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And though the office assumed by me upon this occasion, is not more honourable than that of the Gibeonites, who were but hewers of wood and drawers of water for the service of the tabernacle; yet if, by collecting good and found materials, I shall prove the instrument of conveying useful information upon a subject, now as little understood as it is
generally neglected, I shall hope that the merit of the design will be suffered to atone for the imperfection of its execution.
To those who are advanced, and consequently it may be supposed) well informed in their profession, these papers are not addressed; for to them nothing new can be said upon this subject; nothing that perhaps might not be better said by themselves. But to those of my brethren who are not in the same state of advancement; who are unpossessed of the leisure or advantages necessary to the proper study of their profession, it may be a convenience to have information, which has been derived from various quarters, placed before them in some regular and connected form. Without wishing to forestall their judgment, I feel myself justified in saying upon this occafion, that if I have been deceived in the subject before me, I have been deceived with what I considered to be
the best means of information in my hand, and the sincerest intention in my mind of promoting the Christian cause. Should the ground upon which I have trodden upon this occasion be deemed unfound, it appears to me, that there must be an end to all authority on subjects of this nature.
From the general tendency of the human mind to extremes, the blind credulity of one age often leads to unbounded scepticism in another. But the implicit faith of the monk, who, as the story goes, when SATAN would have drawn him into heresy, by asking him what he believed upon a certain point, answered, of Id credo quod credit ecclefia;” and to the subjoined question, “ Quod credit ecclesia,” cautiously replied, “ Id quod ego credo ;”! is not more contemptible than the profane licentiousness of a Paine, who would make his senses the only standard of his belief.
We do not disclaim private judgment; much less do we admit the infallibility of the church. But if we have not discretion in these days to draw the line between an implicit obedience to authority, and an utter contempt of it, the experience of past ages seems to have been thrown away, and reason to have been given us for very little purpose.
“ Call no man your father upon earth; for one is your Father who is in heaven. Neither be
called masters; for one is your Master, even CHRIST;'* is a text that has not unfrequently been strained beyond its original meaning. It was addressed by our SAVIOUR to his hearers, with the view of guarding them against the extravagant superiority assumed by the rabbies over the disciples, and the blind submission with which their doctrines were received. So far as it applies to a similar subject, either to an assumed fuperiority in the teacher, who would“ exercise lordship over God's heritage,” i Peter v. 3; or to the blind submission of the disciple, who makes his faith in man, rather than in the Divine word, the standard of his religious persuasion, so far it contains most wholesome insttuction to religionists of every age.
But when the idea, founded on this text, is carried to an extent to justify disobedience to the authority of the church, upon whạt ground foever it may be maintained, such a wild principle of conduct being totally inconsistent with the object of a regular fociety, may be determined not to be within the meaning of a precept, delivered by the founder of that society to those who were to become the members of it. The difficulty in this case has always been to establish the exact line of conduct, which will fecure that government, without which the church, as a society, cannot subsist; and that liberty to the members of it, necessary to free them from all usurped tyranny over their consciences. Men, according to the different objects which they have had in view, and the ideas which they have formed upon the subject from the different lights in which it has been seen, have been continually drawing this line too much either to the one side or the other of that golden mean, in which reason, founded upon revelation, has placed it.
* MATT, xxiii. 28
GREGORY NAZIANZEN, from the consideration of the fallibility of fynods, and the disputes which too often prevailed in them, spoke of them with a contempt incompatible with the least degree of reverence for their authority. Such writers as LE CLERC and SCALIGER will not fail to record his saying. “ Si aurem præbeamus viris, quorum alioquin auctotoritatem fpernere nequaquam poffumus, de fynodis veteribus loquentibus, nobis magnifica oratione defcribent αγίας και οικεμενικας συνοδες θεοφορων σατερων συναθροισθεισας ετι τας βασιλειας το μεγαλε βασιλεως, και ισαποςολε-fanξtos et ecumenicos cætus adflatorum divinitus patrum, congre.
regno magni regis et Apostolis æquiparandi. Quis auditis his et similibus verbis, religioso quodam horrore et corpore et animo non contremifcat, ac paratus non fit oracula ejusmodi cætus avidis auribus excipere, haud aliter ac fi cælo ipso emitterentur?. Verum, hæc eft, (quis crederet?) abstracta notio fynodorum, quæ in inconspicua idearum republica coguntur; non imago earum, quæ inter miseros mortales olim congregatæ fuere. Reges ignari, (non legent hæc Mohammedani, nec ethnici, fed ii quorum scire interest, quo fiet ut verum aperte proloquar) reges, inquam, ignari, nec inter bonos principes numerandi, convocarunt Græculos, qui linguæ acuendæ per totam vitam operam dederant, rerum ipsarum ignaros, contendendi ftudiofos, perpetuis rixis inter fe divisos; et bardos aliquot homines ex Occidente, rudiores quidem illis, fed non meliores; iique post pudendas contentiones, obscurissima quæque dogmata, verbis fæpe parum aptis, auctoritate fuâ firmant; quæ stu. pidi populi sine examine adorent, quasi divinitus accepta. Non ficta me loqui norunt qui fynodorum historias legerunt; nec certe vanus erat GREGORIUS NAZIANZENUS, qui dixit,