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give it a courfe different from that,
which the God of all grace has ordained for it. In all focieties, even in those which have only the affairs of this world for their object, we find that certain regulations must be adopted for preferving peace and or der, and fecuring to the feveral members the enjoyment of their peculiar rights and privileges, with all the benefits and advantages that are connected with the purpose for which the fociety has been formed, and which are expected to arife from it. Such is the cafe in all those bodies politic, or temporal focieties, which for the convenience of those con. cerned in them, are established on juft principles, and supported by the lawful efforts of human induftry. And fuch, we find, has always been the cafe, with respect to that ecclefiaftical body, or fpiritual fociety instituted by Divine wisdom, for the merciful purpose of communicating to those who are received into it, the means of grace here, and the hopes of glory hereafter. From the manner in which it embraces thefe two grand and important objects, it is evident that the economy of this fpiritual fociety must have a two-fold application, and be confidered as partly concerned with the outward, partly with the inward man.
The human frame, we know, confifts of two parts, a body and a foul; and hence it is, that an inspired apostle draws a most beautiful allufion representing the unity of the church of Chrift, as being one body, animated and influenced by one
fpirit. But if the church be defigned to comprehend the whole man, and to hold out the means of fanctifying and faving both foul and body, and preferving both unto everlasting life: to answer this gracious purpose, it must be so constituted as to exhibit outward and visible figns fuited to the fenfations of the body, and convey an inward and fpiritual grace adapted to the neceffities of the foul.The inftitutions appointed for that purpose, are therefore very properly called Myfteries, as exhibiting one thing to the outward fenfes, and by that facramental emblem, difclofing another thing fpiritually to the mind. They are the mysterious means, which God has ordained, under the economy of the gospel, for communicating falvation and life to man: And for that reafon, when St. Paul wifhed to point out the nature of his ministry, as 'ferving God in that gofpel," and the regard which was due to his facred office, he did it in these terms,
"Let a man fo account of us, as minifters of "Chrift, and stewards of the mysteries of God ;"* thereby plainly fhewing, that none but the "mini"sters of Chrift," persons set apart for the service of the church in the way of his appointment, have a right to be confidered as "stewards of the myste"ries of God," duly authorised to difpenfe that spiritual food and nourishment, which the heavenly Householder has fo graciously provided for the fupport and comfort of his happy family.
I Cor. iv. I.
It was, no doubt, in allufion to this merciful provifion, that we find our Lord afking-" Who then "is that faithful and wife steward, whom his Lord 'fhall make ruler over his household, to give them "their portion of meat in due feafon ?" By the household here, we are certainly to understand the church of Chrift, which is often diftinguished as "the household of faith-the house, or household "of God:" And as Chrift is by office, and in a peculiar manner, the Lord of this household, fo the rulers of it are thofe officers who act under him, as the governors and paftors of his church, and who, it seems, must be made fuch by him, that is, made "minifters of Chrift," as he has directed, before they can become "stewards of the mysteries of "God." This, we know, is the cafe in all wellregulated households. Those who act as ftewards are appointed, not by the family, but by the Lord or Master of the family, and are accountable not to them, but to him, for giving them their meat in due feason. The meat which the church is to receive from its rulers and stewards, is the word of life, or the means of grace and falvation, which are called "God's myfteries;" being that myftical provifion, which he has laid up in ftore, to be regularly dealt out, for the spiritual health and strength of his faithful people. Who then can have any power to diftribute his provifion, but thofe to whom
* St. Luke, xii. 42.
he has given authority for that purpose? Who can pretend to meddle with the "myfteries of God," or to administer the bleffings of his holy and venerable facraments, without a fufficient warrant for fo doing? Nothing can be more evident from the nature of the thing, than that they, who are called God's ftewards, must have his commiffion and authority for what they do, in their feveral fervices to his people. And St. Paul puts the matter beyond all doubt, when he tells us, that "God has "actually fet," or conftituted officers, and thefe too of different orders, in the church; which we may know to be done by him, when we fee it done in the manner prescribed by that Almighty King and Head of the church, who has all power in heaven and in earth, and from whom all ecclefiaftical authority must be derived. Every ministry therefore, that does not lead up to him, through his apostles and their fucceffors, is but a bold intrufion into the facred office; an unwarrantable ufurpation of those rights, which he made over to his appointed meffengers, when "he fent them, even as "the Father had fent him," with power to do as he had done, and perpetuate the ministerial order, according to the difpenfation of the gospel, in the fame manner as he had begun it. This is the only way, in which it can be regularly carried forward, on the plan laid down by its gracious Founder; and with
• 1 Cor. xii. 28.
with refpect to which plan, we may truly fay, as of all the other parts of his holy religion, that what it was "yesterday," and is "to-day," the fame it must continue " for ever;"--nothing must be " ad"ded to it, or taken from it."
There are fome however, even of the Chriftian profeffion, who do not admit the truth of this pofition; and we are not ignorant of the arguments, fuch as they are, on which their rejection of it is founded." It cannot be proved," they fay, "that
any plan or form of ecclefiaftical government was "laid down in the Chriftian church, or that any "command was given by Chrift for that purpose. "And even admitting, that fomething like Epifcopacy was appointed by the apoftles," ftill they infift, that "fuch an appointment could only take "place, in confequence of the particular circum"ftances of the church at that time, and without
any view to its being a permanent establishment; "because no precife conftitution could be framed, "which would fuit the church in its neceffary ac"commodation to the different arrangements of ci"vil policy, or be equally agreeable to the various "nations, which might embrace the Chriftian faith." Such reafoning as this, if fupported by any thing like proof, might, no doubt, be acknowledged to have fome weight, were it not alfo certain, that the conftitution of the church, the authority of her minifters, and the validity of her facraments, are all infeparably connected, as matters of the greatest importance