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the right of altering them in the smallest degree. Our en: quiry then is not whether we would have formed such ; whether they are the most wise or the most useful; but if they are such as we are willing to place ourselves under? No man is compelled to become or continue to be a subject of this kingdom ; it must be his own voluntary act ; but as long as he continues to claim the privilege of it, he is bound to obey its laws, in every respect. He is not born a subject of it, and therefore bound by the absurd law which exists in all other kingdoms, viz. that whether he approves or disap. proves of its institutions, he must always support them, or be hanged as a traitor! No; he cannot become a subject of this kingdom till he is capable of judging for himself; and even then it is a matter of choice with himself to become a member of it or not: and even after he has become a menber, should he alter his mind, there are no penal laws to bind him to continue. He has only to renounce the privileges of the society, and the laws immediately cease to operate upon him; and the society from which he withdraws can do no more than declare he is cut off from them, that they may no longer be considered responsible for his character and conduct. :
As the terms bishop and elder have been the subject of much controversy, I will endeavour to give their true meaning ; and, first, I would most earnestly entreat, when I use the word bishop, not to be understood as having any reference to those men called bishops in the present day, but characters as much the reverse of them as light is to darkness. By a bishop I mean not a man perjured by his first entrance into officema man puffed up with pride and luxury, possessed of princely revenue, and dressed in a large - wig and lawn sleeves, who pays his adoration to princes and little to his God--who exercies dominion, and has his spiri. tual courts-in fact I do not mean a lord bishop-neither do I mean such a man as the Rev. Mr. Belsham, in his canonicals, nor such men as the Rev. Mr. Aspland, Vidler, Nightingale, or Huntingdon, in their black coats the bishop I speak of is a scriptural bishop, and no other. ; · The words bishop and elder, it appears to me, were not intended as titles, but merely descriptive of the duties they had to perform ; the same as if any persons were appointed to manage the affairs of a nation who were not distinguished by any particular title, and I were addressing a letter to them, I should say of course, if their names were not men. tioned, " To the rulers, the overseers, or the managers of such a nation;" neither of which terins would be the title or
overseer, and should be so translated, then it follows that Peter, and all the apostles, were elders or overseers, though holding no stationary office in any particular branch of the church. The whole difficulty arises from making the word mean a title attached to a particular office in the church.
< If those who were appointed as stationary presidents or rulers, were called elders or overseers, on account of their presiding and overseeing the affairs of the particular branch of which they were members, with equal propriety might they be so called who watched over the affairs of the whole Christian church ; and I apprehend that the term elder originated either from the circumstance of the apos. tles being Jews (and they were habituated to use it of those who ruled the Jewish people, and conducted their concerns); or else that in the first planting of the Christian church, before it was organized, and regular officers appointed, that the earliest converts or the oldest men among them took upon themselves the management of its concerns, and either from age or earlier conversion were called elders : and when a proper organization took place, and proper officers were appointed, not for their long standing in life or in the church, but for their fitness, those who were appointed in their place succeeded to the name as well as the office. The latter appears to me the most likely, though probably both circumstances might have contributed towards it. One thing however is clear, that bishops, overseers, and elders, are the same officers, and consequently a character or charactèrs holding such office or offices as they did, formed a part of the government of the Christian church. .. In my next I shall shew the qualifications and duties of these officers, their number, mode of election, &c.
And am, Sir, your's, &e.
, A FREETHINKING CHRISTIAN: 1
ON THE OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH, &c. .
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine. . . JIR, ; . VOUR correspondent T: has made some desultory re
1 marks upon the Sabbath Day, a subject which appears to me, to lie within a very narrow compass. 1. Jesus left the Jewish Sabbath as he found it. 2. There is no autho. rity, that I know of, for the Christian Sabbath; consequently Christians may neet together on any day that is most convenient.
Your correspondent observes, that “the practice of the apostles and first Cbristians, is a proof that they did not consider the law respecting the seventh day as binding upon them.” That the seventh day was never binding upon Gentile converts, is evident enough to me; but, where can this writer find, that the apostles, who were Jews, did not consider the seventh day as binding upon them? Who freed them from the Mosaic laws? Oo the contrary, it does not appear to me, that Jesus and his disciples, any more than other Jews, were ever absolved from their obligation to the observance of the law of Moses. Where, when, and by whom, was it ever abrogated ? This is a distinction that ought ever to be kept in our view, and which will serve greatly to elucidate the sacred writings. We must be care. ful not to appropriate or apply to ourselves, as Gentiles, what was never intended for us.. .
Jesus and his disciples, as Jews, abstractedly considered, are no examples for us. They partook of the passover, which some have converted into the Lord's Supper ; whereas we, as Gentiles, have not a single rite or ceremony to ob. serve. But wherever Jesus and his disciples exemplified the great principles of piety and benevolence, they are models to all mankind, whether Jew or Gentile.
There is not the shadow of authority in the New Testament for Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Ordination, Keeping of Days, Public Worship, or for the order of men called the Priesthood. These priests, who are the root of all the corruptions in religion, are the modern Pharisees; but in the kingdom of Christ all men are equal, and they have nothing to do, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk hum, bly before God. Sandon, Jan. 1813.
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