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ACTS ii. 42.

And they continued stedfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

SUCH is the account preserved in the sacred pages, of the practice of the Christian Church in its infant state; presenting a striking instance of that perfect unity, by which its earliest records are distinguished. It is humiliating to reflect how faint a resemblance we find, to this entire agreement in faith and worship, in succeeding ages. But the certainty that the Church has once been, what our Saviour intended it to be, will prove at least, that there is no physical impediment to the recurrence of such a blessed state of harmony and peace; while the example itself leads us to consider the conduct by which

alone that state can be restored. The time and the method of its restoration must be left to him, who alone can a" or"der the unruly wills and affections of "sinful men :" but the preparation for it we can, and we ought to make; by forming a clear idea of the essentials of that unity, which it is our duty to recommend; and by inculcating, each in our proper sphere and station, those arguments best calculated to enforce their observance.

The whole Church at this period consisted of little more than three thousand persons of these, a small number had been companions of our Lord during the whole of his ministry; they had witnessed his exemplary holiness and his divine miracles, and been the attentive hearers of his heavenly doctrines: but the majority were recently converted; they were a portion of those b" devout Jews from every "nation under heaven," who, being assembled in Jerusalem at the day of Pentecost, had been so far affected by the mi

a Liturgy.

b Acts ii. 5.

raculous descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, and its wonderful effects, as to be induced by St. Peter's sermon on that occasion to embrace the faith of a crucified Redeemer.

These, we are told, were baptized; and being thus made members of the Church, they proved the sincerity of their profession, and their due sense of the obligations which it entailed upon them, by adhering stedfastly to the one true doctrine taught by the Apostles; by continuing in their fellowship, or society; submitting to the discipline and government established by them; and by partaking in the same religious ordinances and modes of worship, in "breaking of bread, and in prayers."

A due provision for the maintenance of Christian unity thus appears to have been coeval with the establishment of the Church itself. As the Apostles permitted no other system of association to prevail among their converts, we may consider this to be a strong proof of their conviction, that the brethren in Christ could never dwell together as brethren ought, on any other terms:

and we may conceive it to have been not unintentional, on the part of the inspired historian, that the very first mention, which occurs in his narrative, of Christians as a connected body, should be accompanied by a clear indication of the principles of their union. Thus did the original Church become a model for all which succeeded it; and the steady continuance of its members in the doctrine and discipline of the Apostles, in the sacraments which their divine Master had ordained, and in a common form of devotion, stands upon record in the sacred volume, as if designed to teach us, that the disciples of Jesus Christ were to be separated from the world of the unbelievers; and that by these characteristic practices, each a pledge of mutual good offices, they were ever after to be united, as by an inviolable bond of affection.

In prosecution of the plan originally laid down, I have already considered Christian unity, as it should be exemplified in submission to the form of Church government established by the Apostles; and in the

maintenance of the one true faith, which they were commissioned to teach. I am now to examine, how far agreement in modes of worship is essential to its preser


It was to be expected, that he, who prayed so earnestly that his disciples might be one, would ordain some external rites or ceremonies, significant of their profession, their expectations, their high calling, and their solemn obligations; constituting a bond of union to themselves, as well as an outward sign of that union to others. For what can operate more strongly to preserve a religious association, than a common participation in some simple and affecting offices of devotion; which, unalterable in their signification, may remind the individuals of whom this association is composed, that they are all sharers in the same hopes and privileges, bound to the performance of the same duties, and thus distinguished from those around them? These, as ordinances of universal obligation, in every age and every country, were

c See Note LVII. Appendix.

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