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the ties of a visible communion in one land. It cancelled all the peaceful forms of social worship, and dissolved the happy concord of religious ministrations in one nation. The strife too was excited after so much had been done to cast out all material errors from our borders, that St. Paul's grave and ever memorable rule might well apply,
“ Brethren whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing."
The congregation then, is the lively image of the Christian Church-Nay more, it is a part and portion of it; which is something far beyond resemblance. It is the collective company of that which in our land should constitute one body of believers under its appointed pastors, divided only in its places of assembly from the nature and necessity of things; but one in faith, in spiritual concord, in doctrine, discipline, and worship.
A strange device it was, and unhappily it was one which found its first abettors in this land, that the first sees in Christendom were confined to single congregations. Upon this construction of the spiritual government, there were those who professed a readiness to own episcopacy which before had been so bitterly opposed. For this purpose every nerve was strained in order to confine the Church in early ages to such single flocks. But it soon appeared that it was against all records of historical tradition, that the cities, states, and regions where Christianity was first planted, should
each of them have but one church of assembly; or if there were more, that each church for that. reason should become a diocese, with the several ministerial orders and degrees, (which on this condition were acknowledged) bounded to that limit. The large companies, reported with the clearest testimony of the public apologists for the faith in ages next to those of the Apostles, could not be so circumscribed. The vast numbers of Christians in the cities of Antioch; of Rome with its dependencies; in the cities of Syria; in Ethiopia and Africa, with the regions of the western world, could not meet respectively in single congregations. They were bound, indeed, in their several dioceses to one altar of communion. One church and one altar, was the constant language of antiquity *. But they who used it, never dreamed that one congregation could constitute the collective body of believers in one city, state or region ; or that when congregations should be multiplied, the single altar in that town or district would cease to be the centre of episcopal communion or control.
This conceit, however, that each several congregation, when so formed, became at once a new see, was put forward with the greatest boast of full research. The remotest corners of the Christian world were traversed for examples, and the registers of Councils were pressed into the cause.
It called forth in reply an accurate, extensive, and indubi
* See Note II., subjoined to this Charge.
table mass of testimonies, collected from all times from the first age down to that in which this singular opinion was put forward *.. This plea was so baffled that it may seem to be of little use to revive the mention of it, but in speaking of the congregation, and having yet to speak of the sacred edifices multiplied for its reception, I could not persuade myself to pass in silence a scheme once urged with so much vehemence. The attempt thus made to produce the suffrage of antiquity against diocesan episcopacy in any larger form than a single congregation, was just similar to that attempt concerning which I last addressed you in this place with reference to baptismal privileges. In both instances the grounds of early usage were explored with the same eagerness, and with as loud a shout of victory. In both cases too the streams of learning were opened as a sluice
upon those twin fictions of an hapless age. It was urged that through episcopal ambition, the larger sees (for it could not be concealed that there were such) had swallowed up the less. But it came out in proof beyond all power of contradiction, that the case was exactly the reverse, It was the ambition of the Arian heretics, and the Donatist dividers, which in fact had contrived to multiply the smaller sees, until that course was checked by canonical
* Şee " A Defence of Diocesan Episcopacy,” in answer to a book of Mr. David Clarkson, lately published, entituled “ Primitive Episcopacy,” by Henry Maurice, D.D. London, 1691.
restraint *. But the project to which I have alluded was soon turned most fatally against its own inventors, to the utter ruin of their classical assemblies, and the downfall of their discipline. The bold independent took the signal, and in the strictest sense made every congregation which he gathered, a Church sole and absolute.
Mark well, my Rev. Brethren, what the grounds are for maintaining union and agreement in our land; they are laid where the Church, the congregation, and the national communion shall subsist together.
Above all things I shall now entreat you to consider with me, since the means are but for the end, what the moral and religious benefits will be, where those ties of communion to which our views have been directed, are maintained. The manifold advantages to which I now allude, are to be sought in the gradual growth and just degrees of stature in the Christian life. A desultory notion of religion, the increase of which is not, in ordinary cases, to be traced from the first bud and the early leaf, to the firmer texture of the fruit, is not that for which the Christian Congregation and its salutary ministrations were provided. The greatest injury may happen to the cause of moral and religious improvement in the world, if we consent to substitute capricious and imaginary tests for the standing and perpetual grounds of faith and duty,
* See Note I., subjoined to this Charge.
and for the salutary influence and operation of religious culture. Nothing can be more clear in all the scheme of grace and all the dispensations of religion, than this—that their blessings were designed for men and nations, for families and households, for states and communities, for settled Churches which should have within themselves
every needful means for training many sons to glory.
To this just arrangement, with which the voice of nature joins its suffrage, the provisions of the Christian Church have in all times been decisively adapted. Nothing surely can be more consistent with God's universal care for those who were first made partakers of his image, nothing can be more just, more beautiful, or better suited to our common nature, than the regular provision which takes up the reasonable creature from his infancy; which secures his first adoption to the state of grace on fit terms of stipulation; and which supplies from thenceforth every needful succour and encouragement for the dutiful; with every healing remedy after days of error or misdeed, for the penitent. Let it not be thought that this reflection is so obvious that it might have been spared at this time. It well deserves severe attention. The great necessity for weighing heedfully such measures of advantage, arises from the disposition so common among men, which inclines them to neglect and undervalue that which they possess. The light of truth and the means by which it is dispensed, are too frequently as little noticed as the