Page images

scarecrow to wise people, is to deceive men, and bring their consciences and souls into a fatal snare. Nay, it is not only to deceive them, simply, but with the very deception which brought death into the world. The tempter suggested to our first parents, that they should not surely die; and that their apprehensions of danger arose from the ignorance and childishness of their understandings.

2. They plead next, that their schism, with respect to the Church of England, is no more than a separation from an human establishment; for that the Church of England has no foundation but upon the King and the Parliament; whereas the Church of Christ is founded upon the doctrines taught by the Apostles.

If our Church has no foundation but upon the King and Parliament, then certainly it is not founded upon the authority of Christ, and consequently it is no Church of Christ. But will any man say, that a national Church, being a member of the Catholic Church of Christ, ceases to be such, when adopted as a part of the constitution, and established by the civil power? Suppose it were persecuted by the civil power; and its ministers and worship were proscribed; would it therefore cease to be a Church of Christ? Certainly not: for the Church

I 12

Church of the Hebrews in Egypt, was still the Church of God, though the people were under a cruel edict not to serve him, and God owned it as such, and delivered it at last. Do the powers of this world unmake the Church by their reception of it, when they do not by their persecuting of it? Do its bishops and priests cease to be bishops and priests? Do its sacraments cease to be sacraments? Doth its discipline cease to be Christian discipline, and love its authority, because the state admits of it, and establishes it? I say, suppose they were to declare against all these things, as the Heathens and Jews did in the first ages of the Gospel, their declaration would signify nothing: because the Church, in its priesthood and sacraments, derives its authority only from Jesus Christ, which the persecution of the civil powers cannot reach; much less can their allowance turn it into an human authority, and render it of none effect. But we shall see hereafter, how all this is overthrown, by another plea which the Dissenters (forgetting this) have made use of to defend their separation from the Church of England.

Το say, that the Church of Christ is founded upon the doctrines taught by the Apostles, is a gross mistake. Doctrines can no more confer authority

authority of office to Church ministers, than the statute book in England can make a justice of the peace; whose power must come to him by personal deputation. A written law does nothing, till there comes an executive power, lawfully ordained, to administer and bring it to effect. Let any Dissenter shew us the text or doctrine that will make a priest. We can soon shew him one which tells us how priests must be made.-No man taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron; who was called by an outward consecration, from a person whom God had commissioned to consecrate: and the power thus given descended by succession to his posterity. The power of absolution was given by Christ to the Christian ministry, and without this power there can be no such thing as a Church of Christ. The priesthood had the power of absolution under the law of Moses; and even the priests of hea thenism were never considered as the representatives of the people, but of the God to whom they belong; to pronounce blessings and forgive sins in his name. But the Presbyterians are so far from claiming this power to themselves (though supposed to be in all the priests of the world), that they mock at in `us, and call it Popery and juggling; and a Church

so rejecting a power essential to the nature of priesthood, is in a state of abjuration against its own existence.

3. They say, the Church of England hath imposed such articles of faith, as the Gospel hath not imposed; for which imposition Christ hath given no authority.

This objection extends to every Church upon earth, that requires any articles of faith, as terms of Church communion; and it proves too much if it proves any thing. The gospel, it is true, imposes nothing but baptism, and its faith in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: all other articles are intended for the defence and security of this one in its proper extent. And such articles will be more or less, according to times and occasions, as the adversaries of the faith assault it on different sides, and with different principles of offence. The Gospel does not require that we should renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil; nor set down the Apostles' creed, as a condition of communion: and, if we had a mind to be perverse and captious, we might argue, that a man may come to a christian baptism with his mouth shut, and not say one word for himself, because the Gospel hath not set down the form, nor specified the terms of the baptismal covenant; though

though the intention or sense of it (what we are to renounce, and what we are to believe) is clear throughout the New Testament. The Church of England hath articles expressly against Popery: but the Gospel hath imposed no such articles; it knew nothing of Popery; and the principle of the Dissenters would leave us defenceless against the Papists, as well as all our other enemies, and is contrary to the fundamental principle of all society, and even of nature itself. We have no occasion here to enquire what the articles of the Church of England are; because the objection extends to all articles whatsoever, except such as are set down in the scripture, which sets down nothing but baptism; and is so brief in its accounts, that every true principle of the christian faith might be evaded, if we were to lay hold of some short expressions, and make them exclusive, contrary to common rules of reasoning, the plainest facts, and the nature of the case, as some have done; particularly the celebrated Mr. Locke, who contends, that the Christian Gospel has but one article, namely, that Jesus Christ is the Messiah; whereas the one great, condition of salvation, in the Gospel, is baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; therefore the great and fundamental article of

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »