« PreviousContinue »
the name of Christ, to depart from every cies of infallibility, but that which rests essentially in him, as our glorious Head; and which is obtained derivatively from him by his church; and through the church, by its various members. For this INFALLIBILITY alone is to our edification, being dealt out in such portions, and communications, as He, who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,' sees fit for maintaining that unity of order, and purity of faith, which God, who cannot lie, has been pleased to ordain, as generally necessary to salvation; and having so ordained, to require at the hands of those who act in his name, having been sent for that purpose, as Christ vouchsafed to send his apostles.
HAVING in the preceding Letter defined the meaning of the term CHURCH,' and disposed of the distinctions which have been drawn between the church visible, and church invisible,' between the church militant,' and the church triumphant, with the claims, which have been arrogantly instituted for ecclesiastical sovereignty,' and infallible' guidance, I come now to discuss the important doctrine of the CHURCH'S UNITY. For, although diffused over all the world, still is the church ONE,' in the strictest sense of the term. As originally instituted at Jerusalem, the church was confessedly One. And even when multiplied into many particular churches, by reason of the increase of believers, still did it continue One, built upon one and the same foundation, restricted to the same doctrine, placed under the same form of government, partaking of the same sacraments, performing the same devotions, and expecting the same salvation.
These were the ingredients, at first necessary, for composing the UNITY of the holy catholic church;
and they remain the necessary ingredients to this very hour. That which has but ONE head, can be but ONE body, though composed of many members. That which has but ONE foundation, can be but ONE building, though laid out into many apartments; and where any of these original constituents of catholic unity, which Christ and his apostles have so carefully established, and fervently enjoined, are wantonly and wilfully infringed, thro' that factious spirit which is ever ready to cause divisions and offences, there must take place a breach in the building, a wound in the body, which if not closed up and healed, must be attended with sad and deplorable effects upon those whose act and deed such infringement originally was; and on those also, by whose wilful act and deed such infringement continues to exist. For this it is which constitutes the dangerous sin, and woeful state of SCHISM; against which the apostles of our Lord so pathetically warn us—which, in the purest ages of christianity, the primitive Fathers so bitterly lament, and which we ourselves publicly pray to be delivered from, as being one of the most formidable evils, which can assail us, no less than our being CUT OFF (as the word radically imports) from the Body of Christ, and, by this means, deprived of all communion or connection with him the HEAD, with him from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every 'joint supplieth, according to the effectual working
'the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love'.'
By schism, therefore, the body is completely luxated or disjointed; the benefits, of which the apostle speaks, are completely destroyed; consequently the pestilence itself is not more to be shunned and avoided than schism,' under whatever guise it may appear, lest, as was threatened to the Israelitish church, we be consumed in the sins of those who 'perish thus in the gainsaying of Corah”.' For salvation, of a truth, belongs to the members of the ONE, holy, catholic church (' against which the gates of hell shall not prevail') if not by exclusive charter, yet upon the following firm assurance, that there is no other name, under heaven given among men, whereby we can be saved, but the 'name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth". For who" soever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall 'be saved;' provided always, that, as the apostle argues, they believe on him, on whom they call; a matter which, according to his reasoning, they cannot do, without the aid of a preacher; who, WITHOUT BEING SENT 4, is equally inadequate to the office of preaching, as they are inadequate, without him, to the work of their salvation.
It deserves to be taken notice of, that, while our
I Ephes. iv. 16.
2 Numb. xvi. Jude 11.
4 Rom. x. 13, 14, 15.
Saviour was yet in a body of flesh, and sojourned here below, he speaks of his church, as what was to be instituted at some future period. His words are, I will build my church'. But, when he had 'ascended on high, and led captivity captive-he I gave gifts unto men;' among which the institution of the CHURCH' must be numbered, since the author of the Acts of the Apostles explicitly informs us, that, after the memorable day of Pentecost, on which the twelve, being all with one 'accord in one place, were filled with the Holy "Ghost '—the Lord added to the church daily such ' as should be saved.'
As additions of this sort were enlarged, we read of churches, in the plural number-the churches of God, the churches of the Gentiles, the churches of Syria, Cilicia, Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, &c.; and of the church in the singular number, when cities are spoken of- as the church in Jerusalem, in Rome, in Corinth, Ephesus, Smyrna, &c. For, although distributed in these populous cities, and in the adjacent territory, into many particular congregations, yet were these christians placed under the care and inspection of one single governor, who was early denominated the Bishop of such a place, having inferior officers under him, to assist him in the great work of the ministry. And, as a number of such congregations, when under the superintenLl
St Matth. xvi. 18.
2 Acts ii. 47.