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with the awful and mysterious privilege of dispensing CHRIST'S Body and Blood, as far greater than the most powerful and the wealthiest of men in our unseen strength and our heavenly riches. This may all come in our day; we must do our duty ; go straight forward, looking neither to the right hand nor the left,“ in patience possessing our souls,” watching and praying, and so preparing for the evil day. And after all, if God's loving kindness spares both us and you the trial, still it will have been useful to have steadily thought about it beforehand, and to have prepared our hearts to meet it.
Sold at Messrs. Rivingtons, St. Paul's Churchyard, London, at the price of 2d. per sheet, or 7s. for 50 copies; of whom the Tracts may be had on the first day of every month.
W. KING, PRINTER, ST. CLEMENT'S, OXFORD.
You wish to have my opinion on the doctrine of “ the Holy Catholic Church,” as contained in Scripture, and taught in the Creed. So I send you the following lines, which perhaps may serve, through God's blessing, to assist you in your search after the truth in this matter, even though they do no more ; indeed no remarks, however just, can be much more than an assistance to you. You must search for yourself, and God must teach you.
I think I partly enter into your present perplexity. You argue, that true doctrine is the important matter for which we must contend, and a right state of the affections is the test of vital religion in the heart; and you ask, “ Why may I not be satisfied if my Creed is correct, and my affections spiritual? Have I not in that case enough to evidence a renewed mind, and to constitute a basis of union with others like minded? The love of Christ is surely the one and only requisite for Christian communion here, and the joys of heaven hereafter.” Again you say, that and - are constant in their prayers for the teaching of the Holy SPIRIT ; so that if it be true, that every one who asketh receiveth, surely they must receive, and are in a safe state.
Believe me, I do not think lightly of these arguments. They are very subtle ones ; powerfully influencing the imagination, and difficult to answer. Still I believe them to be mere fallacies. Let me try them in a parallel case. You know the preacher at and have heard of his flagrantly immoral life; yet it is notorious that he can and does speak in a moving way of the love of CHRIST, &c. It is very shocking to witness such a case, which (we will hope) is rare ; but it has its use. Do you not think him in peril, in spite of his impressive and persuasive language ? -Why ?-You will say, his life is bad. True; it seems then that more is requisite for salvation than an orthodox creed, and keen sensibilities ; viz. consistent conduct.-Very well then, we have come to an additional est of true faith, obedience to God's word, and plainly a scriptural
test, according to St. John's canon, “ He who doeth righteousness is righteous.” Do not you see then your argument is already proved to be unsound ? It seems that true doctrine and warm feelings are not enough. How am I to know what is enough? you ask. I reply, by searching Scripture. It was your original fault that, instead of inquiring what God has told you is necessary for being a true Christian, you chose out of your own head to argue on the subject;—e. g. “I can never believe that to be such and such is not enough for salvation,” &c. Now this is worldly wisdom.
Let us join issue then on this plain ground, whether or not the doctrine of “ the Church," and the duty of obeying it, be laid down in Scripture. If so, it is no matter as regards our practice, whether the doctrine is primary or secondary, whether the duty is much or little insisted on. A Christian mind will aim at obeying the whole counsel and will of God; on the other hand, to those who are tempted arbitrarily to classify and select their duties, it is written, “ Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.”
And here first, that you may clearly understand the ground I am taking, pray observe that I am not attempting to controvert any one of those high evangelical points, on which perhaps we do not altogether agree with each other. Perhaps you attribute less efficacy to the Sacrament of Baptism than I do; bring out into greater system and prominence the history of an individual's warfare with his spiritual enemies; fix more precisely and abruptly the date of his actual conversion from darkness to light; and consider that Divine Grace acts more arbitrarily against the corrupt human will, than I think is revealed in Scripture. Still, in spite of this difference of opinion, I see no reason why you should not accept heartily the Scripture doctrine of “ the Church.” And this is the point I wish to press, not asking you to abandon your present opinions, but to add to them a practical belief in a tenet which the Creed teaches and Scripture has consecrated. And this surely is quite possible. The excellent Mr. — , of —~, who has lately left , was both a Calvinist, and a strenuous High-Churchman.
You are in the practice of distinguishing between the Visible and Invisible Church. Of course I have no wish to maintain, that those who shall be saved hereafter are exactly the same company that are under the means of grace here ; still I must insist on it, that Scripture makes the existence of a Visible Church a condition of the existence of the Invisible. I mean, the Sacraments are evidently in the hands of the Church Visible ; and these, we know, are generally necessary to salvation, as the Catechism says. Thus it is an undeniable fact, as true as that souls will be saved, that a Visible Church must exist as a means towards that end. The Sacraments are in the hands of the Clergy; this few will deny, or that their efficacy is not diminished by the personal character of the administrator. What then shall be thought of any attempts to weaken or exterminate that Community, or that Ministry, which is an appointed condition of the salvation of the elect? But every one, who makes or encourages a schism, must weaken it. Thus it is plain, schism must be wrong in itself, even if Scripture did not in express terms forbid it, as it does.
But further than this; it is plain this Visible Church is a standing body. Every one who is baptized, is baptized into an existing community. Our Service expresses this when it speaks of baptized infants being incorporated into God's Holy Church. Thus the Visible Church is not a voluntary association of the day, but a continuation of one which existed in the age before us, and then again in the age before that; and so back till we come to the age of the Apostles. In the same sense, in which Corporations of the State's creating, are perpetual, is this which CHRIST has founded. This is a matter of fact hitherto; and it necessarily will be so always, for is not the notion absurd of an unbaptized person baptizing others ? which is the only way in which the Christian community can have a new beginning.
Moreover Scripture directly insists upon the doctrine of the Visible Church as being of importance. E.g. St. Paul says ;“ There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling ; one LORD, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.” Ephes. iv. 4–6. Thus, as far as the Apostle's words go, it is as false and unchristian, (I do not mean in degree of guilt, but in its intrinsic sinfulness,) to make more bodies than one, as to have many Lords, many Gods, many Creeds. Now, I wish to know, how it is possible for any one to fall into this sin, if Dissenters are clear of it? What is the sin, if separation from the Existing Church is not it?
I have shown that there is a divinely instituted Visible Church, and that it has been one and the same by successive incorporation of members from the beginning. Now I observe further, that the word Church, as used in Scripture, ordinarily means this actually existing visible body. The exceptions to this rule, out of about 100 places in the New Testament, where the word occurs, are four passages in the Epistle to the Ephesians; two in the Colossians; and one in the Hebrews. (Eph. i. 22. m. 10, 21. v. 23—32. Col. i. 18, 24. Heb. xii. 23.)-And in some of these exceptions the sense is at most but doubtful. Further, our SAVIOUR uses the word twice, and in both times of the Visible Church. They are remarkable passages, and may here be introduced, in continuation of my argument.
Matth. xvi. 18. « Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Now I am certain, any unprejudiced mind, who knew nothing of controversy, considering the Greek word ikkunsia means simply an assembly, would have no doubt at all that it meant in this passage a visible body. What right have we to disturb the plain sense ? why do we impose a meaning, arising from some system of our own. And this view is altogether confirmed by the other occasion of our Lord's using it, where it can only denote the Visible Church. Matt. xviii. 17. “ If he (thy brother) shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”
Observe then what we gain by these two passages ;—the grant of power to the Church; and the promise of permanence. Now look at the fact. The body then begun has continued ; and has always claimed and exercised the power of a corporation or society. Consider merely the article in the Creed, “ The Holy Catholic Church ; which embodies this notion. Do not Scripture and History illustrate each other?
I end this first draught of my argument, with the text in 1 Tim. iii. 15., in which St. Paul calls the Church “ the pillar and ground of the Truth,”—which can refer to nothing but a Visible Body; else martyrs may be invisible, and preachers, and teachers, and the whole order of the Ministry.
My paper is exhausted. If you allow me, I will send you soon a second Letter ; meanwhile I sum up what I have been proving from Scripture thus ; that Almighty God might have left Christianity as a sort of sacred literature, as contained in the Bible, which cach person was to take and use by himself; just as we read