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were openly tolerated and practised without rebuke; but many of them were : and such as were deemed odious by the wiser and better sort, could not be restrained in any tolerable degree, by the authority of their precepts and example, or by the force of human laws. Among those directly encouraged was that vile abomination first mentioned by the Apostle. This, it is known, was very universally practised by the gravest of their philosophers, who professed to be instructors and patterns of morality. And who can read, but with indignation, the Roman poet, whose verses have so long delighted, and we may say instructed the learned in many useful things, where he celebrates his love of a beautiful boy. Horrible perversion of the human character! If it had not been generally esteemed innocent, such a testimony, with a great many others that might be cited, would not have come down to this late posterity, to be an everlasting stigma upon heathen morality, however excellent it may have been in other respects.
The philosophers indeed taught and inculcated a system, which in many points was pure and exalted ; and what they taught, in some good degree they practised in their lives. But still it was most wretchedly defective, in a great many important particulars. Lewdness, debauchery and intemperance are very hardly treated as vices; but at most, no more than follies easily pardoned. And when we consider that the religion they professed, directly encouraged and required the practice of these vices, in the impure worship which they addressed to their fancied deities, the patrons of wine, and of lust; what could be the consequence but the most abandoned licentiousness? Revelling and drunkenness, with the gratification of every impure desire, were the rites with which those divinities were supposed to be well pleased : Consequently in the season when their festivals were kept, the temples were converted into brothels ; they were filled with intoxication and disorder : Neither did the monstrous perversion end here, and remain concealed within the walls of a tem. ple ; for whole troops of naked Bacchanalians, as they were called, used to sally forth, and with all the extravagant actions of drunkenness, scour the town and the country. Now what instruction, what precept, what force of example, had there been any in the world, could resist so much temptation? But the worst part of the picture is yet to be presented : For the philosophers purposely confined their instruction to a chosen few; and never even attempted to enlighten and reform the vulgar; but left them to wallow in all the vices which their depraved hearts should prompt them to commit. Without instruction, without precept, without the motive of honour and ambition to gain and preserve a fair reputation, and with but faint hopes or fears of any good or evil, except from present things ; perhaps a great part of them, altogether without any motive drawn from the consideration of a future life ; what could they consider as their greatest good, but the gratification of their animal desires ? What of course must have been their characters, but a compound of vice, ferocity, and brutality? We need neither human nor divine history to inform us that this must have been the case. When we see so much vice prevalent among inen, with all the advantages and glorious mo
tives of the gospel before them, what must they have been without those advantages? The question does not need to be answered ; Every one must immediately answer for himself.
That the common people were thus neglected, take the following proof among hundreds that might be adduced, from one of the gravest and best of their writers on morality.* I would have you bear in mind, says he, that to the vulgar, every thing is permissible, (for this license results from the very circumstances in which they are born and brought un but to the better sort, the neglect of virtue is unpardonable. This singular concession in favour of vice is addressed to a young man, whom the writer is endeavouring to impress with sentiments of wisdom and virtue ; and it goes to prove, that they not only neglected and despised the great body of the community, but unduly fostered the pride of those whom they deigned to instruct. The whole tendency of such partiality was to exalt the one class, and depress the other; to produce, consequently, insolence on one side, and abject meanness on the other. But had it been otherwise—had they en. deavoured to instruct and reform all alike, yet what authority had they to enforce their precepts? By what sufficient motive could they urge obedience? They could not do it by the powerful considerations of future happiness or misery ; for after all the fine things they have said concerning the soul's immortality (and they have said every thing that unassisted reason could say, and perhaps in the best manner too) still they appear very hardly to have believed in the doctrine, which they professed to teach. Their faith was, at the best, wavering and unsteady. They seem to have been aware, that with such lights as they had, this was an insecure ground upon which to rest their exhortations; and therefore had recourse to honour, ambition, and love of fame. They were very solicitous to remind their pupils of immortality on earth, a great name to descend to posterity, as a motive to virtuous actions; but said little to them of their condition after death. But what efficacy could such motives have upon those to whom they were offered, against unbridled appetites and passions ? On some of the best inclined they doubtless did operate, to a considerable degree; though not enough to produce that undeviating virtue, and those sober manners, which constitute the character of a rational being. Even of these philosophers themselves, we find recorded many instances of gross immorality. How small then must have been the effect of their instruction, upon the generality of those whom they taught? There must have been few who did not give a loose to their desires when assaulted by temptations. They talked well in the closet, or in the school of philosophy ; but in the world they acted the reverse. And the black catalogue of vices enumerated by the Apostle, were openly committed to a far greater extent than can be pretended, where Christanity is professed. Do modern un. believers wish to reduce the world to the same state ? I hope not. I believe not. No; they labour for they know not what; to gratify a pride of singularity ; or to serve some other particular interest of their own; or by dwelling only on the dark side of things, and ascrib: ing to Christianity the evils which have resulted from the wicked *-* Isocrates.
ness of its professors, they have heated their imaginations, and bewildered their understandings so as not to make a fair estimate of the subject. None of them would willingly be thought the advocates of vice and immorality ; yet it is no new assertion to say, that they may be so in fact, by seeking to lessen or destroy the influence of that religion, which contributes so much to the improvement of manners ; which bars the way against licentiousness, and controuls the corrupt passions of men.
That such has been and is the effect of Christianity, notwithstanding the numerous vices that poison the peace of social life, I now proceed to shew. And what is become of those enormities, those flagrantly licentious practices which have been enumerated ? If they are not altogether banished from the earth, they are at least driven to hide themselves in obscurity. They are rendered so odious that few have the hardihood to venture upon them openly. Sobriety, temperance and chastity are exalted into virtues of the first rank, which, at the utmost, used to be placed among those of a lower order. Humility and meekness have taken place of their opposites, pride and ambition. Kindness and charity to the needy, which were scarcely so much as named among heathens, stand conspicuously forward on the list among Christians. And here it may be worth while just to notice, that all those noble institutions which do so much honour to the human heart, which display the godlike virtue of doing good ; such as hospitals and places of retreat for the necessitous, supported by the liberality of such as have the means and the disposition, owe their origin altogether to the spirit of Christianity. They were absolutely unknown in the world before the light of the gospel shown. This is a fact, with which perhaps many are unac, quainted, and ought therefore to be informed of its truth. Of the · beginning of these charitable institutions, we have very early and au. thentic notices, even in the word of God; for we read that the disci. ples every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea : Which also they did, and sent it to the elders, by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.* But as I intend to handle this point more largely in some future essay, for the present I shall thus lightly pass it over, and go on to some considerations of a more general nature.
No sooner had the gospel spread itself over the Roman empire, than its professors were noticed to be more sober and regular in their manners, and more kind and benevolent in their disposi. tions, than their heathen neighbours. This their enemies were obliged to confess; for it was a common saying amongst them, See how these Christians love each other. The favourable testimony of an enemy is always to be taken for true; we cannot therefore doubt but there was something very remarkable in their conduct. And what wonder it should be so, when we consider the spirit and tendency of the religion they professed, and that what they professed they felt, and what they felt, they acted. And would to God, the same might be said, with truth, of us their successors; for bles. sed and happy would be the fruits of such a conformity between our words, and our actions ; we should not so often, as we now do, give
* Acts xi, 29, 30.
infidels a handle to condemn our profession. But the most remarkable testimony to the point we are upon, is that of Pliny, a learned and judicious man, and a Pagan ; who being governor of one of the Roman provinces in a time of persecution, wrote to the Emperor a sort of remonstrance which is still extant; and in which he feelingly pleads the cause of Christians. He tells him (I pretend not to give his words, not having the book before me) " that his armies are full of them; that many are in the magistracy; that they are faithful, upright and obedient subjects; and ought not to be molested on account of their religion. And there is no one, in the least acquainted with the early Christian writers, but knows that they not only opposed the debasing superstitions of their heathen neighbours, but strictly ab. stained from, and severely inveighed against the horrible vices that prevailed : And that to avoid every appearance of evil, they would not be seen in the company of the profligate-To avoid temptation, they avoided scenes of amusement, where vice might be recommend. ed. That we their successors have sadly degenerated from this strictness of manners is not to be disputed. Since Christianity has become the fashionable religion, there are many, too many, nominal professors, who have none of the spirit and power of what they profess; and consequently shew none of it in their conduct. But still it may be maintained, that neither these, nor others who make no profession, go to that flagrant enormity in vice, which prevailed in the pagan world. Either the force of example, the fear of shame and reproach, or some sparks of what they profess or see professed, keeps hold of their hearts, and restrains their conduct. Hence we are every day reaping important benefits from the Christian religion; greater degrees of temporal peace and happiness; which should make us cautious, had we no other reasons, (which God be thanked we have) of listening to those who would gladly destroy its influence.
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[Continued from page 99.]. HAVING proceeded thus far in reasoning out of the scripe tures upon the Episcopal form of Church government, it is perhaps unnecessary to pursue it any farther. I cannot, however, willingly dismiss the subject, without appealing to Christian writers, who live ed immediately after the Apostles, to find whether my reasonings and conclusions are warranted by them..
And first may be noticed a passage from the writings of St. Clement, whom St. Paul, in his epistle to the Thessalonians, calls his fel. low labourer, whose name is in the book of life ; and who, as ecclesiastical history, informs us, was afterwards ordained a Bishop by St. Peter. This Clement, in an epistle he wrote to the Corinthians, says of the Jewish Church-" To the High Priest his proper offices were * appointed, the Priests had their proper order; and the Levites * their peculiar services, or deaconships; and the Laymen what was
* proper for Laymen." This he applies to the Christian Church, and to its offices of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon, in order to show how exactly it harmonized with that of the Jews. And when it is considered tbat he lived in the very time of the Apostles, and was acquainted with several of them, his testimony must appear to be of great weight.
But again :-St. Ignatius, who suffered martyrdom but four or five years after the death of St. John, gives us a greater variety of testimony upon this subject. Ecclesiastical writers say he was consecrated Bishop by the hands of St. Peter, and presided over the Church at Antioch forty years or more; of course he must have been well acquainted with the Apostles, and with the government of the Church in their days. Let us then hear what he says upon this subject. In writing to the Trallians, he observes—« Do nothing 6 without the Bishop; be subject to the college of Presbyters; « and let the Deacons, who are the mystery of Jesus Christ, by * all means please all men ; for they are not only Deacons of 4 meats and drinks, but ministers of the Church of God. In like * manner, let all of you reverence the Deacons, the Bishop and the * Presbyters; without these a Church is not named.” Again* He is an alien, or out of the Church, who does any thing without << the Bishop, and Presbytere, and Deacons.” In writing to another Church, he exhorts “ the Presbyters, and Deacons, and Laymen, to “ do nothing separate from the Bishop,” or without acknowledging his authority. To the same Church he says, “ I exhort you to do « all things according to the mind or will of God, the Bishop presi. “ ding, and the Presbyters in room of the Apostles, and the Deacons 4 entrusted with the ministry of Christ.” He also wrote to the Church at Philadelphia, which is mentioned in the book of Revelations, and directed his epistle to those who were in unity with the « Bishop, and Presbyters, and Deacons." And this shows that there were three orders of ministers in that Church, and that he did not consider any as Christians, but those who acknowledged their authority, and adhered to their ministry. In that epistle he says, that, « as many as are with Christ, the same are with the Bishop :" and as some had revolted from their Bishop, he tells them, that “ those 66 who repent, and return to the unity of the Church, shall be accept« ed of God, and live according to Jesus Christ." This implies, that those who did not adhere to the Bishop, or to the Church which was governed by Bishops, di.. not follow Christ, and were not entitled to his promises. And in this way he continues his exhortation : “My “ brethren, be not deceived ; if any man shall follow him that makes 1 a schism or separation in the Church, he shall not inherit the king. - dom of God."
Whether his opinion in this case was perfectly right or not, in thus cutting off from salvation all who did not adhere to their Bishop, is a point not now under enquiry. Let that be as it may, it clearly proves what he understood and knew to be the constitution of the Church; that it had three orders of ministers, two of them in subordination to the Bishop ; and this is what now we undertake to