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With some, however, of her carly opponents she met with more ingenuous treatment. "I believe," said a candid Romanist, "her moderation hath preserved what may one day yet much help to close the breach between us. We observe that she, and peradventure she alone, hath preserved the face of a continued mission and uninterrupted ordination. Then in doctrines, her moderation is great. In those of greatest concern, she hath expressed herself very warily. In discipline, she preserves the government by Bishops; but above all, we prize her aversion from fanaticism, and that wild error of the private spirit, with which it is impossible to deal: from this absurdity the Church of England desires to keep herself free. She holds, indeed, that Scripture is the rule of controversy; but she holds withal, that it is not of private interpretation; for she is for Vincentius' method. But I see, that moderate counsels have been discountenanced on both sides."-Apud Puller's Moderation of the Church of England, p. 40.
Now, the main questions between the Romanists and ourselves, concerning the Church of Christ, may be comprised under the two following:-1, What is it that constitutes the nature and essence of the visible Church ?2. What is the authority with which that Church is invested?
The first of these questions, with its dependent matter, will be discussed in the six following chapters; the second, in the remaining chapters of this work.
On the Constitution and Unity of the Church of Christ.-The Opinions of the Churches of England and Rome, stated.
Both parties are agreed, that by the Church of Christ is meant, a Spiritual Society instituted by our Lord himself, of which he continues to be the supreme head; preserving and governing it by his Providence, and enlightening its members by his Spirit;-that to this Society the promises have been made, of permanence amidst all vicissitudes, and of final triumph over the powers of hell;-that on admission into it by means of the Baptismal Sacrament, the members acquire a title to its privileges; and that without its pale, whatever may be accorded in God's free mercy, there is no covenanted right to salvation, * inasmuch as there is no other name under heaven given amongst men, whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ;"—that this Church, or Congregation of believers, is, in an especial manner, holy, as being joined to Christ, the fountain of holiness, the dispenser of it by his Spirit, and the perfecter
* The Romanists go as far as this with the Church of England; but it will soon be seen, that they go much farther in their doctrine of exclusive salvation.
of it by his Atonement ;-that it is Catholic, in respect of its diffusiveness, "grounded upon the commission given to the builders of it, whereby they and their successors were authorised and empowered to gather congregations of believers out of all nations, and so to extend the borders of the Church unto the utmost parts of the earth." Pearson on the Creed, art.Church';-that it is Apostolic, as built upon "the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets; Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone."
What further is necessary to the true notion of the Church, and in what consists the difference of opinion concerning its unity between the Romanists and all other Christians, cannot be better learned, than by considering the circumstances of its origin and increase. "Thou art Peter," said our Lord to this eminent Apostle, ❝ and upon this rock, I will build my Church." The promise was fulfilled after our Lord's ascension. Peter by his first sermon converted three thousand souls; then, and not till then, was the edifice of the Church raised, and raised on Peter's ministry. The commission previously given to the Apostles, to teach and to baptize, was not acted on until the day of Pentecost. The converts made by Peter on that occasion, added to the Apostles, and to the one hundred and twenty former Disciples, (Acts i. 15.) constituted the Church of Christ. The Christian Church is then, for the first time, spoken of as in actual existence; and
the language used afterwards is, that to the Church so formed, "the Lord added daily such as should be saved."
What the Church was by origination is, therefore, easily determined. "It was" says Bishop Pearson," a certain number of men ; of which some were Apostles, some the former disciples, others were persons which repented and believed, and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and continued hearing the word preached, receiving the Sacraments administered, joining in the public prayers presented unto God." It was a Society, and consequently not without government. The Apostles, who had received their commission in common; who were endued with equal authority and equal gifts of inspiration; and who were, therefore, necessarily independent of each other;-formed its joint administration :-their independence however admitted, or rather required, some priority in order, and precedency in rank, amongst them; without which men cannot well act together; and this precedency was by the testimony of antiquity conceded to St. Peter: It is called by St. Cyprian, the principle of unity amongst the Apostles themselves; and the same kind of precedency obtained afterwards amongst the Apostolic and the other independent Churches. It implied no inequality, or subordination, of jurisdiction, or the dominion of one over the rest :the supposition is excluded by the nature of the powers and qualifications enjoyed by all the Apostles equally, as well as by the silence of
Scripture as to any such superiority of jurisdiction having been claimed, or exercised, and by its irreconcileableness with the subsequent conduct and declarations of the Apostles themselves.
Unlike the Jewish, the Christian Church was by its very nature diffusive.-In virtue of their commission, the Apostles, therefore, went out and preached the word, every where establishing Societies of Christians, or as they are called in Scripture, Churches.-The word, Church, has evidently a more confined, and a more comprehensive signification. The Church of Christ, is one, or divided into many, as we view it in these varying senses. Small congregations, for instance, consisting of the believing and baptized members of a single family, are sometimes called the Church of that family. See Rom. xvi 5. Coloss. iv. 15. Philemon ii. 2. Many of these smaller congregations, again, were formed into one larger Church, by means of their subordination to one ruler, or Bishop, accordingly as the arrangement was dictated, either by ecclesiastical convenience, or in accomodation to the divisions of civil society. And thus we read not of the Churches, but the Church, at Jerusalem; the Church at Antioch, the Church at Cæsarea, &c. Pearson on the Creed. Art. Church.
"Now," says Bishop Pearson, “as several Churches are reduced to the denomination of one Church, in relation to the single Governor of those many Churches; so all the Churches