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that intemperate zeal, into which a struggle long maintained commonly betrays the antagonists on both sides, would affect to make it. It is said proverbially by the apostle, as holding alike of every thing external and circumstantial : “ The king« dom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and " peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these " things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of 6 men.” To me nothing is more evident, than that the essence of christianity abstractly considered, consists in the system of doctrines and duties revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the essence of the christian character c. isists in the belief of the one, and the obedience of the other. "Believe in the “ Lord Jesus Christ,” says the apostle, “and thou shalt be "saved.” Again, speaking of Christ, he says, “being made u perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all " them that obey him." The terms rendered sometimes believing, and sometimes obeying, are commonly of so extensive signification as to include both senses, and are therefore used interchangeably. Now nothing can be conceived more absurd in itself, or more contradictory to the declarations of Scripa ture, than to say that a man's belief, and obedience of the Gosa pel, however genuine the one, and however sincere the other, are of no significancy, unless he has received his information of the Gospel, or been initiated into the church by a proper minister. This is placing the essence of religion not in any thing interiour and spiritual, not in what Christ and his apos. tles placed it, something personal in regard to the disciple, and what is emphatically styled in scripture, the hidden man of the heart ; but in an exteriour circumstance, a circumstance which in regard to him is merely accidental, a circumstance of which it may be impossible for him to be apprized. Yet into this absurdity those manifestly run, who make the truth of God's promises depend on circumstantials, in point of order no where referred to, or mentioned in these promises ; nay, I may say with justice, no where, either explicitly declared, or implicitly suggested, in all the book of God. .
Not but that a certain external model of government must have been originally adopted for the more effectual preservas tion of the evangelical institution in its native purity, and for the careful transmission of it to after ages. Not but that a presumptuous epcroachment on what is evidently so instituted, is justly reprehensible in those who are properly chargeable with such encroachment, as is indeed any violation of order, and more especially when the violation tends to wound charity, and to promote division and strife. But the reprehension can aflect those only who are conscious of the guilt: for the fault of another will never frustrate to me the divine promise given by the Messiah, the great interpreter of the father, the faithful and true witness to all indiscriminately, without any limitation, that “ he who receiveth his testimony hath everlasting * life.” I may be deceived in regard to the pretensions of a minister, who may be the usurper of a character to which he has no right. I am no antiquary, and may not have either the knowledge or the capacity necessary for tracing the faint outlines of ancient establishments, and forms of government, for entering into dark and critical questions about the import of names and titles, or for examining the authenticity of endless genealogies; but I may have all the evidence that conscious. ness can give, that I thankfully receive the testimony of Christ, whom I believe, and love, and serve. If I cannot know this, the declarations of the gospel are given me to no purpose : its promises are no better than riddles, and a rule of life is a dream. But if I may be conscious of this, and if the christian religion be a revelation from heaven, I may have all the security which the veracity of God can give me, that I shall obtain eternal life.
“ No," interposes a late writer*, 66 Cannot God justly 66 oblige men, in order to obtain the benefits which it is his “ good pleasure to 'bestow, to employ the means which his "good pleasure hath instituted ? It pleased not him to cleanse “ Naaman the Syrian from his leprosy by the water of any “ other river than the Jordan ; insomuch, that had Naaman « used the rivers of Syria for this purpose, he would have " had no title to expect a cure.” Certainly none, Mr. Dodwell. But could any thing be more explicit than the oracle of God pronounced by the prophet? “Wash in Jordan seven times, " and thou shalt be clean." Naaman did not, and could not misunderstand it. Whereas, had the prophet said barely, “ Wash
seyen times, and thou shalt be clean ;” and had the Syrian then washed seven times in Abana or Pharphar, rivers of Da. mascus, and remained uncured, would he have had reason to regard Elisha as a true prophet? Could he have formed from this transaction the conclusion which he did so justly form in favour of the God of Israel? Yet such an expression of the promise, wherein an essential article of the condition is suppressed, would be necessary to make the case parallel to the present. He who believeth and is baptized, saith our Lord, shall be saved. You qualify his promise with the additional clause, “ if he be baptized by a minister who has himself received “ baptism and ordination in such a particular manner.” But
where do you find this qualification specified ? Scripture is silent. The spirit of God hath not given us the remotest hing of it; would it not then be wiser in you to follow the advice which Solomon hath given by the same spirit? Add thou not ụnto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. The terms of the gospel-covenant are no where, in the sacred pages, connected with, or made to depend on, either the mi. nister, or the form of the ministry, as Naaman's cure mani. festly was on his washing in one particular river. But so strange is the inconsistency of which human nature is susceptible ! No person can be more explicit than this man, in admit. ting that there is nothing in scripture from which we can infer that any particular form of polity was, for every age and coun. try, appointed in the church. A passage to this purpose I shall soon give you in his own words. Nay more, that very episcopacy, for which he so strenuously contended, making the existence of christianity depend upon its reception, is, by his own account, not only destitute of scriptural warrant, but is not properly of apostolical origin, not having been instituted till after the death of the apostles, in the sixth or seventh year of the second century: for even John, who lived the longest, is not said to have reached that period. Arrogant and vain man! what are you, who so boldly and ayowedly presume to foist into God's covenant articles of your own devising, nei. ther expressed nor implied in his words? Do you venture, a worm of the earth? Can you think yourself warranted to stint what God hath not stinted, and following the dictates of your contracted spirit, enviously to limit the bounty of the universal parent, that you may confine to a party, what Christ hath freely published for the benefit of all? Is your eve evil, because he is good ? Shall I then believe, that God, like dea ceitful man, speaketh equivocally, and with mental reserva, tions ? Shall I take his declaration in the extent wherein he hath expressly given it; or, as you, for your own malignant purpose, have new-vamped and corrected it? “Let God be " true, and every man a liar.” But as for you, who would thus pervert the plainest declarations of the oracles of truth, and instead of representing Christ as the author of a divine and spiritual religion, as the great benefactor of human kind, exhibit him as the head of a faction, your party forsooth. I must say that I have stronger evidence that you have no mise sion, than all your traditions, and antiquities, and catalogues, will ever be able to surmount. For if "he whom God senda “eth, speaketh the words of God," (and this is a test which Christ himself hath given us) he who contradicteth God's
words is not sent by him. This is alike the language of scrip ture, and the language of common sense. Yours is neither.
In regard to the outward order, however important it be, it affects not the essence of religion in the least ; and even our adversaries themselves, being judges, is not represented in scripture as affecting it. The garments which a man wears, or the house in which he lodges, however necessary for his accommodation and comfortable subsistence, are not as his limbs and members, and still less as the powers and faculties of his mind, a part of his person. Now in this respect there appears a very close analogy. For though in our present situation, clothes and dwelling are requisite for protecting ưs against the inclemencies of the weather, and other external accidents, we may, nevertheless, have both clothes and dwelling of different forms, yet equally commodious. Nay, one form may be more convenient in certain climates, and certain situations, which is less convenient in other climates, and other situations. The same thing may with equal truth be affirmed concerning the form of church-government. This is evidently true also of civil government. Of whatever mode it be, absolute or limited, monarchical or republican, unless it degenerate into tyranny, it is entitled to the obedience of the subjects. For the powers that be," ai 8901 Bovec 66 are ordained of God.” No criterion is mentioned but established possession. Now I can see no reason why' a church may not subsist under different forms as well as a state ; and though it must be owned, that one form may be more favourable than another to the spirit and design of the constitution, we cannot always judge with safety from the first of these how much it has retained of the last. Nay, I must acknowledge, that for any thing I could ever discover in the sacred oracles to the contrary, the external order may properly undergo such alterations, as the ends of edification in different exigencies may require, and prudence may direct. The only thing of real importance is, that nothing be admitted which can, in any way, subvert the fundamental maxims, or infringe the spiritual nature of the government. · Thus much in general is conformable to the doctrine both of the church of England, and of the church of Scotland. For how different soever these churches are in the plans of government they have adopted, and how much soever each of them is attached to its own, they equally avoid limiting the christian ministry to one particular model. The former in her 23d article, entitled, Of ministring in the Congregation, says expressly, “ Those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which * be chosen and called to this work by men, who have publick of authority given unto them in the congregation, to call and
“ send ministers into the Lord's vineyard.” This, if it mean any thing, and be not a mere identical proposition, of which, I own, it has some appearance, refers us ultimately to that, authority, however modelled, which satisfies the people, and is settled among them. Again, in the Westminster confession of faith, which is of equal authority with us, as the 39 articles are of in England, chap. XXV, entitled, of the church, sect. 3. “ Unto the catholick visible church Christ hath given the min# istry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and “ perfecting of the saints in this life, to the end of the world.” And this is all that is said on the subject. Neither has pre. sumed to delineate the essentials of a christian ministry, or to say any thing which could be construed to exclude those who are governed in a different manner from that in which they themselves are governed. So much moderation has on this article been shown by both churches. I shall add to these the doctrine of the episcopal reformed church of Scotland, contained in a confession of faith ratified by law in this country in 1567, which, though set aside in the time of the civil wars, to make room for the Westminster confession, was re-enacted after the restoration, and continued in force till the abolition of prelacy at the revolution. I recur to it the rather, in order to show how much, on this article, the sentiments of our late fonjurors (for we have none of that description at present) differ from the sentiments of those whom they considered as their ecclesiastical predecessors, and from whom they derived their spiritual pedigree. * In article 19, entitled, Of the notes of the true kirk, (I use the words of that formulary) it is affirmed, “ They are neither an" tiquity, title usurped, lineal descent, place appointed, nor "multitude of men approving an errour.” Again, article 23, Of the right administration of the sacraments :--" That sacraments “ be rightly ministrate, we judge two things requisite: the one, " that they be ministrate by lawful ministers, whom we affirm 61 to be only they that are appointed to the preaching of the 66 word, they being men lawfully chosen thereto by some kirk, * &c. We fly the doctrine of the papistical kirk in participa66 tion of their sacraments : 1st. Because their ministers are “ no ministers of Christ Jesus, &c.” Here not only is lineal descent expressly excluded, but its very channel is removed, as the popish clergy are declared (I think with too little ceremo. ny and too universally) to be no ministers of Christ. Nay, all that appears externally necessary, according to them, to constitute a minister, is the choice of some congregation. Far from believing one particular form of ecclesiastick polity to be «sacred and inviolable, they say, article 21, of general councils,