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THE SOVEREIGNTY OF JESUS CHRIST
IN THE CHURCH.
ROMANS xiv. 7, 8.
None of us livesk to bimself, and no man dieth
to himself. For, whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or, whetber we die, we die unto tbe Lord : whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's.
THESE words are a general makina, which St. Paul lays down for the decision of a particular controversy. We cannot well enter into the apostle's meaning, unless we understa al the particular fubject, which led him to express himself in this manner. Our first reflections, therefore, will tend to explain the subject, and afterward we will extend our meditations to greater objects. We will attend to the text ix that point of view, in which those christians are most interefted, who have repeatedly engaged to devote themselves wholly to Jesus Christ; to con fecrate to him through life, and to commit to him at death, not only with Cubmiflion, but also with joy, those fouls, over which he hath acquired the noblest right. Thus shall we verify; in the mok pure and elevated of all fenfes, this faying of the apostle, None of us livetb.to bimself, and no man dietb to bimself. For, wbether, we lide; we lide unto the Lord ; or, whether we die, we die unto the Lord:: wbether we live tberefore or die, we are the Lord's.
St. Paul proposed in the text, and in some of the preceding and following verses, to establish the do&rine of toleration. By toleration, we bean, that dispolition of a christian, which, on a
principle of benevolence, inclines him to hold communion with a man, who, through weakness of mind, mixeth with the truths of religion fome errors, that are not entirely incompatible with it; and with the new testament worship some .cere. monies, which are unfuitable to its elevation and fimplicity, but which, however, do not destroy its effence.
Retain every part of this definition, for each is effential to the subject defined. I say, that he, who exerciseth toleration, acts on a principle of benevolence ; for were he to act on a principle of indolence, or of contempt for religion, his diso position of mind, far from being a virtue worthy of praise, would be a vice fit only for execration, Toleration, I say, is to be exercised towards bim only, who errs through weakness of mind; for he, who perfits in his error through arrogance, and for the sake of rending the church, deserves rigorous punilhment. I say, further, that he, who exerciseth toleration, doth not confine hîmself to praying for him, who is the object of it, and to endeavouring to reclaim him; be proceeds further, and holds communion with him, that is to say, he assists at the same religious exercises, and partakes of the Lord's fupper at the same table. Without this communion, can we confider him, whom we pretend to tolerate, as a brother in the sense of St. Paul ? I add, finally, erroneous sentiments, which are tolerated, must be compatible with the great truths of religion ; and observances, which are tolerated, must not destroy the essence of evangelical worship, although they are incongruous with its simplicity and glory. How can I allia in a service, which, in my opinion, is an insult on the God whom I adore.? How can I approach the table of the Lord with a man, who rejects all the mysteries, which God exhibits there? and so of the reste
Ketaiö, then, all the parts of this definition, and you will form a just notion of toleration.
This moderation, always necessary among christians, was particularly fo is the primitive ages of chriltianity. The first churches were composed of two forts' of profelytes ; some of them were born of Jewishi parents, and had been educated in Judaism, others were converted froin paganism ; and beth, generally speaking, after they had embraced' christianity, preferved fome traces of tlie religions which they had renounced. : Some of them retained fcruples, from which just notions of christian liberty, it should seem, might' have freed them. They durst not eat some foods which God gave for the nourishment of mankind, I. mean, the Aelh of animals, and they ate only berbs. They set apart certain days for devotion. al exercifes : not from that wife motive, which ought to engage every rational man to take a portion of his life from the tumult of the world, in order to confecrate it to the service of his Creator ; but from I know not what notion of pre-eminence, which they attributed to fome days above others. Thus far alt are agreed in regard to the design of St. Paul- in the text.
Nor is, there any difficulty in determining which of the two orders of christians, of whom we fpoke, - St. Paul confiders as an object of col. eration ;- whether that class which came from the Gentiles, or that which came from the Jews. It is plain the last is intended. Every body knows that the law of Moses ordained a great number of feasts under the penalty of the great anathema. It was very natural for the converted Jews to retain a fear of incurring that penale ty, which followed the infraction of those laws, and to carry their veneration for those festivals too far.
There was one whole fect among the Jews, that abstained entirely from the filech of animals ;
they were the Esseres, Josephus expressly at firms this ;, and Philo aflures us, that their tables, were free from every thing that had blood, and were ferved with only bread, falt, and hyffopo As the Efenes professed a severity of manners, which had fome likeness to the morality of JesusChrist, it is probable, many of them: embraced christianity, and in it interwove a part of the peculiarities of their own fedt.
I do not think, however, that St. Paul bad any particular view to the Efenes ; at least, we are not obliged to suppose that his views were confined to them. All the world know, that Jews bave an aversion to blood. A Jew, exact in his religion, does not eat flesh now-a-days with chrifa. tians, left the latter should not bave taken fuffie : cient care to discharge the blood. When, therefore, St. Paul describes converted Jews by their : ferupulofity in regard towthe eating of blood, he does not speak of what they did in their own fainilica, but of what they practised, when they were invited to a convivial repart with people, who thougite themfelves free from the prohibition of cating blood, whether they were Gentiles yet ine. volved in the darkness of paganism, or Gentile converts to christianity. Thus far our subject is free from difficulty.
The difficulty lies in the connexion of the maxim in the text with the end, which St. Paul proposeth in establishing it.
What rilation is... there between christian toleration and this mi.
9X im, None of us liveth to bimself, and no man dietb to Aimself? How doth it follow from this principle, wbether we live, we lige unto tbe Lord; or, whether we die, we die unto the Lord; how doth it follow from this principle, that we ought to tolerate those, who, through the weakness of their minds, mix fome, errors with the grand truths of christianity, and with the new testament: worlhip some ceremonies, which obscure its fima, plicity, and debase its glory?
The solution lies in the connexion of the text With the foregoing verses, and particularly with the fourth verfe, who art t bout, that judgest ante other man's seroant ?! To judge, in this place, does not signify to discern, but to condemn. The word lias this meaning in a hundred passages of the new teftamento I confine myfelf to one pala fage for example. “If we judge ourselves, we hould not be judged,” 1 Cor. xi. 31. that is to fay, if we would condemn ourfelves at the tribue;' nal of repentance, after we have partaken unworthily of the Lord's fupper, we thould not be condemned at the tribunal of divine justice. In like manner, who art thou; tbat judgest anotber man's servant? is as much as to say, who art thou that condemnest?. St. Paul meant to make the christians of Rome understand, that it belonged only to the fovereign of the church to-abfolve orto condemn; as he faw fit. .'
But who is the fupreme head of the church ?? Jesus Christ, Jefas Christ, who, with his Father, is over 'all, God blessed for ever, Róm. ix. 5. Jesus Christ, by dying for the church, acquired this supremacy; and irr virtue of it all true chrifa tians render bim the homage of adoration.. Allthis is clearly expreffed by our apostle, and gives us an occasion to treat of one of the most abftrufe point's of christiair theology.
That Jesus Christ is the supreme head of the church, according to the doctrine of St. Paul, is expressed by the apostle in the most clear and explicit manner ; - for after he hath faid, in the words of the text, wberber we live, or die, we are the Lord's, be adds immediately, for to this end Cbrist both died, and rose, and revived, that he night be Lord botb of the dead and living.
That this Jesus, whose, the apofle says, we are, is God, the apostle does pot permit us to doubt ; for he confounds the expressions to eat to ibe Lord, and to give Ged tbanks; to stand be