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remove the land-marks which God has fixed; or to see our brother in imminent peril, and persuade him that he is in safety. Surely, if any persons can properly be said to unchurch their brethren, it is those, who, from false liberality, or worldly policy, or indolent goodnature, or ignorance of Scripture, speak lightly of the sin of schism, and so prevent separatists from seeing their error, and joining themselves to the Apostolic Church.
But, in truth, the question is not as to what is liberal or illiberal, but what is true or false. It is a mere question of fact. The Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ established and organized a Church ; and expressly declared that schism or separation from that Church was a grievous șin. If we believe that there is a Church at all, we cannot help being illiberal, as it is termed, to some: because, wheresoever we believe the line to be drawn, we must, by the very force of the terms, suppose that those who do not come within the line are beyond it—that those who do not belong to the Church are without it. Do not the (so called) orthodox Dissenters themselves call the Church of Rome Antichrist, and Socinianism a God-denying heresy? It is our plain duty to ascertain what the Church of Christ really is, and not only to adhere to it, but to avow our adherence to it. We should cast to the winds all idle notions about liberality or illiberality in religion, and pray God to deliver us from so mean a principle as the fear of being thought illiberal.
. RIDLEY. Your opinions are somewhat strong for the nineteenth century, though I confess I cannot deny their correctness.
HERBERT. No lapse of centuries can alter the eternal word of truth. What the Church was in the first century, such must it remain in the nineteenth, and for ever.
Perhaps the subject before us may be placed in a clearer view, if we consider the circumstances of the early Church. St. Paul, we know, in the course of his journeyings, went to the island of Crete (the “ hundred citied” in Homer's time, and a flourishing and populous island in the time of St. Paul). Here his labours were blessed by the conversion of many heathens ; and when he departed from the island, he left Titus behind him in the episcopal office, with the commission to “set in order the things which were wanting, and ordain elders in every
city !.” Now let us suppose that, soon after the Apostle was gone, there arose up “ certain unruly and vain talkers and deceivers,” respecting whom he had given Titus warning. Suppose that these men took upon themselves to dissent from the arrangements made by Titus. Some were not satisfied with their ordained elders, and appointed others, who ministered without ordination; others obtained their ordination, not from the Bishop, whom St. Paul left for that very purpose, but from the elders who had no such commission ; others mixed up Pagan rites with the pure ordinances of Christianity—the worship of idols, and other such abominations. In short, some became Romanists, others Presbyterians, and others Independent congregationalists. The rest kept in all things to the Apostolic doctrines and ordinances. Can there be the slightest difference of opinion as to which was the true Church, and which were the schismatics ? And can there be any doubt that those who separated from the Bishop, and induced others to separate, were guilty of very great sin—namely, the sin of schism-and debarred themselves from the blessed privileges of that Church from which they had departed.
1 Titus i. 5.
RIDLEY. You have put the case in a point of view, which, I confess, had not before struck me. Still there seems to be a question, whether the separatists of the present day stand on the same footing as your primo-primitive dissenters.
HERBERT. I think a very strong parallel might be drawn between the supposed condition of the Church in Crete, when St. Paul left it, and that of the Church in England, at the time of Elizabeth. In both, the doctrine was pure and scriptural, and the discipline was Apostolic. We had put from us the modern corruptions of Rome, and stood on the basis of ancient Catholicity. Whatsoever sinfulness therefore attached itself to the supposed Cretan dissenters, would be equally attributable to those Englishmen, who first separated themselves from the reformed branch of the Church in England. With persons born and educated in dissent, and living in an age when schism is not acknowledged as a crime, we may hope and believe that to live in separation from the Church is not a sinful but an involuntary error, the fault of their education and early prepossessions. All this we may acknowledge, and yet not the less warn men against dissent, as ruinous to the Church and most pernicious to those who follow it. With those who are dissenters from ignorance and not from wilfulness, it may be not so much their fault, as their misfortune; but a very great misfortune I believe it to be. For if their parents or forefathers, who first wilfully separated from the Church, deprived themselves of great privileges, it does not seem possible that these privileges should be restored to their children, except upon their joining the Church. Whatsoever blessing God gives through his regularly ordained ministry, whatsoever benefit is attached to their ministration of the sacraments of Baptism and the holy Eucharist, whatsoever advantage belongs to hearing the word preached by lawful spiritual authority,--all these the dissenter manifestly loses, whether it be through his sin or his misfortune. Thus, in a remarkable manner, the sin of the parents cleaves to the children until the third or fourth generation ; for—as I have heard remarked, and, as far as my own observation extends, believe it true-dissenters, except of the more violent political sort, do, after a few generations, find their way back to the Church.