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importance in the Chriftian fcheme of falvation, and must be esteemed as fuch by all who have a just fense of the high origin, and ineftimable value of the gospel of Chrift. To thofe who confider the religion of our adorable Redeemer, as nothing more than a republication of what they call the Religion of Nature, it must, to be fure, appear very abfurd and ridiculous, to be inquiring into, or difputing about, the external polity or government of the church; fince in their opinion the only thing neceffary, is to find out how far the precepts of the gospel agree with the moral fitness of things, and are fupported by the law or feelings of nature, and the deductions of human reafon. But furely they who regard Chriftianity as a religion of divine inftitution; who believe, that its gracious Author came into the world, to fave finners, and that "his "name is the only name under heaven whereby "they can be faved;" that his facraments of baptifm, and the eucharift, are the appointed means of uniting us to him, and preferving us in that union, and derive all their efficacy and importance from his bleffing and fanctification of them: Such perfons cannot poffibly think it a matter of indifference, whether the hand from which they receive these facraments, be the hand of an adminiftrator, who derives his authority from Chrift, and is empowered to bless in his name, or the hand of one who has nothing of that kind but what he has taken to him
felf, or received from thofe, who had as little power as he, to grant any fuch call or commiffion.
But to confider the validity of the Christian facraments, and the authority of those who adminifter them, as matters of fuch high importance, we have been told by a late popular writer,* " is plac
ing the effence of religion not in any thing inte"riour and fpiritual, not in what Chrift and his "apostles placed it, fomething perfonal in regard "to the difciple, and what is emphatically styled in "fcripture, the hidden man of the heart; but in an "exterior circumftance, a circumstance, which in
regard to him is merely accidental, a circumstance, "of which it may be impoffible for him to be ap"prized."—And fo we may fay, may "his belief ❝ and obedience of the gofpel," be merely accidental, and depending on the circumftance of his being born and educated in a Chriftian country, yet not the lefs acceptable to God, or beneficial to himself on that account. But the author of the work, to to which I am now alluding, calls it "an abfurdi"ty to make the truth of God's promises depend on "circumftantials ;" and to him "nothing is more "evident, than that the effence of Christianity, ab"ftractedly confidered, confifts in the fyftem of "doctrines and duties revealed by our Lord Jefus "Chrift, and that the effence of the Chriftian cha"racter
* See Lectures on Ecclefiaftical Hiftory, by George Campbell, D. D. Priacipal of Marifchal College, Aberdeen. Vol. I. p. 86, &c.
"racter confifts in the belief of the one, and the "obedience of the other." Although we acknowledge in general the truth of this obfervation, we cannot see much propriety, or any advantage arifing to religion, in thus fplitting it into effentials and circumftantials, for the fake of weighing the one against the other; because there is much danger of not making a proper divifion: And fo by mistaking the nature of what is effential, and what circumftantial, we may throw into the one fcale, what fhould be placed in the other, and thereby make a separation of what God has been pleafed to join together for our comfort and inftruction. It was therefore well obferved by a learned and ingenious author,* that "as it is one of the peculiar weakneffes of human "nature, when upon a comparison of two things,
one is found to be of greater importance than the "other, to confider this other as of scarce any importance at all; it is highly neceffary, that we "remind ourselves, how great prefumption it is, to "make light of any inftitutions of Divine appoint
ment; that our obligations to obey all God's "commands whatever are abfolute and indifpenfible; and that commands merely pofitive, admit❝ted to be from him, lay us under a moral obliga"tion to obey him-an obligation moral in the "ftricteft and most proper fenfe."
⚫ Bishop Butler, in his Analogy, &c. p. 193 of the fifth edition-a work which contains much elaborate reasoning in favour of revelation, yet surely afcribes by far too much confequence to its pretended rival, the light or religion of nature.
Hence it would appear, that there is not fo much ground as is generally imagined for the common diftinction of moral and pofitive duties; which, being both alike founded in the will and revelation of God, must be equally binding on man, and can admit of no other variety of obligation on our part, than what is determined by our Lord's own decifion of this matter" Thefe ought ye to have done, and "not to leave the other undone."* If we fee fufficient reason to embrace the religion of Christ, as the only ground, on which we can hope for falvation and happiness, we must also be convinced, that in order to promote that important end, it must be received whole and entire; as a combined "fyftem of "doctrines and duties," requiring our "belief of "the one, and obedience of the other," without any other reference to our judgment and discretion, than what is neceffary for our discovering, that these "doctrines and duties were revealed by our Lord "Jefus Chrift," either immediately while he fojourned on earth, or after his afcenfion into heaven, by means of the Holy Spirit, who was "to guide "his apostles into all truth."
So far then we are agreed with the learned Lecturer on Ecclefiaftical History, whofe words I have now quoted, though we fhall afterwards have frequent occafion to differ from him. In his fubfequent defcription of what he deemed to be the "effence of "Christianity,"
St. Mat. xxiii. 23.
Christianity," we think, he ought to have mentioned, what he could not but know, that a part of the "system of duties," revealed by the Holy Spirit to our Lord's apoftles, and exprefsly enjoined by one of them, was obedience and submission to those who have a right to "guide or rule over us, and to "watch for our fouls:"* And as it is impoffible, that fuch a right as this can be poffeffed by any man, or order of men, who have not derived it from the great Shepherd and Bishop of fouls, in the way that he appointed for the tranfmiffion of it, we cannot but confider it as a matter of the highest importance to ascertain, as far as we are able, in what form of church government this right was originally invested, because to that government alone can fuch obedience and fubmiffion be due.
On this point, our Ecclefiaftical Lecturer is obliged to allow" that a certain external model of go"vernment must have been originally adopted for "the more effectual prefervation of the evangelical "inftitution in its native purity, and for the care"ful tranfmiffion of it to after ages." And when there were fuch strong reasons for the original adoption of a "certain external model of government," may well be prefumed, that the apostles, fuppofing them to have been only poffeffed of common judgment, without the benefit of infpiration, could not fail, as governors of the church, to take the
Heb. xiii. 17. + Vol. I. p. 87.