Page images

he claimed the title of universal Bishop; in the eighth century he became a temporal prince; and in the ninth century, through the arts of Gregory VII. he usurped an authoritative power over nearly all the sovereigns of Europe. These ambitious aggressions were accompanied by a deviation from the. pure doctrines and apostolical mode of worship, which previously prevailed in the Church. These deviations were very gradual. Images, which at first were designed to bring the memory of departed saints before the eyes of those who lived in after times, and to exhibit lively patterns for their imitation, at length were regarded with a superstitious reverence, and the worship due to the Almighty was transferred to the shrines and representations of his faithful servants. Thus idolatry crept into the Church. Indulgences for the gratification of our passions were publicly sold; and by the payment of a certain price, the soul, however uninfluenced by religion, was declared free from that punishment which the Scriptures assure us awaits the sinner in the world to come. Indeed, from the fifth to the sixteenth century, the history of the Church is a record of increasing corruption; and this may be mainly attributed to the people being destitute of the light of God's word. The word of God was difficult to be procured in those days, the art of printing not having been then discovered. And those who were so fortunate as to possess even a small portion of the sacred volume were forbidden to use it by a blind and intolerant priesthood. Mankind lay long in this deplorable state, and it was not until they had been aroused from their insensibility that they were induced to search the Scriptures, and to think for themselves. The Bible having been translated into the modern languages of Europe, and copies having been greatly multiplied by the art of printing, which was discovered towards the end of the fifteenth century, no longer did gross darkness prevail. In our own country, as well as in Germany, instruments of the Almighty arose—men like Apollos, mighty in the Scriptures, who by that powerful aid pulled down the strongholds of the Prince of darkness, and erected in their stead those goodly edifices—the Reformed Churches. In this nation, the work of Reformation appears most complete. And although some of the instruments employed in effecting it may have been actuated by unworthy motives, still the hand of God was evidently in the work; and we know that he sometimes uses, in the wise designs of his providence, those whom he by no means regards with his favour.

The corruptions of the Church of Rome still prevail over many countries, and will prevail, until those nations which are now sitting in the shadow of death are enlightened by the lamp of truth. Some nations, or rather portions of nations, have altogether escaped the pollutions of Rome, and are valuable relics of the primitive Church, which existed during the first ages of Christianity. The most remarkable of these are the Waldenses, or Albigenses, who dwell in the valleys of the Alps, between France and Italy, and whose preservation from corruption may be attributed to their secluded situation.

In all the events we have been considering, the hand of God has been clearly manifested. Seventeen centuries have rolled away since the apostolic age, and upwards of eighteen have elapsed since the delivery of Christ's recorded promise, and the gates of hell have not prevailed against the Church. Amid all the political storms and vicissitudes; amid all the religious errors and corruptions which have chequered, during that long period, the world's eventful history, a regular unbroken succession of ministers has been preserved in the Church, whose authority is derived from the hands of the Apostles. Many intermediate possessors of that sacred authority have, it is true, intervened between the Bishops of the present day and their hallowed predecessors, the apostles ; but the gifts of God are without repentance: the same Spirit niles over the Church now who presided at the consecration of St. Paul, and the lapse of centuries cannot invalidate the promises of God. Although some who formed the connecting links of this holy chain may have been unworthy of the high charge committed to them, yet this affords no ground for supposing them incapable of transmitting the lawful authority with which they were duly invested to worthier followers. We therefore maintain that as the episcopal form of church government was established by the apostles, and has been transmitted to us, those churches which have retained the orders sanctioned by, and derived from the apostles, are branches, although in some cases, corrupt ones, of Christ's visible Catholic Church.

Having thus given a brief history of what is recognised as the Church of Christ, I shall, on a future occasion, confine our attention to that branch of it, which is happily established in these kingdoms, and endeavour to vindicate it from those objections which ignorance and selfishness urge against it. And may Almighty God, who has built his Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone ; grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple, acceptable unto him, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.

S. F.



Mr. EniToa,—I cannot help thinking that we do not yet look at the question of the Church Societies in those varied and strong lights in which it seems to me it ought to be viewed. For myself, I feel assured that the three Societies, for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Building and Enlarging Churches, and Propagating the Gospel, might, under existing circumstances, be made a powerful bulwark to our national Zion, and not only the instruments of " building up her decayed places," but of confirming the affections, and strengthening the hands of her sons, and simultaneously bringing to bear upon her present exigencies all that zeal and energy, that circumspection and devotedness to her cause, which are the characteristics of her true sons; and which, however conspicuous in isolated individuals, require some such connecting link as the societies afford to be rendered collectively serviceable, and augment her capacity of being at once " a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of God's people." For with more abundant church accommodation—with an increase of christian knowledge amongst us—with closer attachment to, and more decided convictions of the excellency and applicability of the Liturgy— with additional schools—with the gospel faithfully preached, and the sacraments duly administered—with the houses of prayer more devoutly and uniformly attended—with warm-hearted confederations of the faithful, for the maintenance and extension of the truth—with more tender regard for the " ignorant, and those who are out of the way"—with more sympathetic feelings towards christian pastors and christian missionaries, and an increased inclination to *' distribute to the necessities of the saints"—with more scriptural and practical notions of church union, and a sincere desire to be " perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment;"—in a word, with a generous determination among her members to " bear one another's burdens," and seek by right means the execution of the divine mandate, "Preach the gospel to every creature;" the apostolic Church of England, established on a sure foundation, on a rock, and that rock Christ; holding fast "the truth as it is in Jesus'' without compromise, without hypocrisy; gathering and retaining within her bosom " those that shall be saved," and fulfilling all other her high behests; may undoubtedly rest secure amid the storms and convulsions of the world, and humbly but confidently anticipate the realization in her case of the divine engagement to the Church, that even " the gates of hell shall not prevail against her."

Now if as christian individuals, as christian congregations, or as a christian people, we have in any of the above particulars fallen short of our duty, let us, as individuals, as congregations, as a people, make haste and "repent and do our first works," that our candlestick be net in judgment removed. And if, in prosecuting the solemn work of " repentance," the Church Societies have also a part assigned them, and are looking for our cooperation in that work, let us so far from unfeelingly withholding our aid, most cheerfully endeavour to increase their efficiency, and thankfully avail ourselves of their invaluable services for the accomplishment of their important ends, and the fulfilment of our essential aud acknowledged duties.

The sooner, therefore, we come forward and discreetly plead the cause of the Societies calling for the cooperation, prayers, and alms of our brethren, and setting withal a good example in our own persons, the more worthy and consistent Churchmen we shall prove ourselves— the truer patriots, and if we exemplify a pure faith in our own lives, the more excellent and devoted Christians.

My object, Mr. Editor, in addressing you again so early, is to stir up, if I can, the minds of your readers to a closer and more practical Jcontemplation of the important subject to which I have so frequently directed their attention. I do hope and trust that no trifling obstacles will be suffered to hinder our performance of the great christian duties which are involved in a due support and recommendation of the Church Societies. Efficient local associations, and annual, if not semi-annual sermons, are the unexceptionable means which recommend themselves to our adoption ; and when the promise of such abundant good is held out for our encouragement, let us not so injure ourselves, retard the progress of Christianity, and afford •' occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme," as to become " weary in well doing," and appear to distrust vol.. xvn. No. x. 4 K

the powerful word of Him who (counting upon his Church's faithfulness) has declared, " I.'will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

Commending the subject to the devout study of yourself and your readers, I remain, Mr. Editor,

Your faithful Servant, and constant Reader.

Sept. 14, 1835. X.




'And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm; for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and/eft down before Paul and Silas. And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved ?—(Acts xvi. 25—80.)

In endeavouring to illustrate the foregoing passage, I have marked certain words of the text with italics, in order to point out those words which are for that purpose emphatic. Dr. Bloomfieldt has properly objected to the notion of some recent commentators, that the doors of the prison were opened by lightning,—the very notion of Hezel, it may be observed, which he has also disputed in reference to the shaking off of Peter's chains, in chap. xii. 7. If any authority can be shown for assuming that ouofioQ does not mean earthquake, or is ever applied to lightning; or if it can be proved that lightning has ever shaken the foundation* of a building; or that St. Luke was not likely to have known the names of things in a country where natural phenomena of the kind were of daily occurrence; or if it can be supposed that the sacred writers were careless in their language; or that it would be synonymous to say, the "foundations of the prison were shaken," for "the prison was shaken to Us foundations ;" then there might be, perhaps, less excuse for the assent of those who interpret this transaction so as to understand a thunder-storm for an earthquake.

I take it, then, for granted, that such as it is described, it was,—" a great earthquake." This transaction occurred A. D. 53, or A. U. C. 806; and Mr. Arundell, in his "Discoveries in Asia Minor," recently published, has incidentally surmised, that it was connected with a shock which destroyed the city of Apamea in Asia Minor. Mr. A. quotes Tacitus, who tells us that Nero, who married Octavia, the emperor's daughter, pleaded so effectually the case of Apamea, that the taxes were remitted to the inhabitants for the term of five years. The passage in which this quotation occurs may be quoted here with advantage to our argument.

"Severely as Apamea has suffered in all periods of her history

* For No. I. See Christian Remembrancer, Vol. XI. p. 118.
t Recensio Synoptica, Vol. IV. p. 527, in v. 26.

from earthquakes, she was not included in the list of the twelve cities of Asia which were overthrown in the fifth year of Tiberius, and therefore the inscriptions which I found, and which are published in my first journey, do not relate to the liberality of that emperor, but to a subsequent earthquake which happened in the reign of Tiberius Claudius, mentioned by Tacitus :—' To the citizens of Apamea, whose city had been overthrown by an earthquake, the tribute was remitted for five years.' This was A. V. 807, and A. D. 54. It is a curious coincidence, and well worthy of attention, for I do not recollect to have ever seen it mentioned, that the earthquake which happened at Philippi, and by which the doors of Paul's prison were opened, was in the year 53, perhaps a few months only before the tribute was remitted to the citizens of Apamea. Now an earthquake sufficiently strong to overthrow a city in Asia Minor, would be felt strongly also in the remoter distances of Macedonia, sufficiently strong, perhaps, to open the bars of a prison door. The great earthquake at Aleppo was felt severely in Smyrna, though no buildings were thrown down. As God often works miracles even by natural causes, so the prison doors being opened to Paul by the earthquake would still be the effect of divine agency. Does not this fact afford much internal evidence of the truth of the sacred historians?"

I may observe on this coincidence, that the dates are the same, A. V. c. 807, A. D. 53, not A. D. 54, which renders it more striking. But on referring to Mr. Arundell's former work, "A Visit to the Seven Churches of Asia," [published in 1828, and reviewed in the Christian RememBrancer, Vol. X. p. 485,] I find a statement which seems at variance with the foregoing: "Three other inscriptions, (Nos. 13, 14, 15,) both imperfect, appear to relate to the liberality of the emperor Tiberius, in remitting Jive years' tribute-money, when Apamea and twelve other cities were overthrown by earthquakes."—P. 110. One of these suppositions must, therefore, be incorrect. The account given by Tacitus of the overthrow of the twelve cities is under date of A. U. c. 770, A. D. 17. He enumerates Sardis, Magnesia, Temnos, Philadelphia, Egaea, Apollonia, HierocKsarea, Myrina, Cyme, Tmolus, the inhabitants of which, besides those called Mosthenians and Macedonians of Hyrcania, were relieved from all taxes for a term of five years, (Tac. Ann. II. 47.) Suetonius, speaking of a like calamity at this time, mentions but three places; "pro Laodicenis, Thyatirenis, Chiis terra motu afflictis, opemque implorantibus, senatum deprecatus est." (Tib. VIII.) Pliny, however, (II. 84), enumerates twelve cities. Some critics have disputed the genuineness of the passage in Suetonius, because Cos was visited by earthquakes in the time of Augustus, and, therefore, Chios could not be! But this is absurd; for it is possible that Cos and Chios might each be visited in turn; and Chios lies close to Smyrna, and that very country of which we are treating. The distance from Chios to Thyatira is but 86 miles, whereas from Thyatira to Cos it i9 135 miles; so that the locality is in favour of Suetonius. Now, supposing that by these different narratives we are only authorised in understanding, that that part of Asia was constantly shaken in the first century, as it has been continually since, we have to compare Philippi with Apamea, as to time only; for the distance of Apamea from Laodicea is but 70 miles, and from Philippi to Thyatira it is only 210 miles, and to Magnesia but 200 miles, as earthquakes travel, in a right line. Whether, therefore, any of the shocks alluded to by

« PreviousContinue »