Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

CHAPTER VII

Database

CHAPTER VII

James Dodson

THE KINGLY OFFICE OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE CHURCH


WE have seen that the mediatorial rule is strictly universal. It comprehends under it all things, without exception. We remarked[*] that among the ‘all things’ are included associations of every kind, civil and ecclesiastical. It was also observed, that there are two associations, which, both from their importance in themselves, and their particular relation to the subject in hand, deserve a separate and more full consideration. The first of these is the church, without doubt the most important society in existence, and that in subserviency to whose interests it is that the Mediator has been invested with power over every other thing. He is head over all things to the church which is his body.

The fact of Christ’s mediatorial rule over the church is plainly testified in the Scriptures. He is ‘king upon the holy hill of Sion,—king of Sion—he reigns over the house of Jacob for ever—the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church—he is the head of the body the church—Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant, but Christ as a son over his own house, whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.’ They ‘who sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,’ address him, besides other titles, by that of ‘King of Saints.’[1]

The term church is a familiar one. It is in the mouths of all. It is of importance that we attach to it some definite idea. The Hebrew word קָהַל, [qahal] and the Greek word εκκλησια [ecclesia], which are used by the inspired writers to denote the church, signify an assembly convened by invitation or appointment, being derived from verbs the generic idea of which is to call. The nature of the assembly, whether civil or religious, must be determined by the context. In the New Testament the word translated church, when used in a religious sense, is applied:—to the whole body of the elect, as when Christ is said to ‘love the church;’—to a small association of private Christians, as when we read of the church in the houses of certain individuals;—to a regularly organised congregation, as when ‘the church of Ephesus,’ ‘the church of Smyrna,’ or such like is spoken of;—and to the whole visible catholic society, consisting of all, who, in every age and in every place, make a credible profession of true religion, together with their children, as when ‘the church in the wilderness’ is spoken of, or when the Lord is said to ‘add daily to the church such as shall be saved.’ The first and the last of these views are of most importance. In allusion to these it is that the church is commonly spoken of as visible and invisible—the latter epithet referring to the first of the senses above enumerated, the former to the last. ‘The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be, gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.—The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.’[2] Both of these views are comprehended, of course, in the one church of which Christ is the Head, and over which he exercises mediatorial rule. But it is the visible church with which we are at present chiefly concerned, and of which we are to be understood as principally speaking in the sequel. This comprehends many, we might almost say all, of the real saints of God who are upon earth, inasmuch as true grace in the heart prompts men to make an open profession of the name of Christ before the world. It does not, of course, include all the saints who are in existence, as many of these are in glory, of the mediatorial rule over whom we shall have occasion afterwards to speak; and it may also include some who are not true members of Christ’s mystical body. It is, nevertheless, a most interesting view of the church of Christ, the existence, and structure, and privileges of which are necessarily and most intimately connected with the best interests of the strictly spiritual kingdom of the Messiah. In what follows in this chapter, therefore, we would be understood as having a principal regard to the visible church catholic, consisting of all, who, in every age and in every place, make a credible profession of true religion, together with their children; while we would not be understood as overlooking that invisible church, for the promotion of whose interests alone it is that this was ever brought into being or organized.

That the term church occurs in this sense in Scripture has been denied by some, whose peculiar views of ecclesiastical government require them to understand it, either in the sense of the whole chosen of God, or in that of a particular congregation assembling for worship in one place. But the word occurs in passages in which it can be understood in neither of these senses. Speaking of Moses, Stephen says in his address:—‘This is he that was with the church in the wilderness.’[3] The church here means the Jewish church. It cannot be supposed that all who were comprehended in that church were elect persons, much less that it comprehended all the elect. Nor did the members of that church meet all in one congregation; there were many congregations of Israelites scattered throughout the land of Judea. Again, Peter says:—‘The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.’[4] The church here cannot mean the whole body of the elect, for to such there is no addition, it is complete from eternity: neither can it mean a single congregation, as the increase of the church was not confined to one town or district. When it is said, ‘Saul made havoc of the church, entering into every house,’[5] the elect cannot possibly be meant, as the most lynx-eyed persecutor cannot distinguish such from hypocrites; and it is surely not reasonable to suppose that the zeal of such an enemy as Saul of Tarsus would be confined to one congregation. Paul says:—‘Gaius mine host, and of the whole church.’[6] Gaius’ hospitality could not be exercised only to the elect, as he did not know who were such; nor is it at all probable that a person of such distinguished liberality would confine his attentions to a single congregation. Besides, it is written:—‘God hath set some in the church; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets, &c.’[7] It is not over the church of the elect, but over the visible church, that God has appointed visible office-bearers: nor are these functionaries restricted to one congregation. These are a few of the passages in which the term ‘church’ cannot be understood in either of the senses supposed, and in which it is not easy to see what other sense can be attached to it than that of which we are speaking, namely, the visible church catholic. This, indeed, is the meaning it bears in the common language of Christians. When they speak, for example, of ‘the church,’—of the faith of the church, the worship of the church, the sufferings of the church, the progress of the church, or the triumphs of the church,—such is the import of the term.

I. Now, this church, the visible church catholic, owes its existence to Christ’s mediatorial authority.

Without the work of Christ, agreed upon in the eternal counsels, the church could never have had a being. Its entire structure, privileges, and ends, rest on what he did. But for his engagement from eternity, it is impossible to see how such a society as the church of God could ever have existed. Nor is this all. The church owes its existence to the creative authority of the Redeemer. It is not a self-existent, self-constituted association merely, formed by voluntary agreement or mutual compact among its members, with reference even to the work of the Son of God. It is expressly founded by the voluntary and authoritative appointment of the Redeemer himself.

The existence of the visible church may be traced as far back as to Eden, when the primitive ordinances of social worship were instituted, and the blessings of grace began, through them, to be dispensed to our fallen progenitors.

It is true, there are several distinct periods of the church’s existence, which have been marked by something peculiar to themselves. In a popular, but improper sense, we speak of the Patriarchal, the Levitical, and the Christian churches. These, however, correctly speaking, are but different states of the same church. The church, the spouse of Christ, is one and the same in every age. God has had but one church in the world, and that church has existed since the revelation of the Seed of the woman at the fall of man. There have been, as above hinted, different periods, when, after suffering declension, it has undergone, so to speak, a sort of reorganization: and, on these occasions, as well as at its formation in the beginning, we find the interposition of the Mediator. When, at first, Adam and Eve united in the act of offering sacrifice, connected with prayer and praise, the visible church catholic was formed, and we cannot doubt that it owed its being to ‘the voice of the Lord God,’ who was heard in the garden at the cool of the day, calling the attention of the guilty pair to their destitute and sinful state, and to the way by which fallen men were to be rescued from the curse and condemnation of a broken law. The covenant made with Abraham, long afterwards, marks another interesting period. It was without doubt an ecclesiastical covenant, in which the visible church in general was interested. This appears from the fact, that, while some of the patriarch’s natural posterity were shut out from its blessings, express provision was made for the admission of others who were not his seed; and from the promise of his being made ‘the father of many nations,’ which could not have been fulfilled if the covenant had had respect only to the one nation of the Jews. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose that he who proclaimed this covenant to the patriarch, was no other than the Angel of Jehovah, the uncreated Messenger of the covenant; for that covenant, we know, ‘was confirmed of God in Christ.’[8] With regard to the solemn and awful transactions at Sinai, when the whole Levitical economy was fixed and arranged, we are assured that the law was ‘ordained by angels in the hands of a Mediator.’[9] At the introduction of the New Testament dispensation—that dispensation which is to continue to the end of time—we are assured that the Lord Jesus Christ himself administered ordinances, authorized and sent forth ministers, countenanced with his presence the social meetings of the church, and, on the day of Pentecost, shed abundantly on his assembled disciples the influences of his Spirit. Whatever, then, may be the period at which the origin of the church is fixed, it will be found that it owed its existence to Christ.

What, it may here be inquired, are the marks by which the visible church catholic, of which we are speaking, may be known? Not every one who makes a profession can claim to belong to this church. What then are the characteristics of the true church—the notæ veræ ecclesiæ? They are not those to which the Romish church pretends,—antiquity, universality, continued succession, the power of working miracles, and the like. It would be easy to shew that all these are false, even as respects that very community, and that they are altogether spurious and unfounded as respects any denomination whatever. Antiquity, universality, &c., may be properties of the true church, but they are not exclusive properties. The characteristics of the visible church catholic are what belong to it, and to it alone. These are—soundness of doctrinal sentiment, a lawful and regular ministry, and the due administration of gospel ordinances. Whatever ecclesiastical society can lay claim to these, has a right to be regarded as a section of the visible church catholic; whatever cannot, has no right to be so regarded.

The church is the pillar and ground of the truth. The exhibition and maintenance of divine truth being one end of its existence, the adoption of gross error, whether with regard to the character of God, the person and offices of the Redeemer, the nature of Messiah’s kingdom, the method of salvation, the character of Christian duty, or the doctrine of a future state, must prove fatal to the ecclesiastical standing of any professing body. Gross heretics, of any description, have no right to be regarded as members of the visible church. ‘Continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine,’ is indispensable to such relationship. Whoever aspires to this honour, must ‘have been taught as the truth is in Jesus;’ nor must they make any such pretension ‘who walk not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel.’

A small association of private Christians may be called, in some sense, a church; but to constitute the visible church, the existence of office-bearers would seem to be requisite. A legitimate ministry, therefore, is another mark of the true church. In order to this, the persons bearing office must be properly qualified, regularly called, and duly initiated. If, in any ordinary case, the individuals who officiate are such as have assumed the office of themselves, or have received only a call from the people without scriptural ordination, or are grossly deficient in ministerial qualifications, this circumstance would seem sufficient to impair the right to being regarded as a part of the visible church. The apostles ‘ordained them elders in every church.’ And if ‘Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee,’ no man surely ought to ‘take this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.’

‘How shall they preach except they be sent?’ ‘I sent them not, nor commanded them, therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.’[10] If the supply of ecclesiastical offices were left to spontaneous assumption, it must be obvious to every one that they would soon either die away altogether from apathy, or become so debased, by the corruption and inability of those who held them, as to be no longer capable of serving the end of their institution.

To the existence of the visible church there must be, farther, the due administration of gospel ordinances. Preaching, prayer, praise; baptism and the Lord’s supper; discipline and government, must be regularly dispensed, that is, must be dispensed by persons properly authorized, and with a view to the purposes for which they were appointed. When the ordinances are either altogether wanting, as is the case in regard to some of them in certain professing bodies—or greatly corrupted, as is the case in others—or prostituted to other than their legitimate ends, as has been done by using them to qualify for civil offices, rather than to promote the salvation of the soul; the evidence that such as do so belong to the visible church catholic, is thus far impaired, if not altogether subverted.

II. Christ’s mediatorial rule over the church appears from his organizing it, incorporating it by covenant, and purchasing it with his blood.

The church possesses a character of visible organization. It is spoken of in Scripture as ‘a body,’ the members of which exhibit admirable symmetry, nice adaptation, and wise subserviency one to another;—as a ‘house,’ all the parts of which are ‘fitly framed together;’—as a ‘city,’ whose streets are distributed with regularity, and whose municipal regulations are calculated to secure the peace and order of the inhabitants;—as a ‘kingdom,’ and as a ‘nation,’ figures which suggest ideas of good government, orderly management, and proper subordination. Indeed, the nature of things and the necessity of the case require that the church be considered as a thoroughly organized society. Every society supposes, in its very structure, some kind of organization; and it is anything but honourable to the Head of the church, to suppose that he has left its members to exist as a confused mass of detached individuals, living separately, without any bond of connexion or plan of co-operation. Very different, indeed, is the fact, as the character of the Mediator should have led us to infer, even had we not been told, as we are, that ‘from him the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love.’[11]

The church, thus organized, is incorporated by covenant. It is a covenant-society. Christ has made with his church an everlasting covenant. It is not merely founded on the covenant of grace, but he has made with it an express ecclesiastical covenant. This federal deed was renewed, if not originally made, with the church, in the person of Abraham, the father of the faithful. The transaction is recorded (Gen. 17:1–14). This was neither a personal nor a domestic covenant. It had, properly speaking, in view, neither the personal salvation nor the domestic prosperity of the patriarch. The promise, ‘I will be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee,’ had respect to an ecclesiastical relation. Nor were they his lineal descendants that were meant by his ‘seed;’ for, on the one hand, there were several branches of his natural posterity who had neither part nor lot in the covenant, while, on the other hand, there was provision made for admission to its privileges on the part of strangers ‘who were not of his seed’ (ver. 12). Indeed, the circumstance that it constituted Abraham ‘the father of many nations,’ is decisive on this point, as his natural posterity formed only one nation, namely, the nation of the Jews. The same thing furnishes indubitable evidence, that the covenant in question had a respect to the visible church catholic in every age of its existence. Had not the church, whose interests are secured by this covenant, been something else than what is called the Jewish church, the part of the promise of which we are now speaking could never have been fulfilled; because, not till after the introduction of the New Testament dispensation, and the extension of gospel privileges to Gentile nations, could Abraham have become the father of more than the nation of the Jews. Besides, the Scriptures furnish us with sufficient evidence to prove that the Abrahamic covenant was never abrogated, and consequently that it was made with that church which is to continue to the end of time. It was not annulled at the introduction of the Levitical dispensation, as the apostle strongly affirms, when arguing for the continuance of its promises: ‘And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.’[12] For the same reason, it could not be annulled at the introduction of the Christian economy, when the ceremonial ritual was abrogated. The apostle expressly argues the calling of the Gentiles, after this period, from the existence and terms of the covenant with Abraham. ‘That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ,’ he maintains, that ‘to Abraham and his seed were the promises made: not to seeds, as of many, but as of one (and to thy seed) which is Christ;’ whence he draws the legitimate and consoling inference, ‘Ye are all one in Christ Jesus, and if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’[13] Indeed, to maintain, either that the Abrahamic covenant was not an ecclesiastical one, or that it was ever annulled, were tantamount to asserting that the church is now an uncovenanted society, in opposition to what both the character of its Founder and the tenor of prophecy regarding it would lead us to expect, and is an idea too gloomy ever to be entertained by any true lover of Zion.

Christ, as Mediator, secured his right of dominion over the church, by purchasing her with his blood. ‘Feed,’ said Paul to the Ephesian presbyters, ‘feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood.’ The elect, the members of the invisible church, are all, we know, redeemed from sin and misery by the precious blood of Christ: but can the same be said of the visible catholic church, of which we are now speaking? With proper explanation, we think it may. We are aware that the saying of the apostle above cited, is commonly understood of the church of the elect—the invisible church. We are, however, inclined to take a different view. The church of God, of which Paul speaks, is that over which visible office-bearers are placed, and the members of which are the proper objects of those external functions which it pertains to such office-bearers to discharge. If it were the elect only whom ecclesiastical overseers were enjoined to feed, a knowledge of who are elect and who not, would require to be imparted to the ministers of religion; nay, persons of the most profligate character would thus have a claim to the highest privileges of the church, as it cannot be denied that many such are included among those who are chosen of God to eternal life. It is only a visible church that can be the object of visible institutions. The duties required of the Ephesian elders were visible duties: the church, therefore, which is the object of them, must be a visible church. But, whether the church of God which Paul speaks of as purchased with his blood, be the visible church or not, we say that the same affirmation may be made with regard to this church. The Mediator purchased the visible church catholic with his blood.

This he may be said to have done, inasmuch as the elect of God, who are in the visible church, were actually redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ. The visible church comprehends within its pale many of God’s chosen ones; innumerable real saints belong to the covenant society on earth. Now, all such have redemption through the blood of Christ, and the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace. He has obtained eternal redemption for them. They are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. As embracing so many who are thus redeemed, may not the visible church be said to be purchased with Christ’s blood?

Besides, all who are members of the visible church profess to be real saints, and ought to be such. None else have a strict and proper right to the privileges of Christ’s house. Others, it is true, find admission to the visible covenant society. But, in imposing upon the office-bearers by a false and hypocritical profession, they are in no slight degree culpable, while, in making use of sacred things to which they have no right, they bring on themselves the additional guilt of sacrilege. Still, that all the members of the church ought to be true saints, is a position that will not be disputed. Now, it is not uncommon to affirm of individuals and societies, that they are what they ought to be, and what they profess to be. On this principle the members of the primitive churches are addressed, in the inscriptions of the apostolical epistles, as saints, called, elect, chosen of God, &c.; when it cannot but be supposed that in many, if not all of these churches, there were some who were only nominal Christians. The apostles knew, however, that real saints they ought all to have been, and they all professed to be; and, so long as there was nothing visible in their conduct to prove the contrary, they felt called upon to speak of them as really such. On the same principle, may not the visible church, though comprehending in it some who are not actually redeemed from guilt and corruption, be said to be purchased with Christ’s blood? May we not be warranted in speaking of it as being what, at all events, it ought to be, and what, but for the hypocrisy which the rulers of the church have not the power of detecting, it actually would be.

But, farther, the privileges of the visible church catholic are purchased and secured to its members by the blood of Christ. The church has many privileges peculiar to herself as a covenant society; such as the word and sacraments, fellowship, discipline, and government. They are all appointed, in infinite wisdom, for the gathering in and perfecting of God’s chosen ones. They are dispensed on the footing of the covenant of grace, and could only be procured by the blood of Emmanuel. They come not to her by the law of nature; for, even supposing that the members of the church are under that law, these gospel privileges have no sort of connexion with it. They come not by the covenant of works; for men are incapable of meriting any thing by that covenant, and, supposing they were, nothing is now dispensed on this footing but the righteous judgments of the Almighty. The inference is thus plain and irresistible, that the privileges of the church come to its members on the footing of the covenant of grace, which is ratified and sealed by the blood of Christ. On this account may the visible church itself be said to be purchased with the Redeemer’s blood.

III. On the church, thus redeemed with his own blood, the divine Mediator has conferred a variety of most interesting and distinguishing properties.

It is a spiritual society; consisting of persons professedly separated from the world lying in wickedness, and called to the fellowship of God’s own Son. Its head is spiritual: its ordinances and institutions bear a spiritual character: and the purposes for which it exists are altogether of this nature. It may be supposed that spirituality is a property, not so much of the visible as of the invisible church. This, however, is quite a mistake. Not that every one belonging to it possesses an essentially spiritual character; far from it: but every member professes that such is his character; and the character of any society, as distinguished from others, must be taken from its object and bearing, and from what those who compose it profess themselves to be. As distinguished, then, from civil society, the visible church is spiritual, men having no claim on the enjoyment of its privileges in virtue of their rights and relations as members of the civil community. The power possessed by its office-bearers is exclusively spiritual power; the object of their jurisdiction is the consciences of men, and not their persons or their property, which belong to the jurisdiction of the magistrate. It is, in this respect, a kingdom which is not of this world.

The church of Christ is strictly independent; meaning by this term to designate a feature of its character, and not the form of its government. It is independent alike of human wisdom, human power, and human control. The Lord Jesus Christ alone is its judge, lawgiver, and king. ‘One is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. Call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven.’[14] No earthly power—be it king, pope, or prelate—has a right to domineer over the church. It is composed of Christ’s freemen, and is itself free from all outward control. The state may extend to it protection, and countenance, and pecuniary support, and friendly co-operation; but has no right to dictate its creed, to institute its laws, to appoint its ministers, or to interfere in any one way with either its constitution or its administration. Whether the civil power may and ought to form a friendly alliance with the church, is one thing; whether such an alliance is necessary to the church’s existence, is altogether another thing. The former does not, by any means, imply the latter. It may be the duty of the state to give the church all the advantages of a civil establishment, without such an establishment being essential to the church’s existence.

The church has existed without the countenance and support of the civil power. These are by no means necessary to its being. To maintain that they are, is pure and undisguised Erastianism;—a principle degrading to the honour of the church, and subversive of the very ends of its existence. Whatever may be said as to the duty of civil rulers, care must be taken to preserve sacred and untouched the blood-bought freedom and independence of Christ’s covenant society. The highest and warmest patronage of the state is procured at too dear a price, if, in order to secure it, the church has to barter away the least portion of her liberties. Every attempt, then, to interfere with its independence, on the part of the civil power, must be regarded as an unhallowed invasion of the rights of the people, and a monstrous usurpation of the inalienable rights and prerogatives of the church’s glorious Head. From such interferences have sprung some of the grossest corruptions and severest sufferings of the church; and they cannot be too jealously watched against, or too indignantly repelled.

Though independent of man, the church is under subjection to Christ. He is the Head of the body, the church. The doctrines which it is the duty of the church to believe and profess, are such as he taught. The ordinances to be observed are his institutions. The laws to be obeyed are his laws. The matter of faith; the form of worship; the line of conduct, are alike sanctioned by his authority. The ministers of religion, neither individually nor collectively, possess any legislative power. Their authority is wholly ministerial, and is subordinate to that of Christ. They are at best but servants, and whatever they do they are required to do in the name of their divine Lord and Master. Do they preach? Like Paul at Damascus, they must ‘preach boldly in the name of Jesus.’ Do they pray? They must do so, ‘calling upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Do they baptize? Care must be taken that those to whom they administer the ordinance, like the Ephesians of old, be ‘baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ Do they inculcate duty? They must teach men to ‘observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded.’ Do they exercise discipline? They must proceed on the principle laid down by the apostle,—‘In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my Spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.’[15] To Christ, and to Christ alone, then, is the church in a state of subjection; and for the church to acknowledge any other authority were to act unfaithfully toward her Lord, as for any other to claim authority over her were daringly to invade the prerogatives of Jesus.

The church has received from the Mediator a character of visible unity. The spouse, the undefiled of Christ, is but one. The names by which it is designated carry in them the idea of unity. It is called a ‘body;’ a ‘house,’ or ‘household;’ a ‘kingdom.’ There may be many members in the body, but the body itself is one; there may be different individuals in the household, but the household itself is one; there may be many provinces and subjects in the kingdom, but the kingdom itself is one. Hence, says the apostle, ‘There is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. We, being many, are one bread and one body.’[16]

The religion which is intrusted to the church being designed for mankind at large, in proportion as this religion is diffused there arises a necessity that those who embrace it should meet in separate congregations, and form particular associations. While they were so few that they could conveniently meet in one place, they did so. But this was not long; and the individual congregations or separate meetings which sprung out of the necessity of the case, were no violation of the church’s unity. It is important that all those individual churches which possess the marks formerly enumerated—doctrinal orthodoxy, a regular ministry, and the due administration of the ordinances of God’s worship—be regarded as so many integral parts of a great whole; as so many members of one body; as so many individuals constituting one grand society; and, so far as they have opportunities of meeting together, holding free and delightful fellowship with one another. Instead of indulging towards each other the jealousies of rivals, and each claiming for itself the exclusive name and privileges of the church, it becomes them to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Nor is it to be deemed enough, to effect this purpose, that there be a unity of interest in Christ the Head; and of love, and sympathy, and duty, among the members. The unity which depends on such grounds as these is invisible. The visible church must have a visible unity. This visible unity springs from its having one Head; from its making profession of a common faith; from its participating in the same ordinances of ecclesiastical fellowship; from its having one mode of conveying authority to its office-bearers; and from the nature of the government instituted for the preservation of its purity and peace. Let us illustrate these points a little.

The church must be one, as it has but one Head. ‘Christ is the head of the church.’ ‘He is the head of the body, the church.’ ‘There is one Lord.’ We nowhere read of the heads of the churches. It follows, either that each individual church has no head, or that the churches possess a character of visible unity under one common Head.

There is, besides, a common faith, by the profession of which the unity of the visible church is exhibited and preserved. There is ‘one faith.’ A profession of faith being a visible thing, is thus fitted to form a bond of visible unity. The doctrinal creed of all who belong to the visible church is substantially the same. A public acknowledgment of belief in the truths which compose the Christian system, not only constitutes the individual by whom it is made a member of the particular congregation with which he connects himself, but unites him with all throughout the world who hold the same sentiments. If he has been before a Pagan, or a Mahometan, or a Jew, the avowal in question, while it severs him distinctly from the community to which he formerly belonged, as surely connects him with that great community which is distinguished by the name of Christian.

The different societies of Christians are united in the participation of the same ordinances of ecclesiastical fellowship. There is ‘one baptism’ and ‘one bread.’ By being baptized with water in the name of Christ, a person is not merely admitted into the particular church from which he receives the ordinance, but is proclaimed a member of that great society consisting of all who have had the same common badge of initiation put upon them. And, by joining in the Lord’s supper in a particular church, the communicant holds fellowship with all who, in every place, by eating of the same bread and drinking of the same cup, unite in showing forth the Lord’s death until he come. ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.’[17]

The mode in which office-power in the church is conveyed, namely, by ordination, proceeds on the principle that the church is one. The call to exercise official authority proceeds from the people, but the power is uniformly represented in Scripture as proceeding from those by whom that power was formerly possessed. Election and ordination are not to be confounded with one another. Whatever may be the theoretical sentiments of some, all the leading denominations of professing Christians recognise this distinction, in practice at least. Without sympathizing at all with such as rigidly stickle for the necessity of apostolical succession to the validity of office in the church, it must be admitted that, in all ordinary cases, the right of ordination lies with those who have been previously ordained. This is the general rule, from which, however, there may be exceptions. If ordination expresses the conveying of official power and authority, it must proceed from office-bearers and not from the people, as the people cannot convey what they do not possess. In this way the oneness of the church, in all places and in all ages, is marked and kept up. The particular society over whom the person is ordained, thus declares itself one with those societies over whom the persons ordaining preside, and the act of ordination is regarded as so constituting, on the part of the person ordained, a relation to the whole visible church, as to give validity to his official ministrations in any part of the world. ‘In the same manner,’ says Principal Hill, ‘as every one who is baptized, becomes a member of the catholic church, so every one who is ordained by the laying on of the hands of the office-bearers of the church, becomes a minister of the church universal. He is invested with that character in a manner the most agreeable to the example and the directions contained in the New Testament; and by this investiture he receives authority to perform all the acts belonging to the character. He cannot perform these acts to the church universal, because it is nowhere assembled; and the separation of the church universal renders it expedient, that the place in which he is to perform them shall be marked out to him. But this designation of place is merely a matter of order, which is not essential to his character, which does not detract from the powers implied in his character, and which serves no other purpose than to specify the bounds in which the church universal, by the hands of whose ministers he received the power, requires that the power shall be exercised.’ ‘By ordination,’ says the same learned and perspicuous writer, ‘they become ministers of the church universal; for having been tried by a particular branch of the church, acting in the name of Jesus, and in virtue of the trust derived from him, they receive authority and a commission to perform all the acts, which belong to those who are called in Scripture ambassadors, stewards, rulers, and overseers.… Whenever ordination is considered as the act of Jesus Christ, by his office-bearers constituting a minister of the church universal, the idea of one great society is preserved. The whole may be diversified in outward circumstances, but it does not cease to be a whole; for, from this principle there result subordination to superiors, which is essential to church government, and a bond of union amongst those who are so far removed in place as not to be amenable to the same earthly superior.’[18]

To these considerations, add the argument for its unity arising from the government of the church. If there were no bond of connexion among the individual congregations that exist, the government of each would of necessity be comprised within itself. In cases of controversy, there could be no constitutional means of settlement; and, in cases of injury or wrong, no legal mode of obtaining redress. To allay contention and restore peace it would often be necessary to resort to division. But the right of appeal, which at present we take for granted to be sanctioned by Scripture, obviates this difficulty and furnishes an evidence of visible unity. The party making the appeal, and the party to whom the appeal is made, mutually recognise each other as members of one body, in whose wisdom they can confide, and to whose decision they are willing to bow.[**]

Nearly allied to unity, and necessarily resulting from it, is another property of the church, namely, its universality or catholicity. By this we mean something different from what the church of Rome understands by the same term, when it puts forth the presumptuous and uncharitable claim to be regarded as the only visible church upon earth, into which all its inhabitants are bound to seek admission, and without the pale of which there is no salvation. We set up no claim of this kind in behalf of any one body of professing Christians, even the most pure. By the visible church being universal, we mean that it is not confined to any country, but, in the language of the Westminster divines, ‘consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion.’ It is not the church of England, nor the church of Scotland, nor the United Secession church,[***] nor the Reformed Presbyterian church, any more than the church of Rome, which is entitled to lay claim to universality; but that great community, composed of all those who make a credible profession of true religion together with their children, which we have before described as constituting the visible church. Nor is this church called universal with reference to its actual diffusion, for it embraces but a small portion, comparatively, of the population of the globe, and there are even some regions where it is altogether unknown. But it is adapted to universal diffusion: its ministers are authorized, and even required to make known its doctrines and offer its privileges to men of every nation, kindred, and tongue: while the predictions of holy writ, and the grant made to Christ of the heathen for his inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, hold out to us, not merely the encouraging hope, but the confident assurance, that his church shall yet exhibit a character of actual universality;—that its light shall yet beam over all lands, and that all that dwell on the face of the wide earth shall unite in the belief of the same truth, the worship of the same God, the enjoyment of the same salvation, and the practice of the same holy obedience.

The visible church catholic possesses a duration commensurate with time. It is a perpetual society. It has existed, without intermission, from the period of its formation to the present hour, and shall continue to exist, without interruption, to the end of time. Different dispensations, indeed, there have been, but, under them all, the same church; nor was there ever an instant when its being was suspended. It existed from Adam to Moses, during the Patriarchal economy; and from Moses to Christ, during the Levitical economy; as from Christ to the end of the world it shall continue, during what is called the Christian economy. Nothing shall ever be able to effect a suspension, much less an annihilation of its existence. Christ has said, referring to himself, ‘Upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ Not that the church may not degenerate. Both the purity of its doctrine, and the spirituality of its worship, may be greatly corrupted, and the number of its faithful adherents may be few. But it shall never become extinct. The Redeemer shall ever have a seed to serve him. ‘The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless there shall be always a church on earth to worship God according to his will.’[19] In the days of Elijah, when he thought himself alone, the Lord had reserved to himself seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. During the middle ages, when the horrid corruptions of Popery seemed to have obliterated every vestige of true religion, there were found among the valleys of Piedmont, in Bohemia, Switzerland, and even Britain, some who professed the pure gospel of the Son of God, and practised the simple rites of spiritual worship,—a few names who had not defiled themselves with the abominations of the mother of harlots. The existence of a visible church, since the era of the Reformation, cannot be called in question. Christ’s covenant society may yet have to encounter evil days; infidelity and heresy may yet attain an alarming degree of strength and prevalence; the witnesses for truth may yet be slain and lie for a while trampled upon in the streets: but the Lord shall never leave himself without a church; the Head shall never be without a body; and the slain witnesses shall be raised again to carry forward, with fresh vigour, the gracious designs of the Redeemer. The highest point to which the impetuous and overflowing current of opposition can possibly rise, is to ‘reach even unto the neck.’ The floods of error and persecution can never reach the church’s Head: and while the head is above water the body is safe.

IV. Christ exercises mediatorial rule over the church for the accomplishment of the most important ends.

Of course the grand ultimate end, contemplated in the existence of the church, is the glory of God. This is the end, indeed, of every thing that exists. ‘The Lord hath made all things for himself.’ Such being the case, it follows, of course, that this must be the object of what holds so prominent and important a place as the church. All the perfections of Deity are in this way glorified; and glory is reflected on each of the persons of the Godhead:—on the Father by whom the members of the church are chosen to eternal life, on the Son by whose blood they are redeemed, and on the Holy Spirit by whose influences they are renewed and sanctified. But it is the sovereign grace of God as a covenant God, that is pre-eminently and peculiarly displayed by the church. Other views of his character are elsewhere exhibited; it is in this connexion alone that he is magnified and made known as a God of grace. The gracious purpose of God is recognised in the church’s existence; the gracious authority of God, in the voluntary submission of men to its laws and institutions; and the gracious power, and exuberant goodness, and immaculate purity of God, in the qualifications of its members, in the exercise of its discipline, and in its prayers, praises, and other acts of worship. ‘This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.’ ‘Having predestinated us, unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.’ ‘But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people: that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’[20]

But this great object is secured by the accomplishment of certain proximate ends, prominent among which stand the exhibition and maintenance of divine truth. Divine truth—comprehending the true character of God; the true view of man; the true way of salvation; the true method of sanctification; and the true state of future glory—is a sacred deposit committed to the church. The church is intrusted with this awful charge, for the purpose at once of diffusion and preservation. Without the church, the truth could be neither extensively made known, nor safely kept from extinction. It is contained, to be sure, in the Scriptures; but, without some such institution as the church, the Word of God would be sure to be overlooked by the great mass of mankind, and to fall a prey in the end to the wicked devices of those who are enemies to the truth as it is in Jesus. It is the duty and business of the church, both office-bearers and private members, to watch over the existence and interests of gospel truth, to keep it clear from the obscurations of error, to defend it from the assaults of adversaries who seek its destruction, and to hold it up bright and attractive to the notice and attention of all. To the Jews of old were ‘committed the oracles of God,’ and from them the precious custody has descended to the church in later times. All the members and ministers may be accounted as, in some sense, ‘stewards of the mysteries of God,’ and bound, according as every man hath received the gift, ‘to minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.’ It is required of stewards that they be found faithful; and fidelity, in the instance before us, consists, not in an exclusive personal appropriation and use of the invaluable gift, but in a cheerful, liberal, and universal diffusion of divine truth amongst others, in the spirit of the authoritative canon, Freely ye have received, freely give; and in protecting it, with true fortitude and at all hazards, from the assaults of those who would tread under foot or annihilate it. It is for this reason that the church is described as the pillar and ground of the truth,[21] a noble column on whose sides the lines of sacred truth are so deeply engraven as to defy the obliterating hand of time, and so highly raised that the mutilating hand of man cannot reach them, while from its lofty summit the heaven-lit lamp sheds afar its cheering and life-giving rays. As expressive of the same sentiment, individual churches are compared to ‘golden candlesticks,’—suspended on high by the hand of God, to dispense spiritual illumination to a benighted world, and to preserve alive that holy fire from which all the nations of the earth are yet to receive light and warmth. What a glorious and benign end this which the Saviour subserves by means of his church! Nor shall the benevolent purpose be defeated, by any or all of the insidious attempts that are made, by men who love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. They may seek to undermine the sacred pillar; but the event will shew, that it is built upon a rock and is not to be overthrown. They may try, by heaping around it the rubbish of their errors, to hide from view its glorious inscription; but their attempts shall all prove abortive. They may flatter themselves that, by the mists and noxious exhalations of their false systems, the pure and blessed light of truth shall be hid, but all these obscurations shall be finally scattered as by a whirlwind, and the lamp of Gospel illumination shall continue to burn brighter and brighter till every quarter of the world has been gladdened with its beams. The cause of truth is subject, no doubt, to many vicissitudes; and circumstances may occur to make its timid and anxious friends bewail ‘that truth is fallen in the streets.’ But while the Saviour has a church in the world, it shall never be wholly trodden down; and that ‘Lord, whose eyes are upon the truth,’ by pouring out ‘the Spirit of truth’ on the reading and preaching of ‘the word of truth,’ will see to it that to the end of time ‘Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth.’

By setting up a church in the world the Mediator has provided for the public celebration of Divine worship. It is every way proper that some acts of public homage should be paid to the God of the whole earth. The private adoration of individuals would seem not to be all the honour that is due to Him whose claims are so universal and transcendent. He is certainly entitled to acknowledgment in the most public and open manner possible. This is secured by the existence of a visible church, in which his being, perfections, purposes, and works, are publicly discussed; in which his praises are publicly sung, and in which united and public supplications are offered at his throne of grace. Even supposing that, for this end, secret acts of worship might suffice, it may fairly be questioned whether the spirit of such could be kept up, without the influence arising from public institutions. The devotions of the sanctuary, doubtless, exert, and are designed to exert, no small influence on those of the closet and the family. The lamp of personal or domestic piety will send forth but a dim and sickly ray, unless trimmed and replenished by frequent visits to the house of the Lord. When the believer feels those fervent emotions that are represented by his soul thirsting for God, and under the impulse of which he is stirred up to seek the Lord with great earnestness, it is that he may ‘see the power and glory of the Lord as he had seen them before in the sanctuary.’ If the psalmist David poured forth the sweetest and warmest strains of devotion in the wilderness of Judea and in the forest of Hareth, we must go back, for the secret of his high and holy inspiration, to the days when he trod the courts of the temple,—days which not merely exerted a reflex influence on his solitary exercises, but which, so far from making him contented with these, caused his soul still to long, yea even faint, for the courts of the Lord, and to count a day in God’s house better than a thousand. If we would rise to true elevation of heart in the closet, we must ‘lift up our hands in the sanctuary.’ So necessary is the church to the proper worship of God.

The church is designed for the salvation of men. It is an asylum, to which destitute and needy sinners may betake, to have all their wants supplied; a city of refuge, whither the guilty and justice-pursued may flee for protection; an ark, in which safety is provided from the threatened judgment about to come on a wicked and ungodly world. Here, whatever a lost and fallen sinner of the human family can require, is provided,—pardon, sanctification, peace, happiness, eternal life; and, by betaking to it in time, all these benefits may be infallibly secured. It is the means by which the grand benevolent purpose of the divine will, respecting our lapsed race, is carried into full effect. It is the nursery of saints, not less than the refuge of sinners. By its doctrine and discipline, by the spiritual instruction and vigilant superintendence it provides, the edification of its members in knowledge, holiness, comfort, and social duty, is promoted. The ordinances to which it gives access, and the interest it secures in the prayers of those who have power with God, cannot fail to render the fellowship of the church a distinguished means of extending knowledge, strengthening faith, confirming love, deepening humility, increasing joy, and cherishing every devout and holy affection. The whole work of grace in the soul is thus progressively advanced, and the individual is ultimately trained for the exalted exercises and enjoyments of the heavenly kingdom. The church, in this way, becomes the joyous parent of a numerous spiritual progeny. She is the bride, the Lamb’s wife, by whom the free-born sons and daughters of the Almighty are nursed and reared, till such time as they are made fully meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. She is ‘the joyful mother of children,’—‘the Jerusalem from above, which is free, and the mother of us all.’ It has pleased God, for the purpose of bringing many sons into glory, to set up a visible church in the world, where these sons should be born again; supplied as new-born babes with the sincere milk of the Word, that they might grow thereby; fed with the strong meat of the covenant; and thus nurtured and disciplined into the vigour of spiritual manhood,—the fulness of the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus. It is, by being instrumental in the salvation of souls, that the church promotes the glory, and secures the worship, of Jehovah. Divine worship can be celebrated, and the praise of the glory of divine grace can be shewn forth, only by those who are ‘saved and called with an holy calling, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began:’ and this work of salvation is carried on in and by the church. The church, by subjecting the conscience to the authority of Christ, by maintaining wholesome discipline, and by affording opportunity of communion with God and with his saints, tends powerfully to enlighten the understanding, to enliven the affections, to restrain the passions, to promote Gospel morality, and to advance the divine life in the soul. ‘The Lord added to the church such as should be saved.’ ‘He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers: for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.’

Such are the ends subserved by the existence of a church in the world. And it is carefully to be observed, that all these ends are brought about by the mediatorial administration of the Saviour. He it is who sends forth his light and his truth to gladden and direct an ignorant and benighted world; who prompts and enables men to celebrate the ordinances of God’s worship; and who carries forward the work of salvation in the souls of believers.

V. All the ordinances of the church are instituted by Christ, the Mediator.

The ends above enumerated, are accomplished by means of ordinances, whose existence in the church is to be ascribed to the authority of Prince Messiah. He alone could determine what were fit to be instituted, or could give them the sanction of universal obligation. For such purposes, neither the wisdom nor the will of man could avail; the one being destitute of sufficient depth, and the other of adequate power. Nothing is, of course, left to man, but all is the work of the Mediator, whose skill is infinite, and whose authority is supreme.

He has given to the church a clear, authoritative, and perfect law. The church, like every other society, must have regulations. These are contained in the Scriptures. Some of them may be viewed as proceeding originally from God, as the moral governor of the universe; others, as issuing immediately and directly from Christ. The ten commandments, and the natural duties of prayer and praise, are instances of the former; the peculiar ordinances of New Testament worship, are examples of the latter. But, as regards their administration to our fallen race, both classes must be looked upon as emanating from the Mediator. While not without law to God, we are under law to Christ. The promulgation of even the moral law itself was preceded by an exhibition of God’s covenant character, and so might be said, not less than the Jewish law, to be ordained of God in the hands of a Mediator. The Lord is our Lawgiver, as well as our King and our Judge. The revelations given to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, and to the other patriarchs, must be regarded as communicated to the church through Christ. The disclosures that were made at Sinai, we are assured, proceeded from him. ‘This is he,’ says Stephen, speaking of the Prophet predicted by Moses, ‘that was in the church in the wilderness, with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received the lively oracles to give unto us.’[22] It was he, too, who, by his Spirit, enabled the evangelists and apostles to complete the volume of inspiration. The whole of revealed truth, comprehending the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, may thus be looked upon as the code of laws given to the church by the Messiah. The sacred volume is often expressly designated ‘the law,’ ‘the law of the Lord,’ &c.; and, in communicating it to men, Christ acts, not merely as a prophet making known the will of another, but as a king issuing his own authoritative regulations to his subjects which they are bound to obey. ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’[23] The law, thus promulgated, is authoritative. It is not at men’s option whether they shall receive and obey it. It is supremely obligatory on all. It is clear and explicit; not expressed in such ambiguous terms that the reader may put upon it what construction he pleases. Men, it is true, may frequently misapprehend it, and may experience some difficulty in ascertaining its meaning; but this arises rather from the want of diligence, application, humility, holiness, perseverance, or prayer, on their part, than from any thing equivocal in the law itself. Nor is this law, in any respect, incomplete. The law of the Lord is perfect. It neither requires, nor admits of any addition being made to it by the ingenuity or authority of man. No individual, however gifted, no council, however solemnly constituted, may assume a strictly legislative power in the church of Christ. Men can only legitimately make known the laws of the Redeemer; and dare not, under pain of a fearful malediction, venture to take from, or to add to, the complete promulgation of his will contained in the Bible. It is of itself sufficient to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Christ has instituted in the church ordinances of divine worship and ecclesiastical fellowship. Public prayer, praise, reading the Scriptures, preaching the Word, baptism, and the Lord’s supper, are sanctioned, either by his express institution or his administrative example. In the presence of his disciples, he lifted his eyes to heaven in solemn supplication to the Father. He sung with them a hymn, before going out to the Mount of Olives. When he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, ‘he stood up for to read.’ ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,’ was among his last directions to the apostles and their successors. He commanded them also to ‘baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ In reference to the ordinance of the supper, he said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ And, as for that portion of time which is consecrated to the peculiar observance of all these institutions, it is written, ‘The Son of man is the Lord of the Sabbath.’ There is not an institution of divine worship, by which the devotional feelings of the church are expressed, or the edification of the body promoted, which bears not the stamp of the Saviour’s authority; and, in observing them all, the true saint has the satisfaction to know that he is ‘serving the Lord Christ.’

The same is the case with respect to the government of the church. In every social body, order is essential to edification, and government is essential to order. This itself would seem to furnish a presumptive argument in favour of the sentiment that Christ has given to the church a regular form of government, in opposition to the opinion of those who contend that this matter has been left to be regulated by the wisdom of men, and to be modified agreeably to the various circumstances of those among whom the ordinances of religion happen to be set up. According to this view, there is no form of church government which may be said to possess divine authority. To a sentiment so vague and loose, it may be sufficient to reply, that, when it is considered how important a thing government is to every society, it is perfectly incredible that Christ should have left his church without any specific directions on this point: the more so that human wisdom, so liable to err at all times, is incompetent to determine a matter on which so much depends: to which it may be added that, on the above supposition, there would be no room whatever for submission to the authority of Christ in the point in question. It seems much more reasonable, therefore, a priori, to conclude that the grand principles of ecclesiastical government are laid down in the Scriptures, to which, and not to the ever-shifting ground of expediency, the appeal is to be made. It is true, those who advocate the opinion, that the Scriptures contain a regular prescribed plan, are not all agreed as to what that plan is. But this is no argument against the principle for which we contend, inasmuch as, at least equal diversity of sentiment prevails with regard to the doctrines of the Gospel, among those who hold that the Bible is the only standard of doctrinal truth. It cannot be expected that we should enter now into the discussion of what that form of government is which Christ has prescribed in his Word; although, in other circumstances, we should not shrink from the task of attempting to make it appear that, if not direct statement, at least fair Scripture inference, and the example of the primitive Christians, warrant us to adopt the presbyterial model, or that form in which different individual churches are regarded as parts of a grand whole, and the office-bearers as representatives of the people, forming a gradation of church courts, by which all controversies are to be settled, with a right of appeal from the lower to the higher. It is enough, in present circumstances, in proof of the fact that Christ has instituted in his church some form of government, to refer to those passages of Scripture in which ecclesiastical officers are represented as invested with the power of rule. ‘We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord. Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account.’[24]

Closely connected with its government, is the discipline of the church. By this we understand the provision Christ has made for admitting persons to the fellowship of the church; for exercising a salutary vigilance over its members; and for administering censure in case of offences. The term has, perhaps, been too much restricted to the last of these objects; but a little reflection will be sufficient to convince that the others also ought to be included. The purity, peace, and order of the church, depend much on this institution of Christ being properly administered in all its legitimate objects. That he has made provision for these, appears from the power with which he has invested office-bearers in the church, to receive qualified persons into communion; to exercise a watchful inspection; to take cognizance of offences against the laws of Christ’s house; to cite and examine offenders; to administer censure according to the nature and degree of the offence; and either to restore to, or finally eject from, the fellowship of the body, as the person may appear to have profited or not by the censure administered. The authority of Christ in this, as in the other institutions of his house, is a merciful authority. It is a proof of his love, designed to promote the best interests of the offenders themselves, as well as of the body at large to which they belong, and, if rightly improved, a manifest and decided blessing. ‘If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others may fear. A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject.’[25]

VI. The Lord Jesus Christ, in virtue of the mediatorial dominion with which he is invested, prescribes the qualifications of the members of the church.

He has a right to say who they are that shall enjoy the privileges of his kingdom. The church is a peculiar society; those who belong to it are, of course, a peculiar people; and it is the prerogative of Him who is its Head to determine the character of such as shall be admitted into its fellowship.

What the qualifications of church members should be, is a point of equal importance and difficulty. With respect to the invisible church, it cannot be questioned that actual regeneration and true faith in Christ are indispensable. Nor can it be doubted, even with respect to the visible church, that the possession of true and vital religion can alone qualify for fully promoting the objects of ecclesiastical communion. But, as this is a thing of which the office-bearers of the church are incompetent to judge, it would seem that the utmost they can require is a credible profession of true religion. Of this, intelligence and orthodoxy constitute essential elements. Philip required of the Ethiopian eunuch an avowal of his belief in the doctrine of Christ, before administering to him the initiatory rite of baptism. ‘See here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’[26] Paul instructed Titus, after a suitable trial and admonition, to reject ‘a man that is an heretic.’ Peter speaks of ‘heresies’ as being ‘damnable,’ and denounces, with merited severity, those false teachers who bring such into the church. From all this it appears that soundness in the faith is a requisite qualification. But the soundness required is not that which springs from implicit belief in the church or its ministers, as is contended for by the church of Rome. It is intelligent orthodoxy; arising from an enlightened understanding, and a careful study of the Holy Scriptures. There is a spurious knowledge of sound doctrine which may be acquired by being taught to repeat certain set phrases by rote. This consists, rather in the memory of words than the comprehension of ideas. Words, instead of being the vehicles, are, in such a case, the substitutes of thoughts. There is reason to fear that much of the orthodoxy that exists in our churches is of this description; for it is too much the case with many, when taken off the favourite and accustomed phraseology into which they have been initiated, to display, instead of an enlightened acquaintance with Christian truth, a most deplorable and disgraceful ignorance. Such can never be regarded as intelligent church members. Their attachment to the church cannot be styled ‘a reasonable service;’ nor can they be said to be ‘always ready to give a reason of the hope which is in them to any man who asks them.’ Their knowledge is, at best, but a ‘form of knowledge, and of the truth.’ However worthless mere speculative knowledge is in itself, it must not be forgotten that a certain degree—we presume not to fix the extent—is indispensable; for God, who will have all men to be saved, will have all men also to come to the knowledge of the truth; and the apostles did not cease to pray for their people that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. The ignorant then, as well as the heterodox, are unfit for the communion of the church.

Full submission to the ordinances of Christ is another qualification of the members of the church. The disciples of Christ are required to observe all things whatsoever he has commanded; and such as refuse to follow him in this cannot claim to be regarded as his disciples. It is by the observance of these that the fellowship of the visible church is expressed; and such as refuse all or any of them are practically disqualified for membership. It is not uncommon for persons who profess religion to live in the neglect of some one ordinance;—family worship, or the Lord’s supper, for example; and yet they would fain be regarded as members of the church. But how can they? The authority which attaches to one, attaches to all; so that a refusal to submit, in any one case, is a virtual denial of the authority which sanctions the whole. A member of the church must be one who submits to all the laws and institutions of Christ’s house, not one who obeys only what is agreeable or convenient; the principle of observance being submission to the authority of Christ, and not convenience, expediency, or caprice.

Apparent religious experience is also indispensable. Apparent, we say, because of the reality man is incompetent to judge; appearances are all that is within the sphere of his cognizance. Whoever seeks admission to the fellowship of the Christian church, professes to have experienced something of the power of religion on his heart. And, although the rulers in the church may not be able to determine whether this profession be real, they are entitled to demand that it be made, and to apply to it certain criteria of judgment. They may not be fit, in any case, to pronounce absolutely on the presence of true religion in the soul, nor, in every case, to decide on its absence; yet the appearances of its being present or absent may be in general so marked as to form a sufficient guide in receiving or refusing persons applying for admission. An individual who knows nothing of the nature of Christian experience, or of the marks by which it is distinguished, is, of course, inadmissible. Nor is it a bare pretension to religious experiences, or every plausible story of feelings and ecstasies, that can form a sufficient ground for admitting to ecclesiastical privileges. Credible evidences of the experimental power of religion are to be required, and nothing but what is rational, sober, consistent, and holy, can ever constitute credible evidence. ‘We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.’[27]

To these qualifications must be added consistent behaviour. The rule of judging is thus explicitly laid down by the Saviour himself:—‘By their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ To the same purpose is his expostulation—‘And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? It is not enough that men ‘repent and turn to God;’ they must also ‘do works meet for repentance.’ They must be ‘zealous of good works.’ ‘Whosoever abideth in Christ sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself so to walk even as he walked.’ ‘Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.’

Such are the ingredients of a credible profession of true religion,—the elements of a visible Christian character, the possession of which is necessary to qualify for admission to the church. And let it be carefully observed, that all the qualifications specified are essential. The profession in question does not exist where any one of them is wanting. Suppose a person to pretend to have felt religious experiences, to observe all the institutions of Christ, and to maintain outward regularity of conduct, at the same time that he is either ignorant of, or entertains sentiments at variance with, the grand principles of the Gospel, such a person is utterly disqualified for church membership. The same may be said of those in whom intelligent orthodoxy, submission to ordinances, and pretended experience, exist apart from consistency of outward life and conversation; or of those in whom intelligence, orthodoxy, observance of ordinances, and an umblamable moral reputation are combined, while there is a want of all evidence of the spiritual power of the Gospel. While we decidedly object to making actual saintship a term of admission to the visible church, we must at the same time contend for the appearance of it, and for the right of ecclesiastical rulers to judge of the evidences of its existence, the presence of some such evidences being requisite to a credible profession. We deny that the office-bearers of religion have either the power or the right to judge men’s hearts: but it were strange, indeed, if they were not warranted to require that those who are professing to believe the Gospel shall give some signs that it is exerting its proper influence on their hearts, and to inquire whether it has taught them to abjure self-righteousness, to renounce the practice of sin, and to live by faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; whether, in short, it has taught them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world. Yet, their making these inquiries, and insisting on these qualifications, are not to be considered as supposing that they are infallible judges of the signs of grace in the heart. The Lord only can search the heart and try the reins. But where such evidences as we have spoken of exist, though not infallible proofs of true Christian character, they are to be regarded as sufficient to banish suspicion, and to warrant rulers to admit to the privileges of the church. We are to conclude, in the spirit of charity, that men really are what they so plainly appear to be.

That such things as constitute a credible profession, and not actual saintship or a positive spiritual change, are the qualifications required by Christ, may be argued on various grounds. It is visible qualifications alone that can properly be required to constitute visible membership in a visible church. It is absurd and unreasonable to require invisible qualities as essential prerequisites to visible fellowship. To the communion of the invisible church such are indispensable, but not to that of which we are speaking. Analogy may serve to throw light on this subject. In every society of whatever kind, be it scientific, or literary, or benevolent, all that is required to membership is a professed approbation of its constitution, and an apparent conformity to its rules. It is never thought necessary to scrutinize the heart, with a view to ascertain whether the person be sincere. He may not be sincere; but so long as he gives no evidence of insincerity, so long as he continues to act as if he were sincere, that is to say, so long as he makes a credible profession, he is considered as entitled to all the privileges of membership. Man, as we said before, has neither the ability nor the right to judge the heart. ‘I am he,’ saith the faithful and true Witness, ‘who searcheth the reins and hearts.’ To do so is a divine prerogative, and no man or set of men may presume to exercise it. Nay, even the most penetrating angelic intellect is incompetent to discover, excepting by outward manifestations, what is passing within the human breast. It is well that it is so; as, were rulers in the church invested with the right to pronounce infallibly on the spiritual condition of their fellow-men, it is not difficult to see what an engine of tyranny and oppression such a power might become; besides superseding the exercise of self-examination, and making way for the most unprincipled, unfounded, arrogant, and provoking pretensions. Indeed, the principle that actual saintship is indispensable, is at variance with the exercise of that discipline which we have before seen is one of the institutions of the church. When a church member is suspended or excluded from the enjoyment of privileges for misconduct, it is not because he is considered not to be a saint, but because he has acted inconsistently with his profession. He may be a saint; in the spirit of charity it may be hoped that he is such; nay, there may be very good reasons for entertaining a favourable view of his state. But a real saint may act so as to incur the discipline of the church. This is supposed in the very institution of discipline, which is designed to promote the edification of the godly. David, while his sin was unrepented of, was unfit for the fellowship of a holy society. A person who departs for a time from the right path is not to be ‘counted as an enemy, but admonished as a brother.’ But if a saint may be lawfully excluded from the fellowship of the visible church, even for a time, it is plain that something else than saintship is the qualification for communion.

Both Christ and his apostles appear to have acted on the principle for which we contend. Judas, who had a devil, and was known by Christ to be unconverted, was recognised and treated as a disciple, until he proved the hollowness of his profession by his conduct. Simon Magus, on a credible profession of religion, received the ordinance of baptism, although he was afterwards pronounced to be in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity. And, in short, there might have been less dispute on this subject, had due attention been given to the figures under which the church is represented. It is spoken of as a vine, some of the branches of which are barren, while others are fruitful; as a floor, on which there is found chaff as well as grain; as a field, in which are tares as well as wheat; as a net, which incloses bad as well as good fishes; and as a house, in which there are vessels to dishonour as well as to honour;—figures which could, with no propriety, be employed to represent the church, were actual saintship essential to her communion.

But does not this suppose that there may be hypocrites in the communion of the church? It does: but what then? The same admission will fall to be made on the supposition that actual regeneration is the qualification for church membership, as of this man can judge only by appearances, and it must be admitted that appearances may sometimes deceive. Nor is it destructive of the character of the church, as a spiritual society and the body of Christ, to suppose, that it may comprehend within it persons who are not real saints. Let it be recollected that it is of the visible church of Christ we are now speaking; and if there be only visible saintship, it is all that can be strictly required, as it is all that can be judged of by man, to the visible fellowship of such a community. Analogy may here aid our conceptions. The world is God’s world, notwithstanding that there are sinful men in it. The heart of a believer is a renewed heart, notwithstanding that it is infested with manifold corruptions. Why then may not the church of Christ be supposed to contain in it some who are not real Christians, without destroying its character?

Nay, it might even be shewn that such a mixed state as we have supposed, is turned to good account in the providence of God. The quantity of moral evil in the world is thus diminished; inasmuch as the nominal members of the church are necessitated to conform to the laws of morality more strictly than they would otherwise do, in order to keep up the consistency of their assumed character. The persons themselves may not be in a whit better state, as regards God, than the openly profligate and abandoned: but, as respects their fellow-men, it is not to be doubted that it is better they should repress than that they should give full scope to their enmity of heart; better surely that they should treat the name of God with reverence than that they should blaspheme it; better that they should maintain a show of truth, probity, and respect for the ordinances of religion, than that they should lie, steal, and pour contempt on all the institutions of Christ; better, in short, that they should maintain before their families and others the common decencies of life, than that they should set before them the example of open profligacy and vice. If so, the state of things by which they are constrained to do so is not without its use. Besides, it is calculated to lessen the sum of human misery, by averting public judgments. Facts warrant us to believe, that open judgments may be restrained, where the souls of men are not saved, out of respect to the restraints laid upon open sin: so that whatever tends to promote the latter, goes also to secure the former. Moreover, it would not be very difficult to shew that the arrangement in question is overruled for extending the resources, increasing the numbers, and promoting the protection of the church.

Not less unfortunate is the objection that the principle in question leads to the prostitution of sealing ordinances. For it must be obvious to all, that, unless the friends of the opposite scheme can pretend with infallible accuracy to judge the heart, the objection applies as much to them as to us. And, it may be added, that it overlooks the relation of the sacraments to the visible church. They have a special relation, it is true, to the church invisible; and, as signs of spiritual blessings, can be participated of with individual profit only by true believers. But they have also a relation to the visible church; and viewed as signs of the covenant character of God, certifying the doctrine of salvation by the blood of Christ, and affirming the necessity of being interested in the mediation of the Lord Jesus, the public administration of them, even where some who outwardly partake are unbelievers, may serve many important purposes to both the church and the world.

This view of the matter, if properly understood, can have no tendency to retard the exertions of the office-bearers and friends of the church in promoting her purity. It can have no effect in inducing them to receive into communion known unbelievers, or in warranting them to administer to such the sacred privileges of Christ’s house. By no means. That God glorifies himself by a state of things in which good and evil are mingled together, is no reason why we should be indifferent to the existence of evil, much less why we should give encouragement to its existence. It is the prerogative of infinite wisdom, power, and grace, to bring good out of evil. But we are not warranted, on that account, to attempt any thing but what is good; we must not do evil that good may come. The existence of evil in the world, as before remarked, does not destroy its relation to God; yet we are not, on this account, at liberty to encourage vice in the world, but bound to use every effort for its suppression and extirpation. The existence of depravity in the heart of a saint does not destroy his renewed character; yet is he bound to resist every known sin, to repress every evil principle, and to make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof. In like manner, although the existence of nominal Christians in its communion does not destroy the character of the church, this is no reason why the doors of ecclesiastical fellowship should be thrown open, and the seals of the covenant administered, to known unbelievers, or why every effort should not be made to exclude such from her membership.

VII. Christ, in virtue of his mediatorial dominion, appoints, qualifies, and invests with power, the office-bearers in the church.

Laws, institutions, and ordinances, suppose the existence of an order of men by whom they are administered. They cannot administer themselves; nor can it be regarded as any thing short of fanaticism to maintain, as is done by some, that everyone is to be guided in the worship of God merely by the fluctuating impulse of his own feelings, or ‘the light’ within, as it is called. The Scriptures give no countenance to any such wild idea. On the contrary, they give us good reason to believe that, from the beginning, the heads of families were authorized by God to act both as priests and as prophets. During the Mosaic economy, we know that a regular order of office-bearers existed; for there were laws for regulating their preparatory qualifications, their administration, and their succession. At the New Testament period, also, there existed a regular lawful ministry, some of the offices connected with which were certainly of a permanent nature, while others, of an obviously temporary kind, after serving the purpose for which they were introduced, were suffered to die away. Of this latter description were the offices held by those who were called apostles, prophets, and evangelists, the peculiarities of whose functions we wait not to delineate. But there is no reason for supposing that with these the existence of a standing ministry in the church was to cease. The very reverse is the inference we should seem warranted to draw. For if, even in an age which was blessed with extraordinary communications of the divine Spirit, teachers and rulers were deemed requisite, it is not reasonable to expect that, when these extraordinary gifts are withdrawn, the church should be able to do without office-bearers altogether. This view of the subject is confirmed by much that is found in the history and writings of the apostles themselves. To this purpose are these express statements of Paul:—‘And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. And God hath set some in the church: first, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then, gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.’[28] The apostles, accordingly, were careful to ‘commit the form of sound words to faithful men, able to teach others also.’ They ordained them elders in every city. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, by reminding the persons to whom he wrote of those who had had the rule over them, whose faith they were required to follow after their decease, and at the same time exhorting them to obey those that have the rule over them, distinctly recognises the existence of not merely one but two sets of teachers after the apostles. When John wrote his Apocalypse there were angels, that is to say, office-bearers, to whom the epistles to the Asiatic churches were addressed. Add to these considerations, the circumstance that the promise made by the Head of the church himself to his apostles proceeded on the supposition that there should be a standing ministry to the end of time, and is utterly irreconcilable with the notion that such was to expire with the apostles. Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

The permanent and ordinary office-bearers in the church are presbyters and deacons. Presbyters are of two kinds, namely, such as teach as well as rule, and such as rule only. The former are commonly known by the names of pastors, teachers, or ministers, and the latter by that of ruling elders. Presbyters of the former class appear to be the only description of bishops authorized by the Scriptures or by the practice of the primitive churches. The word commonly translated bishop signifies an overseer, and is so rendered in several instances in the common version. By a comparison of texts, we are led to conclude, that, in the early Christian church, the bishop and the presbyter were synonymous terms, denoting the very same office. In the twentieth chapter of the Acts, those called in the seventeenth verse ‘elders,’ πρεσβυτερους, are called ‘overseers,’ or bishops, επισκοπους, in the twenty-eighth. In the Epistle to Titus, first chapter, the qualifications of ‘elders,’ πρεσβυτερους, and of a ‘bishop,’ επισκοπος, are the same. In the first Epistle of Peter, the verb from which the word translated bishop is derived, is employed in describing the duties of elders:—‘The elders, πρεσβυτερους, which are among you I exhort.—Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the over-sight thereof,’ επισκοπουντες. It is not, then, from any thing in the Scripture usage of the terms, that the inference can be drawn, that the one term describes a different and a higher office than that which is pointed out by the other. Neither is there any thing in the original signification of the terms themselves to warrant this conclusion; but rather the contrary. Overseer and presbyter, while they are used indiscriminately to designate persons holding the same office, differ from one another in their primitive meaning so as to point out, indeed, the one the activity of service, the other the dignity of rule: but it so happens that the former idea is suggested by the term which Episcopalians understand to designate the office which is superior, and the latter idea attaches to the term which they regard as expressive of the office that is inferior. So far, indeed, from presbyter being, either in its primitive import or its current use in Scripture, expressive of inferiority, presbyters are described as exercising the very highest official acts—acts which, according to Episcopalians, belong only to bishops. Presbyters are described as ruling. The elders of Ephesus are required to ‘take heed to the flock.’ We read of ‘the elders that rule well.’ Presbyters are spoken of as ordaining: ‘Neglect not the gift which is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.’ When to these considerations it is added that there is but one ministerial commission, and that the preaching of the Word is spoken of in Scripture as a more dignified function than that of ruling, and as entitling to more abundant honour,[29] the evidence adduced appears sufficient to warrant the opinion that overseer and presbyter describe the same office, and that the one supposes no sort of superiority over the other, but on the contrary a clear and perfect equality.

As to the presbyters of the second class—those who rule only—their existence is plainly enough intimated in the plurality of elders which existed in the primitive churches, it being highly improbable that there should be more than one teacher who required to be supported by the members; in the distinction made betwixt ‘him that exhorteth’ and ‘him that ruleth,’ and betwixt ‘teachers’ and ‘helps and governments;’ and in the very clear line of demarcation drawn betwixt the elders that merely rule, and those who also labour in the word and doctrine.[30]

But it is not so much our object, to shew what offices Christ has appointed in his church, as to speak of the exercise of his mediatorial authority in appointing, qualifying, and investing with power, the men by whom these offices are held.

Appointment to office in the church is essential to the regular discharge of the functions belonging to office. ‘I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.’ ‘How shall they preach except they be sent?’ ‘No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made a High Priest; but He that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee.’[31] It must surely be presumptuous, in any mere servant of Christ to dispense with what was requisite to give validity to the office of his Master. But what constitutes a sufficient and valid appointment? An inward impulse of the divine Spirit, inclining an individual to serve the church in a public capacity, is not enough, as it can be of use only to the person himself. An immediate commission requires to be substantiated by miracles, and is not now to be expected. The only appointment, then, that can now be looked for, would seem to be that which consists in solemn and regular investiture with office by persons previously qualified and authorized; in other words, presbyterian ordination, or ecclesiastical designation.

Now, ordination derives its authority and validity from the institution of Christ as King and Head of his church. The custom of ordination existed in the primitive church. The apostles could not have practised it, nor could the inspired writers have given directions with regard to the performance of it, unless they had been authorized so to do; and by whom could they be so authorized but by Christ himself? The ‘laying on of hands,’ we are taught to consider as a part of Christianity as much as ‘repentance from dead works, or faith toward God, or the resurrection of the dead, or eternal judgment.’[32]

Ordination consists in the transmission of ecclesiastical power, by the solemn and appropriate form of the laying on of the hands of presbyters. The laying on of hands in ordination, is not a mere unauthorized ceremony. It is distinctly recognised both by apostolical example and precept. ‘The gift that is in thee, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery’ (1 Tim. 4:14). ‘Lay hands suddenly on no man’ (1 Tim. 5:22). Not that any thing is actually conveyed, by the mere imposition of hands, from the persons engaged in the act to the person who is the object of it. It is properly the sign rather than the medium of conveyance; just as sprinkling with water is significant of the application of the blood of Christ and the regenerating influence of the Spirit to the soul of the person baptized. Sprinkling with water does not convey these spiritual benefits; yet it is not an empty unmeaning ceremony, but an appropriately significant act. In like manner, the imposition of hands in ordination is not a useless form, but the appropriate mode by which it has pleased the Head of the church to express the communication of official power, to those by whom it is to be exercised. It were well that this view of the subject were more attended to than it is.

The act of ordination belongs to persons previously ordained. If it is significant of the conveyance of office-power, it can only be performed by those who possess such power. The power, it is true, is not derived from men but from Christ, the fountain-head of all authority. But it is transmitted through men; and there is an obvious propriety, if not necessity, that the medium of transmission should be such as to bring to view the thing transmitted. It follows, that the act of ordination belongs not to the people. It is of great importance to observe that the existence of the ministerial office is in no way dependent on the members of the church. Some have identified ordination and the call of the people. Others have considered the call of the people to be an indispensable prerequisite to ordination, an essential preparatory step to investiture with power and authority in the church. It does not appear to us that either of these opinions is correct. Not that we are indifferent to the right of the Christian people to call such as shall be placed over them in the Lord. The call of the people, we hold to be essential to the formation of the pastoral relation; and every attempt to deprive them of this right, or to cripple them in the exercise of it, we regard as a scandalous interference with the prerogative of Christ the church’s Head, and a daring invasion of the privileges of the church’s members. We hold that, in the formation of the interesting, and solemn, and important relation in question, the people should have a choice; it is mockery to put them off with a veto. But, then, there is a distinction betwixt the pastoral relation and the ministerial office—a distinction which is not sufficiently understood, but one, the correct understanding of which would go far to prevent many mistakes, and to remove many prejudices, on subjects connected with the office-bearers of the church.

The ministerial office is necessary to the full exercise of the functions arising out of the pastoral relation. Accordingly, the former is usually conferred at the time when the latter is formed; and hence may have arisen the misconception by which they are identified or confounded. But, although the pastoral relation supposes the existence of the ministerial office, the ministerial office may, and often does, exist without the pastoral relation.[****] This being the case, the choice of the people may be essential to the latter, and yet in no way necessary to the former. On the one hand, the pastoral relation, springing from the choice of the people, and supposing the mutual consent of the parties betwixt whom it exists, is necessarily restricted and exclusive. On the other hand, the ministerial office, derived from the church’s office-bearers, is wide as the wide world itself in the sphere over which it extends, and is altogether independent of the will of the people. The pastor, as such, cannot properly discharge the functions of the pastoral relation, without the consent of the people; and even this he can do only within the limited bounds of his own parish or congregation: but the minister of Christ as such, is, in virtue of his office, entitled to traverse the bounds of the habitable globe, and to proclaim the message of salvation in the ears of all those with whom he meets, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. No magic circle circumscribes the bounds of his ministrations. The laying on of the hands of the presbytery has given him a relation to the church universal, has invested him with authority to exercise his ministry, wherever God in his providence may call him, or may give him an opportunity. Wherever his voice can reach, wherever his feet can carry him, wherever, by land or by water, he can have his person transported, there has he a full and unquestionable right to unfold the message with which he is entrusted as a minister, and to beseech sinners of every clime, in Christ’s stead, to be reconciled to God. In this he needs not to wait for the call of the people. The exercise of his office is not suspended on the invitation of men. The people can neither impart nor remove the right to exercise it. It descends from Christ the fountain of all authority, through a regular and divinely-appointed ordination.

It is scarcely necessary to add, after this, that the power of ordination does not lie with a bishop,—a diocesan bishop. Paul and Barnabas, indeed, ordained elders in every city; but they did so, not as bishops, but as apostles—an extraordinary office, whose functions included those of the ordinary. Timothy and Titus ordained; but it will require stronger proof than we have yet seen, to convince us that they were diocesan bishops. Timothy himself was ordained by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Supernatural gifts he appears to have received by the putting on of Paul’s hands; but the ministerial gift was conferred on him by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

By means of ordination, provision is made for the regular and orderly transmission of official power in the church, throughout all ages. We do not contend for an uninterrupted succession from the apostles as essential to the validity of official ministrations. The value of the Christian ministry is suspended on no such contingency. Extraordinary circumstances, we fully admit, may warrant extraordinary measures; and there is no form or rite in being in the church which may not lawfully be dispensed with on particular occasions. The letter must ever be held to be subordinate to the spirit; and when both cannot be had, the former must yield to the latter. So it is in the case of ordination. The importance and propriety of installing men into office, in all ordinary cases, by the imposition of the hands of presbyters, may be maintained, in perfect consistency with the admission that cases may occur in which, at the call of the people, persons may warrantably and validly exercise the functions of the ministry, without having undergone the solemnity in question. Still, in all common cases, the regular and orderly way is that of which we have been speaking. It thus appears that ordination, while it confers authority of boundless extent as regards the sphere within which it may be exercised, provides for the perpetuation of it to the end of time. It possesses the property of indefinite and endless reproduction, and is in this way adapted to the conveyance of powers for which the necessity is both universal and perpetual.

And what, it is time now to ask, are these powers with which the Head of the church invests her office-bearers? In general, the authority with which ministers are invested, is authority to dispense all the laws and ordinances of the church; and by adverting to what we have previously said regarding these, we may come to form a tolerably correct idea of the nature and extent of office-power in the church of Christ. This power, let it be distinctly marked, is, in no shape or degree whatever, absolute and unlimited. As it is derived from the Lord Jesus Christ, it is to be exercised within such limitations as he, in the exercise of his sovereignty, has seen fit to appoint. In short, it is not sovereign but delegated power; and this necessarily supposes restriction and accountability.

Church power has usually been distributed into three kinds. (1) The first is called dogmatic power (potestas δογματικη), and refers to dogmas or articles of faith. This may be viewed as comprehending whatever is connected with instruction. It concerns what men are to believe; and consists in the right, not, as is claimed by the church of Rome, of determining what man is to believe, but of explaining and enforcing the truths of religion, either by circulating the Scriptures, or preaching the Gospel, or exhibiting summaries of Christian truth; the ultimate appeal being in every case to the word of God. (2) The second is called ordaining power (potestas διατακτικη), and refers to the government of the church. This comprehends, again, whatever is connected with rule; and consists, not in the power to institute a form of church government, or to make laws for regulating the conduct of men, or to appoint rites and ceremonies, but in the power to take such steps, and devise such measures, as may be requisite for administering the laws and ordinances which Christ has instituted. It is not legislative, but ministerial; it supposes an authority, not to make laws, but to administer them, and of course to pass such enactments or regulations, on points of external order, as may be necessary to give full effect to the institutions of Christ. (3) The third is called the power of discipline (potestas διακριτικη), and refers to admission to, or exclusion from, the communion of the church. The existence of such a power has been formerly proved. Its nature is entirely spiritual; extending to the souls of men, and not to their bodies, property, or lives. The highest censures which the office-bearers of the church, in virtue of this power, are entitled to inflict, are addressed to the conscience, and have for their object ‘the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.’ Civil pains, whether fines, confiscation, imprisonment, exile, or death, belong not to ecclesiastical office-bearers; and the church which has recourse to these, in whatever degree, so far identifies itself with the Romish usurpation, which claims dominion alike over the bodies and the souls of men.

Such is the power possessed by the ministers of religion; with which they are invested, not by the people over whom it is exercised, nor by the civil magistrate, but solely by the Lord Jesus Christ himself; and which is conveyed in the manner formerly described.

The exercise of such varied and solemn powers, presupposes certain necessary qualifications, for which also the office-bearers in the church are indebted to him from whom the powers themselves are derived. The extraordinary endowments possessed in the primitive age, have long since been suspended; and their place must now be made up by a competent share of natural talents, educational acquirements, and spiritual gifts. Without a portion of such qualifications, there can be no regular call to ministerial office. The Head of the church sends none a warfare on their own charges. He fits his servants for the work he requires of them. Where he has not given the qualification, he does not require the work. And if the functions of office are of so arduous and responsible a nature as to make all who have right feelings, to exclaim, in the prospect of undertaking them, ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ the promised assistance is also such as to permit them to add, ‘Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament.’ To qualify for public instruction, there must be not only an extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, but an acquaintance with literature in general, and particularly with sacred literature. To fit for government and discipline, much knowledge of human nature, a large share of natural sagacity, and no small degree of gravity, patience, and prudence, are requisite. These and similar qualifications are derived from Christ himself, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, and whose it is so to clothe his ministers with salvation that his people may, through their successful labours, have reason to shout for joy. ‘To every one is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ.’ Nor are those intrusted with the transmission of official power at liberty to confer it on any who are found, on proper trial, to be deficient in gifts and attainments. ‘The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.’ No greater injury can be done to the church, and we may add to the persons themselves, than to admit to office men who are not qualified to discharge its functions with ability. The office is in this way exposed to contempt; the members of the church who happen to be placed under the care of such persons are not edified; and the persons themselves become a laughing-stock to the profane. Most mistaken policy it is, therefore, in every point of view, from motives of commiseration and pity, to make a farce of preparatory trials, and to

‘Lay careless hands

On skulls that cannot teach and will not learn.’

VIII. Christ’s power over the church is, farther, apparent in rendering the administration of ordinances, by her proper office-bearers, effectual to the salvation of her members.

The laws, worship, government, and discipline, instituted by the Redeemer, are designed to promote the spiritual welfare of souls. Their efficacy for this purpose, is derived from Christ himself. In one point of view, indeed, this efficacy is to be ascribed to the Spirit. But the Spirit, it should never be forgotten, is the Spirit of Christ; is sent by Christ; and acts in every case under the commission of Christ. Thus it is that the whole honour of man’s redemption is secured to the Mediator, as well the renovation of man’s nature and character as the removal of his guilt. Agreeably to this, Christ is represented as He with whom is the residue of the Spirit; as sending the Comforter to reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; and as having, when he ascended on high, received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them. The precious oil, which goes down to the skirts of the garments, is first poured on the Head.

The whole world being, by nature, in a state of rebellion against the Lord and his Anointed, the Redeemer can have no friends among men until he makes them such; can have no spiritual subjects until he subdues them to himself; can have no obedient children, until, by the rod of his strength sent forth out of Sion, he has made a willing people in the day of his power. The renewed heart is Satan’s seat. To dethrone the tyrant, and lead the rebel captive, is the prerogative of Him who is king in Sion, the Faithful and True, who in righteousness doth judge and make war. The rescue of fallen man from sin and Satan, is effected, not by the strength of the evidence by which the gospel is supported; not by any inherent power in the truth itself; not by the clearness, and faithfulness, and eloquence with which it is propounded; not by mere moral suasion: but by the naked energy of the Saviour himself. Where the word of this king is, there is power; and nowhere else. It is by his omnific power, convincing of sin, enlightening the mind in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing the will, that any are persuaded and enabled to embrace the Saviour as he is offered to them in the gospel. This it is alone that can open men’s eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. The kingdom of God is within men. It cometh not with observation. The arrow which pierces the heart and brings down its enmity, which inflicts the wound that nothing but a Saviour’s blood can heal, is selected, is fitted to the string, is propelled with unerring aim, and guided with infallible certainty, by the skill and power of the Redeemer himself. ‘Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the hearts of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.’[33]

To such as are thus subdued by the power of his grace, he imparts the comforting sense of pardon and the honourable title of children. Their justification and adoption are legal acts for which they are indebted to Christ as a Priest; but the comforting sense of safety derived from the one, and of dignity derived from the other, they owe to his power as a King conveying it to their hearts. If it is true that by his sacerdotal blood they are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses, it is no less true that ‘he is exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sin.’ Nor is it less explicitly made known that ‘to as many as receive him, He gives power to become the sons of God;’ sending forth his Spirit into their hearts, enabling them to cry ‘Abba, Father.’ Now, all this is brought about by his giving efficacy to the ordinances.

In the same way it is that He rules and reigns in the hearts of his people. He asserts his authority over the conscience, the will, the life; and prescribes his law as the rule of their obedience. They recognise him as their master; cheerfully acknowledge his supremacy; and delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man. He puts his law into their minds, and writes it in their hearts. They yield themselves up to him as his willing servants; and every principle that is within them, every affection, volition, desire, proclaims him King and Lord.

The members of the church have many enemies. The devil, the world, and the flesh, are in league against them. They wrestle not only against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickednesses in high places. They are required to assume the character, equipments, and attitude of soldiers. They must put on the whole armour of God, that they may be able to stand; having their loins girt about with truth; having on the breastplate of righteousness; having their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel; and taking the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Satan, the chief and leader of these enemies, exasperated at his overthrow, makes a desperate effort to regain his lost dominion over them; and, although he cannot succeed, he does much to annoy such as have been rescued from his grasp. They are in themselves too feeble and powerless to sustain the shock of this unequal combat. But they have an omnipotent King, whose wisdom and might are exerted to assist and protect them. By the instructions of his Word, by the influence of his example, by the moral power of his ordinances, as well as by the positive strength which he imparts by his Spirit, he teaches their hands to war and their fingers to fight; he girds them with strength unto the battle, subdues under them those that rise up against them, and gives them the necks of their enemies. Sin, indwelling sin, has no longer dominion over them: by faith they overcome the world: and God bruises Satan under their feet. Yes; ye good soldiers of Jesus Christ! your King not only witnesses from his throne in the heavens the contest in which you are engaged, but cheers you on with his presence, encourages you by his example, animates you by his promises, stretches over you the impenetrable shield of his righteousness, and by his grace insures your final conquest. Well, then, may you exclaim with the Jewish prophet, ‘Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall I shall arise; when I sit in darkness the Lord shall be a light unto me:’[34] or break forth into the exulting language of the apostle, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.’[35]

Nor will their glorious Captain and Leader rest satisfied, until he has rendered the administration of Gospel ordinances effectual, in conducting forward the work of grace in the souls of his people to its final consummation in eternal glory. The honour of having brought the struggle with their enemies to a successful issue, shall be followed by the enjoyment of an everlasting reward. And the Saviour himself, as King of saints and King of glory, shall adorn them with their white robes, put the palms of victory into their hands, place upon their heads their crowns of gold, invite them to sit with him on his great high throne, and fill their mouths with unceasing Alleluias.

IX. The mediatorial dominion of Christ may be seen in the provision he has made for the diffusion and perpetuation of the visible church;—its diffusion over the habitable globe; and its perpetuation to the end of time.

We have already specified universality among the attributes of the visible church. Its nature is such as to admit of universal extension; and its divine Head will so order the affairs of providence, as to secure for it a diffusion proportioned to the catholicity of its character. Of this the Scriptures give positive and direct assurance. ‘The stone cut out without hands became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. All nations shall serve him. All nations shall call him blessed. The whole earth shall be filled with his glory. The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’[36] It is lamentable to think how small a portion of the earth has hitherto been blessed with the ordinances of true religion. Taking a survey of the world, and bearing in mind such predictions and promises as those above cited, we cannot help feeling that ‘there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.’ The field of Messiah’s operations is the world; nor will he cease to put forth his power for the extension of his church, till he has made the wilderness and the solitary place to be glad, and the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose. The outward ordinances of visible Christianity shall be universally spread abroad; efficacy shall be given to the means of grace, by the outpouring of the Spirit; and every obstruction to the triumphant progress of the chariot of salvation shall be effectually removed. Ignorance shall be dispelled before the spreading beams of gospel light. The evidences of divine truth shall compel infidelity, which now rears its unblushing front, to hide its head. The delusions of the false prophet shall be dissipated by the drying up of the river Euphrates, that a way may be prepared for the kings of the East. Jewish obstinacy and unbelief shall be broken, and the veil taken from the eyes of that interesting people in reading Moses and the prophets. All the hideous forms of polytheistic paganism shall give way to the one religion of Jesus. That monstrous corruption of Christianity, which has so long usurped the place and claimed the honour of the true faith, shall be cast into the lake of fire. The anti-Christian leaven, which has been so extensively diffused, shall be purged out of both the churches and the nations. Every usurper of the rights and prerogatives of Sion’s King shall be pushed from his seat. Every rival kingdom shall be overthrown. The civil and ecclesiastical constitutions of the earth shall be regulated by the infallible standard of God’s word; their office-bearers, of every kind, shall acknowledge the authority of Messiah the Prince; and the greatest kings on earth shall cast their crowns at his feet. All enemies shall be put under his feet; and such as resist the melting influence of his grace, shall be crushed beneath the iron rod of his power. By spiritual conversion or judicial destruction, he shall effect the entire subjugation of the globe. And, at the last, there shall not be a spot on the face of the habitable earth where the true church of Christ shall not have effected a footing, nor a single tribe of the vast family of man which shall not have felt the meliorating and blissful influence of Christian laws and institutions. Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, shall then be united in one vast brotherhood,—ranged under one standard: the bond of their union, the holy cement of the Gospel, the emblem of their banner, the Cross.

The church, thus universally diffused, shall be effectually perpetuated. The government of Messiah shall not only increase, but it shall have ‘no end.’ It shall be ‘established with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.’ We have seen the provision Christ has made for a succession of ministers. Not less carefully has he provided for a succession of members throughout all generations. Even after all other enemies have been subdued, death, it is true, shall be perpetually removing to another world those who have held both public and private stations in the church; but even death cannot bring about the extinction of the church of Christ. Instead of the fathers, he takes the children. He sends forth his Spirit to accompany the ordinances with power, and thus secures a succession of spiritual men to occupy the places of those who are taken to a higher sphere of existence. The ravages that are daily made in the ranks of the disciples, by the fell destroyer, are thus repaired, and his covenant people preserved from extermination. Till the end of time, there shall be ‘daily added to the church such as shall be saved.’ ‘A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born.’ Families which take great pride in their antiquity, and look back with pleasure on a long unbroken line of ancestry, have their names at length blotted from the earth. Societies which, for a length of time, make a conspicuous figure in the world, fall at last into decay, and finally disappear. Empires which have flourished for ages, and borne sway over a large portion of the earth, are destined to sink into everlasting oblivion. But the church of Christ, notwithstanding the combined assaults of which she is the object, shall continue to flourish and to exist while sun and moon endure; nay, when the sun has been changed into darkness, and the moon into blood. Christians are apt to feel discouraged when they reflect on the extensive prevalence of error compared with the limited success of the true religion, and despondingly to inquire, ‘By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.’ But if they can only have faith in the mediatorial dominion, they may dismiss their fears, and confidently rely in, not merely the preservation, but the triumphant success and universal establishment, of the church. The Lord reigns: and the children of Sion may well be joyful in their King.

What, then, must be the unspeakable happiness of those who are true members of Christ’s church;—a society founded, organized, and incorporated by the Redeemer himself; purchased with his precious blood; possessed of the most interesting properties; subservient to the most important ends; whose ordinances, members, office-bearers, and administration, are all so illustrious; and which is destined to attain to such permanency and extent? The honour and advantage of being connected with such a community cannot be small. It is a lamentable evidence of the extent of human depravity, that these should be appreciated by so few. The church of Christ is even now but a little flock.

In reflecting on the mediatorial dominion over the church and the many things which it involves, one cannot help being struck with the glory which it reflects on the character of the Mediator himself. Head of the church, King of Sion, and King of saints, are illustrious titles; they bespeak majesty and splendour; and are well fitted to preclude all unworthy conceptions of him to whom they belong. They are calculated to prevent any false inference being drawn from the more humiliating points of his history. Were we only to look at him lying in the manger of Bethlehem’s inn, sitting at the well of Jacob, standing at Pilate’s judgment-seat, hanging on the cross, or sleeping a lifeless corpse in Joseph’s tomb, we might be induced to regard him as, indeed, a root out of a dry ground. But, when we think of him giving existence to such a society as the church, instituting her ordinances, authorizing and qualifying her ministers, giving efficacy to her laws, and protecting her from destruction; when we think on the wisdom of his government, the bountifulness of his gifts, the resistless energy and gracious influence of his administration, we are filled with high and elevated views of his character. Instead of supposing him to have no form nor comeliness, no beauty for which we should desire him, we feel drawn towards him with the admiration and respect due to one who is crowned with glory and honour.

To interfere, in any degree, with the Redeemer’s prerogatives as Head of the church, is conduct the criminality of which cannot well be over-estimated. Such wickedness it might well be supposed none would be found sufficiently abandoned to perpetrate. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that men should disclaim, in words, all participation in such aggravated guilt. But let us look at the testimony of facts.—In the church of Rome, the Pope claims a universal spiritual power; while professing to act only as the vicegerent of Christ on earth, he blasphemously assumes the title of head of the church; and, that it may not be conceived to be an empty title, he sacrilegiously presumes to alter, add to, and dispense with, the ordinances which Christ himself has appointed.—Supremacy over the church is claimed also by the British crown. It is expressly provided for by law, that the imperial power in these realms shall have annexed to it the dignity of supreme head of the church, in virtue of which authority the monarch ‘convenes, prorogues, restrains, regulates, and dissolves all ecclesiastical synods and convocations—has the right of nomination to vacant bishoprics and certain other ecclesiastical preferments—and, as head of the church, is the dernier resort in all ecclesiastical causes; an appeal lying ultimately to him in chancery from the sentence of every ecclesiastical judge.’[37] Nor is the exercise of this supremacy confined to the Episcopal church of England. It is deserving of consideration whether, by prescribing the form of church government which is established in Scotland; by the right of patronage claimed and exercised by the state in the appointment of ministers; by enjoining the observance of days of fasting and thanksgiving without consultation with the church; and by authoritatively convening and dissolving the supreme court, the state is not guilty of such encroachments on the liberties even of the Scottish church as imply an invasion of the sole headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is truly appalling to think, in how many instances the crown rights and royal prerogatives of Sion’s King have been invaded by men, taking upon them to legislate in and for the church; to model her government and worship, in order to meet the ends of a pitiful expediency; to settle articles of faith; and even to brandish the sword of civil power over the heads of such as refused to submit to an arbitrary and unrighteous dictation. Nor is it greatly less grieving to reflect, that so many should tamely submit to these sinful encroachments, and shew so little regard for the honour of the Redeemer, as not to stand up at all hazards for his inalienable rights. The arrogance of these pretensions on the one hand, and the unfaithfulness of such compliance on the other, are alike to be reprobated. With regard to the one and to the other, the friend of the Redeemer may well feel disposed to say, ‘Tell it not in Gath;’ and be stirred up to use every means in his power to prevent the dear-bought and exclusive rights of Emmanuel from being infringed upon by any power upon earth. And as all such encroachments are as unsafe as they are sinful, such as lift their warning voice against them, and refuse to submit to them, certainly manifest more true regard for the welfare of their fellow-men, as well as more laudable zeal for the glory of their Lord and King, than those who regard them with cowardly silence or spiritless acquiescence.

[CHAPTER VIII]


FOOTNOTES:


[*] See page 97.

[1] Ps. 2:6; Zech. 9:9; Luke 1:33; Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18; Heb. 3:6; Rev. 15:3.

[2] Westminster Confession, chap. xxv. sect. 1 and 2.

[3] Acts 7:38.

[4] Acts 2:47.

[5] Acts 8:3.

[6] Rom. 16:23.

[7] 1 Cor. 12:28.

[8] Gal. 3:17, εις Χριστον, in respect of Christ.

[9] Gal. 3:19.

[10] Acts 14:23; Heb. 5:4, 5; Rom. 10:15; Jer. 23:32.

[11] Eph. 4:16.

[12] Gal. 3:17.

[13] Gal. 3:14, 16, 28, 29.

[14] Matt. 23:8, 9.

[15] Acts 9:27; 1 Cor. 1:2; Acts 19:5; Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 5:4.

[16] Eph. 4:4, 5; 1 Cor. 10:17.

[17] 1 Cor. 10:16, 17.

[18] Hill’s Lectures, iii. 414–416.

[**] A note on the margin of the author’s copy directs attention to the following passages, as shewing that the unity of the church is not violated even by separate organization:—

“As the Spirit wherever he dwells manifests himself as the Spirit of truth, of love, and of holiness, it follows that those in whom he dwells must be one in faith, in love, and holy obedience. Those whom he guides, he guides into the knowledge of the truth, and as he cannot contradict himself, those under his guidance must, in all essential matters, believe the same truths. And as the Spirit of love, he leads all under his influence to love the same objects, the same God and Father of all, the same Lord Jesus Christ; and to love each other as brethren. This inward, spiritual union must express itself outwardly, in the profession of the same faith, in the cheerful recognition of all Christians as Christians; that is, in the communion of saints, and in mutual subjection. Every individual Christian recognises the right of his fellow-Christians to exercise over him a watch and care, and feels his obligation to submit to them in the Lord.”

“It is on all hands conceded, that there may be difference of opinion, within certain limits, without violating unity of faith; and it is also admitted that there may be independent organization, for considerations of convenience, without violating the unity of communion. It therefore follows, that where such diversity of opinion exists, as to render such separate organization convenient, the unity of the church is not violated by such separation. Diversity of opinion is, indeed, an evidence of imperfection, and, therefore, such separations are evil, so far as they are evidence of want of perfect union in faith. But they are a less evil than either hypocrisy or contention; and, therefore, the diversity of sects, which exist in the Christian world, is to be regarded as incident to imperfect knowledge and imperfect sanctification.”

The author’s reference is to the “British and Foreign Evangelical Review,” Vol. I., in which Dr. Hodge’s essay appeared. It will now be found in “The Church and its Polity,” recently published (Nelson & Sons). The sentences quoted are taken from pp. 42–44 of that volume.

[***] The name then borne by what is now the United Presbyterian Church. The Free Church was a name unknown until four years after the publication of this work.

[19] Westminster Confession, chap. xxv. § 5.

[20] Isa. 43:21; Eph. 1:5, 6; 1 Pet. 2:9.

[21] 1 Tim. 3:15.

[22] Acts 7:38.

[23] Isa. 2:3.

[24] 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17.

[25] Matt. 18:17; 1 Tim. 5:20; Tit. 3:10.

[26] Acts 8:36, 37.

[27] 1 John 3:14, 19–21.

[28] Eph. 4:11, 12; 1 Cor. 12:28.

[29] 1 Tim. 5:17.

[30] Acts 14:23; Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Tim. 5:17.

[31] Jer. 23:32; Rom. 10:15; Heb. 5:4, 5.

[32] Heb. 6:1, 2.

[****] The church is now happily familiar with this in the case of missionaries to the heathen. It is to be remembered that this was written in 1837, the middle of the Ten Years’ Conflict.—Ed.

[33] Ps. 45:3–5.

[34] Mic. 7:8.

[35] Rom. 8:35, 37.

[36] Dan. 2:35; Ps. 72:8, 11, 17, 19; Isa. 2:2; 11:9.

[37] Black. Com., Book 1, chap. vii. sec. 6.