« PreviousContinue »
Cephas, and I of Christ,” &c.* Here was schism without heresy; for in this case, the same pure doctrine was preached in each of the congregations; the preachers being all Apostolic men. The Christians, therefore, might have attended the ministry of any of these teachers; for a pure branch of the Christian Church was assembled under each of them. But their confining themselves to one particular teacher, and thereby making separate communions, which caused contentions in the Church, was that sint of schism, against which St. Paul thought it necessary to write to the Corinthians with such strength and decision.
To prevent this sin, which, it was foreseen, would be of fatal consequence to the peace and unity of the Church, St. Jerom tells us, one chosen from among the presbyters was placed in an office of superior dignity above his brethren, with the appropriate title of bishop; for the purpose of his being the centre of unity, and source of ecclesiastical government to all the particular Churches within his jurisdiction ; that, like the key-stone of an arch, he might prevent the several parts of it from falling away from each other. And on this ground the ancient rule of the Catholic Church was built, that there must be but one Church and one bishop in a city in one place; the several particular Churches in that place being considered as concentered under that one bishop. And the same
1 Cor. i. 12. † A sin which Dr. Edwards allows to be “ as destructive to the souls
men, as any sin whatever.”
observed, where the ved on this subject ; acare not members of
a particular Churches are though they sho Church under its bishop; communion ; a'
e centre of union to all the schism lies.
a respective diocese. guage, er
xiples at Corinth, who received Church a tete from Apostolic men, farid subTH
e government, were considered as an
sm, in attempting, from a prejudice ti
kulit teachers, to divide the Church into winmunions; those Christians, who have
separated from the communion of our valse Church, but have also openly renounced rerument, unless the word schism has lost
s original signification, must, a fortiori, be eved schismatics.
tu describing the true Church of Christ, we must scribe it by that, by which it is distinguished in the world as an ecclesiastical society, namely, by its Apostolic government; in the same manner as in describing any political society, we must describe it by the several branches of its executive government.
Now, although the preservation of the doctrine of the Gospel in one case, and the administration of the laws of the statute book in the other, were the two ends for which the government in Church and state were established; yet these two essential objects do not constitute the characteristic marks, by which the government in either case is distinguished. For, as the same excellent laws may be administered under different kinds of government; so the same doctrine may be taught in different
of Christians; from whence it follows, ither the laws on the one hand, nor the ine on the other, are of themselves sufficient, wstractedly considered, to determine the constitution either of the state or of the Church. Where the Church is, there the pure doctrine ought always to be found; and there, generally speaking, it will most certainly be found; but as the pure doctrine is sometimes found where the Church is not, therefore the pure doctrine does not constitute the only mark by which the Church is to be known.
The characteristic mark, then, by which the Church of Christ, as an ecclesiastical society, is distinguished in the world, is its Apostolic government.* Where this mark is not to be found, the visible. Church, according to the idea that has always prevailed on this subject, does not exist. And the reason why so much has been said at all times upon the necessity of Church communion,
and the evil consequences resulting from separation from it, is, because the government of the
Church, by which the unity of it is secured, is nécessary to the preservation of the essential object, for the promotion of which it was originally established. 1. From the foregoing premises, the difference between a corrupt Church, a schismatical Church, and a congregation not possessing the essentials to make it a Church, will, according to the old and established notions, be clearly ascertained. A
* Vide Preface to “ Guide,” page 29 ; and “ Guide," p. 30
corrupt Church is in possession of the essentials necessary to the being of a Church, though, in consequence of its corruption, communion with it may be dangerous and sinful. Such a Church is the present Church of Rome. Purge away its corruption, and it will become a sound Church; but with its corruption it is a true one, for the reason above given.
A schismatical Church is a Church that breaks off from communion with the Catholic Church, as the Novations and Donatists did of old. Under this head are also to be classed those congregations of Christians, assembled under an episcopal clergy, who maintain an independence on the bishop in whose diocese they are situated, and to whose government they ought to be under obedience. Such is the case with those episcopalian congregations in Scotland, if they may be so called; who, by breaking away from the centre of unity in their respective bishops, are thereby become schismatical; and, as such, would, in the primitive days of the Church, bave had the heaviest of ecclesiastical censures pronounced against them. My hearty desire to God, for my brethren in Scotland, is, that they may take this subject into serious consideration. Would to God that they would reflect upon the injury they are doing to the unity of the Christian Church in general, and to that of their own Church in partie cular; the purest Church, perhaps, this day in Christendom._Would that they would call to mind the memorable words of that primitive bishop and martyr, St. Ignatius“O ou gap Xp158 HOIV, XTO METO T8 ETIOXOTX 901:” and at the same time look forward to the account they will one day have to
give to that Head of the Church, whose commission they hold.
Bearing some resemblance to these independent congregations, are those places of public worship which the licentiousness of the present times have introduced among us ; where, though the Liturgy of the Church of England be made use of, both minister and people, by breaking away from all connexion with the bishop, are living in a state of schism. In such places, Sir, the service of the Church of England is not performed, as you say, in page 155, “ according to the rites of that Church;' for the rites of the Church of England require, that its service should be performed, not only by an episcopally-ordained minister, but also in a place subject to episcopal jurisdiction. In such extra episcopal places of Worship, to which I am now alluding, you may have the words of the Liturgy and the forms of the Church; but the service of the Church, according to the rites of the Church of England, you certainly have not, nor can have.
Every congregation of Christians, which is not formed according to the plan of government established by the Apostles, possesses not the essentials to make it a Church. It is, therefore, upon the authority of those canons to which you have appealed, not a true and lawful Church. The conclusion from the foregoing consideration shall be drawn in the words of Dean Sherlock, to whose discourse I would refer you for the complete handling of this important subject.
“ It is thought of late days, not only a very innocent and lawful thing, but the true Catholic