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end of the world; and they have accordingly continued to this day. So that if the gospel were a fiction, and invented, as it must be, in some ages after Christ, then at that time, when it was first invented, there could be no such sacraments, nor order of clergy, as derived themselves from the institution of Christ; which must give the lie to the gospel, and demonstrate the whole to be false: and, therefore, by the last two rules, it was as impossible to have imposed upon mankind in this matter, by inventing the gospel in after ages, as at the time when these things were said to be done.
Q. How does the intrinsic evidence of the Christian revelation confirm the external evidence that was given to it?
A. The Christian religion excels all other institutions of religion that ever appeared in the world. It is every way worthy of God, and agreeable to reason. The great fears and doubts of mankind, concerning the way of appeasing the offended justice of God, are removed and satisfied; and the wisdom of God hath so disposed the method of our salvation, that by the sacrifice of the cross, both the dishonour that was done to his justice and holiness is satisfied, and the guilty fears of men relieved. The reward the Christian religion proposes is excellent in itself, lasting in its duration, and plainly revealed. The precepts laid down for the direction of our lives comprehend all virtues that relate either to God, our neighbour, or ourselves. These should have cleared what was doubtful, by the light of nature, and have made the improvements of it necessary parts of our duty. It supplies us with powerful aid for the performance of our duty; light for our dark minds, strength for our weak resolutions, and courage for all our difficulties: and, above all, it sets before us an exact and perfect pattern for our instruction and encouragement. So that the Christian revelation itself, as well as the external evidence, proves its divine original.
Q. Wherein appears the great guilt of those that reject the Christian revelation?
A. They who reject the Christian revelation resist the utmost evidence that any religion is capable of receiving, both from its intrinsic value, and from that external attestation that God has been pleased to give it by miracles and prophecies; and, consequently, by this act, they condemn themselves, because they reject the only means of their salvation.
Note-For the prayer see the end of the volume.
Its Nature as a Society, the Form of its Ministry, the Extent of its Powers, and the Limits of our Obedience.
Q. DOES it not appear from Scripture that the Church is a well-formed regular society?
A. It appears from Scripture that the Christian Church is not a confused multitude of men, independent one on another, but a well-formed and regular society. It is called a family, whereof Christ is the Master, of whom the whole family is named. It is said to be the city of the living God ;y whence Christian people are fellow-citizens with the saints. And it is often mentioned as a kingdom, of which Christ is the king: thus, in our Lord's words, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; where the Church and the Kingdom of Heaven mean the same thing. As a family, a city, and a kingdom, are societies, and the Christian Church is represented by them, that must likewise be a society.
Q. Is not the Christian Church a society founded by God, and are not all men obliged to become members of it?
A. The Christian Church is not a mere voluntary society; but one whereof men are obliged to be members, as they value their everlasting happiness: for it is a society appointed by God, with enforcements of rewards and punishments. That it is of God's appointment is certain; for it is the Church of the living God.b That it is enforced with rewards and punishments is not less certain: for remission of
y Heb. xii. 22.
z Eph. ii. 19.
a Matt. xvi. 18, 19.
x Eph. iii. 14, 15. b 1 Tim. ii. 15.
sins, the grace of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life, are declared to be the privileges of the Christian Church, and annexed to Baptism, the constant rite of initiation into the Church; Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. And the consequence of neglecting to hear Christ and his apostles may be understood from Matthew x. 14-Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for that city. Now, as God, by instituting this society, and annexing such rewards and punishments, has sufficiently declared his will, that men should enter into it, all men are obliged to become members of it; and it can in no other sense be called a voluntary society, than as it is left to every man's choice, whether he will be for ever happy or miserable.
Q. Is not the Christian Church a spiritual society?
A. The Christian Church is a spiritual society. It was founded in opposition to the kingdom of darkness. This is plainly implied in our blessed Saviour's words to St. Peter: Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall never prevail against it.d Whence the members of the Christian Church are said to be delivered out of the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of Christ. And the Christian people, as soldiers under Christ, are said to fight, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Their armour is not such as will guard them against carnal, but spiritual enemies; it is the armour of light, the armour of God, the girdle of truth, the breast-plate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirith And this spiritual society, or kingdom of Christ, was, by the design of its Great Founder, to be distinct from all earthly kingdoms. My kingdom, says Christ, is not of this world for as earthly kingdoms are designed for men's temporal welfare, so the end of this heavenly kingdom is to promote our everlasting happiness.
c Acts ii. 38.
d Matt. xvi. 18.
e Col. i. 13.
i John xviii. 36
f Col. ii. 14, 15.
Q. Is not the Christian Church an outward and visible society?
A. It is an outward and visible society. The name of Church is constantly applied in the Scriptures to such a society. Thus we find it used by our blessed Saviour himself: Tell it to the Church. If he neglect to hear the Church. It is compared to a marriage feast, to a sheepfold, to a net full of fishes, to a field of corn, &c. by which allusions the society of Christians, which is the idea implied in the name of Church, is evidently described as a visible body of men, taken out of and separated from the rest of the world. Public rulers were appointed to govern the Church, the faith was to be publicly confessed, the public worship of God to be frequented, and visible sacraments to be received by all the members of it; and consequently the Christian Church is an outward and visible society.
Q. Is not the Christian Church an universal society? A. It is an universal society, both with regard to place and with regard to time. With regard to place; for Christ's commission to his apostles was, to preach the Gospel to every creature, and to teach and baptize all nations and with regard to time; for it is prophesied concerning Christ's kingdom, that it shall be established for ever, as the sun and moon throughout all generations; and we are told by St. Paul, that Christ must reign, till all his enemies, the last of which is death, shall be put under his feet," which cannot be till the general resurrection; and he himself has promised to be with his apostles and their successors always, even unto the end of the world.
Q. Must there not be, of necessity, officers in the Christian Church?
A. Since no well regulated society ever did or can subsist without officers to govern it, and without some subordination among these, and since it appears that the Christian Church is a regular society, it must, of necessity, have its officers. And as this society is to be continued by a succession of believers to the world's end, it follows, that there must be an uninterrupted succession of officers till that time. And as it is a society of God's institution, the officers of it must receive their commission from him.
Q. Prove that there are officers appointed in the Christian Church.
j Matt. xviii. 17.
k Mark xvi. 15.
1 Matt. xxviii. 19.
m Psalm Ixii. 5,
A. That there are officers in the Christian Church does not admit of doubt. Our blessed Lord, the head and founder of it, when on earth, chose twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, whom he named apostles,P and gave them power and authority over devils, and to cure all manner of diseases; and besides these, he appointed other seventy." After his resurrection, when he declared, All power was given unto him in heaven and in earth, he commissioned his apostles to teach and baptize all nations, and invested them with the same authority which he had received from his Father; AS my Father hath sent me, EVEN SO send I you as he had received authority to send them, so he gave them authority to send others. Accordingly, when they were further endued with power from on high," by the descent of the Holy Spirit, whom Christ promised to send, we read, that they ordained the seven deacons, that Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in every Church, and Paul ordained Timothy. So from the beginning there were three distinct orders of ministers in the Church, namely, that of Deacons, another of Presbyters, and over them a superior order, in which were not only the apostles, but also Timothy and Titus, who governed the Churches in which they resided.
Q. Is it not necessary that the officers of the Church should receive their commission from God?
A. That the officers of the Church must receive their commission from God, is manifest from Hebrews v. 4. No man taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. Now, the plain meaning of these words shows, that he who officiates in divine matters is to be set apart, and to have a distinct commission from the rest of mankind, and that this commission must be derived from divine institution.
Q. May not the necessity of a divine commission to qualify a person for the ministerial office be also proved from considering the dignity of the office?
A. The necessity of a divine commission to the exercise of the ministerial office may be proved from considering the dignity of the office. It is called an honour. The ministers of religion are the representatives of God Almighty: they are the stewards of the mysteries of Gód, the dispen
p Luke vi. 12, 13. John xx 21.
9. Luke ix. 1.
r. Luke x. 1.
s Matt. xxviii. 19. w Acts xiv. 23.