« PreviousContinue »
this he becomes a Christian or a member of the body of Christ; and he is more or less a Christian, or rather he is a better or a warfer Christian, as he more or less submits himself to be governed by Christ's laws; and when he throws up all fubjection to the laws of Christ, and refuses to be governed by them, he then ceases to be a Christian, or a member of the body of Christ, let his professions and pretensions be what they will, Christ stands to his people in the relation of a governour, as he was appointed and sent of God to declare to men 'what that rule of action is, which they are to govern their tempers and behaviours by, and which will render them pleasing to their Maker; and as he is appointed their judge to call them to an account for their actions, and to reward or punish them in another world according, as they have behaved themselves in this; and it is, mens subjecting themselves to Christ, that is, to that law of reason or rule of righteousness which Christ specially requires their compliance with, that contracts the relation betwixt him and them, and which denominates him to be their head, that is, their governour; and they to be his body, that is, his subjects or people. So that Christians as Christians have no other head, that is, they have no other authoritative power or governour over them, but their one common - head or governour, viz. Christ Jesus our Lord; and they have no other law, considered as Chriftians, but the laws of Christ to direct their behaviour by. And, ro . . .
. As a Christian considered as such, is subjected only to the laws of Christ : so he is only anfwerable to Cbrist, and not to any Christian, nor
to any fet, or order, or body of men amông Christianis, for the breach of them. Christ is conftituited to be, not only the fole law-giver, but also the fole judge of the behaviour of his people, and therefore his people are only answerable to him for the breach of his laws. And though the laws of Christ require the performance of relative and other duties; yet Chrift hath hot invested any Chriftian, nor any body of men among Christians, with a right to call any of his people to an account for the breach of his laws, so as to have a right to corre&t and punish them for their non-compliance. I would not be understood to mean that Christians as Chriftians have not a right to reprove and admonish one another, with respect to their breach of the law of Christ, and to make use of all proper methods by way of argument and perfwapon, in order to bring the transgreffors of Christ's laws to repentance and reformation of their evil ways, there being in such cases no tem. poral power or jurisdiction at all; but what I in: tend is, that'as Christ is constituted the fole judge of the actions of his people, so it is his peculiar prerogative to punish them for the breach of bis laws. The fanctions annexed to, and which are designed to enforce obedience to the laws of Chrift, are not the pleasures and pains of this world, but the happiness and mifery of anos ther; and Christ will in his own person, at the pros? per time, viz. at the day of judgment, call his people to an account for their behaviour, and will reward or punish them according as they shall have acted agreeably with or contrary to those laws. I fay, that the sanctions annexed to the laws of Christ are not the pleasures and pains of
this world, any otherwise than as our obedience or disobedience to Christ's laws is of itself, and by its own natural tendency fubfervient to our present happiness or misery. And therefore, if any Chridian, or any body of men among Christians, Thould take upon him, or them, to inflict any temporal punishment upon any of their fellow Christians, for their breach of any of the laws of Christ, considered as the laws of Christ; this is plainly to invert the order of things, by annexing other and contrary fanctions to the laws of Christ than he has annexed to them; by judging and punishing before the time; and by the members assuming an authority, and exercising a power which peculiarly belongs to Chrift their bead, And, ' .
As believing in, and submitting to be governed by the laws of Christ is what alone constitutes a. Christian: so in this every person is, and must be, a voluntier, it not being in the power of any man, nor any set, or order, or body of men, to believe in, and obey the laws of Christ, in, and by, or for the person of another. Neither can · any man, or body of men, force faith or subjectia on, in, and from the person of another; seeing faith is, and must be the produce of conviction, and obedience to the laws of Christ must be voluntary, for otherwise it is not, neither can it be Cbriftian obedience. To perform an action which the law of Christ requires, because the law of the ftate, or any human judicial power requires the performance of the same action, and because the law of the state, or such judicial power threatens, and will punish our disobedience; this is not obea dience, to the laws of Christ, but only to the
dience, to the pur disobedience Power threatens
law of theißtate, or to such buman judicial power as required, and was the ground of that obedience. And as every. Chriftian is.and must be a voluptier, for otherwise he is not strictly and propecly a Christian : lo he is fach independent of the will and determination of any Christian, or any order of men among Christians; it not being in their power to make him fe, or to make him Qtherwises. I would not be understood to mean, that it is not in the power of any one man, by argument, by perswapon, by example, and the like, to encourage and invite: men to accompliance with the laws of Christ, or to lead or draw them off from their subjection to him ; but what I mean is, that as every Christian is and must be such voluntarily and of his own choice, in opposition to the will or choice of any other person or persons who may be supposed to chufe for him; to he is such independently, that is, it does not depend upon the will and pleasure of any other person or persons whether he shall be a Christian, or not, it not being in the power of any person or . persons to christianize or unchrifiianize a man as they please, but it depends upon every man's own pleasure, (in opposition to all of thers who may be supposed to chuse for him, or force him, or determine against him,) whether he will obey the laws of Christ, or not; and consequently whether he will be a Christian, or not. And, a · As the relation betwixt Christ and his people is contracted by their believing in, and submitting to be governed by his laws: fo the same thing contracts the relation of brotherhood betwixt one Christian and another. Men do not in this cafe become related to Christ by their relation to, and union with each other; but on the contrary they become related to each other only and wholly by their union' with, and their relation to Christ. So that brotherhood in the present case does not arise from, nor depend upon, the will and pleasure of any or all the members of that body; but wholly and folely upon each one's relation to the head, Chrift; he being the center of unity to the whole. And though any particular society among Christians may excommunicate, that is, exclude any individual from being a member of that particular society, and thereby disown their brotherly relation to hin' as a Chriftian: yet this does not destroy that relation, nor make him less a Christian than he was before ; because his relation to Christ, and to them as a Christian brother in consequence thereof does not arise from, nor depend upon, their opinion of him, nor their behaviour towards him, but only by his believing in, and submitting to be governed by Christ's laws, which such acts of excommunication does not affect at all. And,
As Christians stand to each other in the relation of brethren only, and not in the relation of masters and servants to each other, considered as Chriftians: so there is no such thing as greater or less among Christians, considered as such, any otherwise than as the Christian revelation has a greater or less influence upon their minds and lives, and thereby the end and purpose of that revelation is more or less answered upon them. For tho one Christian may by his being called to perform some good offices towards his fellow Christians (such as to teach and admonish them