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any particular tribe, sect, or nation, but as intended to comprehend in its bosom every rank, denomination, distinction, and community of mankind. It was thus distinguished from Judaism, which was a partial dispensation, and designed only for one particular people. When it is considered how prone the Jewish converts were to insist on a compliance with the law of Moses, on the part of their .Gentile brethren, and how much of Paul's epistles is employed in refuting this absurd and pernicious opinion, I entertain little doubt that this was one chief reason with the authors of early creeds for applying to the church this epithet of catholic, or universal. This just notion of catholicism is founded on the commission of Christ to his apostles, “Go, and teach all nations ;”a and is supported by his apostle's declaration, that, in this generous and comprehensive scheme, there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but that Christ is all and in all.” The church may also be justly denominated catholic, by reason of the universality of its doctrines, precepts, and spirit of the remedies which it furnishes for universal corruption, and of the means which it provides for the moral renovation of man, in every climate, under every. form of civil government, and in every state of society.

a Matt. xxviii. 19.

b Col. iii. 11.

Nor is this spiritual association and fellowship styled with less propriety, a communion of saints. Those who compose it hold communion “ with the Father of lights, the God of all comfort." They hold communion with each other in their common participation of all the means and ordinances of religion, in their mutual communication of comfort and encouragement, and in the interchange of those endearing acts of charity to which they are bound by their profession itself. The members of the Christian church, and even those of that number who are really and effectually called, and whose sentiments and conduct are conformable to their profession, entertain communion with all the public professors of Christianity, however erroneous the opinions or irregular the practice of these may be, in having been baptized in the same name, in acknowledging the same Lord, hearing the same word, and partaking of the same ministrations. They are also destined to enjoy eternal communion “ with the spirits of just men made perfect, and with an innumerable company of angels, and with Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and with God the Judge of all.”b

It is impossible to conceive any object inore expansive and sublime than this representation of Christian catholicism and communion. It brings before the mind something infinitely greater than was ever undertaken, executed, or imagined, by the most comprehensive benevolence, or the most exalted heroism of the human species. The conception could have solely originated in heaven, and the execution have been accomplished by the energy of God alone. It represents the power of God, and the wisdom of God, extending to the most remote corners of the earth, and snatching from everlasting misery, and translating into eternal glory, inillions of human beings placed at immeasurable distances from each other, and separated by all the diversities of language, of government, of manners, and of improvement, or of degradation. It presents to the view all sincere believers united in one happy community, and, though they cannot correspond by language, or by any other mode of communication, yet possessing common affections, interests, and views of the most exalted kind, actuated by the same principles, and aspiring to the same glorious termination of their earthly career. Unknown to each other, they cherish mutual affection. Belonging to different families of the earth, they own themselves to be brethren. Of various tribes and nations, they are still the children of God. Distinguished by every external circumstance, they possess one soul, and breathe one spirit. Deprived of all prospect of ever conversing in this world, they

a James i. 17. 2 Cor. i. 3.

b Heb. xii. 22-24.

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all expect to join in the house of their heavenly Father, in which there “are many mansions." To whatever part of the globe in which Christianity is preached, a real Christian may be carried by his pursuits or by calamity, the idea of an universal church and of a communion of saints suggests to him that there he must find friends and brothers.

This would, in reality, have been the case, if that divine religion had been permitted to operate its natural effects, and if the very means employed for maintaining and extending this spiritual community, had not been perverted to separate and dissolve it. The essence of Christianity has been placed in the peculiar form of ecclesiastical government; and, as this form has been various in different countries and ages, those spiritual ministrations which have been, or are exercised under one form, have been regarded as invalid under another; those who performed these sacred functions, have been deemed intruders and illegitimate pastors, or rather, as no pastors at all, and their flocks have been excluded from the pale of the Christian church, and view

“ aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise. Thus has the bond of Christian union been dissolved, and hatred planted where charity should

ed as

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a John xiy. 2.

b Eph. ii. 12.



have flourished. It is melancholy to observe, that even among protestant churches, this disunion prevails to such a degree, that ministers lawfully ordained in their respective establishments, are precluded from officiating in another, and considered as having no title to exercise their spiritual functions even among those who have, with themselves, “ one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all." But, , from the beginning of the Reformation it was not so;b and this is a proof that the genuine spirit of Christianity has, in this respect at least, made a retrograde movement.

The only ministers or rulers appointed by the apostles, in the spiritual communities or churches which they had founded, were those whom we find denominated in the New Testament, elders, bishops, overseers, and deacons. The three first of these appear to be synonymous terms for the same office. Indeed, the Greek word śmioHOFOS, translated bishop, literally signifies overseer. To the deacons was particularly committed the care of the poor, although, as is evident from the cases of Stephen and Philip, who were



a Eph. iv. 5, 6. b Matt. xix. 8. Acts xi. 30; xiv. 23; XV. 4, 23. Titus i. 5. Phil. i. 1. 1 Tim. iii. 1, 2. Titus i. 7. Acts xx. 28; vi. 5. 1 Tim. iii. 8, 10, 12, 13.

d See Dr. Campbell's Lectures on Ecclesiastical History, Lect. iy. vol. i. page 125, et seq.

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