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out his Father, so neither do
whether presbyter, deacon, or laick, any thing without the Bishop."* “ Give heed to your Bishop, that GOD'may hearken to you: my soul for theirs who subject themselves under the obedience of their bishop, presbyters, and deacons; and let me take my lot with them in the LORD.”
The foregoing passages, to which others might be added, from the writings of IGNATIUS, speak fo plainly and decidedly in favour of the government established in the church, and so directly in condemnation of all separation from it, that a particular comment upon them is unneceffary. They speak a plain language, expressive of the sentiments of the holy men who lived in the Apostolic age; and the general conclusion from them is, that whoever was in communion with the bishop, the supreme governor of the church upon earth, was in communion with CHRIST, the head of it; and whoever was not in communion with the bishop, was thereby cut off from communion with CHRIST; and that facraments not administered by the bishop, or those commissioned by him, were not only ineffectual to the parties, but moreover, like the offerings of Korah, provocations against the Lord.
* « Ωσπερ και ο Κυριος ανευ τε Πατρος αδες ποιει, έτω και υμεις ανευ τα Επισκοπε, μηδε Πρεσβυτερος, μηδε Διακονος, μηδε ο λαικός.”. IGNAT. Epist. to the Magnes.
«Τω Επισκοπω προσεχετε, ινα και ο Θεος υμιν' αντιψυχον εγω των υποτασσομενων ζώον Επισκοπω, Πρεσβυτεριω, Διακονοις μετ' αυτων μοι το uspos ytvorto exery Tapas i8."--Epift. to POLYCARP.
If, then, the constitution of the Christian church be the same now that it was in the days of the Apostles, (and if it be not, the time when, and the authority by which, an alteration was produced in it, should be ascertained) the fin of schism, however we may attempt to palliate it, is precisely the same fin it then was.
And if the primitive writers of the church spoke so decidedly upon this subject, with a view of guarding its members against so heinous a lin, where it respected chiefly the separation of inferior ministers from the jurisdiction of their respective bishops; what would they have said upon it, had they lived to mark the extent to which this sin is carried in the days in which we live? If they considered schism, as it was then practised, as the greatest of all crimes, because it directly counteracted the Divine plan in the establishment of the church; what language would they have found sufficiently strong to express their abhorrence of that Babel of confusion, which now prevails in the Christian world? If the preservation of the government of the church constituted an object of that importance in their eyes, as to subject any the least opposition to it to their feverest censure; what must they have thought of that licentious practice, which leads to its total diffolution? when, in consequence of all ideas respecting the nature of the church having been in a great measure lost among us, men look not beyond themselves for that commission, by which they presume to enter upon the ministry of holy things; drawing congregations after them, and thereby dividing Christian professors into as many sects and parties, as there are felf-sufficient teachers to be found, who have an end to answer, or a passion to gratify, upon the occafion.
The opinions of the present day, unhappily for us, tend to countenance a general diffolution of establishments; as if men are different creatures now from what they were in any former state of the world; and grown too 'wise, in this age of reason, as it is called, to submit to any ordinances that have not received. the fanction of their own immediate appointment.
But if it be true, that Christ formed only one church, there can be but one communion in it; and if that church be a visible society, distinctly known by its ministers and facraments, as it most certainly
is, a wilful separation from it must be rebellion against the Divine ordinance, whenever it takes place. Por ignorance with respect to the nature of the Christian church, can make no alteration in the plan upon which Divine Wisdom has formed it: consequently fchifin, or a separate communion from that church, must, whatever ideas of prejudice or error may prevail on the subject, be an heinous sin in the eyes of God.
To form a proper judgment upon this subject, we must not be governed by the opinions and practices of the world upon it; because it ever has been the misfortune of the world, to be more fond of its own inventions than of God's commands. And there is this obvious reason for it; what man invents has a more strict correspondence with the corrupt inclinations of his depraved nature, than what God ordains: and hence it is, that we are so readily induced to substitute human imaginations in the place of Divine institutions. The one are creatures of our own, and tend in a greater or less degree to the gratification of our humours and passions; the other, as controling our inclinations, and abridging our liberty, are on that account lefs welcome to the natural man.
- To deal honestly with ourselves, therefore, we Thould place this subject upon the ground on which
it ought to stand. By proceeding thus, we shall find that one great object in the establishment of the church, was to unite men by the bond of charity in constant communion with God and each other; that by entering upon a life of peace, of love, and fellowship with the Holy Ghost upon earth, the members of it might be prepared for that more perfect state provided for them in a better world.
A church, the members of which were to be thus joined together in Christian fellowship, presented a picture of too heavenly a society for the grand enemy of mankind to behold without envy; and which, if suffered to continue in a perfect state, would most certainly tend to render those beings happy, whom, from the creation of the world, it has been the constant employment of this destroyer, as he is emphatically called, to render miserable. From the moment, therefore, that the church was founded upon earth, the malice of this evil one has been directed against it. And it not being in his power to destroy the church, (the Divine Founder of it having expressly declared, that the gates of hell shall not finally prevail against it) his next object has been to render it as ineffectual to the purpose of its establishment as pofa