« PreviousContinue »
direct to the purpose, in the writings of St. Clement above-mentioned; where he says, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, that "the Apostles knowing of the Lord Jesus that contests would arise concerning the Episcopal name, (or order) and for this cause, having perfect fore-knowledge, (of these things) they did ordain those whom we have mentioned before; and moreover did establish the constitution, that other approved men should succeed them who died in their office and ministry."
Thus, then, upon the authority of St. Paul, who was called to be an Apostle by Jesus Christ, together with that of St. Clement, who was a bishop within forty years after our Lord's resurrection, and who, as living with the Apostles, must have been made acquainted with the constitution of the Church over which he was appointed to preside; supported by the consideration of that uniform system of government which has prevailed in the Church from the beginning, we are warranted in determining, that where we find the order of bishops, priests, and deacons regularly appointed, there we find the Church of Christ according to its original constitution; and without these (to make use of the words of St. Ignatius, who, it is to be observed, was the disciple of St. John) it is not I called a Church. "Let all,” says this holy man, "reverence the deacons as the ministers of Jesus Christ; and in like manner the bishop as Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father; the presbyters, as the senate of God, and college of Apostles; without these it is not called a Church."
From whence the obvious conclusion is, that the Church is not merely a number of people. agreeing in the same articles of faith, or in the same acts of religious worship; but it is, moreover, a society, holding one visible communion under the same divinely-instituted government; a society, not of man's but of Christ's forming; a society or spiritual incorporation, of which He is the head, and all individual Christians, who have been regularly admitted into it, the members. For the Church is not a creature of the fancy, deriving an imaginary existence from the whim and caprice of man, but a settled and permanent establishment, the work of Divine Wisdom. It is, moreover, not hid in a corner, that men need be at a loss to find it; but a visible society, possessed of those characteristic marks by which it may at all times be known. Like all other societies composed of fallible men, it has, indeed, been deformed by corruptions and abuses; but corruptions and abuses affect not the nature and constitution of the Church itself, but the parties only by whom they have been
To form a proper judgment, therefore, upon subject, recourse must be had to those records which contain an account of the original plan, upon which the Church was established by its Divine Founder. In them we find, that every figure under which it is described, has application, not to a confused multitude of men independent of each other, but to a regular society under an appointed government. It is a body having "many members," of which Christ is the head. It is a † Ephes. v. 23.
* Cor. xii. 20.
kingdom of which Christ is the king.* It is "a family," of which Christ is the master. It is 66 a building fitly framed together," "built upon the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone."|| It is the fold of sheep, of which Jesus Christ is the shepherd.§ All which several descriptions lead to the same general idea of association, order, and agreement, subsisting among the several members of the Church, considered as parts of the same body; in consequence of which they regularly discharge their respective offices, continuing in constant dependence upon the Head, from whence their power of life and action is derived.
Such, then, is the nature and constitution of the Church, as it was originally established by its Supreme Head; from whom the Apostles, and their successors the bishops, have derived their commission; a branch of that commission which Jesus Christ received from his Father; by virtue of which they challenge obedience from every member of the Christian Church, as to the stewards or chief officers in that spiritual society, over which they are authorised to preside. And such must be the conclusion upon this subject, unless we suppose either that the Apostles understood not the nature of the commission with which they were entrusted, or that for the sake of aggrandizing their own characters, they wilfully misrepresented it.
* Luke xxii. 29.
Ephes. ii. 21.
+ Ephes. iii. 15. Ephes. ii. 20. § John x. 14, 16.
THE circumstance of the Church being a society of Christ's forming, for the regular administration of the affairs of his kingdom, "for the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,"* points out the nature and quality of the sin of Schism.
The word translated Schism,† which in modern language scarce seems to have an appropriate idea annexed to it, is in the original derived from a verb, * Eph. iv. 12.
The word Schism (according to the learned Hammond) comes from the passive verb oxoa, which regularly signifies being cut, or divided; but yet the sin of schism being an action upon himself, not a passion from any other, it was of the nature of those passives which note reciprocal action, or passion; which St. Jude fully expresses by αποδιορίζοντες εαυτες, the title which
gives the grand Gnostick Schismatics, that they cut off or divide themselves from the church. Hammond, therefore, understands the passive verb, in this case, to be of the nature of the Hebrew Hithpael, which denotes reciprocal action; which he considers to be very useful to set down the true notion of schism, as it differs from all other things that border on it, particularly from excommunication, which is the cutting off others from the church; whereas St. Paul, speaking of the heretical Gnostics, which were schismatics too, saith that they were
which signifies to cut, divide, or separate; it must, therefore, relate to some body capable of being divided or separated. Upon reference to the first chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, we find that the Church is called the body, of which Christ is the head. "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ," saith the Apostle, "hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is his body."
The Church then, in the figurative language of Scripture, is the body of Christ. Upon further reference to the twelfth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, we find the same Apostle arguing, from the connection which subsists between the members of the natural body, to the necessity of a similar connection subsisting between the members of the spiritual body. That no schism, no division or separation, should take place in one body moré than in the other. "For," saith the Apostle,* "as the (natural) body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ, (or the Church of Christ, considered as that body, of which individual Christians are the members.) For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body.” And the intention of our being thus baptized into this one body, or Church of Christ, is, as the Apostlet elsewhere informs us, that we should " all come in
auтoxaτxxgilo. such as condemned and excommunicated themselves; which is as perfect an evidence of the reciprocal action or passion, as could be.-Hammond's Works, vol. ii. Answer to Schism disarmed; p. 69, 70.
* 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13.
+ Ephes. iv. 13, 14, et seq.