« PreviousContinue »
theory, nothing can be conceived more useful in human nature. The dispersing and blending with the mass of mankind
tion upon any civil society; give every one a right to direct and govern in a state, according as he has presumption to think himself qualified for the office. What competitions, violences, and distractions, what a chaos of jarring interests and factions would ensue, may be conceived by the commonest understanding. Now if God designed there should be order, decency and peace in the church, we may easily suppose that he did not found it-—if a thing can be said to be sounded— upon a direct principle of disunion.
The second notion is built upon no texts of scripture, that I know of, is attended with the fame evils as the first, and has one peculiar evil of its own. It tends to introduce that mean, timid, fawning spirit which a dependent state generally produces, and which is greatly unworthy of the manly office of instructing a corrupt world.
The third gives the magistrate a power over conscience, which scripture and reason plainly disavow.
The fourth claims powers inconsistent with the civil rights of mankind.
The church of England, with her usual temper, has
adopted every thing christian and useful in these schemes,
without admitting their inconveniences. It is a glaring
Y i offence
a sufficient number of men, who, by their course of studies, generally have or mould have some extent of knowledge
offence to have teachers of religion, without a Deal fense of it in themselves—accordingly the church requires every candidate to profess an inward call, i. e. a real resolution of discharging his office with integrity; and, what is more, to produce a testimonial of his abilities, and of his good behaviour for such a time as supposes a settled habit, a. Rut there is danger lest the clergy should be corrupt and partial to one another—accordingly, she al-, lows the laity to object to an unworthy candidate, and see is ready, as far as the laws of the land permit her, to punish any immoral hypocrite who has found means to creep into her bosom in spite of all these precautions. 3. Lest magistrates should corrupt religion, she claims a divine commission. And, 4. lest this claim should introduce a mad spirit of independence; she acknowledges herself obliged to the magistrate for her civil privileges.
The theory is unexceptionably good: the errors, we have reason to complain of, lie in the administration, or, in other words, in the common, corruption of human nature.
It is indeed the plan laid down in the Holy Scriptures. For i. Ministers must be men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and <wisdom. Acts vi. 3. — 2. They must have a good resort of them •which are without, i. Tim. iii. 7.1-1
ledge, and elevation of taste and sentiment, above the common level, must naturally be of use in civilizing and improving
5. They, at •well as every Other foul must be subjetl to tie higher powers. Rom. xiii. 1. — 4. Their commission is front God, as I shall show at large, as being the principal point in dispute.
It is a general maxim, applied by St. Paul to the ministry of Christ himself. No man taktth this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron: So also, says he, Chrijl glorified not himself, to be made a high priejl, but he that said unto him, thou art my son, to day have I begotten thee. Heb. v. 4, 5. Accordingly we read that he undertook not the ossice till he was called. Luke iiL 23. And as he was sent by the Father, evenfo sent he his apostles. Job* Xx. 21. He promised to be with them unto the end of the world. Mat. xxviii. 20. Now as Christ knew they were not to live to the end of the world; he must mean, with them and their successors to the end of the world. Who then are these successors? The apostles themselves tell us in their practice, that they considered the appointment as belonging to themselves. They filled np the place of Judas with Matthias. Acts i. 23. They appointed deacons upon the encrease of the church. Look ye out, said they to the body of believers, seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom We Wat Appoint over the business. 1 '. Y4 Acts
proving life. And, if you examine fact, though fact will not always answer theory, where human corruption
Acts vi. 3. St. Paul ordained elders in every church. AiXs xiv. 23. He left Titus in Crete to ordain elders in e<very city. Tit. i. 5. He gave the fame commission to Timothy, ii. Tim. ii. 2. The things ivhich thou hast heard of ME, the same commit thou to Faithful men, ivho Jhall be able to Teach Others Also. The establishment was the same in all the churches, i. Cor. vii. i7. xi. i6. xiv. 33.
I Content myself with these few proofs, meaning to enter no further into the dispute than is necessity to support the principles of the above discourse.
But how can we be assured, it is said, of such a succession? Very easily, by authentic history; or, if you want a shorter way, by the present existence of the christian ministry, which is as good a proof of a succession of ministers from the establishment of the gospel, as the present age is a proof of a chain of successive generations from the foundation of the world.
But where was this succession, it is asked, in the times of Popisli corruption? If the church of Rome was then a true church, what right had we to quit her communion; if a corrupt church, how could Ihe deliver down a pure and untainted succession? The answer is very ready: the succession of ministers is an establishment
can interfere, yet you will find, that the institution has its real advantages. Knowledge is actually more generally diffused than it ever was before. It is no longer confined (as it was among the ancients) to .ostentatious affluence and curious retirement. The poor have the gospel preached unto them, and the great are taught without the debasing fear of their displeasure. There is not a peasant, who knows not more of the principles of sound religion, than the wisest philosopher of antiquity. And though the cultivation of other useful parts of knowledge be not confined to the ministers of religion, yet it were to be wished in common justice, that their revilers would but consider, who first
of discipline, peace, and order: the graces attending it are the free gift of God, and depend not upon human corruption. The scribes andpharisees sat in Moses's seat, our Lord acknowledged Mat. xxii. 2. at the fame time, that he meant to reform their corruptions.
See Potter's Church Government.