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very unimportant in themselves, were warmly disputed at the time of the Reformation, and were the cause of much disunion among Protestants. · The article proceeds to state that the church has also AUTHORITY IN CONTROVERSIES OF FAITH. When a dispute arose a few years after the ascension of our Saviour, concerning the necessity of circumcising Gentile converts, the apostles and elders met at Jerusalem, and made a decree upon the subject, which they communicated to the churches then established in different parts of Asia, and required their obedience to it: it cannot be denied that this was an instance of authority exercised by the Church, under the direction of the inspired Apostles, in a controversy of faith.–St. Paul says to Timothy, “ I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine (1).”— And to Titus he says, “ A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject (m).” It is evident from these two passages, that Timothy and Titus had authority given them to regulate the faith of the churches over which they were appointed to preside; and Titus is expressly directed to exclude from communion with the church any person who persevered in maintaining heretical opinions; and therefore there

must (1) 1 Tim. C. 1. v. 3. (m) Tit. c. 3. v. 10.

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must have been, at that very early period, some fixed test, by which the faith of professed Christians was to be judged : the consequence of not conforming to that test was, by apostolical authority, Excommunication. And we learn from ecclesiastical history, that this practice of the apostolic times has been usual in every period of the Christian church. · It appears from the preceding article, that it is not here intended to ascribe to the church an infallible authority. The words of this article are, CONTROVERSIES OF FAITH, and this expression, perhaps, alludes to disputes which may arise between the members of any church; and it may be designed to assert that the governing part of the church has authority to take cognizance of such disputes, and to deliver their judgment concerning the points in controversy. Great weight and deference would be due to such decisions; and “ every man that finds his own thoughts differ from them, ought to examine the matter over again with much attention and care, freeing himself all he can from prejudice and obstinacy, with a just distrust of his own understanding, and an humble respect to the judgment of his superiors. This is due to the consideration of peace and union, and to that authority which the church has to maintain it; but if, after all possible methods of inquiry, a man cannot master his

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thoughts, or make them agree with the public decisions, his conscience is not under bonds, since this authority is not absolute, nor grounded upon a promise of infallibility (n).” But this, how: ever, we may observe, that, without any pretension to infallibility, and without any infringement of the right of private judgment, the church has power to declare articles of faith, provided they be authorized by Scripture, as guides to truth, and as conditions upon which it receives persons into its communion. This is the principle of all creeds, and indeed the only principle upon which the unity of “ the faith once delivered unto the saints (0)" can be preserved. Every church, therefore, must possess a right to compose new, or to alter existing Articles, according as the circumstances of the times shall make it necessary to defend the purity of Christian doctrine against prevailing heresies, and to point out to the unlearned part of the community, the snares which may be laid in their paths.

AND YET IT IS NOT LAWFUL FOR THE CHURCH TO ORDAIN ANY THING THAT IS { CONTRARY TO God's WORD WRITTEN. The

written word of God is the rule of our faith and practice, and no consideration whatever can justify a departure from it.

NEITHER MAY IT SO EXPOUND ONE PLACE OF SCRIPTURE, THAT IT BE REPUGNANT TO

ANOTHER (n) Burnet. (o) Jude, v. 3.

ANOTHER. All Scripture being given by inspiration of God, there must be a perfect consistency and agreement in all its parts, and consequently no church can have a right to interpret one passage of Scripture in such a manner as to make it contradictory to another.

WHEREFORE ALTHOUGH THE CHURCH BE A WITNESS AND A KEEPER OF HOLY WRIT, YET AS IT OUGHT NOT TO DECREE ANY THING AGAINST THE SAME, so, BESIDES THE SAME, OUGHT IT NOT TO ENFORCE ANY THING TO BE BELIEVED FOR NECESSITY OF SALVATION. To the church are " committed the oracles of God (p)," and by directing the Scriptures to be publicly read, from the earliest times, in the congregations of Christians, it has been the means of preserving them free from all material errors and corruptions; from them it is to derive all its doctrines; upon them, all its decrees, relative to faith, are to be founded; it is not to add to them, by requiring any thing as necessary to salvation which is not contained in Holy Scripture, as was explained in the sixth article (9).

(p) Rom. c. 3. v. 2.

(9) Upon the subject of this article, Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, and particularly the 3rd and 8th books, and also Warburton's Alliance of Church and State, may be consulted.

ARTICLE. THE TWENTY-FIRST.

Of the Authority of General Councilş.

GENERAL COUNCILS MAY NOT BE GATHERED

TOGETHER WITHOUT THE COMMANDMENT AND WILL OF PRINCES, AND WHEN THEY BE GATHERED TOGETHER (FORASMUCH AS THEY BE AN ASSEMBLY OF MEN, WHEREOF ALL BE NOT GOVERNED WITH THE SPIRIT AND WORD OF GOD) THEY MAY ERR, AND SOMETIMES HAVE ERRED, EVEN IN THINGS PERTAINING UNTO GOD. WHEREFORE THINGS ORDAINED BY THEM, AS NECESSARY TO SALVATION, HAVE NEITHER STRENGTH NOR AUTHORITY, UNLESS IT MAY BE DECLARED THAT THEY BE TAKEN OUT OF HOLY SCRIPTURE.

In the last Article, the power of an individual church was considered; this relates to the authority of General Councils, which are the aggregate of all particular churches, that is, of persons lawfully appointed to represent them.

It may be reasonably supposed that as Christianity spread, circumstances would arise which would make consultation necessary among those who had embraced the Gospel, or at least among

those

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