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has been preserved, all over the world, amid many revolutions, through many centuries, for nothing? Is it wise or pious to despise or neglect a gift thus transmitted to us in matter of fact, even if Scripture did not touch upon the subject ?
2. Next, consider how natural is the doctrine of a Succession. When an individual comes to me, claiming to speak in the name of the Most High, it is natural to ask him for his authority. If he replies, that we are all bound to instruct each other, this reply is intelligible, but in the very form of it excludes the notion of a ministerial order, i. e. a class of persons set apart from others for religious offices. If he appeals to some miraculous gift, this too is intelligible, and only unsatisfactory when the alledged gift is proved to be a fiction. No other answer can be given, except a reference to some person, who has given him license to exercise ministerial functions; then follows the question, how that individual gained his authority to do so. In the case of the Catholic Church, the person referred to, i. e. the Bishop, has received it from a predecessor, and he from another, and so on, till we arrive at the Apostles themselves, and thence our LORD and SAVIOUR. It is superfluous to dwell on so plain a principle, which in matters of this world we act upon daily. · 3. Lastly, the argument from Scripture is surely quite clear
to those, who honestly wish direction for practice. CHRIST promised He would be with His Apostles always, as ministers of His religion, even unto the end of the world. In one sense the Apostles were to be alive, till He came again; but they all died at the natural time. Does it not follow, that there are those now alive who represent them ? Now who were the most probable representatives of them in the generation next their death? They surely, whom they have ordained to succeed them in the ministerial work. If any persons could be said to have CHRIST's power and presence, and the gifts of ruling and ordaining, of teaching, of binding and loosing, (and comparing together the various Scriptures on the subject, all these seem included in His promise to be with the Church always,) surely those, on whom the Apostles laid their hands, were they. And so in the next age, if any were representatives of the first representatives, they must be the next generation of Bishops, and so on. Nor does it materially alter the argument, though we suppose the blessing upon Ministerial Offices made, not to the Apostles, but to the whole body of Disciples ; i. e. the Church. For, even if it be the Church that has the power of ordination committed to it, still it exercises it through the Bishops as its organs; and the question recurs, how has the Presbytery in this or that country obtained the power ? The Church certainly has from the first committed it to the Bishops, and has never resumed it; and the Bishops have no where committed it to the Presbytery, who therefore cannot be in possession of it.
However, it is merely for argument sake that I make this allowance, as to the meaning of the text in Matt. xxviii; for our LORD'S promise of His presence “ unto the end of the world,” was made to the Apostles, by themselves. At the same time, let it be observed what force is added to the argument for the Apostolical Succession, by the acknowledged existence in Scripture of the doctrine of a standing Church, or permanent Body Corporate for spiritual purposes. For, if Scripture has formed all Christians into one continuous community through all ages, (which I do not here prove,) it is but according to the same analogy, that the Ministerial Office should be vested in an Order, propagated from age to age, on a principle of Succession. And, if we proceed to considerations of utility and expedience, it is plain, that, according to our notions, it is more necessary that a Minister should be perpetuated by a fixed law, than that the community of Christians should be, which can scarcely be considered to be vested with any powers, such as to require the visible authority which a Succession supplies.
Sold at Messrs. Rivingtons, St. Paul's Churchyard, London, at the price of 2d. per sheet, or 78. per 50 copies ; of whom the Tracts may be had on the first day of every month.
W. KING, PRINTER, ST. CLEMENT'S, OXFORD.
It is a matter of surprise to some persons, that the ecclesiastical system under which we find ourselves, is so faintly enjoined on us in Scripture. One very sufficient explanation of the fact will be found in considering that the Bible is not intended to teach us matters of discipline so much as matters of faith; i. e. those doctrines, the reception of which are necessary to salvation. But another reason may be suggested, which is well worth our attentive consideration.
The Gospel is a Law of Liberty. We are treated as sons, not as servants ; not subjected to a code of formal commands, but addressed to those who love God, and wish to please Him. When a man gives orders to those who he thinks will mistake him, or are perverse, he speaks pointedly and explicitly; but when he gives directions to friends, he will trust much to their knowledge of his feelings and wishes, he leaves much to their discretion, and tells them not so much what he would have done in detail, as what are the objects he would have accomplished. Now this is the way Christ has spoken to us under the New Covenant; and apparently with this reason, to try us, whether or not we really love Him as our LORD and SAVIOUR.
Accordingly, there is no part, perhaps, of the ecclesiastical system, which is not faintly traced in Scripture, and no part which is much more than faintly traced. The question which a reverend and affectionate faith will ask, is, “ what is most likely to please CHRIST?” And this is just the question that obtains an answer in Scripture ; which contains just so much as intimations of what is most likely to please Him. Of course different minds will differ as to the degree of clearness with which this or that practice is enjoined, yet I think no one will consider the state of the case, as I have put it, exaggerated on the whole.
Many duties are intimated to us by example, not by preceptmany are implied merely—others can only be inferred from a
comparison of passages and others perhaps are contained only in the Jewish Law. I will mention some specimens to assist the reflection of the reader.
The early Christians were remarkable for keeping to the Apostles' fellowship. Who are more likely to stand in the Apostles' place since their death, than that line of Bishops which they themselves began ? for that the Apostles were in some sense or other to remain on earth to the end of all things, is plain from the text, “ Lo, I am with you alway,” &c.
St. Paul set Timothy over the Church at Ephesus, and Titus over the Churches of Crete; i. e. as Bishops; therefore it is safer to have Bishops now, it is more likely to be pleasing to Him who has loved us, and bids us in turn love Him with the heart, not with formal service.
Our LORD committed the Administration of the Lord's Supper to His Apostles; “ Do this in remembrance of Me;"—therefore the Church has ever continued it in the hands of their Successors, and the delegates of these.
From CHRIST's words, “ Suffer the little children,” &c. and from His blessing them, we infer His desire that children should be brought near to Him in baptism ;-—as we do also from St. Paul's conduct on several occasions. Acts xvi. 15, 33. 1 Cor. i. 16. .
So also we continue the practice of Confirmation, from a desire to keep as near the Apostles' rule as possible.
Again, what little is there of express command in the New Testament for our meeting together in public worship, in large congregations! Yet we see what the custom of the Apostolic Church was from the book of Acts, 1 Cor. &c. and we follow it.
In like manner, the words in Genesis ii. and the practice of the Apostles in the Acts, are quite warrant enough for the Sanctification of the LORD's Day, even though the fourth Commandment were not binding on us.
For the same reason we continue the Patriarchal and Jewish rule of paying tithe to the Church. Some portion of our goods is evidently due to God;—and the ancient Divine Command is a direction to us, which the law of the land has made obligatory, in a case where reason and conscience have no means of determining.
These may be taken as illustrations of a general principle. And at this day it is most needful to keep it in view, since a cold
spirit has crept into the Church of demanding rigid demonstration for every religious practice and observance. It is the fashion now to speak of those who maintain the ancient rules of the ecclesiastical system, not as zealous servants of CHRIST, not as wise and practical expounders of His will, but as inconclusive reasoners, and fanciful theorists, merely because, instead of standing still and arguing, they have a heart to obey. Are there not numbers in this day, who think themselves enlightened believers, yet who are but acting the part of the husbandman's son in the Gospel, who said, " I go, sir,"—AND WENT NOT.