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Where there is no law there is no transgression. Nay the very countenancing of individuals in an attempt to “ make that seeme Divine which is not, were plainly to abuse and even to FALSIFY DIVINE Evidence, which injury offered but unto men is most worthily counted hainous.” Let every person, therefore, take care how he becomes a partaker in the proceedings of these men.
We shall, however, expose these high pretensions from the Scriptures themselves. In this section we intend to point out some of those simple and Catholic principles laid down by our Lord and his Apostles in the New Testament, in contrast to the narrow, bigoted, exclusive, and intolerant character of this pseudo-succession scheme.
One characteristic of the New Covenant is, the putting aside of “carnal ordinances,” and “ the traditions of men;" and the placing of our Holy Religion upon the simplest and broadest basis; requiring nothing as ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to it, but faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, working by love, purifying the heart, and fulfilling the law. Even Baptism and the Lord's Supper, though POSITIVELY OBLIGATORY where they can be had, are not absolutely essential to the possession of the blessings of the Gospel. Abraham was justified before he was circumcised, Rom. iv. 9-12, “ Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only or upon the uncircumsion also ? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned ? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision ? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also : And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.” Cornelius was justified before he was baptised : Acts x. 44-47, “ While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we ?" Every one that believes the Gospel is bound by its positive authority to be baptized, and to receive the Lord's Supper, but the Scriptures never declare that any man shall be damned for the lack of either; but he that believeth not shall be damned. A wilful, presumptuous neglect of these positive institutions, is inconsistent with Christian character; but if ignorance, the prejudices of education, or lack of opportunity, occasions any individual who believes in Christ, as above described, to be found without them, he may and will be
saved. He that saith otherwise, let him learn what this meaneth, “ I will have mercy,” saith the Lord, “ and not sacrifice.” Matt. xii. 7.
The same observation bears directly upon the Ministers of the Gospel. Under the Jewish dispensation, great ritual exactness was enjoined in setting them apart to the service of the altar. The Priesthood was confined to one family. Denunciations of death were proclaimed against any who approached unto God contrary to his own positive injunctions. These things were all marvellously calculated to point out in shadow the one Priesthood, and one offering of Christ, shewing it to be the Divine way unto the Father, and EXCLUDING ALL OTHER WAYS. But when He came, all the ritual of the Levitical Priesthood, and all the offerings, as offerings for sin; all the denunciations as to the Ministry, the confining of it by carnal ordinances to one family, and to personal Succession, FOR EVER PASSED AWAY. There is not a word of any of these things in the New Testament; but quite the contrary. With the exception of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, there is not a single rite or ceremony enjoined in the whole of the New Testament. As to offerings, as offerings for sin, they are put away for ever by the sacrifice of Christ: Heb. x. 11–14. “ And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Hence the Popish Priests, pretending in their Masses to offer the body and blood of Christ as an offering for sin, DESTROY the PERFECTion of the ATONEMENT itself. They bring it down to that imperfection which belonged to the blood of bulls and of goats, on which the Apostle thus argues : Heb. x. 1-4, " For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered ? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” They awfully corrupt Christianity itself by striking at its very foundation. THEY TAKE AWAY CHRIST FROM CHRISTIANITY, and conduct us back to Judaism. This is done to lay the foundation for priestly tyranny, that they, keeping the offerings for sin, and the power of absolution in their own hands, may bind the tortured conscience to their own will, and play the direst tyranny over the destinies of mankind. Accursed system ! The blood of a host of martyrs has been shed in testimony against it. May the Protestants of Britain never become blind to its blasphemy and iniquity! As to the Ministers of the Gospel, our adorable Redeemer, and his servants the Apostles, proceed upon the same principles as those applied to sacrifice
and offerings for sin. As offerings for sin have ceased to be offered for ever, so there is no Priest in the Gospel Ministry. Our Redeemer never repeats his offering. He appears as our High Priest, in the presence of God, to make intercession for us; but his act of offering himself for us is never to be repeated. After he had offered one sacrifice for sin, he FOR EVER SAT Down on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool; for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Heb. x. 12—14. He is the only Priest in the New Covenant. No Gospel Minister is a Priest.* It is very remarkable that in the constitution of the Christian Ministry, and in the government of the Christian Church, our Lord seems studiously to have avoided introducing any thing like the Priesthood of Aaron, and the Mosaic dispensation and ritual. The conduct of Papists and High Churchmen is the very opposite of this. Our Lord proceeded silently in many things, that the change might not become a stumbling to the Jews. But whilst the Priesthood of Aaron was left to perish, as being superseded by his Priesthood who is a Priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life, the service of the Jewish Synagogue was generally followed in modelling the Ministry and Government of the Christian Church. See this abundantly proved and exemplified by the learned Vitringa in his work on the Ancient Synagogue--" De Synagoga Vetere." It may be enough to the purpose of our present argument to remark, that no office or authority there was confined to personal Succession, and that every Presbyter, appointed or ordained to the government and service of the Synagogue, had the power of ordaining others in his place, though the exercise of this power was, for the sake of order, regulated by rules formed by the Synagogue itself. All the power and authority, indeed, were in the Sanhedrim, the Assembly of Elders, or Presbyters; so it was, in the Primitive Church, in the Presbytery, the Assembly of Presbyters. In the Apostles' days, all acts of importance and authority were done by Gospel Ministers (in conjunction with the Apostles) under the denomination of Elders, i. e. Presbyters, and seldom under the denomination of Bishops. It may suffice to instance only one, viz., that of ordaining other Ministers; this was done expressly by the Assembly of Presbyters, and not a word about Bishops in the matter: 1 Tim. iv. 14. Now here is nothing in all these proceedings binding the Church to an order of Bishops as the sole Ordainers of Ministers, and the governors of the people, to be traced by an uninterrupted Succession of Episcopal Ordinations, and without whose Ordinations, no Ministry, nor Ordinance, nor Sacrament has the
*“ In truth, the word Presbyter doth seem more fit, and in propriety of speech more agreeable than Priest, with the drift of the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost, throughout the body of the New Testament, making so much mention of them, (Presbyters,) doth not any where call them Priests."-Hooker, Eccles. Polity, Fifth Book, Sec. 78.
promise of Christ to the end of the world! It may be Judaism, it may be Popery, but it is not Christianity.
But, further, we have directions of quite a different nature and character from this scheme of Succession, laid down as to Gospel Ministers by our Lord and his Apostles. These are holiness of life, the call of God, and soundness of doctrine. The whole scope of the New Testament requires us to forsake all Ministers who are plainly of an opposite character, be their other pretensions what they may. This point deserves attention. We say our Lord and his Apostles require holiness of life in a Gospel Minister. Our Lord's requisition is, that he must enter the fold by himself as the door. This principally refers to his entering the office of the Ministry; but it necessarily implies that such an individual first belongs to Christ's flock, that he is first one of the sheep of his pasture. The supposition of the contrary is monstrous, and can never enter the mind which is imbued with just views of Christianity. The greater always includes the less. The office of a Christian Minister is a greater matter than that of a private member of the Christian Church. The office, therefore, of the Christian Ministry always implies that the person is first a real Christian. No man is a Gospel Minister who is not. Even Deacons, an inferior office, not belonging to the Gospel Ministry at all, in their Scriptural institution, are to be men full of faith and the Holy Ghost; how much more, then, Ministers of the Gospel. When Paul speaks of the Ministry of Reconciliation, they who have received it are such as have first been reconciled themselves :
" And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath GIVEN TO US the MINISTRY of Reconciliation.” 2 Cor. v. 18. Some of the verses of the following chapter are worthy of a place here : 2 Cor. vi. 347. Giving no offence in any thing, that the Ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the Ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.” But the matter is treated professedly in other places, as in Titus, i. 5—9. “ For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain Elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly. For a Bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” That he inust have the call of God, see Matt. ix. 37 and 38, Luke, xii. 42, John, x. 1, and Ephes. iv. 7–13. Soundness of doctrine is absolutely required. The nature of the case might have led men to see this. But human nature is blind. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. ii. 14. However, the word of God is decisive upon the point. The Judaizing teachers, that had perverted the Galatians, did not altogether reject Christ; but, by preaching the law of Moses, circumcision, &c., as necessary to salvation, they subverted the Gospel; for the necessary consequence was that Christ was not a sufficient Saviour. Galatians, v. 1–4: “ Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." Now St. Paul treats this as preaching another Gospel, chap. i. 6. He then solemnly declares, Gal. i. 8, 9, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." The Epistles of the Apostles abound with passages warning against teachers of false doctrines. The Apostles' conduct, and the conduct of our High Church Divines are a perfect contrast here. The Apostles determine the truth of the Ministry from the truth of their doctrine, and never, in treating this point, drop a syllable about their Episcopal Ordination, or their being in the Succession; our High Church Divines determine the truth of the doctrine from Episcopal Ordinations and personal Succession, at least so far as to deny that any can be true Ministers, true teachers, without these, however holy their lives, Scriptural their doctrine, and successful their Ministry; and declare that the Ministry of all who have this Episcopal Ordination and personal Succession, is a valid Ministry, and that all their Ministerial acts have Divine authority, though they personally be Heretics, Simonists, and wicked as the wickedest of men !
But we have yet matter to adduce from the New Testament more fatal to this High Church scheme than all that has hitherto been brought forward. The New Testament requires us to forsake all who pretend to be Ministers of the word upon any grounds whatever, but who are plainly unholy men, and who teach doctrines contrary to the truth as it is in Jesus: Matt. vii. 15—20. “ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth