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come from persons who found it necessary to touch these things very tenderly, because the ground on which they stood in their official character, was not so firm as to bear them up in any other language than that of the false prophets of old, “who spoke smooth things, and prophesied deceits, because the people loved to have it so.” A writer of another stamp, the late pious and learned Bishop of Norwich, in laying before his clergy a brief account of the great fundamental doctrincs which they were to inculcate, . as essential to Christianity, and without which, it cannot be considered as a religion true in itself or beneficial to us, takes care to include in the number of these important doctrines, the Constitution and Use of the Church; “a subject on which,” he says, men's principles for some years past “have been very unsettled, and their knowledge precarious and superficial.”—We need not wonder that this should be the case, when men are at so little pains to acquire that sound substantial knowledge, which is absolutely necessary to settle their principles, and give them just and suitable ideas on a subject of such serious and striking importance, as was ascribed by the blessed Author of our religion, to the way and manner, the purpose and design of his building or raising that society, which he was pleased to call his church, and which he no sooner entered on his public ministry, than he began to establish.t. Now that this church of Christ, thus established by . himself in person, and afterwards, enlarged by his Apostles, on the plan which he had laid down for their direction, ought to be considered as a regular, well formed society, is evident from the names and allusions by which it is described in the sacred writings. It is there represented as a body, a household or family, a city, a kingdom; and must certainly bear some kind of relation to what these terms are generally known to imply. Indeed, no one who
*See Bishop Horne's Charge, p. 21. + See St. Matthew xvi. 18, 19.
reflects for a moment on the nature of these figurative expressions, can be ignorant wherein it is that this relation or connection takes place. The church is a body having many members, of which Christ is the head. The church is a “household” or family, of which Christ is the master, “of whom the whole family is named;” and into which being admitted by baptism, we receive the spirit of adoption, whereby we are allowed and enabled to call the great Lord of heaven and earth our Rather. The church is also called the “city of the living God;” and Christians are said to be “fellow-citizens with the saints:” and it is of, ten mentioned as a kingdom, of which Christ—the King of saints—is the Almighty Sovereign, “to whom all power is given, in heaven and in earth.” In all these respects, the church must be considered as an outward and visible society, possessing all the powers and privileges, and imposing on its members all the relative duties implied in the allusions which I have now quoted. As a bady, all the members must be joined to the head, and to one another, that they may receive life and motion for the discharge of their several functions. As a family, its Almighty Father must in every thing be the guide and director of his children, appointing for them the proper teachers and masters, and training them up in the way of life, from which they must never depart. As a household, the church must not be divided against itself: that it may stand, it must be upheld in unity and order, and by submission to such wholesome discipline, as in the charitable institutions of this world is found necessary to be imposed on all who are admitted to share in the liberality of the founders. As a city and kingdom, the church must be watched over, and governed by its proper officers, deriving their spiritual power and authority from that heavenly Sovereign, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Such then being the light in which we are taught to view the nature and design of that holy and heavenly society, which in scripture is called the church; let us now cast a veil over the confusions of these latter days, and set ourselves to inquire after the order and uniformity of the primitive ages of Christianity; when the doctrine and fellowship of the Apostles were strictly and steadfastly adhered to, and Christians continued most faithfully and conscientiously “in the things which they had learned, and been assured of, knowing of whom they had learned them.” . And as in the course of this inquiry, it may be necessary, for the truth's sake, to speak of things as they really are, and not “call evil good, and good evil, or put darkness for light, and light for darkness;” it is hoped that such candid and honest dealing will not be misinterpreted as the indication of an uncharitable, or illiberal mind; but justly considered as proceeding from an earnest desire to promote the salvation of men, and to join fervently in the pious wish and petition of the church, as expressed in one of her daily prayers, “that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of
peace, and in righteousness of life.” How then can any want of true charity, or what deserves to be called liberality, be with justice imputed to him, who, in his professional character, is doing all he can for the benefit of his fellow Christians, and is not willing that any of them should be lost, if he can help it? Will s nothing serve to constitute a liberal-minded Christian, but ! that lukewarm indifference, which is totally unconcerned about every thing connected with religion; which looks on all professions as alike safe, provided men be sincere, and sees no reason why every one may not hope to “get to heaven” in his own way? Do we judge thus in matters of less consequence, and where the interests of the present life only are concerned? Is he applauded as a liberalminded physician, who, seeing his patient indulge himself in everything that tends to nourish disease and impair the
constitution, flatters him that all shall yet be well; and that he does right to go on in his own way? Is he applauded as a liberal-minded lawyer, who tells his client, that he need give himself no trouble about the laws and government of this country; since, in order to preserve the rights and liberties of a British subject, he may be as well directed in every thing by the municipal code of France, or Russia, or any other country : Is the commander of armies applauded as a liberal-minded soldier, who, in the day of battle, leaves his troops without orders or instructions of any kind, and lets them fight the enemy in the way that seems best to their own judgment? Why then should the teacher of religion be applauded as a liberal-minded divine, whose only merit lies in “speaking peace, where there is no peace,” and leaving the people to grope for the wall of salvation, the pillar and ground of truth; when by pointing it out, through the mist of modern error and delusion, as “a city set on a hill,” which is at unity in itself, he might direct their eyes to that which is the only sure
refuge from sin and misery, the only place of safety to a
guilty world, and, therefore, ought to be “the joy of the
whole earth.” Conscious, therefore, of possessing no other
spirit than the spirit of Christian charity, and actuated by no other motive than the desire of promoting the glory of God, and the good of my Christian brethren, I shall proceed to establish the following plain and important facts, as matters of undoubted certainty, and worthy of the most serious consideration. I. That the Christian religion, being, like its divine Author, “the same yesterday, to-day and for ever,” ought to be received and embraced, just as it is represented and held out in the scriptures of truth, without “adding thereto, or diminishing from it.” II. That the church of Christ, in which his religion is received and embraced, is that spiritual society in which the ministration of holy things is committed to the three distinct orders of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, deriving their authority from the Apostles, as those Apostles received their commission from Christ. And,
III. That a part of this holy, catholic and apostolic church, though deprived of the support of civil establishment, does still exist in this country, under the name of the Scotch Episcopal Church; whose doctrine, discipline and worship, as happily agreeing with that of the first and purest ages of Christianity, ought to be steadily adhered to, by all who profess to be of the Episcopal Communion, in this part of the kingdom.