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ON THE APOSTOLICITY OF BISHOPS.
No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that
is called of God, as was Aaron. Heb. vii. 17.
When our blessed Saviour was carried before Pilate, as a criminal of state, for calling himself king of the Jews, he pleaded that his kingdom was not of this world— Pilate, alarmed at the names of king and kingdom, asked, art thou a king then Jesus replied, thou sayest (that which is true) I am a king, to this end was I born, that I might reign over the house of 'Jacob, for ever, Luke i. 33. and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Pilate saith unto him, what is truth ? and when he had said this, he went out again. For perceiving that Christ was no rebel against Cæsar, and that the kingdom claimed by him was a kingdom merely spiritual, and not to be propagated by force of arms; or in the Roman
governor's opinion, a kingdom only in idea, he considered the matter as no proper subject for the civil tribunal.
To understand the nature and design of the kingdom or church of Christ, we must consider the world at large, as lying in wickedness, and consequently in a state of condemnation before God. Out of this society God has been pleased to call men into another society, very different from it. The object of which is to minister to their salvation, by so purifying them from the corruptions of a fallen world, that they may not be condemned with it. This society is sometimes called the church of Christ, because he purchased it with his blood-sometimes his kingdom, because he is the king and governor of it.* .
* The visible Church is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered, under lawful bishops and pastors. It is called, in the creed, the “ Catholic” (or universal) church, to shew that it is not like the Jewish Church, confined to one place or nation, but is open to every country and every people. St. Peter says, that the church is composed of faithful believers, wlid are " living stones,” spiritual materials,
In a spiritual sense, the kingdom of Christ is within us, “ it is righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost,” in that capacity it is invisible : but it differs from all other societies most materially in this respect, that it extends to both worlds, the visible and the invisible, and is partly on earth, and partly in heaven. In the inward and spiritual grace of all its outward ordinances, it is invisible,—it hath a life that is hidden. But in its earthly members it is visible-in its rulers it is visible in its worship it is visible
in its sacraments it is visible, and must have a visible administration.
In considering the rules and nature
built up a spiritual house, to offer up spiritual sacrifices (that is prayer and praise), acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ Charity is the cement that unites it, faith is the door that opens to it, hope the step which leads to it, and the important truths of Christianity, are the columps and pillars which support it; and if it be asked, what is the powerful defence which protects it ? it is the providence of Almighty God, whose eye goes to and fro through the earth, to shew himself strong, in the support of them that fear him. Of such a building, and with such a protection, is it not reasonable to say, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it?
of the gospel dispensation, there is therefore no distinction which ought to be preserved with greater care, than that which exists between the Christian institution, as it addresses the conscience, and regulates the duty of individuals, and as it regards the discipline and government of the Christian church.
It was our Saviour's design, and the first object of his ministry, to afford to a lost and ignorant world, such discoveries of their Creator's will, of their own interest, and future destination ; such assured principles of faith, and rules of practise ; such new motives, terms and means of obedience, as might enable all, and engage many to enter upon a course of life, which, by rendering the person who pursued it, acceptable to God, would conduct him to happiness, in another stage of his existence.
It was a second intention of the founder of christianity, subservient to the former, to associate those, who consented to take upon them the profession of his faith and service, into a separate community, for the purpose
of united worship, and mutual edification, for the better transmission and manifestation of the faith that was delivered to them, and to promote the exercise of that fraternal disposition, which their new relation to each other, arising from a visible participation of the same name, hope, and calling, was calculated to excite.
From a view of these distinct parts of the gospel dispensation, we are led to place a real difference, between the religion of particular Christians, and the polity of Christ's church. The one, as I have stated, is personal, and individual, acknowledges no subjection 'to human authority, is transacted in the heart,
is an account between God and our own consciences alone. The other appertaining to society, (like every thing which relates to the joint interest, and requires the co-operation of many persons,) is visible and external, prescribes rules of common order, for the observance of which, we are responsible, not only to God, but to the society of which we are members, or what is the same thing, to those, with whom the public authority of the society is deposited.