صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

trade of a linen-weaver, by which he not only subsisted himself, but relieved others, though he lived in a rich and wealthy church.” Epiphanius makes a more general observation against the Massalian heretics, who were great encouragers of idleness," that not only all those of a monastic life, but also many of the priests of God, imitating their holy father in Christ, St. Paul, wrought with their own hands at some honest trade, that was no dishonour to their dignity, and consistent with their constant attendance upon their ecclesiastical duties ; by which means they had both what was necessary for their own subsistence, and to give to others, that stood in need of their relief.” The author of the apostolical constitutions brings in the Apostles recommending industry in every man's calling, from their own example, that they might have wherewith to sustain themselves, and supply the needs of others. Which though it be not an exact representation of the Apostle's practice, (for we do not read of any other apostle's labouring with bis own hands, except St. Paul, whilst he preached the gospel) yet it serves to shew what sense that author had of this matter, that he did not think it simply unlawful for a clergyman to labour at some secular employment, when the end was charity, and not filthy lucre. And it is observable, that the imperial laws for some time granted the same immunity from the lustral tax to the inferior clergy, that traded with a charitable design to relieve others, as to those that traded out of necessity for their own maintenance. Thirdly, We have some instances of very eminent bishops, who, out of humility and love of a philosophical and laborious life, spent their vacant hours in some honest business, to which they had been accustomed in their former days. Thus Ruffin, and Socrates, and Sozomen, tell us of Spiridion, bishop of Trimithus in Cyprus, one

of the most eminent bishops in the council of Nice, a man famous for the gift of prophecy and miracles, “that, having been a shepherd before, he contivued to employ himself in that calling, out of his great humility, all his life.” But then he made his actions and the whole tenor of his life demonstrate, that he did it not out of covetousness. For Sozomen particularly notes, “that, whatever his product was, he either distributed it among the poor, , or lent it without usury to such as needed to borrow,whom he trusted to take out of his storehouse what they pleased, and return what they pleased, without ever examining or taking any account of them."-Bingh. vi. iv. 13.

Reflections.-From all what has been above said, it will evidently appear, that the institutions immediately succeeding the times of the Apostles are quite dissimilar to the institutions that exist now under the same name. For now peither are bishoprichs extended over every five square miles, as in Lydia, nor have bishops the same independence of each other as formerly; nor are they framers of their own liturgies; nor are they chosen by the clergy and the people; nor are they supported by benefactions ; nor do they carry on any honest trade; nor are they on a more equal footing as formerly with the rest of the clergy: so that when men contend for the antiquity of episcopal government, they contend only for the name, and not for the nature of it. If the church were divided into small dioceses, bishops would not be much different from ministers of the Independents. If each was to frame his own liturgy, there would be more variety of forms in one nation than exists even among the whole body of dissenters put together in the whole world. If the clergy were to carry on some honest trade, the church would be little else than the Society of Friends. And if the bishops were elected by the clergy and the people, the nature of episcopacy would be decidedly

presbyterian. We are deceived by names. From all which it appears that the present state of episcopal government is far from being genuine. I am indeed inclined to believe, that the church in its perfect state, is á society of kings and priests without a government; and that in proportion as the ministry in its imperfect state, more or less, partakes of the character of a government, it is more or less opposed to the genius of the church's constitution. I admit that a distinct order of men is absolutely necessary in the present state of society, to inculcate the truths of our most holy religion, and if they be not qualified with tongues and knowledge, like the early teachers, by miracle, that they should devote their time to the acquirement of these endowments by the ordinary means; but I cannot subscribe to the dogma, that a ministry is a necessary element of a church, and that a church is no church without one, as Scripture plainly teaches that a ministry is the mere scaffolding of a church, and that the simpler it is in its organization, the more conformable to the spirit of Christianity. And this will appear,

if we consider that No particular form of church government rests on any Scripture authority, and that any set of men may constitute a church, so long as it be not Popish or National.—Now I believe that there are two principles by which societies generally act: law and custom. If there is any uniformity observed in men's transactions, where they do not act by any prescribed law, they must do it by custom ; and no one will affirm that a custom has the force of a law. The Apostles have laid down no where any laws in these books which are professedly « written for our instruction” with respect to church government. They indeed observed, in general, an uniform method of proceeding in the establishment of the Christian church; but no where have they raised their practise into laws. What was done then by the Apostles, and they

were obligated to do something, amounts to no more than the setting up of a bare custom or precedent. Now I shall shew that men have made a law where there was only a custom ; and disregarded one which is the basis of all our civil and religious liberties, which was explicit, authoritative, and solemnly promulgated. When our Lord visited his temple for the last time, he there gave out his new code " to the multitude and his disciples;” and though it was not dictated amid thunder and lightning, yet the solemnity of the place, the publicity of the occasion, and the decisiveness, which must have necessarily inspired his last address to the people, gave it a sanction between which, and the barren notices scattered here and there of the subsequent ecclesiastical transactions of the Apostles, there is no comparison. And these were the memorable words, though brief, yet weighty; though simple, yet of ineffable importance; though casually introduced, yet principally intended : Be not ye CALLED RABBI : FOR ONE IS YOUR MASTER, EVEN CHRIST ; AND ALL YE ARE BRETHREN. AND CALL NO MAN YOUR FATHER UPON THE EARTH; FOR ONE IS YOUR FATHER,

NEITHER BE YE CALLED MASTERS: FOR ONE IS YOUR MASTER, EVEN Christ. Matth. xxiii. 8-10. Here then was the law, the Magna Charta of our liberties, uttered from his temple by Christ, the Incarnate God of freedom.

Henceforward divine rights were put on an equal footing with natural rights. Every man had now a divine right to the priesthood by a divine law. All were kings and priests; i. e. natural rights were confirmed, or religion was not necessarily connected with any particular model of civil government; and divine rights were extended to all. Whereas formerly the priesthood was restricted only to a particular portion of a tribe of the

WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.

Jews, the Levites, now Liberty, though late, at last regarded the whole world ; and by taking of the blood of the sacrifice, a federal right, which had been only lawful for the priests to take, all Christians became priests by divine compact. And this Hercules of a truth is stationed by St. John in the very vestibule of that wonderful Exhibition of God's poetry of prescience, the Apocalypse, among the most sacred mysteries of Christianity; as though the main subject of the drama of prophecy had been the progressive vindication of those rights to God's heritage, as it is written,-Rev. i. 6.-" He hath loved us, and washed us from our sius in bis own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and his Father:" plainly, not as it was said, that the Jewish nation were a kingdom of priests, Exod. xix. 6. when only a part of them was, (which indeed, after all, might be said only by way of anticipation of the real priesthood they should obtain out of the blood of Christ Jesus,) for then they were as much priests before, as after the washing in the Lord's blood, but really and actually priests, as it is well implied of the genius of the new covenant of Christ Jesus by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, -viii. 10.11. “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people : and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest." Thus it happened, that to preach the word, to baptise, to forgive sins, to lay on hands, to administer the sacrament, became the divine right of every Christian. 6 Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," said the

« السابقةمتابعة »