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A PART OF THIS HOLY, CATHOLIC, AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH, THOUGH DEPRIVED OF THE SUPPORT OF CIVIL ESTABLISHMENT, DOES STILL EXIST IN THIS COUNTRY, UNDER THE NAME OF THE SCOTCH EPISCOPAL CHURCH, WHOSE DOCTRINE, DISCIPLINE AND WORSHIP, AS HAPPILY AGREEING WITH THAT OF THE FIRST AND PUREST AGES OF CHRISTIANITY, OUGHT TO BE STEADILY ADHERED TO, BY ALL WHO PROFESS TO BE OF THE EPISCOPAL COMMUNION, IN THIS PART OF THE KINGDOM.
IT is a well known fact, that in all the nations of the world, where any fenfe of a God or religion has been preferved, certain perfons have always been fet apart, as the more immediate fervants of that God, and for performing the more folenin offices of his religion. The facred function appropriated to these
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perfons has, for the fame reason, been ever confidered as a divine and most falutary inftitution.This much may be gathered even from the dark records of heathen antiquity. But, if wishing for clearer information than these can afford, we consult the facred hiftory, we shall find this matter fet in a juft and true light. The nature of the priesthood is there laid down in the plaineft manner, the defign of it fully explained, and its authority placed on the only proper foundation. The mediation of a Redeemer, as abfolutely neceffary to the falvation of mankind, is there held forth as the fource of that typical priesthood, and those figurative facrifices, which the law of God appointed and required, in all that period which preceded the incarnation of the promised Saviour.— It was from their relation to him, and dependence on him, that both priests and facrifices derived all their honour and efficacy: And when at laft this glorious Interceffor "appeared upon earth, to put away fin by the facrifice of himself," we are as fured, that he did not glorify himself to be made "an High priest, but received this honour from his "Father that fent him, and was called of God, as "was Aaron."* In confequence of this high and heavenly commiffion, he stood forth as the great High Priest of our profeffion, and having purchased his church with his own blood, he not only "died "but rofe again, that he might be Lord both of
Heb. v. 4, 5.
"the dead and of the living." It was therefore after his refurrection that he was heard to declare, that all power was given unto him in heaven and "in earth;" and with this declaration he introduced the commiffion which he then gave his apoftles, delegating to them fuch a portion of his power as was neceffary for authorizing them to convert the nations to his faith, and teach them to obferve whatever he had commanded, even unto the end of the world. From the extent of time allotted to the execution of this commiffion, we may fee, it was impoffible for the apostles to execute it fully, and to that extent, in their own perfons, or in any other way, than by doing what they could themselves, and tranfmitting to others the fame charge, which they had received, that fo a fucceffion of fuch commiffioned officers might be continued in the church, to the end of time.
The manner in which this fucceffion has been carried on, and the certainty of its having met with no breach or interruption, from the days of the apostles to the present time, have both, we prefume, been fufficiently established in the preceding chapter, which has alfo exhibited the most ample and fatisfactory evidence, to prove the apoftolic institution of the three diftinct orders of bifhops, prefbyters and deacons, to whom the Chriftian miniftry was origi nally committed, and by whom, according to their feveral degrees of office, it has always been exercifed in every found and regular part of the Chriftian
church. Those who have opposed this form of ecclefiaftical polity, have often been challenged to produce evidence of any national or provincial church existing without it, for fifteen hundred years after the first publication of the Chriftian faith. The corruptions, which, for a great part of that period, unhappily prevailed in the Western nations, did not, and could not affect the validity of the apoftolic commiffion, or put an end to the minifterial power, which it was defigned to convey. The church of Rome, with all the errors and abuses cleaving to it, which made the reformation neceffary, did not cease to be a church, any more than a man, whofe foul is corrupted by vice, and his body marred by dif ease, ceases to be a man, while his foul and body continue united. It often happened that the Jewish church was fadly infected with idolatry, and addicted to many enormities, which provoked to anger the Lord their God, yet they ftill continued a visible church upon earth, till he at laft thought proper to remove their candlestick, and allowed" the Ro"mans to come and take away their place and na"tion." Though he frequently raised up prophets to warn them of their danger, and call them to repentance, yet he never inftituted a new order of priests, nor authorized any but the fons of Aaron, to appear in his holy place, and offer the facrifices prescribed by the law. Their corruptions did not diveft them of the priesthood, nor make any breach in the order of fucceffion, till it was completely tak
en away, and their whole economy diffolved. And fo the church of Rome, while permitted to retain a fucceffion of the Chriftian priefthood, by its prefervation of the Epifcopal order, muft alfo have the power of conferring that order, although it could have no power to prevent those who had thus received their Epifcopal fucceffion, from doing all they could to reform the abufes, which had gradually crept into that degenerate part of the Chriftian church.
This is all that can properly be meant by the term reformation, which does not lead to the idea of making a new church, a thing we can no more do than make a new bible, but only to that of correcting and amending the old one, and fo replacing it in a state of conformity to the original standard. But the fucceffion of paftors in the three facred orders of bishops, prefbyters and deacons, was none of the inventions of popery. It was the continuance of an apoftolic inftitution, which had fpread itfelf over the whole Christian world, even to this remote island of Britain, long before the corrupting influence of the church of Rome had obtained any footing in it.When Auguftin the Monk was fent over by Pope Gregory to convert the Saxon invaders, he found an Epifcopal church in Britain, regularly conftituted according to the primitive model. And when many centuries after, the Church of England came at laft to engage in the happy work of reformation, which fhe did moft feriously and fuccefsfully, the on