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permanent provision for its ministry, instruction, and guidance. He amplifies in energetic language the great advantages resulting from the Saviour's gift to his Church of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers ; he makes them the means of its edification, of its unity in the faith*, and in the knowledge of the Son of God, of its advancement to the fulness of Christ, and of its stability and security against variety of doctrine. These are blessings of a most essential nature ; advantages apparently necessary to complete the circle of our Saviour's provisions for the spiritual welfare of his Church,
7.- DISPOSITION TO RECEIVE THE DOCTRINES AND
INSTITUTIONS OF CHRIST. In thus taking a rapid survey of the doctrines, the sacraments, and the ministry of Christ as means of grace to his Church, we are led to feel the necessity of receiving the whole, and to understand the danger of willingly neglecting to avail ourselves of any one of the means provided for our spiritual advantage. The doctrines of the Gospel are so combined that it is nearly impossible duly to receive one without the whole: united they form a Divine system mutually sup- , porting each other, aiding each other's spiritual effect and impression, and combining to form in the soul the habit of faithful devotion. How great, then, is the danger of wilfully slighting any of the truths of Scripture-of regarding some as of such supreme importance as to be sufficient in themselves for our salvation, even though we undervalue others ! The divine majesty of our blessed Lord will always deter the faithful and humble from such disrespect to any portion of his truth. Whence can any one feel such a disposition, save from a spirit of presumption, determining among the doctrines of the Gospel, which are of moment, and which are not? Who can venture to say that if we believe this or that doctrine it is enough for our salvation, when the reason of our not valuing and accepting the whole of the doctrines of the Gospel is, perhaps, a carnal pride inconsistent with the
* The Romanists say that these advantages are secured to the Church by the infallibility attached to that portion of the Church in communion with the Pope as successor of St. Peter. If this be so, how is St. Paul's omission of so essential a doctrine to be accounted for, in thus attributing the Church's unity of faith, and security against error, to its Apostolic ministry generally ? St. Paul has given strong ground to conclude that such advantages are not especially attached to any individual Apostle, or to his successórs.
faithful reception of any of them? This is more evidently true of the institutions of Christ : his awful name invests them with the most sacred authority. They can be contemplated by Christians only with devout submission, and an humble desire to conform to them implicitly. The world may despise the majesty of God, and break his laws; but they must be, indeed, ignorant of the spirit of religion who can question the necessity or utility of “any word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” of any sacred institution of our Lord. Let us, then, shrink from all temptation to undervalue the things of Christ, from all reluctance to implicit reception of whatever may appear to be his ordinance ; and let us cultivate the submissive desire to believe simply the whole teaching of Christ, and to follow and obey in gladness and singleness of heart all his holy ordinances and sacred institutions.
8.- IMPORTANCE OF THE CONSIDERATION OF
Let me now direct your attention to our Saviour's provision for the spiritual well-being of his Church mentioned in the text,—the gift of a ministry for the purposes mentioned by the Apostle; that is, for the work of the ministryfor the full edification of the Church in the knowledge of Christ—for the preservation of the unity of its faith, and for its stability and security. St. Paul tells us that our Lord himself gave several orders of Ministers to his Church, as a means of conveying to it these great advantages. Now it should be a subject of the deepest concern to every Christian to ascertain whether this institution of our Lord continue to our times, whether it continue in full force with the whole authority of its Divine institution, and in possession of those spiritual privileges by which it was enabled to perform the high offices in the Church ascribed to it by St. Paul as the objects it was designed by our Saviour to fulfil. If there be evident proof in Holy Scripture that the Ministry instituted by our Lord was designed to be perpetuated in full spiritual authority and privileges, as long as the Church itself should exist, then is every Christian called upon to reflect upon the grievous evils which have resulted from the general neglect of a Divine institution designed to be the means of especial advantages to the whole body of Christians. We shall then have to consider the amount of sin we may have incurred in our own individual neglect of, and disobedience to, a sacred office and authority set up by our Lord; and having repented and forsaken our dangerous condition, we shall have to frame our
future lives so as to render due respect to the institution of Christ, and to be made partakers of the great blessing which it is designed to impart to those who receive it in faith.
9.-SUBJECT OF THIS DISCOURSE-APOSTOLIC MINISTRY.
The object, then, which we have to ascertain is, whether the present Ministry in the Church has inherited the authority and privileges conferred by our Lord on the Ministry he instituted; whether, in particular, the Bishops of the Church, its highest order of Ministers, be, by Divine authority, successors of the Apostles appointed by our Saviour to the government of his Church ; whether there be sufficient proof in Holy Scripture to establish as a sacred duty the belief and acknowledgment of the Episcopal office as a transmission of the Apostolic authority and Office, so far as is necessary to secure to the Church the advantages ascribed to its Ministry by St. Paul.
10.-PROOFS OF APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION. The proofs of this doctrine are threefold : 1st. The evidence contained in our Lord's institution of the Ministry, and appointment of his Apostles, that he DESIGNED the office to be perpetual. 2nd. The appointment by the Apostles themselves of persons to succeed them in the government of the Churches in an office identical with that of Bishops. 3rd. The universal government by Bishops in all the Churches from the age of the Apostles down to the 16th century, with the uncontradicted historical testimony of those Churches that their first Bishops had been appointed by the Apostles. 11.-EVIDENCE OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH.-ITS ANALOGY WITH
NATURE. IT CONSTITUTES PART OF OUR TRIAL. Before we enter upon the first class of proofs, it may be well shortly to advert to the general nature of Scripture proof. Bishop Butler has pointed out a striking conformity or analogy between the evidence of religious truth, and the evidence of those moral and practical principles which are the guide of our conduct in life: “ That the speculative difficulties in which the evidence of religion is involved, may make even the principal part of some persons' trial.”_"Thus in the great variety of religious situations in which men are placed, what constitutes, what chiefly and peculiarly constitutes the probation, in all senses, of some persons, may be the difficulties in which the evidence of religion is involved ; and their principal and distinguished trial may be, how they will behave under and with respect to these difficulties. Circumstances in men's situation in their temporal capacity, analogous in good measure to this respecting religion, are to be observed. We find some persons are placed in such a situation in the world, as that their chiet difficulty, with regard to conduct, is not the doing what is prudent when it is known, for this, in numberless cases, is as easy as the contrary; but to some the principal exercise is recoilection, and being upon their guard against deceits—the deceits, suppose, of those about them; against false appearances of reason and prudence.”
“If there are any persons who never set themselves, heartily and in earnest, to be informed in religion; if there are any who secretly wish it may not prove true, and are less attentive to evidence than to difficulties, and more to objections than to what is said in answer to them; those persons will scarce be thought in a likely way of seeing its evidence, though it were most certainly true, and capable of being ever so fully proved ”—“Men's moral probation may also be, whether they will take due care to inform themselves by impartial consideration, and afterwards whether they will act as the case requires, upon the evidence which they have, however doubtful. And this, we find by experience, is frequently our probation, in our temporal capacity. For the information which we want with regard to our worldly interests, is by no means always given us of course, without any care of our own. And we are greatly liable to self-deceit from inward secret prejudices, and also to the deceits of others; so that to be able to judge what is the prudent part, often requires much and difficult consideration. Then after we have judged the very best we can, the evidence upon which we must act, if we will live and act at all, is PERPETUALLY DOUBTFUL to a very high degree. And the constitution and course of the world in fact is such, as that the want of impartial consideration what we have to do, and venturing upon extravagant courses, because it is doubtful what will be the consequence, are often naturally, i.e. providentially, altogether as fatal, as misconduct occasioned by heedless inattention to what we certainly know, or disregarding it from overbearing passion.”*
* Butler's Analogy, ch. 6.
12.-DANGER OF PRECONCEPTIONS IN RELIGION. The teaching of religion is like that of our reason, so given as to constitute a great part of our moral probation ; it affords full light to the spiritually-minded, is gladly received by the humble and teachable, but only increases the darkness and hardness of heart of the impenitent and the wise in their own conceit, “who seeing see not, and hearing hear not." (Matt. xiii. 13.) The word of God cannot be lightly esteemed without judicially hardening the heart by which it has been undervalued. Whosoever brings his own preconceptions and inclinations to the study of Holy Scripture, is certain to be blinded to that which pleaseth him not, and to see only as the doctrines of the Gospel, not that which the word of God teacheth, but that which his own imagination persuades him to be true. We must then discard our preconceptions and proud reasonings of what we suppose the word of God must teach, according to our notions of what is liberal, what is superstitious, and what is spiritual religion, if we would “receive with meekness the engrafted word, and which is able to save our souls.” (James i. 21.) 13.--DOCILITY NECESSARY TO RECEPTION OF SCRIPTURE
TRUTHS-EXAMPLE OF THE SOCINIANS AND THE SAD
DUCEES. We must be so disposed to receive every word that proceedeth
out of the mouth of God, that the slightest intimation of the Divine will may meet with our implicit acceptance and obedience. The heart conformed to Christ " will seek his will, and so know his doctrine,” (John vii. 17); will endeavour to comprehend the design of every precept and institution, that he may render to it willing submission. He who has a due sense of the Divine majesty will abhor that spirit which, contrary even to the rule of nature, will yield to no evidence that is not certain, will require for every article of his belief precise and positive declarations, adverse to the spirit and method of scriptural teaching. It is thus that the Socinian demands a precise scriptural statement of the Divinity of Christ, being as he says persuaded by his own reason, that if the Almighty required us to believe a doctrine so mysterious, he would directly and precisely declare it, and not leave us to deduce it from a number of incidental passages, admitting of various interpretations. In the same manner every one who has conceived a dislike to any doctrine of the Church, cannot be persuaded that the Scripture evidence of