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sending the Comforter, to abide with it, according to his promise.
From this Church the Apostles went forth, as the Spirit of God directed them ; and, in their separate provinces, erected other Churches, upon the same platform, and after the same model. Each of these soon comprehended within it many separate congregations, under rulers and governors receiving their commission from Apostolic authority; and was distinguished by its appropriate appellation, as the g“ Church at Corinth;" the hos Church at “ Antioch ;” but all were known as one body, under the title of the ion Church of " Christ.”
There was then, from the first, a common bond of union, by which Christians, in every part of the world, were formed into one society. Each individual was a member of some particular congregation, under its own pastor ; that congregation was connected with others in the same Church, by the superintending authority
& 1 Cor. i. 2.
h Acts xiii. 1.
i Eph. v. 23.
of one bishop; and all these episcopal Churches were subordinate to one head, even Jesus Christ; the Author of that faith, which they all professed; the Founder of that kingdom, of which they considered themselves to form a part; the Fountain of that spiritual power, k« by which the whole
body of the Church is governed.”
Such is a brief summary of the information, to be gathered from the Scriptures, upon this subject. The Evangelist St. Luke records the labours of the Apostles, and particularly those of St. Paul and his associates, much of which he himself personally witnessed: he describes them as travelling from city to city, and from province to province; preaching the Gospel; converting disciples ; collecting them into societies; and ordaining ministers to rule over each, who were to be accountable to them for the discharge of their sacred office. To some of these societies, or churches, so constituted, the Epistles of St. Paul are addressed : and from them we
k Collect for Good Friday.
learn, not only the extent of the spiritual authority, which he himself, as the chosen apostle of Christ, felt justified in assuming; but also the form of government, which, in common with his fellow labourers, the other Apostles, he framed, and the means, which he provided for its perpetuity. W
All these churches then, wherever they were situated, had the same common origin ; for they were built upon one foundation, by those k,66 wise masterbuilders," who received their commission immediately from Christ himself. This unity of lorigin was deemed so essential to the character of a true Church, in the early ages of Christianity, that it is applied by the Fathers as a touchstone, by which the false pretensions of heretics to be so esteemed might be at once discovered. « Let them produce,” says m
Tertullian, .65 the origin of their churches ;" let them 66 unfold the order of their bishops ; SO *66 proceeding, by regular succession, from
See Note VI. Appendix. m See Note VII. Appendix.
ki Cor. iii. 10.
the beginning, that their first; bishop Emay be shewn to bave been appointed, Geither by one of the Apostles, or by " apostolical authority.” :1. 36 0,12 ! Unless this could be satisfactorily ascertained, they could not be deemed any part of Christ's spiritual kingdom, because they were not governed by his delegated authority : and where such a defect of origin existed, the holy Father rightly judged, that it not only deprived them of all claim to be called churches of Christ, but also sufficiently accounted for their heretical depravations of his doctrine. He knew that the true qualities of a stream will best be discovered by tracing it to its source.
The water indeed which issues from the Rock of ages, may be so corrupted in its passage, as to lose its salutary virtues; but the casual impurities contracted in its course will at any time be removed by clearing the channel through which it flows: while no cleansing can ever purify the stream, which issues from a corrupted
n See Note VIII. Appendix.
source ; nor render that the living water, which springs not from the well of life. The unity of the Church does not however depend merely on its common origin, nor on its subordination to one supreme head. There must be some points, in which all its component parts agree; some things which all hold in common; and which render them essentially and evidently one, though composed of different individuals, situated in different places, and existing at different times. Societies of Christians may be formed, upon any plan suggested by the imagination of their founders is, and they may profess their obedience to the os great Shepherd of the sheep;l? but this will not entitle them to be considered as parts of that one holy Catholic Church, which he himself founded.
. None can be so considered, unless they not only can shew that they derive their origin from Apostolic authority , but that they preserve inviolate whatever is essential to that holy and peculiar fellowship, by
. Heb. xiii. 20.