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the Romans would want subjects to go vern, and the empire would reckon more enemies than citizens. 1'! ne érji luctus
What then could have preserved this body, so widely dispersed, and composed of materials so various; what could have connected the noble, with his slave; the learned and elegant Greek, with the unlettered barbarian ; the conqueror and the vanquished, by ties which no human force could dissolve; but the powerful operation of conscientious adherence to one common system of spiritual discipline and subordination? Ismai
As the Church could not have maintained its ground against external attacks, had not a common form of government, universally acknowledged, "reverenced, and obeyed by its members, given it that com pactness and solidity, that community of interest and affection, requisite to sustain it under the discouraging circumstances of its first establishment; so neither could it have escaped the evils of internal + discord;
" See Note XX. Appendix.
evils at at any time to be deplored, as weak
any authority; but, in its then infant state, necessarily fatal to its very existence. W
The abilities and inclinations, the views and interests of men are so different, that mutual independence must, almost of neceșsity, produce mutual dissension : and had not the Apostles been enabled to delegate to successors the power they themselves possessed, and to frame a system of government, of perpetual duration and authority; the Church could not, humanly speaking, have survived its original rulers. For as when there was no king in Israel, every man did what was right in his own eyes; so no sooner would the power of enforcing submission to some legal government havet; ceased, than the Christian society must have been dissolved; and the Christian faith, without some extraordinary interposition of Providence, must have perished with it; for every one being left free to think, as well as to act for himself, the religious opinions of men would have speedily become as various and discordant, as their dispositions and information.
But that we may not seem to build upon mere abstract reasoning, when proofs of a more direct and convincing nature are within our reach; let us examine the evidence afforded by the language of Scripture, in support of the positions which it is our object to illustrate and confirm.
That the Church, from the first, possessed a form of government of its own, in its origin and its object independent of the civil institutions of the countries, in which it existed, is a matter of fact; to be proved, as all facts are, by reference to authentic history. That this form of government was originally established under divine direction, and that it was administered by persons, whom Christ himself authorised to exercise it; that these persons, acting under the same guidance, appointed their assistants and successors in the ministry, expressly enjoining them to consecrate others, by whom the power they possessed might be handed down from age to age; are truths, respecting which the declarations of the inspired writings are explicit and decisive. So that we may confidently affirm, that the evidence of that divine commission, by virtue of which the holy office of the priesthood is now exercised in the Christian Church, is at least as complete and satisfactory as that, on which we are contented to receive any historical fact whatever; inasmuch as the authenticity of the holy Scriptures rests upon authority more unquestionable
perhaps than that of any mere human composition.
It will not be denied, that the Apostles themselves were invested with plenary power, before they entered upon the duties of their high office. t. As the Father “ hath sent me,” said our Saviour,“ even "..so send I you; and when he had said
this, he breathed on them, and saith "ç unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost : " whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remit
John xx. 21, 22, 23.
“ ted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye “ retain, they are retained.”
No form of words can be conceived capable of impressing our minds with a higher idea of apostolic authority than this commission, which constitutes them, not only the pastors and teachers, but the lawgivers and judges of that Church, which they were to found. Should it be objected, that this commission was merely personal, and that it ceased with the lives of those, on whom it was bestowed; it may be answered, that we have the same "evidence to prove the continuance of the commission to the successors of the Apostles, as tò substantiate the fact of its having been originally granted to them.
For he, who is the source of all power, and from whom alone, whatever is done by the governors of the Church derives its sanction, expressly declared, that the authority, with which the ministers of his word were invested, was not temporary, but permanent; that it was not granted to
u See Note XXI. Appendix.