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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

age

possessed might be handed down from 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 " unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: "whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remit

t John xx. 21, 22, 23.

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"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 to 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.

the Apostles only, to enable them to build the Church, but to their successors also, throughout all ages, that they might uphold and preserve the edifice entrusted to their care. x“ Lo I am with you alway, "even unto the end of the world."

y

From these facts, which are recorded in the Scriptures, and which seem necessarily to imply that which other historical testimony confirms, we infer, that the Apostles, in the exercise of the power thus vested in them, instituted that ecclesiastical polity, which was maintained in the Church, without interruption, until the period of the Reformation; and is, even now, preserved unimpaired, in the greater part of the Christian world.

We are told by the evangelist, that after our Saviour's 2" passion, he shewed him“self alive to his Apostles by many infal"lible proofs; and continued with them forty days, speaking of the things per"taining to the kingdom of God." That

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x Matt. xxviii. 20. Acts i. 3.

y See Note XXII. Appendix.

by the " kingdom of God" we are here to

a

understand the visible association of Christians for religious purposes, under a government divinely appointed, may reasonably be presumed; and the subsequent conduct of those, to whom these discourses were addressed, will furnish us with the best criterion, by which to judge of their subject and intent.

When then we know, that the Lord Jesus held many conversations with his Apostles relative to the economy of his kingdom; and are also certain, that, in all which related to the due discharge of their office, as the founders and first rulers of this kingdom, they acted under the especial influence of the Holy Spirit, sent by him to guide them into all truth; we cannot hesitate to believe, that the order of government, which they solemnly appointed, and strictly enjoined their successors to continue, was of divine institution, and was intended to be of perpetual use in the Church.

a See Note XXIII. Appendix.

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