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The first of these suppositions requires no refutation: and until it can be f proved, that some congregation of Christians in the first century publicly protested against the usurpation of those, who claimed their spiritual obedience, and who attempted to impose upon them, as an apostolic institution, an episcopacy, which the Apostles never ordained; we may assume it as an undoubted fact, that no such usurpation ever took place, no such imposition was ever practised.

Nor, thirdly, can it be admitted, that any change has since been made, which has invalidated the authority, or destroyed the necessity of episcopacy.

The very persons, who first believed themselves compelled, for a time, to dispense with it, maintained no such opinion. On the contrary, they s lamented it as a serious, though, as they conceived, an unavoidable evil; declaring, in the most explicit terms, their reverence for the episco

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f See Note XXX. Appendix. See Note XXXI. Appendix.

pal order, and their anxiety to abide by any conditions, short of a sinful departure from the faith of Christ, under which it might be retained.

How far the reasons, by which these illustrious men justified their conduct, were well founded, it is now unnecessary to inquire; but that they were actuated by an ardent zeal for the truth of Christianity cannot be questioned; for they cheerfully hazarded their lives in its defence. It is certain that the difficulties, which opposed their endeavours to preserve the discipline as well as the faith of the Church, according to the primitive model, were very great; and, though they failed to remove them, we have no reason to doubt that they were sincere in

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attempts to succeed: nay,

their wishes and

the very

very earnest

ness with which they pleaded the insuper able necessity of their situation, as their apology for setting up a new form of ecclesiastical polity, will sufficiently prove, that they admitted the authority of that government, which the Church, until then, had universally received.

It must not however be hastily i conceded, that the excuse, which they pleaded for departing from the primitive model, may justify their successors in adhering to novel institutions, when similar obstacles no longer interposed to prevent their return to episcopacy.

If this continued rejection of the apostolic regimen be defended at all, it must be upon very different grounds. But this is a question, which it belongs not to our present subject to discuss: undoubtedly many allowances are to be made for habits of thought, and prejudices of education ; and it will be our wisdom, as well as our duty, to leave the decision of such matters to that Being, who k" searcheth, the hearts" of men. He alone knoweth how far ignorance is so invincible, or prejudices are so strong and sincere, as to be warrantably alleged in defence of a departure from his positive institutions. It is however important to remark, that this unhappy deviation from the apostolic form of Church

See Note XXXII. Appendix.

k Rom. viii. 27.

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government has afforded demonstrative proof of the utility, nay of the necessity of that government, as an instrument of unity.

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For it is an indisputable fact, that heresies and schisms have grievously 1increased since that period; and that they have abounded no where so much, and so fatally, as among those, who have thrown off the salutary superintendance of that hierarchy, originally appointed " for the "perfecting of the saints, for the work of "the ministry, for the edifying of the body " of Christ."

There was, we know, a period in our own national history, when the persevering efforts of a designing and powerful faction in the State, co-operating with religious prejudices and animosities, and perhaps too much assisted by the ill digested and vacillating measures of a weak, though well meaning government, had succeeded in shaking the pillars both of Church and State to their very foundations.

Even a slight acquaintance with the

1 See Note XXXIII. Appendix.


events of these distracted times will point out the danger of removing the salutary restraints of established forms and constituted authority; and will sufficiently prove to us, that Christian unity cannot long be preserved, when the Christian priesthood is rejected. They who assume a right to consecrate their own priests, will soon follow the example of TM Micah the Ephraimite yet one step farther, and make their own religion. The busy spirit of innovation, and the bold restlessness of speculation, can only be effectually checked by an habitual reverence for long established ordinances and legitimate power and as they who have chosen their own civil rulers have generally obeyed them no longer than their prejudices were flattered, or some temporary and sinister purposes promoted by the mock submission; so they who appoint their own religious teachers will never scruple to withdraw themselves from their ministry, when it ceases to be acceptable to their capricious humour; and thus a door will be opened, for the introduction m Judges xvii. 5.

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