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* No man (the Apostle tells as) taketh this honour unto himself, bat be that is called of God."* And in the Church as a riable society, that must be governed by some external polity, an outward and visible appointment to the offices in it is necessary; because without such an appointment no visible society could exist; and without the existence of such visible society as the Church, the profession of Christianity would in time be extinguished. “It cannot but be observed," says a judicious writer, who paid particular attention to this subject, and whose work I take leare to recommend, that all the sects and denominations of religion, whose names have been ever heard of in the world, have appeared under the form of visible societies; and if any particular enthusiasts have pursued any chimerical scheme of an inrisible Church, their project has perished with them : and if Christ had left his Church without any obligation to external union as a visible society, his religion had had the same fate, and been long since forgotten."
From whence it has followed, that a regular re: ception of the Divine commission, through the channel appointed to convey it, has been a circumstance which in every age of the Church, from the times of the Apostles down to the present day, has been considered essential to the validity of the mipisterial office. For when Christ said to his disciples on the Mount, “ I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,"I it has been understood,
Heb. F. t. + Rogers on the Visible and Invisible Church, page 141.
| Matt. xxviii. 20.
that his spirit and authority were to be with them as governors of the Church, and their appointed súccessors, in the due exercise of the commission with which he then invested them, to the end of time. Now to suppose that nothing on this occasion was exclusively promised, is to suppose that nothing was exclusively granted, and that the com mission delivered to particulars, was designed to be exercised by mankind at large; an absurdity against which we presume it unnecessary to argue. To quote from Bishop Reynolds, (and I wish not better authority on this subject) Necessary ordinances pre-suppose necessary officers to administer them. Christ hath appointed necessary ordinances to be to the end of the world administered; therefore, the officers who are to administer them are necessary likewise. He did not appoint a work to be done, and leave it to the wide world who should do it; but committed the ministry of reconciliation to stewards and ambassadors by him selected for that service. * ' But it may be objected, others may promote these ends as well as ministers; all believers are commanded to comfort, support, edify one another;t therefore no need of such an office for the doing of them. For although every private Christian in his place and station ought to minister
grace to the hearers, to have his speeches seasoned with salt, and fitted to the use of edifying; yet these great works are not done with the same authority, efficacy, certainty, or order, by a private hand as by public officers.” “I was made a
* 1 Cor. iv. l; and 2 Cor. v. 19. f 1 Thes. v. 11, 14; Jude v. 20. † Bishop Reynolds' Works, fol. page 1055.
minister (says St. Paul) according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me.”* The Apostle (Bishop Andrews observes) is here speaking of his office, and nothing else. The Apostleship was a grace, yet no saving grace, else should Judas have been saved. Clearly, then, it is the grace of their calling whereby they were sacred, and made persons public, and their acts authentical, and they enabled to do something about the remission of sins that is not (of like avail) done by others, though perhaps more learned and virtuous than they, in that they have not the like commission. To speak with the least, as the act of one that is a public notary is of more validity than of another that is none; though it may be) he writes a much fairer hand. This grace of a holy calling to the ministry of the Gospel was conferred on the Apostles by Christ, has been derived from them to us, and from us to others, to the world's end.”+
If, then, a commission was granted to particular persons for an especial purpose, and a blessing promised to the actual discharge of it; that blessing must be understood to be co-extensive only with the due discharge of the commission for which it was granted; unless it can be proved, that in consequence of some new revelation from heaven, the nature of that commission has been changed, or such circumstances have taken place, as will justify man in making an alteration in the Divine plan. But the visible Church of Christ, which has
* Eph. iii. 7. + Bislop Andrews's Sermon ou John xx. 22.
continued under the same episcopal form of govern-
taken place to justify any alteration in this
Upon these grounds, therefore, it is concluded
* Vide Guide, p. 42.
And it was
the body. The way for the Church to prosper and flourish is, for every member to keep in his own rank and order, to remember his own measure, to act in his own sphere, to manage his particular condition and relations with spiritual wisdom and humility; the eye to do the work of an eye, the hand of a hand."*
It has been from an unwillingness to give offence to those brethren who have departed from the Church, that less has been said on this subject; of late years in particular, than ought to have been said by the clergy upon it. The consequence of which has been, that a general want of discrimination has prevailed among Christians; few having a clear idea in their minds, of the characteristic difference between the Church and the meeting-house; be tween the sacraments administered in the former, and those administered in the latter; a circumstance for which I fear the clergy of the Church will be answerable, because it is a circumstance which has tended, perhaps more than any other, to to the growth of that indifference amongst uinformed Christians, with respect to the place of public worship which they frequent: and I wish it may not be from the judgment of the Head of the Church
upon the clergy of it, for their great inattention to this important subjeot, that the knowledge of it is suffered to fall into that state of almost general decline, which portends ruin to that establishment which they are professionally bound to support. It is, I am sorry to say, from that general igno
* Vide Guide, p. 60.