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posed ground of Church government being a subject of “ doubtful opinion,” at the same time that they are to be taken as no judges in the case, pronounce, by their conduct, the severest sentence on their own negligence, and must be answerable for the conse quences to which it may lead.
As this is both a serious and important subject, it should be considered seriously; and, as far as possible, abstractedly from all personal confiderations and prejudices. In fact, this subject is to be determined only by the word of God, and the practice of the Church originally built upon it. For next to the Divine inftitution, Catholic practice constitutes the basis of the power and order of Episcopacy. What government was therefore instituted by the Apostles, delivered to their immediate successors, and universally established in the Church, supposing that capable of being ascer. tained, must constitute the standard, to which all future judgment on this head ought in reason to conform: on the confideration, that no judgment of the present members of the Church can come in competition with it; because no present members of the Church stand on the same ground with the Apostles, and their immediate fucceffors, with respect to the data, from which alone a judgment on this fubject is decidedly to be formed.
The reasoning which latitudinarianism has by degrees introduced into this subject, however plausibly it may found to uninformed minds, is certainly replete with dangerous fallacy. Provided, we are told, the effentials of religion are secured, what are deemed the circum. ftantials of it are no longer considered worthy atten, tion. From which general premises it is concluded, that, provided Christians hear the Gospel, and become pions persons, it is a matter of no importance on what ministry they attend. With truly pious persons, of whatever denomination, every faithful minister of Christ's Church must cordially wish to be united; for true piety is that gracious quality of the human heart, which at all times challenges respect. But it may be asked, we trust without offence, whether it can be any recommendation even of true piety, that it should be eccentric: or, whether true plet: become less so than it really is, or in any degree fink in the scale of estimation, by being accompanied with a due regard to order and obedience? To us it appears, that' of two fupposed equal degrees of piety, that of the party who lives in communion with the Church is to be preferred to that of the person who feparates from it; on the ground of his piety being accompanied with that humility, which, in conformity with the Apostolic injunction, has preserved its poffeffor in fubmission to the authority appointed to rule over. him. We know that the first open rebellion against established order in the Jewish Church, though grounded on the holiness of the parties, was followed with the most signal mark of the Divine displeafure. And there is no passage in Scripture from which it can be concluded, that fimilar rebellion in the Christian Church, is not equally offensive to its Divine Founder; though the crime be not attended with consequences equally prompt and decisive.
But it may be further asked of those Christians, who thus discriminate between the essentials and the circumftantials of religion, where they draw the line between what is to be regarded of essential obligation to Christians, and what is not? or by what criterion their judgment on this head is determined? Should the government of the Church be reckoned among their non-essentials, and consequently a matter of indifference, as from the practice of the day we have too much reason to conclude, we must say, that we are at a loss to understand, how a government that has received the fanction of Divine appointment, (“ divinâ lege fundatum,” says CYPRIAN) can be feen in this light. But exclusive of this consideration, which should of itself, it might be supposed, preclude every seeming objection on this head; the great object which the government of the Church was designed to secure, proclaims the wisdom of its establishment. The Apostle calls the Church “ the pillar and ground of the truth;" 1 Țim. iii. 15. " Etudos xai coperti pea; "a pillar, and the basis of that pillar: in other words, a pillar upon its basis, firmly sustaining that which was built upon it. The fimilitude is taken from ancient houses, built on pillars placed firmly on their bases, for the support of the incumbent building. Thus the Church is considered as a pillar erected on the basis or foundation of Jesus Christ and his Apostles; for the purpose of fuftaining and upholding the truth, which, as a superstructure, has been raised upon it. In conformity to this idea is the following description of the Church at Ephesus: “Now, then, (says the Apostle writing to his Ephesian disciples) ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the faints, and of the houfhold of God; and are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus CHRIST himself being the chief corner-stone. In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the LORD."*
“ If (says the learned HAMMOND) the truth of the Gospel had been scattered abroad by preaching to single men, and those men never compacted together into a society, under the government of bishops or stewards, &c. such as Timothy was, to whom was delivered by St. Paul that Tapaxala Inxn, that depositum, or body of sound doctrine, 1 Tim. vi. 20, to be kept as a standard in the Church, by which all other doctrines were to be measured and judged; if, I say, such a summary of faith had not been delivered to all Christians that came in, in any place, to the Apostles preaching; and if there had not been some steward to keep it; then had there wanted an eminent means to sustain and uphold this truth of the Gospel, thus preached
* Ephes, ii. 20
nnto men. But by the gathering of single converted Christians into afsemblies or churches, and appointing governors in those churches, and entrusting this depofitum, or form of wholesome doctrine, to their keeping, it comes to pass, that the Christian truth is sustained and held up; and so this house of God is affirmed to be the pillar and basis of the truth;” or “the pillar on that divine bafis by which truth is supported.'
And hence it is that St. IGNATIUS, (who, St. CHRYSOSTOM informs us, received his ordination from the hands of the Apostles themselves, and consequently must have been instructed by them) insists fo much on the indispensible necessity of communion with the bishop; because he considered that form of doctrine deposited with, and kept by the bishop in the Church, as the only sure means to support and preserve the truth. And such, in the early days of the Church, was considered to be that established mode of proof, by which the truth was to be effectually ascertained against heretics; namely, by tracing the form of sound doctrine, through its several successive depositaries, the governors of the Church, up to its original Apostolic source. On this established principle IreNÆus built his argument against the heretics of his day. “We can reckon up (faid he) those who were by the Apostles ordained bishops in the churches, and those who were their successors, even to our own time. They never taught nor knew any of the wild opinions of these men; and had the Apostles known