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of faith, or an institution of worship, is necessarily false and hurtful. Here, novelty and crime are the same. Wherefore the essential merits of controversies upon allsuch points are to be examined and decided by the scripture alone. And every decision agreeable to the scripture takes precedence of all others, how long soever they may have been possessed of the public mind, on the ground both of right and of prescription. Of right, because it is the voice of the law which has the sole prerogative of binding conscience-Of
prescription, because God's institutions in his own church must ever be first, and all deviations from them, novelties : absolute novelties in their commencement; and comparative novelties at the latest moment of their existence afterwards. On the strength of this principle did the PROTESTANT REFORMERS expel the corruptions of Popery, although they were of old standing; entwined for ages with the habits of society; cherished with unfeigned ecclesiastical fondness, and hallowed by popular devotion. To this principle we must ourselves submit-we must even court its application to our own observances, if we hope to pass for the sons of those who, at every personal hazard, and under every dismaying prospect, through fire and through flood: the fire of their own" wood, hay, stubble,” kindled by their own hands; and the flood of vengeance poured around them out of the mouth of the Dragon, bore off in safety the gold, the silver, the precious stones, of evangelical treasure; and re-established on earth, by the succours of heaven, the almost ruined cause of truth and grace. Let us, therefore, treading in the steps of those Christian heroes, carry our inquiries back in order to ascertain whether the catholic communion for which these pages plead; or the sectional communion, so to speak, which characterizes many Christian denominations, receives the most countenance from the faith and practice of the church of God through ages past.
The facts to be embraced by this inquiry may be distributed into three classes: and are furnished by the history of the church strictly called Apostolical, i. e. as it existed in the days of the Apostles themselves by the history of the primitive church which immediately succeeded—and by the history of the church as renovated in the Reformation from Popery.
1. Facts from the Apostolic history. For these we must go to the New Testament itself.
One of these facts occurs in the case of the first converts, who became such under the first sermon after the full introduction of the New Testament economy. When the Jews,“ pricked in their heart" by the plain and pungent preaching of Peter, cried out, “ Brethren, what shall we do?” the Apostle replied, “ Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins."* Let us view the bearings of this transaction.
1st. Peter had quoted a passage from the prophet Joel, promising salvation to faith in, and profession of, the Lord Jesus, v. 21. for thus he proves and applies the sense of the oracle in his subsequent reasoning
2d. Peter represents this faith as having for its object Christ crucified; i. e. Christ“ who bore our sins in his own body on the tree;" the substitute, the propitiary sacrifice in the room of believers on him.t
3d. Having held up to their view Jesus the crucified, the Christ, he enjoins on them a change of all their erroneous notions concerning his person, his kingdom, and his work; and to receive the truth in its simplicity—“ Repent.”
4th. On the supposition of such repentance he commands them to “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” They drank in this precious doctrine as the thirsty land drinks in the rain from heaven. They “gladly
* Acts, ii. 14-.-98.
1 Pet. ï. 24. in 18.
teceived his word;” and upon receiving it 6 " were
precedent for admission to sealing ordinances, and that set under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the only qualification was faith in the Lord Jesus as the Saviour of sinners by the blood of his crossa faith manifested by a credible profession of his
Another fact occurs in the case of the Ethiopian Eunuch. The story is told in the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Philip the evangelist, having, by divine admonition, accosted this distinguished officer as he was returning home from Jerusalem, and been courteously invited into his chariot, instructed him, from a passage of Isaiah which he was then reading, in the doctrine of Jesus the Messiah, and of the nature and use of the Christian sacraments. The first is plainly asserted in v. 35. and the second as plainly implied in v. 36. For how could he ask such a question as, “ See! here is water-what doth hinder me to be baptized ?” if he had been taught nothing of that sacrament? Philip replied, that if he was a sincere believer in that Jesus, he might. Without delay he makes the requisite profession of his faith, and is baptized accordingly.
Here, in perfect conformity with the original precedent already produced, is a minister of the gospel acting under the immediate injunction of the Holy Spirit, administering one of the sealing ordinances to a new disciple upon no other terms than a credible profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Athird fact occurs in the history of Saul; Acts, ix. That furious persecutor, having been miraculously arrested on his journey to Damascus in quest of the blood of the saints; and undergone, during the three days of his blindness and fasting, such discipline and instruction from the Lord Jesus himself, as both changed his heart and qualified him for the Apostleship, was admitted forthwith to the sacrament of baptism. Upon what ground? Simply on the ground of his belonging to Christ. For on this ground Christ himself placed it. He is a chosen vessel unto me, saith the Redeemer. That the knowledge of this fact was communicated by revelation to Ananias, is of no weight in the present argument. For the
question is not, “ How are we to ascertain a man's Christianity ?” But whether, on the supposition of its being ascertained, (which is always supposed when we admit its existence,) it is, in and of itself, a sufficient title to gospel ordinances in whatever part of the church catholic they may happen to