Imatges de pÓgina
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gression, by which, amidst the shock of nations and the convulsion of empires, “the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.” 1

Throughout the course of the eighteenth century, and even to the moment of its aweful close, the church of these kingdoms has been blessed with security and peace. Of the other classes and sects of Christians in this country, some, as the regular Methodists, generally profess to remain united to the national establishment; some, as the Baptists, dissent from it only in few points of doctrine or of discipline; some, as those who without reason ascribe exclusively to themselves the title of Unitarians, recede in most fundamental points to the extreme of separation. Concerning the distinguishing tenets of these and other sects, it becomes me to be silent. The number and the subdivisions of the sects in question, and the duty of describing, if at all, with fulness and precision opinions differing from my own, would necessarily lead to an extent of detail inconsistent with the brevity of my general plan. Those opinions may best be learned from the lips or the writings of the individuals who hold them. Yet I would not willingly dismiss the subject without pressing the importance of warm and habitual regard to two momentous and most consistent branches of Christian duty,– the obligation, on the one hand, “ of earnestly contending for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints 2,” and on the other, of “putting on charity, which is the bond of perfectness 3,” and of habitually evincing the spirit of the apostolic prayer ; “ Grace be with all those,” all of every description, “ who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." 4

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| Rev. xi. 15.

2 Jude, 3. 3 Col. iii. 14.

* Eph. vi. 24.

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CHAP. XII.

ON FORMS OF CHURCH-GOVERNMENT AND ECCLE

SIASTICAL ESTABLISHMENTS.

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It is an apostolical direction, that a Christian should always be prepared to give “ a reason of the hope that is in him.” The ground of the injunction extends to all institutions closely connected with his faith. My present purpose, therefore, is to assist the judgement of the younger part of my readers, by endeavouring briefly to satisfy them, that reasons, substantial reasons, may be advanced in support of the ecclesiastical institutions of their own country.

In every community or body of men, civil or ecclesiastical, some species of government is requisite for the good of the whole. Otherwise, all is irregularity, confusion, and interminable contention. How then, in any particular country, is the Christian church to be governed? Every separate congregation," answers the Independent, " is a sovereign church; amenable to no extrinsic jurisdiction, and entitled to no jurisdiction over other churches.”- 6. That mode of government,” replies the Presbyterian, “is calculated to destroy unity, co-operation, and concord among

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1 Some questions, connected with our national establishment, which could not with propriety have been discussed here in detail, will be found distinctly noticed in the “

Enquiry into the Duties of Men," 5th ed. ch. xi.

ON FORMS OF CHURCH-GOVERNMENT.

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Christians. All congregations within the same state, which agree in doctrine, ought to be under the general superintendence of a representative assembly, composed of their ministers and delegates.”

- Such a representative assembly," returns the Episcopalian, “ wants vigour and despatch ; and is perpetually open to tumult, partiality, and faction. Divide the country into dioceses ; and station a bishop in each, entrusted with sufficient authority, and restrained by adequate laws from abusing it. Such was the apostolical government of the church; such," perhaps he adds, was the government enjoined on succeeding ages.”

Away !” cries the Papist, 66 with these treasonable discussions. The pope, the successor of St. Peter, is, by divine right, the only source of ecclesiastical power; the universal monarch of the universal church.”

Writing as I am, to protestants, I may pass by the claim of the successor of St. Peter. But the concluding words of the Episcopalian are of prime importance. If Christ, or his apostles, enjoined the uniform adoption of episcopacy, the question is decided. Did Christ then or his apostles deliver, or indirectly convey, such an injunction ? This topic has been greatly controverted. The fact appears to be this : that our Saviour did not pronounce upon the subject; that the apostles progressively established a bishop in each district, when the churches in that district became numerous; and thus clearly evinced their judgement as to the form of ecclesiastical government most advantageous, at least in those days, to Christianity; but that they left no command, which rendered episcopacy universally indispensable in future times, if other forms should evidently promise, through local opinions and circumstances, greater benefit to religion. Such is

the general sentiment of the present Church of England on the subject. Yet it may be observed, that if

1 I have pleasure in quoting on this point the words of two eminent prelates and defenders of the Church of England, one at the beginning, the other at the end, of the eighteenth century. Ecclesias Reformatas, etsi in aliquibus a nostra Anglicanâ dissentientes, libenter amplector. Optarem equidem regimen episcopale benè temperatum, et ab omni injustâ dominatione sejunctum, quale apud nos obtinet, (et si quid ego in his rebus sapiam, ab ipso apostolorum ævo in ecclesiâ receptum fuerit,) et ab iis omnibus fuisset retentum : nec despero quin aliquando restitutum, si non ipse videam, at posteri videbunt. Interim absit ut ego tam ferrei pectoris sim, ut ob ejusmodi defectum (sic mihi absque omni invidiâ appellare liceat) aliquas earum a communione nostrâ abscindendas credam; aut, cum quibusdam furiosis inter nos scriptoribus, eas nulla vera ac valida sacramenta habere, adeòque vix Christianos esse, pronuntiem.” Letter from Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury, to M. Le Clerc, published in the appendix to Maclaine's translation of Mosheim, 8vo. vol. vi. p. 124. — “ We may safely challenge the enemies of episcopacy to produce evidence of the existence of a single antient independent church, which was not governed by a bishop; I mean, after it was fairly established. But though I flatter myself that I have proved episcopacy to be an apostolical institution, yet I readily acknowledge, that there is no precept in the New Testament which commands that every church should be governed by bishops. No church can exist without some government, But though there must be rules and orders for the proper discharge of the offices of public worship; though there must be fixed regulations concerning the appointment of ministers; and though a subordination among them is expedient in the highest degree; yet it does not follow that all these things must be precisely the same in every Christian country. They may vary with the other varying circumstances of human society; with the extent of a country, the manners of its inhabitants, the nature of its civil government, and many other peculiarities which might be specified. As it has not pleased our Almighty Father to prescribe any particular form of civil government for the security of temporal comforts to his rational creatures; so neither has he prescribed any particular form of ecclesiastical

an episcopal form of government was practically established in the apostolical age; if in consequence of being thus practically established it remained during many centuries the only form of government recognised in the Christian church; it advances such a claim, not of right, but of probable utility, as to leave a serious responsibility resting on all, who without necessity reject it even under the most qualified modifications.

That the two orders of priests and deacons, into which, subordinately to bishops, the whole body of the clergy of the church of England is distributed, were instituted by the apostles, is a fact too plain to require a formal proof. The deacons were inferior to the priests, to whom they soon became regular helpers ; they were authorized to baptize; they assisted in the administration of the communion, but were not permitted to consecrate the bread and wine; and they were specially entrusted with the care of the poor. The several functions of our priests and deacons are in no essential point different from the corresponding offices of similar ministers of the church in primitive times. The silence of the Scriptures, and the usages of the antient church, sanctioned the appointment of archbishops, archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical officers, whenever the appointment appeared, as the numbers of Christians were multiplied, beneficial to the interests of religion. If any nation should be of opinion, that to give to some of its leading ecclesiastics a share in the legislative authority

polity as absolutely necessary to the attainment of eternal hapiness. The Scriptures do not prescribe any definite form of churchgovernment.” Bishop Tomline's Elements of Christian Theology, vol. ii. pp. 383. 396. 398.

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