The Baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or of men? And they reasoned among themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, He will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men, we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
PERSONS who object to our preaching distinctly and unhesitatingly the doctrine of the Apostolical succession, must be asked to explain, why we may not do what our FATHERs in the Church have done before us, or whether they too, as well as we, are mistaken, or injudicious theorists, or Papists, in so doing? This question is here plainly put to them; and at the same time the attention of inquirers, who have not made up their minds on the subject, is invited to the answer, if any is forthcoming, from the parties addressed.
The doctrine in dispute is this; that CHRIST founded a visible Church as an ordinance for ever, and endowed it once for all with spiritual privileges, and set His Apostles over it, as the first in a line of ministers and rulers, like themselves except in their miraculous gifts, and to be continued from them by successive ordination; in consequence, that to adhere to this Church thus distinguished, is among the ordinary duties of a Christian, and is the means of his appropriating the Gospel blessings with an evidence of his doing so not attainable elsewhere.
The passages quoted below contain, it is presumed, this doctrine; but they are not intended as more than tokens and suggestions of the full testimony, contained in the works of their great authors.
It will happily [haply] be granted the Apostles had their prerogative and pre-eminence above others in the Church of CHRIST; but that limited to their persons, and during for their lives, and, therefore, no reason can be made for their superiority, to force the like to be received and established in the Church of CHRIST for all ages and places; since their office and function are long since ceased, and no like power reserved to their successors after them. I do not deny but many things in the Apostles were personal, &c. ... yet, that all their gifts ended with their lives, and no part of their charge and power remained to their after-comers, may neither be confessed by us, nor affirmed by any, unless we mean wholly to subvert the Church of CHRIST ... The Scriptures, once written, suffice all ages for instruction; the miracles then done, are for ever a most evident confirmation of their doctrine; the authority of their first calling liveth yet in their succession; and time and travel, joined with GOD'S graces, bring pastors at this present to perfection; yet the Apostles' charge to teach, baptize, and administer the LORD'S Supper, to bind and loose sinners in heaven and in earth, to impose hands for the ordaining of pastors and elders, these parts of the Apostolic function and charge are not decayed, and cannot be wanted in the Church of GOD. There must either be no Church, or else these must remain; for without these no Church can continue.
In that they are CHRIST'S ambassadors and His labourers, who should give them their commission, but He whose most inward affairs they manage? Is not GOD alone the FATHER of spirits? Are not souls the purchase of JESUS CHRIST? What angel in heaven could have said to man, as our LORD did unto Peter, "Feed my sheep,--preach--baptize--do this in remembrance of Me. Whose sins ye retain, they are retained; and their offences in heaven pardoned, whose faults you shall on earth forgive?" What think we? Are these terrestrial sounds, or else are they voices uttered out of the clouds above? The power of the ministry of GOD, translateth out of darkness into glory; it raiseth man from the earth, and bringeth GOD Himself from heaven; by blessing visible elements it maketh them invisible graces; it giveth daily the HOLY GHOST; it hath to dispose of that flesh which was given for the life of the world, and that blood which was poured out to redeem souls; when it poureth malediction upon the heads of the wicked, they perish; when it revoketh the same, they revive. O wretched blindness, if we admire not so great power; more wretched if we consider it aright, and, notwithstanding, imagine that any but GOD can bestow it! To whom CHRIST hath imparted power, both over that mystical body which is the society of souls, and over that natural which is Himself, for the knitting of both in one, (a work which antiquity doth call the making of CHRIST'S body,) the same power is in such not amiss both termed a kind of mark or character, and acknowledged to be indelible "Receive the HOLY GHOST; whose sins soever ye remit, they are remitted; whose sins ye retain, they are retained." Whereas, therefore, the other Evangelists had set down, that CHRIST did before His suffering promise to give His Apostles the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and being risen from the dead, promised moreover at that time a miraculous power of the HOLY GHOST, St. John addeth, that He also invested them even then with the power of the HOLY GHOST for castigation and relaxation of sin, wherein was fully accomplished that which the promise of the keys did import. Seeing therefore, that the same power is now given, why should the same form of words expressing it be thought foolish?
Now the privilege of the visible Church of GOD (for of that we speak) is to he herein like the ark of Noah, that, for any thing we know to the contrary, all without it are lost sheep; yet in this was the ark of Noah privileged above the Church, that whereas none of them which were in the one could perish, numbers in the other are cast away, because to eternal life our profession is not enough.
This hath ever been reckoned a most certain ground and principle in religion, that that Church, which maintaineth without error the faith of CHRIST, which holdeth the true doctrine of the Gospel in matters necessary to salvation, and preacheth the same, which retaineth the lawful use of those Sacraments only which CHRIST hath appointed, and which appointeth vice to be punished, and virtue to be maintained, notwithstanding in some other respects, and in some points, it have many blemishes, imperfections, nay divers and sundry errors, is yet to be acknowledged for the Mother of the faithful, the House of GOD, the Ark of Noah, the pillar of Truth, and the spouse of CHRIST. From which Church whosoever doth separate himself, he is to be reckoned a schismatic or an heretic
There are many causes set down by the said ancient FATHERs, why so many false prophets do go out into the world; but I will only touch four; whereof I find the contempt of Bishops especially to be one; for unto them, as St. Jerome saith, ever since St. Mark's time, the care of Church Government hath been committed; they had authority over the rest of the ministry "that the seed of schism might be taken away, &c."
Read the Scriptures, but with sobriety; if any man presuming upon his knowledge, seek further than is meet for him, besides that he knoweth nothing as he ought to know, he shall cast himself into a labyrinth, and never find that he seeketh for. GOD hath bound Himself by His promise unto His Church of purpose, that men by her good direction might in this point be relieved; to whose godly determination in matters of question, her dutiful children ought to submit themselves without any curious or wilful contradiction. I could bring many authorities to this effect.
The HOLY GHOST may be received more ways than one. He hath many spiramina; polutropoV, "in many manners" He comes; and multiformis gratia He comes with. He and they carry the name of their cause; and to receive them is to receive the SPIRIT. There is a gratum faciens, the saving grace of the SPIRIT, for one to save himself by, received by each, without respect to others; and there is a gratis data (whatever become of us) serving to save others by, without respect to ourselves. And there is cariV diakoniaV, the grace of a holy calling, for it is a grace, to be a conduit of grace any way. All these; and all from one and the same SPIRIT.
That was here conferred, (in John xx. 22.) was not the saving grace of inward sanctimony; they were not "breathed on" to that end. The Church to this day gives this still in her ordinations, but the saving grace the Church cannot give; none but GOD can give that. Nor the gratis data it is not. That came by the tongues, both the gift of speaking divine languages, and the gift of apofqeggesqai, speaking wisely, and to the purpose: and (we know) none is either the holier or the learneder by his ordination.
Yet a grace it is. For the very office itself is a grace; mihi data est hæc gratia, saith the Apostle, in more places than one; and speaks of his office and nothing else. The Apostleship was a grace, yet no saving grace. Else, should Judas have been saved. Clearly then, it is the grace of their calling (this) whereby they were sacred and made persons public, and their acts authentical, and they enabled to do somewhat about he remission of sins, that is not (of like avail) done by others, though perhaps, more learned and virtuous than they, in that they have not the like mitto vos, nor the same accipite that these have.
The power of remitting sin is originally in GOD, and in GOD alone. And CHRIST our SAVIOUR, by means of the union of the Godhead and manhood into one person, by virtue whereof "The Son of man hath power to forgive sins upon earth."
This power being thus solely vested in GOD, He might, without wrong to any, have retained and kept to Himself, and without means of word or sacrament, and without ministers, either apostles or others, have exercised immediately by Himself from Heaven. But we should then have said of the remission of sins, saith St. Paul, "Who shall go up to heaven for it, and fetch it thence? for which cause," saith he, "the righteousness of faith speaketh thus, Say not so, &c."
Partly this, but there should be no such difficulty to shake our faith, as once to imagine to fetch CHRIST from heaven for the remission of our sins; and partly also, because CHRIST, to whom alone this commission was originally granted, having ordained Himself a body, would work by bodily things, and having taken the nature of a man upon Him, would honour the nature He had so taken, for these causes; that which was His, and His alone, He vouchsafed to impart, and out of His commission to grant a commission, and thereby to associate them to Himself, (it is His own word by the prophet) and to make them sunergous, that is cooperatores, workers together with Him (as the Apostle speaketh) to the work of salvation, both of themselves and of others. From GOD then it is derived; from GOD and to men. * * *
Now if we ask, to what men? the text is plain. They to whom CHRIST said this Remiseritis, were the Apostles.
In the Apostles, (that we may come nearer yet) we find three capacities as we may term them, 1. As Christians in general. 2. As preachers, priests, or ministers, more special. 3. As those twelve persons, whom in strict propriety of speech, we term the Apostles.
Some things that CHRIST spake to them, He spake to them as representing the whole company of Christians; as his Vigilate.
Some things to them, not as Christians, but as preachers or priests; as His Ite prædicate Evangelium and his Hoc facile; which no man thinketh all Christians may do.
And some things to themselves personally: as that He had appointed them witnesses of His miracles and resurrection, which cannot be applied but to them and them in person. It remaineth we inquire, in which of these three capacities CHRIST imparted to them this commission.
Not to the Apostles properly; that is, this was no personal privilege to be in them, and to die with them, that they should only execute it for a time, and none ever after them. GOD forbid we should so think it. For, this power being more than needful for the world, (as in the beginning it was said,) it was not to be either personal, or for a time; then those persons dying, and those times determining, them in the ages following (as we now in this) that should light into this prison or captivity of sin, how could they or we receive any benefit by it? Of nature, it is said by the heathen philosopher, that it does neither abundare in superfluis, nor deficere in necessariis. GOD forbid, but we should ascribe as much to GOD at the least, that neither He would ordain power superfluous or more than needed, or else, it being needful, would appropriate it unto one age, and leave all other destitute of it; and not rather, as all writers both new and old take it, continue it successively to the world's end.
And as not proper to the Apostles' persons, so neither common to all Christians in general, nor in the persons of all Christians conveyed to them. Which thing the very circumstances of the text do evict. For He sent them first, and after inspired them; and after both these, gave them this commission. Now all Christians are not so sent, nor all Christians inspired with the grace or gift of the SPIRIT, that they were here. Consequently, it was not intended to the whole society of Christians. Yea, I add, that forasmuch as these two, both these two, must go before it, Missio and Inspiratio, that though GOD inspire some laymen, if I may have leave so to term them, with very special graces of knowledge to this end, yet inasmuch as they have not the former, of sending, it agreeth not to them, neither may they exercise it, until they be sent, that is, until they have their calling thereunto.
It being then neither personal nor peculiar to them as Apostles, nor again common to all as Christians, it must needs be committed to them as ministers, priests, or preachers; and consequently to these that in that office and function do succeed them, to whom this commission is still continued. Neither are they, that are ordained or instituted to that calling, ordained or instituted by any other words or verse than this (John xx. 23). Yet not so, that absolutely without them, GOD cannot bestow it, on whom or when Him pleaseth; or that He is bound to this means only, and cannot work without it. For, gratia Dei non alligatur mediis, the grace of GOD is not bound but free, and can work without means either of word or sacrament; and as without means, so without ministers, how and when to Him seemeth good. But speaking of that which is proper and ordinary, in the course by Him established, this is an ecclesiastical act, committed as the residue of the ministry of reconciliation to ecclesiastical persons. And if at any time He vouchsafe it by others that are not such, they be in that case Ministri necessitatis, non officii, in case of necessity ministers, but by office not so. * * *
The remission of sins, as it is from GOD only, so it is by the death and blood-shedding of CHRIST alone; but for the applying of this unto us, there are divers means established. * * * In the institution of Baptism there is a power to that end. * * 2. Again, there is also another power for the remission of sins, in the institution of the Holy Eucharist. * * 3. Besides, in the word itself there is a like power ordained. "Now are you clean," saith CHRIST, (no doubt from their sins) propter Sermonem hunc. And the very name giveth as much, that it is entitled, "The Word of Reconciliation." 4. Further there is to the same effect a power in prayer, and that in the priests' prayers, "Call for the Priests," saith the Apostle, "and let them pray for the sick person, and if he have committed sin, it shall be forgiven him." All and every of them, are acts for the remission of sins: and in all and every of these, is the minister required, and they cannot be dispatched without him.
But the ceremonies and circumstances that here (John xx. 23.) I find used, prevail with me to think, that there is somewhat here imparted to them, that was not before. For it carrieth no likelihood, that our SAVIOUR bestowing on them nothing here, but that which before He had, would use so much solemnity, so diverse and new circumstances, no new or diverse grace being here communicated. * * * take it to be a power distinct from the former, and (not to hold you long) to be the accomplishment of the promise made (Matt. xvi. 19.) of the power of the keys, which here in this place and in these words is fulfilled; and have therein for me, the joint consent of the FATHERs. Which being a different power in itself, is that which we call the act or benefit of absolution; in which, as in the rest, there is in the due time and place of it, an use for the remission of sins.
And for you, my dearly beloved brethren at home, for CHRIST'S sake, for the Church's sake, for your souls' sake be exhorted to hold to this holy institution of your blessed SAVIOUR and His unerring apostles, and bless GOD for Episcopacy. Do but cast your eyes a little back, and see what noble instruments of GOD'S glory He hath been pleased to raise up in this very Church of ours out of this sacred vocation; what famous servants of GOD, what strong champions of truth, and renowned antagonists of Rome and her superstitions; what admirable preachers, what incomparable writers, yea, what constant and undaunted martyrs and confessors, &c. ... Neither doubt I but that it will please GOD, out of the same rod of Aaron, still to raise such blossoms and fruit, as shall win Him glory to all eternity. So you are to honour those your reverend pastors, to hate all factious withdrawings from that government, which comes the nearest of any Church upon earth to the Apostolical Let me therefore confidently shut up all with that resolute word of that blessed Martyr and Saint, Ignatius "Let all things be done to the honour of GOD, give respect to your bishop as you would GOD should respect you. My soul for theirs which obey their bishop, presbyters, and deacons; GOD grant that my portion may be the same with theirs." And let my soul have the same share with that blessed Martyr that said so. Amen.
"I am with you always unto the end of the world." Yes most certain it is,--present by His SPIRIT; or else in bodily presence He continued not with His Apostles, but during His abode on earth. And this promise of His spiritual presence was to their successors; else, why "to the end of the world ?" The Apostles did not, could not, live so long. But then to the successors the promise goes no farther, than "I am with you always," which reaches to continual assistance, but not to divine and infallible.
"The Comforter the HOLY GHOST shall abide with you for ever." Most true again; for the HOLY GHOST did abide with the Apostles, according to CHRIST'S promise thus made, and shall abide with their successors for ever, to comfort and preserve them.
CHRIST promised the Keys to St. Peter. (Matt. xvi.) True; but so did He to all the rest of the Apostles (Matt. xviii. John xx.) and to their successors as much as to his St. Augustine is plain, "If this were said only of St. Peter, then the Church hath no power to do it," which GOD forbid! The keys therefore were given to St. Peter and the rest in a figure of the Church, to whose power and for whose use they were given. But there's not one key in all that bunch, that can let in St. Peter's successors to a "more powerful principality" universal than the successors of the other Apostles had.
I do also acknowledge that Episcopacy was comprehended in the Apostolic office, tanquam trigonus in tetragono, and the distinction was made by the Apostles, with the approbation of CHRIST; that the angels of the seven Churches in the Revelation were seven Bishops; that it is the most silly ridiculous thing in the world, to calumniate that for a Papal innovation, which was established in the Church before there was a Pope at Rome: which hath been received and approved in all ages since the very cradle of Christianity, by all sorts of Christians, Europeans, Africans, Asiatics, Indians, many of which never had any intercourse with Rome, nor scarcely ever heard of the name of Rome. If semper, ubique, et ab omnibus be not a sufficient plea, I know not what is.
But because I esteem them Churches not completely formed, do I, therefore, exclude them from all hopes of salvation? or esteem them aliens and strangers from the commonwealth of Israel? or account them formal schismatics? No such thing. First, I know there are many learned persons among them who do passionately affect Episcopacy; some of which have acknowledged it to myself, that their Church would never be rightly settled, until it was new moulded. Baptism is a sacrament, the door of Christianity, a matriculation into the Church of Christ: yet the very desire of it in case of necessity, is sufficient to excuse from the want of actual Baptism. And is not the desire of Episcopacy sufficient to excuse from the actual want of Episcopacy, in like case of necessity? or should I censure these as Schismatics?
Secondly, there are others, who though they do not long so much for Episcopacy, yet they approve it, and want it only out of invincible necessity. In some places the sovereign prince is of another communion; the Episcopal chairs are filled with Roman Bishops. If they should petition for Bishops of their own, it would not be granted. In other places the magistrates have taken away Bishops: whether out of policy, because they thought that regiment not so proper for their republics, or because they were ashamed to take away the revenues, and preserve the order, or out of a blind zeal; they have given an account to GOD: they owe none to me. Should I condemn all these as schismatics for want of Episcopacy, who want it out of invincible necessity?
Thirdly, there are others who have neither the same desires, nor the same esteem of Episcopacy, but condemn it as an Anti-christian innovation, and a rag of Popery. I conceive this to be most gross schism materially. It is ten times more schismatical to desert, nay, to take away (so much as lies in them) the whole order of Bishops, than to subtract obedience from one lawful Bishop. All that can be said to mitigate this fault is, that they do it ignorantly, as they have been mistaught and misinformed. And I hope that many of them are free from obstinacy, and hold the truth implicitly in the preparation of their minds, being ready to receive it, when GOD shall reveal it to them. How far this may excuse (not the crime but) their persons from formal schism, either a toto or a tanto, I determine not, but leave them to stand or fall to their own Master.
But though these Protestants were worthy of this contumely, yet surely the Romanists are no fit persons to object it, whose opinastrety did hinder an uniform reformation of the Western Church. Who did invest Presbyters with Episcopal jurisdiction, and the power of ordaining and confirming, but the Court of Rome, by their commissions and delegations, for avaricious ends? And could they think that the world would believe, that necessity is not as strong and effectual a dispensation, as their mercenary Bulls? It is not at all material, whether Episcopacy and Priesthood be two distinct orders, or distinct degrees of the same orders, the one subordinate to the other; whether Episcopal ordination do introduce a new character, or extend the old. For it is generally confessed by both parties, Protestants and Roman Catholics, that the same power and authority is necessary to the extension of a character, or grace given by ordination, which is required to the Institution of a Sacrament that is not human but divine. These avaricious practices of that Court (though it be not commonly observed) were the first source of these present controversies about Episcopacy, and Ecclesiastical discipline, which do now so much disturb the peace of the Church.
Excuse me for telling the truth plainly; many who have had their education among Sectaries and Non-conformists have apostated to Rome, but few or no right Episcopal Divines. Hot water freezeth the soonest.
He addeth, that "Grotius himself assures him (whom he hath reason to believe) that there were not a few such among the prelatical men." How! not a few such as these, who have apostated from the Church of England? For ingenuity's sake let him tell us where Grotius saith any such thing. Grotius hath not one word to his purpose, when it is duly examined. But this it is to confute books in less time than wise or modest men would require to read them.
Hitherto, he is not able to show us any tolerable reason of his warning. But he showeth us the occasion, p. 82, "Those that unchurch either all or most of the Protestant Churches, and maintain the Roman Church and not theirs to be true, do call us to a moderate jealousie of them." This is far enough from proving his bold suggestion, that they have a design to introduce the Pope into England. So though all he say were true; yet he can conclude nothing from thence to make good his accusation or insinuation. I wish he would forbear these imperfect enthymematical forms of argument, which serve only to cover deceit, and set down both his propositions expressly. His assumption is wanting, which should be this: but a considerable party of Episcopal divines in England do unchurch all or most of the Protestant Churches, and maintain the Roman Church to be a true Church, and these to be no true Churches. I can assent to neither of his prepositions, nor to any part of them, as true, sub modo, as they are alleged by him.
First, I cannot assent to his major proposition, that all those who make an ordinary personal uninterrupted succession of Pastors, to be of the integrity of a true Church, (which is the ground of his exception) have, therefore, an intention, or can justly be suspected thereupon to have any intention to introduce the Pope. The Eastern, Southern, and Northern Churches are all of them for such a personal succession, and yet all of them utter enemies to the Pope. Secondly, I cannot assent to his minor proposition, that either all or any considerable part of the Episcopal divines in England, do unchurch either all or most part of the Protestant Churches. No man is hurt but by himself. They unchurch none at all, but leave them to stand or fall to their own Master. They do not unchurch the Swedish, Danish, Bohemian Churches, and many other Churches in Polonia, Hungaria, and those parts of the world, who have an ordinary uninterrupted succession of Pastors, some by the names of Bishops, others under the name of Seniors, unto this day. (I meddle not with the Socinians:) they unchurch not the Lutheran Churches in Germany, who both assert Episcopacy in their confessions, and have actual superintendents in their practice, and would have Bishops, name and thing, if it were in their power. Let him not mistake himself: those Churches which he is so tender of, though they be better known to us by reason of their vicinity, are so far from being "all or most part of the Protestant Churches," that being all put together, they amount not to so great a proportion as the Britannick Churches alone. And if one secluded out of them all those who want an ordinary succession without their own faults, out of invincible ignorance or necessity, and all those who desire to have an ordinary succession either explicitly or implicitly, they will be reduced to a little flock indeed.
But let him set his heart at rest. I will remove this scruple out of his mind, that he may sleep securely upon both ears. Episcopal divines do not deny those Churches to be true Churches, wherein salvation may be had. We advise them, as it is our duty, to be circumspect for themselves, and not to put it to more question, whether they have ordination or not, or desert the general practice of the universal Church for nothing, when they may clear it if they please. Their case is not the same with those who labour under invincible necessity. What mine own sense is of it, I have declared many years since to the world in print; and in the same way received thanks, and a public acknowledgment of my moderation from a French divine. And yet more particularly in my reply to the Bishop of Chalcedon, Pres. p. 144. and cap. i. p. 164. Episcopal divines will readily subscribe to the determination of the learned Bishop of Winchester, in his answer to the second epistle of Molineus. "Nevertheless, if our form (of Episcopacy) be of divine right, it doth not follow from thence, that there is not salvation without it, or that a Church cannot consist without it. He is blind who does not see churches consisting without it: he is hard-hearted who denyeth them salvation. We are none of those hard-hearted persons, we put a great difference between these things. There may be something absent in the exterior regiment, which is of divine right, and yet salvation to be had." This mistake proceedeth from not distinguishing between the true nature and essence of a Church, which we do readily grant them, and the integrity or perfection of a Church, which we cannot grant them, without swerving from the judgment of the Catholic Church.
The Ministers of CHRIST must be Lux Mundi, the light of the world--Vos estis Lux Mundi--"Ye are the Light of the World: Ye are the World's Urim," saith CHRIST unto His Apostles. "For the lips of the priest should preserve knowledge, and they should learn the law at his mouth." This light of knowledge, this teaching knowledge, is the Urim of every Levite; and therefore CHRIST, when He inspired his Apostles with knowledge of heavenly mysteries, He sent a new Urim from above, even fiery tongues of Urim from heaven. He sent no fiery heads, but fiery tongues; for it is not sufficient for a Levite to have his head full of Urim, unless his tongue be a candle to show it to others. There came, indeed, no Thummim [integrity or perfection] from heaven, as there came an Urim; for though the Apostles were secured from errors, they were not freed from sin; and yet we who are Levites must have such a Thummim as may be gotten upon earth; for St. Paul bids Titus in all things to show himself an example of good works, and this is a Thummim of Integrity. But, besides this Thummim, the Ministers of the Gospel have received from GOD more especially another Thummim, like unto that which was proper to the High Priest; namely, the power of binding and loosing, which is, as it were, a power of oracle, to declare unto the people the remission of their sins, by the acceptance of CHRIST'S sacrifice.
MASON, PRESBYTER.--Vindiciæ Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ, i. 2.
Anglican. Our Ministry is agreeable to Divine Scripture, and therefore holy. Nor do we doubt, that, when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. However, what is your argument against our ministry?
Romanist. Can a man be a lawful minister without a lawful call?
Anglican. Of course not.
Romanist. If so, I pray tell we how the Anglican Chinch can defend her ministry. Surely I may address each of you in Harding's words to Jewel: "What say you, my master? You bear yourself as though Bishop of Salisbury; but how will you substantiate your call? What is your warrant for ministering in the Word and Sacraments?" &c. &c. ... I ask thee, Is your call inward or outward?
Romanist. An outward call, to be lawful, must be either immediately from CHRIST'S mouth, as the Apostles were called, or mediately through the Church.
Anglican. Well; we are called by GOD through the Church; for it is He who gives "Pastors and Doctors for the perfecting of the Saints."
Romanist. They who are called by GOD through the Church, must derive their warrant and power by lawful succession from CHRIST and the Apostles. If you maintain you have proceeded from this origin, it is your business to prove it clearly to us; to set forth and trace your genealogy
Anglican. The Ministers of the Anglican Church derive their imposition of hands in a lawful way from lawful Bishops, possessed of a lawful authority; and therefore their call is ordinary [not extraordinary, by miracles].
Romanist. But whence have these Bishops derived their power?
Anglican. From GOD, through the hands of Bishops before them, &c. &c.
My opinion is, that Episcopal Government is not to be derived merely from Apostolical practice or institution, but that it is originally founded in the Person and Office of the Messias, our blessed LORD JESUS CHRIST; who, being sent by our heavenly FATHER to be the Great Apostle (Heb. iii. 1), Bishop, and Pastor (1 Peter ii. 25) of His Church, and anointed to that office immediately after His baptism by John, with power and the HOLY GHOST (Acts x. 37, 38), descending then upon Him in a bodily shape (Luke iii. 22), did afterwards, before His ascension into Heaven, send and empower His holy Apostles, in like manner as His FATHER had before sent Him (John xx. 21), to execute the same Apostolical, Episcopal, and Pastoral Office, for the ordering and governing of His Church, until His coming again; and so the same office to continue in them and their successors unto the end of the world. (Matt. xxviii. 18-20.) This I take to be so clear, from these and other like texts of Scripture, that if they shall be diligently compared together, both between themselves and with the following practice of the Churches of CHRIST, as well in the Apostles' times as in the purest and primitive times nearest thereunto, there will be left little cause why any man should doubt thereof.
That the prime act of power enstated by CHRIST on His Apostles, as for the governing of the Church, (and exercising or banishing all devils out of it,) so for the effectual performing that great act of charity to men's souls, reducing pertinacious sinners to repentance, should be so, either wholly dilapidated, or piteously deformed, as to continue in the Church, only under one of these two notions, either of an empty piece of formality, or of an engine of state and secular contrivance, (the true Christian use of shaming sinners into reformation, being well nigh vanished out of Christendom,) might by an alien, or an heathen, much more by the pondering Christian, be conceived very strange and unreasonable, were it not a little clear that we are fallen into those times, of which it was foretold by two Apostles, that in "these last days, there should come scoffers, walking after their own lusts," &c. ... I shall design to infer no further conclusion, but only this, that they which live ill in the profession of a most holy faith but especially they that discharge and banish out of the Church those means which might help to make the generality of Christians better, have the spirit of Antichrist working in them, even when they think themselves most zealously busied in beating down his kingdom. What those means are which might most effectually tend to the amending the lives of Christians, I shall need no farther to interpose my judgment, than, 1st, by submitting it to CHRIST, who put the keys into the Apostles' hands, on purpose as a means to exemplify the end of His coming 2nd, by minding myself and others what the Apostles say of this power, that it was given them proV oikodomen, to build up the Church of CHRIST, &C.
Chapter 3. The only difficulty remaining on the point, will be, who are the Apostles' successors in that power; and when the question is asked of that power, I must be understood of the power of governing the Church peculiarly, (of which the power of the keys was and is a principal branch,) for it must again be remembered that the Apostles are to be considered under a double notion, first, as planters, then as governors, of the Church Which distinction being premised, the question will now more easily be satisfied, being proposed in these terms; who were the Apostles' successors in that power, which concerned the governing their Churches which they planted? and first, I answer, that it being a matter of fact, or story, later than that the Scripture can universally reach to, it cannot be fully satisfied or answered from thence ... but will in the full latitude, through the universal Church in these times, be made clear, from the recent evidences that we have, viz. from the consent of the Greek and Latin FATHERs, who generally resolve that Bishops are those successors.
Antichrist must come at last, and the great apostasy foretold must be, and this not without means proportionable to the production of so great declensions of Christianity. "When ye hear of wars and rumours of wars, be not afraid," says our blessed SAVIOUR, "the end is not yet." It is not war that will do "this great work of destruction;" for then it might have been done long ere now. What then will do it? We shall know when we see it. In the mean time, when we shall find a new device, of which, indeed, the platform was laid, in Aërius and the Acephali, brought to a good possibility of completing a thing, that whosoever shall hear, his ears shall tingle, "an abomination of desolation standing where it ought not," "in sacris," in holy persons, and places, and offices, it is too probable that this is preparatory for the AntiCHRIST, and grand apostasy.
For if Antichrist shall exalt himself above all that is called GOD, and in Scripture none but kings and priests are such, "dii vocati, dii facti," I think we have great reason to be suspicious, that he that divests both of their power, (and they are, if the king be Christian, in very near conjunction,) does the work of Antichrist for him; especially if the men whom it most concerns will but call to mind, that if the discipline or government which CHRIST hath instituted is that kingdom by which He governs all Christendom, (so themselves have taught us,) when they (to use their own expressions) throw CHRIST out of His kingdom; and then either they leave the Church without a head, or else put Antichrist in substitution.
We all wish that our fears in this and all things else may be vain, that what we fear may not come upon us; but yet that the abolition of episcopacy is the forerunner, and preparatory to the great Apostasy, I have these reasons to show, at least, the probability. First, &c. * * *
Sections 2 and 3. This government was by immediate substitution delegated to the Apostles, by CHRIST Himself, "in traditione clavium, inspiratione Spiritûs, in missione in Pentecosto." This power so delegated, was not to expire with their persons; for when the great Shepherd had reduced His wandering sheep into a fold, He would not leave them without "guides to govern" them, so long as the wolf might possibly prey upon them, and that is, till the last separation of the sheep from the goats. And this CHRIST intimates in that promise, "Ero vobiscum (Apostolis) usque ad consummationen seculi." "Vobiscum;" not with your persons, for they died long ago: but "vobiscum et vestri similibus," with Apostles to the end of the world. And, therefore, that the Apostolate might be successive and perpetual, CHRIST gave them a power of Ordination, that by imposing hands on others, they might impart that power which they received from CHRIST.
The Church, at his (St. John's) departure, he left firmly grounded in all the points of faith and doctrine, taught by CHRIST our SAVIOUR, as well settled in the outward government, the polity and administration of the same, which had been framed by the Apostles, according to the pattern and example of their LORD and Master. For being that the Church was born of seed immortal, and they themselves, though excellent and divine, yet still mortal men, it did concern the Church, in a high degree, to be provided of a perpetuity, or, if you will, the immortality of overseers, both for the sowing of this seed, and for the ordering of the Church, or the field itself. This, since they could not do in person, they were to do it by successors, who by their office were to be the ordinary pastors of the Church, and the Vicars of CHRIST. Now, if you ask the FATHERs who they were that were accounted in their times and ages the successors of the Apostles, they will with one accord make answer, that the Bishops were.
The separateness of the functions of the Clergy, the incommunicableness of their offices to persons not separated for them, is so express a doctrine both of the letter of the text, and of the HOLY GHOST, that sure I need not to say more, though several heads of probation offer themselves; as first the condition of the callings, which does divide from the community and sets them up above it. And here I might tell you of "bearing rule," of "thrones," of "stars," and "Angels," and other words of a high sense, and yet not go out of the Scripture bounds, although the dignity did not die with the Scripture age, or expire with the Apostles; the age as low as Photius words it thus, [To apostolikon, k. t. l.] "That Apostolical and Divine dignity, which the Chief Priests are acknowledged to be possessed of by right of succession." Styles which I could derive yet lower, and they are of a prouder sound than those the modest bumble ears of this our age are so offended with. But these heights, it may be, would give umbrages; although it is strange that men should envy them to those, who are only exalted to them, that they may with the more advantage take them by the hands and lift them up to heaven. Those nearesses to things above do but more qualify them to draw near to GOD, on your behalf, that these your Angels also may see the face of your FATHER which is in heaven, and those stars are, therefore, set in CHRIST'S right hand, that they may shed a blessing [blessed?] influence on you from thence
The censures of the Church, the burden of the keys, which (passing by the private use of them in voluntary penitences, and discipline upon the sick,) as they signify public exclusion out of the Church, for scandalous enormities, and readmission into it upon repentance, have been sufficiently evinced to belong to the governors of the Church. The exercise of them is so much their work, that St. Paul calls them "the weapons of their spiritual warfare, by which they do cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of GOD, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of CHRIST," (2 Cor. x. 4, 5.) a blessed victory, even for the conquered, and these the only weapons to achieve it with. If those who sin scandalously, and will not hear the admonition of the Church, were cast out of the Church, if not religion, reputation would restrain them somewhat; not to be thought fit company for Christians, would surely make them proud against their vices. Shame, the designed effect of their censures, hath great pungencies; the fear of it does goad men into actions of the greatest hazard, and the most unacceptable; such as have nothing lovely in them, but are wholly distasteful ... Now, the infliction of these censures is so much the work to which Church governors are called by the HOLY GHOST, that they are equally called by Him to it and to Himself; both are alike bestowed upon them. "Receive the HOLY GHOST; whose sins ye retain, they are retained." (John xx. 22.) And in the first derivations of this office, it was performed with severities, such as this age, I doubt, will not believe; and when they had no temporal sword to be auxiliary to these spiritual weapons.
[After considering the Church as one, by reason of its one foundation, faith, ministry of sacrament, hope, and charity, he continues,--]
Lastly, all the Churches of GOD are united into one by the unity of discipline and government, by virtue whereof the same CHRIST ruleth in them all. For they have all the same pastoral guides appointed, authorized, sanctified, and set apart by the appointment of GOD, by the direction of the SPIRIT, to direct and lead the people of GOD in the same way of eternal salvation: as, therefore, there is no Church where there is no order, no ministry; so, where the same order and ministry is, there is the same Church. * * *
The necessity of believing the Holy Catholick Church appeareth first in this, that CHRIST hath appointed it as the only way unto eternal life. We read at the first, "The LORD added to the Church daily such as should be saved;" and what was then daily done hath been done since continually. CHRIST never appointed two ways to heaven; nor did He build a Church to save some, and make another institution for other men's salvation. "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," but the name of JESUS; and that is no otherwise given under heaven than in the Church. As none were saved from the Deluge but such as were within the ark of Noah, formed for their reception by the command of GOD; as none of the first-born of Egypt lived, but such as were within those habitations whose door-posts were sprinkled with blood by the appointment of GOD for their preservation; as none of the inhabitants of Jericho could escape the fire or sword, but such as were within the house of Rahab, for whose protection a covenant was made; so none shall ever escape the eternal wrath of GOD, which belong not to the Church of GOD. This is the congregation of those persons here on earth which shall hereafter meet in heaven. These are the vessels of the tabernacle carried up and down, at last to be translated into and fixed in the Temple.
Next, it is necessary to believe the Church of CHRIST, which is but one, that, being in it, we may take care never to cast ourselves, or be ejected, out of it. There is a power within the Church to cast those out which do belong to it: for if any neglect to hear the Church, saith our SAVIOUR, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. By great and scandalous offences, by incorrigible misdemeanors, we may incur the censure of the Church of GOD; and while we are shut out by them, we stand excluded out of Heaven. For our SAVIOUR said to His Apostles, upon whom He built his Church, "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." Again, a man may not only passively and involuntarily be ejected, but also may, by an act of his own, cast out or eject himself, not only by plain and complete apostasy, but by a defection from the unity of truth, falling into some damnable heresy; or by an active separation, deserting all which are in communion with the Catholick Church, and falling into an irrevocable schism.
Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers ... For the three first, some part of their function was temporary and extraordinary; in what was ordinary and perpetual, Bishops succeeded.
We proceed, in the next place, to the constant visibility and succession of Pastors in our Church And here I make him this fair proposal: Let him, or any one of his party, produce any one solid argument to demonstrate such a succession of Pastors in the Church of Rome, and I will undertake by the very same argument to prove a like succession in our Church. Indeed, the Author of the Letter is concerned, no less than we are, to acknowledge such a succession of lawful pastors in our Church, till the time of the Reformation; and if we cannot derive our succession since, it is a hard case. But our records, faithfully kept and preserved, do evidence to all the world an uninterrupted succession of Bishops in our Church, canonically ordained, derived from such persons in whom a lawful power of ordination was seated by the confession of the Papists themselves. For the story of the Nag's head Ordination is so putrid a fable, so often and so clearly refuted by the writers of our Church, that the more learned and ingenuous Papists are now ashamed to make use of it.
Unthinking people ... are carried away with mere noise and pretences, and hope these will secure them most against the fears of Popery, who talk with most passion, and with least understanding, against it; whereas no persons do really give them greater advantages than these do. For, where they meet only with intemperate railings, and gross misunderstandings of the state of the controversies between them and us (which commonly go together), the most subtle priests let such alone to spend their rage and fury; and when the heat is over, they will calmly endeavour to let them see how grossly they have been deceived in some things, and so wilt more easily make them believe, they are as much deceived in all the rest. And thus the East and West may meet at last, and the most furious antagonists may become some of the easiest converts. This I do really fear will be the case of many thousands among us, who now pass for most zealous Protestants; if ever, which GOD forbid, that religion should come to be uppermost in England. It is, therefore, of mighty consequence for preventing the return of Popery, that men rightly understand what it is. For, when they are as much afraid of an innocent ceremony as of real idolatry, and think they can worship images and adore the Host on the same grounds that they may use the sign of the cross, or kneel at the Communion, when they are brought to see their mistake in one case, they will suspect themselves deceived in the other also.
When they find undoubted practices of the Ancient Church condemned as Popish and Antichristian by their teachers, they must conclude Popery to be of much greater antiquity than really it is; and when they can trace it so very near the Apostles' times, they will soon believe it settled by the Apostles themselves. For it will be very hard to persuade any considering men, that the Christian Church should degenerate so soon, so unanimously, so universally, as it must do, if Episcopal government, and the use of some significant ceremonies, were any parts of that apostasy Three ways, Bishop Sanderson observes, our dissenting brethren, though not intentionally and purposely, yet really and eventually, have been the great promoters of the Roman interest among us; (1) by putting-to their helping hand to the pulling down of Episcopacy (2) by opposing the interest of Rome with more violence than reason; (3) by frequently mistaking the question, but especially through the necessity of some false principle or other, which, having once imbibed, they think themselves bound to maintain, whatever becomes of the common cause of our Reformation.
I believe, O blessed and adorable Mediator, that the Church is a society of persons, founded by Thy love to sinners, united into one body of which Thou art the head, initiated by baptism, nourished by the Eucharist, governed by pastors commissioned by Thee, and endowed with the power of the keys, professing the doctrine taught by Thee and delivered to the saints, and devoted to praise and to love Thee.
I believe, O holy JESUS, that Thy Church, is holy like Thee its Author; holy by the original design of its institution, holy by baptismal dedication, holy in all its administrations which tend to produce holiness; and though there will be always a mixture of good and bad in it in this world, yet that it has always many real saints in it; and, therefore, all love, all glory, be to Thee
Glory be to Thee, O LORD my GOD, who hast made me a member of the particular Church of England, whose faith, government, and worship are Holy, and Catholic, and Apostolic, and free from the extremes of irreverence and superstition, and which I firmly believe to be a sound part of Thy Church universal, and which teaches me charity to those who dissent from me; and, therefore, all love, all glory be to Thee.
In the first place, I observe, how much we are all bound to acknowledge the goodness, to praise, magnify, and adore the name of the most high GOD, in that we were born and bred, and still live in a Church, wherein the Apostolical line hath, through all ages, been preserved entire, there having been a constant succession of such Bishops in it, as were truly and properly successors to the Apostles, by virtue of that Apostolical imposition of hands, which, being begun by the Apostles, hath been continued from one to another, ever since their time, down to ours. By which means, the same SPIRIT which was breathed by our LORD into His Apostles is, together with their office, transmitted to their lawful successors, the pastors and governors of our Church at this time; and acts, moves, and assists at the administration of the several parts of the Apostolical office in our days, as much as ever. From whence it follows, that the means of grace which we now enjoy are in themselves as powerful and effectual as they were in the Apostles' days, &c.
And this, I verily believe, is the great reason why the devil has such a great spite at our Church, still stirring up adversaries of all sorts against it,--Papists on the one hand, and Sectaries on the other, and all, if possible, to destroy it; even because the SPIRIT which is ministered in it, is so contrary to his nature, and so destructive of his kingdom, that he can never expect to domineer and tyrannize over the people of the land, so long as such a Church is settled among them, and they continue firm to it
As for schism, they certainly hazard their salvation at a strange rate, who separate themselves from such a Church as ours is, wherein the Apostolical succession, the root of all Christian communion, hath been so entirely preserved, and the word and sacraments are so effectually administered; and all to go into such assemblies and meetings, as can have no pretence to the great promise in my text. For it is manifest, that this promise was made only to the Apostles and their successors to the end of the world. Whereas, in the private meetings, where their teachers have no Apostolical or Episcopal imposition of hands, they have no ground to succeed the Apostles, nor by consequence any right to the SPIRIT which our LORD hath; without which, although they preach their hearts out, I do not see what spiritual advantage can accrue to their hearers by it, &c.
"Go," He says, "and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them," &c. This commission of our SAVIOUR we may properly style the Charter of the Church; and mind, I pray, what is contained in it. Our SAVIOUR here declares the extent of His Church, and of what persons He would have it constituted. It was to extend throughout all the world, and to be made up of all nations. He here declares by whom He would have it built and constituted, viz., the Apostles. He here declares upon what grounds He would have it constituted, or upon what conditions any person was to be received into it, viz., their becoming the disciples of JESUS CHRIST, and undertaking to observe all that He has commanded. He here likewise declares the form or the method by which persons were to be admitted into this Church, and that was by being baptized in the name of the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST. And, lastly, He here promises the perpetual presence of His HOLY SPIRIT, both to assist the apostles and their successors in the building and governing this Church, and to actuate and enliven all the members of it Thus, I am sure, I have given the true notion of the Church, which the Scripture always intends, when it speaks of the Church as the Body of CHRIST, when it speaks of the Church which CHRIST purchased with His blood, when it speaks of the Church into which we are baptized, when it speaks of the Church to which all those glorious promises are made of the forgiveness of sins, of the perpetual presence and assistance of the HOLY SPIRIT, of the gates of hell never prevailing against it, and of everlasting salvation in the world to come; I say, that Church is always meant of the whole company of Christians dispersed over all the world, that profess the common faith, (though perhaps none of them without mixture of error,) and enjoy the administration of the word and sacrament, under their lawful pastors and governors: all these people, wherever they live, or by what name soever they call themselves, make up together that one Body of CHRIST which we call the Catholic Church.
Another thing wherein those particular Churches, into which the Catholic Church is distributed, do communicate with each other, is, in the essentials of Christian regiment and discipline: for though the particular modes and circumstances of Christian government and discipline are not determined by divine institution, but left for the most part free to the prudent ordering and disposal of the governors of particular Churches, yet there is a standing form of government and discipline in the Church, instituted by our SAVIOR Himself, which, as I shall show hereafter, is this; that there should be an episcopacy, or order of men, authorized in a continual succession from the Apostles, (who were authorized by Himself) to oversee and govern all those particular Churches into which the Church Catholic should be hereafter distributed; to ordain, &c. &c. And this being the standing government and discipline of the Catholic Church, no particular Church or community of Christians can refuse to communicate in it, without dividing itself from the communion of the Church Catholic; I say, "refuse to communicate in it," because it is possible for a Church to be without this government and discipline, which yet doth neither refuse it, nor the communion of any other Church for the sake of it. A Church may be debarred of it by unavoidable necessities, in despite of its power and against its consent Though this instituted government is necessary to the perfection of a Church, yet it doth not therefore follow, that it is necessary to the being of it But though a community of Christians may be a true part of the Catholic Church, and in communion with it, though it hath no episcopacy; yet it is a plain case, that if it rejects the episcopacy, and separates from the communion of it, it thereby wholly divides itself from the communion of the Catholic Church.
The imposition of hands in Holy Orders, being accompanied with a blessing of the HOLY SPIRIT, may, perhaps, upon that account, be called a kind of particular sacrament. Yet since that grace, which is thereby conferred, whatever it be, is not common to all Christians, nor by consequence any part of that federal blessing which our blessed SAVIOUR has purchased for us, but only a separation of him who receives it to a special employ, we think it ought not to be esteemed a common sacrament of the whole Church, as Baptism and the LORD'S Supper are We confess that no man ought to exercise the ministerial office till he be first consecrated to it. We believe that it is the Bishop's part only to ordain. We maintain the distinction of the several orders in the Church and though we have none of them below a deacon, because we do not read that the Apostles had any, yet we acknowledge the rest to have been anciently received in the Church, and shall not therefore raise any controversy about them.
Professing in our Creed a Holy Catholic Church, we profess to believe not only that there was a Church planted by our SAVIOUR at the beginning, that has hitherto been preserved by Him, and ever shall be to the end of the world; but do in consequence undoubtedly believe too, that this universal Church is so secured by the promises of CHRIST, that there shall always be retained so much truth in it, the want of which would argue that there could be no such Church.
First, then, it must be shown, that the office and character of all persons, who are admitted into holy orders, extends over the whole world, and it is manifest, in the first place, that the Apostles had a general commission to "teach and baptize," and to execute all other parts of their office in all nations. As the bishops of the Church have been shown to succeed the Apostles in all the parts of their office which are of standing and constant use in the Church; so we might reasonably conclude, though we have no farther proof of it, that the office and character of bishop, and consequently of inferior ministers, extends over all the world, because those of the Apostles, their predecessors, did so; since there is scarce any reason why the Apostles' authority should be universal, which will not hold, at least in some degree, for the same extent of authority in the bishops, as will appear from some of the following considerations:--
There is but one Catholic Church, whereof all particular Churches are members, and therefore, when any spiritual privilege or character is conferred on any particular Church, it must be understood to extend over the whole Catholic Church: thus by Baptism, men are not only made members of the particular Church where they happen to be baptized, but of the Catholic Church over the world and therefore whoever has been lawfully baptized in one Church, has a right to partake of the LORD'S Supper, and other Church privileges, in all other Churches, where he happens to come; whereas, if baptism only admitted men into some particular Church, they must be re-baptized, before they can lawfully be received to communion in any diocese, where they have not been baptized already.
If it was not thus in holy orders, that they who have received them in one place, retain them in others; no minister could have authority to preach the Gospel or to administer the sacraments, or to exercise any other part of his functions beyond the particular district in which he was ordained; the consequence whereas is manifestly this, that the gospel of CHRIST must not be propagated, nor any churches erected, in countries where they had not stood even since the Apostles' times. For since there can be no ministers without ordination, as was before proved, so then they, who have been ordained in one country, may lawfully exercise their respective functions in others, where there are no ordained ministers already settled, or else those countries must remain for ever without ministers, and consequently without sacraments and other public offices of religion.
The Church being a regular society founded by CHRIST, distinct from and independent of all other worldly societies, must naturally make us suppose that He instituted some Officers for the government of it [The] Powers peculiar to the superior Order being necessary for the good government of the Church, it is plain in fact they did not expire with the Apostles. But, as our SAVIOUR "glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest," but had His commission from GOD the FATHER, so after His resurrection, He invested the Apostles with the same commission His FATHER had given unto Him: "As My FATHER hath sent Me, even so send I you: and He breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the HOLY GHOST." In which commission is plainly contained the authority of ordaining others, and a power to transfer that commission upon others, and those upon others to the end of the world. And to show that it was not merely personal to the Apostles, our SAVIOUR promises to be with them and their successors in the execution of this commission, "even unto the end of the world." ... This commission the Apostles and their successors exercised in all places, and even in opposition to the Rulers that then were; so that the Church subsisted as a distinct society from the state, for above three hundred years, when the civil government was only concerned to suppress and destroy it. Indeed when the Church received the benefit of incorporation and protection from the state, she was content to suffer some limitation as to the exercise of these powers, and thought herself sufficiently recompensed by the advantages that accrued to her by the incorporation.
Question. There remains yet one instance of the Communion of the Primitive Christians, mentioned by St. Luke, viz. their "continuing in the Apostles' fellowship." (Acts ii. 42.) I pray you what is meant by that?
Answer. Owning their authority and continuing under their government. They were appointed by CHRIST, as His deputies, to govern His Church; and, therefore, to adhere to them, as the delegates of CHRIST, is called living "in their fellowship."
Q. But how can we live in their fellowship, and adhere to their government, now they are dead?
A. By adhering to and owning the authority of our own Bishops, who are their successors, and rule the Church in their stead.
Can you, Sir, when you consider that Bishops are appointed to succeed the Apostles, and, like them, to stand in CHRIST'S place, and exercise their kingly, priestly, and prophetical office over their flocks; can you, when you consider this, think it novel, or improper, or uncouth, to call them spiritual princes, and their dioceses principalities?--when they have every thing in their office which can denominate a prince? For what is a prince but the chief ruler of a society, that hath authority over the rest to make laws for it, to challenge the obedience of all the members, and all ranks of men in it, and power to coerce them, if they will not obey? And now, Sir, I pray you attend to what follows, and then tell me, if the office of a Bishop contains not every thing that is in the definition of a chief or a prince. St. Ignatius, who was St. John's disciple, writes of the Bishop in his Epistle, &c.
"The priests of the sons of Levi shall come near; for them hath the LORD thy GOD chosen to minister unto Him, and to bless in the name of the Lord." (Deut. xxi. 5.) Now, my LORD, this is what we mean by the authoritative administration of the Christian clergy: whether they be by way of benediction, or of any other kind. We take them to be persons whom GOD has chosen to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name. We imagine that our SAVIOUR was a greater priest and mediator than Aaron, or any of GOD'S former ministers. We are assured that CHRIST sent His Apostles, as His FATHER had sent Him; and that, therefore, they were His true successors; and since they did commission others to succeed them in their office by the imposition of hands, as Moses commissioned Joshua to succeed him, the clergy who have succeeded the Apostles, have as divine a call and commission to their work, as those who were called by our SAVIOUR; and are as truly His successors as the Apostles themselves were.
The third objection against this uninterrupted succession is this: that it is a popish doctrine, and "gives Papists advantage over us." The objection proceeds thus: "We must not assert the necessity of this succession, because the Papists say it is only to be found in them." I might add, because some mighty zealous Protestants say so too.
But if this be good argumentation, we ought not to tell the Jews, or Deists, &c., that there is any necessity of embracing Christianity, because the Papists say, Christians can only be saved in their Church. Again, we ought not to insist upon a true faith, because the Papists say, that a true faith is only in their communion. So that there is just as much Popery in teaching this doctrine, as in asserting the necessity of Christianity to a Jew, or the necessity of a right faith to a Socinian, &c.
The Eucharist is one, as offered by priests, who are one by their commission. It is very evident that it was not only our SAVIOUR'S intention, but His most passionate desire, that, as all His Apostles received their commission from Him, so they might execute it with such a harmony and consent of mind, that there might not be the least jarring between them; for thus He prays for them; "Keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are." And the foundation of our SAVIOUR'S wishes and expectations for so perfect an union between His Apostles was this, as is expressed by Himself, "I have given them the Words which Thou gayest Me," that is, He had committed to them the same treasures of Divine truth which the FATHER had before committed to him, &c. After His resurrection, He does, with great solemnity, tell them, "As My FATHER sent Me, even so send I you;" from which words it is evident, that the commission of all the Apostles was one and the same; that it was such a commission as CHRIST Himself in His human nature, had received from His FATHER; and even they who were not of the same order with the Apostles, but only inferior Presbyters under them, yet by deriving their authority from the same fountainhead, and exercising it in conformity to the instructions which they received from them, they still kept the "unity of the SPIRIT in the bond of peace." It was upon this account that Ignatius, Cyprian, and others, represent the whole college of Bishops throughout the whole world as one person, sitting in one chair, attending one altar; and that, therefore, is the one Eucharist which is celebrated by this one priesthood: and St. Clement of Rome allows nothing to be offered without the inspection of the high priest; and, therefore, when a new altar is erected, a new Bishop ordained in opposition to the former, then there is just occasion to ask that question, as St. Paul did, "Is CHRIST divided?" When two several pastors assume to themselves the privilege of offering and consecrating the Sacrament not only in two distinct places, but in contradiction to each other, and by two several inconsistent claims; then it is evident, that one of them acts by no commission, for if the true Eucharist can be had in two opposite assemblies, then CHRIST'S flesh ceases to be one.
I observe that the Hierophanta, in their mysteries represented a Divine Person. The same, in all probability, were the thoughts of the primitive Christians, concerning their Bishops. This I take to be the true design of that description of the Majestatic Presence in the Revelations, to represent the Divine Presence, and assistance in the Church, in as lively a way as possible, according to the ways of Mystical Representation received in those times ... St. John being particularly to affect the Churches he writes to, those of the Lydian or Proconsular Asia, with a very feeling sense of the Divine presence among them, (which might add the greater authority to his several exhortations respectively,) he represents our SAVIOUR in a human visible shape; and that the rest of the scene might be suitable, (that is, sensible also as well as Himself,) he personates the Angels by their visible Bishops, that so CHRIST might be apprehended as present with the Bishops, as GOD was supposed to be wherever these Seven Spirits were, which were peculiarly deputed to represent the Majestatic Presence. This I take to be the reason why he confines his number, not that by any geographical distinction those seven cities were incorporated into a body, more than others of that province, but that he had particular regard to that number of those Angels of the presence. Therefore he makes seven candlesticks, alluding, as I have said, to the like number of those in the tabernacle, as emblems of those seven Churches. Therefore seven stars, alluding to the number of the Planets and the Angels who presided over them, as emblems of the Bishops of those Churches ... Thus it appears plainly, that the Bishops are here represented in a mystical way; and how particularly suitable it was, in this way, to personate them by the name of Angels. They were, indeed, to perform the same office under CHRIST, as a visible human person, which the Angels were under Him as the Logos, in reference to the restitution of souls to their original dignity
But because even His human nature, though visible in itself, is yet invisible to us, therefore another way was thought of for copying out that heavenly telete, even in the ordinary external visible government of the Church. And here the Bishop was to personate CHRIST Himself, as the High Priest had, formerly, represented the Logos. The seven deacons were to represent the Seven Mystical Angels, as I am very apt to think, they were designed from the very original. I cannot think it casual that the number first pitched on was exactly seven. But, that which more confirms me in this opinion is the real suitableness of the office of the Deacon to the Bishops, as representing the Logos in a visible way, with that of those Angels to the same Logos, as He was invisible. The office of the Angels in general is thus described, by the Author of the Hebrews, that they are ["ministering spirits, sent out for a diaconate."] These are exactly the very terms by which the Church would have expressed the office of these Deacons, if she had been to have described the same office as vested in mortal men They (the Angels) were to stand before the presence of GOD, in a posture of readiness to be sent on messages by Him; and so were the Deacons to stand before the Bishop, to be sent by him on his messages. They were the "eyes of the LORD which ran to and fro through the whole earth." So also the Deacons are, in the language of the Ancient Church, called the Oculi Episcopi, for the same reason ... Now we may not wonder why the Bishops are called Angels, in the forementioned mystical immediate relation to our SAVIOUR Himself as the chief "Bishop of our souls;" because, indeed, in regard of Him, they bear no higher office than that of Deacons Accordingly the Primitive Church were extremely rigorous in insisting on this very number of their Deacons, in all places, as I have elsewhere showed. The council of Neocæsarea imposed it as a universal rule, how great soever the Church were to which the Deacons were to serve; ... a canon, which, though it were at first designed only for their own province of Cappadocia, was, notwithstanding, afterwards extended, first, to the Eastern Empire ... afterwards to the Western ... Therefore, even then it is much more probable that this number was already received in more Churches than otherwise.
And now the comparisons of the Bishops in Ignatius cannot seem so strange, these things being considered, as they did to Blondell, who had considered none of them. They are generally designed to express the sacredness and excellency of the persons which the clergy bore in these mystical performances. Nor is there any thing in them that is really affected or strained, much less blasphemous, no, nor any extravagant flights of fancy lf he were to compare them with the first invisible archetypes of unity, (as that is, indeed, his great design in those epistles, in opposition to the schisms then rising,) then it was very proper for him to take notice only of the two orders which were then immediately concerned in the office of ministration, and then to compare them with GOD the FATHER, and the Logos; because as this unity consists in the unity of the head, and the Scripture tells us that the head of every man is CHRIST, so also the same Scripture tells us that the Head of CHRIST is GOD ... These things, therefore, being thus solidly laid down by the first FATHERs, in their disputes against their contemporary Heretics and Schismatics, all the inferences thence deduced against them, will follow naturally and undeniably ... It will follow, that disunion from the Bishop was a disunion from CHRIST and the FATHER, and from all the invisible heavenly Priesthood, and sacrifice, and intercession. It will follow that disunion from any one ordinary, must consequently be a disunion from the whole Catholic Church, seeing it is impossible for any, to continue a member of CHRIST'S mystical body, who is disunited from the mystical head of it. It will follow that visible disunion from the external sacraments of the Bishop, is in the consequence a disunion from the Bishop, and from the whole Catholic Church in communion with him, who ought to ratify each other's censures under pain of schism if they do not.
'Tis the bulk and serviceableness of business, and the use it has in the world, which makes an employment honourable. And can any thing compare with the Apostles in this particular? Were they not to form and instruct the Church, and to govern the most noble society upon earth? Were they not to publish the Mysteries of Redemption, the offers of the New Covenant, and the glories of the other world Fire in the figure of tongues sat upon the heads of each of them. This was an emblem of the gift of languages, and the miracle was as bright as the flame This was a glorious attestation, this must needs make their Commission undisputed, and their character indelible. Should a Prince be proclaimed from the sky, anointed out of the Ampoul, and crowned by an Angel, his authority could not be more visible ... I can't help saying, that, in my opinion, a Prince made but a lean figure in comparison with an Apostle. What is the magnificence of palaces, the richness of furniture, the quality of attendance, what is all this to the pomp of miracles, and the grandeur of supernatural power? A Prince can bestow marks of distinction, and posts of honour and authority; but he can't give the HOLY GHOST, he can't register his favourites among the quality of heaven, nor entitle them to the bliss of eternity. No,--these powers were Apostolic privileges, and the enclosure of the Church. The prerogative royal cannot stretch thus far; these jewels are not to be found in the imperial crown ... I need not tell you how much they suffered through their progress, and how gloriously they went off into the other world. But before their departure they took care to perpetuate their authority, and provide governors for the Church. Thus the jurisdiction was conveyed to Bishops and Priests; this succession has continued without interruption for above sixteen hundred years.
When any constitution of civil government dissolves itself, another immediately succeeds; or, if a Monarchy be turned into a Commonwealth, or a Commonwealth into a Monarchy: and consequently that which was dissolved, is no more; but we cannot say that the Church is no more. There is still a Church, though in servitude, and nothing succeeds to it; if it were dissolved, there would be no Church, but nothing would come in its room, unless you will say a privation, that is, the want of a Church The Church is a society spread over the earth; and, therefore, cannot be dissolved in any one kingdom or state; nor can the concessions of any national Church oblige the Church Catholic; no, nor oblige that national Church herself, otherwise than according to the rules of the Catholic Church; more than a Committee of the House of Lords or Commons can oblige the whole House, or govern themselves by any other rules than those which are prescribed by the House.
The Church is laid as low and fenceless as the sand under their [Atheism, Deism, &c.] storms, which had long since overwhelmed the City of GOD, (after the change of her governors) if the Almighty promise (Matt. xvi. 18; xxviii. 20.) had not interposed to preserve some embers alive in the midst of these torrents. And they will be preserved till the time appointed by GOD shall come, when His breath shall put new life in them, to lick up that sea that now covers, but cannot drown them ... This is the city, the society, over which the temporal governments of the earth have assumed the dominion; and have said, "Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us."
And let not so weak a thought arise in your minds, as if all this were only the self-seeking of the Clergy, out of pride to advance themselves. Alas! it must have the quite contrary effect with any of them who consider what a heavy charge they have undertaken, and what account will be exacted from them, for their faithful discharge of it! That the blood of all those souls who perish through their negligence or default, will be required at their hands! That they have to wrestle, not only with flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits that are set up in high places! And whoever opposes these with that truth and freedom that is necessary, instead of honour must expect reproach and persecution; of which it is not the least that they cannot vindicate the honour of CHRIST'S commission without being thought to seek their own glory. Yet that must not hinder; the successors of the Holy Apostles must be content to pass, as they did, "through evil report and good report, as deceivers, and yet true."
"He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold," &c. A lawful entrance, upon motives which aim at the glory of GOD and the good of souls; an external call and mission, from the apostolic authority of Bishops.
"A stranger will they not follow;" that is, they ought not to follow such as break Catholic Unity
Whoever is associated in the Priesthood of CHRIST, ought, in imitation of Him, to sacrifice himself for the advantage of His Church and for all the designs of GOD
"Bishops and Priests," saith St. Ambrose, "are honourable on account of the sacrifice they offer." The power of the keys and the exercise of that power, the due use of confirmation, and previous to that of examination ... are matters of infinite and eternal concern (At the Lord's Supper. Before the Service begins.) May it please Thee, O GOD, who hast called us to this ministry, to make us worthy to offer unto Thee this sacrifice for our own sins and for the sins of the people. Accept our service and our persons, through our LORD JESUS CHRIST, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the HOLY GHOST, One GOD, world without end.--O reject not this people for me and for my sins. Amen.
(Upon placing the Elements upon the Altar.) Vouchsafe to receive these Thy creatures from the hands of us sinners, O Thou self-sufficient GOD!
(Immediately after the Consecration.) We offer unto Thee, our King and our GOD, this bread and this cup. We give Thee thanks for these and for all Thy mercies, beseeching Thee to send down Thy HOLY SPIRIT upon this sacrifice, that He may make this bread the Body of Thy CHRIST, and this cup the blood of Thy CHRIST; and that all we, who are partakers thereof, may thereby obtain remission of our sins and all other benefits of His passion. And together with us, remember, O GOD, for good, the whole mystical body of Thy Son; that such as are yet alive may finish their course with joy, and that we, with all such as are dead in the LORD, may rest in hope and rise in glory, for Thy Son's sake, whose death we now commemorate. Amen. May I adore Thee, O GOD, by offering to Thee the pure and unbloody sacrifice, which Thou hast ordained by JESUS CHRIST. Amen.
Whenever Church discipline meets with discountenance, impieties of all kinds are sure to get head and abound. And impieties unpunished do always draw down judgments. The same JESUS CHRIST, who appointed baptism for the receiving men into His Church and family, has appointed excommunication, to shut such out as are judged unworthy to continue in it If baptism be a blessing, excommunication is a real punishment; there being the same authority for excommunication as for baptism. And if men ridicule it, they do it at the peril of their souls.
In the first place, the commission of power to ministers to retain and remit other men's sins, in whatever sense we take it, is a great engagement on them to lead holy and pure lives themselves. For it looks like an absurdity in practice, and is too often really thought so, that men should be qualified to forgive other men's sins, who are loaded with guilt and impurity themselves. There is nothing so natural and obvious to us as, Physician, heal thyself: and, therefore, if it be not a real objection against their office, yet it is an unanswerable one against their persons. If it do not destroy the tenor of their commission in the nature of the thing, yet it certainly diminishes their authority and reputation in the opinion of men when every profligate sinner can retort upon them and say, "Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law, dishonourest thou GOD?" It must needs take off very much from the veneration of the Sacrament of Baptism, to have a man pretend to wash away the sins of others, who is himself polluted and profane; and equally diminishes the reverence which is due to the tremendous mystery of the Eucharist, to have it ministered with unholy hands. It cannot relish well with men, to hear an unsanctified mouth giving blessing to others, who in effect is cursing himself; praying that the blood of CHRIST may preserve others to eternal life, while he himself is eating and drinking his own damnation, not discerning the LORD'S body. But above all, such a man cannot with any tolerable decency or freedom, discharge the office of punishing and correcting others, who is himself more justly liable to rebuke and censure. With what face can he debar others from Baptism or the Eucharist, who is himself unqualified to receive either? or exclude others from the Church, who is himself unworthy to enter into it? Nothing can be a greater engagement upon Ministers to lead holy and pure lives, than the consideration of the commission which CHRIST has given them, to retain or remit other men's sins, whether in a sacramental way, or a declaratory way, or a precatory way, or a judicial way: because without purity, they can by no means answer the end of this office, and the nature of their trust; but their mal-administration will rise up in judgment against them and condemn them.
2. A second thing which this office of retaining and remitting sins requires of Ministers, is great diligence in their studies and labours, without which they can never be able sufficiently to discharge it. The Church, indeed, has made some part of this work tolerably easy, by a prudent provision of many proper general forms of absolution: to which in her wisdom she may add proper forms of excommunication and judicial absolution. But when this is done, there still remains a great deal more belonging to the full discharge of this office, for which the Church can make no particular provision: and, therefore, that must be left to the industry and diligence of Ministers, in their particular studies and labours. And this requires both a diffused knowledge, and great application; to be able to understand the nature of all GOD'S laws, and the bounds and distinctions betwixt every virtue and vice; to be able to resolve all ordinary cases of conscience, and answer such doubts and scruples as are apt to arise in men's minds; to know the qualifications of particular men, and the nature and degrees and sincerity of their repentance, in order to give them a satisfactory answer to their demands, and grant or refuse them the several sorts of absolution, as they shall think proper, upon an impartial view of their state and condition. He that thinks all this may be done without any great labour and study, and a diligent search of the Holy Scriptures, the rule and record of GOD'S will, scorns neither to understand the nature of his office, nor the needs of men; nor what it is to stand in the place of CHRIST, and judge for him between GOD and man. The Priest's lips should preserve knowledge: and a man that considers the large extent of that knowledge, together with the great variety of cases and persons to which he may have occasion to apply it, would rather be tempted to cry out with the Apostle, "Who is sufficient for these things?" And if this be not an argument to engage a man to industry in the office of a spiritual physician, it is hard to say what is so.
The next thing the Puritans took offence at, was the Hierarchy of the Church. They looked on the Bishops as the instruments of papal tyranny, and the corrupters of true religion ...They were, it seems, so ignorant, as not to know, that the Bishops, of all men, had most reason to oppose the usurpation of the Bishop of Rome, who had made himself the only Bishop, and reduced all the rest to ciphers. Nor did they consider, whether it was in the power of man to abolish, at his discretion, an order of the Church, instituted by GOD Himself, merely because the men who filled this order had degenerated, together with all the rest of the Church, into superstition and luxury. Here again the scheme of our opposers was not to reform, but to destroy; and what was equally bold, to begin a new ministry, with hardly any other mission than such as a number of men, and sometimes one man only, wholly unauthorized, for aught that others could perceive, should assume. From men thus sending themselves, or sent by we know not whom, we are to receive the sacraments We must not forget, however, that these new orders lay claim to scriptural institution and primitive example. What, all of them? And without succession? Do we hear of any man in Scripture who ordained himself, or who presumed to take the ministry of GOD'S word and sacraments upon him, without being sent either immediately or successively by CHRIST? Or, can an instance of this kind be assigned during the first fourteen centuries of the Church?
So sacred a thing is the succession of ordination, that the HOLY GHOST, who had already enabled Barnabas and Saul to preach the word, ordered them to be "separated for the work whereunto He had called them, by fasting, prayer, and imposition of hands,"--that is, to be ordained: the SPIRIT of GOD hereby plainly showing, that He himself would not break the successive order of mission established in the Church.
With regard to the order and government of the Primitive Church, we may doubtless follow their [the ancients'] authority with perfect security; they could not possibly be ignorant of laws executed, and customs practised by themselves; nor would they, even supposing them corrupt, serve any interest of their own, by handing down false accounts to posterity. We are, therefore, to inquire from them the different Orders established in the Ministry from the Apostolic ages; the different employments of each, and their several ranks, subordinations, and degrees of authority. From their writings, we are to vindicate the establishment of our Church, and by the same writings are those who differ from us in these particulars to defend their conduct.
Nor is this the only, though perhaps the chief use of these writers; for, in matters of faith and points of doctrine, those at least who lived in the ages nearest to the times of the Apostles undoubtedly deserve to be consulted. The oral doctrines and occasional explications of the Apostles would not be immediately forgotten, in the Churches to which they had preached, and which had attended to them with the diligence and reverence which their mission and character demanded. Their solution of difficulties, and determinations of doubtful questions, must have been treasured up in the memory of their audiences, and transmitted for some time from FATHER to son. Every thing, at least, that was declared by the inspired teachers to be necessary to salvation, must have been carefully recorded; and, therefore, what we find no traces of in Scripture, or the early FATHERs, as most of the peculiar tenets of the Romish Church, must certainly be concluded to be not necessary. Thus, by consulting first the Holy Scriptures, and next the writers of the Primitive Church, we shall make ourselves acquainted with the will of GOD; thus shall we discover the good way, and find that rest for our souls, which will amply recompense our studies and inquiries.
The Constitution and use of the Church of CHRIST is another subject, on which our principles, for some years past, have been very unsettled, and our knowledge precarious and superficial. Ignorance is dangerous here, because there are so many whose interest it is to flatter us in it, and take advantage of it. The definition of the Church, contained in our Articles, was purposely less definitive than it might have been, to avoid giving further offence to those whom we rather wished to reconcile; but it does not appear, that the Church hath gained any thing by its moderation; it hath rather lost; because in virtue of that moderation, it hath been pleaded against us, that Ecclesiastical Unity may be dispensed with, and that all our differences in this matter are only problematical and immaterial.
But salvation is a gift of grace; that is, it is a free gift, to which we have no natural claim. It is not to be conceived within ourselves, but to be received, in consequence of our Christian calling, from GOD Himself, through the means of His Ordinances. These can no man administer to effect, but by GOD'S own appointment; at first, by His immediate appointment, and afterwards, by succession and derivation from thence to the end of the world. Without this rule we are open to imposture, and can be sure of nothing; we cannot be sure that our ministry is effective, and that our Sacraments are realities. We are very sensible the spirit of division will never admit this doctrine; yet the spirit of charity must never part with it. Writers and teachers who make it a point to give no offence, treat these things very tenderly; but he who, in certain cases, gives men no offence, will for that reason give them no instruction. Light itself is painful to weak eyes; but delightful to them when grown stronger, and reconciled to it with use; and he who was instrumental in bringing them to a more perfect state of vision, though less acceptable at first, may yet, for his real kindness, be more cordially thanked afterwards, than if he had made the case and safety of his own person the measure of his duty. It is by no means evident, that the Church hath ever recommended itself the more by receding from any of its just pretensions: generosity obliges and secures a friend; but an enemy construes it into weakness, and then it never does any good. Yet the adversaries of the Church of England have always been persuading her to make the experiment, and have promised great things from it; with what views, it cannot be difficult to discover. It was an unhappy circumstance, and had very ill effects, when some pious men, of more zeal than discretion, who set out on the work of reforming this nation, opened an asylum for penitents, which took in people of all persuasions, without exception of any. It came to be inferred from hence, that souls might be saved as well without as with a Church; perhaps better; and when men have once begun to neglect roles, they go on to despise them, and know not where to stop, till all things are bought into confusion
The ancient Church is the standard by which all modern ones are to be examined; and unless a man knows what the Church was in centuries before the Reformation, he will see but darkly into the troubled waters of later times, in which faction and party have confounded things; and it hath become as much the interest of some, that the Church of CHRIST should be found every where, as it is the desire of others that it should be found no where If we would guard against popular mistakes in the subject at large, it will be necessary to examine first, what the Church was under the Old Testament; for there we find its original establishment, its form, its authority, its ministry, its unity and uniformity, its maintenance, its independence; which things being so particularly laid down, no new establishment is to be found in the Epistles or the Gospels of the New Testament, but the ancient constitution is referred to, to show us, in certain cases, what ought to be from what had been From the Scripture we should proceed next to observe, what the Church was in the first ages of the Gospel, before worldly policy, miscalled moderation, had any influence upon the opinions of Christians. There is an epistle of St. Clement, on Church unity and Church authority, with which all students in divinity should be acquainted. It will teach them what the Christian society then was, and what it ought to be. Ignatius and Cyprian, both of them martyrs, will give further instruction. The latter is so particular and copious, that a code of discipline might nearly be formed upon his authority. With these preparations, we shall be the better able to judge, of what happened at the Reformation, when many things were right and many wrong; when the Church of England, by the singular blessing of GOD, preserved its constitution and its doctrines, while many of the reformed fell off by degrees, some into disorder, some into dissolution. What remains with us we must defend and preserve; trusting that the same GOD who hath raised this Church, when trodden down to the dust, will never forsake us till we forsake Him ...
But I must now hasten, in the last place, to a subject of more quietness or less suspicion [than the subject of civil government], in which wise men of all persuasions are more nearly of a mind; I mean, the conduct of the Christian life. Modern times and new modes of education have given too great a latitude in the articles of dress, and dissipation, and self-indulgence. Every thing is to be avoided which tends to diminish that gravity and seriousness which GOD expects to find in all those who are flying from the wrath to come. It was observed of old, that when inconsiderate people are avoiding one extreme, they commonly fall into another, while reason and discretion keep the middle way. When Protestants laid aside the austerities of superstition, they began to see less harm in the liberties taken by the world. The kind of life to which the first Christians conformed, hath been considered as a sort of heroic piety, which had more of suffering and mortification than are now required of us; as if the way to heaven could be easier, while the number of our temptations is probably increasing from the refinement of modern times, which, instead of giving us more liberty, call upon us for a greater degree of caution and reserve
To us JESUS CHRIST is the pattern of holiness, the great exemplar of perfection, of whom we are first to learn, what no heathen ever professed, to be "meek and lowly in heart;" and accordingly, one of the best books extant on the Spiritual life, is entitled, "The Imitation of JESUS CHRIST." Its language is barbarous, but its matter is divine and heavenly, and hath administered instruction and consolation to thousands of devout Christians. The way of true devotion must still be understood to be the same humble, secret, unaffected, unaspiring practice of piety, as it used to be of old. The Cross, which JESUS CHRIST carried for our salvation, is still the true emblem of our profession, from our baptism to our departure out of this life, and is to be borne by us in our minds, as a daily admonition to patient suffering and self-denial.
To assist us in the great duties of prayer and meditation, books of devotion have their use; but to us of the clergy, the liturgy of our Church is the best companion; and the daily use of it in our churches and families is required by the canons. It cannot be denied, that from various reasons prevailing amongst us, we are much fallen off of late years, from the practice of weekly prayers in our churches. Wherever this has been neglected, we should exhort the people to the revival of it, if circumstances will possibly permit; and alarm them against a mistake, to which they are all exposed, from a fanatical prejudice of baneful influence, namely, that they come to Church only to hear preaching; and hence they are indifferent, even on a Sunday, to the prayers of the Church, unless there is a sermon.
The Church, in its nature, always was what it is now, a society comprehending the souls as well as the bodies of men; and, therefore, consisting of two parts, the one spiritual, answering to the soul, and the other outward, answering to the body. Hence, some have written much upon a visible Church and an invisible, as if they were two things; but they are more properly one, as the soul and body make a single person.
In the twelfth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostle gives such a description of that society, into which Christians are admitted, as will show us the nature of it. "Ye are come," says he, "unto Mount Zion," &c. The terms here used give us a true prospect of the Church This is that Zion of the Holy One of Israel, to which the forces of the Gentiles were to flow from all parts of the world ... the city of the living GOD, distinguished from the cities of the world, as Jerusalem was from the cities of the heathens, who dedicated their cities not to the living GOD, but to the names of their dead idols This, being the city of the living GOD, must be an immortal society, for the living GOD does not preside over dead citizens; He is not the GOD of the dead, but the GOD of the living, and all the members of this society live unto Him It is, therefore, called the Heavenly Jerusalem, because it is of a heavenly nature; and it is called the Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and is the mother of us all ... Its spiritual nature is further declared, in that it is said to comprehend an innumerable company of angels In the communion of the Church the spirits of just men made perfect are also included. It is a society which admits only the spirits of the living, and as such cannot exclude the spirits of the dead; and this confirms what we said above, that the Church is a spiritual community, comprehending the dead as well as the living
But it is now to be shown, secondly, that as the Church of GOD hath always been the same in its nature, it hath likewise preserved the same form in its external economy: the wisdom of GOD having so ordained, that the Christian Church under the Gospel should not depart from the model of the Church under the Law. For as the congregation of Israel was divided into twelve tribes, under the twelve Patriarchs, so is the Church of CHRIST founded on the twelve Apostles, who raised to themselves a spiritual seed amongst all the nations of the world There were then three orders of priests in the Jewish Church; there was the high priest, and the sons of Aaron and the Levites. In the Church of CHRIST, there was the order of the Apostles, besides whom there were the seventy Disciples sent out after them; and, last of all, the Deacons were ordained to serve under both in the lower offices of the Church. The same form is still preserved in every regular Church of the world, which derives its succession and authority from the Church of the Apostles: after whom the Bishops succeeded by their appointment, such as Timothy and Titus, in their respective churches. This authority has been opposed to the Christian as it was in the Jewish Church: Corah and his company rose up against Moses and Aaron for usurping a lordly authority over the people; so, in the later ages of the Christian Church, a levelling principle hath prevailed, which has appeared in many different shapes
The Church has also been remarkably conformable to itself in its sufferings. There never was a time, so far as we can learn, when the true Church of GOD, with its doctrines and institutions, was not hated and opposed by the world: either persecuted and oppressed by powerful tyrants, or traduced and insulted by lying historians.
The keys of the kingdom of Heaven here promised to St. Peter ... must be something quite distinct from that with which it hath generally been confounded, the power of remission and retention of sins, conferred by our LORD, after His resurrection, upon the apostles in general, and transmitted through them to the perpetual succession of the priesthood. This is the discretionary power lodged in the priesthood, of dispensing the sacraments, and of granting to the penitent and refusing to the obdurate the benefit and comfort of absolution. The object of this power is the individual upon whom it is exercised, according to the particular circumstances of each man's case. It was exercised by the Apostles in many striking instances. It is exercised now by every priest, when he administers or withholds the sacraments of baptism and the LORD'S Supper, or, upon just grounds, pronounces or refuses to pronounce upon an individual the sentence of absolution.
We must return then, after all, (in ordinary cases, and where an immediate and supernatural commission from the HOLY GHOST is neither proved nor pretended,) to the appointment and ordination of those among our fellow-creatures who exercise a legitimate authority in the Church of CHRIST, and who, as being appointed by GOD, are placed in GOD'S stead, and commissioned by Him to dispense those graces which are necessary for the feeding of His flock, and to designate those labourers who are henceforth to work in His harvest.
And having arrived at this point of the discussion, even if that discussion were to proceed no further, and if the Scriptures had given us no information as to the persons by whom this authority was to be exercised, the validity of our ordinations would still be sufficiently plain, and the danger of separation from, or rebellion against, our Church would be sufficiently great and alarming, inasmuch as, where no distinct religious officer was instituted by GOD, the appointment of such officers must necessarily have devolved on the collective Christian Church, and on those supreme magistrates who, in every Christian country, are the recognized organs of the public will and wisdom It happens, however, to be in our power to show (if not an explicit direction of CHRIST for the form of our Church government, and the manner of appointing our spiritual guides), yet a precedent so clear and a pattern so definite, as to leave little doubt of the intentions of our Divine Master, or of the manner in which those intentions were fulfilled by His immediate and inspired Disciples. Nor will the force of such precedent and example on the practice of succeeding Christians be regarded as trifling by those who consider that it is on such grounds as these that the obligation rests of many observances which are allowed by all parties to be essential; among which maybe classed the baptism of infants, the observance of the LORD'S Day, and our participation in the LORD'S Supper.
But, without entering into the question of the absolute necessity of this rule, and without judging those other national Churches which have departed from it, it is evident that those Churches are most wise and most fortunate, who have continued in the path which CHRIST and His Apostles have trodden before; and that religious insubordination is then most unreasonable and most dangerous, when exerted against a form of polity which the majority of our fellow-Christians, the wisdom of our civil governors, and the full stream of precedent, from the time of the Apostles themselves, combine to recommend to our reverence.
We find, accordingly, that our LORD, on His own departure from the world, committed, in most solemn terms, the government of His Church to His Apostles. We find these Apostles, in the exercise of the authority thus received, appointing Elders in every city, as dispensers of the word and the sacraments of religion; and we find them also appointing other Ecclesiastical Officers, who were to have the oversight of these Elders themselves; and who, in addition to the powers which they enjoyed in common with them, had the privilege, which the others had not, of admitting, by the imposition of hands, those whom they thought fit to the ministerial office
And it is not too much to say, that we may challenge those who differ from us, to point out any single period at which the Church has been destitute of such a body of officers, laying claim to an authority derived by the imposition of hands from the Apostles themselves; or any single instance of a Church without this form of government, till the Church of Geneva, at first from necessity, and afterwards from a mistaken exposition of Scripture, supplied the place of a single Bishop by the rule of an oligarchical presbytery.
"And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world;"--a promise not occasional or temporary, like that of miraculous powers; but conveying an assurance that CHRIST Himself, will, in spirit and in power, be continually present with His Catholic and Apostolick Church; with the bishops of that Church, who derive from the Apostles by uninterrupted succession, and with those inferior, but essential orders of the Church, which are constituted by the same authority, and dedicated to the same service.
The system, of which the Apostles had laid the foundation, was to be carried on through succeeding generations; but with a gradual diminution of that extraordinary aid, which the circumstances of the case rendered no longer necessary ... Yet since the object to be attained was not temporary, but to continue from age to age, the mode, the form, and the instrument to be employed, were still to be conformable to the primitive institution. Accordingly, the Apostles ordained successors to themselves, and took measures for perpetuating in the Church a standing ministry of diverse orders and gradations. In so doing, they showed in what sense we are to interpret our LORD'S assurance, that He would "be with them always, even unto the end of the world."
The evidences, from the best historical records, to the simple fact that a visible Church of this description has actually subsisted from the time of our LORD and His Apostles to this moment, are too well known to require a detail. Nor is there any defect of similar evidence, to show that, whatever errors or corruptions may have occasionally found admittance into it, the Church itself has proved a successful instrument in the hands of Providence, both of transmitting the unadulterated Word of GOD from generation to generation, and also of promulgating and maintaining all its great fundamental truths; nay, perhaps, of preserving even the very name as well as substance of Christianity, which, humanly speaking, would probably have been long since extinct, had it not been nurtured and cherished by this its appointed guardian and protector
Let us take, for instance, those articles of faith which have already been shown to be essential to the Christian Covenant:--the doctrines of the Trinity, of our LORD'S Divinity and Incarnation, of His Atonement and Intercession, of our sanctification by the HOLY SPIRIT, of the terms of acceptance, and the ordinances of the Christian Sacraments and Priesthood. At what period of the Church have these doctrines, or either of them, been by any public act disowned or called in question! We are speaking now, it will be recollected, of what in the language of Ecclesiastical history, is emphatically called THE CHURCH; that, which has from age to age borne rule, upon the ground of its pretensions to Apostolical succession. And to this our inquiry is necessarily restricted
Surely, here is something to arrest attention; something to awaken reflection; something which they who sincerely profess Christianity, and are tenacious of the inviolability of its doctrines, must contemplate with sentiments of awe and veneration. For, though a sceptic may contend that this species of evidence does not amount to a direct and demonstrative proof of the truth of the doctrines; yet if they be not true, how shall we account for their having been so uninterruptedly transmitted to these latter times? How they have withstood the assaults of continued opponents? opponents, wanting neither talents nor inclination to effect their overthrow? If these considerations be deemed insufficient, let the adversary point out by what surer tokens we shall discover any Christian community, duly answering the Apostle's description, that it is "built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, JESUS CHRIST Himself being the chief Corner-Stone?"
Nor had He in this appointment a view to those times only, in which the appointment was made; but He designed that it should be extended to all future ages; for so we must understand the words which He pronounced immediately after giving His apostles their authority to baptize: "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." A promise this which cannot be supposed to have respect to the persons of the Apostles alone, who in the common course of nature were soon to be taken from the world, to the end of which the promise itself was to extend.
In conformity with this meaning, the Apostles, who were themselves holy men and full of the HOLY GHOST, did send other persons; to whom again, they gave power and authority to send others, through whom the office of ministers of the Gospel has been handed down in regular and uninterrupted succession from the Apostles to the present time.
The Feast of St. Mark