Friday, July 20, 2007

George Gillespie on Uniformity

Of the church of the New Testament it was prophesied, that God would give them one way as well as one heart, Jer. xxxii. 39; that there shall not only be one Lord, but his name one, Zech. xiv. 9.

We are exhorted to walk by the same rule, so far as we have attained; that is, to study uniformity, not diversity, in those things which are agreed upon to be good and right, Phil. iii. 16. Doth not the Apostle plainly intimate and commend an uniformity in the worship of God, 1 Cor. xiv. 27, "If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret;" ver. 33, "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints;" ver. 40, "Let all things be done decently, and in order"? He limiteth the prophets to that same number of two or three, even as he limiteth those that had the gift of tongues, ver. 29. And was it not a great uniformity, that he would have every man who prayed or prophesied to have his head uncovered, and every woman covered, 1 Cor. xi.? Doth not the same Apostle, besides the doctrine of faith and practical duties of a Christian life, deliver several canons to be observed in the ordination and admission of elders and deacons, concerning widows, concerning accusations, admonitions, censures, and other things belonging to church policy, as appeareth especially from the epistles to Timothy and Titus? And, 1 Cor. xvi. 1,2, he will have an uniformity between the churches of Galatia and of Corinth in the very day of putting forth their charity, "Now, concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store," &c. In the ancient church, although there was not an uniformity in all particulars among all the churches,-for instance, in the point of fasting, some fasting on the Sabbath, some not; some taking the Lord's supper fasting, some after meals (which differences in fasting gave occasion to the old rule, Dissonantia jejunii non dissolvit consonantiam fidei); although, likewise, there was a great difference between the custom of one church and another in the time and manner of celebrating the Lord's supper, and in other particulars, as Augustine, Socrates, and the author of the Tripartite history record unto us,-yet the Centurists, and other ecclesiastical historians, show us in every century a great uniformity in those ancient times, even in very many things belonging to church government and form of worship. Neither can any man doubt of the great uniformity in the ancient church. Who is a stranger to the canons of the ancient councils?