صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

to point out the various contradictions that are to be met with in the




suffice to observe, that the argument upon which much is built, by all advocates for religious liberty, and which has its force when confined to the corruptions of the church of Rome, becomes weak and ineffectual in its general application to the church of CHRIST.

But an author, who, though highly distinguished for his fagacity and erudition, appears, from his writings, not to have formed a consistent idea of the nature and constitution of the Christian Church himself, cannot be expected to convey that idea to his readers. And in such case, great abilities ferve rather to confound and perplex the truth, by rendering it a subject of more complex investigation, than to elucidate and confirm it.

What we lament in this case is, that bishops, whose facred office it is to preside over and govern the church of Christ committed to their charge, should use a language calculated, if generally acted upon, to leave no church on earth for the exercise of the spiritual authority with which they have been entrusted.

There is still a third writer of great respectability, whose opinions upon church subjects appear to differ widely from those of the old school. In his chapter on religious establishments, Archdeacon Paley informs his readers, “ That it cannot be proved that any form of church government was laid down in the Christian church; that no command for that purpose was delivered by Christ himself; and upon the supposition that bishops and presbyters were appointed by the Apostles, that the true conclusion is, that such offices were at first erected in the Christian church, as the good order, the instruction, and exigencies of the society at that time required; without any intention of regulating the appointment, authority, or the distinction of Christian ministers under future circumstances.'

Such appears to be the Archdeacon's conclufion upon this subject; although fuch is not the conclusion which it might be expected would have been drawn by a presbyter of the episcopal church. But without opposing to this confident affertion of Dr. PALEY our

wn confident negative, (which, from our particular examination of this subject, we need not hesitate to do;) it shall be observed only, that the Doctor's argument, though entitled to attention, upon the confideration of the quarter from whence it proceeds, does not stand upon firm ground.

Should we allow, that no command from our Saviour, respecting the form of church government appears upon record, does it follow from thence that no command was ever delivered upon this subject? And on the ground that no express form of church government is to be found, totidem verbis, laid down in the scripture, are we authorized in concluding, from that circumstance, that no form was established ?

The instructions which our Saviour might, and most probably did, give the Apostles on this subject, upon the delivery of their commiffion;* the resemblance to be expected between the form of government established under the Jewish and Christian æconomy, considered as two branches of the same Christian church; (Christianity being only Judaism spiritualized) and the circumstance of the Apostles, in the discharge of their office, acting under immediate inspiration; are considerations which appear not to have had sufficient weight allowed them in the Archdeacon's scale of judgment. Whilst his reasons why no permanent church government could be fixed upon, because “no precise constitution could be framed, which would suit with the condition of Christ. ianity in its primitive state, and with that which it was to assume, when it should be advanced into a national religion; and because a particular designation of office or authority amongst the ministers of the new religion might have so interfered with the arrangements of civil policy, as to have formed, in some countries, a considerable obstacle to the progress and reception of the religion itself;" are reasons which, it is presumed, will not be generally admitted.

* The Apoftle to the Hebrews, speaking of the priests under the law, fays, Heb. viii. 5, that they served “unto the exampk and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of GOD when he was about to make the tabernacle; for fee,” saith he, “ that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the Mount.” From whence it appears, that the plan for the service of the tabernacle was delivered by God to Moses in the Mount. We do not say, that the necessary inference from the above .circumstance is, that our Saviour's conference with his Apostles in the Mount, when he delivered to them their commiffion, had a similar object in view with respect to the service of his church; but we think that the analogy between the two cases does at least make such a conclusion highly probable; and ought, in our judgment, to more than balance against any supposed want of in: formation on this subject in the Apostolic writings.

That a “religious establishment is no part of Christianity, but only the means of inculcating it,” is a position that will be readily granted. But if a religious establishment have been deemed necessary to the propagation of Christianity, it will be concluded, that that form of it, which was set on foot by those


inspired persons, to whom the charge of the church was first committed, is best calculated to answer the end in view. This is a fair presumption, not to be fet aside but upon substantial evidence.

“ The authority of a church establishment is founded,” we are told, “ on its utility.” The position, thus stated, appears capable of leading into

The authority of the establishment of the Christian church is founded upon the character of the party who established it; that party being JESUS Christ, through the ministry of his Apostles, its utility must of course be admitted. No supposed improvements, therefore, to be expected from human “ deliberations concerning the form, propriety, or comparative excellency of different establishments," can balance against the authority of those persons, who were favoured with that competent judgment upon this subject, which is now no longer possessed.

The Archdeacon's arguments upon this subject, if I understand them, may, when brought together, be thus stated: “ A religious establishment is no part of Christianity. It cannot be proved, that any

form of church government was ever laid down in the Christian church. · However this be, certain it is, no command was delivered by CHRIST on the subject.

« السابقةمتابعة »