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Matt.x. 1. And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, On a pro
Galilee. pretation is supported by the harmony. For it does not appear, ibat our Lord was followed by the multitudes to any very considerable distance from their respective cities, (Matt. ix. 36. compared with 35, and Mark vi. 6.) but that our Saviour's compassion was excited for the people, whom he saw to be grieved, for want of proper instruction, and scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. To remove this spiritual dearth, he gave the first commission to his Apostles, to proceed to the house of Israel, and declare to them that their Messiah had come; and to preach to them the kingdom of God. Our Lord afterwards sent out the seventy, to prepare the people for his reception; ordaining them to preach in those cities only which himself intended to visit, Luke x. 1. whereas the Apostles were commanded to preach to all the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
The ordination of the Apostles to preach the kingdom of God, leads us to consider the manner in which the Church which Christ bad come to establish, was to be perpetuated among mankind until his coming again. The controversies among Christians may be divided into those which relate to discipline, and those which relate to doctrines; as the latter, since the apostolic age, have not been supported by miracle, we must conclude that some system or plan was provided, to maintain the doctrines of Christianity in their purity. The question, therefore, what this system might have been; or, in other words, what plan of Church government was instituted by our Lord and his Apostles, cannot be esteemed unimportant.
The priesthood under the Mosaic economy was so publicly institntod, that its validity and divine origin were never disputed. The rebellion of Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, proceeded from envy, at its exclusive nature only; and though the kings in after ages innovated during the prevalence of idolatry, and made priests of the lowest, or, as it would be better rendered, of the common people, the line of the succession was considered sacred; and none were admitted into the order of the priesthood, or acknowledged as priests by the people, who could not trace their descent from the sacerdotal house of Aaron.
This regular succession of the priesthood on the part of the Jews, has been sometimes supposed to form an objection to the Christian dispensation. “If the Christian religion be true,” it has been argued, “ its priesthood would have been divinely appointed, and its succession rigorously observed. The whole Christian world, on the contrary, is divided on this point: and it is to be presumed, therefore, that the claims of that religion are at least dubious, in which the origin of the priesthood is so uncertain, and its various pretensions and orders so jarring, that they are equally ridiculed and despised.” In reply, however, to these objections, I do not hesitate to assert, from an impartial consideration of the testimony, both of Scripture and antiquity, that the origin of the Christian priesthood is as evident as that of the Levitical that its descent can be as distinctly traced that its regular succession has been preserved and consequently, as it was at the beginning appointed by divine authority, it is entitled to the highest veneration, and to the devoted attachment of Cbristiano.
The essential and immutable difference between the argu
Matt. s. 1. out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of On a prodisease.
gress, probably in
Galilee. ments that are adduced for the support of the Christian religion, and those which are brought forward in defence of other systems, consists in this. The Christian religion is founded upon the evidence of actions, and undeniable facts, while every other system depends upon theory alone. The speculations of the philosophers of antiquity, the impositions of Mahomet, the reveries of the schoolmen, the inconsistencies of modern infidelity, the inventions and strange doctrines of various sects among Christians, are all distinguisbable from the fundamental truths of Christianity. The conclusions of uninspired men, on subjects of a religious nature, are generally founded upon abstract reasoning; the truths of the Christian religion are so identified with some well supported facts, that the belief of the fact compels at the same time the reception of the doctrine.
The five principal doctrines which may be said to constitute Christianity, and to comprise all its traths, and which are alike uniformly supported by facts, as well as by abstract reasoning, are, the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection from the Dead, and the Establishment of the Christian Church, as the means of perpetuatiog the truth of these propositions to the world. Tho doctrine of the Trinity is not only supported upon the general tenor of Scripture, as it may be collected from the fact that the inspired writers assign the attributes of the Deity to the three persons of the Godhead; but from the fact also that the voice came from heaven, that the Holy Spirit, as a dove, hovered over the Messiah, and that the Son of God was distinct from either of those which bore witness to bim. The Incarnation of Christ was declared in prophecy, and was proved by the facts which are recorded concerning his birth. The Atonement is proved by the concurrence of all the types, and institutions of the Jewish law, and the fact of Christ's death sufillling them all to the uttermost. The Resurrection of the body was verified not only by the fact of Christ's resurrection, but by the restoration of the widow's son, and of Lazarus. The Establishment of a Church in the world, was demonstrated by the fact of the peculiar care with which our Lord collected disciples, selected a certain number from among them-commissioned them to go forth and preach-added others to their number with different powers, and promised to be with them to the end, (not of the age, as many translate the word) but to the end of the world.
The first establishment of the Christian Church is necessarily brought before us, then, by the subject of this section. The commission given to the twelve Apostles may be called the foundation of the Christian Church. The conduct of the Apostles in their ecclesiastical government, considered as a model, ought to be adopted by all Christians nations, who desire that Christianity should be preserved among themselves, or dispersed, and permanently continued, among others.
I have already attempted to prove that Jesus, the Messiah of the New Testament, was the incarnated Jehovah of the Old Testament. He was the Lord and Guide of the Patriarchal and Jewish Churches. He has uniformly been the religious legislator of mankind. He it was who walked with our first parents in the garden of Eden, and instituted sacrifice. When the world apostatized after the deluge, it was He who selected the family of Abraham. When the remembrance of their ancient
Mett. X. 2.
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these : The On a profirst, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his bro- gress, prother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Galilee.
religion began to be effacod from the minds of the Israelites,
The revealed religion of God was perpetuated under the
The same means of perpetuating religion, which prevailed among the patriarchal families, was continued by the divine Legislator among the people of Israel, with this alteration only, that one whole tribe was set apart for the service of God, instead of the first-born of every family. The oflice remained the same ; the first-born were redeemed, in remembrance of their original dedication to God, and it was solemnly enacted, tbat no stranger, uot of the secd of Aaron, should offer incense in the public worship. Every individual, of every family, was required to present the sacrifice of praise and prayer to God, and to comply with all the institutions of the law; while it was left to one selected tribe to perform all the public functions required in the temple worship.
Thus did the divine Legislator first impart to fallen man a revelation, and appoint means for its preservation. The incarnated Jehovah has now granted to his creatures the most perfect form of that same religion which began at the fall in Paradise: and human means also, under the blessing of the same God, must preserve among mankind the consolations of his holy Gospel.
Four forms of Church government are, in this our age, prevalent among Christians. Episcopacy, Papacy, Presbyterianism, and Independency. From the time of the Apostles till the present day, Episcopacy has been the most general Church government: and till tho listeenth ceptury ils apostolic origin was
Matt. x. 8.
Philip, and Bartholomew ; Thomas, and Matthew the On a propublican; James the son of Alpheus ; and Lebbeus, whose gress, pro
bably in surname was Thaddeus;
never disputed. Till the beginning also of the seventh cen.
This great Reformer, the talented heresiarch of Geneva, did not anticipate the possible evils of his deviation from the conclusions, to which his brother reformers in England had arrived. He erred only in proceeding to an opposite extreme from that of the Church of Rome. His error in doctrine proceeded from a systematizing spirit, attempting to comprehend those subjects which humble men will shrink from, till their faculties are enlarged by the knowledge of another state of being. His bitterness and intolerance were the vices of his age. In all other respects he was both a wise and a good man. In proposing his
Matt, x, 4.
Simon the Cannaanite; and Judas Iscariot, who also On'a probetrayed him,
gress, probably in
Galilee. views to the world, he believed he was planting the tree of life. He would have wept to bave known that he had substituted the upas of theological hatred, and controversy, and error, beneath whose poisonous influence so many fair Churches have withered away. If he could have foreseen this result, he would have united in the powerful sentiment of a father of the Church. “ Nothing so grieves the Spirit of God, as the cansing divisions in his Church; not even the blood of martyrdom can atone for this crime." ουδέν γάρ όυτω παροξύνει τον θεόν, ώς εκκλησίαν διαιρεθήναι
-έδε μαρτύριο αιμα ταύτην δύναται έξαλείφειν την αμαρτίαν,Chrys. Hom. XI. in Ephes. See the notes to Archbishop Lawrence's Bampton Lectures, p. 340, 341, on the character of Calvin.
After the original form of Church government had been thus boldly infringed upon, the minds of men became gradually reconciled to the innovation; and the gradation to the next dif. ference became in comparison easy. The Presbyterian polity had taught the world, that the presbyters of the Church were all equal in authority'; the next generation introduced another innovation, and discovered that if presbyters were equal, they were also independent of each other. Mr. Robert Brown, of Northampton, in the reign of Elizabeth, was the first who'invented this system of Independency, which is totally without the remotest support from either Scripture or antiquity.. The opinions of the Independents obtained great popularity in the subsequent reigos of James and Charles; and were espoused by many of the more energetic spirits of that turbulent period, till they gradually superseded the newly established Presbyterianism.
From the reception which was given by the community to these innovations on the Christian Priesthood, the last stage of its degradation was easy and natural. Tho office of teacher, the administration of tho sacraments, the interpretation of Scripture, were, and still are, assumed at pleasure, by men of all ages, ranks, characters, and classes, without adequate preparation, responsibility, obedience, or authority. The civil law affords equal protection to all; and the public repose of the community renders this necessary : but the privilege which is allowed by the civil power, is mistaken for the liberty of the Gospel of God. Mutual candour is granted to mutual error, while every term of obloquy and reproach, wbich the proverbial bitterness of theological hatred can suggest; is unspariogly poured forth to stigmatize the supposed bigotry and illiberality of those, who assert the ancient, uniform, universal belief of the primitive Church; that the Christian Priest is subordinate to a higher order, to which alone was committed the government of the Church, and the power of ordaining and appointing ministers. The question is not one of human polity. It rests with us to enquire whetber the lawgiver of the Christian dispensation bas, or has not, revealed to his creatures, a model of Church government, to which it is the duty of every Christian Society to conform.
Should such a government be laid down in Scripture, it becomes at once obligatory upon all Christians. Time cannot destroy it, fashion cannot change it, opinion cannot prevail against it, nor the apostacy of nations invalidate it. No spe