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SO THAT NOTHING BE ORDAINED AGAINST GOD'S WORD.
It is expressly said, that the traditions and ceremonies to which this article relates, are such as ARE NOT REPUGNANT TO THE WORD OF GOD. No church can have a right to impose terms of communion, which are contrary to the declarations of Scripture; and if it does attempt it, we are by no means bound to comply with them, since we are to " obey God rather than men (a).” But in matters of indifference, where Scripture is silent, it is the duty of every one to conform to institutions established by proper authority, as the only means of preserving peace and union in the church of God, and of promoting that love and charity which ought to subsist among Christians. Those who act otherwise, not only offend against the general tenor of the Gospel, but they violate its express commands:“ Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves (6).”_" Let every soul be subject to the higher powers (c).” Any conduct, therefore, which militates against these principles, ought surely not to pass without animadversion and reproof; that is, WHOSOEVER, THROUGH
(a) Acts, c. 5. v. 29. (c) Rom. c. 13. v 1.
(b) Heb. c. 13. v. 17.
PURPOSELY DOTH OPENLY BREAK THE TRA
DITIONS AND CEREMONIES OF THE CHURCH, WHICH BE NOT REPUGNANT TO THE WORD OF
GOD), AND BE ORDAINED AND APPROVED BY COMMON AUTHORITY, OUGHT TO BE REBUKED OPENLY (THAT OTHERS MAY FEAR TO DO THE LIKE) AS HE THAT OFFENDETH AGAINST THE COMMON ORDER OF THE CHURCH. This is
agreeable to the direction of St. Paul, “ Them that sin, rebuke before all, that others also may fear (d).” It is scarcely necessary to add, that if every individual were at liberty to use his own private judgment in opposition to the orders and decisions of the church, uniformity of worship would be instantly destroyed, and the dissolution of the church itself would quickly follow. AND HURTETH THE AUTHORITY OF THE
It is evident, from the nature of human society, that every wilful violation of an established religious ceremony must weaken lawful authority, and tend to introduce disorder and confusion; but at no period of the world has this truth been so conspicuous as in the present times.
AND WOUNDETH WEAK BRETHREN, by violating rules which
they (d) 1 Tim. 4. 5. 6. 20.
they think ought to be observed ; by leading them by the force of example into practices which they themselves condemn ; by raising prejudices and scruples in their minds, and by making them dissatisfied with the establishment under which they live ; ” and when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ (e).”
EVERY PARTICULAR OR NATIONAL CHURCH HATH AUTHORITY TO ORDAIN, CHANGE, AND
RITES OF THE CHURCH, ORDAINED ONLY BY MAN'S AUTHORITY, SO THAT ALL THINGS BE DONE TO EDIFYING. The church of every independent kingdom or nation can best judge what rites and ceremonies are suited to its own peculiar circumstances, and every such church is free from the influence and control of all other churches. The laws of a church made in one age do not necessarily bind succeeding ages. any church possessed at one period, since the days of the Apostles, it possesses at all periods. But though there may sometimes be sufficient ground for ordaining new ceremonies, or for altering or abolishing old ones, it is to be remembered, that changes in established forms are not to be made for slight causes, or without full
deliberation; (e) 1 Cor. c. 8. v. 12.
Whatever power deliberation ; and we are always to keep in view the apostolical precept alluded to in the Article : “ Let us follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith we may edify one another (f)."
The principle upon which the popish ceremonies were rejected at the time of the Reformation was of a higher nature than that upon which we have been now arguing; they were condemned because they were inconsistent with the simplicity of Christian worship, and were calculated to perpetuate that superstition to which they owed their origin. It is sometimes objected to the discipline of our church, that
several of its ceremonies are still the same as · those of the Roman church; but to this it may be answered, that we have retained none which are not authorized by the practice of the early Christians, or suited to the important purposes of religious worship. Such were the moderation and wisdom of our Reformers, that they did not think it necessary to abolish rites merely because they were used by the church of Rome. Though they loudly exclaimed against the antichristian power which it had usurped, and were fully aware of its numerous corruptions, yet they were sensible that it retained some of the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, and that some of its practices were founded in Scripture and reason, and conformable to the constant usages of the early Christians ; and by thus keeping their minds unbiassed by any improper prejudice, they were enabled to make a just discrimination, and to avoid those absurdities and excesses into which some protestant churches unfortunately fell. The ceremonies of our public offices are grave, simple, and significant, calculated to excite devotion in the mind, while “ all things are done decently, and in order (g).”
of) Rom. c. 14. V. 19.
In the primitive times, every particular church ordained, and varied at its pleasure, its own rites and ceremonies; and there was a considerable difference in the rituals of different churches very near to the days of the Apostles. The early general councils did not attempt, or claim a right, to impose rules of this kind. The tyrauny of subjecting particular churches to forms and practices, which might be inconvenient or unsuited to them, was not known among Christians, till the popes of Rome aimed at universal sovereignty in religious matters.
I shall conclude the exposition of this article with a quotation from an epistle of Augustine
(g) 1 Cor. c. 14. V.40.