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the works of any human philosopher or historian, from which we gain practical instruction, but the knowledge of which does not bind us to be Newtonians, or Aristotelians, &c. or to go out of our line of life in consequence of it. This, I say, He might have done; but, in matter of fact, He has ordained otherwise. He has actually set up a Society, which exists even at this day all over the world, and which, (as a general rule,) Christians are bound to join ; so that to believe in Christ is not a mere opinion or a secret conviction, but a social or even a political principle, forcing one into what is often stigmatized as party strife, and quite inconsistent with the supercilious mood of those professed Christians of the day, who stand aloof, and designate their indifference as philosophy.
LETTER II. MY DEAR
I am sometimes struck with the inconsistency of those, who do not allow us to express the gratitude due to the Church, while they do not hesitate to declare their obligation to individuals who have benefitted them. To avow that they owe their views of religion and their present hopes of salvation to this or that distinguished preacher, appears to them as harmless, as it may be in itself true and becoming ; but if a person ascribes his faith and knowledge to the Church, he is thought to forget his peculiar and unspeakable debt to that SAVIOUR who died for him. Surely, if our LORD makes man His instrument of good to man, and if it is possible to be grateful to man without forgetting the Source of all grace and power, there is nothing wonderful in His having appointed a company of men as the especial medium of His instruction and spiritual gifts, and in consequence of His having laid upon us the duty of gratitude to it. Now this is all I wish to maintain, what is most clearly, (as I think,) revealed in Scripture, that the blessings of redemption come to us through the Visible Church; so that, as we betake ourselves to a Dispensary for medicine, without attributing praise or intrinsic worth to the building or the immediate managers of its stores, in something of the like manner we are to
come to that One Society, to which CHRIST has entrusted the office of stewardship in the distribution of gifts of which He alone is the Author and real Dispenser. - In the letter I sent you the other day, I made some general remarks on this doctrine ; now let me continue the subject.
First, the Sacraments, which are the ordinary means of grace, are clearly in possession of the Church. Baptism is an incorporation into a body; and invests with spiritual blessings, because it is the introduction into a body so invested. In 1 Cor. xii. we are taught first, the Spirit's indwelling in the Visible Church or body; I do not say in every member of it, but generally in it ;-next, we are told that the Spirit baptizes individuals into that body. Again, the LORD's Supper carries evidence of its social nature even in its name; it is not a solitary individual act, it is a joint communion. Surely nothing is more alien to Christianity than the spirit of Independence; the peculiar Christian blessing, i.e. the presence of CHRIST, is upon two or three gathered together, not on mere individuals.
But this is not all. The Sacraments are committed, not into the hands of the Church Visible assembled together, (though even this would be no unimportant doctrine practically,) but into certain definite persons, who are selected from their brethren for that trust. I will not here determine who these are in each successive age, but will only point out how far this principle itself will carry us. The doctrine is implied in the original institution of the LORD's Supper, where Christ says to His Apostles, “Do this.” Further, take that remarkable passage in Matth.xxiv. 45–51. Luke xii. 42–46, “Who then is that faithful and wise Steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over His household, to give them their portion of meat in due season ? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing !" &c. Now I do not inquire who in every age are the stewards spoken of, (though in my own mind I cannot doubt the line of Bishops is that Ministry, and consider the concluding verses fearfully prophetic of the Papal misuse of the gift;—by the bye, at least it shows this, that bad men may nevertheless be the channels of grace to God's “ household,”') I do not ask who are the stewards, but surely the words, when He cometh, imply that they are to continue till the end of the world. This reference is abundantly confirmed by our Lord's parting words to the eleven ; in which, after giving them the baptismal commission, He adds, “ Lo ! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” If then He was with
the Apostles in a way in which He was not present with teachers who were strangers to their “ fellowship,” (Acts ii. 42.) which all will admit, so, in like manner, it cannot be a matter of indifference in any age, what teachers and fellowship a Christian selects; there must be those with whom CHRIST is present, who are His “ Stewards,” and whom it is our duty to obey.
As I have mentioned the question of faithfulness and unfaithfulness in Ministers, I may refer to the passage in 1 Cor. iv. where St. Paul, after speaking of himself and others as “ Stewards of the mysteries of God,” and noticing that “it is required of Stewart's, that a man be found faithful, ” adds, “ With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or of man's judgment.... therefore judge nothing before the time.”
To proceed, consider the following passage : “ Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves.” Heb. xiii. 17. Again I do not ask who these are; but whether this is not a duty, however it is to be fulfilled, which multitudes in no sense fulfil. Consider the number of people, professing and doubtless in a manner really actuated by Christian principle, who yet wander about from church to church, or from church to meeting, as sheep without a shepherd, or who choose a preacher merely because he pleases their taste, and whose first movement towards any clergyman they meet, is to examine and criticize his doctrine, what conceivable ineaning do they put upon these words of the Apostle? Does any one rule over them? do they in any way submit themselves? Can these persons excuse their conduct, except on the deplorably profane plea, (which yet I believe is in their hearts at the bottom of their disobedience,) that it matters little to keep CHRIST'S “ least commandments,” so that we embrace the peculiar doctrines of His gospel ?
Some time ago I drew up a sketch of the Scripture proof of the doctrine of the Visible Church ; which with your leave I will here transcribe. You will observe, I am not arguing for this or that form of Polity, or for the Apostolical Succession, but simply the duties of order, union, and ecclesiastical obedience; I limit myself to these points, as being persuaded that, when they are granted, the others will eventually follow.
I. That there was a Visible Church in the Apostles' day. 1. General texts. Matt. xvi. 18. xviii. 17. 1 Tim. iii. 15. Acts
2. Organization of the Church. (1) Diversity of ranks. 1 Cor. xii. Eph. iv. 4–12. Rom.
xii. 4–8. 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11. (2) Governors. Matt. xxviii. 19. Mark xvi. 15, 16. John
XX. 22, 23. Luke xxii. 19, 20. Gal. ii. I, &c. (3) Gifts. Luke xii. 42, 43. John xx. 22, 23. Matt. xviii. 18. (4) Order. Acts viii. 5, 6, 12, 14, 15, 17. xi. 22, 23. xi. 2, 4.
ix. 27. xv. 2, 4, 6, 25. xvi. 4. xviii. 22. xxi. 17-19.
conf. Gal. i. 1, 12. 1 Cor. xiv. 40. 1 Thes. v. 14. (5) Ordination. Acts vi. 6. 1 Tim. iv. 14. v. 22. 2 Tim. i. 6.
Tit. i. 5. Acts xiii. 3. cf. Gal. i. 1, 12. (6) Ecclesiastical obedience. 1 Thes. v. 12, 13. Heb. xiii. 17.
Tim. v. 17. (7) Rules and discipline. Matt. xxviii. 19. Matt. xviii. 17.
1 Cor. v. 447. Gal. v. 12. &c. 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2. 1 Cor.
xi. 2, 16, &c. (8) Unity. Rom. xvi. 17. 1 Cor. i. 10. iii. 3. xiv. 26. Col.
ii. 5. 1 Thes. v. 14. 2 Thes. ii. 6. II. That the Visible Church, thus instituted by the Apostles, was
intended to continue. 1. Why should it not ? The onus probandi lies with those who
deny this position. If the doctrines and precepts already cited are obsolete at this day, why should not the following texts ?
e. g. 1 Pet. ii. 13. or, e. g. Matt. vii. 14. John iii. 3. 2. Is it likely so elaborate a system should be framed, yet with
no purpose of its continuing ? 3. The objects to be obtained by it are as necessary now as then.
(1.) Preservation of the faith. (2.) Purity of doctrine. (3.) Edification of Christians. (4.) Unity of operation. Vid. Epists. to
Tim. & Tit. passim. 4. If system were necessary in a time of miracles, much more is
it now. 5. 2 Tim. ii. 2. Matt. xxviii. 20, &c.
Take these remarks, as they are meant, as mere suggestions for your private consideration, and believe me,
R These Tracts may be had at TURRILL'S, No. 250, Regent Street, at 3d. per sheet, 1 d. the half sheet, and Id. per quarter sheet.
KING, PRINTER, ST. CLEMENT's, oxrORD.
Dec. 4, 1833.]
[No. 12.-Price 3d.
“It is evident unto all men diligently reading the Holy Scripture and ancient authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these orders of Ministers in Christ's Church ; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.”
Pref, to the Ordination Service.
In the course of this last summer of 1833, I had the pleasure of a visit from an old and valued friend, one of the most respectable merchants in the city of Bristol, (and this, in my opinion, is no small praise.)
We were discussing one day the subject of National Schools, their merits and demerits. He was pleading strenuously for them; and to confirm his arguments, “ I will mention,” said he, “a circum. stance which happened to me when I was in this part of the world about eleven or twelve years ago. I was travelling on a coach somewhere between Sheffield and Leeds, when we took up a lad of fourteen or fifteen years of age; a'rough country-looking boy, but well mannered and of an intelligent countenance.
"I found upon conversation with him, that he belonged to a National School in the neighbourhood, which he was, he said, on the point of leaving. This gave me occasion to ask him various questions, which he answered with so much readiness and vivacity, yet without any self-conceit in his manner, that when the coach stopped (I think it was at Barnsley) for a short time, I took him with me into a bookseller's shop, and desired him to select some book which I might give him as a testimony of my approbation. After looking at a few which the bookseller recommended, he fixed on a “ Selection from Bishop Wilson's Works,” whose name, he said, he had often heard. He begged me to write his name in it, which I did, and we parted with mutual expressions of good-will; and I will be bold to prophesy that that boy (or young man as he must now be, if he is still alive) is giving by his conduct stronger testimony in favour of the National School System than a thousand of your speculating philosophers can bring against it.”