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and chief pastors were frequently congregated in General Councils; in which Coun cils, the interests of the universal Church, or of that part of it which was thus represented, were discussed; general measures adopted for the common welfare; general remedies applied to common evils; and the decisions of Christendom formed, by means of Creeds and Canons, into one uniform standard of faith and discipline. The prototype of such assemblies seems to have been that consultation of the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem, mentioned Acts xv. 16. in which, for greater solemnity and stronger sanction, the Apostolical decision was sent forth in their common name to the Gentile Churches. A truly œcumenical Council, lawfully assembled, freely deliberating, and as fully representing as the case will permit, the whole Christian Church, is that organ, which best deserves to be accounted its visible head upon earth. To such a Council, if such an one could be now assembled, the Church of England hath at all times professed herself ready to submit her differences. It is not necessary to assert, that the decisions even of a Council free and fully representative, would be unerring, which is the assertion of the Romanists respecting Councils which are neither free nor general; since it is not easy to conceive, how men fallible in their individual capacity, should become infallible merely by being associated; unless the promise of extraordinary and infallible

direction had been vouchsafed, of which there is no proof, and the supposition of which is irreconcileable with the recorded proceedings of every Council, except the Apostolic. For although we are assured, that the truth of Christ's religion will never be entirely lost, as in that case, the gates of hell would prevail against it; yet may that truth be held with the admixture of much error: nor is infallibility more strongly implied in our Lord's assurance of continual presence and direction, than impeccability, which is not so much as pretended. But, that the well-weighed determinations of the wise and good, under the ordinary influence of the Holy Spirit, would be a safe, though not an unerring, guide, in matters necessary to salvation, is acknowledged to be one of the pie credibilia, by many of our distinguished writers. That such a Council was ardently desired at the time of the Reformation, as the best means left for healing the wounds of the Church, is well known; and that the Council of Trent, protested against by some of the Romish Churches during its sitting, and never acknowledged by others after its close ;-a Council in which the Italian Bishops greatly outnumbered, in their proportion, all the rest; and in which new Bishoprics were created for securing the Papal interests; -that such a Council was but the mockery of a representation of the universal Church, is equally notorious. The Church of England had, therefore, no alternative left in that state

of things, but to reform herself, in virtue of those powers which not only she, but every Church, possesses for internal regulation; and she could but lament that disorganization of the Christian Commonwealth, which the claim of universal jurisdiction on the part of the Roman Bishop had occasioned, under the pretence of drawing closer the bands by which its members were connected. Whether a free General Council is now to be expected, is a question to be answered in the negative, so long as the Church of Rome shall maintain pretensions, which are inconsistent with discussion on an independent basis.

In these particulars does the Church of England, and with her every other Church except the Romish, make the nature and essential unity of the Catholic Church to consist; nor do we conceive that there is any thing else wanting to attain those ends for which alone unity is desirable; namely, the preservation of purity in faith and morals, and the promotion of love unfeigned.

It cannot, I think, be denied, that the Church of Christ may, in the senses above specified, be with the greatest propriety termed one and Catholic; and the importance of preserving this unity is fully sufficient to account for the stress laid on it by their Apostles, and for their denunciations against those, who shall wantonly disturb the Church's peace. The controversy, therefore, between our adversaries and us, respects not, strictly speaking,


the Unity or Catholicity of the Church of Christ, or the great advantages consequent on the agreement of its various parts ;—all of which we admit and provide for;-but it should be confined to this, whether in addition to those properties which we have enumerated as constituting the Church one and Catholic, a monarchical form of government be not superadded by divine institution; in virtue of which, all the different Churches are subjected to the rule of the supposed successor of St. Peter. The affirmative is held by the Romanists.

And here, before entering into the examination of the proof of their opinions, I am most anxious to impress upon the reader's mind, that the claims of the Roman Church to the exclusive title of the Church of Christ, and their warrant for anathematizing all Churches not in communion with themselves, are founded on the assumption, that the government of the universal Church is essentially monarchical, and that the universal monarch is, by divine right, the Bishop of Rome, as successor of St. Peter. Thus a form of ecclesiastical polity, which, on the largest supposition, can be conceived only to be conducive to a closer union between the several members of the christian body, they have converted into the essence of the Church of Christ itself;-and under the specious pretence of producing greater concord, have in the attempt to make their own notion, the standard of legitimate Church government,

and the very bond of unity, introduced, first between themselves and the Eastern Churches, and secondly, between themselves and all Protestant Churches, one of the greatest breaches that has been known in Christendom. For, should all other Churches agree with them in the professsion of the same faith,-in the use of the same Sacraments, Liturgies and Ceremonies;—in the adoption of the same episcopal regimen-be ready to co-operate in the deliberations of a General Council;-and be united in the closest bonds of christian charity;-and yet fail to own subjection to the Bishop of Rome, as monarch of the whole Church :this single point of difference in ecclesiastical discipline would suffice, in their eyes, not merely to exclude those Churches which stand upon their independence, from communion with the Church of Rome, but from the universal Church of Christ itself, beyond the pale of which there is no covenanted right to salvation.*

"The Son of God," says Bossuet, "being desirous his Church should be one, and solidly built upon unity, hath established and instituted the primacy of Peter to maintain and cement it. Upon which account we acknowledge this primacy in the successor of the prince of the Apostles, to whom, for this cause, we owe

* Certissima est doctrina, Patrum consensione et Ecclesiæ praxi confirmata, Schismaticos, etiamsi in fide non errarent, solo sui Schismatis facto esse extra Ecclesiam et viam salutis. De Eccles. Christi. p. 25. Maynooth Lect.

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