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meat destroy not the work of God: all things indeed are pure, but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 1 Cor. viii. 13. 'if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend ;' which resolution, however, must be considered as an effect of the extraordinary love which the apostle bore his brethren, rather than a religious obligation binding on every believer to abstain from flesh for ever, in case a weak brother should think vegetable food alone lawful. ix. 19–22. though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more; unto the Jews I became as a Jew....to them that are under the law, as under the law....to them that are without law, as without law; being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ....to the weak became I as weak....I am made all things to all men. x. 23. •all things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient. Gal. v. 13. • for, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh; but by love serve one another.? 2 Pet. ii. 19. while they promise themselves liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption. 1 Cor. viii. 9. "take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak.'
This appears to have been the sole motive for the command given to the churches, Acts xv. 28, 29. to abstain from blood, and from things strangled; namely, lest the Jews who were not yet sufficiently established in the faith should take offence. For that the abstinence from blood was purely ceremonial, is evident from the reason assigned Lev. xvii. 11. the
life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls. Thus the eating of fat was forbidden by the law, vii. 23, &c. yet no one infers from hence that the use of fat is unlawful, this prohibition applying only to the sacrificial times : Acts x. 13, &c.
No regard, however, is to be paid to the scruples of the malicious or obstinate. Gal. i. 4, 5. ' and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour ; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.' 1 Cor. xiv. 38. · if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.' Christ was not deterred by the fear of giving offence to the Pharisees, from defending the practice of his disciples in eating bread with unwashen hands, Matt. xv. 2, 3. and plucking the ears of corn, which it was considered unlawful to do on the sabbath-day, Luke vi. 1, &c. Nor would he have suffered a woman of condition to anoint his feet with precious ointment, and to wipe them with her hair, still less would he have vindicated and praised the action, John xii. 3, &c. neither would he have availed himself of the good offices and kindness of the women who ministered unto him, whithersoever he went, if it were necessary on all occasions to satisfy the unreasonable scruples of malicious or envious persons. Nay, we must withstand the opinions of the brethren themselves, if they are influenced by motives unworthy of the gospel. Gal. ii. 11, &c. 'when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.' Nor ought the weak believer
to judge rashly of the liberty of a Christian brother whose faith is stronger than his own, but rather to give himself up to be instructed with the more willingness. Rom. xiv. 13. let us not therefore judge one another any more.?
Neither this reason, therefore, nor a pretended consideration for the weaker brethren, afford a sufficient warrant for those edicts of the magistrate which constrain believers, or deprive them in any respect of their religious liberty.* For so the apostle argues 1 Cor. ix. 19. though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all ;' I was not made so by others, but became so of my own accord ; t free from all men,' and consequently from the magistrate in these matters at least. When the magistrate takes away this liberty, he takes away the gospel itself; he deprives the good and the bad indiscriminately of their privilege of free judgment, contrary to the spirit of the well known precept, Matt. xiii. 29, 30. “ lest while ye gather up the tares ye root up also the wheat with them : let both grow together until the harvest.'I
* • I have shown that the civil power hath neither right, nor can do right, by forcing religious things : I will now show the wrong it doth, by violating the fundamental principle of the gospel, the new birthright of every true believer, Christian liberty.' A Treatise of Civil Power, &c. Prose Works, III. 337. •Liberty, which is inseparable from Christian religion.' Ibid. 352.
† None more cautious of giving scandal than St. Paul. Yet while he made himself servant to all, that he might gain the more, he made himself 80 of his own accord, was not made so by outward force, testifying at the same time that he was free from all men.' Ibid. III. 342.
I ....................... On earth
Infallible ? Paradise Lost, XII. 528. • Seeing then that in matters of religion, as hath been proved, none can
judge or determine here on earth, no not church-governors themselves against the consciences of other believers, my inference is, or rather not mine, but our Saviour's own, that in those matters they neither can command or use constraint, lest they run rashly on a pernicious consequence, forewarned in that parable, Matt. xiii. from the 29th to the 31st verse, lest while ye gather up the tares ye root up also the wheat with them : let both grow together until the harvest ; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares,' &c. A Treatise of Civil Power, &c. III. 323.
OF THE EXTERNAL SEALING OF THE COVENANT OF
The manifestation of the covenant of grace, under the law and the gospel respectively, has been considered ; we are now to speak of the sealing of that covenant, or rather of its representation under certain outward signs.
This representation, like the covenant itself and its manifestation, is common both to the law and the gospel : under the former it consisted in Circumcision and the Passover ; under the latter it consists in Baptism and the Supper of the Lord. These ceremonies, particularly the two latter, are generally known by the name of Sacraments.
A Sacrament is a visible sign ordained by God, whereby he sets his seal on believers in token of his saving grace, or of the satisfaction of Christ ; and whereby we on our part testify our faith and obedience to God with a sincere heart and a grateful remembrance.
Respecting circumcision, compare Gen. xvii. 10, &c. this is my covenant which ye shall keep between me