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hood, as we find them afterwards established; because it was not his object to instruct the Ephesians in the particular form of ecclesiastical government ordained by Christ; but to convince them that it was their duty to maintain the b❝unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." And this he does, by shewing them that they were members of a society, expressly instituted for the preservation of unity; and for that reason provided by its divine Founder with ministers of different ranks, and separate duties; each of whom in his station was to labour for the peace and good order of the Church; and to lead its members, by degrees, to that perfection of knowledge and practice, which he afterwards calls "the measure of the stature of the fulness of "Christ.'

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The text therefore, speaking of the Church as a visible society framed by Christ; and declaring that they who bear rule in it, officiate by virtue of a commission received from him; naturally di

b Eph. iv. 3.

C Eph. iv. 13.

rects our thoughts to that subject, which it is the design of the present discourse to illustrate. If the Church be a visible society, it must have a visible form of government; that form of government must be administered by certain fixed and lawful authorities; and to that government every man, who continues a member of the society, is bound to conform; and to obey the power, by which it is administered.

These propositions are assumed as the basis of the whole argument; and they lead us to inquire, what was the form of Church government which our Saviour instituted; and who were the rulers appointed by him to uphold its authority.

That no doubt might remain in the mind of Christians, as to the nature of that Church into which they were admitted, it is spoken of in the Scriptures under various names, which all illustrate the same truth; that it is a spiritual incorporation, of which Christ is the head. It is called the d❝ kingdom of heaven," the

d Matt. xiii. 11.


e❝ dominion of Christ," the f" city," the house," and the hhousehold of "God:" every one of these terms conveys the idea of association, and declares the head or governor of this society to be the Lord Christ.

To distinguish it however from mere temporal governments, all of which may in some sense be called the kingdom of God, since he ruleth over all; and to convince us that the sovereignty of Christ over his Church is of a more specific and particular kind, than the superintendance of God's providence over secular kingdoms; we are told in the text, and in other parts of Scripture, that the Church is "the

body of Christ," k united to him, and under his influence, as the natural body is joined to the head, and directed by it; and that by virtue of our admittance into it, we are all become members of this one body, and are therefore bound to obey him, and to love one another.

e Dan. vii. 14.


h Eph. ii. 19.

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* See Note XIV. Appendix.


The Church then, being a spiritual society, taken out of the world, yet existing in it; intimately connected with the temporal governments of the nations in which it is planted, yet in its spiritual character independent of them all; it was necessary for its preservation, that it should a form of government of its own, binding all its members together by a common rule of obedience, and training them in the duties of their new profession. Government is indeed essential to the very being of a society; without it men may congregate, but they cannot associate; the constitution to which they submit is the bond which unites them; and when this is dissolved, they are reduced again to the state of unconnected individuals.


This constitution was also necessary for the defence of the Church against external enemies, as well as for the maintenance of its internal peace and security. It is to be remembered, that this spiritual kingdom

1 See Note XV. Appendix.
m See Note XVI. Appendix.

existed for three hundred years after the resurrection of its divine Founder, not only unsupported and unprotected by any temporal authority, but in defiance of all human power, which was exerted in vain to resist its influence, and effect its destruction. In those days of trial and persecution, Christians, wherever dispersed throughout the world, formed but none body, under one head; professing the same faith ; bound by the same laws; obeying rulers similar in office, authority, and appointment: and this it was which enabled the Church to flourish and increase, notwithstanding all the fury and malice of its enemies. Had the kingdom been "" divided against itself," it must have been " brought to desola❝tion;" its union was its strength; and the principal bond of this union, was obedience to a common form of government, administered by officers appointed by, and responsible to, the same sovereign Lord.

The necessity of this constitution, as the safeguard of the Church, will still further

n See Note XVII. Appendix.

o Matt. xii. 25.

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