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guage, which profess to believe on his name, and to be zealous for his service, even a small remnant shall be left of those, who are truly his disciples! What then are the reflections, which the prospect of such a fearful departure from the truth should inspire? Should it not lead us seriously to consider, whether the prevailing spirit of our times may not favour the increase of error? whether they, who disregard that unity of faith, which the Scriptures require, and they, who neglect to enforce it, by argument, by persuasion, by intreaty, may not unintentionally cooperate, the one by their thoughtlessness, and the other by their silence, to hasten this predicted triumph of infidelity? The character of that apostasy, to which the Scriptures refer, is not precisely defined: but perhaps we shall not altogether err if we conceive, that it will not consist in an open denial of Christ; but rather in that strange diversity of opinions, that exaltation of imaginations above revealed truth, that moulding of the Scriptures after the fashion of human preju
dices, of which too many instances are daily forcing themselves upon our obser
By those then, who are convinced that in the doctrines of the Church of England the true faith is now to be found, the path of duty can scarcely be mistaken. Taking their stand on that foundation on which she has built, they will be stedfast and immoveable: their firm and temperate resistance of plausible, but unauthorized novelties will prove, that they are faithful a" stewards of the mysteries of God:" and if it please him still to raise up those within her pale, who are thus prepared to defend and uphold her, the prediction of the Evangelical Prophet may yet be fulfilled in her favour; and the generations to come may b" see our Jerusalem a quiet
habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be "taken down; not one of the stakes "thereof shall ever be removed, neither "shall any of the cords thereof be bro"ken."
ACTS ii. 42.
And they continued stedfastly in the Apostles" doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
SUCH is the account preserved in the sacred pages, of the practice of the Christian Church in its infant state; presenting a striking instance of that perfect unity, by which its earliest records are distinguished. It is humiliating to reflect how faint a resemblance we find, to this entire agreement in faith and worship, in succeeding ages. But the certainty that the Church has once been, what our Saviour intended it to be, will prove at least, that there is no physical impediment to the recurrence of such a blessed state of harmony and peace; while the example itself leads us to consider the conduct by which
alone that state can be restored. The time and the method of its restoration must be left to him, who alone can "or"der the unruly wills and affections of "sinful men :" but the preparation for it we can, and we ought to make; by forming a clear idea of the essentials of that unity, which it is our duty to recommend; and by inculcating, each in our proper sphere and station, those arguments best calculated to enforce their observance.
The whole Church at this period consisted of little more than three thousand persons of these, a small number had been companions of our Lord during the whole of his ministry; they had witnessed his exemplary holiness and his divine miracles, and been the attentive hearers of his heavenly doctrines: but the majority were recently converted; they were a portion of those b" devout Jews from every "nation under heaven," who, being assembled in Jerusalem at the day of Pentecost, had been so far affected by the mi
raculous descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, and its wonderful effects, as to be induced by St. Peter's sermon on that occasion to embrace the faith of a crucified Redeemer.
These, we are told, were baptized; and being thus made members of the Church, they proved the sincerity of their profession, and their due sense of the obligations which it entailed upon them, by adhering stedfastly to the one true doctrine taught by the Apostles; by continuing in their fellowship, or society; submitting to the discipline and government established by them; and by partaking in the same religious ordinances and modes of worship, in "breaking of bread, and in prayers."
A due provision for the maintenance of Christian unity thus appears to have been coeval with the establishment of the Church itself. As the Apostles permitted no other system of association to prevail among their converts, we may consider this to be a strong proof of their conviction, that the brethren in Christ could never dwell together as brethren ought, on any other terms: