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condly, that he designs the continuance and preservation of it; and, thirdly, that the best way for its preservation is by an union of the members of it, provided the union be such as doth not overthrow the ends of it; we may reasonably infer, that whatever tends to promote this union, and to prevent any notable inconveniences' or mischiefs which may happen to it, is within the design of the first institution, although it be not contained in express
words * "
But here the general question begins to be so intimately mixed with the particular one of church government, that it is impossible to separate them. We must therefore proceed to the next division of the subject, since it was the general question only of the necessity of a national church establishment, and not the merits of any particular form of doctrine or discipline, which was proposed to be considered in the present Essay. The author cannot, however, but remark in passing, in favour of the episcopal mode of church government adopted, not only in these realms, but in far the greater part of the Christian world, that if it be true that in the first institution of the church there was a disparity of ranks; that not only was our
* Stillingfileet on Separation. 1681.
Lord superior in order to the Apostles, but the Apostles to the Seventy;-that, in a subsequent stage of the primitive history, Timothy and Titus were appointed respectively to preside over Ephesus and Crete, with power to ordain presbyters, to apportion maintenance, to hear complaints, and adjudge controversies; that the angels of the Apocalyptic Churches are addressed as the guardians and supervisors of their respective communities, with many other similar facts;—then the basis upon which Episcopacy rests is not unfounded in Scripture, and the universal church, in adhering to it for fifteen centuries, did no more than follow the Apostolic practice.
A CHURCH ESTABLISHMENT NECESSARY.
We proceed now to consider the fourth proposition; namely, That a church establishment is not only lawful, and expedient, and sanctioned by scriptural authority, but that it is in a high degree necessary for the preservation of Christianity in a country.
Here again let us place the question on broad
ground. We are not then arguing in this discussion for any particular form of ecclesiastical polity, whether episcopal or otherwise. We are not defending any one doctrine or ceremony of the United Church of England and Ireland, As far as respects the present argument, ours may be the best or the worst of churches, or it may occupy any intermediate point in the scale which the objector shall see fit to assign to it. We will admit, and that not only for the sake of argument, but, to a certain extent, alas! for the sake of truth, and with earnest prayers for amendment, that in some of the details of church discipline and administration, we verify the remark of our pious Reformers, in their preface to our Book of Common Prayer, that “ There never was any thing by the wit of man so well devised or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted." Still all this is nothing to the present question, which relates only to the necessity of some national church establishment, and interferes not with the particular merits of any.
That necessity we shall endeavour to substantiate, First, from the nature of things, and Secondly, from the testimony of experience.
1. From the Nature of Things. It was the reply of the late Mr. Smeaton to a speculator, who thought he had discovered a perpetual motion, “Sir, the thing is impossible; do what you will, gravity will not be cheated." The remark applies forcibly to moral subjects : do what we will, the proneness of all sublunary things to deterioration soon becomes evident: the best regulated mechanism for the benefit of mankind is liable to wilful or casual derangement; or even if it escape this, it gradually wears away with the lapse of time, and needs a constant exciting impulse to counteract that tendency to stop which it exhibits the first moment it begins to move. If there were any thing connected with mankind, of which mutability and vicissitude could not be predicated, it would certainly be that blessed dispensation which Jehovah himself ordained in heaven, and which the Son of God came on earth to fulfil. Under the immediate superintendence of Him who rolls the stars in their orbits and guides the sun in his course, Christianity, we might have assumed, would, like those celestial bodies, shine steadily and brightly, undisturbed by the perturbations, unsullied by the pollutions, and unobscured by the mists of this lower world.
And such is, without doubt, the fact as it appears to an Omniscient Observer; to Him who knows the end from the beginning, and can foresee the issue of all the vicissitudes of human affairs in the final consummation of his own unchangeable designs. In the darkest night of papal ignorance and superstition, He beheld his own divinely revealed system in all it scelestial majesty, and could detach its intrinsic glories from the accidents and localities which affected its visible splendour.
But though the Christian dispensation, like its Divine Author, is “ the same yesterday, today, and for ever;" yet it must not be forgotten, that as far as it is connected with frail and fallible beings, its aspect is affected by the changes and conflictions of human events. It has its alternations of triumph and depression: it is sometimes obscured by ignorance, at others depressed by persecution, and at others neglected through indifference. Now a national church establishment, in proportion to its degree of purity, is a powerful spring, perpetually reacting against these and similar evils. It is an earthly barrier against an earthly aggression. It is not intended to usurp what is exclusively the office of the Spirit of God, but simply to counteract the natural frailty and mutability of
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