Imatges de pàgina

At no

of the wicked, and their more open disavowal of their Maker. However this may be, we know that God did establish for himself at length, an outward and visible church, to bear witness to his name in an idolatrous world, and exhibit the tokens and emblems of redeeming love; admission to which, by circumcision, was open to all men, and to his people indispensable.

When these older things were ready to pass away, the Christian church, with its clearer light and more spiritual worship, established by the apostles under the immediate inspiration of the Spirit, took its place. time, as it appears to me, was this external church identical with the invisible church of God, although containing it.

All were not Israel who were of Israel; and when we consider that there was a Judas at the first administration of the Christian Sacrament; and many professors in the apostolic church who walked disorderly, who crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and whose destruction was sure, I cannot think otherwise of a visible church, than as the net let down into the sea, to gather of all kinds, both good and bad, for the better preservation of the former. Ill indeed does it become us to despise such aid and encouragement as church-membership affords, and is by God intended to afford. We may have our opinion as to where and what is this

external church. I do not think it can be better defined than by the Nineteenth Article of the Church of England. “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinances, in all those things that are requisite to the same.” If this definition is just, it follows that nothing of man's devising or requiring, however really wise and beneficial, can make or unmake a Catholic church, or hold men of necessity within it, but by the assent of their conscience. However painful to every Christian mind are the separations and divisions upon mere external forms, where all are one in Christ, so sadly characterising the present times, and whatever be the sin of such divisions on any less than conscientious grounds, we cannot presume to say, of any one church exclusively, that it is the church of God, to which men ought to join themselves. But this I think we may say confidently, that they who are careless about uniting themselves with any church, or refuse to communicate with any, because they find none perfect, do set at nought the merciful provisions of God for their spiritual welfare, and despise one of his positive and permanent institutions.

Most beneficent, most necessary, and most imperative upon all men, are the Holy Sacraments, ordained by Christ himself, as a medium

of communication between him and us, a means in which, and through which, his grace may be received, his salvation commemorated, and his prornises confirmed. In entering upon this subject, I feel, and shall feel, through all the following pages, the tender ground on which I am to tread. Truth itself is one-indivisible, invariable, incapable of difference or diversity. I cannot think it correct to say of persons who differ, that both may be right: it is as impossible as that there be more than one right line between any two given points. The dissentients may be partially right, or equally wrong, or there may be no real difference in the mind, while they differ in expression: or they may be so far correct, as that contemplating the truth in a different point of view, and through a different medium, there is, in the mental vision of each, that which they describe, though diverse in their statements. Two artists drawing from different positions, will produce totally different perspective, and equally correct: but in that case, neither draws the object as it is, but as he sees it; and no one supposes the object to be diverse from itself. The probability is, considering the weakness of our comprehension, and the vastness of the truths to be comprehended; the poorness of human speech, and the dulness of human hearing, to receive and to convey the mind of God, the earthly atmosphere through which every

beam of heavenly light must pass, the blindness of the eye that transmits it, and the pervertedness of the mind that finally receives it, the probability I think is, that while God secures his own purpose by making the truth sufficiently manifest to every single eye and willing mind-light still increasing unto perfect dayno one in this twilight world has so clear and exact a vision of any thing, as to make those who differ necessarily wrong; which would be the case, if any one's conceptions were the perfect truth. From this imperfection it has come to pass, that while there are points of revealed truth, about which the children of God, taught by one Spirit, are every where agreed, there have been at all times lesser points, about which they have differed; or seeming to agree, would be found to differ, could each produce the exact impression of his own mind. Of those who kneel at the same altar, and break the same bread, using in perfect honesty the same form of words—united in one faith, one hope, one love-members together of one body, even of Jesus Christ: could each communicant lay open his impression, feeling, and understanding of these ceremonies, I believe a great diversity of form and coloring would be found, whilst all are vitally and essentially agreed. And thus it does always happen, whenever any one submits to the public eye his own impression of divine truth, he may express himself as

cautiously as he can, some fellow-christian will be shocked; he may speak as mildly and modestly as he can, some brethren in Christ will be offended; as moderately as he can, and yet some tender spirit will be wounded. Perhaps the reader or the hearer who feels any of these things, does not always know how deeply the preacher or the writer feels it too-how often the fear of man, or the love of man, would close the lips, or take away the pen, the spirit shrinking from the collision it anticipates. I have no authority to say what a preacher of the gospel feels; but if I may guess one thing by another, had he no impulse to obey but that of nature, were not a necessity laid on him to preach the gospel of Christ, he would shrink from the wounds he has to give and to receive, as much as the coward dreads the field of battle.

If I proceed with the subject I have entered upon-if I state what I understand by the Sacraments ordained by Christ himself; what I expect when I approach his holy table; what I mean, when I make use of the prescribed words, and what I believe and feel when the rite has been performed; I know that I shall cross the persuasion of many—I do not mean of the world, who hold not like precious faith with ourselves, that we expect of course, and intend no otherwise-but of those who are joined together in holy communion of the body and

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