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this man's act could not have been an of fence against the terms of that commission, or a violation of the constituted rules of good order.
And, as he had not transgressed any de clared law, so neither does it appear that he attempted to introduce any innovation in doctrine or discipline. He is only charged with the supposed offence, of not following Christ and his apostles in their travels, when, in fact, he had received no command to follow them.
He was well affected to the cause of Christ and of his apostles, as it evidently appears from the words which our Lord has added
He that is not against us, is on our part. He was a true disciple: for the power of the Lord, which visibly, attended him and enabled him to work miracles, gave to his mission a credential from heaven, ,, And this mission extended only to the perforinance of an extraordinary act. It did not include the general office and duties of the ministry: for the apostles themselves had not, as yet, been invested with this office. 10
So that, upon the whole, however this pas sage may discountenance, the unchristian
spirit of envy and persecution, it gives not a shadow of support to those who, taking upon themselves the office of ministers, 'pro. mote divisions in the flock of Christ: for our Lord has also declared-He that is not with me, is against nie; and he that GATHERETH not with me, ABROAD. (Matt. xii. 30.)
The other passage, in which it has been presumed that the spiritual presence of Christ is promised to the members of separate conventicles, runs thus:-Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I, in the midst of them. (Matt. xviii. 20.)
But such an application of these words could have arisen only from a practice which men too frequently indulge, to the perversion of the Gospel, and the hazard of their ówn immortal souls : I mean, the taking of a single sentence out of its connection, and, for the purpose of supporting their own prepossessions, giving a general-extent to that declaration, which the scripture has lie mited to its particular and appropriate suba ject. For if, in the case before! us, we con. sider the intent and design of the whole paragraph, we shall perceive that our Lord,
in the first place, gives directions how to treat a member of his church who shall have trespassed against his brother. If he can be reclaimed by private admonition, it is well: if not, the matter is to be discussed before two or three witnesses; and if this fail of effect, it is finally to be laid before the church. But if the offender neglect to hear the church, he is thenceforth to be accounted as a heathen man, or a publican; that is, he is to be removed from the communion of the faithful. Here, the unity of the church is clearly implied: for, without this, such a law of discipline could neither be sanctioned nor enforced. Accordingly, qur Lord immediately proceeds to give his apostles authority to excommunicate and absolve, in all necessary cases, for the preservation of good order in this one undivided church.Verily I say unto you, whatsoever. ye shall bind on earth, shall.be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall,he laosed in heaven. Again, I say unto 394--that is not to the multitude at large, but to the apostles, the appointed stewards of his church--I say unto you, that if twe OF You shall agree or earth, as touching any thing that ye shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven, Then immediately follows For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I, in the midst of them. And these yords conclude the paragraph.
Thus we see, that our Lord does not here address himself to the people at large, but to his apostles in particular; and this at the very time when he gives them instructions, for the due and orderly government of his church-when the essential unity of this church is inculcated, and the awful sanction of its discipline declared and ratified. But, by the implicit tenor of the apostolical commission, the same promise of our Lord's spiritual presence extends from them to the duly constituted ministers of the visible church--to those who should believe in Christ, through their word to those disciples whom they should make in all nations. But these disciples were not only to be baptised in the true faith, but also to observe all things, whatsoever our Lord commanded his apostles, and, therefore, to continue in the ụnity of the apostolical church. And to this church, and its faithful members, the
promise of Christ's spiritual presence properly and exclusively applies.
That it cannot be extended without limitation to every nominal professor, must be evident to every man who reads the Gospel with singleness of heart. For our Lord himself says-Many shall come in saying, I am Christ-I have obtained án unction, or a special call of the Spirit and shall deceive' many. Matt. xxiv. 5.) With these deceivers he does not promise to be spiritually present, notwithstanding they assemble in his name.
Again :-Many will say unto him in the last day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy' name? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy name have done many wonderful works 1. These persons not only assemble and teach in the name of Christ, but, during this life, they boldly confide that their ministry is acceptable in his sight; and they persist in retaining this confidence to the day of judgment. In that day, however, we find they will be woefully convinced that Christ was not in the midst of them. For he will profess unto thein-I NEVER KNEW YOU!