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It is the duty of the church, to counteract all evils as far as possible, and, in short, to conduct all things as circumstances may dictate, so that their measures may not entail greater evils on the church whose prosperity they were intended to subserve. Thus, Paul advises the restoration of the incestuous person, because he feared that its procrastination might lead some to slander his character, by which means Satan would strive to alienate the affections of the people from him, and thereby from Christ.2
X. In the future world, the church will attain the state for which she was intended, namely, that of entire purity and perfection. Eph. 5: 27. 4: 13. $ 104. Ill. 10. $ 62.
Purity of christian doctrine, is a characteristic of the genuine
ness of the christian church.
As the christian religion is preserved and extended by instruction; the purity of any individual church, i. e. the degree of her proximity to the character of a perfect church (1), must be judged of by the conformity of the doctrines (1 Cor. 3: 10) which she professes, to the doctrines of Christ and his apostles (2). § 9-11.
I. The purity of churches.-Every church is worthy of the name of a Christian church, just in proportion to the degree
1 2 Cor. 10: 8. 13: 10, “ The power which the Lord has given me not to destruction but to edification."
2 Vide Dissert. in Epp. ad Corinth. p. 94 &c. Opusc. Vol. II. p. 351 &c. VOL. II.
of her obedience to Christ and his doctrines. Eph. 5: 24. Compare $ 99. And her obedience will be perfect, in proportion as she adheres to Christ and his doctrines in her faith and practice. But it may happen that in a church whose doctrines are more conformable to the doctrines of Christ than those of another, there may be fewer members whose lives are conformed to the will of Christ, than in the other whose doctrines are more adulterated. For, the members of the latter church may use those true doctrines which they have retained, for their advancement in holiness and happiness; and by these truths may counteract the pernicious influence of the errors which they have adopted. The erroneous opinions of their church may have been merely treasured in their memory; without having influenced their understanding or impressed their heart, and therefore will have no influence on their conduct. Or, it is possible that on some points they have abandoned the publicly acknowledged doctrines of their church. For, it is not necessary for a member to recede from a church on account of every
deviation from her public standards of doctrine, as long as such deviation is tolerated when known (as it ought to be), and does not compel its subject to declare that which is not true.
Michaelis says, “ If a perfect coincidence of all the opinions of all the members of a church were required, we should eventually have as many churches as heads, that is, no church at all.
-The errors of individuals do not injure the other members of a church, and by continued instruction in their assemblies, they may be reclaimed from their errors.
But, although the worthy members of an adulterated church are of far higher estimation (Luke 13: 29. Acts 10: 34) in the
1 Col. 2: 6--10, Comp. III. 2. and Niemeyer's Popul. and Practical Theol.
357. 2 Dogmatik, p. 678, 681-683. 3 Schwab De jure Protestantium examinandi rel. suam, | 40-43.
of the Lord of the church, than those members of a church of purer doctrines who abuse the advantages afforded them, and are consequently subjected to greater responsibility (Luke 12: 47 &c. 13: 26–28. Matth. 7: 21--23, 26. Rom. 2: 5, 9, 13); still, the abstract excellence of a church is proportionate to the actual purity of her doctrines; because the church of the greatest doctrinal purity, offers her members the best means of acquiring a christian disposition and character, and thereby of attaining a higher degree of blessedness ($ 63).
But, should we attempt to institute an accurate comparison, we must compare the conscientious members of a purer church, with the better individuals of a less pure church ; and from the latter subtract also every thing good, for which they are indebted, rather to their deviation from the received doctrines of their church, than their adherence to them.
Π. Μatth. 28: 19 &c, διδάσκοντες τηρειν παντα όσα ενεtellounu vucv teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you.
John 17:20, οι πιστευοντες δια του λογου AUTOV ELS EMɛ those who shall believe on me through their teaching. Col. 2: 2, 3, 6-10, ως παρελαβετε τον Ιησουν Χριστον τον κυριον, εν αυτω περιπατειτε-βεβαιουμενοι εν τη πιστει, καIws Edidayante as ye have received Jesus Christ the Lord, walk in him-established in the faith as you have been taught.
Εph. 2: 20, εποικοδομηθεντες επι τω θεμελιω των αποστολων και προφητων, οντος ακρογονιαιου αυτου Ιησου Χριστου being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being himself the chief corner stone. Gal. 1:7 9. 5:7-10. Tit. 1: 13 &c.
The duty of the church to provide orthodox ministers. Since, therefore, it is so highly important, that the doctrines of a christian church should coincide with the doctrines of Christ; it is the duty of every ecclesiastical body (1), above all things, to watch (2) those to whom the instruction of the church is committed, and see that at least (3) their doctrines are conformable to the doctrines of Christ (4).
1. The very idea of a society implies, that every thing which affects the common good of a church, should be transacted by the church, as a whole. This was acknowledged even by the apostles themselves, although they had received of the Lord special injunctions, and also peculiar authority to direct the affairs of the church. Matth. 16:19. Comp. 59. Ill. 9. John 20:23, av tvνων αφητε (κρατητε) τας αμαρτιας whose sins soever ye remit, &c. Vide Mori Ep. Theol. Christ. p. 288, where it is asserted that these words refer to the apostles alone. 1 Cor. 5:4. (§ 104. III. 2.) 2 Cor. 10:8. 13:10. 2:9. 10:6. For they commanded (Acts 6: 2—6) the church to elect certain persons who should attend to their domestic concerns, διακονειν τραπηζαις; and Paul directs the church of Corinth to cast out the incestuous person themselves (1 Cor. 5:2, 13). 2 Cor. 1: 24, ovy órı XVOLEVOμεν υμων της πίστεως I am so far from governing you tyrannically, who have received my doctrine, uuwv TOY NIOTEVOVTOV &c. But the church had authority to commit to the charge
1 Dissert, in Epp. ad Cor. Note 202.
particular christians, the administration of part or of all the concerns of the community (Tit. 1:5), as circumstances might dictate. Hence, in countries where church and state are united, they have a right to commit this trust into the hands of a christian government, which is already bound as a civil body to watch lest the ordinances of the church should prove prejudicial to the state, or abridge the civil liberties of its subjects. 1 Pet. 2:12—17. 4:15. Rom. 13:1–10. (In the Dissert. de sensu vocis tingmua $ xIII. it is proved that the latter passage refers to the duties of a citizen toward his government, as well as toward his fellow citizens.)
II. It is the sacred duty of the church, to watch over the orthodoxy of her ministers.--By virtue of this obligation, it is the duty of the church, to adopt all necessary measures, so that, as far as the number of the applicants for the sacred office, and the imperfect state of the churches will possibly admit, such teachers be selected, as not only themselves adhere to the doctrines of Christ, but also are able to teach and defend them. The apostle Paul expressly says to Titus, ch. 1: 9, 4EL ETLOXOπον (πρεσβυτερον ν. 5) ειναι––αντεχομενον του κατα την διδαχην πιστου λογου, ένα δυνατος η και παρακαλειν εν τη διδασκαλια τη υγιαινουση, και τους αντιλεγοντας ελεγχειν a bishop (i. e. elder) ought to hold fast the faithful word (doctrine), as he has been taught, that he may be able (to confirm his hearers in the sound doctrine) by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. Of Timothy he requires that a bishop should be didaxtıxov, apt to teach. 2 Tim. 2: 24, 2, and in Tit. 2: 8 he tells Titus to be παρεχομενος λογον υγιη ακαταγνωστον "to teach unadulterated and true doctrines in an unobjectionable manner (with dignity)."-2
i Vide Sartorii Compend. 8 617. 2 Vide Dissert. in Epist. Pauli minores, p. 53 &c.