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ROMANS X. 15.
How shall they preach, except they be sent? THAT separation from our Establishment is, in numerous instances, intimately connected with most inadequate ideas of the importance and necessity of a divinely authorized priesthood, for the due administration of the Sacraments and other offices of our holy religion, and that, in some cases, the very notion of such necessity has been altogether abandoned, is sufficiently notorious.
This class of errors is perhaps to be considered rather as among the occasional consequences of schism, of modern schism more especially, than as one of its original and natural causes;-but it is not on that account the less formidably hostile to the cause of Christian unity. The schisms of the earlier ages, indeed, were seldom, if
ever, productive of this unhappy result. A regularly ordained, though schismatical priesthood, was retained under every separation, as indispensably requisite to the existence of a Christian society. But the divisions of the Church, which have occurred subsequently to the Reformation, having for the most part commenced under circumstances which effectually cut off the succession of a divinely appointed ministry, men learnt by degrees to reconcile themselves to a loss which they could not consistently repair, and at last to despise, as altogether worthless and insignificant, an advantage which was no longer to be obtained, but by the humiliating process of retracing their steps to the deserted fold of the Church, and renouncing prejudices already become inveterate by habit, if not originally derived from education.
The advocates of the Presbyterian discipline having continued to assert, with some show of plausibility, the claims of their ministry to the apostolical succession, however some of the powers of the priesthood a
They reject the power of absolution. See a Short
may have suffered in their hands, have never wholly abandoned the idea of its divine commission. But with regard to a variety of other sects, it is sufficiently obvious, that, when once that fanaticism has evaporated, which can recognize indubi@table evidence of the appointment of Heaven in the rant of enthusiasm or the volubility of natural eloquence, their only refuge from self-condemnation is to be found in decrying, as vanity and superstition, every pretence to spiritual authority; in maintaining the full sufficiency of all ordinary Christians for the ministerial office; and, by a consequence as unavoidably necessary as it is deplorable, in lowering and explaining away every priestly function, till it falls in with the level of those capacities which they have assigned for its performance. Hence authoritative preaching, intercessory prayer, benediction, and absolution, are exploded as the dreams of dotage, or the fictions of priest
View of the present State of the Argument between the Church of England and the Dissenters; Scholar Armed, third edit. vol. ii. p. 51.
craft ;—the very sacraments, if retained at all, are not retained as the efficacious means of grace; Baptism becomes a mere initiatory ceremony; the Eucharist a bare commemoration ...
Such principles as these, though scarcely
b❝If all Christians are equal and undistinguished by 66 any commission from one another ...... ..then the "sacraments appointed by Christ cannot be adminis"tered, nor the word preached among them; for who "shall officiate in these ordinances?....... And, there"fore, they who contrived the sect of Quakers, which "comes the nearest to this scheme, found themselves "obliged to reject the sacraments, as useless and unne"cessary, from a conviction, that it was impossible to "retain these ordinances, without selecting some per"sons from others to officiate in them." Rogers on the Visible and Invisible Church, fourth edition, p. 127, 128.
c "When the Dissenters of this country, instead of "remaining satisfied with having separated from the "corrupt Church of Rome, thought it necessary, more
over, to separate from the priesthood of the Church of "England, they found themselves under the necessity "of doing as well as they could without it. Instead, "therefore, of joining with their fellow-Christians in par"taking of a feast upon a sacrifice which they could not "have, they sat themselves down, under the idea of
partaking of the Lord's Supper, to eat and drink "bread and wine in memory of a departed friend.” Daubeny's Guide to the Church, Appendix, second edition, p. 314.
amounting to a positive argument for dissent, must nevertheless be considered as in the highest degree calculated to cherish and confirm it. For men thus rendered easy and self-satisfied in religious separation, and insensible to all the advantages from which it precludes them, are effectually placed beyond the reach of some of the strongest motives to conformity, and would be little solicitous to return to the bosom of the Church, although the primary causes of their defection might hereafter be forgotten, or even altogether cease to exist.
It were well for us, if the evil could be regarded as confined within such limits as these; it were well, if these degrading ideas of the Christian ministry had infected those only to whom they are naturally acceptable, and in some sort necessary, as the apology for their separation. Whether from the contagion of prevailing opinion, or from the general silence of the Clergy themselves on such topics, a want of due apprehension with respect to the divine authority of the Christian priesthood may be