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The churches of the apostolic age appear to have been a kind of spiritual republics—each being a part of that universal confederation, which was united in the common bond of faith and charity. A minister or a member of one church, was fully recognised, as occasion offered, by all the rest.
No modern denomination can flatter itself that its use of the term church', adequately represents the usage of the apostolic times. It is evident that many of the epistles were addressed to churches as consisting of the whole body of believers, whether large or small, residing in one place. We see no trace, here, of the isolation of our present church-systems. Not only do these systems present the spectacle of several denominations in one town of a few thousand inhabitants, often holding but little connexion with each other -sometimes, alas ! openly at variance:—but even each denomination is formed into divisions which have no necessary mutual relations, and may be as separate from each other, as are the different denominations themselves. That it was not so, in the apostolic age, is clear from a perusal of eight of the epistles-not to mention other evidence from the New Testament.
It is probable that all our church-systems will have to undergo changes, before Christianity shall have returned to the fraternal, unworldly union, which subsisted among all the Christians of a lo.
cality, while the church of Christ was yet one. But
- this union inviolate-it would seem that some latitude was left for a plastic accommodation to circumstances. It is likely that the church at Philippi, for example, or the church at Corinth, may have differed as to its internal constitution, from that of some of the Seven Churches in Asia -as the free and independent states of Greece were various in the form of the republic, while the whole Hellenic race was one, in the common tie of unity in religion. This tie, indeed, as it was made of no firmer material than a poetical mythology, which appealed to feeling—not to faith, could not restrain freedom from turbulence, or save its institutions from speedy dissolution : but the unity of the christian church, is drawn from nobler and more influential sources; and when we reflect, on what principles, and hopes, and aims, this unity depends—it appears surprising that it should not have made greater progress.
The writer has to apologize for some delay in the publication of the following work, arising from causes, some of them unforeseen, which have prevented him from earlier giving it that revision for the press which he has been anxious to do, in order to render it less unworthy of the subject; which, unhappily for religion, seems to abate nothing of its painful interest. If these pages should be rendered the means of leading any to
take a view of Schism less exclusive, and more catholic and scriptural, than they may have done before, the author's labour will not have been in rain. For any faults with which he may be chargeable, he alone must be blamed. In approving of the main argument of an Essay, in any such case as the present, it is not to be supposed that the Adjudicators can make themselves responsible for everything which it contains.
It should be stated, that the name of Archbishop BANCROFT occurs by mistake, in the ninetyfifth page.
He was one of the first who introduced into the Protestant Church, the doctrine of the superiority of bishops to presbyters, by divine right. Stillingfleet speaks of him, as among those who did not regard Episcopacy as essential: but the tone of Bancroft's remarks on this subject is such, as clearly amounts to the apostolical' claim; though he attempts to rest this claim on the authority of the Fathers, not
on that of Scripture. LAUD, in the next age, followed strenuously in the same course; and it is worthy of notice, that this prelate distinctly admitted what some have endeavoured to avoid, the necessity of tracing all such claims through the channel of the Romish Church. On the errors of
· Vid. Bancroft's Sermon at Paule's Crosse, 9 Feb. 1588.
* Neal's History, 1733, vol. ii. p. 271.
that Church, the author has freely expressed himself. Romanism, and Rationalism, are, in his judgment, not more at variance with the Confessions of the Protestant Churches, than with the Christianity of the New Testament. He has had occasion, however, to find that some who profess to guide the public mind as to its estimate of books, appear to have little sympathy with any religious opinions that are clearly defined. He has learned, he hopes, to distinguish between attachment to universal and unrestricted civil and religious liberty, and a sceptical indifference to truth.
It may be added that the note at page 549 relates to church-government only, having no further reference.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
It is due to one of the Adjudicators to state that in reply to some remarks which have appeared in one of the Periodicals, he has expressed his regret that the author, in revising the Essay for the press, "has added many sentences" to which he could not have consented; and has used, “ in some instances, severer expressions towards the Establishment than were in the original manuscript:" for which Mr. Noel cannot be responsible.
The author signified, in his own “Preface,' his willingness to bear the blame of any faults with which the work might be chargeable ; and he would add that he desires to be held responsible for any sentiments or expressions which may seem too strong on the Ecclesiastical Controversy of the age: more especially such as may occur in the latter half of the last chapter.
It is due to himself that the author should state that he has been, at the same time, kindly exonerated by Mr. Noel from “the least unfairness” towards himself; and he has added that the author
repeatedly offered to submit the proof-sheets" to his inspection.