Theological Institutes

Part Fourth - The Institutions of Christianity

By Richard Watson

Chapter 1


THE Church of Christ, in its largest sense, consists of all who have been baptized in the name of Christ, and who thereby make a visible profession of faith in his Divine mission, and in all the doctrines taught by him and his inspired apostles. In a stricter sense, it consists of those who are vitally united to Christ, as the members of the body to the head, and who, being thus imbued with spiritual life, walk no longer “after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Taken in either view, it is a visible society, bound to observe the laws of Christ, its sole Head and Lord. Visible fellowship with this Church is the duty of all who profess faith in Christ; for in this, in part, consists that “confession of Christ before men,” on which so much stress is laid in the discourses of our Lord. It is obligatory on all who are convinced of the truth of Christianity to be baptized; and upon all thus baptized frequently to partake of the Lord’s Supper, in order to testify their continued faith in that great and distinguishing doctrine of the religion of Christ, the redemption of the world by the sacrificial effusion of his blood, both of which suppose union with his Church. The ends of this fellowship or association are, to proclaim our faith in the doctrine of Christ as Divine in its origin, and necessary to salvation; to offer public prayers and thanksgivings to God through Christ, as the sole Mediator; to hear God’s word explained and enforced; and to place ourselves under that discipline which consists in the enforcement of the laws of Christ, (which are the rules of the society called the Church,) upon the mem­bers, not merely by general exhortation, but by kind oversight, and personal injunction and admonition of its ministers. All these flow from the original obligation to avow our faith in Christ, and our love to him.

The Church of Christ being then a visible and permanent society, bound to observe certain rites, and to obey certain rules, the existence of government in it is necessarily supposed. All religious rites suppose ORDER, all order DIRECTION AND CONTROL, and these a DIRECTIVE AND CONTROLLING POWER. Again, all laws are nugatory without enforcement, in the present mixed and imperfect state of society; and all enforcement supposes an EXECUTIVE. If baptism be the door of admis­sion into the Church, some must judge of the fitness of candidates, and administrators of the rite must be appointed; if the Lord’s Supper must be partaken of, the times and the mode are to be determined, the quali­fications of communicants judged of, and the administration placed in suitable hands; if worship must be social and public, here again there must be an appointment of times, an order, and an administration; if the word of God is to be read and preached, then readers and preachers are necessary; if the continuance of any one in the fellowship of Christians be conditional upon good conduct, so that the purity and credit of the Church may be guarded, then the power of enforcing dis­cipline must be lodged somewhere. Thus government flows neces­sarily from the very nature of the institution of the Christian Church; and since this institution has the authority of Christ and his apostles, it is not to be supposed that its government was left unprovided for; and if they have in fact made such a provision, it is no more a matter of mere option with Christians whether they will be subject to govern­ment in the Church, than it is optional with them to confess Christ by becoming its members.

The nature of this government, and the persons to whom it is committed, are both points which we must briefly examine by the light of the Holy Scriptures.

As to the first, it is wholly spiritual :—“ My kingdom,” says our Lord, “is not of this world.” The Church is a society founded upon faith, and united by mutual love, for the personal edification of its mem­bers in holiness, and, for the religious benefit of the world. The nature of its government is thus determined ;—it is concerned only with spiritual objects. It cannot employ force to compel men into its pale; for the only door of the Church is faith, to which there can be no compulsion,—” he that believeth and is baptized” becomes a member. It cannot inflict pains and penalties upon the disobedient and refractory, like civil governments; for the only punitive discipline authorized in the New Testament, is comprised in “ admonition,” “reproof,” “sharp rebukes,” and, finally, “excision from the society.” The last will b& better understood if we consider the special relations in which true Christians stand to each other, and the duties resulting from them. They are members of one body, and are therefore bound to tenderness and sympathy; they are the conjoint instructers of others, and are there­fore to strive to be of “one judgment;” they are brethren, and they are to love one another as such, that is, with an affection more special than that general good will which they are commanded to bear to all mankind; they are therefore to seek the intimacy of friendly society among themselves, and, except in the ordinary and courteous inter. course of life, they are bound to keep themselves separate from the world; they are enjoined to do good unto all men, but “specially to them that are of the household of faith ;“ and they are forbidden “to cat” at the Lord’s table with immoral persons, that is, with those who, although they continue their Christian profession, dishonour it by their practice. With these relations of Christians to each other and to the world, and their correspondent duties before our minds, we may easily interpret the nature of that extreme discipline which is vested in the Church. “Persons who will not hear the Church” are to be held “as heathen men and publicans,” as those who are not members of it; that is, they are to be separated from it, and regarded as of “the world,” quite out of the range of the above-mentioned relations of Christians to each other, and their correspondent duties; but still, like “heathen men and publicans,” they are to be the objects of pity, and general benevo­lence. Nor is this extreme discipline to be hastily inflicted before “a first and second admonition,” nor before those who are “spiritual” have attempted “to restore a brother overtaken by a fault ;“ and when the “wicked person” is “put away,” still the door is to be kept open for his reception again upon repentance. The true excommunication of the Christian Church is therefore a merciful and considerate separa­tion of an incorrigible offender from the body of Christians, without any infliction of civil pains or penalties. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw your­selves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which ye have received from us,” 2 Thess. iii, 6. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump,” 1 Cor v, 5. But now I have written to you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such a one, no not to sat,” 1 Cor. v, 11. This then is the moral discipline which is impera­tive upon the Church of Christ, and its government is criminally de­fective whenever it is not enforced. On the other hand, the disabili­ties and penalties which established Churches in different places have connected with these sentences of excommunication, have no counte­nance at all in Scripture, and are wholly inconsistent with the spiritual character and ends of the Christian association.

As to the second point,—the persons to whom the government of the Church is committed, it is necessary to consider the composition, so to speak, of the primitive Church, as stated in the New Testament.

A full enunciation of these offices we find in Ephesians iv, 11: “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.” Of these, the office of apostle is allowed by all to have been confined to those immediately commissioned by Christ to witness the fact of his miracles and of his resurrection from the dead, and to reveal the complete system of Christian doctrine and duty; confirming their extraordinary mission by miracles wrought by .themselves. If by “prophets” we are to un­derstand persons who foretold future events, then the office was, from its very nature, extraordinary, and the gift of prophecy has passed away with the other miraculous endowments of the first age of Christianity. If, with others, we understand that these prophets were extraordinary teachers raised up until the Churches were settled under permanent qualified instructers; still the office was temporary. The “evangelists” are generally understood to be assistants of the apostles, who acted under their especial authority and direction. Of this number were Timothy and Titus; and as the Apostle Paul directed them to ordain bishops or presbyters in the several Churches, but gave them no authority to ordain successors to themselves in their particular office as evangelists, it is clear that the evangelists must also be reckoned among the number of extraordinary and temporary ministers suited to the first age of Chris­tianity. Whether by “pastors and teachers” two offices be meant, or one, has been disputed. The change in the mode of expression seems to favour the latter view, and so the text is interpreted by St. Jerome, and St. Augustine; but the point is of little consequence. A pastor was a teacher; although every teacher might not be a pastor; but in many cases be confined to the office of subordinate instruction, whether as an expounder of doctrine, a catechist, or even a more private instructer of those who as yet were unacquainted with the first principles of the Gospel of Christ. The term pastor implies the duties both of instruction and of government, of feeding and of ruling the flock of Christ; and, as the presbyters or bishops were ordained in the several Churches, both by the apostles and evangelists, and rules are left by St. Paul as to their appointment, there can be no doubt but that these are the “pastors” spoken of in the Epistle to the Ephesians, and that they were de­signed to be the permanent ministers of the Church; and that with them both the government of the Church and the performance of its leading religious services were deposited. Deacons had the charge of the gifts and offerings for charitable purposes, although, as appears from Justin Martyr, not in every instance; for he speaks of the weekly oblations as being deposited with the chief minister, and dis­tributed by him.

Whether bishops and presbyters be designations of the same office, or these appellatives express two distinct sacred orders, is a subject which has been controverted by Episcopalians and Presbyterians with much warmth; and whoever would fully enter into their arguments from Scripture and antiquity, must be referred to this controversy, which is too large to be here more than glanced at. The argument drawn by the Presbyterians from the promiscuous use of these terms in the New Testament, to prove that the same order of ministers is ex­pressed by them, appears incontrovertible. When St. Paul, for instance, sends for the “elders,” or presbyters, of the Church of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus, he thus charges them, “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost bath made you overseers,” or bishops. That here the elders or presbyters are called “bishops,” cannot be denied, and the very office assigned to them, to “feed the Church of God,” and the injunction, to “take heed to the flock,” show that the office of elder or presbyter is the same as that of “pastor” in the passage just quoted from the Epistle to the Ephesians. St. Paul directs Titus to “ordain elders (presbyters) in every city,” and then adds, as a directory of ordination, “a bishop must be blameless, &c,” plainly marking the same office by these two convertible appellations. “Bishops and deacons” are the only classes of ministers addressed in the Epistle to the Philippians; and if the presbyters were not understood to be included under the term “bishops,” the omission of any notice of this order of ministers is not to be accounted for. As the apostles, when not engaged in their own extraordinary vocation, appear to have filled the office of stated ministers in those Churches in which they occasion­ally resided for considerable periods of time, they sometimes called them­selves presbyters. “The elder,” presbyter, “unto the elect lady,” 2 John i, 1. “The elders (presbyters) which are among you, I exhort, who am also an elder,” (presbyter,) and from what follows, the highest offices of teaching and government in the Church are represented as vested in the presbyters. “Feed the flock of God, which is among you, taking the oversight thereof.” There seems, therefore, to be the most conclusive evidence, from the New Testament, that, after the extraordinary minis­try vested in apostles, prophets, and evangelists, as mentioned by St. Paul, had ceased, the feeding and oversight, that is, the teaching and government of the Churches, devolved upon an order of men indiscrimi­nately called “pastors,” “presbyters,” and “bishops.” the two latter names growing into most frequent use; and with this the testimony of the apostolical fathers, so far as their writings are acknowledged to be free from later interpolations, agrees.

It is not indeed to be doubted, that, at a very early period, in some instances probably from the time of the apostles themselves, a distinction arose between bishops and presbyters; and the whole strength of the cause of the Episcopalians lies in this fact. Still this gives not the least sanction to the notion of bishops being a superior order of ministers to presbyters, invested, in virtue of that order, and by Divine right, with powers of government both over presbyters and people, and possessing exclusively the authority of ordaining to the sacred offices of the Church. As little too will that ancient distinction be found to prove any thing in favour of diocesan episcopacy, which is of still later introduction.

Could it be made clear that the power of ordaining to the ministry was given to bishops to the exclusion of presbyters, that would indeed go far to prove the former a distinct and superior order of mi­nisters in their original appointment. But there is no passage in the New Testament which gives this power at all to bishops, as thus dis­tinguished from presbyters; while all the examples of ordination which it exhibits are confined to apostles, to evangelists, or to presbyters, in conjunction with them St. Paul, in 2 Tim. i, 6, says, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the putting on of my hands ;“ but in 1 Tim. iv, 14, he says, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by pro­phecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery ;“ which two passages, referring, as they plainly do, to the same event, the setting apart of Timothy for the ministry, show that the presbytery were asso­ciated with St. Paul in the office of ordination, and farther prove that the exclusive assumption of this power, as by Divine right, by bishops, is an aggression upon the rights of presbyters, for which not only can no Scriptural authority be pleaded, but which is in direct opposition to it.

The early distinction made between bishops and presbyters may be easily accounted for, without allowing this assumed distinction of ORDER. In some of the Churches mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, the apostles ordained several elders or presbyters, partly to supply the pre­sent need, and to provide for the future increase of believers, as it is observed by Clemens in his epistle. Another reason would also urge this :—Before the building of spacious edifices for the assemblies of the Christians living in one city, and in its neighbourhood, in common, their meetings for public worship must necessarily have been held in different houses or rooms obtained for the purpose; and to each assembly an eider would be requisite for the performance of worship. That these elders or presbyters had the power of government in the Churches cannot be denied, because it is expressly assigned to them in Scripture. It was inherent in their pastoral office; and “the elders that rule well,” were to be “counted worthy of double honour.” A number of elders, therefore, being ordained by the apostles to one Church, gave rise to the caetus presbyterorum, in which assembly time affairs of the Church were attended to, and measures taken for the spread of the Gospel, by the aid of the common counsel and efforts of the whole. This meeting of presbyters would naturally lead to the appointment, whether by seniority or by election, of one to preside over the proceedings of this assembly for the sake of order; and to him was given the title of angel of the Church, and bishop by way of eminence. The latter title came in time to be exclusively used of the presiding elder, because of that special oversight imposed upon him by his office, and which, as Churches were raised up in the neighbourhood of the larger cities, would also naturally be extended over them. Independently of his fellow presbyters, however, he did nothing.

The whole of this arrangement shows, that in those particulars in which they were left free by the Scriptures the primitive Christians adopted that arrangement for the government of the Church which promised to render it most efficient for the maintenance of truth and piety; but they did not at this early period set up that unscriptural distinction of order between bishops and presbyters, which attained afterward. Hence Jerome, even in the fourtheentury, contends against this doctrine, and says, that before there were parties in religion, Churches were governed communi consilio presbyterorum; but that afterward it became a universal practice fonded upon experience of its expediency, that one of the presbyters should be chosen by time rest to be the head, and that the care of the Church should be committed to him. He therefore exhorts presbyters t remember that they are subject by the custom of the Church to him that presides over them; and reminds bishops that they are greater than presbyters, rather by custom than by the appointment of the Lord; and that the Church ought still to be governed in common. The testimony of antiquity also shows, that, after episcopacy had very greatly advanced its claims, the presbyters continued to be associated with the bishop in he ma­nagement of The affairs of the Church.

Much light is thrown upon the constitution of the primitive Churches, by recollecting that they were formed very much upon the model of the Jewish synagogues. W€ have already seem that the mode of public worship in the primitive Church was taken from the synagogue service, and so also was its arrangement of offices. Each synagogue had its rulers, elders, or presbyters, of whom one was the angel of the Church, or minister of the synagogue, who superintended the public service; directed those that read the Scriptures, and offered up the prayers, and blessed the people The president of the council of elders or rulers was called, by way of eminence, the “ruler o the synagogue;” and in some places, as Acts xiii, 15, we read of these “rulers” in the plural number; a sufficient proof that one was not elevated in order above the rest. The angel of the Church, and the minister of the synagogue, might be the same as he who was invested with the office of president; or these offices might be held by others of the elders. Lightfoot, indeed; states that the rulers in each synagogue were three, while the presbyters or elders were ten. To this council of grave and wise men, the affairs of the synagogue, both as to worship and discipline, were committed. In the synagogue they sat by themselves in a semicircle, and the people before them, face to face. This was the precise form in which the bishop and presbyters used to sit in the primitive Churches. The description of the worship of the synagogue by a Jewish rabbi, and that of the primitive Church by early Christian writers, presents am obvious correspondence. “The elders," says Maimonides, “sit with their faces toward the people, and their backs to the place where the law is deposited; and all the people sit rank before rank; so the fates of all the people are toward the sanctuary, and toward the elders ; and when the minister of the sanctuary standeth up to prayer, he standeth with his face toward the sanctuary, as do the rest of the people.” En the same order the first Christians sat with their faces toward the bishops and presbyters, first to hear the Scriptures read by the proper reader; “then,” says Justin Martyr, “the reader sitting down, the president of the assembly stands up and makes a sermon of instruction am exhortation; after this is ended, we all stand up to prayers; prayers being ended, the bread, wine, and water are all brought forth; then the president again praying and praising to his utmost ability, the people testify their consent by saying, Amen.” (Apol. 2.) “Here we have he Scriptures read by one appointed for that purpose, as in the synagogue; after which follows the word of exhortation by the president of the assembly, who answers to the minister of the synagogue; after this, public prayers are per­formed by the same person; then the solemn acclamation of amen by the people, which was the undoubted practice of the synagogue.” (Stillingfleet’s Irenicum.) Ordination of presbyters or elders is also from the Jews. Their priests were not ordained, but succeeded to their office by birth; but the rulers and elders of the synagogue received ordination by imposition of hands and prayer.

Such was the model which the apostles followed in providing for the future regulation of the Churches they had raised up. They took it, not from the temple and its priesthood; for that was typical, and was then passing away. But they found in the institution of syna­gogues a plan admirably adapted to the simplicity and purity of Chris­tianity, one to which some of the first converts in most places were accustomed, and which was capable of being applied to the new dispen­sation without danger of Judaizing. It secured the assembling of the people on the Sabbath, the reading of the Scriptures, the preaching of sermons, and the offering of public prayer ard thanksgiving. It pro­vided too for the government of the Church by a council of presbyters, ordained solemnly to their office by impositim of hands anti prayer; and it allowed of that presidency of one presbyter chosen by the others, which was useful for order and for unity, and by which age, piety, and gifts might preserve their proper influence in tie Church. The advance from this state of Scriptural episcopacy to episcopacy under another form was the work of a later age.

When the Gospel made its way into towns and villages, the con­cerns of the Christians in these places naturally fell under the cogni­zance and direction of the bishops of the neighbouring cities. Thus diocesses were gradually formed, comprehendhg districts of country, of different extent. These diocesses were originally called paroikiai, parishes, and the word dioikhsi~, diocess, was not used in its modern sense till at least the fourth century; and when we find Ignatius describing it as the duty of a bishop, “to speak to each member of the Church separately, to seek out all by name, even the slaves of both sexes, and to advise every one of the flock in the affair of marriage,” diocesses, as one observes, must have been very limited, or the labour inconceivably great.

“As Christianity increased and overspread all parts, and especially the cities of the empire, it was found necessary yet farther to enlarge the episcopal office; and as there was commonly a bishop in every great city, so in the metropolis, (as the Romans called it,) the mother city of every province, (wherein they had courts of civil judicature,) there was an ARCHBISHOP or a METROPOLITAN, who had ecclesiastical jurisdiction over all the Churches within that province. He was superior to all the bishops within those limits; to him it belonged to ordain or to ratify the elections and ordinations of all the bishops within his province, in so much that without his confirmation they were looked upon as null and void. Once at least every year he was to summon the bishops under him to a synod, to inquire into and direct the ecclesiastical affairs within that province; to inspect the lives and manners, the opinions and prin­ciples of his bishops; to admonish, reprove, and suspend them that were disorderly and irregular; if any controversies or contentions hap­pened between any of them, he was to have the hearing and determina­tion of them; and indeed no matter of moment was done within the whole province, without first consulting him in the case. When this office of metropolitan first began, I find not; only this we are sure of, that the council of Nice, settling the just rights and privileges of metro­politan bishops, speaks of them as a thing of ancient date, ushering in the canon with an arcaia eqh krateitw, Let ancient customs still take place. The original of the institution seems to have been partly to comply with the people’s occasions, who oft resorted to the metropolis for des patch of their affairs, and so might fitly discharge their civil and ecclesiastical both at once; and partly because of the great confluence of people to that city: that the bishop of it might have pre-eminence above the rest, and the honour of the Church bear some proportion to that of the state.

“After this sprung up another branch of the episcopal office, as much superior to that of metroplitans, as theirs was to ordinary bishops; these were called PRIMATES and PATRIARCHS, and had jurisdiction over many provinces. For the understanding of this, it is necessary to know, that when Christianity came to be fully settled in the world, they contrived to model the external government of the Church, as near as might be, to the civil government of the Roman empire; the parallel is most exactly drawn by an ingenious person of our own nation; the sum of it is this :—The whole empire of Rome was divided into thirteen diocesses, (so they called those divisions,) these contained about one hun­dred and twenty provinces, and every province several cities. Now, as in every city there was a temporal magistrate for the executing of justice, and keeping the peace, both for that city and the towns round about it; so was there also a bishop for spiritual order and government, whose jurisdiction was of like extent and latitude. In every province there was a proconsul or president, whose seat was usually at the metro­polis, or chief city of the province; and hither all inferior cities came for judgment in matters of importance. And in proportion to this there was in the same city an archbishop or metropolitan, for matters of ecclesiastical concernment. Lastly, in every diocess the emperors had their vicarii or lieutenants, who dwelt in the principal city of the dio­cess, where all imperial edicts were published, and from whence they were sent abroad into the several provinces, and where was the chief tribunal where all causes not determinable elsewhere, were decided. And, to answer this, there was in the same city a primate, to whom the last determination of all appeals from all the provinces in differences of the clergy, and the sovereign care of all the diocess for sundry points of spiritual government, did belong. This, in short, is the sum of the account which that learned man gives of this matter. So that the pa­triarch, as superior to the metropolitans, was to have under his jurisdic­tion not any one single province, but a whole diocess, (in the old Roman notion of that word,) consisting of many provinces. To him belonged the ordination of all the metropolitans that were under him, as also the summoning them to councils, the correcting and reforming the misde­meanors they were guilty of; and from his judgment and sentence, in things properly within his cognizance, there lay no appeal. To this I shall only add what Salmasius has noted, that as the diocess that was governed by the vi car us had many provinces under it, so the praefectus praetorio had several diocesses under him: and in proportion to this, probable it was, that patriarchs were first brought in, who, if not superior to primates in jurisdiction and power, were yet in honour, by rea­son of the dignity of those cities where their sees were fixed, as at Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.” (Cave’s Primitive Christianity.)

Thus diocesan bishops, metropolitans, primates, patriarchs, and finally the pope, came in, which offices are considered as corruptions or im­provements; as dictated by the necessities of the Church, or as instances of worldly ambition; as of Divine right, or from Satan; according to the different views of these who have written on such subjects. As to them all it may, however, be said, that, so far as they are pleaded for as of Divine right, they have no support from the New Testament; and if they are placed upon the only ground on which they can be reasonably discussed, that of necessity and good polity, they must be tried by circumstances, and their claims of authority be so defined that it maybe known how far they are compatible with those principles with which the New Testament abounds, although it contains no formal plan of Church government. The only Scriptural objection to episcopacy, as it is understood in modern times, is its assumption of superiority of order, of an exclusive right to govern the pastors as well as the flock, and to ordain to the Christian ministry. These exclusive powers are by the New Testament no where granted to bishops in distinction from presbyters. The government of pastors as well as people, was at first in the assembly of presbyters, who were individually accountable to that ruling body, and that whether they had a president or not. So also as to ordina­tion it was a right in each, although used by several together, for better security; and even when the presence of a bishop came to be thought necessary to the validity of ordination, the presbyters were not excluded.

As for the argument from the succession of bishops from the times of the apostles, could the fact be made out, it would only trace diocesan bishops to the bishops of parishes; those, to the bishops of single Churches; and bishops of a supposed superior order, to bishops who never thought themselves more than presiding presbyters, primi inter pares. This therefore would only show that an unscriptural assumption of distinct orders has been made, which that succession, if established, would refute. But the succession itself is imaginary. Even Epiphanius, a bishop of the fourth century, gives this account of things, “that the apostles were not able to settle all things at once. But according to the number of believers, and the qualifications for the different offices which those whom they found appeared to possess, they appointed in some places only a bishop and deacons; in others presbyters and deacons; in others a bishop, presbyters, and deacons:”—a statement fatal to the argument from succession. As for the pretended catalogues of bishops of the different Churches from the days of the apostles, exhibited by some ecclesiastical writers, they are filled up by forgeries and inven­tions of hater times. Eusebius, more honest, begins his catalogue with declaring, that it is not easy to say who were the disciples of the apostles that were appointed to feed the Churches which they planted, ex­cepting only those whom we read of in the writings of St. Paul.

Whether episcopacy may not be a matter of prudential regulation, is mother question. We think it often may; and that Churches are quite it liberty to adopt this mode, provided they maintain St. Jerome’s distinction, that “bishops are greater than presbyters rather by custom than by appointment of the Lord, and that still the Church ought to be governed in common,” that is, by bishops and presbyters united. It was n this ground that Luther placed episcopacy,—as useful, though not of Divine right; it was by admitting this liberty in Churches, that Calvin and other divines of the Reformed Churches allowed episcopacy and diocesan Churches to be lawful, there being nothing to forbid such an arrangement in Scripture, when placed on the principle of expedi­ency. Some divines of the English Church have chosen to defend its episcopacy wholly upon this ground, as alone tenable; and, admitting that it is safest to approach as near as possible to primitive practice, have proposed the restoration of presbyters as a senate to the bishop, the con­traction of diocesses, the placing of bishops in all great towns, and the holding of provincial synods ;—thus raising the presbyters to their ori­ginal rank, as the bishop’s “compresbyters,” as Cyprian himself calls them, both in government and in ordinations.

As to that kind of episcopacy which trenches upon no Scriptural prin­ciple, much depends upon circumstances, and the forms in which Chris­tian Churches exist. When a Church composes but one congregation, the minister is unquestionably a Scriptural bishop; but he is, and can be, only bishop of the flock, episcopus gregis. Of this kind, it appears from the extract given above from Epiphanius, were some of the primi­tive Churches, existing, probably, in the smaller and more remote places. Where a number of presbyters were ordained to one Church, these would, in their common assembly, have the oversight and government of each other as well as of the people; and, in this their collective capa­city, they would be episcopi gregis et pastorum. In this manner, epis­copacy, as implying the oversight and government both of ministers and their flocks, exists in Presbyterian Churches, and in all others, by whatever name they are called, where ministers are subject to the discipline of assemblies of ministers who admit to the ministry by joint consent, and censure or remove those who are so appointed. When the ancient presbyteries elected a bishop, he might remain, as he appears to have clone for some time, the mere president of the assembly of presbyters, and their organ of administration; or be constituted, as afterward, a dis­tinct governing power, although assisted by the advice of his presbyters. He was then in person an episcopus gregis et pastorum, and his official powers gave rise at length to the unfounded distinction of superior order. But abating this false principle, even diocesan episcopacy may be con­sidered as in many possible associations of Churches throughout a province, or a whole country, as an arrangement in some circumstances of a wise and salutary nature. Nor do the evils which arose in the Church of Christ appear so attributable to this form of government as to that too intimate connection of the Church with the state, which gave to the former a political character, and took it from under the salutary control of public opinion,—an evil greatly increased by the subsequent destruction of religious liberty, and the coercive interferences of the civil magistrate.

At the same time, it may be very well questioned, whether any presbyters could lawfully surrender into the hands of a bishop their own rights of government and ordination without that security for their due administration which arises from the accountability of the administrator. That these are rights which it is not imperative upon the individual possessing them to exercise individually, appears to have the judgment of the earliest antiquity, because the assembly of presbyters, which was probably co-existent with the ordination of several presbyters to one Church by the apostles, necessarily placed the exercise of the office of each under the direction and control of all. When therefore a bishop was chosen by the presbyters, and invested with the government, and the power of granting orders, so long as the presbyters remained his counsel, and nothing was done but by their concurrence, they were still parties to the mode in which their own powers were exercised, and were justifiable in placing the administration in the hands of one, who was still dependent upon themselves. in this way they probably thought that their own powers might be most efficiently and usefully exercised. Provincial and national synods or councils, exercising a proper superintendence over bishops when made even more independent of their presbyters than was the case in the best periods of the Primitive Church, might also, if meeting frequently and regularly, and as a part of an eccle­siastical system, afford the same security for good administration, and might justify the surrender of the exercise of their powers by the presbyters. But when that surrender was formerly made, or is at any time made now in the constitution of Churches, to bishops, or to those bearing a similar office however designated, without security and control, either by making that office temporary and elective, or by the constitution of synods or assemblies of the ministers of a large and united body of Christians for the purpose of supreme government, an office is created which has not only no countenance in Scripture, that of a bishop inde­pendent of presbyters, but one which implies an unlawful surrender of those powers, on the part of the latter, with which they were invested, not for their own sakes, but for the benefit of the Church; and which they could have no authority to divest themselves of and to transfer, without retaining the power of counselling and controlling the party charged with the administration of them. In other words, presbyters have a right, under proper regulations, to appoint another to administer for them, or to consent to such an arrangement when they find it already existing but they have no power to divest themselves of these rights and duties absolutely. If these principles be sound, modern episcopacy, in many Churches, is objectionable in other respects than as it assumes an un scriptural distinction of order.

The following is a liberal concession on the subject of episcopacy, from a strenuous defender of that form of government as it exists in the Church of England :—

“It is not contended that the bishops, priests, and deacons, of Eng land, are at present precisely the same that bishops, presbyters, and deacons, were in Asia Minor seventeen hundred years ago. We only maintain that there have always been bishops, priests, and deacons, in the Christian Church, since the days of the apostles, with different powers and functions, it is allowed, in different countries and at dif­ferent periods; but the general principles and duties which have re­spectively characterized these clerical orders, have been essentially the same at all times, and in all places; and the variations which they have undergone, have only been such as have ever belonged to all per. sons in public situations, whether civil or ecclesiastical, and which are indeed inseparable from every thing in which mankind are concerned in this transitory and fluctuating world.

“I have thought it right to take this general view of the ministerial office, and to make these observations upon the clerical orders subsisting in this kingdom, for the purpose of pointing out the foundation and principles of Church authority, and of showing that our ecclesiastical establishment is as nearly conformable, as change of circumstances will permit, to the practice of the primitive Church. But, though I flatter myself that I have proved episcopacy to be an apostolical institution, yet I readily acknowledge that there is no precept in the New Testament which commands that every Church should be governed by bishops. No Church can exist without some government; but though there must be rules and orders for the proper discharge of the offices of public worship, though there must be fixed regulations concerning the appoint­ment of ministers, and though a subordination among them is expedient in the highest degree, yet it does not follow that all these things must be precisely the same in every Christian country; they may vary with the other varying circumstances of human society, with the extent of a country, the manners of its inhabitants, the nature of its civil government, and many other peculiarities which might be specified. As it has not pleased our almighty Father to prescribe any particular form of civil government for the security of temporal comforts to his rational creatures, so neither has he prescribed any particular form of ecclesi­astical polity as absolutely necessary to the attainment of eternal happiness. But he has, in the most explicit terms, enjoined obedience to all governors, whether civil or ecclesiastical, and whatever may be their denomination, as essential to the character of a true Christian. Thus the Gospel only lays down general principles, and leaves the application of them to men as free agents.” (Bishop Tomline's Elements.)

Bishop Tomline, however, and the high Episcopalians of the Church of England, contend for an original distinction in the office and order of bishops and presbyters, in which notion they are contradicted by one who may be truly called the founder of the Church of England, Archbishop Cranmer, who says, “The bishops and priests were at one time, and were not two things; but both one office in the beginning of Christ’s religion.” (Stillingfleet’s Irenicum, p. 392.)

On the subject of THE church itself, opinions as opposite or varying as possible have been held, down from that of the papists, who contend for its visible unity throughout the world under a visible head, to that of the Independents, who consider the universal Church as composed of congregational Churches, each perfect in itself, and en­tirely independent of every other.

The first opinion is manifestly contradicted by the language of the apostles, who, while they teach that there is but one Church, composed of believers throughout the world, think it not at all inconsistent with this to speak of “the Churches of Judea,” “of Achaia,” “the seven Churches of Asia,” “the Church at Ephesus,” &c. Among themselves the apostles had no common head; but planted Churches and gave directions for their government, in most cases without any apparent correspondence with each other. The popish doctrine is certainly not found in their writings, and so far were they from making provision for the government of this one supposed Church, by the appointment of one visible and exclusive head, that they provide for the future government of the re­spective Churches raised up by them, in a totally different manner, that is, by the ordination of ministers for each Church, who are indifferently called bishops, and presbyters, and pastors. The only unify of which they speak is the unity of the whole Church in Christ, the invisible Head, by faith; and the unity produced by “fervent love toward each other.” Nor has the popish doctrine of the visible unity of the Church any countenance from early antiquity. The best ecclesiastical historians have showed, that, through the greater part of the second century, “the Christian Churches were independent of each other. Each Christian assembly was a little state governed by its own laws, which were either enacted, or at least approved by the society. But in process of time, all the Churches of a province were formed into one large ecclesiastical body, which, like confederate states, assembled at certain times in order to deliberate about the common interests of the whole.” (Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, cent. 2, chap. ii.) So far indeed this union of Churches appears to have been a wise and useful arrangement, although afterward it was carried to an injurious ex­treme, until finally it gave birth to the assumptions of the bishop of Rome, as universal bishop; a claim, however, which when most success­ful, was but partially submitted to, the Eastern Churches having always maintained their independence. No very large association of Churches of any kind existed till toward the close of the second century, which sufficiently refutes the papal argument from antiquity.

The independence of the early Christian Churches does not, however, appear to have resembled that of the Churches which in modern times are called Independent. During the lives of the apostles and evangelists, they were certainly subject to their counsel and control, which proves that the independency of separate societies was not the first form of the Church. It may, indeed, be allowed, that some of the smaller and more insulated Churches might, after the death of the apostles and evangelists, retain this form for some considerable time; but the larger Churches, in the chief cities, and those planted in populous neighbourhoods, had many presbyters, and as the members multiplied, they had several sepa­rate assemblies or congregations, yet all under the same common government. And when Churches were raised up in the neighbourhood of cities, the appointment of chorepiscopi, or country bishops, and of visiting presbyters, both acting under the presbytery of the city, with its bishop at its head, is sufficiently in proof, that the ancient Churches, especially the larger and more prosperous of them, existed in that form, which in modern times we should call a religious connection, subject to a common government. This appears to have arisen out of the very circumstance of the increase of the Church, through the zeal of the first Christians; and in the absence of all direction by the apostles, that every new society of believers raised should be formed into an independent Church, it was doubtless much more in the spirit of the very first discipline exercised by the apostles and evangelists, (when none of the Churches were independent, but remained under the government of those who had been chiefly instrumental in raising them up,) to place themselves under a common inspection, and to unite the weak with the strong, and the newly converted with those who were “in Christ before them.” There was also in this, greater security afforded both for the continuance of wholesome doctrine, and of godly discipline.

The persons appointed to feed and govern the Church of Christ being, then, as we have seen, those who are called “pastors,” a word which imports both care and government, two other subjects claim our atten­tion,—the share which the body of the people have in their own govern­ment by their pastors, and the objects toward which the power of government, thus established, in the Church, is legitimately directed.

As to the first, some preliminary observations may be necessary.

1. When Churches are professedly connected with, and exclusively patronized and upheld by, the state, questions of ecclesiastical govern­ment arise, which are of greater perplexity and difficulty than when they are left upon their original ground, as voluntary and spiritual associa­tions. The state will not exclusively recognize ministers without main­taining some control over their functions; and will not lend its aid to enforce the canons of an established Church, without reserving to itself some right of appeal, or of interposition. Hence a contest between the civil and ecclesiastical powers often springs up, and one at least generally feels itself to be fettered by the other. When an established Church is perfectly tolerant, and the state allows freedom of dissent and separation from it without penalties, these evils are much miti­gated. But it is not my design to consider a Church as at all allied with the state; but as deriving nothing from it except protection, and that general countenance which the influence of a government, pro­fessing Christianity and recognizing its laws, must afford.

2. The only view in which the sacred writers of the New Testament appear to have contemplated the Churches, was that of associations founded upon conviction of the truth of Christianity, and the obligatory nature of the commands of Christ. They considered the pastors as dependent for their support upon the free contributions of the people; and the people as bound to sustain, love, and obey them in all things lawful, that is, in all things agreeable to the doctrine they had received in the Scriptures, and, in things indifferent, to pay respectful deference to them. They enjoined it upon the pastors to “rule well,” “diligently,” and with fidelity, in executing the directions they had given them;— to silence all teachers of false doctrines, and their adherents ;—to re prove unruly and immoral members of the Church, and, if incorrigible, to put them away. On the other hand, should any of their pastors or teachers err in doctrine, the people are enjoined not “to receive them,” to “turn away” from them, and not even to bid them “God speed.” The rule which forbids Christians “to eat,” that is, to communicate at the Lord’s table with an immoral “brother,” held, of course, good, when that brother was a pastor. Thus pastors were put by them under the influence of the public opinion of the Churches; and the remedy of separating from them, in manifest defections of doctrine and morals, was afforded to the sound members of a Church, should no power exist, able or inclined to silence the offending pastor and his party. In all this, principles were recognized, which, had they not been in future times lost sight of or violated, would have done much, perhaps every thing, to preserve some parts of the Church, at least, in soundness of faith, and purity of manners. A perfect religious liberty is always supposed by the apostles to exist among Christians; no compulsion of the civil power is any where assumed by them as the basis of their advices or directions; no binding of the members to one Church, without liberty to join an­other, by any ties but those involved in moral considerations, of sufficient weight, however, to prevent the evils of faction and schism. It was this which created a natural and competent check upon the ministers of the Church; for being only sustained by the opinion of the Churches, they could not but have respect to it; and it was this which gave to the sound part of a fallen Church the advantage of renouncing, upon sufficient and well-weighed grounds, their communion with it, and of kindling up the light of a pure ministry and a holy discipline, by forming a separate asso­ciation, bearing its testimony against errors in doctrine, and failure, in practice. Nor is it to be conceived, that, had this simple principle of perfect religious liberty been left unviolated through subsequent ages, the Church could ever have become so corrupt, or with such difficulty and slowness have been recovered from its fall. This ancient Christian liberty has happily been restored in a few parts of Christendom.

3. In places where now the communion with particular Churches, as to human authority, is perfectly voluntary, and liberty of conscience is unfettered, it often happens that questions of Church government are argued on the assumption that the governing power in such Churches is of the same character, and tends to the same results, as where it is connected with civil influence, and is upheld by the power of the state.

Nothing can be more fallacious, and no instrument has been so power­ful as this in the hands of the restless and factious, to delude the unwary. Those who possess the governing power in such Churches, are always tinder the influence of public opinion to an extent unfelt in establishments. They can enforce nothing felt to be oppressive to the members in general without dissolving the society itself; and their utmost power extends to excision from the body, which, unlike the sentences of excommuni­cation in state Churches, is wholly unconnected with civil penalties. If, then, a resistance is created to any regulations among the major part of any such religious community, founded on a sense of their injurious operation, or to the manner of their enforcement; and if that feeling be the result of a settled conviction, and not the effervescence of temporary mistake and excitement, a change must necessarily ensue, or the body at large be disturbed or dissolved: if, on the other hand, this feeling be the work of a mere faction, partial tumults or separation may take place, and great moral evil may result to the factious parties, but the body will retain its communion, which will be a sufficient proof that the governing power has been the subject of ungrounded and unchari­table attack, since otherwise the people at large must have felt the evils of the general regulations or administration complained of. The very terms often used in the grand controversy arising out of the struggle for the establishment of religious liberty with national and intolerant Churches, are not generally appropriate to such discussions as may arise in voluntary religious societies, although they are often employed, either carelessly or ad captandum, to serve the purposes of faction.

4. It is also an important general observation, that, in settling the government of a Church, there are preexistent laws of Christ, which it is not in the option of any to receive or to reject. Under whatever form the governing power is arranged, it is so bound to execute all the rules left by Christ and his apostles, as to doctrine, worship, the sacra­ments, and discipline, honestly interpreted, that it is not at liberty to take that office, or to continue to exercise it, if by any restrictions imposed upon it, it is prevented from carrying these laws into effect. As in the state, so in the Church, government is an ordinance of God; and as it is imperative upon rulers in the state to be “ a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well,” so also is it imperative upon the rulers of the Church to banish strange doctrines, to uphold God’s ordinances, to reprove and rebuke, and, finally, to put away evil doers. The spirit in which this is to be done is also prescribed. It is to be done in the spirit of meekness, and with long suffering; but the work must be done upon the responsibility of the pastors to Him who has commissioned them for this purpose; and they have a right to require from the people, that in this office and ministry they should not only not be obstructed, but affectionately and zealously aided, as ministering in these duties, sometimes painful, not for themselves, but for the good of the whole. With respect to the members of a Church, the same remark is applicable as to the members of a state It is not matter of option with them whether they will be under government according to the laws of Christ or not, for that is imperative; government in both cases being of Divine appointment. They have, on the other hand, the right to full security, that they shall be governed by the laws of Christ; and they have a right too to establish as many guards against human infirmity and passion in those who are “set over them,” as maybe prudently devised, provided these are not carried to such an extent as to be obstructive to the legitimate Scriptural discharge of their duties. The true view of the case appears to be, that the government of the Church is in its pastors, open to various modifications as to form; and that it is to be conducted with such a concurrence of the people, as shall constitute a sufficient guard against abuse, and yet not prevent the legitimate and efficient exercise of pastoral duties, as these duties are stated in the Scriptures. This original authority in the pastors, and concurrent consent in the people, may be thus applied to particular cases :—

1. As to the ordination of ministers. If we consult the New Testament, this office was never conveyed by the people. The apostles were ordained by our Lord; the evangelists, by the apostles; the elders in every Church, both by apostles and evangelists. The passage which has been chiefly urged by those who would originate the ministry from the people, is Acts xiv, 23, where the historian, speaking of St. Paul and Barnabas, says, “And when they had ordained (ceirotonhsante~) elders in every Church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord.” Here, because ceirotonein originally signified to choose by way of suffrage, some have argued that these elders were appointed by the suffrages of the people. Long, however, before the time of St. Luke, this word was used for simple designation, without any reference to election by suffrages; arid so it is employed by St. Luke himself in the same book, Acts x, 41, “Witnesses foreappointed of God,” where of course the suffrages of men are out of the question. It is also fatal to the argument drawn from the text, that the act implied in the word, whatever it might be, was not the act of the people, but that of Paul and Barnabas. Even the deacons, whose appointment is mentioned Acts vi, although “looked out” by the disciples as men of honest report, did not enter upon their office till solemnly “appointed” thereto by the apostles. Nothing is clearer in the New Testament, than that all the candidates for the ministry were judged of by those who had been placed in that office themselves, and received their appointment from them. Such too was the practice of the primitive Churches after the death of both apostles and evangelists. Presbyters, who during the life of the apostles had the power of ordination, (for they laid their hands upon Timothy,) continued to perform that office in dis­charge of one solemn part of their duty, to perpetuate the ministry, and to provide for the wants of the Churches. In the times of the apostles, who were endued with special gifts, the concurrence of the people was not, perhaps, always formally taken; but the directions to Timothy and Titus imply a reference to the judgment of the members of the Church, because from them only it could be learned whether the party fixed upon for ordination possessed those qualifications without which ordination was prohibited. When the Churches assumed a more regular form, “the people were always present at ordinations, and ratified the action with their approbation and consent. To this end the bishop was wont before every ordination to publish the names of those who were to have holy orders conferred upon them, that so the people, who best knew their lives and conversation, might interpose if they had any thing mate­rial to object against them.” (Cave’s Primitive Christianity.) Some­times also they nominated them by suffrages, and thus proposed them for ordination. The mode in which the people shall be made a concur­rent party is matter of prudential regulation; but they had an early, and certainly a reasonable right to a voice in the appointment of their ministers, although the power of ordination was vested in ministers alone, to be exercised on their responsibility to Christ.

2. As to the laws by which the Church is to be governed. So far as they are manifestly laid down in the word of God, and not regulations judged to be subsidiary thereto, it is plain that the rulers of a Church are bound to execute them, and the people to obey them. They cannot be matter of compact on either side, except as the subject of a mutual and solemn engagement to defer to them without any modification or appeal to any other standard.

Every Church declares in some way, how it understands the doctrine and the disciplinary laws of Christ. This declaration as to doctrine, in modern times, is made by confessions or articles of faith, in which, if fundamental error is found, the evil rests upon the head of that Church collectively, and upon the members individually, every one of whom is bound to try all doctrines by the Holy Scriptures, and cannot support an acknowledged system of error without guilt. As to discipline, the man­ner in which a Church provides for public worship, the publication of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments, the instruction of the ignorant, the succour of the distressed, the admonition of the disorderly, and the excision of offenders, (which are all points on which the New Testament has issued express injunctions,) is its declaration of the manner in which it interprets those injunctions, which also it does on its own collective responsibility, and that of its members. If, however, we take for illustration of the subject before us, a Church at least substan­tially right in this its interpretation of doctrine, and of the laws of Christ as to general, and what we may call, for distinction’s sake, moral dis­cipline; these are the first principles upon which this Church is founded. It is either an apostolic Church, which has retained primitive faith and discipline; or it has subsequently been collected into a new communion, on account of the fall of other Churches; and has placed itself, according to its own conviction, upon the basis of primitive doctrine and dis­cipline as found in the Scriptures. On this ground either the pastors and people met and united at first; or the people, converted to faith and holiness by the labours of one or more pastors, holding, as they believe, these Scriptural views, placed themselves under the guidance of these pastors, and thus formed themselves into a Church state, which was their act of accession to these principles. It is clear, therefore, that by this very act, they bind themselves to comply with the original terms of the communion into which they have entered, and that they have as to these doctrines, and as to these disciplinary laws of Christ, which are to be preached and enforced, no rights of control over ministers, which shall prevent the just exercise of their office in these respects. They have a right to such regulations and checks as shall secure, in the best possible way, the just and faithful exercise of that office, and the honest and impartial use of that power; but this is the limit of their right; and every system of suffrages, or popular concurrence, which, under pretence of guarding against abuse of ministerial authority, makes its exercise absolutely and in all cases dependent upon the consent of those over whom it extends, goes beyond that limit, and invades the right of pastoral government, which the New Testament has established. It brings, in a word, the laws of Christ into debate, which yet the mem­bers profess to have received as their rule; and it claims to put into commission those duties which pastors are charged by Christ personally to exercise. The Apostle Paul, bad the incestuous person at Corinth denied the crime, and there had been any doubtfulness as to the fact, would unquestionably have taken the opinion of the elders of that Church and others upon that fact; but when it became a question whether the laws of Christ’s discipline should be exercised or not, he did not feel himself concluded by the sense of the whole Corinthian Church, which was in favour of the offender continuing in communion with them; but he instantly reproved them for their laxity, and issued the sentence of excision, thereby showing that an obvious law of Christ was not to be subjected to the decision of a majority.

This view indeed supposes, that such a society, like almost all the Churches ever known, has admitted in the first instance, that the power of admission into the Church, of reproof, of exhortation, and of excision from it, subject to various guards against abuses, is in the pastors of a Church. There are some who have adopted a different opinion, sup­posing that the power of administering the discipline of Christ must be conveyed by them to their ministers, and is to be wholly controlled by their suffrages; so that there is in these systems, not a provision of counsel against possible errors in the exercise of authority; not a guard against human infirmity or viciousness; not a reservation of right to determine upon the fitness of the cases to which the laws of Christ are applied; but a claim of co-administration as to these laws themselves, or rather an entire administration of them through the pastor, as a passive agent of their will. Those who adopt these views are bound to show that this is the state of things established in the New Testament. That it is not, appears plain from the very term “pastors,” which imports both care and government; mild and affectionate government indeed, but still government. Hence the office of shepherd is applied to describe the government of God, and the government of kings. It appears too, from other titles given, not merely to apostles, but to the presbyters they ordained and placed over the Churches. They are called hgoumenoi, rulers; episkopoi, overseers; wroestwte~, those who preside. They are commended for “ruling well;” and they are directed “to charge,” “to reprove,” “ to rebuke,” “to watch,” “to silence,” “to put away.” The very “account” they must give to God, in connection with the discharge of these duties, shows that their office and responsibility was peculiar and personal, and much greater than that of any private member of the Church, which it could not be if they were the passive agents only in matters of doctrine and discipline of the will of the whole. To the double duty of feeding and exercising the oversight of the flock, a special reward is also promised when the “ Chief Shepherd shall appear,”—a title of Christ, which shows that as the pastoral office of feeding and ruling is exercised by Christ supremely, so it is exercised by his ministers in both branches subordinately. Finally, the exhortations to Christians to “obey them that have the rule over them,” and to “submit” to them, and “to esteem them very highly for their works’ sake,” and to “remember them;”—all show that the ministerial office is not one of mere agency, under the absolute direction of the votes of the collected Church.

3. With respect to other disciplinary regulations, supposed by any religious society to be subsidiary to the great and Scriptural ends of Church communion, these appear to be matters of mutual agreement, and are capable of modification by the mutual consent of ministers and people, under their common responsibility to Christ, that they are done advisedly, with prayer, with reference to the edification of the Church, and so as not to infringe upon, but to promote, the influence of the doc­trines, duties, and spirit of the Gospel. The consent of the people to all such regulations, either tacitly by their adoption of them, or more ex­pressly through any regular meetings of different officers, who may be regarded as acquainted with, and representing the sentiments of the whole; as also by the approval of those aged, wise, and from different causes, influential persons, who are to be found in all societies and who are always, whether in office or not, their natural guardians, guides, and representatives, is necessary to confidence and harmony, and a proper security for good and orderly government. It is thus that those to whom the government or well ordering of the Church is committed, and those upon whom their influence and Scriptural authority exert themselves, appear to be best brought into a state of harmony and mu­tual confidence; and that abundant security is afforded against all mis­rule, seeing that in a voluntary communion, and where perfect liberty exists for any member to unite himself to other Churches, or for any number of them to arrange themselves into a new community, subject however to the moral cautions of the New Testament against the schis­matic spirit, it can never be the interest of those with whom the regula­tion of the affairs of a Church is lodged, voluntarily to adopt measures which can be generally felt to be onerous and injurious, nor is it prac­ticable to persevere in them. In this method of bringing in the con­currence of the people, all assemblages of whole societies, or very large portions of them, are avoided,—a popular form of Church govern­ment, which, however it were modified so as best to accord with the Scriptural authority of ministers, could only be tolerable in very small isolated societies, and that in the times of their greatest simplicity and love. To raise into legislators and censors all the members of a Church, the young, the ignorant, and the inexperienced, is to do them great injury. It is the sure way to foster debates, contentions, and self confidence, to open the door to intrigue and policy, to tempt forward and conceited men to become a kind of religious demagogues, and entirely to destroy the salutary influence of the aged, experienced, and gifted members, by referring every decision to members and suffrages, and placing all that is good and venerable, and influential among the members themselves at the feet of a democracy.

4. As to the power of admission into the Church, that is clearly with ministers, to whom the office of baptism is committed, by which the door is opened into the Church universal; and as there can be no visible communion kept up with the universal Church, except by communion with some particular Church, the admission into that particular communion must be in the hands of ministers, because it is one of the duties of their office, made such by the Scripture itself, to enjoin this mode of confessing Christ, by assembling with his saints in worship, by submitting to discipline, and by “showing forth his death” at the Lord’s Supper. We have, however, already said, that the members of a Church, al­though they have no right to obstruct the just exercise of this power, have the right to prevent its being unworthily exercised; and their con­currence with the admission, tacit or declared, according to their usages, is an arrangement, supported by analogies, drawn from the New Testa­ment, and from primitive antiquity. The expulsion of unworthy mem­bers, after admonition, devolves upon those to whom the administration of the sacraments, the signs of communion, is entrusted, and therefore upon ministers, for this reason, that as “shepherds” of the flock under the “Chief Shepherd,” they are charged to carry his laws into effect. These laws, it is neither with them nor with the people to modify; they are already declared by superior authority; but the determination of the facts of the case to which they are to be applied, is matter of mutual investigation and decision, in order to prevent an erring or an improper exercise of authority. That such investigation should take place, not before the assembled members of a society, but before proper and select tribunals, appears not only an obviously proper, but, in many respects, a necessary regulation.

The trial of unworthy ministers remains to be noticed, which, where-ever a number of religious societies exist as one Church, having therefore many pastors, is manifestly most safely placed in the hands of those pastors themselves, and that not only because the official acts of censure and exclusion lie with them, but for other reasons also. It can scarcely happen that a minister should be under accusation, except in some very particular cases, but that, from his former influence, at least with a part of the people, some faction would be found to support him. In propor­tion to the ardour of this feeling, the other party would be excited to undue severity and bitterness. To try such a case before a whole society, there would not only be the same objection as in the case of private members; but the additional one, that parties would be more cer­tainly formed, and be still more violent. If he must be arraigned then before some special tribunal, the most fitting is that of his brethren, provided that the parties accusing have the right to bring on such a trial upon exhibition of probable evidence, and to prosecute it without obstruction. In Churches whose ministers are thrown solely upon the public opinion of the society, and exist as such only by their character, this is ordinarily a sufficient guard against the toleration of improper conduct; while it removes the trial from those whose excitement for or against the accused might on either side be unfavourable to fair and equitable decision, and to the peace of the Church.

The above remarks contain but a sketch of those principles of Church government which appear to be contained in, or to be suggested by, the New Testament. They still leave much liberty to Christians to adopt them in detail to the circumstances in which they are placed. The offices to be created; the meetings necessary for the management of the various affairs of the Church, spiritual and financial; the assembling of ministers in larger or smaller numbers for counsel, and for oversight of each other, and of the Churches to which they belong, are all matters of this kind, and are left to the suggestions of wisdom and piety. The extent to which distinct societies of Christians shall associate in one Church, under a common government, appears also to be a matter of prudence and of circumstances. In the primitive Church we see different societies in a city and its neighbourhood under the common government of the assembly of presbyters; and afterward these grew into provincial Churches, of greater or smaller extent. In modern times, we have similar associations in the form of national Churches, Episcopal or Presbyterian; and of Churches existing without any recognition of the state at all, and forming smaller or larger communities, from the union of a few societies, to the union of societies throughout a whole country; holding the same doctrines, practising the same modes of worship, and placing themselves under a common code of laws and a common government. But whatever be the form they take, they are bound to respect, and to model themselves by, the principles of Church communion and of Church discipline which are contained in the New Testament; and they will be fruitful in holiness and usefulness, so long as they conform to them, and so long as those forms of administration are conscientiously preferred which appear best adapted to preserve and to diffuse sound doctrine, Christian practice, spirituality, and charity. That discipline is defective and bad in itself, or it is ill administered, which does not accomplish these ends; and that is best which best promotes them.

The ENDS to which Church authority is legitimately directed remain to be briefly considered.

The first is, the preservation and the publication of” sound doctrine.” Against false doctrines, and the men “of corrupt minds” who taught them, the sermons of Christ, and the writings of the apostles, abound in cautions; and since St. Paul lays it down as a rule, as to erring teach­ers, that their “mouths must be stopped,” this implies, that the power of declaring what sound doctrine is, and of silencing false teachers, was confided by the apostles to the future Church. By systematic writers this has been called potestas dogmatikh; which, abused by the ambition of man forms no small part of that antichristian usurpation which cha­racterizes the Church of Rome. Extravagant as are her claims, so that she brings in her traditions as of equal authority with the inspired writings, and denies to men the right of private judgment, and of trying her dogmas by the test of the Holy Scriptures; there is a sober sense in which this power may be taken. The great Protestant principle, that the holy Scriptures are the only standard of doctrine; that the doctrines of every Church must be proved out of them; and that to this standard every individual member has the right of bringing them, in order to the confirmation of his own faith, must be held inviolate, if we would not see Divine authority displaced by human. Since, however, men may come to different conclusions upon the meaning of Scripture, it has been the practice from primitive times to declare the sense in which Scripture is understood by collective assemblies of ministers, and by the Churches united with them, in order to the enforcement of such interpretations upon Christians generally, by the influence of learning, piety, numbers, and solemn deliberation. The reference of the question respecting circumcision by the Church at Antioch to “the apostles and elders at Jerusalem,” is the first instance of this, though with this pecu­liarity, that, in this case, the decision was given under plenary inspiration. While one of the apostles lived, an appeal could be made to him in like manner when any doctrinal novelty sprung up in the Church. After their death, smaller or larger councils, composed of the public teachers of the Churches, were resorted to, that they might pronounce upon these differences of opinion, and by their authority confirm the faithful, and abash the propagators of error. Still later, four councils, called general, from the number of persons assembled in them from various parts of Christendom, have peculiar eminence. The council of Nice, in the fourth century, which condemned the Arian heresy, and formed that Scriptural and important formulary called the Nicene Creed; the council of Constantinople, held at the end of the same century, which condemned the errors of Macedonius, and asserted the Divinity and personality of the Holy Ghost; and the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, about the middle of the fifth century, which censured the opinions of Nestorius and Eutyches. At Nice it was declared that the Son is truly God, of the same substance with the Father; at Constantinople, that the Holy Ghost is also truly God; at Ephesus, that the Divine nature was truly united to the human in Christ, in one person; at Chalcedon, that both natures remained distinct, and that the human nature was not lost or absorbed in the Divine. The decisions of these councils, both from their antiquity and from the manifest conformity of their deci­sions on these points to the Holy Scriptures, have been received to this day in what have been called the orthodox Churches, throughout the works. On general councils, the Romish Church has been divided as to the questions, whether infallibility resides in them, or in the pope, or in the pope when at their head. Protestants cut this matter short by acknowledging that they have erred, and may err, being composed of fallible men, and that they have no authority but as they manifestly agree with the Scriptures. To the above-mentioned councils they have in gene ral always paid great deference, as affording confirmation of the plain and literal sense of Scripture on the points in question; but on no other ground. “Things ordained by general councils as necessary to salva­tion, have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared they be taken out of Holy Scripture.” (Twenty-first Article of the Church of England.) The manner in which the respective Churches of the reformation declared their doctrinal interpretation of the Scriptures on the leading points of theology, was by confessions and articles of faith, and by the adoption of ancient or primitive creeds. With reference to this practice, no doubt it is, that the Church of England declares in her twentieth article, that “the Church hath authority in controversies of faith;” but qualifies the tenet by adding, “and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s word written;” in which there is a manifest recognition of the right of all who have God’s word in their hands, to make use of it in order to try what any Church “ordains,” as necessary to be believed. This authority of a Church in matters of doctrine appears then to be reduced to the follow­ing particulars, which, although directly opposed to the assumptions of the Church of Rome, are of great importance :—1. To declare the sense in which it interprets the language of Scripture on all the leading doc­trines of the Christian revelation; for to contend, as some have done, that no creeds or articles of faith are proper, but that belief in the Scriptures only ought to be required, would be to destroy all doctrinal dis­tinctions, since the most perverse interpreters of Scripture profess to believe the words of Scripture. To require from all its members, with whom the right of private judgment is by all Protestant Churches left inviolate, to examine such declarations of faith professing to convey the sense of Scripture with modesty and proper respect to those grave and learned assemblies in which all these points have been weighed with deliberation; receiving them as guides to truth, not implicitly, it is true, but still with docility and humility. “Great weight and deference is due to such decisions, and every man that finds his own thoughts differ from them ought to examine the matter over again with much attention and care, freeing himself all he can from prejudice and obstinacy, with a just distrust of his own understanding, and an humble respect to the judgment of his superiors. This is due to the consideration of peace and union, and to that authority which the Church has to maintain it; but if, after all possible methods of inquiry, a man cannot master his thoughts, or make them agree with the public decisions, his conscience is not under bonds, since this authority is not absolute, nor grounded upon a promise of infallibility.” (Burnet.) 3. To silence within its own pale the preaching of all doctrines contrary to the received standards. On this every Church has a right to insist which sincerely believes that contrary doctrines to its own are fundamental or dangerous errors, and which is thereby bound both to keep its members from their contamina­tion, and also to preserve them from those distractions and controver­sies to which the preaching of diverse doctrines by its ministers would inevitably lead. Nor is there any thing in the exercise of this authority contrary to Christian liberty, since the members of any communion, and especially the ministers, know beforehand the terms of fellowship with the Churches whose confessions of faith are thus made public; and be-cause also, where conscience is unfettered by public law, they are nei­ther prevented from enjoying their own opinions in peace, nor from propagating them in other assemblies.

The second end is, the forming of such regulations for the conduct of its ministers, officers, and members, as shall establish a common or­der for worship; facilitate the management of the affairs of the com­munity, spiritual, economical, and financial; and give a right direction to the general conduct of the whole society. This in technical language is called potestas diataktikh, and consists in making canons, or rules, for those particular matters which are not provided for in detail by the directions of Scripture. This power also, like the former, has been carried to a culpable excess in many Churches, so as to fill them with superstition, and in many respects to introduce an onerous system of observances, like that of Judaism, the yoke from which the Gospel has set us free. The simplicity of Christianity has thus been often destroyed, and the “doctrines of men” set up “as commandments of God.” At the same time, there is a sound sense in which this power in a Church must be admitted, and a deference to it bound upon the members. For, when the laws of Christ are both rightly understood and cordially admitted, the application of them to particular cases is still necessary; many regulations also are dictated by inference and by analogies, and often appear to be required by the spirit of the Gospel, for which there is no provision in the letter of Scripture. The obligation of public wor­ship, for instance, is plainly stated; but the seasons of its observance, its frequency, and the mode in which it is to be conducted, must be mat­ter of special regulation, in order that all things may he done “decently and in order.” The observance of the Sabbath is binding; but particular rules guarding against such acts, as in the judgment of a Church are violations of the law of the Sabbath, are often necessary to direct the judgment and consciences of the body of the people. Baptism is to be administered; but the manner of this service may be prescribed by a Church, since the Scriptures have not determined it. So also as to the mode and the times of receiving the Lord’s Supper, in the same absence of inspired directions regulations must be agreed upon, that there may be, as nearly as edification requires, an undistracted uniformity of practice. Special festivals of commemoration and thanksgivings may also be appointed, as fit occasions for the inculcation of particular truths, and moral duties, and for the special excitement of grateful affections. For although they are not particularly prescribed in Scripture, they are in manifest accordance with its spirit, and are sanctioned by many of the examples which it exhibits. Days of fasting and humiliation, for the same rea­sons, may be the subject of appointment; and beside the regular acts of public worship, private meetings of the members for mutual prayer and religious converse may also be found necessary. To these may be added, various plans for the instruction of children, the visitation and relief of the sick, and the introduction of the Gospel into neglected neighbourhoods, and its promotion in foreign lands. A considerable number of other regulations touching order, contributions, the repressing of particular vices which may mark the spirit of the times, and the practice of particular duties, will also be found necessary.

The only legitimate ends, however, of all these directions and rules, are, the edification of the Church; the preservation of its practical purity; the establishment of an influential order and decorum in its ser­vices; and the promotion of its usefulness to the world. The general principles by which they are to be controlled, are the spirituality, sim­plicity, and practical character of Christianity; and the authority with which they are invested, is derived from piety, wisdom, and singleness of heart, in those who originate them, and from that docility and submis­siveness of Christians to each other, which is enforced upon them in the New Testament. For although every Christian is exhorted to “try all things.” to “search the Scriptures,” and to exercise his best judgment, in matters which relate to doctrine, discipline, and practice, yet he is to do this in the spirit of a Christian; not with self willedness, and self confidence; not contemning the opinion and authority of others; not factiously and censoriously. This is his duty even where the most im­portant subjects are in question; how much more then in things com­paratively indifferent ought he to practise the apostolic rule: “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder; yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.”

The third end of Church government is the infliction and removal of censurers, a power (potestas diakritikh) the abuse of which, and the ex­travagant lengths to which it has been carried, have led some wholly to deny it, or to treat it slightly; but which is nevertheless deposited with every Scriptural Church. Even associations much less solemn and spiritual in their character, have the power to put away their mem­bers, and to receive again, upon certain conditions, those who offend against their rules; and if the offence which called forth this expul­sion be of a moral nature, the censure of a whole society, inflicted after due examination, comes with much greater weight, and is a much greater reproach and misfortune to the person who falls under it, than that of a private individual. In the case of a Christian Church, however, the proceeding connects itself with a higher than human authority The members have separated from the world, and have placed themselves under the laws of Christ. They stand in a special relation to him, so long as they are faithful; they are object of his care and love, as members of his own body; and to them, as such, great and numerous promises are made. To preserve them in this state of fide­lity, to guard them from errors of doctrine and viciousness of practice, and thus to prevent their separation from Christ, the Church with its ministry, its ordinances, and its discipline was established. He who becomes unfaithful in opposition to the influence of those edifying and conservatory means, forfeits the favour of Christ, even before he is de­servedly separated from the Church; but when he is separated, put away, denied communion with the Church, he loses also the benefit of all those peculiar means of grace and salvation, and of those special influences and promises which Christ bestows upon the Church. He is not only thrown back upon common society with shame, stigmatized as an “evil worker,” by the solemn sentence of a religious tri­bunal; but becomes, so to speak, again a member of that incorporated and hostile society, THE WORLD, against which the exclusive and penal sentences of the word of God are directed. Where the sentence of excision by a Church is erring or vicious, as it may be in some cases, it cannot affect an innocent individual; he would remain, notwith­standing the sentence of men, a member of Christ’s invisible universal Church; but when it proceeds upon a just application of the laws of Christ, there can be no doubt of its ratification in heaven, although the door is left open to penitence and restoration.

In proportion, however, as a sober and serious Christian, having those views, wishes to keep up in his own mind, and in the minds of others, a proper sense of the weight and solemnity of Church censures when rightly administered, he will feel disgusted at those assumptions of control over the mercy and justice of God, which fallible men have in some Churches endeavoured to establish, and have too often exercised for the gratification of the worst passions. So because our Lord said to Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” and “whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” which is also said Matt. xviii, 18, to all the apostles, “it came to be understood that the sentence of excommunication, by its own intrinsic authority, condemned to eternal punishment; that the excommunicated person could not be delivered from this condemnation, unless the Church gave him absolution; and that the Church had the power of absolving him upon the private confession of his fault, either by prescribing to him certain acts of penance, and works of charity, the performance of which was considered as a satisfaction for the sin which he had com­mitted, or by applying to him the merits of some other person. And as in the progress of corruption, the whole power of the Church was supposed to be lodged in the pope, there flowed from him, at his pleasure, indulgences or remissions of some parts of the penance, absolu­tions, and pardons, the possession of which was represented to Christians as essential to salvation, and the sale of which formed a most gainful traffic.”

As to the passage respecting the gift of the KEYS of the kingdom of heaven to Peter, from which these views affect to be derived, it is most naturally explained by the very apposite and obviously explanatory fact, that this apostle was the first preacher of the Gospel dispensation in its perfected form, both to the Jews at the day of pentecost, and afterward to the Gentiles. Bishop Horsley applies it only to the latter of these events, to which indeed it may principally, but not exclusively, refer.

“St. Peter’s custody of the keys was a temporary, not a perpetual authority: its object was not individuals, but the whole human race. The kingdom of heaven upon earth is the true Church of God. It is now therefore the Christian Church: formerly the Jewish Church was that kingdom. The true Church is represented in this text, as in many passages of Holy Writ, under the image of a walled city, to be entered only at the gates. Under the Mosaic economy these gates were shut, and particular persons only could obtain admittance,—Israelites by birth, or by legal incorporation. The locks of these gates were the rites of the Mosaic law, which obstructed the entrance of aliens. But, after our Lord’s ascension, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, the keys of the city were given to St. Peter, by that vision which taught him, and au­thorized him to teach others, that all distinctions of one nation from another were at an end. By virtue of this special commission, the great apostle applied the key, pushed back the bolt of the lock, and threw the gates of the city open for the admission of the whole Gentile world, in the instance of Cornelius and his family.” (Horsley’s Sermons.)

When the same learned prelate would also refer the binding and loosing power mentioned in the above texts exclusively to Peter, he forgets that in the passage above referred to, Matt. xviii, 18, it is given to all the apostles, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” These expressions manifestly refer to the authoritative declaration of any thing to be obligatory, and its infraction to be sinfil, and therefore subject to punishment, or the contrary; and the passage receives sufficient illustration from the words of our Lord to his apostles, after his resurrection, when, after breathing upon them, he said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted to them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained,” John ix, 22,23. To qualify them for this authoritative declaration of what was obligatory upon men, or otherwise; and of the terns upon which sins are “remitted,” and the circumstances under which hey are “retained;” they previously received the Holy Ghost,—a sufficient proof that this power was connected with the plenary inspiration .f the apostles; arid beyond those inspired men it could not extend, unless equally strong miraculous evidence of the same degree of inspiration were afforded by any others. The manner also in which the apostles exercised this power elucidates the subject. We have no instance at all of their fir-giving the sins of any individuals; they merely proclaimed the terms of pardon. And we have no instance of their "retaining" the sins of any one, except by declaring them condemned by the laws of the Gospel, of which they were the preachers. They authoritatively explain in their writings the terms of forgiveness; they state as to duty what is obligatory, and what is not obligatory, upon Christians; they pronounce sinners of various kinds, impenitent and unbelieving, to be under God’s wrath; and they declare certain apostates to be put beyond forgiveness by their own act, not by apostolic excommunication; and thus they bind and loose, remit sins and retain them. The meaning of these passages is in this manner explained by the practice of the apostles then-selves, and we may also see the reason why in Matthew xviii, a similar declaration stands connected with the censures of the Church: “More­over, if thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fact between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto tie Church; but if he neglect to hear the Church let him be unto thee as a heathen man and as a publican; verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall he bourn in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

That here there may be a reference to a provision made among the Jews for settling questions of accusation and dispute by the elders of their synagogues, is probable; but it is also clear tint our Lord looked forward to the establishment of his own Church, which was to displace the synagogue; and that there night be infallible rules to guide that Church in its judgment on moral cases, he turns to the disciples, to whom the discourse is addressed, and says to them, “Whatsoever YE,” not the Church, “shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever YE shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Of the disciples then present the subsequent history leads us to conclude, that he principally meant that the apostles should be endued with this power, and that they were to be the inspired persons who were to furnish “the Church” with infallible rules of judgment, in all such cases of dispute and accusation. When, therefore, any Church rightly interprets these apostolic rules, and rightly applies them to particular cases, it then exercises a discipline which is not only approved, but is also confirmed, in heaven by the concurring dispensations of God, who respects his own inspirations in his apostles. The whole shows the careful and solemn manner in which all such investigations are to be conducted, and the serious effect of them. It is by the admonishing and putting away of offenders, that the Church bears its testimony against all sin before the world; and it is thus that she maintains a salutary influence over her members, by the well-grounded fear of those censures which, when Scripturally administered, are sanctioned by Christ its Head; and which, when they extend to excision from the body, and no error of judgment, or sinister intention, vitiates the proceeding, separate the offenders from that special grace of Christ which is promised to the faithful col­lected into a Church state,—a loss, an evil, and a danger, which nothing but repentance, humiliation, and a return to God and his people, can repair. For it is to be observed, that this part of discipline is an ordi­nance of Christ, not only for the maintenance of the character of his Churches, and the preservation of their influence in the world; but for the spiritual benefit of the offenders themselves. To this effect are the words of the Apostle Paul as to the immoral Corinthian,—” to deliver such a one to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh,” the dominion of his bodily appetites “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” The practice of many of the ancient Churches was, in this respect, rigid; in several of the circumstances far too much so; and thus it assumed a severity much more appalling than in the apostolic times. It shows, however, how deeply the necessity of maintain­ing moral discipline was felt among them, and in substance, though not in every part of the mode, is worthy of remembrance. “When disciples of Christ, who had dishonoured his religion by committing any gross immorality, or by relapsing into idolatry, were cut off from the Church by the sentence of excommunication; they were kept, often for years, in a state of penance, however desirous to be readmitted. They made a public confession of their faith, accompanied with the most humiliating expressions of grief. For some time they stood without the doors, while the Christians were employed in worship. Afterward they were allowed to enter; then to stand during a part of the service; then to remain during the whole: but they were not permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper, till a formal absolution was pronounced by the Church. The time of the penance was sometimes shortened, when the anguish of their mind, or any occasional distress of body, threatened the danger of their dying in that condition, or when those who were then suffering persecution, or other deserving members of the Church interceded for them, and became, by this intercession, in some measure, sureties for their future good behaviour. The duration of the penance, the acts required while it continued, and the manner of the absolution, varied at different times. The matter was, from its nature, subject to much abuse; it was often taken under the cognizance of ancient coun­cils; and a great part of their canons was employed in regulating the exercise of discipline.” (Hill’s Lectures.)

In concluding this chapter, it may be observed, that however difficult it may be, in some cases, to adjust modes of Church government, so that in the view of all, the principles of the New Testament may be fully recognized, and the ends for which Churches are collected may be effectually accomplished, this labour will always be greatly smoothed, by a steady regard, on each side, to duties as well as to rights. These are equally imperative upon ministers, upon subordinate officers, and upon the private members of every Church. Charity, candour, humi­lity, public spirit, zeal, a forgiving spirit, and the desire, the strong desire, of unity and harmony, ought to pervade all, as well as a con­stant remembrance of the great and solemn truth, that Christ is the Judge, as well as the Saviour of his Churches. While the people are docile; obedient to the word of exhortation; willing to submit, “in the Lord,” to those who “preside over them,” and are charged to exercise Christ’s discipline; and while ministers are “gentle among them,” after the example of St. Paul,—a gentleness, however, which, in his case, winked at no evil, and kept back no truth, and compromised no prin­ciple, and spared no obstinate and incurable offender,—while they feed the flock of Christ with sound doctrine, and are intent upon their edifi­cation, watching over them “as they that must give account,” and study, live, and labour, for no other ends, than to present that part of the Church committed to their care “perfect in Christ Jesus;” every Church will fall as it were naturally and without effort into its proper “order.” Pure and undefiled religion in Churches, like the first poetry, creates those subordinate rules by which it is, afterward, guarded and governed; and the best canons of both are those which are dictated by the fresh and primitive effusions of their own inspiration.