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invested with them, towards the end of the apoftolic age, were distinguished from each other, by the appropriate titles of bifhop, prefbyter and deacon: A distinction, which evidently took place in conformity with that which had been established in the Jewish church, of high priest, prieft and Levite. That fuch a resemblance would appear between the Ifraelitish and Christian economy, may be justly inferred from this confideration, that the former was defign. ed to be the figure and forerunner of the latter, and that the author of both was the fame all-wife and merciful God, who would certainly contrive and order whatever was beft for anfwering his own gracious purposes. This was a matter which could only be fettled by divine wifdom and goodness, and therefore would not be left to the determination of human prudence. For if it be true, as Dr. Campbell has affirmed it to be "certain, that one model of "church government may be much better calculat"ed for promoting the belief and obedience of the
gospel than another," we may as certainly conclude that such a model would be prescribed by the divine Founder of the church, as he knew to be best calculated for promoting the ends of infinite mercy and goodness. This was the object which he had in view, by appointing the orders of the ministry, and regulating the whole facred fervice under the dif penfation of the law; and we cannot fuppofe that he would leave that of the gofpel in an irregular or unfettled condition, and not make fufficient provi
fion for the permanent order and polity of that church which he came in person to establish and to build on fuch a rock, as that the gates of hell fhould not prevail against it. To fay then "with freedom," as our Profeffor does," that if a particular form of "polity had been effential to the church, it had "been laid down in another manner in the facred "books," is, in our opinion, to fpeak with more freedom than is becoming on fuch a fubject, efpecially when any perfon may fee, who is not blinded by prejudice, that there is "a particular form of polity "laid down in the facred books," both in what our Lord faid to his apostles, and in what they did in confequence of his directions; and all this laid down, if not in such a manner as Dr. Campbell would have dictated, yet fo as to enable the primitive church perfectly to understand the plan, and continue the form of polity, which the apoftles had begun, and which form, we have feen, was properly, and in the true fenfe of the word, Epifcopal.
If Dr. Campbell did not fee this in the fame light. with us, and was difpofed to put a different conftruction on what is laid down in the facred books, we can only regret this circumftance, as an additional evidence in fupport of his own obfervation, "that "even good and learned men allow their judgments "to be warped by the fentiments and cuftom of the "fect which they prefer; and the true partizan of
† Vol L. p. 141.
"whatever denomination, always inclines to cor. "rect the diction of the fpirit by that of the party." Foreseeing, no doubt, that this would be more particularly the cafe, in the article of church government, our Lecturer propofed an appeal to those early writers, who, by his own account, as to what depends on teftimony, in explaining any part of fcripture which is thought to be doubtful," are in every cafe, wherein no particular paffion can be fufpected to have fwayed them, to be preferred be"fore modern interpreters or annotators." Agreeing very cordially with him in this opinion, respecting the teftimony of the fathers, we have liftened to the evidence of thefe unexceptionable witneffes, and have found it, from the general and uniform tenor of their writings, to be full and direct, in favour of apoftolic Epifcopacy, as the invariable form of government, which had obtained in the Christian church. This was a matter of fact, in relation to which their teftimony could not be doubted; and if we confider the nature of the thing, it was furely
a cafe, wherein no particular paffion could be "fufpected to have fwayed them." The apoftolic inftitution of Epifcopacy was a truth believed, and openly avowed, at a time when no worldly temptation could have operated in producing that belief, or fupporting that " particular form of ecclefiaftic
polity." There was no room for a spirit of pride
See his Note on Mat. iii. 11.- -in his Tranflation of the Gospels.
or ambition to exert its influence on the minds of Christian pastors, when the highest office in the church, fo far from fecuring to those invested with it, any portion of worldly honour, or legal revenue, ferved only to expose them to a greater degree of reproach and poverty. The station of a bishop was that of the most imminent danger; and whoever poffeffed that degree of zeal and firmnefs, which induced him to accept it, was almost certain, as foon as perfecution commenced, to fall the first victim to the fury of his enemies.
While the Epifcopal character was thus held up, as the principal mark to be aimed at by the rage of heathen oppreffion, we can hardly fuppofe, that any other motive would have been fufficient to the undertaking an office fo peculiarly encompassed by danger and difficulty, but the firm conviction of its being abfolutely neceffary to the maintenance of order. and unity in the church, and to the preservation of that apoftolic commiffion, from which must be derived, by regular fucceffion, all the right that any man can have to minifter in holy things. The form of this ministry, and the feveral degrees of office, by which it has been always diftinguished, we have now fully confidered, and by every argument adapted to the fubject, we have feen it clearly evinced, that the constitution of the church, as established by its divine Founder, and given in charge to his chofen apoftles, was by them tranfmitted to their feveral fucceffors, and fo handed down through the primitive
tive ages, as a regular diocefan Epifcopacy. This is the plain and important fact, which we have been endeavouring to establish as the fecond part of our plan, with all the original evidence in its favour, which could be required from fcripture, and all the additional testimony which has fince been afforded to its fupport, by " ANTIQUITY, UNIVERSA"LITY and CONSENT." We may therefore be allowed to recommend, as a matter of undoubted certainty, and worthy of the moft ferious confideration, what was propofed as the title of this chapter "That the church of Chrift, in which his religion is received and embraced, is that fpiritual fociety in which the ministration of holy things is committed to the three diftinct orders of bifhops, prefbyters, and deacons, deriving their au"thority from the apoftles, as those apostles re"ceived their commiffion from Chrift."