« PreviousContinue »
pacy, thus divine in its original, is also of permanent obligation, and of the evasions by which men have usually attempted to elude their force, must be reserved to another Lecture.
MATT. xxviii. 20.
Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.
IF the arguments which have been al
ready adduced, to prove that the government which the holy Apostles by Divine instruction established for the Church was strictly episcopal, may be presumed to have been satisfactory, it remains to be considered why that form of polity is also to be deemed of permanent obligation, and immutably characteristic of the true Church of Christ.
But where, it might naturally be asked, is the occasion for such inquiry? does not the very fact of its apostolical original sufficiently imply the necessity of its perpetual observance? It forms, undoubtedly, the strongest possible presumption in its favour; but as no judicious advocate for Episcopacy would maintain the unqualified
principle, of observing with scrupulous minuteness every practice without exception, which even inspired Apostles may be found to have adopted; and as there have not been wanting those, who, taking advantage of this circumstance, have been disposed to argue, illogically it is true, but still perhaps with an air of plausibility sufficient to impose on the unreflecting and the weak, that, because it is plain that some apostolical practices are not immutably binding on us, therefore none whatever area; it is by no means unnecessary to assign satisfactory reasons for the distinction here claimed in favour of Episcopacy.
II. Our minds are, even without reflection, sufficiently familiarized to the relative importance of some apostolical practices, and the comparative insignificancy of others. Few, probably, can pretend to foresee the period at which the religious observance of the Lord's day will cease to be a Christian's duty; whilst as few, perhaps, would be found to contend for the necessity of
a See Law's Second Letter to Bishop Hoadly; Scholar Armed, vol. i. p. 357.
reviving the long neglected injunction, to "abstain from things strangled and from "blood"." If a reason were required for this marked discrimination between two practices, both of them confessedly apostolical, there could be no hesitation © in
b Acts xv. 20.
"May we not be obliged by some practices of the "Apostles, where the nature of the thing and the con"sent of antiquity shew it to be equally necessary and "important in all ages and conditions of the Church, "without being tied down to the strict observance of 66 every thing which the Apostles did, though it plainly appears, that it was done upon accidental and mut"able reasons? Can we not be obliged to observe the "Lord's day from apostolical practice, without being "equally obliged to lock the doors where we are met, "because in the Apostles' times they locked them for "fear of their enemies? We are to follow the prac"tices of the Apostles, as we ought to follow every "thing else, with discretion and judgment, and not run "headlong into every thing they did, because they were "Apostles; nor yet think, that because we need not
practise after them in every thing, we need do it in "nothing. We best imitate them when we act upon "such reasons as they acted upon, and neither make "their occasional practice perpetual laws, nor break "through such general rules, as will always have the "same reason to be observed. If it be asked, how we "can know what practices must be observed, and what 66 may be laid aside? I answer, as we know articles of