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vouchsafed to us on this subject, we should not speak so decidedly upon it as we now feel ourselves authorised to do.
But, perhaps, more information may be expected in this case than the Bible was designed to furnish. Divine revelation, it is to be observed, was not meant to gratify the curiosity, but to furnish information sufficient to establish the faith, and govern the practice, of the Christian professor. It is not to be supposed, that in the short history given by the Apostles, one thousandth part of the doctrine or instruction delivered by our Saviour to his disciples, could be recorded. St. John makes use of a strong expression, where he says, that if all things which Jesus did should be written, every one, the world itself could not contain the books that should be written ;* thereby giving us to understand, that the histories written by the Apostles, furnish but a very short abstract of our Saviour's life and conversation, by no means sufficient to qualify the reader to form a minute and circumstantial judgment, with respect to any particular transaction recorded.
Upon the subject before us, for instance, we have no information but what is derived from the mere recital of the fact, that our Saviour did, after his resurrection, deliver a commission to his eleven disciples, relative to the government of his Church. The manner in which this commission was to be carried into effect, is to be ascertained by the subsequent practice of the Apostles; which doubtless conformed to the direction they had received from their Divine Master. For it is not to be supposed
* John xxi. 25.
that our Saviour would fail to accompany the deli-
Indeed, as the economy of man's salvation forms one complete whole, it is but to be expected, that there should be an uniformity in its several parts; although the modern Christian, by confining his attention to one particular part of the Divine dispensation, is thereby unqualified to trace the resemblance between them.
If God, then, thought proper Himself to regulate the service of the Jewish Church, by the express appointment of those who were to bear
* Acts i. 3.
office in it, it is reasonable to suppose, that He would adopt a similar plan in the Christian Church. Nor is it to be imagined, that He who did all things with regularity and order; who in his own person paid a delicate regard to the ordinances of the old dispensation, which were to be done away; should leave the affairs of his new Church only, in an irregular and disorderly condition.
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The history of the Christian Church proves that He has not done so; it being taken for granted, that the practice of the Apostles, in the execution of their commission, will be admitted as autho rity sufficient to establish this fact. The Apostles, we are told, did not enter upon the discharge of their commission, till they had received the promise of the Father, in the gift of the Holy Ghost. They were commanded to tarry in Jerusalem till they were endued with power from on high.* Which power the Apostles actually received at the subsequent day of Pentecost; when, according to our Saviour's promise, the Holy Ghost visibly descended upon them, as their previous qualification for the discharge of their high office. What form of government, therefore, the Apostles agreed to establish in the Church, if not expressly com municated to them by Christ in person, must be considered as established under the directions of the Holy Spirit.
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Thus, Apostolical practice, with respect to the government of the Church, well ascertained, must in this matter be equivalent to Apostolic precept with respect to the doctrine of it; because the
* Luke xxiv. 49.
Holy Spirit, by whom the Apostles were directed, and whose office it was to teach them all things necessary to the well-being of the Christian Church, would not lead them into error in one case more than in the other.
What that form of government was, we shall be at no loss to determine, if we are disposed to enquire fairly into the subject. Indeed, the constitution of the Christian Church, as established by the Apostles, may be considered to be sufficiently notorious from their writings, to render particular proof on the subject unnecessary.
But did the conclusion upon this matter stand upon less firm ground than it really does, or were the language of Scripture in this case less clear than it is, the practice of the primitive Church furnishes such a comment upon it as must, we should think, determine the judgment of every unprejudiced man.
It is a known axiom, that every law is best explained by the subsequent practice. Let this maxim be applied in the present case.
"Be ye followers of me, (says St. Paul, in his directions to the Church at Corinth) even as I also am of Christ. Now I pray you, brethren, that you remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I have delivered them to you.' 99* To every careful reader of the New Testament, it will evidently appear, that the Apostles were the followers of Christ in the administration of his kingdom on earth; no act of power being done by our Lord in the flesh, which was not, at least
1 Cor. xi. 1, 2.
in some degree, exercised by the Apostles after