תמונות בעמוד

noble confines are enlarged, its encrease cherished, and the succours of its promised grace supplied. Such benefits flow there by settled methods of conveyance, and are dispensed through their appointed channels. This fellowship, or collective concourse of the Christian congregation, will also find its pattern as briefly and sufficiently described in one line of the sacred Scripture. Thus, we learn that the first collective number of the Christian household “continued stedfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer.”. We have here the threefold tie of faith, discipline, and worship, even in the highest form of concord and communion. All of these, we must next remark, imply the care and office of the public and commissioned ministers in their respective ranks, as we find them in the age of the Apostles, appointed under their provision, and secured by their direction. The ministerial charge extends expressly to such things; for which reason the first witnesses of Christ became the foundation stones (together with the faith itself which they professed) upon which Christ declared that he would build his Church. Their powers were distinctly given in our Lord's commission, extended as it has been by those who first received it, to those whom they constituted in the same behalf. Great and eminent were the privileges of our Lord's Apostles, and their gifts. What they witnessed, and what they put in writing for our learning, had the sure seal of inspiration.

But what was peculiar to them, cannot be taken to defeat their own scheme of discipline and order, or to destroy the pattern which they left.

Having touched the first bonds. of. union in the Church, and in close connection with it, the sacred ordinances and their ministrations in its visible communion, I will add but one word to these preliminaries,- it is this,--that from the first publication of religion in the world, and of the Christian faith in particular, there has been an uniform acknowledgment of the right of sovereignty in every state. This right was founded

the common principles of equity and reason which pervade the universe. The principles of order, unity, and public peace, cannot subsist without good government; and no good government, whatever be its form, can be without its right of sanctions, its sources of authority, and its last resort. If these should be so divided as to constitute the strange anomaly of two heads for one body, two forms of power and independence without union or subjection, the government would be plainly open to distraction. What is merely spiritual belongs no doubt to the spiritual office: and where God hath spoken, must derive its sanctions from his word. If this be what is meant by independence upon human authority, the plea is good. What is merely civil, belongs as clearly to the civil power, according to the ground of what must be provided to secure the foundations of society in this world. Our Lord marked this also in a single sentence, “ render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things which are God's.” But in things where these considerations come to be united, and who can sever them where man is the subject of them-man who has one mind and one conscience for things sacred and things civilin such mixed concerns, both kinds of government must concur to make their ministrations serve the public good. Where also this concurrent rule is subject, as it ought to be, to one sovereignty, there we may well say that the supremacy, for control in all things to which human power is competent, rests where Providence and Nature have designed it should. It rests where the word of God, expressed in many testimonies of prophetic promise, , declared it should rest. It rests upon the pattern of the Old Israel, in things not limited to one peculiar jurisdiction. It rests upon the natural inherent right of every government. It rests where the laws of this land have so expressly placed it. The promise that the powers of this world should exercise that fostering care which the kings of Israel used, points then most plainly to national conversions, and to national communions. It is not possible to break the force of this conclusion, by looking back to less perfect stages of the Christian Church, before the promised pattern was complete. Would you give the preference on such grounds of primitive example, to the pattern of our Lord's little flock, before those who were to be its future pastors had received their commission, and before he had pre


power, its

scribed the sacred ordinances of his Church? When collected round his hallowed person, they wanted nothing; they had all things ; but are we for this reason to return back to that first image of the Church, and to reject the word of promise for the manner of its future settlement in all lands?

I touch these things briefly; I have treated of them heretofore more largely in this place. I touch them now, because my thoughts are next to be directed more particularly to the congregation, which in Christian states derives much of its privileges from the ground thus laid.

· The congregation; what is it but those parts of the Church of Christ which in Christian countries are severed only in their seasons of assembly, because all cannot meet together? In such assemblies did our Lord and his Apostles exercise their ministries. It is there that, from the first admission to the state of grace, the several advances in that progress, which has its stages of proficiency, are made good. It is there that the covenant of faith and duteous service is renewed, with every tender of that reasonable sacrifice in which the soul and body form together the joint oblation of the whole man. And what are the connecting bonds of union for the congregation ? What but the threefold ties before named, doctrine, discipline, and worship, as they are acknowledged and adopted by the public voice in one land. Thus the collective congregations, and the national communion, stand together; nor can they be divided without


a manifest and open schism, on whichever side the fault of such division may be found to lie; and where human prudence must have some share in public regulations, if things be but tolerable, who would forego the end itself in all its chief particulars, for the sake of points of smaller moment? Who can do this and be blameless ? In the days of the Apostles the first indications of a dividing spirit, were seen in factious singularities, before they brake out into more decided separations. It was no formed schism, but a partial spirit, which made some cry out for Apollos, and others lift the voice for Paul; against which faulty temper the Apostle urged that generous remonstrance, was Paul crucified for


?” reminding them of that only name by which they could be saved. But if the ground of concord be well laid in the national communion, every tendency to separate will easily be met by the calm answer which was given by our Lord's Apostle to contentious persons in his day; we have no such custom, neither the Churches of God;" which shews plainly that they were subject then to one rule.

When what were deemed to be higher measures of improvement, were sought after' in this land by forsaking the common bond of fellowship; when this was done for the sake of favourite opinions or of no less favoured usages, which, whatever judgment might be formed about them, stood apart from the main foundations of the faith; how desperate was the blow! It destroyed at once

« הקודםהמשך »