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source of blessing and of joy. Thus, too, was the sacred supper connected with the feast of remembrance of the dead, for a seal of the uninterrupted communion in which they were convinced that they stood with the departed faithful. On the anniversary of their deaths, their relations solemnized the holy supper, and in the name of those who were perfected, as though they were still living members of the church, offered gifts at the altar, and a prayer for the peace of the souls of the dead was taken into the church's prayers. In like manner whole churches celebrated the holy communion on the anniversary of the death of their martyrs, which they deemed the day of their birth unto a higher in the invisible kingdom of God; and there was doubtlessly something very touching and exciting, in thus making present to men the alliance of the church militant and trumphant, the heavenly and earthly community. But men very soon fell into the erroneous notion, that the communion celebrated by the living could also be of profit to the dead, and the idea of the Lord's supper as à sacrifice contributed not a little to strengthen this fancy. In this we can already see the bud of the afterwards so ruinous masses for souls, with which such great abuses have been connected in the Romish church, and it cannot but grieve us sorely, that the corruption of the human heart has so distorted and desecrated the purest and holiest ordinances of the Lord. The primitive church indeed kept itself clear of such erroneous notions, but the bud of them lay already in its bosom, and was rapidly developed with the course of time, and begot that great corruption in the latter church, which caused the conflict of the reformers in the sixteenth century, to which our evangelical church owes its existence. God be praised that we belong to that church, and walk in the pure light of the gospel! 0, let us look to it, that we may be honest and worthy members of that church ! « Let us hold fast that which we have, that no man take our crown from us." Let us be free from serving men, remain faithful in the confession of the Lord and his truth, and renew our determination of making use of the means of grace offered us in his church, in simplicity and fidelity, according to his will, and conformably with his ordinance, that we may grow in all things to Him who is the head. Bless us thereunto, O Lord Jesus Christ, and hear our united prayer when we pray to thee:
“ In this last and troubled ho
OF THE NATURE OF PENANCE IN THE EARLY CHRISTIAN
SEARCH us, O God, and know our hearts ; try us and know our thoughts; and see if there be any
wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting ! Amen.
Before we close our considerations on the ecclesiastical life of the early Christians, my brethren, we have yet to consider a very important point which bears on this subject, namely, the church discipline, or the nature of penance in the earliest times of the church. If the church, as she appears as the external institution for the education and training of men for the invisible world, is fully to attain its holy purposes, it seems evident that it must have the right to restrain or withhold, by severe measures, those who will not remain subject to her regulations, or else to exclude them entirely from her body, if they obstinately persist in their resistance; and although they bear the name of Christians, yet, inasmuch as they have proved themselves unworthy of that appellation by their tone of feeling and life, to consider them as heathens, as men standing in no real communion with them, so long as they remain impenitent. This conduct our Lord himself seems to authorize, when he makes this declaration, “ If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every
be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be
unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” But as other declarations of our Lord seem to lead to the conclusion, that such a sifting and exclusion of unworthy members of the church is against his will, it becomes difficult to decide what is here the right view, and it remains matter of doubt, whether the exercise of such ecclesiastical discipline is in a general way to be justified or advised.
Let us now look, my brethren, to other institutions which have for their end the advancement of the kingdom of God, and we cannot deny that they have not only the right, but are also bound to exercise a wholesome discipline for the attainment of their purpose. Thus, first of all, is the house, the family. Or should not the head of it, the father of the family, consider himself bound to maintain order and regularity among his dependents, and can he not apply appropriate means, in order to compel the disobedient to a fulfilment of their duty ? Just so, to proceed, the school. Must not youth be led on by love and strictness to industry, order, and modesty; and does not a proper school discipline naturally come in here ? And as regards the state, must we not grant it permission, even by the application of the most harsh measures of discipline, to rein in and bring back to their duty those persons who oppose its regulations and laws, and disturb and overturn the peace and happiness of the civil society ? Nay, would not an unseasonable regard to unworthy and mischievous members of the civil community be severity and cruelty towards the good, quiet, peaceable, and honest citizens ; and do we not see what discipline the state does really exercise through its courts of justice, police establishments and prisons, in order to punish criminals and evil men, and wherever it is possible to amend them ?
If, then, this be so, my brethren, is the church alone to endure its calamity, if unworthy members, whom she nourishes in her bosom, disturb her peace, injure her plans, and exercise a prejudicial and dangerous influence? Is she not to have the right of applying severe measures to such men, and exercising a strict discipline, in order either to bring them to a change of disposition, or to guard against crime and seduction of others, or to repress and restrain the rude outbreaks of the wicked, or to work powerfully against the prejudicial and dangerous influence of bad examples ? The decision of this question is very difficult, my brethren, and there is much to say for and against it. At the same time, it is a subject so important, that it merits that we should give it our utmost attention. Let us, then, direct our minds to it, and in our investigation let us take into our view the conduct of the church in the first centuries. That perhaps may contribute to render easier the decision of this question. But, first, let us implore God for his blessing on our task.
TEXT. Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.-Ephesians, v. 25-27.
The church, then, which the Lord has bought with his own blood, is not to have s spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” The members of it are to be pure, holy, and without blemish; are to be like Christ, their divine master, in mind and walk. As many of them, then, as really are inspired by his Spirit, and without resting, seek after sanctification in faith on him, form what we are wont to call the communion of saints, or the invisible church. But we must also contemplate the church as it appears on earth, and in as far as its members, forming an external union, compose the socalled visible church. To this visible church belong al who are baptized in the name of Jesus, without reference to their disposition, conduct, worthiness, or unworthiness. The visible church is a mixture of good and evil, but her duty is, and remains, to train her members for the invisible church, and thus for worthy members of the kingdom of God; and here arises the ques