Sivut kuvina

swerable proof, that the Church was intentionally formed, and is actually regarded, in the same manner by God in every age.

The character of the Church, as given in the New Testament, will be sufficiently learned from the following passages.

To the Church at Rome, St. Paul writes in these terms. Among whom are ye also, the called of Jesus Christ. To all that are in Rome, Beloved of God, called to be Saints. First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all; that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. Rom. i. 6-8.

And I myself am persuaded of you, my brelhren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. Rom. xv. 14.

To the Corinthians he writes, Unto the Church of God, which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God, which is given you by Christ Jesus. 1 Cor. i. 2, 4.

To the Galatians he writes, Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise. Gal. iv. 28.

To the Ephesians he writes, Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the Saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. Eph. i. 1.

To the Philippians he writes, I thank my God for your fellowship in the Gospel, from the first day until now : being confident of this very thing, that He, who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. i. 3, 5, 6.

To the Colossians he writes, Paul, an Apostle, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, who are at Colosse; We give thanks to God, since we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the lode which ye have to all the Saints, for the hope, which is laid

ир for you in Heaven. Col. i. 1-5.

To the Thessalonians he writes, We give thanks to God alway for you all, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God, eden our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 1 Thess, i. 4.

To the Hebrews he writes, Brethren, we are persuaded betler things of you, and things that accompany Salvation. Heb. vi. 9.

St James, speaking of himself, and of the Churches to whom

[ocr errors]

he wrote, says, of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures. James i. 18.

St. Peter writes to the Churches in Pontus, &c. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. 1 Pet. i. 2.

St. John says, I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye

have overcome the wicked one. 1 John ii. 12, 13. St. Jude, addressing his epistle to the Churches generally, writes, To them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. Jude 1.

With this language every thing, found in the New Testament, perfectly harmonizes. One character, and one only, is given in it of the Church; and that is the character of Christians. There is no mixture of any other character. Even when the faults of its members are mentioned, they are mentioned, solely as the backslidings of Christians; and never as the sins of unbelieving and impenitent men. How, then, can we entertain a rational doubt, that God, when he instituted his Church, intended it to be an assembly of believers ?






1 PETER v. 1-3.

The Elders, which are among you, I exhort, who am also an Elder,

and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a parlaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God, which is among you; taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind :

; neither as being Lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

Is the preceding discourse concerning the Constitution of the Christian Church, I observed, that the Church is composed of its Ordinary Members, and its Officers. The character of its Ordinary Members I investigated at that time. I shall now consider,

The Character of its Officers.

Before I commence the direct examination of this subject, I shall make a few preliminary observations,

1. The Scriptures have actually constituted certain Officers in the Church.

Whatever differences of opinion exist concerning the kinds of officers in the Church, designated by the Scriptures, it is agreed by most, if not all, Christians, that such officers, of some kind or other, are established by the Sacred Volume. We there read ot Ministers, Pastors, Teachers, Bishops, &c. By these names, it is generally acknowledged, officers of one or more classes were denoted, who were intended always to be found in the Christian Church. Certain powers, also, they were intended to possess. and certain duties to perform.

2. Whatever the Scriptures have said of these men is of Divine Authority and Obligation : but nothing else is of such authority, nor at all obligatory on the consciences of mankind.

Whatever the Scriptures have instituted, required, or directed, is instituted, required, and directed, by God; and is invested with his authority. All else, by whomsoever said, or in what age soever, is said by man. But man has no authority over the conscience; and can never bind his fellow-man in any religious concern whatever. If, then, we find in the present, or any past age, any thing said on the subject, whether by divines or others, however learned and esteemed they may have been, which ac the same time is not said in the Scriptures ; it is totally destitute of any authority or obligation with respect to us. It may, or may not, be said wisely. It may be good, or bad, advice or opinion; but it cannot, in any degree, have the nature of law; nor be at all obligatory on their fellow-men.

The Fathers of the Church, for example, were in many instances good, and in some, wise, men. They are often valuable witnesses to facts. On a variety of occasions they help us to the true meaning of words, phrases, and passages, in the Scriptures. They often edify us also by their piety. But their opinion, or judgment, or injunctions, are totally destitute of authority; and stand upon exactly the same level with those of men, who now sustain a similar character. If we could rely on the authenticity of the smaller Epistles of St. Ignatius ; or had we the Autographs in our possession ; all the injunctions, and

declarations, contained in them, exclusively of those derived from the Scriptures, would be mere advice, or information.

3. Whatever Church Officers the Scriptures have established as standing Officers, are appointed by God himself. The Church, therefore, is bound to receive them as having been thus appointed ; and to take effectual care, that they always exist.

This will not be denied by any man, who admits the Divine revelation of the Scriptures.

4. No other officers, beside those thus appointed, have any authority to plead for their existence in office. All others are of mere human institution ; convenient and useful perhaps ; but never to be regarded as possessing any authority, except what arises from the personal consent, or engagement, of those who receive them: and this can never be obligatory on the consciences of others.

It is to no purpose, here, to allege, that they have been introduced, and established, by the deliberate determination of wise and good men; or of the whole Church. It is to no purpose to allege, that they have existed for any length of time, however great; nor that they have existed in various churches, however distinguished for learning and piety. It is to no purpose to allege, that these Churches bave believed them to be divinely instituted. This belief, respectable as those are, who have entertained it, can claim no more authority, and involves no more obligation, than any other opinion concerning any other subject.

5. If the Scriptures have constiluted Officers in the Church, and have partially, and imperfectly, designated their classes, numbers, offices, and duties, then this imperfect exhibition of the subject, and this alone, is of divine authority and obligation.

It has been often supposed, that God has, of design, left the subject of Ecclesiastical Government partially exhibited in the Scriptures. Whatever else was necessary to complete the system, he is further supposed to have left to be supplied by the prudence of Christians, as the various circumstances of the Church, in various ages and countries, might require. If this supposition be admitted; then whatever is contained in this imperfect institution of Ecclesiastical Government, in the Scriptures, is authoritative and obligatory; and whatever is supplied Vol. V.


« EdellinenJatka »