Page images

and the LORD hath commanded Him to be captain over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee." Think again of Nadab and Abihu; they did not neglect the worship of GOD; but they thought they might surely take the fire for the sacrifice from whence they would; "surely this was a minor point," as some among us are presumptuous enough to say. But He who gave laws to them and us, knows nothing of minor points. There can be no little sin, for there is no little authority to sin against. Nadab and Abihu were struck dead for offering with strange fire. This is agreeable to the analogy of the physical world, which is open to our senses. It is a simple and apparently harmless thing to place a candle near gunpowder, or to bring certain gases together; but the result may cost us our life.

4. Such was the importance of observing positive ordinances in the Jewish Church. Surely the lesson delivered in the Old Testament is intended for us Christians. We have the same unchanging Father, who was the Gop of Israel, and who has given. us the Scriptures that we may have the means of searching out His will. First consider the light in which He views in the law of Moses what we are apt to call "minor points." "Therefore shall ye abide at the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation day and night, seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord, that ye die not." (Levit. viii. 35.) After the death of Nadab and Abihu, the charge is given "unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes, lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people." (Levit. x. 6.) "Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the Tabernacle of the Congregation, lest ye die." (Ibid.)

This was the uniform tone of the Divine Guardian of the Church then. Is the duty less urgent now? when, (1.) the added claim on our gratitude is all that the New Testament tells us: (2.) The Ordinances are so much fewer, and therefore, first, the trouble of them is so incomparably diminished; next, the preciousness of them (humanly speaking) so much more. strikingly seen they are the only jewels of this sort that we have left.

5. Remark may be made upon the very circumstance, that, in the Christian Covenant, Standing Ordinances are made the channels of its peculiar blessings. The first use of Ordinances is that of witnessing for the Truth, as above mentioned. Now their sacramental character is perfectly distinct from this, and is doubtless a great honour put on them. Had we been left to conjecture, we might have supposed, that in the more perfect or spiritual system, the gifts of grace would rather have been attached to certain high moral performances; whereas they are deposited in mere positive ordinances, as if to warn us against dropping the ceremonial of Christianity.

This last observation leads to the brief notice of an objection sometimes brought against the necessity of a Christian's attention to Ordinances, grounded on the notion of the spiritual character of Christianity. Now,-1. Are we quite sure that we are more spiritual, and more independent of the external helps of the Church, than Samuel,-Hezekiah, Josiah, and Daniel?2. What does our own experience say? Do we see the best and holiest of men becoming most independent and regardless of them, or the very reverse? 3. Are the feelings of love, affection, reverence, tender remembrance, which are entertained towards such places and things as are associated in our minds with the persons who are the primary objects of these feelings, inconsistent with spiritual-mindedness? Are not the Ordinances which Christ and His Apostles have appointed, the bond of perpetuated unity to the Church, a precious and mysterious medium for the "Communion of Saints" in all countries and ages? No one among us would think it a mark of weakness to cherish with attachment and respect a Bible which his father had used for half a century, from which he had learned the words of life and the way of salvation. And is it not a soothing and elevating privilege, to feel that we, even at this distant day, are allowed to come and walk in the very steps of all the holy men of old, the glorious company of the Apostles, and the noble army of martyrs, to take that narrow path, whose farther end they have now found to be in heaven ? In walking over the very ground where the holy Apostles lived and walked as Bishops, or in following our LORD Himself into Gethsemane, along the beach of the sea of

[ocr errors]

Gennesareth, or in pausing with Him on the Mount Olivet, as He weeps over Jerusalem, we find ourselves moved with something too deep and touching for words, and almost for thought; and is it no privilege, no blessing, to think with Him, to have our spirit admitted to move in the same path which His Holy Spirit hath chosen ; to be consecrated with Him and to Him in the water of Baptism, to eat the Holy Supper with Him, to fast with Him, to pray with Him in the very form and very thoughts which flowed from His divine mind and lips?

If these things are so, how can we hold up our heads, and dare to think of the way in which we have handled His Ordinances, handled that Form in which He has deigned to live on in the world, and to move before the eyes of His Church! If we can recollect the moment when we have been so dead in heart as to have found ourselves considering, not how often our Saviour would let us come and hold communion with Him, but how few times would satisfy Him,-whether "this one" omission would draw down His displeasure,—if there be one of us who lives in this spirit, "how dwelleth the love of God in him?"

Once more, if, when all times, all places, all forms are in themselves alike, yet it has pleased the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose Name is Holy, to choose to Himself certain forms, places, and times, for His especial dwelling upon earth, with what reverend and solemn feelings should we go to meet Him there, and approach His altar with our gift! We read (Lev. xxii. 18. 25.) that the God of Israel would admit no blemished creature to be sacrificed to Him; nor will He now accept the offering of our hearts unless we cleanse ourselves from all unbelief, insincerity, and guile: "wash our hands in innocency, and so go to His altar."


The Feast of St. Mark.


These Tracts are continued in Numbers, and sold at the price of 2d. for each sheet, or 7s. for 50 copies.

GILBERT & RIVINGTON, Printers, St. John's Square, London.



In primitive times the first step towards evangelizing a heathen country seems to have been to seize upon some principal city in it, commonly the civil metropolis, as a centre of operation; to place a Pastor, i. e. (generally) a Bishop there; to surround him with a sufficient number of associates and assistants; and then to wait, till, under the blessing of Providence, this Missionary College was able to gather around it the scattered children of grace from the evil world, and invest itself with the shape and influence of an organized Church. The converts would, in the first instance, be those in the immediate vicinity of the Missionary or Bishop, whose diocese nevertheless would extend over the heathen country on every side, either indefinitely, or to the utmost extent of the civil province; his mission being without restriction to all to whom Christian faith had never been preached. As he prospered in the increase of his flock, and sent out his clergy to greater and greater distances from the city, so would the homestead (so to call it) of his Church enlarge. Other towns would be brought under his government, openings would occur for stations in isolated places; till at length "the burden becoming too heavy for him," he would appoint others to supply his place in this or that part of the province. To these he would commit a greater or lesser share of his spiritual power, as might be necessary; sometimes he would make them fully his representatives, or ordain them Bishops; at other times he would employ presbyters for his purpose. These assistants, or (as they



were called) Chorepiscopi, would naturally be confined to their respective districts; and if Bishops, an approximation would evidently be made to a division of the large original diocese into a number of smaller ones connected with and subordinate to the Bishop of the metropolitan city. Thus, from the very Missionary character of the Primitive Church, there was a tendency in its polity to what was afterwards called the Provincial and Patriarchal system.

It is not, indeed, to be supposed that this was the only way in which the graduated order of sees (so to call it) originated; but, at least, it is one way. And there is this advantage in remarking it we learn from it, that large dioceses are the characteristics of a church in its infancy or weakness; whereas, the more firmly Christianity was rooted in a country, and the more vigorous its rulers, the more diligently were its sees multiplied throughout the ecclesiastical territory. Thus, St. Basil, in the fourth century, finding his exarchate defenceless in the neighbourhood of Mount Taurus, created a number of dioceses to meet the emergency. These subordinate sees may be called suffragan to the Metropolitan Church, whether their respective rulers were mere representatives of the Bishop who created them, i. e., Chorepiscopi; or, on the other hand, substantive authorities, sovereign within their own limits, though bound by external ties to each other and to their Metropolitan. The most perfect state of a Christian country would be, where there was a sufficient number of separate dioceses; the next to it, where there were Chorepiscopi, or Suffragan Bishops in the modern sense of the word.

Few persons, who have not expressly examined the subject, are aware of the minuteness of the dioceses into which many parts of Christendom were divided in the first ages. Some Churches in Italy were more like our rural deaneries than what we now consider dioceses; being not above ten or twelve miles in extent, and their sees not above five or six miles from each other. Even now (or, at least, in Bingham's time) the kingdom of Naples contains 147 sees, of which twenty are Archbishopricks. Asia Minor is 630 miles long, 210 broad; yet in this country there were almost 400 dioceses. Palestine is in length 160 miles, in breadth 120; yet the number of known dioceses amounted to

« EelmineJätka »