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expediency is here allowed. This is a mark of the wisdom of God. How can the same external forms be made to suit every time, place, and people? A great principle may be planted in a soil in which it would be impossible to carry out a perfected institution. Ecclesiastical arrangements


are to be judged of, not by their own intrinsic or independent character, but by their harmony with the doctrines, spirit, and designs of the Gospel. As for instance: a canon which enacted that the Ministers of a particular church should only preach in consecrated places would, we think, contravene the command of Christ to “preach the Gospel to every creature ;” because these consecrated places will not contain "

every creature, and, if they would, they do not attend them. Again : any definition of the sacraments, or even the mode of administering them, which should virtually nullify the doctrine of justification by faith, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, must be placed in a false position by such a canon, because it opposes the free, present, and universal proclamation of pardon, as found in the Gospel, to be received, not through a sacrament, but through the blood of Christ; not through the consecrated elements, but by believing in his name. In like manner, when an office (as that of Bishop, which in the New Testament is a designation common with that of Presbyter, Pastor, or Minister) is, by human authority, elevated to the position of a distinct and separate ORDER, and that as of divine right, including corresponding powers ; and then, as the next process, that this office, in its isolated and elevated position, is essential to the very being of a church, to the subordinate orders, to the existence of true and lawful sacraments, and to the administration of discipline ; then, it is evident that such office is swollen and distorted, inasmuch as the position it is made to hold, places other arrangements and provisions of the divine economy in subordination to it, while, in truth, they have no such dependence, and cannot be placed under such mere human authority without injury.

This is no fanciful picture. Christianity, in itself so free, so merciful, so simple, and so universal in its designs of good to man, has been narrowed to a system, and that system itself to a set of merely human canons; whilst every operation of truth and religion beyond the limits of this scheme has been denounced as heretical in doctrine, and schismatical in spirit.

Taking the extreme of any system of church-polity found in operation, either at the time of the rise of Methodism, or at present, it might easily be shown that there is ample room for an enlarged basis. The non-adoption of a practical catholicity, by the Protestant churches, at the period of the Reformation, not only gave their archenemy a great advantage over them, but circumscribed and fettered their own exertions. Hence the labours of these churches in this country, and in other places, were bounded by a narrow principle, so as to leave our home-population greatly neglected, and the distant portions of the world nearly altogether unvisited.

A careful analysis of the church-principles" of Methodism will show, that by simply adhering to the grand, fundamental doctrines of the word of God; the ends proposed by Christian discipline; the primary purposes of the Gospel institution ; the spiritual characteristics of the church ; and by following the precepts and precedents of the Apostles alone, without attempting to define, circumscribe, and limit our polity; we possess a great advantage, in an ample, as well as in a clear basis of operations. But, above all, by working on a principle, instead of a set of canons of a circumscribed nature, we are prepared to carry out the great blessings of the Gospel to an illimitable extent.

Moreover, in practice, by acting on the simple plan of adopting absolutely all the verities of the word of God, and things indifferent and human, as wisdom and necessity may dictate, we have the means of working into our church-system many of the most important and valuable elements of other churches, without being identical with any.

We have much of the spirit, and indeed of the order, of a primitive and simple episcopate, without its more modern, and, as we think, injurious encumbrances and limitations. We have, undoubtedly, a large infusion of the Presbyterian leaven, though not, in detail, the entire platform of that system. We have intermixed in our practical operations a large amount of the suffrage-principle, though not, by any means, to the full extent of the expression, independent and voluntary, either in our theory or practice. It would be difficult to show that any one of the schemes adverted to is in theory sufficient to bear the weight of the church, as exhibited in the holy Scriptures, or to perform that great task assigned it in the universal triumphs of Christianity through the world. What may be the ultimate position of our own community, with its affiliated branches and indirect influence, it is impossible to foresee. Hitherto, however, our principles have proved to be good in practice ; and a great and extended church is found to repose upon them in efficiency and power.


1. The primary idea of a church, as furnished by the New Testament, is that of fellowship on the basis of the Christian faith.

We say, " on the basis of the Christian faith,” in contradistinction to fellowship founded on an official figment. It is well known that the person or man Peter is considered the “rockon which the Popish Church is built ; and as that Church claims to be universal, it is assumed that the entire, true, and pure catholic church is built on this foundation. In this scheme the church is not made to rest on apostolic truth, but on apostolic authority; and all bodies of Christians, whatever may be their faith and piety, if they cannot trace their origin to this centre of unity and authority at Rome, or refuse to yield allegiance to St. Peter's chair, (which, by-the-by, was never occupied by Peter at all, and is a pure invention and fiction, resting on no valid authority,) then they are held to be no churches, and to possess no Christian rights or privileges. Hence, on the ground that the churches of the Reformation could no longer assent to this principle, but claimed to build their communion on the word of God, instead of the man Peter, and those who arrogate to themselves the title of his successors and the Vicars of Christ on earth ; they were excommunicated as heretical and schismatical. The English Church is in this position at this day. The orders of her priesthood are deemed as invalid by the arrogant Papist, as those of the Methodist Minister by the most bigoted Episcopalian. And, moreover, the whole bench of Bishops and Archbishops belonging to the national Establishment are no more considered Bishops by Romanists, than these dignitaries consider the Pastors of their neighbours, the dissenting congregations, as Bishops. All this necessarily arises out of the dogma, that the church is built on the “rockPeter, meaning Peter, not as teaching the doctrines of the Gospel, but as exercising an undivided power, to be transmitted in lineal descent to the occupants of his throne.

The recently-revived doctrine of apostolical succession contains all the falsehood of this principle, as well as its mischievous tendencies, though in a somewhat different form. As it regards the basis of the church, it is as nearly the same as possible ; only, instead of making Peter the exclusive “rock,” they elevate the apostolical office to that distinction, taking care, at the same time, to assume that they themselves are the successors of the Apostles. Let the gentlemen of the Tract-school state the matter themselves. In the “ Principles" agreed npon at the origin of the movement, they say :

(1.) The only way of salvation is partaking the body and blood of our crucified Redeemer.

(2.) The mean, expressly authorized by him for that purpose, is the holy sacrament of his supper.

“(3.) The security, by him no less expressly authorized, for the continuance and due application of that sacrament, is the apostolical commission of the Bishops, and, under them, the Presbyters of the church.”

This document, it seems, was improved from a previously adopted one, which states the case more nakedly, though, in fact, there is no difference in the doctrines of the two. They say in this



“ (1.) The participation of the body and blood of Christ is essential to the maintenance of Christian life and hope in each individual.

“ (2.) It is conveyed to individual Christians only by the hands of the successors of the Apostles and their delegates.

“(3.) The successors of the Apostles are those who are descended in a direct line from them, by the imposition of hands; and the delegates of these are the respective Presbyters, whom each has commissioned.”

Here we have substantially the same doctrine as that which is made the

very foundation of Popery. It is true, the word “church” is not used as in the case of the claims for St. Peter as the “ rock;" but the same thing is reached by another process.

The successors of the Apostles are they who alone can validly administer the sacraments; the sacraments are the only media of salvation ; it is essential that those who are true Christians should partake of the

body and blood of Christ,” thus administered ; and if they do not, they are not, and cannot be, so saved. Hence the whole church is made to hinge on apostolical succession. Where, then, it may be inquired, is the essential difference between building the church on the Pope, and the Anglican Bishops? The two claims are exactly identical. They equally displace the doctrines of our Lord and his Apostles from the position assigned them in the writings of the New Testament, and build the visible Christian church on an office instead of the truth.

The doctrine of Scripture is most explicit on the question, and is placed in every possible variety of view. In speaking of the labours of the ministry in the formation of churches and their edification,

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.(1 Cor. iii. 10.) He then fully indicates the nature of the foundation in question. Is it the apostolic office, to be perpetuated in the Episcopal succession ? Just the reverse. - For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.(Verse 11.) Referring to the same subject, he says to the Ephesians : “Now therefore ýe are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone ; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.(Eph. ü. 19–22.)

It is sufficiently clear from these passages, that the Apostle never dreamt that the Episcopal office—even supposing it was exercised

-constituted the foundation of the Christian church. That teaching or doctrine is referred to, is evident, because in one passage the “ Prophetsas well as the “ Apostlesare placed in the “ foun

St. Paul says,


dation." These holy men sustained no office in the Christian church, and cannot be said, in any sense, to be united as joint functionaries with the Apostles. But by their inspired writings they may, and in fact do, hold the position of joint witnesses and teachers, with the Apostles, of that full and perfect truth, which the faith of all believers embraces ; and, consequently, unitedly, with all that was taught and done by our Lord, constitute the one perfect and secure foundation of the Christian church.

The dogma, that all that is Christian in the world must be united under the authority of the successors of the Apostles, meaning by this, the Pope and his delegates, or the Anglican Bishops and their Presbyters, or those possessing a similar claim, at once unchristianizes all other churches. On this assumption, the Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, and all other religious bodies, are placed beyond the pale of the church catholic; their Ministers have no vocation, their doctrines no saving efficiency, their sacraments no validity; and the ineffably ridiculous, as well as distressingly profane and irreligious conclusion is come to, that all these parties, on the mere ground of their non-conformity to these claims, though otherwise many of them the most holy of men, are not Christians, and their communities are not churches !

It is necessary to go from these absurd opinions and claims of interested partisans, to a consideration of the teaching and testimony of the word of God.

The term “church” is employed, in many places, to designate the united aggregate society of Christians in all times and in all places. As in the celebrated passage,—"He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am ? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona : for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my

church ; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.(Matt. xvi. 15—18.) To Timothy the Apostle says: These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly : but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.(1 Tim. iii. 14, 15.) To the Colossians : “ And he is the head of the body, the church : who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.(Col. i. 18.) With this agrees his teaching to the Corinthians : “ For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you ; and I partly believe it. What ? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not ?" (1 Cor. xi. 18, 22.) Again : "For as the body is one, and hath many


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