do not." The character of these teachers is condemned ; but as his disciples could not displace them, let them bide their time, attend on their synagogue ministry, for they sit in Moses' seat, i. e. tcach his doctrines, and so are orthodox, though not orthoprax; and let the hearers practice the duties which the preachers neglect. In John's gospel, 16 : 2, Jesus forewarns his disciples : “ They shall put you out of the synagogues.' Now they could not have been expelled from the synagogues unless they had remained in them. It is needless to expatiate on the character of the Jews who constituted their synagogues. But it may be asked whether there is any in. · stance of a righteous minority continuing, without reproach, and with the sanction of Christ, in connection with a corrupt Christian church? For an answer to this question we may refer to the case of the church at Sardis. By Him who hath the seven stars it is denounced as “ dead." Yet saith He, “thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy." If all those who remain in connection with a corrupt church are necessarily contaminated, how could any have remained in the dead church of Sardis “ who had not defiled their garments ?' It is worthy of remark too, that they are not warned to come out of the. corrupt connection.
This case is so extreme that some may think it proves too
scrBut there arin it, though apparent,minority of Santo remain
much. Yet there it is, Scripture and fact. But does not the Scripture ask, “What concord bath Christ with Belial ?" Yes; and the same Scripture advises the desciples to remain in the synagogues, and approves the minority of Sardis. The inconsistency, then, iş only apparent, and not real; and we must acquiesce in it, though we should be unable to explain it. But there are two principles wich reconcile the seeming discrepancy. 1. This is a state of remedial probation, a dispensation of grace, an economy of mercy, in which sinners are permitted to exist and enjoy many blessings that they may have an opportunity of receiving the overtures of Divine grace, and of returning to their allegiance; and God requires that His children shall be co-workers with Him, not only in regard to the object in view, but also with reference to the mode of action. It is our duty, therefore, so far as is lawful, to preserve access to our fellow-men, and not to repel them. Again, the measure of responsibility is power, and consequently a duty may be incumbent on a majority, which a minority cannot, and, therefore, need not perform.
But are not God's people expressly commanded to “come out of Babylon ?” This command, wherever it is uttered in the Bible, is given prophetically, intimating that there will be a particular juncture when Israel shall “come out." In the Old Testament prophecies it is to be understood literally ; and the time came when Providence called the Jews forth from Babylon. But be it remembered that the same prophet who predicts this event, also exhorts his captive country: men to pray for the peace of that very city, and tells them they shall leave only at the end of seventy years. Where the same language is used in the Apocalypse, it plainly refers to a Providential call, such as summoned Luther from the Papacy, or the English non-conformists from under a ty. rannical papacy. Such a call is clear enough when a man cannot retain his connection without perpetrating some wrong, or formally acknowledging some error to be truth, or some wickedness to be right. He who commends the minority in the dead church of Sardis will, at the proper time, call his people out of Babylon. It needs not to be said that though a church may be marred by sume errors or even gross corruptions, we are not warranted for that reason lightly to write its epitaph as “dead," or to denounce it as "Babylon."
Having seen that there are some things which are not to be understood as the fellowship forbidden, let us inquire in what it does consist.
1. It plainly includes the direct commission of sin.
2. It occurs in the support of others in the commission of wrong, when we employ them or supply them with the means of some iniquitous purpose, and that whether we desire its commission for its own sake, or for the sake of something else in which we may be interested; as when Pilate assisted the Jews to effect the crucifixion of Jesus, for the sake of avoiding the displeasure of the emperor, which might have been easily aroused by their malicious representation, had he disappointed them of their victim..
3. Iniquity is fellowshiped when wrong is justified as right ; when sweet is called bitter, and bitter sweet ; when darkness is called light, and light darkness.
4. The same thing takes place when men support wrong on the whole. This is done by endeavoring to produce an under estimate of the wrong itself ; or by urging its necessity or expediency, as if Providence compelled us to sin ; or by exonerating the offender, as when the guilt is imputed where it does not belong, or is charged to a source which cannot be made responsible, such as society at large, or the circumstances which it is said have made the offender what he is. Iniquity is supported on the whole, moreover, when the character of the offender is sanctioned in full ; as when the people, or whoever may have the power, confer public honor on scme prominent transgressor ; or when a church retains within her bosom a known irreclaimable offender. In the 2d chap. of Revelation, the church at Pergamos, and that at Thyatyra, are rebuked for allowing certain profligate heretics to remain in their communion ; and while they are highly commended for various excellencies, yet are they threatened with terrible judgments for this fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. It is remarkable, too, that this rebuke and denunciation immediately precedes the commendation of the few names of the church in Sardis who had not defiled their garments; and thus are the recomparative responsibilities of majorities and minorities signally illustrated. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
Again, we may on the whole support iniquity by preserving that willful silence which gives consent. Indeed, some evils, if not all, are more effectually encouraged in this way than in any other; for the clamorous advocate of any sin excites attention to it, and provokes discussion, which is most hurtful to error. But when a dead silence is observed, a whole community may be poisoned by the moral malaria exhaled from the stagnant fen of undisturbed habitual wrong. While men sleep, the enemy sows tares. The hands of evil doers are wonderfully strengthened by this mode of procedure, or rather non-procedure, on the part of those whose duty it is to lift up a warning voice. Either their consciences are lulled to sleep, or they are emboldened by a sense of power on their side, which, as they believe. awes the friends of truth into into dumb submission.
Fearful is the peril thus incurred by the carelessly or studia