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The Papal And
Hierarchial System

Compared With The Religion Of The New Testament

Joseph John Gurney

Second Edition

(Public Domain)


"A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land. The Prophets prophecy falsely, and the Priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so; and what will ye do in the end thereof." Jer. v. 30,31.

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WHEN I speak of the Papal and Hierarchical system, I do not mean to confine either my own view or that of my readers, to the Church of Rome. I speak rather of the system which places man under the rule of man, in matters of religion the laity, more particularly, under the rule of the clergy; so that human wisdom and authority are found, in various degrees, to usurp the place of pure, divine truth. So also by the religion of the New Testament, I mean the religion of Him of whom the book testifies even Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man; who has bought us with his blood, who is the sole High Priest of our profession, who rules the universal church by his Spirit, and who will come again in glory, to render unto every man according to his works.

The Greek church has its hierarchy under the supreme government of a patriarch. The episcopacy of the Anglican church is of a far less superstitious character; yet it presents to our view a fabric of the same kind, under the rule or headship of a temporal monarch. The Scotch kirk is governed by its synod of elders, under the direction of a Moderator; the Methodists, by a similar council, composed of their ordained ministers; and there are few Christian sects which are destitute of some form or other of ecclesiastical domination. But it is in Rome that we are to seek for the system of man's authority over man, in religion, carried out into its full and legitimate results. The Romish church, seated in temporal as well as spiritual authority upon her seven hills, professes to spread her arms over the whole earth; she arranges her hosts of ecclesiastical soldiers with a perfect precision; she rejoices in her army of monks, friars, and priests, married only to herself; she clothes her hierarchy in garments of beauty, and hesitates not to claim and usurp the sacerdotal office. "Absolute and implicit obedience to superiors," is the motto inscribed on her whole polity; and while she boasts herself in her long array of general councils, her true rest is in the never-dying central authority of her Pope, the successor of the chief of the apostles, the vicar and visible representative of Jesus Christ.

I propose in the following treatise, to take an account of some of the principal features which mark the views and practices of the church of Rome, and to contrast them with what I believe to be pure Christianity; and in so doing I shall probably have to disclaim many things which are far from being exclusively Romish. These are still adhered to by various classes of believers by every one in its own way and measure; but they have nevertheless an affinity to the Papal and Hierarchical system, in that large sense of the terms, to which I have already adverted.

To this task I venture to apply myself for the truth's sake, but without the least feeling of jealousy or ill-will towards any denomination of my fellow believers. I rejoice in the conviction that there are many vital Christians among all the orthodox denominations, Roman Catholics included, who are drinking of the same Spirit; and who, therefore, even though separated from each other in place or circumstances, are "baptized" by that "one Spirit, into one body." And possibly there may be some who disclaim all sectarian distinctions, who nevertheless do truly form a part of the mystical body of Christ. As I am far from confining my view of antichrist to any one denomination of Christians (I believe antichrist may be found lurking in almost every existing sect) so I do not hesitate to allow that under a vast variety of names and conditions, Christ has a people of his own, who, as they abide in the faith and patience of the saints, "shall never perish," neither shall any man pluck them out of his hands.

I beg it may be understood that I select the Romish church in this discussion, because I consider her to present the extreme case of the dependence of man on man, in the things of God a dependence which I hold to be the main cause of the extent of her departure from simple Christianity. I am well aware that many of the distinctive errors of that church are opposed and rejected by all the Protestant communities; nevertheless, we ought all to look to ourselves, lest any thing of the same leaven should be found lurking within our own borders. "Know ye not," said the apostle to the Corinthian church, and by implication to all Christians in every age, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."


Title Page


On The Holy Scriptures . . p1

On Anti-Christ, The Man Of Sin . . p37

On The Usurpation Of Temporal Power By The Professing Church Of Christ . . p54

On The Spiritual Power Of The Priesthood . . p73

On Divine Worship . . p106

On The Christian Ministry . .p134

On The Sacraments p165

On Justification And Santification . . p220


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Chapter 1



No ONE who has investigated the subject can seriously entertain the notion that the canon of Scripture has been arbitrarily fixed by the authority of man. When our Lord Jesus Christ was upon earth, as a teacher and preacher amongst the Jews, it was his constant practice to refer to those books which were regarded by that people to be divine; and while he never failed to speak of them as such, he made no distinction between one book and another, as it relates to their authority. The p2 law, containing the five books of Moses, the Prophets, including the historical books as well as the major and minor Prophets, from Joshua to Malachi and the Psalms, or Hagiographa, comprising the book of Job, the Psalms of David and others, and all the works of Solomon, were alike sacred in his view - an indivisible collection, from which nothing might be taken, and to which nothing might be added, except from the same immediate and plenary inspiration. This collection of writings all in the Hebrew language, and all studiously preserved among the Jews from ancient times and guarded, since the coming of Christ, both by Jews and Christians is unquestionably the same as that which is now in our hands, and which is universally known and accepted as constituting the Old Testament, These are the writings, to the exclusion of all others, to which the apostle Paul alludes, when he says to Timothy, "From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus all Scripture is given by inspiration of God," &c.

The writings which comprise the New Testament are individually established to be the genuine p3 work of the apostles and their companions, and therefore of divine authority, by a variety of historical, critical, and internal proofs, which have satisfied not merely the wisdom of the hierarchy, but the good sense of the world. And now at the end of about eighteen centuries from the time when these works were written, there is less dispute among men, respecting the canon of the New Testament, than in any preceding age of the church. Under the gracious superintendence of a good Providence, the truth of that canon has been established on so broad a basis, both of learning and experience, as to be incapable of being ever again shaken. So early as in the days of Eusebius (A.D. 315), the four gospels, the book of Acts, the thirteen epistles of Paul which bear his name, and the first epistles of John and Peter, i. e. about five-sixths of the whole volume, (very generally diffused as these writings were, and freely read by all descriptions of people) were "universally acknowledged" as genuine compositions and Holy Scripture. Some persons, indeed, in those days, doubted the authenticity of the remaining books, viz. the second epistle of Peter, the second and third epistles of John, the epistles p4 of James and Jude, and the Revelation; while some little shade was thrown over the epistle to the Hebrews, by the uncertainty of the question, whether it was written by Paul.

But all these doubts have long since been cleared away in the public mind of Christendom. It is now generally understood, that the weight of evidence in favour of the Pauline origin of that epistle is not to be resisted. In the mean time, its apostolic date is unquestionable; and the scriptural wisdom and efficacy, both of this and the other excepted books, as contrasted with many spurious productions of the first, second, and third centuries false gospels, false epistles, and false visions are plainly such as proclaim them to be, like the other Scriptures, the work of God, given forth by inspiration, and stamped with the seal of direct divine authority.

Let it be clearly understood, that in acknowledging the list of inspired books, both of the Old and New Testament, we do not follow the authority of any particular church, or of any ecclesiastical council. With regard to the Old Testament, we follow the example, and depend on the authority, of Jesus Christ himself and his apostles. With p5 respect to the New Testament, we abide in the first place, by its own testimony to the inspiration of its authors. Secondly, we follow the general consent of the Christian public, gradually developing itself from the first century downward; fixed with wonderful unanimity by the end of the fourth century; and since that period, unshaken by all the storms of infidelity, and confirmed, not only by the labours of a multitude of critics, but by the common judgment and feeling of mankind.

There are few circumstances for which the friends of Christianity ought to be more grateful than the preservation of the text of Holy Scripture. We will not call it miraculous, but we may truly describe it as the special provision of an everwatchful Providence. Who was it that raised up the textual doctors among the Jews, who devoted their livelong hours to arranging the points and accents, counting the letters, and fixing the middle words of the several books of Hebrew Scripture? To whom are we to return thanks for the following important facts 1; that a most accurate version of the New Testament was made into Syriac, so early as the second, or probably the first century; p6 and that other versions almost equally exact soon followed; 2; that the early fathers of the church, even when animated with little better than controversial zeal, were induced to rifle the whole volume for quotations, which now, in their abundance and uniformity, form one principal criterion for the settlement of the text; and 3; that copies of this sacred book were multiplied in every direction with so little inaccuracy? Surely we have to thank Him who is the Holy Head of his own church, and whose gracious will it was to bestow upon her a divinely authorized record of doctrines to be believed, and duties to be performed, which should remain unimpaired and indestructible to the end of time. It would be difficult to calculate the amount of learning and industry which have been applied to the investigation and settlement of the text of Scripture; viz. in the rigid and careful application of the three criteria now mentioned versions, quotations by the fathers, and manuscript copies; and certainly the Kennicotts and De Rossis, as it regards the Hebrew books; and the Mills, Wetsteins, Griesbachs, &c., as it relates to the Greek Testament, have not laboured in vain. So extensively and p7 completely sifted have been the various authorities which apply to the subject, that we may consider ourselves to have now arrived at the final result; and what is it? Nothing less than this that both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures are cleared from every cloud of doubt; that from amidst a vast multitude of various readings of little importance, they have come forth uninjured, because essentially unaltered that they have not been deprived of a single historical fact, of a single doctrinal truth, of a single moral precept.

When Paul declared that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God," he made no distinctions between the different kinds of writing of which the Old Testament is composed. Independently of all considerations respecting the writers their individual character or condition of mind, or the degree of consciousness which they severally enjoyed of a divine influence he simply avers that the writings which they produced were "given by inspiration of God," a view of the subject which is fully substantiated by the example and authority of our Saviour himself. We cannot for a moment doubt that the inspiration of the apostles and evangelists had the same result; and that p8 their works also whether historical, prophetical, or didactic are, like the books of the Old Testament, all divine, and all equal in point of authority. It is matter of satisfaction and thankfulness, that the attempts which have been made by many modern critics to weaken the scriptural view of the inspiration of Scripture itself, the distinctions which some have drawn between part and part, and the notion that inspiration is more or less effective according to the nature of the subject in hand have very much disappeared. All such wire-drawing has proved itself to be a failure; and Christians in the nineteenth century are evidently brought to a confirmed agreement that the Holy Scriptures, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation the actual writings the bulk, substance, and totality of the book are, as the early Quakers used often to express themselves, the WORDS OF GOD.[1]

The divine origin of the Old and New Testament is a point on which the Roman Catholics, and all the orthodox denominations of Protestants, are (as far as I know) in full accordance. I am not p9 aware that infidelity on this subject has ever been encouraged by the authority of the See of Rome; but it has often sprung up, as the practical consequence of the superstitious additions which have been made under that authority purely human as it is to the fabric of scriptural truth. These additions have arisen, as a natural consequence, from those which the Romish Church has made, in her own strength and wisdom, to the Scripture themselves.

That church, in the first place, has added to the Old Testament a large proportion of the Apocryphal books, not merely as works tending to edification, but as actually divine, and as forming part of their canon.[2] Here then is a ground on which the hierarchy of Rome has found an opportunity of deriving or supporting doctrinal opinions, from a source additional to that of simple, authenticated Scripture.

But a far more dangerous addition to this storehouse of truth has been made under the undefined and comprehensive head of Tradition. Under p10 this head may be classed first, the voluminous writings of the ecclesiastical fathers during the first six centuries after Christ, containing a variety of strange notions and customs, wholly beyond the scope and limits of Scripture, which have been gradually augmented in their course, and have ultimately found an undisturbed seat in the bosom of the Romish Church. Nor can it be denied that a divine authority, practically tantamount to that of Scripture, has often been claimed, among the members of that communion, for these writings very much as the Jews have regarded such an authority as belonging to that ocean of fables, the Talmud. In addition, however, to this new and most cumbrous litera scripta, is the ORAL TRADITION handed down from age to age from one generation of priests to another and even declared by the adherents of the Roman Pontiff, to be of equal authority, that is, to be equally binding on the consciences of all men, with the contents of Holy Scripture itself.

This vast item of tradition gives to the Romish church an undefined scope for superstitious additions, both to the creed and practices enjoined in the New Testament. In the mean time, what p11 becomes of the Holy Scriptures themselves? They are, according to the principles of that church, in the keeping of the hierarchy who alone are regarded as holding the true keys to their meaning alone gifted of God for the purpose of interpreting them. So far therefore, as any parts of them are laid open to the people, it is still with the virtual understanding, that for the interpretation of that which they read, they must depend, not on their own free judgment, under a divine influence, but on the teaching of their priests, and on the decision of bishops, popes, and councils. But alas! how small has been the extent to which these keepers of the words of the Lord have permitted them to be circulated! How studiously were the Scriptures retained for many centuries in tongues which the unlearned could not read, and how uniformly has the general fact developed itself, that where the papal system prevails, there the Scriptures are not! Exist in the libraries of the priest they may; but where have they been found in the hands of the people? Since the clergy alone are supposed to have the faculty of understanding them, so it follows that the clergy alone may safely possess or read them. Whatever is p12 at any time given to the people, must be doled out in such portions, and with such oral or written additions, as their spiritual lords may deem proper.

With these views and practices, we now proceed to contrast what we apprehend to be simple truth even the truth of God with regard to this great subject. Great indeed it is, because fundamental. It is to the foundation on which alone the church is built, that the Scriptures lead us; "Search the Scriptures," cried Jesus to the Jews, "for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of ME."

The last verses of the sacred volume, although referring to the Book of Revelation in particular, develop a principle which must surely be applicable to the whole divine record namely, that nothing can be added to the words of the Most High, as therein written, and nothing taken away from them, without involving those who so offend, in the sin of presumption, and in awful peril to their souls. We do not indeed mean to assert that God will make no addition to the pages of Scripture. We pretend not to dive into his hidden designs in this or any other respect; but p13 we know that hitherto he has not done so, and when we take into view the wonderful completeness of the book, we have strong reason to believe that he never will do so. In the mean time, man, on his own authority and wisdom, must abstain from all tampering with the Book of the Lord. He must take nothing from it, lest his own name should be taken out of the book of life; he must add nothing to it, lest the Lord should add unto him "the plagues" which are appointed for those who transgress his will, and rebel against his government. "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." The principle here set forth is, with equal force, insisted on in the Old Testament, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you:" Deut. iv. 2. "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, p14 nor diminish from it;" xii. 32. "Every word of God is pure add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and THOU BE FOUND A LIAR:" Prov. xxx. 5, 6.

I am not one of those who entertain violent prejudices against the Apocrypha, nor should I feel uneasy in contributing to those Bible Societies on the continent of Europe, which circulate the sacred volume with that addition it being understood that these ancient books are to be read, not as divine, but simply for general instruction and edification. The fact is, that they vary exceedingly in their character some of them contain puerile stories others record true history; parts are bombastical and imaginative; other parts so solid and instructive, that we may surely conclude that the touches of divine grace were resting upon the writers a remark which particularly applies to the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus. But none of these books were written in Hebrew; they are the production of the last century, or perhaps the last two centuries before the Christian era, when the Hellenistic language, in which they were written, was prevalent in Egypt and Syria, and when the prophetic gift seems to have scarcely p15 existed among the degenerate children of Israel;[3] they were never acknowledged by the Jews as of divine authority, or included in their canon; and are not once quoted in the New Testament, either by our Saviour or his apostles. "We must therefore conclude, that it is on the whole much safer to exclude them from the Bibles which we read in our families, and circulate in the world; but whether we so exclude them or not, one thing is certain that their contents cannot be fairly cited as binding and conclusive, in support of Purgatory or any other doctrine. Those who thus cite them are guilty of adding to the words of the Lord, and are in danger of being "found liars:" see Prov. xxx. 6.

But if it is unsafe to add these ancient Hellenistic books to the Old Testament, what must be the peril to the cause of truth, of ascribing divine authority to the fathers of the first six centuries, whose multitudinous writings the world cannot contain (in the sense of reading, understanding, and digesting them) and who have been the p16 instruments of palming upon the church a vast mass of superstitions, to which the religion of Jesus Christ gives no countenance! These fathers, various as they are in point of talent, character, and mode of writing, do not appear ever to have claimed a scriptural authority for their own works; and any one who will take the trouble of comparing them with the New Testament, will soon find that in the simplicity, brevity, comprehensiveness, and weight of the latter, as contrasted with the profuseness, bombast, and jejuneness of the former, we are furnished with a powerful evidence of the divine origin of the writings which are really sacred I mean those of the New Testament; while the others, so far as relates to the authoritative settlement of doctrine and practice in the church, may be safely scattered to the winds, or for ever sleep, unheeded, on the shelf of the schoolman.

Yet I am far from denying that parts of these works are worthy of an attentive perusal, and that much advantage may arise from observing the sense in which the fathers generally Greeks themselves were accustomed to cite the words of the Greek Testament: their writings afford important p17 critical aids, and some sound theological instruction; but that they do not flow forth from the well of inspiration, themselves afford abundant internal evidence. Those who are the most accustomed to dive into them, will be the best prepared to acknowledge, that whatever of piety and truth any of them may breathe, (so far as they are conformed to the doctrines and precepts of Scripture,) they are, as a whole, undoubted part and parcel of the cumbrous, complex works of man!

If we disclaim the addition to the Bible of the works of the fathers, which, with all their faults, are litera scripta, and therefore liable to the check of a close scriptural scrutiny, how much more evidently does it become us to make a Christian stand against that undefined and undefinable something which glides down, unperceived in its course, (though manifested in its unwholesome fruits,) from generation to generation, from spiritual father to spiritual son to the end of time — I mean oral tradition!" The truth and discipline of the Catholic church are comprehended both in the sacred books, and in the traditions which have been received from the mouth of Jesus Christ himself, p18 or of his apostles, and which have been preserved and transmitted to us by an uninterrupted chain and succession." So declared the Council of Trent early in the sixteenth century, and so aver the true friends of the Papal system (under whatsoever guise or profession they may be acting) in the present day.

In order to take a just view of this subject, we must first examine the passages of Scripture which speak of tradition in a favourable point of view. We know that our Saviour communicated many things to his disciples in private, which they were afterwards to declare upon the house-top; and the apostles committed the doctrine which they preached, to their children and followers in the truth. Thus Paul not unfrequently alludes to those matters which he had himself received of the Lord, by divine inspiration, and which he had delivered to the churches; and sometimes he calls them by the name of traditions.* "Now I praise you, brethren," said he to the Corinthian Christians, "that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances (in the margin, as in the p19 Greek, traditions) as I delivered them to you:" 1 Cor. xi. 1. Again, to the Thessalonians, "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle:"

2 Thess. ii. lo; comp. iii. 6. By "traditions," in these and other passages i.e. matters handed down or delivered to the churches the apostle evidently denotes the doctrines and precepts of Christianity.

These were the truths which he and his brethren had proclaimed, as on the house-tops, for the conversion and edification of the people. "God be thanked," says he, "that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed[4] from the heart, that form of doctrine which was delivered you," Rom. vi. 17; and again, to the Corinthians, "Moreover p20 brethren I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain; for I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures:" 1 Cor. xv. 1 4.

It was of the highest importance that these precious truths should be handed down from age to age, incorrupt and uninjured. No wonder then that the same apostle should say to one of his gifted followers, "Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called," 1 Tim. vi. 20; and again, "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; and the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also:" 2 Tim. ii. 1, 2.

The trust committed to Timothy was, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; the truths of that gospel were,

p21 "the things" which he had heard from the lips of Paul before many witnesses, and which it was to be his high duty to commit, in his turn, to other faithful brethren, who might be enabled still further to disseminate the joyful tidings. On a calm review of these several passages, it is surely very clear that they relate to communications which were open, public, and notorious. They evidently contain no allusion whatsoever to the secret, oral handing down of certain articles in religion, besides those which are contained in Scripture. Rather do they relate to that mighty plan of redemption and salvation, in all its parts, which formed the subject of our Saviour's instructions to his apostles, and of their public teaching and preaching; and of which a complete record, a record requiring no addition was gradually formed, in those days, through the special providence of God, and is now to be found, exact and uninjured, in the volume of the New Testament. Thus are we placed in possession of a test, by which all doctrines and practices in the church, from age to age, may be safely tried; and not only are we bound by the most sacred obligations to reject whatsoever is contrary to this test, p22 but no man living, or any set of men, can have any right to impose upon us any articles of belief, or principles of action, which are not contained in the volume of inspiration. "To the law and to the testimony," may the Christian say in every age of the church, "if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them:" Isa. vii. 20.

So far then as tradition is favourably mentioned by the apostles, it is in effect, identical with Scripture. But no sooner does it exceed this holy limit, than it becomes intangible and imponderable. It has neither shape nor substance, and being wholly destitute of any evidence of a divine origin, it soon follows the course of this world, and becomes the ready instrument of human error and pollution.

The history of the Jews furnishes us with an example precisely in point. Not content with the written law of the Lord, they invented the oral law, which they declared to have been given forth from God to Moses, simultaneously with the written code. They alleged that Moses delivered this law, by word of mouth, to the elders of the people, and that by these it was transmitted, from generation to generation of the spiritual guides and rulers of p23 Israel. Such were the pretensions of the Scribes and Pharisees at the Christian era. Soon after that period, this oral law was reduced to writing in the work, called the Mishna which with the Gemara, or commentary of one set of doctors, forms the Talmud of Jerusalem, and with that of another school of Rabbins, the Talmud of Babylon. Although these Talmuds are regarded by the Jews of modern times, as of an authority equal to that of Scripture itself, it is certain that they abound in the most puerile absurdities; and when tried by the test of actual Scripture, are found to be, in general, unworthy of support. It was doubtless to this oral law that the apostle Peter referred, when he spoke of "the vain conversation" which the Jews "received by tradition from their fathers," (1 Pet, i. 18;) and Paul speaks of the same tissue of error and falsehood, when he warns the Colossian church against the arts of their Judaizing teachers "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ;" Col. ii. 8.

And what was the language of our Saviour himself p24 respecting these traditions, which the Jews had presumed to add to their Holy Scriptures, as of equal authority, because originating as was supposed, with God himself? Did he afford them the least degree of countenance or support? Far otherwise he freely spake of them as the mere invention of man, and even as subversive of the true law of the Lord. "Then came to Jesus, Scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God BY YOUR TRADITION? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother, &c. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, (or temple-offering) by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, and honour not his father and his mother, (he shall be free.) THUS HAVE YOU MADE THE COMMANDMENT OF GOD OF NONE EFFECT BY YOUR TRADITION. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophecy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but p25 their heart is far from me. But IN VAIN do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the COMMANDMENTS OF MEN:" Matt. xv. 1 9.

This passage is of the most definite character, and overturns the very principle of oral additions to the written law of God. A similar recital is given in the gospel of Mark, describing the traditions of the Jews as relating to a variety of ceremonial particulars of the most trifling character, and as a base substitute for the moral law. "Laying aside the commandment of God," says the Lord Jesus in that gospel, "ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups; and many other such like things ye do. Full well ye REJECT THE COMMANDMENT OF GOD THAT YE MAY KEEP YOUR OWN TRADITION:" Mark vii. 8, 9. Human nature is the same in every age; it is far too prone to error and deceit, to be intrusted with the oral handing down of doctrines and precepts, without the test, the check, the security, of Scripture. The infallible consequence of such a system is, that the doctrines and commandments of men gradually usurp the place of the revealed will and truth of God. Errors of the most serious character p26 pervade the professing church; vital religion gives way to countless forms and ceremonies, and the motto which the Lord's professing servants wear on their foreheads, is no longer Holiness, but Superstition.

It is now, I hope, sufficiently clear to the candid reader, that the additions which have been made to Holy Writ, under the influence of the Papal system, are destitute of divine authority, and while they open a door for error, have an obvious tendency to lower the character of the Christian religion, and to lessen its efficacy. These remarks are, to a certain extent, applicable to the Apocrypha due allowance being made for the wisdom and piety of some of its contents; they bear with far greater force on the written works of the ecclesiastical fathers; but above all, they are unquestionably true of oral tradition. Regarding these points as settled, we will advance to the question, What use, are we, on scriptural principles, permitted and bound to make of the Scriptures themselves?

Are we to commit them to the hands of a hierarchy, to be kept under its key, subjected to its sole interpretation, and doled out in fragments to the people, in such a measure, and on such occasions, p27 as the priesthood may deem advisable! or are we rather to regard this precious gift of God, as being free as the air which we breathe, to be disseminated, without hesitation or reserve, among the whole family of man? Is that blessed book, which contains a full revelation of divine truth, and of the will of God towards man, to be concealed from the fallen race on which that revelation has been bestowed; or is it to be freely opened, and read, and considered, by people as well as priest? Is it the peculiar possession of the clergy of the church of Rome, or of the whole body of the church universal?

It seems strange that any need should arise, in the present day, for the consideration of such questions as these. Yet it cannot be denied that very narrow and dangerous views, plainly tending to the withdrawal and concealment of Scripture, have of late been obtruded on the public, from unexpected quarters; and Christians are again driven to Scripture itself, in order that they may be fully assured in what manner, and to what extent, the sacred volume is to be used among the rational children of God.

Let us then, in the first place, consider the subject p28 as it relates to the Old Testament. In what way did our Saviour and his apostles make their appeals to it? Always in such a way as to mark it as divine; always in such a way also, as to shew that it was open to the inspection and consideration of all whom they addressed the common property of the people of God, and indeed of mankind in general.

The law and the prophets were publicly read in the synagogues every sabbath day, not only in the Hebrew tongue, which was then understood by the learned alone, but in the Chaldaic dialect, which was spoken by the people at large. This part of the synagogue worship was fully sanctioned by our Lord, who sometimes acted as public reader on these occasions. So also, in his own discourses, (whether in the synagogues, or on the mountain's brow, or by the way side, and whether he was addressing his own disciples, or the scribes and Pharisees, or the people in general) he made his appeals without the smallest reserve or hesitation to the Scriptures of the Old Testament. He said, "Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of me." The proofs which they contained of his own divine mission were p29 open to the examination of all men, and he was accustomed to adduce them on the ground of their being so. On two occasions, he explained to his disciples the things which were written respecting himself, in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms or, in other words, in the whole of the Old Testament, of which these were, at that time, the recognized divisions. He never thought of holding back any part of the sacred treasure. He used the whole of it in its true character of the free gift of the God of light, to a dark and fallen world.

Just similar was the practice of the evangelists and apostles. Whether they were addressing the Jews or the Gentiles, individuals or bodies of men, particular churches, or the whole society of believers who were scattered abroad, they never hesitated to appeal to Holy Scripture, as an authority binding upon all the common property of all. The Bereans were described as more noble than the people of Thessalonica, because they searched the Scriptures daily, that they might know whether the things which Paul declared were indeed the truth. The views of that apostle on the present subject, were of the most comprehensive character. When p30 he spoke of the use as well as authority of the sacred volume, he excepted no part of the book itself; and when he mentioned the effect which it was intended to produce, he excluded from its operation no part of mankind. "WHATSOEVER THINGS were written aforetime," said he to the Romans, "were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope," Rom. xv. 4; and again to Timothy, "ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is PROFITABLE for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness:" 2 Tim. iii. 16. 17. These are benefits of which all mankind stand in need, even as they stand in need of the gospel itself. Therefore the Scriptures, which contain the gospel, are intended for all men. "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, (according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the SCRIPTURES OF THE PROPHETS, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, MADE KNOWN TO ALL NATIONS for the obedience of faith,) p31 to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever, Amen:" Rom. xvi. 25 27.

On the great day of Pentecost, when the miraculous gift of tongues was poured forth upon the infant church, "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in parts of Lybia about Gyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes, Cretes and Arabians" ALL THESE heard, in their own tongues, the wonderful works of God ALL THESE listened to the apostles and their brethren, while they adduced their proofs from the Old Testament, that Jesus was the Christ. This marvellous display of the riches of the bounty and liberality of God, in spiritual things, sanctions the great principle of the universal diffusion of Scripture, and of the free translation of it into all languages; that thus "according to the commandment of the everlasting God," the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the great mystery of redemption may be made known, on his own authority, to the whole family of man.

The principles which are thus plainly recognized by our Saviour and his immediate followers, respecting p32 the use of the Old Testament, bear with redoubled force on the New Testament itself. The Old Testament was laid open not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles, chiefly because of its testimony to Christ; and every one knows that it is this very testimony, which forms the main subject of the four Gospels, the book of Acts, the apostolic Epistles, and the Revelation. Most of these sacred books were addressed to public bodies such as the churches of Rome, Corinth, &c.; or to the universal church; or (as is the case with the gospels in effect) to mankind at large; and even the few epistles inscribed to individuals, are full of instruction suited to the many. Nothing of reserve, nothing of privacy, is indicated in any of these writings. They were not committed as a private treasure to the clergy, but as a public gift, to the church and to mankind.

For the most part, the contents of these writings are simple, explicit, and intelligible; and if in the epistles of Paul, as in some other parts of Scripture, there are " some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned (or rather indocile) and unstable

p33 wrest unto their own destruction;"[5] this was equally true of the discourses of our Lord himself, by some of which the Jews were offended, because they contained "hard sayings." So also the apostles, in their character of preachers, were a savour of death unto death to some, as well as of life unto life to others. Indeed it is the inherent character of divine truth, that it should often have this operation in a dark, perverted, and fallen world. Nevertheless, the truth (mysterious as it is to the indocile and unstable) must go forth with- out reserve all the world over and so must the Scriptures which contain it.

The Apocalypse is by far the most obscure and mysterious part of the New Testament. Yet it was addressed not only to the angels of the seven churches, but to the seven churches themselves, (Rev. i. 4) and it is prefaced by this truly anti-Romish motto — a motto in which all men have their part — "BLESSED is HE THAT READETH, and they that HEAR the words of this prophecy, and keep these things which are written therein; for the time is at hand!"

It is always to be kept in view, that amidst all the p34 variety of information and instruction contained in the Holy Scriptures, its main purpose, from Genesis to Revelation, is to testify of Christ. The words of the Most High, written in the sacred volume, are still found to point in various ways and forms by the shadows of the law, by the types of the history, by the predictions of the prophets, by the narrations of the evangelists, by the doctrines of the apostles, by the figures of the Apocalypse to Him who is the WORD. They reveal and portray Him who was with God in the beginning, by whom God made the worlds, who was incarnate in the flesh, died for our offences, rose again for our justification, ascended up on high, reigns above in glory, and will come again to judge the quick and the dead. The words which the apostle John applied to his own gospel, are truly descriptive of the Scriptures as a whole "These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name: John xx. 31. Now the Son of God was bestowed on the whole world; "God so loved THE WORLD that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life:" John iii. 16. p35 Christ was the "propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD:" 1 John ii. 2. Thus it appears that all men, the world over, have to do with Him of whom the Scriptures testify, and whom they are intended to make known. All men, therefore, have their part in these Scriptures, just as they have it in the gospel which they contain, and which is to be preached to every creature. " God would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of his truth." Therefore all men are invited to possess, read, know, and understand those writings, which are able to make us "WISE unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus:" 2 Tim. iii. 15.

It may be hoped, that the scriptural view here taken of the intended use and universal application of the Holy Scriptures, will be found to accord with the best judgment of all who love the truth as it is in Jesus, and who long and pray for its universal diffusion. But what are we to say of the interpretation of the book? Are all men to explain it according to their own wisdom and liking? Certainly not; but all men are invited to p36 read and consider it, for themselves, in a devout and humble disposition, and in reverent dependence on the illumination and teaching of God's Holy Spirit. The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost in his peculiar character of Interpreter or of Him who takes of the things of Christ, and shows them to his disciples, (John xvi. 14,) is bestowed not on the apostles alone, but on the servants of Christ in every age; and not on the hierarchy or clergy alone, but on the church universal on the whole people of God.

The laws of grammar and philology, and the science of exegesis, in all its branches, are open to all mankind, and have actually led to the pouring in of so much light on Scripture, as very much to fix its meaning, for the permanent benefit of our race. In the mean time the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who holds the key of David, is still pleased to "OPEN THE HEARTS" of his followers, that they may understand the Scriptures spiritually and savingly, and may thus find their pardon and cure, their peace and deliverance, their full and final rest in HIM.

[1] Footnote:
See an excellent work by Gaussin, entitled "Theopneustie," 1 vol. 8vo.
[2] Footnote:
The Council of Trent included in their canon the books of Tobias, Judith, Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus.
[3] Footnote:
Unless indeed some of them may be regarded as of a still later date.
[4] Footnote:
Or rather, "that although ye were the servants of sin, yet ye have obeyed," &c.
[5] Footnote:
2 Pet. iii. 16.

To: Table of CONTENTS

Chapter 2



"LITTLE children, it is the last time, and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time.... He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son:" 1 John ii. 18, 22. Again, this apostle says, "every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that Spirit of antichrist whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world:" iv. 3. This last testimony to the work and character of antichrist, is repeated in his second epistle, "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist:" 2 John 7.


It is clear, from these passages, that the term antichrist is of very general application, as descriptive of that spirit among men which rebels against the dominion of the Son of God, invents false doctrine, and corrupts good manners. Such was the spirit of those spots in the believers' feasts of charity, of whom the apostles Peter and Jude speak in their epistles "clouds without water, carried about of winds, trees whose fruit withereth,.... raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame, wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever;" Jude 12, 13; comp. 2 Pet. ii. 10-22. It appears that these sons of error and dissipation professed a peculiar degree of sanctity—" speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats," &c.

There can be no doubt that even in apostolic times the seeds of heresy and corruption were sown in the church, and that afterwards, these seeds produced a vast and varied crop of bitterness, unbelief, and sin. Here it ought to be confessed, that except in the articles of forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats, p39 there is nothing in these descriptions, which bears, with any precise force, on the papal and hierarchical system. But it is evident that in the process of time, some great distinguishing antichrist at once the professor and enemy of Christianity was to come forth, in bold relief, pre-eminent among all those spirits which are ranged in opposition to the true kingdom of Christ.

Paul, in the spirit of prophecy, declares him to be "the man of sin," and gives a vivid description of his character, his work, and his end. It appears that the Thessalonians were agitated by the expectation of the early coming of Christ in judgment — a mistake which might easily arise from their ignorance of the fact, that "the last days," which, as John asserts, were then "indeed come," are nothing more than the last dispensation; and that in these last days, the man of sin must first be revealed, and must play his awful part on the stage of ecclesiastical history, before the Saviour would appear, "the second time, without sin (or a sin-offering,) unto salvation:" Heb. ix. 28. Nor could the man of sin himself be revealed until he that let and hindered him (probably the Pagan government of Rome) was p40 taken out of the way. "Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (or apostasy) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God .... And now ye know what withholdeth, (or restraineth t) that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth J (will let) until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming; even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they may believe a lie, that they all may be damned (condemned) who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness:" 2 Thess. ii. 3 12.

p41 We have no reason to imagine that any individual potentate is here described, but rather some system of government some unholy power blaspheming against God, by the presumptuous claim of divine attributes, and deceiving mankind, after the working of Satan, by a false show of miracles. The thorough ungodliness of this power is marked by the emphatic words, "all deceivableness of unrighteousness."

For a further development of the history of antichrist, we must have recourse to the Revelation.

There we first meet with him in the character of the beast who slew the two witnesses.

"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophecy a thousand two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth and when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast[6] that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, shall make war against them and kill them:" Rev. xi. 7. Here antichrist is represented not as identical with Satan, but as coming forth out of p42 Satan's dominions, and employed in Satan's work, (comp. ii. 13;) that of persecuting the children of God, the witnesses for Christ in the world.[7] In the following chapter we have an account of the true church, represented as a woman clothed with the sun that original source of light and heat and having under her feet the moon, by which we may understand the borrowed light of man's intelligence, used and sanctified in every true Christian, but always held in holy subordination to the Spirit of God. She brings forth the man Christ Jesus, the first and greatest of her sons, and after being persecuted by the great red dragon, which is Satan, she flies on eagle's wings into the wilderness. There she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, or 1260 days (that is, as I suppose 1260 years) from the face of the serpent who continued to make war with "the remnant of her seed, which kept the commandments p43 of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." And who were these? the true disciples of Jesus hidden, it may be, among the rocks and valleys of Piedmont, and other Alpine regions; simple people who placed no dependence on ceremonies, but worshipped the Father and the Son, in spirit and in truth.

Then follows, in chap. xiii. a remarkable display of the anti-christian powers. A beast is seen rising out of the sea (coming it may be from the bottomless pit, represented by the fathomless ocean) whose ten horns are crowned with as many crowns, and his seven heads inscribed with the names of blasphemy. One of his heads had been wounded to death, but that deadly wound had been healed. The deadly wound inflicted on Rome by the Goths, Vandals, and other barbarian powers, had been healed by her becoming nominally Christian; and now she is a spiritual ruler, having in subjection, for use offensive and defensive, her ten crowned horns, the temporal powers into which the Roman empire was now divided. It was the dragon (that is, Satan,) from whom this beast — a terrible creature, leopard, bear, and lion united — received his power, and seat, (probably p44 in Rome, the ancient capital of the empire) and great authority.

Thus enthroned, he continues unmoved during the whole time of the church's secession in the wilderness 1260 years. And how does he conduct himself? He opens his mouth in blasphemy against God makes war with the saints, and overcomes them; has power given to him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations; and receives the worship of mankind — true Christians excepted. In the mean time another beast is seen coming up out of the earth (or out of the bottomless pit supposed to be under the earth) having two horns like a lamb, yet speaking as a dragon. This is the same power, as I believe, under another phase or rather the spiritual head of that power, who assumes the visage of the lamb, but is a wolf in sheep's clothing, and his voice is like the voice of a dragon. It is he who "exercises all the power of the first beast," of which he is in fact the most essential part even the head making a full use, for his own purposes, of those terrible temporal powers, the ten crowned horns; claiming worship for the first beast (i. e. the whole antichristian power, including himself p45 in his assumed character of Lord of lords and King of kings); doing great wonders, comparable to the bringing down of fire from heaven; deceiving mankind by his sorceries and false miracles; commanding them to perpetrate idolatry, and to worship the image of the beast; placing his mark on all men, rich and poor, free and bond, (without bearing which they were not permitted any participation in this world's traffic); and inscribing on their foreheads the name of antichrist with the number of his name, which ever falls short of the true sabbatical rest, even of the perfect number seven being six hundred and sixty and six that is the numeral six applied to each successive step in the arithmetical numeration.

We have found occasion to observe that the antichristian forces are ranged under three powers, the dragon, or old serpent; the beast or temporal power under spiritual government; and the spiritual ruler of the beast, who is one with him, because his head — the lamb who speaks like a dragon. This second phase of antichrist virtually the same power,— is soon afterwards called the "false prophet" (chap. xvi. 13.) and out of the mouths of p46 of these three proceed unclean spirits — miraclemongers, who go forth unto all the kings of the earth to gather them to battle against the Lord and his people.

This head of antichrist, or false prophet, is now brought more fully into view in the character of the "great whore," with whom the kings of the earth and its intoxicated inhabitants have committed fornication — all which, according to the known phraseology of the Hebrew prophets, sets forth idolatry — in that they worshipped this spiritual deceiver, instead of the Father and the Son, and were deeply imbued with other idolatrous practices which she had introduced. "So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness; and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, (the head of the beast is now represented as his rider) full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication; and upon her forehead was a name written, mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the p47 earth. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus:" xvii. 3-6. Soon afterwards we find the following express information — "And the woman which thou sawest, is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth:" v. 18.

Now it appears that the ten crowned horns, or the ten temporal powers say, European nations, which were under the power of this spiritual ruler — were to be of "one mind," and were to give their power and strength unto the beast — or rather to the head of the beast — the lamb who has the voice of a dragon, or in other words, to the whore who sitteth on the waters, that is, "on the peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." Such was to be the state of things for a time. But behold the Lamb against whom they wage impious warfare and who is truly Lord of lords, and King of kings who has the hearts of all kings and potentates in his hands and the called, and chosen, and faithful, who are with him, shall overcome these temporal powers, even by the sword of the Spirit, the word of truth. And what shall be the consequence? Instead of continuing to be part of antichrist, these powers shall separate from p48 him, and oppose him. Kings shall become the nursing fathers of the true church, and queens her nursing mothers. (Thus the earth helps the persecuted woman in her flight, into the wilderness, swallowing up the stream of oppression and cruelty, which Satan is pouring forth out of his mouth against her.) And now these ten horns shall be haters of the "great whore," whom they once loved and followed, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh (i. e. seize her possessions,) and burn her with fire: xvii. 12 18.

Soon follows the cry of the angel, whom John saw in his visions "come down from heaven, having great power, and the earth was lightened with his glory " probably the Angel of the covenant, the Saviour himself. "And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. (Ecclesiastics become p49 merchants, and selling pardons to sinners, are enriched by her abundance and luxuries.) "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not her plagues." Then follows the description of her being burnt with fire — amidst the mourning and lamentation of all who used to commit fornication with her, and traffic with her, and partake in her delicacies;— and this baptism of fire — this desolating punishment, of whatsoever nature it may prove detects the evil things which are in her, the foul spirits and unclean birds that haunt her, and the innocent blood which she has shed. "And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth;" xviii. 24.

In the following chapter the prophetical account of the conflict between these evil powers and the Word of God, is brought to its close. The Son, under that peculiar title, is seen in the opening heavens, sitting on a white horse, wearing many crowns, the sharp sword going out of his mouth, and his garments dipped in blood. On his vesture and on his thigh his name is seen written, King of kings, p50 and Lord of lords, and he is followed by the armies of his saints, all on white horses, and clothed in fine linen white and clean. "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth," says the apostle, "and their armies gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet (his spiritual head) that wrought miracles before him, with which he had deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone:" xix. 19, 20. Soon afterwards we read that the devil (after one more unholy effort) was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever:" xx. 10.

The whole view thus given in Scripture of antichrist, is calculated to impress us with an awful sense of his wickedness and evil working. The principal features in the character of that ungodly power are profaneness and blasphemy, falsehood and fraud, pride, covetousness, luxury, idolatry, malice, and cruelty.

This horrible personification of many evil things p51 assumes, in the first place, the attributes of deity,— he exalts himself above all that is called God he pretends to wield the divine prerogatives — he is lord over all mortal kings and potentates. The names of blasphemy marked on his forehead, are of that peculiar kind, which designate his usurping the place and functions of the Most High. If we suppose a spiritual power which pretends to dispose of all temporal kingdoms as he pleases, and who undertakes in his own authority, to forgive sins — however multitudinous, dark, or bloody they may be — we must acknowledge that such a power blasphemes, in the sense in which blasphemy is ascribed to antichrist.

If the same power enslaves kings and nations under false pretences; if he entices them by a show of superior sanctity, and by myriads of juggler's tricks, false relics, and lying wonders and miracles; it must be confessed, that he hereby fills up the scriptural character of antichrist, as it relates to fraud and falsehood.

If he assumes the trappings of human splendour; if he sells his pardons for gold; if the kings of the earth bow at his feet, and wait upon him as his servants; if his eye is full of haughtiness; if wealth p52 and luxury, and often the most unbridled licentiousness, distinguish his annals we cannot deny that he answers to the character of antichrist, in the articles of pride, covetousness, and luxury.

If he not only demands the worship both of body and soul, for those who are not God, but actually gives to these false gods, the outward form of images before which his followers prostrate themselves, as the heathen do before their idols, it is evident that such a course falls in with the scriptural account of the lamb who had the voice of a dragon, who made an image of the beast, and compelled all men to worship it. Here is the friend and patron of spiritual fornication, or in other words, of idolatry.

If, lastly, this supposed power makes use of the temporal swords of the kings under his dominion, for the cruel abuse, and horrid persecution unto death, of myriads of the followers of the Lamb; if he rejoices in his ailtos da fe, and delights in the writhing agonies of the saints who are consumed, through his interference with the civil magistrate, by slow fires; if he invents every species of torture, that he may torment all those who resist his reign and deny his sanctity it must surely be allowed that p53 here we have a practical representation of antichrist, who wounds and slays the children of God; and in whose bosom is found the BLOOD of his saints and martyrs.

All these things have marked the history of Rome spiritual — the Babylon of the Apocalypse; and the resemblance of the prophetic future with the historic record, appears to me to afford some very strong indications, if not irresistible proof, that the antichrist of the New Testament and Rome spiritual (including all that is found of the like nature under other names) are ONE and the same.

[6] Footnote:
a wild beast. It is to be regretted that our translators have used the same version for &ov, in chap. iv. 6, where some angelic creature is spoken of. "Living creature" would there be more just and descriptive.
[7] Footnote:
These are called the two olive trees, because it is the heavenly unction which qualifies them for their work, and flows through them; and they are described as two, simply, as I believe, to express plurality; with reference to that well known principle of Jewish jurisprudence, that out of the mouth of two witnesses (i. e. two at least) shall every word be established.

To: Table of CONTENTS

Chapter 3



IN the preceding account of antichrist, abundant evidence is afforded that the main feature of this unholy power, is the assumption, under spiritual pretences, of temporal authority, followed by an actual mastery over the kings and nations of the world, and by the practice of bloody cruelties, in the persecution of the children of God. This scriptural picture of that which was foreknown of the Lord, and foretold by his inspired servants in the apostolic age, has at once filled and stained the page of history during a long course of ages. Never was portrait more frightful, and at the same time more accurate, than that which the pen of prophecy was impelled to draw of that "spiritual wickedness in high places" which has p55 since developed its "working," to the astonishment of every reflecting observer, and to the distress and degradation of mankind.

During the first three centuries of the Christian era, the religion of Jesus found its way into the world, without the compulsory influence of any temporal power. Neither the sword of the warrior, nor that of the magistrate, was unsheathed for its promotion and support. On the contrary, the kingdoms of this world and more especially the iron power of the Romans were ranged on the opposite side, and fought against the army of the Lamb. That army used no carnal weapons in its defence; the armour which every soldier in it wore, is detailed by an apostle — the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Truth was the banner of the followers of our blessed Lord; that banner was inscribed with the motto of "Love to God and Man," and it was upheld by multitudes of the meek of the earth, who like their divine Master, were victorious only through suffering. It was in the good fight of faith alone that they displayed their fortitude and valour on the earth; and when earth was theirs no longer, they p56 joined, one by one, the glorified multitude whom John beheld in his visions, clothed in white robes, and with palms of victory in their hands those who had "come out of great tribulation, and had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Undoubtedly there were numerous corruptions, which, even in those early ages, had crept into the life and character of professing Christians; yet the description now given was justly applicable to very many; and thus in despite of all the raging of the heathen, and all the buffetings of Satan, true religion sped its course, and at last, to an astonishing extent, pervaded the civilized world.

But now a vast change awaited the destinies of the church. Early in the fourth century the Emperor Constantine adopted her as his own. The state formed an alliance with her, and undertook, by the intervention of secular authority and human power, to defend her interests, and to promote her cause. True indeed it is, that some of the emperors who followed, adopted a different course; but on the whole, the world smiled upon her. The professing people of God gradually fell into the arms of the civil magistrate, p57 and learned to place their dependence on the arm of flesh.

As time flowed onward, corruptions increased, and under the gradually deepening shadows of a long and dark night of apostacy, the assumption of temporal power on the part of the nominal church of Christ, became more and more daring. No longer was the hierarchy satisfied with the support and protection of the civil magistrate; but kings and princes must now fall under its dominion. The ten horns of the beast, i. e., probably, the European states and kingdoms, into which the Roman empire was divided, bowed under the rod of the false prophet; or in other words, of the second beast who had the visage of a lamb but the voice of a dragon. Rome spiritual, not only obtained possession unlike the Levites of old of a territory of her own; but with the resistless power of a magician, humbled the proudest monarchs at her feet, employed them as slaves to hold her stirrups, and pretended to have authority to dispose of their dominions at her pleasure — to set up kings, and to bring them down as being herself in the place of God, the Queen of p58 all kings; the Lady of all the lords of this terrestrial globe.

In the mean time the true church fled into the wilderness, and was nourished with heavenly manna, in the holes and caves of the earth. Few in number and scattered in place, the faithful followers of the crucified Jesus, themselves crucified to the world, and the world to them, worshipped God in privacy and retirement. But from age to age they were the children of tribulation, and the rage of their enemies pursued them into their most covert retreats. Finally, after the truth had broken forth and openly manifested itself in the Reformation, the flames of a most barbarous persecution were lighted on every side and the blood of the poor innocents was poured forth in vast abundance into the lap of antichrist. Here was the work, and here the triumph of Satan, who was a liar and murderer from the beginning. Kings and queens, with their subordinate officers, kindled those flames, and kept them burning for the destruction of the righteous, under the resistless commands of their mother and supreme ruler, Rome spiritual. By ruthless assassination, by cruel warfare, by various p59 kinds of torture, by the sword and the fires of the magistrate, myriads of sincere believers in Jesus, fell victims to the professing church of Christ, in possession of temporal power. That power has since become comparatively weak and broken; but were it fully restored, is there not too much reason to believe that the same iniquities would be re-enacted, under the same pretence of holiness and truth? That there is to be observed a most extraordinary revulsion, in the present day, towards the papal system, is notorious. Many are they, in various countries, and in different classes of society, who have actually given in their adherence to Rome spiritual; and many more are they, in our own land, and even in America, who while they profess to have no connexion with her, have openly adopted most of her tenets and principles, and seem more than half disposed to find a resting-place in her bosom. Let her once more become the dominant church in Great Britain and Ireland let the sword of the magistrate be once more fairly under her command and who shall say that the blood of those who bear a consistent testimony against her superstition and idolatry, will not flow as freely and p60 copiously as in days of old? The same principles, in possession of the same power, may in all probability be productive of the same effects.

While I am one of those who on this and other grounds, consider the progress of popery to be highly alarming, I am by no means disposed to underratethe personal piety of many members of the papal communion. The Roman Catholic Church holds many of the essential doctrines of the Christian religion, and holds them with a firm hand; and independently of the evangelical character of Jansenism, (which can hardly be classed with the papal system,) there can be no doubt that there is much of devotional feeling, and some true Christian faith and holiness, to be found within her borders. Great and numerous as are her superstitions, and prevalent as is the infidelity to which they have led, the truth as it is in Jesus, has not been without its influence on the heart of a Fenelon, and on the hearts of many other members of that church, who have truly loved the Lord who bought them. Again, when I speak of that church in her character of mistress of the beast of ten horns, which wounds and slays the followers of Christ, I do not forget, and have no wish to p61 conceal, that so far as this is the peculiar characteristic of antichrist, it is far from being confined to the Romish hierarchy.

The church, in possession of temporal power, and abusing it by acts of persecution, has presented itself to the attention of mankind, and has claimed its portion of the bloody page of history, under many forms besides that of the papacy. The papists themselves have suffered and died under the hands of their religious opposers in power. King Henry VIII, and Queen Elizabeth found their victims under the notion of heresy, as well as Mary. Under the sway of Kings Charles I. and II., the nonconformists suffered deeply from those, against some of whose doctrines and practices they bore a righteous testimony. And when they were themselves in power under Cromwell, they had little mercy on others who dared to differ from their own system. In New England, they led the unoffending Quakers to the gallows, who thus expiated their crime of preaching the gospel to the poor in a manner contrary to the notions of the ruling church. There are indeed few Christian sects which have suffered so much from the fury of religious persecution as p62 the Friends. During the reign of King Charles II. more especially, when all assembling for public worship, except in the established church, was forbidden by law, the Quakers alone, of all the Christian denominations persevered in holding their meetings; at the same time, when carried into courts of justice, they refused to take the oath of allegiance, in obedience to the command of Christ, "Swear not at all;" and they also refused to pay tithes to the clergy, in remembrance of another of our Lord's precepts, "Freely ye have received, freely give." In consequence of their faithfulness in all these respects, and especially because of the holding of their meetings for divine worship, they were cast in great numbers, into filthy dungeons, and were there mixed up with the vilest felons. In the mean time their houses were ransacked, and their goods spoiled; and many of them died in prison, in consequence of long confinement, and other harsh treatment. But their patience did not fail them, and often did those noisome prisons resound with the praises of that Saviour, on whose behalf they were content to suffer.

It is the shame of Protestantism, that even in p63 the present day, religious liberty is sacrificed to the unrighteous attempt to enforce uniformity of worship, in accordance with that view of Christianity which happens to be dominant in any particular country. Within the last few years, while the Lutherans were persecuted in Prussia, under the sanction of the reformed church of that country, (a persecution, which under the present benevolent monarch, has happily ceased,) the Lutherans themselves, in Hanover, Hamburgh, and the kingdom of Denmark, being the established religionists, have been actively engaged in persecuting others. The ideal notion of perfection in the things of religion in these states, is uniformity; the actual effects produced are bonds, confiscation, and imprisonment, on the one hand, and on the other, a prevailing religious lifelessness, with infidelity at the bottom. Every one knows that this, to a great extent, is a just description of the countries which range, on the plan of uniformity, under the papal banner for example, Italy and Spain. The great hope of France, in matters of religion, is the late dissolution of the alliance of the state with a single form of Christianity. Yet popery is rampant in that country; and it is impossible to p64 say how soon the degree of religious liberty which now prevails may be smothered, under the influence of a bigoted priesthood, backed by the missionary zeal of a host of Jesuits.

From the remarks which have now been made, the reader will perceive that my views of antichrist are far from being restricted to the Romish church. Wherever any portion of the professing church of Christ enters into alliance with the state, and avails itself of the sword of the magistrate, in order to enforce uniformity in religion and worship, and to persecute and punish all who resist the decree, there, in my opinion, antichrist is enthroned and operative. In the several churches which have pursued this course, there may be upheld much of sound doctrine; and it is freely allowed, that they contain many members who are true disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ; but as far as they wield the sword of the magistrate in the work of persecution, so far they embody the antichrist of Scripture, the man of sin, the false prophet, who rules over the beast of ten horns being himself the head of the beast; even of that beast which unites the natures of the leopard, the bear, and the lion, and wounds and p65 slays the children of God. Yet unquestionably this character, in a very especial and pre-eminent manner, has marked the annals of the Romish hierarchy.

With the strange anomaly which we have now been considering — the professing church of God in possession of temporal power, and abusing it for the affliction and destruction of the true followers of Christ we must now contrast the scriptural account of the kingdom or reign of God, of heaven, or of Christ by which several expressions, only one kingdom is intended. Many and various are the passages of Scripture which relate to this kingdom — in the Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels, the Epistles, the Revelation. They are too numerous to quote; but from a general view of them, the reader will scarcely fail to draw the following deductions:

1. The kingdom of God is set up in this world, and perfected in the world to come, by divine power, independently of all human authority. The little stone which is destined to fill the whole earth, is cut out of the mountain "without hands."

2. This kingdom is of a nature wholly different

p66 from that of the kingdoms of the world. "It cometh not by observation." It is "within us." It is in its nature heavenly, spiritual, exercised over the hearts of men, unseen in its action, but manifested in its fruits. "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."

3. It is not to be either defended or promoted by carnal weapons, or the arm of flesh. "Our weapons," said one of the great ones in this kingdom a very prince in the Israel of God "are not carnal, but spiritual, and mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds," <fec. "My kingdom is not of this world," said the Saviour himself to Pilate, "else would my servants fight."

4. The subjects of this kingdom — the soldiers of its standing army — are the meek and humble followers of the Lamb; all of every name, class, profession, or country Jew or Greek, male or female, Scythian, barbarian, bond or free who are brought to repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ all who are delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of the dear Son of God.


5. Of this kingdom, Jesus, the risen and glorified Saviour is, in the divine economy, the appointed Head, the Lord of Glory, the King of kings, who is seated on the heavenly antitype of David's throne, there to rule and reign over the universal church, to all eternity. Now Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Absolute Sovereign as he is of his own church, and of the universe for the church's sake, he requires not the interference of human monarchs, in the support and maintenance of his kingdom: and the one grand means by which he secures these objects, is the influence of the Holy Ghost. While the Scriptures contain a clear account of the principles on which his reign is founded, and of the laws by which his people are governed, he deals immediately with the hearts and affections of men — he humbles their pride, obliterates their sins in his own blood, leads them in paths of righteousness, sanctifies them in body, soul, and spirit, and spreads over them his own banner which is Love.

Such being the true character of the kingdom of Christ, (commenced and carried forward on earth and perfected in heaven), it is evident that nothing can be more foreign from its nature, or more opposed p68 to its principles, than the assumption of temporal power, for ecclesiastical purposes, much more the abuse of that power in a work which is peculiarly marked in Scripture as the work of Satan, (Rev. ii. 13) i. e. persecution. To defend the cause of Christ against even its enemies, by the sword, is forbidden to the Christian; to lay waste that cause by the persecution of his faithful followers, is not only unlawful, but diabolical.

It is to be hoped that the more reflecting and moderate of all classes of professing Christians are prepared to unite in these sentiments; but this is a subject, on which it is impossible to take up our rest at any half-way house. The most important principles are involved in the discussion, and these principles must be fully fathomed, and their legitimate results fairly developed.

If in any country, certain political privileges are restricted to any one denomination of Christians; if Christians of other names and sects are excluded from these privileges by the law of the land; and, again, if persons of one form of faith, conscientiously adopted, or received by education, are constrained to make pecuniary sacrifices, in order to support p69 another form of the same faith, from which they dissent it must be allowed that these are so many new types of a compulsory, and therefore, of a persecuting system in matters of religion; and are in point of radical principle, as much at variance with the true nature and character of the kingdom of Christ, as the sword or the fire of the magistrate, the gibbet or scaffold of the executioner. It is the interference of the authority of man with the prerogative of the Great Head of the church. It is the cramping of the liberty of the Spirit, and of the inalienable rights of conscience. As long as the peaceable duties of the subject and citizen are performed, and every practice avoided which is at variance with the law of the land, in temporal matters, or opposed to the welfare of the body politic, so long it is evident that Christians of every name ought to be in possession of equal political rights, and ought to be permitted to pursue their own religious course without molestation or interference.

It is easy to perceive that the unjust provisions to which we have now alluded, are the natural consequence of the alliance of Church and state. When one particular form of Christianity is adopted p70 by the state as its own when a marriage takes place between them, and each becomes pledged to support the other it inevitably follows that Christians of other denominations are placed under disadvantageous and degrading circumstances. And in whatsoever degree such circumstances are alleviated, these nonconformists are still in some measure treated as "strangers and foreigners," and not as "fellowcitizens with the saints and of the household of God'." So also it is unquestionable that the higher grades of persecution, have arisen out of the same alliance between church and state. The state adopts the church, under some particular form as its own; and the church, on her part, lays claim to all the powers of the state, for the support of her cause, and for the punishment and destruction of her opposers. To this alliance must be ascribed all the horrors of the inquisition, all the blood which flowed in the massacre of St. Bartholomew; all the martyr-fires which were lighted by Queen Mary of England; all the sufferings of the Quakers in the 17th Century; all the bonds and vexations which are at this very time endured by dissentients in many parts of Protestant Europe; and until p71 the system of marrying the church to the state is renounced, there can be no security against the recurrence of those direful scenes which peculiarly distinguish the character of antichrist, and verify the portrait drawn, in the Holy Scriptures, of the "man of sin."

Were the views which have now been advanced, generally adopted among professing Christians, the great head of the Church might surely be trusted for conducting the affairs of his own kingdom — a kingdom not of this world in such a way as would best promote the welfare of his subjects, and his own glory. He would put it into the hearts of his followers (as has already been the case) to unite in the general dissemination of those Holy Scriptures, which contain the only divinely authorized record of the doctrines which we are all bound to believe, and of the moral principles which ought to regulate our actions. In the mean time, the gentle but constraining influences of his Spirit would be moving, according to his own good pleasure, on the hearts of men convincing them of sin, humbling them in the very dust, breaking them down into repentance towards God, and inspiring them with a living faith p72 towards the Saviour of men. Thus would he enlarge the boundaries of his righteous government, while those who already belong to it would be built up in Him, and gradually prepared for a translation to the inheritance of the saints in glory. In carrying on this work, he would doubtless employ, as he ever has done, the instrumentality of men. He would raise up his servants for the purpose, according to his own wisdom; he would anoint them with the oil of his kingdom; and thus would not only call them into His service, but qualify them for their work. He would also secure in due season, for the protection of his people, and for the furtherance of his cause, the friendly countenance of the powerful of the earth. Kings would become, not by exclusive laws, but by influence and example, the nursing fathers of the church, and Queens her nursing mothers. Yet all men would see and understand that the work is the Lord's. All the glory would be unquestionably due, and not only due, but rendered to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God blessed for evermore.

To: Table of CONTENTS

Chapter 4



IN the preceding chapter, we have considered the usurpation by the hierarchy, of temporal power, and the dreadful abuse which has been made by the priesthood, of the magistrate's sword. We may now direct our attention to the spiritual power of the same priesthood, gradually assumed as primitive Christianity became corrupted, and advancing to a most extravagant height, under the papal system.

I conceive that there is no feature which so prominently marks the character of antichrist, as the former one now mentioned, viz., the usurpation and abuse, by the ministers of religion, of temporal power. If however we find those ministers usurping a spiritual p74 authority over the church itself, which is foreign from their calling; if we find them attempting to exercise functions which belong only to Christ, the great Head of the church it must be confessed that here is another feature of the power which interferes with the righteous government of Christ, and therefore stands opposed to Him.

The particulars of this subject, as they are developed under the papal system, are familiar to most persons. They may be divided into two parts; first, the sway of the hierarchy over the subordinate members of their own class; and secondly, the rule of the priesthood over the laity. In both respects the apostolic precept, "neither be ye lords over God's heritage," is set aside, and the power of the clergy is found to amount to despotism. There is probably no institution in the world, in which the system of absolute rule on the one hand, and implicit obedience on the other, is carried to so great a height as in that of the Romish hierarchy. The inferior clergy are completely subject to the superiors who are placed over them; these again to their superiors; and all, including the highest dignitaries, to the Pope, who claims to be the successor of St. Peter in the bishopric of Rome, and sole vicar and p75 representative of the Lord Jesus Christ upon earth. This system of absolute rule, not only applies to the regular clergy, but to all the orders of monks, nuns, and friars. A perfect obedience to superiors is the main law of all these bodies; and many of them are regulated, on a strictly military principle. There is no army in the world more exactly arranged, more elaborately disciplined, more absolutely governed, or more effective in action, than the order of the Jesuits. Zealous, steady, and unceasing are they in their operations, which are ramified in a thousand different directions; ever opposed to all that is opposed to popery, ever aiming at the reduction of the world under the banner of Rome, ever pushing forward towards that vast object; calling all the devices of human policy into their service, weaving the web of the most plausible sophistry, and casting this dangerous network over the souls of men; unscrupulous as to the means, (if we are to believe Pascal and the Jansenists) because the end is, in their view, sanctified. The great secret of their success, and of the success of the whole papal system, is contained in these words, DESPOTIC RULE, IMPLICIT OBEDIENCE.


The more we reflect on this vast fabric of internal government a system to which the world presents no parallel the more we shall perceive that it is the very masterpiece of human policy; nay, that it is so far super-human, that if we dare not trace it to the wisdom which cometh from above and this we cannot do we are almost compelled to believe, that some dark power, stronger and more crafty than man, is the true author of this professedly spiritual building. If so, it will be found but frostwork after all, and will melt away in due season, before the bright beams of the Sun of righteousness, when He shall again arise upon the earth, as the glorious and all-sufficient Head of his own church, with healing on his wings.

While we acknowledge the perfection of this policy, in a worldly point of view, a close examination of Scripture will serve to convince us, that Christianity contains no warrant whatsoever for any such system; but that, on the contrary, such a plan of church government, is in open opposition to the simplicity of the gospel of Christ.

In the first place, it is the clear doctrine of Scripture that Jesus Christ himself is the High Priest p77 of our profession; and that he actually governs his church on earth as well as in heaven, by the gentle touches of his love and power, by the immediate influences of his Holy Spirit. He never appointed a representative or viceroy, on whom the office might devolve of reigning over the visible church in his stead; one whose supreme will should be law to all the subordinate orders of his servants or ministers. Christ himself is represented in Scripture as the antitype of Moses, the ruler of the household of God. Moses was faithful in that household as a servant of God, under whose authority he acted — "Christ, as a Son, over his own house." When we read of a spiritual potentate on earth, who assumes the right of ruling the family of God, according to his own good will and pleasure, yet as God's vicegerent, we read of that which may have some faint shadow of a resemblance in the Jewish high-priesthood, but which is utterly at variance with the Christian dispensation, under which Christ himself is the sole absolute ruler, and ever present helper of his people.

Had it been the will of the great Head of the church to appoint a supreme viceroy, such as the Pope assumes to be, he would surely have invested p78 some one of the apostles with this vast function, and would have defined the law of future succession. But no such circumstance is recorded, or in the most distant manner alluded to, in the New Testament. True indeed it is, that Peter, with all his faults, was pre-eminent in faith and love; and after our Lord's ascension was foremost in pleading the cause of his Master, and in feeding the little flock of the disciples of Jesus. But this apostle was invested by his Lord with no supreme authority over his brethren, nor is there the slightest ground for supposing that he exercised any such authority, after the ascension of Christ.

In order to a full clearing of the subject, it may be well to advert to the passage of our Lord's discourses, on which the Roman Catholic church builds her faith in the supremacy of Peter: see Matt. xvi. 13 20. "When Jesus came into the coasts of Cesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them but whom say ye that I am? and Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living p79 God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ." Almost immediately afterwards we find Peter rebuked by his Master, for his carnal and worldly views; "Get thee behind me Satan; for thou savourest not the things that be of God but those that be of men."

These words of severe rebuke afford a strong indication, that the preceding declaration is to be understood in no sense which can involve the exaltation of Peter above his brethren.

It appears to be wholly at variance with the scope of the gospel, to imagine that our Saviour here represented his poor erring servant, so zealous and yet so weak, as the rock on which his church p80 was to be built. If however, the expressions, "On this rock or stone I will build my church" have any reference to Peter, it must surely be in a subordinate sense, and must be understood as alluding to his eminent services, in unison with the other apostles, in preaching the gospel both to Jews and Gentiles, and thus through the power of the Holy Spirit, establishing Christianity in the world. It is on this ground, doubtless, that the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem are described in the Revelation, as composed of precious stones, each of its peculiar colour, and marked with the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Paul also in his epistle to the Ephesian converts, salutes them as persons who were "no more strangers and foreigners, but of the household of faith built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets," &c. The preaching of the apostles was in its nature fundamental; it had respect to that Saviour, who is himself the only rock on which is built the superstructure of truth, and the fabric of the true and living church: and no sooner do we depart from the ground which was thus clearly marked out by the apostles, than we are at sea in the things of God, exposed to p81 every wind of human opinion, and liable to be wrecked in every storm which may be raised by the power and craftiness of the enemy of our souls. In the proper sense of the terms, Christ has no human partner or fellow, in his character of the Foundation. The doctrine of Scripture on this subject is most explicit, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus:" 1 Cor. iii. 11; comp. Isa. xxviii. 16.

So far then as Peter was instrumental in founding the Lord's church on earth, he was one in dignity and function, (though a leader amongst them in point of love, zeal, and success) with the rest of the apostles. But it is surely far more consistent with the whole tenor of the New Testament to understand the words of Jesus, as applying to our Saviour himself. Peter says, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God." Jesus answered, "On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The answer was explicit; and that it was well understood by Peter, is evident from the uniform tenor of his discourses and writings, in all which he never directed the attention of the people to himself but always to Christ, "If so be ye have p82 tasted that the Lord is gracious, to whom coming as unto A LIVING STONE, &c. ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold I lay in Zion (for a FOUNDATION — Hebrew) a CHIEF CORNER STONE, elect, precious, and he that believeth on HIM, shall not be confounded:" 1 Pet. ii. 36.

With respect to the expressions which follow, I conceive that to hold the keys of the kingdom of heaven, is perfectly synonymous with possessing the power of binding or loosening. The blessed truths which Peter preached were the means of opening the door of the kingdom of heaven, to all believers. Thus the keys of that door were placed in his hands; and in his capacity of an inspired apostle, the power was given to him, both of loosening and binding the captive soul. The willing and obedient hearers of these glad tidings were delivered from all their bonds. On the contrary, those who resisted the truths of Christianity, experienced the confirmation and aggravation of their spiritual captivity. The very dust of the feet of the apostles was shaken off against them. These p83 inspired preachers who were "a savour of life unto life" to some, were thus to others "a savour of death unto death." Such I apprehend to be the true intent of this promise; but, whatever was its meaning, it marked no peculiar authority or dignity in Peter, above his brethren. These functions and privileges belonged to all the anointed servants of Christ; and we soon afterwards find the same power committed to the disciples in a body; "Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven; again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven; for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them:" Matt, xviii. 1820.

Not a shadow of evidence remains, that Peter was invested with a viceregal authority over the church. That in point of fact, he possessed no such superiority, and exercised no such power, is evident from Paul's declaration that he (Paul) was " not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles," 2 Cor. xi. 5; also from the fact, elsewhere recorded, that when p84 Peter failed to maintain the liberty of the gospel, among the converts at Antioch, Paul "withstood him to his face;" and reproved him without the smallest reserve or ceremony: Gal. ii. 11-21. It was not Peter who governed Paul; nor can it be the supposed successors of Peter, who govern the ministers of the Lord in the present day; it is Christ, the High Priest of our profession, who was the only master of Peter and Paul, and of all the prophets, apostles, and evangelists of primitive Christianity; and who is still the only master of the living ministers of his own gospel. Nothing can be more to the point, in reference to the present subject, than some of the conversations of our Lord with his disciples. The question, "which of them should be the greatest," or "the greatest in the kingdom of heaven," was a subject of eager dispute and discussion among the followers of Jesus; but their divine Master gave no countenance to any such ambitious views as they in their weakness were prone to entertain. He set a little child in the midst of them as a pattern; and said, "He that is least among you all, the same shall be great:" Luke ix. 46, 48; Matt, xviii. 14; Mark ix. 34-37. On another occasion, p85 he gave them explicit directions to the same effect "Be not ye called Rabbi, (or Master,) for ONE is your master, even Christ, and ALL YE are brethren:" Matt, xxiii. 8.

The view now taken of the immediate rule of Christ over his people, is confirmed by the wellknown circumstance, that the primitive church, scattered as it was over many cities and countries, was never arranged as a single united fabric, under a scale of human officers every one depending on his superior and all on a single supreme ruler on earth. On the contrary, the congregations of Christians both among Jews and Gentiles were severally independent, in the matter of government. They were under the care of their own elders and overseers, and with the help of this local government, conducted their own affairs yet always in subjection to the supreme and immediate rule of the risen and glorified Saviour. He it was, who, having ascended up on high, and having led captivity captive, poured forth the gifts and graces of his Holy Spirit according to his own will; and "he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the p86 saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" Eph. iv. 11,12. And He it is who still selects, appoints, qualifies, and governs his own ministers, to whatsoever grade, and whatsoever denomination they may belong.

We must now advert to the second point — the power of the priesthood over the lay members of the church of Christ. That this power, under the papal system, has advanced to an intolerable height, cannot be denied by those who have any acquaintance with the condition of the people in Roman Catholic countries, and especially in Ireland, where the will of the priest, to a very great extent, is law to all the members of his congregation.

The discipline of the church is wholly in the hands of ecclesiastics, and that discipline is often exercised with great severity. Confession and penance are fearful weapons by which the less educated part of mankind, and not that part exclusively, are bowed and broken under the hands of the priesthood. Yet the terror of impending penance is nothing in comparison with the assumption, of the power of binding and p87 loosening, in the sense of retaining and forgiving sins. On the priest alone rests the divine prerogative of absolution; and therefore, with the Papist, disobedience to the priest is death to the soul. Every act of religious liberty, every effort of the mind after a free inquiry into truth, every step towards an independent exercise of the understanding and conscience in the things of God, is barred by the consideration that if the priest is offended, absolution cannot be obtained, and the soul must therefore be lost. Again it is notorious that in the view of those deluded votaries of the sacerdotal office, there is no safety for a departing soul, unless certain viatica to heaven, (the sacramental wafer and extreme unction, for example) can be obtained from the priest. Who then shall dare resist the authority of his ecclesiastical ruler, at the risk of being deprived of these viatica? Or if we take purgatory into view, what sincere adherent of the Romish system, would venture, by disobeying his priest, to lose the benefit, after quitting this mortal scene, of the sacrifice of the mass for the dead?

It is certain that all these superstitions have combined to throw a power over the laity more p88 than despotic, into the hands of the Romish clergy; nor will the calm and accurate observer fail to remark, that both parties are deep sufferers from such a system. Its natural consequence, among the clergy, is bigotry and arrogance; among the people, ignorance and superstition.

Having thus adverted to the facts of the case, facts of the most notorious character, we may advance to the question, What says the Scripture in reference to this subject? And in answering this question, we cannot do better than adduce, in the first place, a memorable passage from the catholic epistle of Peter himself, in which he not only places himself on a ground of perfect equality with his brethren, but utterly repudiates the notion that those whom the Holy Ghost has appointed to be overseers of the flock, are to exercise lordship by which we may understand a despotic power over those who are thus committed to their charge. "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder (an elder with them) and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, p89 not by constraint but willingly: not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage; but as ensamples to the flock Likewise ye younger submit yourselves unto the elder, yea all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility, for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble;" 1 Pet. v. 15.

From this passage it is evident, that nothing analogous to the despotic spiritual power of the Romish priesthood, was allowed in primitive days; that while the chosen servants of the Lord, who were elders in the truth, (whether they were so in years or not,) were engaged in superintending and feeding the flock, they were not permitted to exercise a mastership over the body but that all the members of the church were to be subject one to another in love. On a further investigation of the subject, I believe we shall find that the power of inflicting the discipline of the church, rested not with the overseers, elders, or preachers, in their distinct capacity, but with the church itself. Of this fact we have plain scriptural evidence in the following precept of Jesus. "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go p90 and tell him his fault between thee and him alone if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, &c.; and if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church" &c.: Matt, xviii. 15-17. It was the church therefore, not the apostles — only not the preachers or elders alone but the whole body or congregation, to whom the final appeal was to be made in a matter of discipline, and by whom, (under Christ,) that matter was to be settled.

It is a satisfactory circumstance, that in the epistles of Paul, we are furnished with an example, in which our Lord's precept was in this respect carried into effect. A member of the Corinthian church had committed an incestuous crime; and what says the apostle on the occasion? "For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord p91 Jesus .... purge out therefore the old leaven," &c. Here Paul, in his apostolic character, directs, and rightly directs, the action of the church. Nevertheless it is the church itself, the assembled body of Christians at Corinth, who were to act in this affair of discipline, in dependence on the power of Christ; to deliver up the offender to Satan, (for the infliction, I suppose of some disease) and to purge out the old leaven, by excommunication or disownment. There can be no doubt that the church at Corinth acted, according to the apostle's injunction in the case; and, in his second epistle, we find him calling on the same body not the overseers and elders alone, but the church in its corporate capacity to restore the now penitent believer, to their unity and favour: see 1 Cor. v., 2 Cor. ii. According to the primitive plan therefore, the authority to inflict discipline rests not with any priesthood, but with the body of Christ. The same may be said of confession, which according to the apostolic plan, had nothing clerical in its bearing "Confess your faults ONE to ANOTHER, and pray ONE FOR ANOTHER, that ye may be healed:" James v. 16.

But it was not only in matters of discipline that p92 the authority under Christ, rested with the whole company of the believers. When regulations were to be made for the conduct of the Lord's people, it was the people themselves, who, with due regard to the judgment of their spiritual guides, enacted those regulations. Thus the decree respecting the freedom of the Gentile converts from the yoke of the Jewish ceremonial law, was agreed upon by the assembled body of Christians at Jerusalem, and was issued in the name of "the apostles, and elders, and brethren:" see Acts xv. 4, 12, 22, 23. The government was essentially democratic, as it regarded the members of the body; but it was a democracy, like that of ancient Israel, under the immediate control and guidance of the great Head of the church. The conclusion to which the church arrived on this occasion, seemed good to the apostles, and elders, and brethren, for this simple reason, that it also "seemed good to the Holy Ghost:" ver. 28.

In the case of the incestuous member of the Corinthian church, we may observe that the assembly of Christians which inflicted the disciplinary sentence, was afterwards exhorted by the apostle Paul to forgive the offender. This circumstance p93 affords a clue to the most probable meaning of our Lord's address to his disciples recorded in John xx. 23. "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." There is no reason to conclude that this commission was intended to be confined to the apostles; it is rather to be regarded as declarative of the power which was to reside in the church, or whole body of believers in any place that of remitting or retaining the sins of transgressing members of the body, so far as related to discipline. When the offender was excommunicated or otherwise punished, and during the continuance of the penalty, his sin was retained by the church; and when again he was restored to favour, it was remitted or forgiven by his brethren; and their decrees on the subject were ratified by the sanction and fiat of their divine Master, under the guidance of whose Spirit it was their privilege to act. But to apply this declaration to that retaining of sins, of which the awful consequence is the fire never to be quenched; and to that forgiveness of them, through which the penitent sinner, believing in the Lord Jesus, is delivered from the pains of hell, and obtains an p94 immortality of bliss, is surely in the highest degree at variance with the principles of divine truth. Who can forgive sins but God alone? was a question which the Pharisees asked, when Jesus forgave the palsied suppliant. Nor could any man fail to answer, NO ONE. Sin is the transgression of the law of God; and, in the very nature of things, none but God can pardon it, and absolve the sinner from its awful consequences. Jesus had "power on earth to forgive sins," because he was the Son of God — one with the Father. "I even I am he that blotteth out thine iniquities for mine own sake," said Jehovah to Israel, "and will not remember thy sins," Isa. xliii. 25; and again, "I will forgive their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more," Jer. xxxi. 34. An apostle, under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, might indeed pronounce the forgiveness of sins; but the act of pardon is a divine prerogative, which belongs exclusively to the Judge of all flesh, and may well be regarded as the brightest jewel in his crown of righteousness and glory.

The assumption of a power to forgive sins, and all the odious consequences which have followed p95 from it, form one of the principal antichristian features of the papal hierarchy. Here is the blasphemy of the "man of sin," in pretending to the possession of the most sacred of the divine attributes. Here is that sitting "on the throne of God" and that exalting of himself "above all that is called God," of which we read in Scripture. Here too is the mercantile abomination of Babylon, so vividly depicted in the visions of John. Money is poured into her treasury by the kings of the earth, and by their subjects and followers and the article received in return, is the Pope's pardon of sins that are past, and the Pope's permission to sin for the future. The gross and enormous traffic which Rome has carried on in this article of indulgence to the sinful propensities of man, is certainly one of the strangest instances of human wickedness, under the plea of religion, that ever disgraced the history of our species. This professed angel of mercy, is surely nothing better than Satan in transformation; and yet so transformed as to be scarcely concealed. That this system which claims the power of absolution for man, and even sanctions his selling that blessed boon, is at once immoral and impious, no reflecting Christian p96 whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, can with any reason deny.

But independently of the supposed power of absolution, there remains the sacerdotal authority, armed with the propitiatory sacrifice of the mass, by which to enthral the souls of men, and bring them under slavery to their spiritual guides. What then says the Scripture, first, on the subject of sacrifice; and secondly, on that of the sacerdotal office in the church of Christ? It plainly indicates that under the gospel there is recognized no propitiatory sacrifice, but the one offering of Jesus on the cross; and no one who holds the sacerdotal office, but the risen and glorified Saviour himself.

I. A calm review of the doctrine of the New Testament, on the subject of propitiation, may soon satisfy us, that the popish invention of the sacrifice of the mass, is not only without the shadow of support from Scripture, but is opposed to some of the fundamental principles of Christianity. Christianity declares in the first place, that the sacrifices ordained by the Jewish law, were simply ceremonial in their nature that "the blood of goats and of calves could not take away sin;" that they were the mere types of good things to come; p97 and that having now served their purpose, in foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ, they form no part of the religion or worship of the disciples of Jesus. In the mean time, the one great offering of Christ on the cross, is every where insisted on, in the New Testament, as the means of our reconciliation with God, and as the sole ground of our deliverance from punishment, and of our hope of heaven.

Our Saviour himself frequently alluded to this great doctrine: (John iii. 14, &c.) and no one who has the least acquaintance with the New Testament, can fail to be aware how frequently the propitiatory offering of Christ is dwelt upon by the apostles. The subject is concentrated in the declaration of Peter, that "we are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from our vain conversation received by tradition from our fathers, but by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot," 1 Pet. i. 18, 19; and the universality of the application of this sacrifice to mankind, is set forth in the epistle of John, "He was the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world:" 1 John ii. 2.


But in the Epistle to the Hebrews more especially are we taught, that the atoning death of Christ the end and fulfilment of the shadows of the law; and that this propitiation having been made once for all, all sacrifice for sin ceases. "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, who needeth not daily as those high priests to offer up sacrifice first for their own sins and then for the people; for this he did ONCE, having offered up himself:" chap. vii. 26, 27. "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with the blood of others, (for then must he often have suffered from the foundation of the world;) but now ONCE in the end of the world, hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; and as it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment; so Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him, shall he appear, the second time, without sin (or a sin-offering) unto p99 salvation:" chap. ix. 24 28. Again, "And every priest standeth daily ministering, and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered ONE sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God .... for by ONE offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified:" chap. x. 11 14.

To conclude, it is the clear doctrine of this inspired writer, that if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, (and have thus belied our faith in this one sacrifice) "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin:" the sacrifices of the Jewish law are fulfilled, and in point of authority for ever abolished; the one availing offering of Jesus Christ on the cross is rejected by the apostate who falls from grace; and there remaineth no other sacrifice whatsoever.

When we aver on apostolic authority, that "there remaineth no other sacrifice whatsoever," we do not forget that true Christians of every name and class are, "a holy nation, a royal priesthood," to offer up " SPIRITUAL sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ:" 1 Pet. ii. 5. They present their bodies and souls, even the whole man, "a living p100 sacrifice" which is certainly no more than their "reasonable service:" Rom. xii. 1. They can give ear to the apostolic exhortation: "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach: for here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name; but to do good and communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased:" Heb. xiii. 13 16. Such and such only are the sacrifices which Christianity recognizes: First, the one propitiatory offering of Jesus on the cross, by which alone we are redeemed, and to which mankind, all the world over, and in every succeeding age, are freely invited to look, in simple faith, and without the mediation of any human priesthood, for the forgiveness of their sins: and secondly, the grateful return, on the part of Christian believers, of a loving and obedient heart, and of a life devoted to the service and glory of God.

2. From this scriptural view of the subject, it is abundantly evident that the Romish sacrifice of the mass, perpetually offered up as it is, as a propitiation p101 for sin, is not only unauthorized by the gospel of Jesus Christ, but is wholly opposed to its nature, character, and spirit. Now where there is no sacrifice, there is no priest; for sacrifice is the essential characteristic of the sacerdotal office. The continuance of that office, under the papal and hierarchical system, is nothing better than a recurrence to the old plan of Jewish worship, and stands opposed to the simplicity of the truth and spirituality of the gospel dispensation. A Priest is not only a minister but a mediator; he stands between the people and their God; he offers up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and afterwards for those of the people. But, in this glorious gospel day, as we know only one God, so we know only one "Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave his life a ransom for all." 1 Tim. ii. 5. In the distribution of spiritual gifts and offices, we read that the risen and glorified Saviour "gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ;" we read also of presbyters or elders, of bishops or overseers, of p102 deacons or servants; but among all these we hear nothing whatsoever of the priest. We must therefore conclude that Jesus is the ONLY priest of the Christian church. In Him the shadows of the law, and especially the whole sacrificial system, are for ever fulfilled. He has died, once for all, for the sins of the whole world; he is ever present with his people to bless them in the name of his Father; he is their never failing Advocate and Intercessor before the throne of God; he carries the names of all the tribes of the true Israel, as on his breastplate, before the Lord; like Aaron, he bears the iniquity even of our "holy things." The Lord hath sworn and will not repent, saith the Father to the Son, "Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." Uniting in himself the regal and sacerdotal offices, he both mediates and reigns, and supplies, in both respects, the whole need of his universal church. Ecclesiastical systems, invented by men, shall last their season, and then vanish. The finest fabrics of human policy, in the things of religion, shall perish before the breath of the Lord Almighty; but Jesus Christ, our only High Priest, is "the same yesterday, and to-day, p103 and for ever," and "of the increase of his government and peace there shall be NO END."

There is no point which more clearly betrays the identity of the antichrist of Scripture with Papal Rome, and none more marked and conspicuous in the history of her system, than her assumption of the power of working miracles. It may safely be asserted that the wonders pretended to be wrought under the authority of the Papacy, are, practically speaking, innumerable. This is the portentous evidence so overwhelming to the ignorant and superstitious mind on which the Romish hierarchy has mainly relied, in the support of her pretensions to universal empire, both temporal and spiritual. The legends of her monasteries, and the stories of her saints (whether suffering on earth, or beatified in heaven) are full of these strange infractions of the order of nature. The greater part of these anomalies are marked by such obvious absurdity, as to excite only the smile of derision; yet they have served the purpose of deceiving, and keeping in sore captivity, p104 millions of ignorant devotees. Such delusions can be classed only with the tricks of the juggler. Others, undoubtedly, are more unaccountable in their nature, and more difficult of detection; and may perhaps serve to remind us, that evil spirits may still have some power permitted them over the laws of nature, as in the days of Moses and the magicians.

Let no man suppose that there is any real similitude between the "lying wonders" of popery, and the miracles of the New Testament. The former are, as a whole, lighter than vanity; the latter fixed and substantial as a rock. The difference between them is to be observed, in three essential particulars; first, the evidence of their reality — that of the Christian miracles being overpowering, while that of the popish wonders is notoriously weak; secondly, their intrinsic nature — the Christian miracles being in every respect truly great, and worthy of their Author, while most of the popish wonders are puerile in the extreme; and thirdly, the character of the system, which they are respectively intended to maintain. The Christian miracles are among the irrefragable supports of a religion of perfect benevolence, justice, p105 and holiness. The popish wonders are the wretched props of false and dangerous doctrine, and of usurped, unrighteous power. It is on the most rational grounds that the former demand our sincere and hearty credence; and it is for reasons equally convincing, that the latter must be calmly but resolutely disallowed.

To: Table of CONTENTS

Chapter 5



I. THE first grand point in reference to divine worship, is the consideration of the Being or Beings to whom it is addressed. Honour and reverence paid even to human dignitaries, is sometimes included in the idea of worship as it is said, that all the congregation of Israel bowed down and "worshipped the LORD, and the King:" 1 Chron. xxix. 20. But while, under the full light of the gospel dispensation, the impropriety of such acts of reverence, addressed to mortals, is very obvious, we are not to confound them with "divine worship" in its proper sense; for this is such an adoration, as supposes the existence of some divine attribute or attributes in the Being or Person to whom it is offered. Thus the prostration both of body and soul, which was frequently p107 offered to our Saviour when on earth, had an obvious reference to the divine power which he possessed, of changing the order of nature, in the working of stupendous miracles. The man born blind, on whom he had so graciously bestowed perfect eyes and perfect vision, worshipped him as the Son of God; the apostles adored him in the same character, when he had displayed his control over the winds and waves, and had made the storm a calm; and the leper bowed down before him as truly divine, in the belief that, by his fiat, Jesus could in a moment deliver him from his otherwise incurable disease. So also the martyr Stephen prayed to Jesus to receive his soul into heaven, and to forgive his persecutors. In all these instances, the Son of God was visible to the worshipper; but other examples are recorded in the New Testament, in which prayer was addressed to him as to an unseen being: see Acts i. 21 25; 2 Cor. xii. 7 9. It does not appear to me that any sound Christian can object to the adoration of the Son or of the Holy Spirit, because the Scriptures afford abundant evidence of the subsistence of each of them, in the essence and unity of the Godhead; but if there is any one principle more p108 clearly laid down than another in the code of Holy Writ, it is, that God alone is the proper object of spiritual or religious adoration; and that if such worship is offered to any other Being, it is a deadly offence against the majesty of heaven, and a sin of the deepest dye.

Let us take that virtuous and faithful handmaid of God, the blessed mother of our Lord, as our first example. So far as her history is developed in the gospels, we cannot but admire her character. Her simple belief in the angelic annunciation, and her child-like devotion to the will of God, are indeed exemplary. Her attendance beside the cross, during the terrible sufferings of the dying Jesus, marked the triumph of affection and piety over all weakness and fear; and even her too great zeal for the display of his miraculous power at Cana of Galilee, although it met with a timely reproof from her Son, may be charitably ascribed to an ardent desire to behold his glory. But the mother of Jesus is not once mentioned in the apostolic epistles, or the Revelation. Honoured as she was among mortals, as the chosen vessel through whom the Word became incarnate, she lived as mortals live, and died as mortals die. p109 There is not the smallest hint in Scripture, that she never sinned; or that she entered heaven on any other ground than redemption through the blood of the Saviour who was born of her. In constituting her the queen of heaven; in adoring her in psalms, hymns, and prayers, as the mother of God; in addressing her as an omnipresent being, in order to implore her intercession with the Father and the Son; in calling upon her for deliverance from a variety of evils, both temporal and spiritual, (an unquestionably common practice among the adherents of the papal system) it is surely undeniable that the church of Rome is guilty of ascribing divine attributes, and of addressing divine worship, to a creature even a once fallen creature, like ourselves. Herein the name of Blasphemy is written on the forehead of the false prophet; or of the second beast, who had the visage of the lamb with the voice of the dragon.

The God of Israel is often described as a jealous God. He will admit of no rival in the worship of his people. Infinite is the distance, in point of dignity and power, between Him and the most exalted of his creatures. "Before me," saith the p110 LORD, "there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no Saviour:" Isa. xliii. 10, 11. If the worship of Mary, who undoubtedly occupied an exalted place in the plan of man's redemption, is utterly opposed to this sacred principle, the same remark still more obviously applies to the invocation of saints, whether they be apostles and evangelists of primitive times, or Romish devotees of a later period. When the act of bodily prostration was addressed by Cornelius to Peter, and indignantly rejected by him because he was "a man," little did the apostle imagine, that prayers and invocations would afterwards be addressed to him, and to a thousand other saints, real or supposed, as to so many unseen and spiritual beings. This worship is offered under the notion, in the first place, that although dead and invisible they can hear such addresses: and, in the second place, that it is their office to act as mediators or intercessors with the Father; and are moreover endued with a divine power, to fence off every kind of sorrow and danger from those who trust in them. Among the more ignorant of the Romish communion, these saints may truly be said p111 to serve the purpose of tutelary deities or demigods; or in other words, substitutes for JEHOVAH, in whose stead they are so frequently invoked as "mighty to save and able to deliver." But even when they are called upon, for the sole purpose of engaging their intercession, the fact of their being freely addressed, on all occasions which may appear to require their advocacy, and in all places wheresoever the lot of their suppliants may be cast, clearly involves the imagination that they possess one of the highest and most glorious of the divine attributes omnipresence.

Respecting the angels, the question is asked in Scripture, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who are heirs of salvation? This question supposes its own answer in the affirmative; nor is it unreasonable to believe, that the office of kindness, here ascribed to the angels, is shared by the departed spirits of those who have died in the Lord, and who are now for ever numbered among his saints in heaven. This is a cheering and comforting doctrine; and we may gratefully acknowledge, that there is a hidden tie of love and sympathy which binds together, as in "the bundle of p112 life," the members of the church militant with those of the church triumphant. But such a doctrine affords no ground whatsoever for the invocation of saints. If we address our petitions to them, (be those petitions what they may) we inevitably ascribe to them an ubiquity which belongs only to God; and thus we involve ourselves in a blasphemous offence against Him who is the ONLY right object of DIVINE worship.

It is well remarked by Bishop Butler, in his Analogy, that under the gospel dispensation, new relations are revealed to us, which demand the exercise of corresponding affections and feelings; especially the relation to us of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the appointed Mediator between God and man. The worship of Christ, recognized and enforced by Christianity, involves an affiance of the soul on Him in this peculiar character; and it is an affiance which admits of no rivalry. Hence it follows, that the worship of Mary and the saints, is not only blasphemy against the Father, inasmuch as it ascribes to them attributes exclusively belonging to God (even omnipresence and a divine control over events;) but blasphemy against the Son, because it robs him of a large share of his p113 mediatorial office; for we are taught in Scripture, that as there is ONE God, so there is ONE Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus; even the incarnate and glorified Word. On both these grounds therefore the adoration of Mary and the saints, as allowed and practised among the votaries of Rome, involves such an alienation of soul from the truth, and from the God of truth, as constitutes (so far as I am capable of understanding the subject) the essence of impiety; and impiety, under the form of captivating devotional feeling and exercise, must surely be a masterpiece among the inventions of Satan!

Yet this is far from being the whole of the case. Rome spiritual is guilty, not only of blasphemy and impiety, as now set forth, but also, in the strictest sense of the terms, of idolatry. No one can reasonably dispute that the second commandment of the first tablet of the law, although addressed specifically to the Israelites, is practically binding on the whole family of man. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not p114 bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God," &c.; Exod. xx. 4, 5. So far as the Israelites obeyed this law, they abstained from making any graven image, either of Jehovah himself, or of any of his creatures in order to worship them; and when they transgressed this command, they never failed to be severely punished. But Rome spiritual makes images of Jesus Christ who is "in heaven;" and bows down, in worship before them a practice which evidently involves the awful danger of a transfer of the aspiration of the soul, from the Saviour whom the image represents, to the image itself. She also makes idols innumerable of Mary and the saints, carves them out in wood, paints and adorns them after the supposed likeness of the originals, dresses them up in all sorts of finery, and then commands her votaries to bow before them, in solemn prostration both of body and soul. That this is genuine and frightful idolatry — an idolatry, which cannot on any sound principle, be distinguished from that of the heathen must, as I apprehend, be allowed by every calm and impartial observer. Here the professing church, apostate from the truth, and rebelling against her p115 Lord, justifies the worst title bestowed on her in Scripture, even that of the "Mother of harlots." She tramples on her marriage covenant with the Bridegroom of souls, she commits the most open spiritual fornication, and she implicates "all nations" in her sin, her guilt, and her shame: Rev. xvii. 5; xviii. 3.

This remark, however, is more especially verified by the worship of the host; i. e. the victim, or sacrifice. The prostration of body and soul before a WAFER, under the strange notion that this morsel of bread is itself the Deity incarnate, is an act of frequent occurrence; and one in which the potentates and nations of the earth have participated, during a long course of ages, in a most public and undisguised manner. That it is an act of gross and palpable idolatry such idolatry as would have been truly worthy of ancient Egypt itself must, I think, be known and felt by every reflecting Christian who has witnessed the practice, whether he be Roman Catholic or Protestant.

II. Prayer is an essential and principal part of the worship of God; and in order that we may perform divine worship aright, we must not only p116 address our petitions to Him who alone is the legitimate object of them; we must also confine the subject of them, to those things which are lawful, and consistent with the harmony of divine truth. Christians are encouraged to pray not only for themselves, but one for another. "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed:" James v. 16. It is indeed evident that the duty of intercession must take a wide range among the believing followers of Jesus. If this is truly our character, we shall pray for those who are near to us, and those that are afar off; for our friends and for our enemies; for the church and for the world; but we shall not pray for the dead — for those who have already exchanged a life of trial and probation, for one of eternal fixedness. Rome spiritual however enjoins prayers for the dead; and not only prayers, but the renewed sacrifice, daily offered on their account, of the body and blood of Jesus, in the mass; and even sells these performances to the highest bidder.

It may well be supposed that the adherents of the papal system would hardly have ventured on such a preposterous course, had they not found p117 some show of authority for it in Holy Scripture; and such indeed they have in what they so denominate namely, the second book of the Maccabees. In this apocryphal work, we learn that some of the Jews who fought, under Judas, against Gorgias, governor of Idumsea, were slain in the battle, and that on examination afterwards, there were found under their coats, "things consecrated to the idols of the Jamnites." Their death was regarded by their brethren as the judicial consequence of their transgression. "All men, therefore," says the historian, "praising the Lord, the righteous Judge, who had opened the things that were hid, betook themselves unto prayer, and besought him that the sin committed might wholly be put out of remembrance.... And when he (Judas) had made a gathering throughout the company, to the sum of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin-offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection. (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have arisen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.) And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly. (It was a p118 holy and good thought.) Whereupon he made reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin:" chap. xii. 41 45.

This certainly is a strange story: and if we are to rely upon the truth of the history, we must conclude that Judas and his brethren, not only prayed for the dead, but did so, under the peculiar notion that they might receive forgiveness, and be delivered from sin, on the other side the grave; and moreover, they caused sacrifices for sin to be offered in the temple, in furtherance of these prayers. Even if the history be regarded as untrue, it 'will still indicate that its unknown author, who was probably a Jew, entertained the notion that departed souls may receive forgiveness, through the intercession and sacrifices of their brethren who are still alive. Sentiments of this description appear to have found a place among more modern Jews, some of whom acknowledge a kind of purgatory, which continues for one year after death. This they call the upper Gehenna, and they believe that all Israelites, (with a few flagrant exceptions) have a portion in the world to come, or in a future state of happiness, either immediately after death, or after they have p119 atoned for their sins in purgatory. "The Jews," says Calmet, "offer up a great many prayers and works of satisfaction on the day of solemn expiation, for the comfort of such souls as are in the upper Gehenna. Leo of Modena, part 5, cap. x." &c.

The opinions which prevailed amongst the Jews at the Christian era, often throw light upon the meaning of passages in the New Testament, and are therefore far from being unimportant to the biblical critic; but to receive them as of any weight or authority in matters of doctrine, or any evidence, in themselves, of divine truth (except so far as they are founded on Scripture,) would be wholly out of the question. The passage in Maccabees shews nothing more than the opinion either of Judas himself, or of the author who wrote his history. That history, although included by the Roman Catholics in the volume of Scripture, lays no claim to divine inspiration, and never belonged to the true canon of the Hebrews. As authority, for the doctrine of purgatory, and prayers for the dead, the passage in question must therefore be entirely discarded.

In the New Testament itself, however, there are p120 two passages, one of which has been sometimes adduced as an authority for purgatory; and the other as a sanction for praying for the dead. The first is 1 Pet. iii. 18 20, where we read that Christ was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit, (that is, probably "raised from the dead by his own divine nature") by which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison which were sometimes disobedient in the days of Noah. That purgatory cannot be intended by the "prison" here mentioned, is evident from the fact, that this prison is spoken of as the abode of those who were disobedient in the days of Noah not the "almost innocent," to whom purgatory is assigned by Rome spiritual; but the intensely wicked, whose imaginations were "only evil continually in the sight of God" the children of wrath, who had trampled on the visitations of divine grace, and had rejected all the proffered mercies of the Lord. The passage probably means, as is generally allowed by commentators, that Jesus Christ, in his divine nature, preached either immediately by his spirit, or instrumentally by Noah, to those rebellious Antediluvians who were destroyed by the flood, and whose spirits p121 were (when the apostle wrote) in prison, reserved unto "the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."

The other passage has relation to Onesiphorus, 2 Tim. i. 16 18. "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus, for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me; the Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day." Again, in a subsequent chapter, the apostle salutes "Aquila and Priscilla, and the household of Onesiphorus:" iv. 19. From this repeated mention of the family of Onesiphorus, it is concluded by some persons, that he, himself, was not living, and that the apostle's ejaculation, "The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy," &c., is nothing more or less than a prayer for the dead. That this argument is weak can scarcely be denied; that it is fallacious too, a little consideration will evince. Were it clear that the "house" or "household of Onesiphorus" was not intended to include Onesiphorus himself, we have no reason on that account to number him among the dead. Onesiphorus was a traveller; it probably was not long p122 since, that he had visited the apostle at Rome; he might be absent from his family for a season. But we have no need to have recourse to the supposition either of absence or death. It is a common idiom among the Greeks to describe even an individual under the appellation of his companions; so that (the persons about Philip) would either mean Philip only, or at most Philip with his companions. So with Paul, "the household," or "they of the household" of Chloe, of Narcissus, of Aristobulus, of Stephanas, of Onesiphorus, &c., must be understood to mean, Chloe, Narcissus, Stephanas, Aristobulus, and Onesiphorus, with their respective families: see Rom. xvi. 10, 11; 1 Cor. i. 11, 16. The reason why these persons are thus described, while others are mentioned by their simple names, is probably no more than this that they had families, who were members of the church of Christ, as well as themselves.

The evidence which the adherents of the Papal system adduce in favour of a purgatory, and therefore of the propriety of prayers for the dead, if evidence it may be called, is in point of fact as nothing, when compared with the fulness and weight p123 of the great Christian doctrine of trial and probation here (with grace sufficient to obtain the victory) and of happiness or misery, unmixed and unchangeable, in the world to come.

The adherents of Rome seem to divide mankind into three classes; saints who, when they die, go at once to heaven; venial sinners who are sent from this world into purgatory, and there are purified and prepared for paradise; and desperate sinners who, when they quit this mortal scene, are consigned to the pains of hell itself, as their just and inevitable punishment. Now I conceive that this notion of a middle class, and of the means by which it is perfected, is nothing more than the invention of men, who are ever ready to find out a way to heaven which shall be compatible with their continuing to follow their own corrupt inclinations.

True indeed it is that Scripture recognizes sins "not unto death," and sins "unto death;" by the first of which, we may understand transgressions of which the true penitent receives a free pardon through faith in Christ; and by the second, such a blaspheming against the Holy Ghost, such a confirmed rejection of all that flows from his p124 divine influence, and such a persevering rebellion against God, as admit of no remedy, but inevitably terminate in the destruction of the soul. But it is surely a clear point that the New Testament recognizes only two classes of men in a spiritual point of view those who are of the world, and those who are not of the world; those who reject the gospel, and those who believe in it; the children of light, and the children of darkness; those who continue in their natural state of sinfulness, and those who, through timely submission to the grace of God, put off the old man with his "deceitful lusts," and become new creatures in Christ Jesus. All sin is the transgression of the divine law, is mortal in IN nature, and will assuredly end in the death of the soul, unless it is forsaken and washed away in the blood of Christ; and further, it is the plain doctrine of Scripture that the law of God is one harmonious system which admits of no infraction, and that he who offends in one point is guilty of all: James ii. 10. "All have sinned;" and are condemned to death by the law; but for all — if they will but believe and obey the gospel there is provided a free pardon and full redemption, through Jesus Christ p125 our Lord. Nor can it be questioned on any scriptural ground, that the faith by which the ungodly are justified, is a living faith, which cannot fail to be productive of a sober, righteous, and godly life. The Christian is under a dispensation of grace, and the path of the just is found to shine more and more, unto the perfect day.

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, these two great parties these only two classes among all the nations of the earth shall be gathered together before him, and shall find their respective places on his right hand, or on his left. Then shall the righteous hear the words of gracious invitation, "Come ye blessed of my Father," &c., but to the wicked of every name and nation, shall be addressed the awful sentence of "Depart ye cursed," &c. Not the slightest hint is given us of any middle state, in that day of final and universal judgment. In the meantime, the Christian convert, whether it be the apostle who has long been running the race of godliness, or the just converted and now believing criminal, is safe and happy immediately after death. "It is better to depart and be with Christ," said Paul: "To-day thou shalt p126 be with me in Paradise," said the dying Jesus to the thief who hung by his side. Lazarus too, is described in the parable as at once exchanging his miserable mortality, for a resting place in Abraham's bosom. But what becomes of the rich man who refused to comfort him? He dies, and is at once consigned to a place of punishment, from which there is no escape. What becomes of the foolish virgins who were scarcely to be distinguished from their companions while "they all slumbered and slept," but who, when the Bridegroom came, were found without oil in their vessels with their lamps? On them the door of mercy is shut and shut for ever.

It is indeed a truth, to which Christianity bears a strong and unquestionable testimony, that the present world is a state of trial and probation one in which the character of every man is developed as a ground for future righteous judgment, and in which a remedial system of moral discipline is bestowed upon us all, to prepare us for a happy eternity. If we reject God's remedy we perish; if we avail ourselves of it, in the obedience of faith, we shall be purified in this world by the baptism of the Holy Ghost; and without the p127 dreadful intervention of purgatory, shall enter at the very moment of death, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, into happiness and glory. Away then with the unscriptural practice of praying for the dead. Those who die in their sins are far beyond the reach of any benefit from our prayers. Those who die in the Lord, are with him in glory; they need none of our sacrifices, none of our petitions!

So far, it may be hoped, the subject before us has been cleared of its difficulties. Evidence has been given, sufficient to satisfy every candid mind, first that prayers to the virgin and the saints are utterly at variance with the scripture precept, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve;" secondly, that the worship of the images of those servants of the Lord is simple idolatry, the very same in its nature as that which the sacred writings every where condemn; thirdly, that the adoration of the images even of our Saviour himself, involves a breach of the second commandment; and lastly, that to pray for the dead, as if their condition was not one of unchangeable fixedness, is wholly at variance with the doctrine of our Lord and his p128 apostles, respecting trial and probation here, and retribution in the world to come.

There are two more points, on the subject of divine worship, on which it may be well for us to remark the contrast between the practice of the Romish church, and the precepts of the New Testament.

1. A great part of the service, in Roman Catholic worship, is performed in the Latin tongue, which the people cannot understand. The priest speaks aloud, as if for the benefit of the congregation; but, in point of fact, he speaks "to himself alone and to God;" for unless he happens to be as unlearned as his flock, he is probably the only person present, to whom the service performed is intelligible the only person therefore to whom it is a "reasonable service." In what way, or at what period of the history of the church, this strange practice was adopted, I confess myself to be ignorant; but it evidently appertains to the peculiar notion, that the church consists of the clergy only; and that these form a distinct tribe, like the Levites, who alone are required, and alone permitted, to perform p129 the services of the temple. The people among the Jews were standers by — spectators, and sometimes hearers, but not full participators in the acts of divine worship; and this is the place, which, with certain modifications, appears to be assigned to the laity under the papal system. It is, I suppose, on the same ground, that while the wafer, in the "sacrament," is given to the lay worshipper, the wine which symbolizes the blood or actual natural life of the Lord Jesus that life which was laid down for the sins of all mankind is quaffed only by the consecrated lips of the clergy themselves.

Whatsoever may have been the origin of the practice in question, it is evidently opposed to two principles which are strongly enforced in the New Testament; first, the union of the whole society of believers, as brethren and sisters in Christ, in the worship and service of God. All are baptized by one Spirit into one body all are made to drink of the same Spirit; all are members one of another, under one Holy Head all belong to the "royal priesthood," whose duty and privilege it is to offer up "spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord."


The second principle adverted to is so unquestionable, on the ground of "right reason," that it scarcely requires the confirmation of Scripture; yet it is clearly laid down by the apostle Paul. It is, that Christian worshippers who pray, sing, or exhort, in the congregation of the Lord, are bound to speak not only with the Spirit, but "with the understanding also," i. e. in such a manner that all the worshippers present may hear, understand, and be edified; 1 Cor. xiv. 15, 19.

2. One other point remains to be considered. The pomp of divine worship was maintained, under the Jewish law, in all its splendour. The materials and furniture, both of the tabernacle and the temple, were of the most beautiful and costly description; and the art and nicety with which they were arranged were consummate. The golden censers and candlesticks, the altar of brass, the ark of the covenant overlaid with gold, the figures of the cherubim with their wings extended, the magnificent curtains of purple, blue, scarlet, and crimson, the knops and flowers of exquisite carving, the gorgeous robes, the jewelled crown, the sparkling stones of the ephod, and a multitude of other seemly and beautiful objects were charming to p131 the eye of a people prone to dwell on the externals of religion; and being appointed of the Lord for a season, were, in their day, glorious; being all the while, with the whole system of sacrifice and outward show, a mere preparation for a better worship, and shadows or types of the superior glory of a truly spiritual religion.

It is one of the leading errors of the Papal and Hierarchical system, that this Jewish principle of outward beauty and glory in divine worship, is fully maintained, and even augmented under its sanction and government. The splendid architecture, the ornamental drapery, the dazzling colours, the embroidered vestments resonant with bells, the lofty candlesticks overlaid with gold, and a multitude of other fascinations, are leading characteristics of papal worship; to which may be added the pictures and images which adorn the temples of the professing church; her pompous services, her long processions, and all the decorations of her many holidays. Nor has the charming of the ear been less attended to than that of the eye. The swelling notes of the organ, the triumphs of Cecilia, the most exquisite cultivation of the vocal powers, have all been adopted by the p132 enchantress of the nations; and all combine to lull mankind into a childlike sleep on the lap of her sorceries.

But what is the language of our blessed Lord "The day is coming when neither on this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, they shall worship the Father. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth." The temple of the Lord is no longer the splendid edifice, decked with an outward show of solemn rites, and glittering ornaments. It is the church of the living God, a spiritual house, composed of lively stones, all joined to Christ the chief corner-stone, all cemented together in love, a building not made with hands, but raised by the operation of the power of God, exalted and united in Jesus, our holy Head, and filled, from season to season, with his glory.

The worship conducted in this temple is both individual and congregational, and no outward show or splendour is required for it in either case. The individual worshipper, whether in his private life, or when engaged with others in the public adoration of God, requires no gorgeous objects to attract his eye, no elaborate music to enchain his ear. His heart is p133 filled with the melody of praise, and breathes the sweet incense of prayer. His worship consists of the communion of his very soul with God his Father, through the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The worship of the congregation assumes, on a larger scale, the same character. Satisfied, as it regards outward accommodation, with that which is simple, convenient, and decorous, and divested of all dependence on those things which charm the senses, the members of Christ's church draw near in spirit unto God, listen to his word of truth, offer their free-will spiritual sacrifices, rejoice in the Lord who bought them, and under the blessed influences of his lifegiving Spirit, are edified together in love. Such, and such only ought to be the worship of Christians; such are the genuine simplicity and spirituality of the religion of Jesus Christ.

To: Table of CONTENTS

Chapter 6



WE have already found occasion to observe, that Rome spiritual lays claim to the continuance, under her auspices, of the sacerdotal system. No sooner have the ministers of religion, within her borders, received full ordination at the hands of the bishop, than they become priests, in the sense not of presbyters only, but of mediators and sacrificers. That this claim to the priesthood is utterly fallacious that no such office is recognized under the gospel dispensation, except in the person of the risen and ascended Saviour has, I trust, been sufficiently demonstrated on the authority of Holy Writ; and will probably be allowed by the generality of Protestants. But there are other parts of the system of ministry, adopted by Rome spiritual, which are p135 maintained, and that with no small measure of zeal and determination, by Protestants themselves.

The Romanists in the whole matter of ministry, depend on what they call apostolical succession; and the means which they adopt in order to secure this succession, is episcopal ordination i. e. an appointment to the ministerial office by the laying on of the hands of the bishop. Thus, from generation to generation, there is provided a supply of persons who shall be devoted to the service of the temple, and who are regarded as a perfectly distinct class constituting the church itself, or at any rate, its essential life its living, acting, and governing head or soul. A large proportion of the links of this sacred chain, and especially the earlier links, are merely imagined or supposed. History makes no mention of them; and some of them, in all probability, have been entirely wanting; but the church decrees that the succession has been unbroken, and her ipsa dixit is sufficient for her purpose.

On the other hand, history does afford the most explicit evidence that many of these links have been composed of extremely base metal — that many of the popes and prelates who have been the means p136 of continuing this succession, as well as multitudes of the inferior clergy themselves have been men of notoriously corrupt and vicious lives. Nevertheless, ecclesiastical romance takes it for granted, that, through this vitiated channel, the pure stream of the Holy Spirit has quietly flowed on, from age to age, as the true source of the clerical office. The Romish church boldly assumes for herself the continuance of the well-known apostolic miracle, and openly pretends that, by the laying on of the hands of the bishop, the Holy Ghost, as the ever-flowing fountain of ministry, is bestowed on every approved candidate for sacred orders. Here we have, first, a recognition of the promise of the Spirit; secondly, a restriction of that promise, so far as gifts are concerned, to the clerical class; and thirdly, a practical mockery of sacred things, in the notorious fact, that no such miraculous communication of spiritual gifts is believed in, or really thought of, either by the supposed giver, or the supposed receiver the ordainer or the ordained.

It is certainly a remarkable circumstance, that these gross and dangerous superstitions did not perish under the axe of the Reformers, and that p137 they are still maintained by the Protestant episcopal churches at any rate by the most reputable and powerful of these bodies the church of England. Like her mother of Rome, that church pleads the apostolic succession as the authority for her ministry; and she does not hesitate to confess, that this succession is derived to her through the medium of that corrupt parent, from whom she separated herself. Like her mother of Rome also, the church of England professes to convey to her ministers from generation to generation, by the laying on of episcopal hands, the gift of the Holy Ghost. Were such a gift the true consequence of episcopal ordination, as it was in primitive days of the laying on of the hands of apostles, no sincere Christian could object to such a method of ensuring a supply of Christian ministers. But every one knows that this is not the case. Notwithstanding all pretensions to the contrary, it is universally understood among the members of the church of England, that her ministers are appointed to their office by the simple authority of the ordaining bishop, and without the accompanying communication of any spiritual gift.

It ought to be observed, that in thus making p138 mention of the Holy Ghost, as the true qualifier for the ministry, the bishops of the churches of Rome and England, profess a sound and scriptural principle; yet they are evidently liable to the charge of irreverence, in pretending to the exercise of a miraculous power, of which they know themselves to be destitute. The ceremony of the laying on of hands is also practised by the generality of other Christian sects; but they lay no claim to the apostolic faculty of bestowing spiritual gifts. Among the Independents, Baptists, and others, the ministers of the respective congregations are chosen by the churches, and ordained by their elder brethren in the work. Among the Wesleyan Methodists, they are both chosen and ordained by the already existing body of ministers — the clergy of that denomination who hold in their own hands the power of discipline, together with the trusteeship of all the property belonging to the Society.

Thus it appears that not only the Romish church, but almost all the churches and sects which have been formed since the Reformation, have given their countenance to the setting apart, by human authority, of a particular class of men out of the p139 whole community of Christian believers, on whom alone are to devolve the various functions of the Christian ministry. They are separated from their brethren as much as the Levites were in days of old; they are ordained to be preachers by their fellow men, and by them are appointed to the care of particular congregations; and wholly abstaining as they do from the pursuit of any worldly calling for their own support, they are maintained either by compulsory ecclesiastical provisions, under the law of the land; or at the voluntary expense of their brethren who provide them with salaries. For the most part they are distinguished by a particular dress, and often by robes of office when they are publicly engaged; and under a variety of titles, from the Right Reverend Father in God, down to the simple Reverend, they are, with little exception, even among the dissenters, called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

A calm consideration of the subject may serve to convince every reflecting mind, that the Protestant clergy of various grades and denominations, are a modified type and yet a type of the Romish priesthood. While the generality of them do not p140 profess to be priests in the sense of [GREEK], or sacerdotes, they nevertheless assume, in various degrees, (the degree varying with the character of the denomination) an authority over the flock, a mediatorship between God and his people, an exclusive handling of sacred things, and a claim on the temporal support of their brethren, which are all more or less connected with the motion of an Aaronic succession, and all form integral parts of the Papal and Hierarchical system.

The reader will of course understand, that I am not attempting to sit in judgment on the individuals who have constituted, in past days, or who are now constituting, this great clerical fabric. I rejoice in the belief that notwithstanding the obstructions, which such a plan of ministry appears to me to offer to the free course of a divine and saving influence, the Holy Spirit has condescended to display his power in many of these persons — first, in truly calling them to their work, secondly, in qualifying them for the performance of it, and thirdly, in winning souls to Christ through their instrumentality. No one who knows anything of the state of the churches in this country and America, and no p141 one more especially who is acquainted with the history of Protestant foreign missions, can deny that such a work of grace has been carried on, in and through many members of this vast clerical body, to a considerable extent. Nor are there wanting examples of Roman Catholic priests, who have laboured for the diffusion of evangelical religion.

Under whatsoever administration or particular form of religion my fellow men are at work in promoting the cause and kingdom of Christ if they are but sincere in their love to him, and faithful to that which they believe to be their duty I can, from my heart, bid them "God speed" in the name of the Lord. The one thing needful — is the life of religion — its vital operation on the hearts of individuals; and if this necessary work is but experienced if the leaven, which quickens the dead souls of responsible men, does but spread all questions respecting modes of worship, and all that comes under the head of religious polity, must be regarded as comparatively unimportant. Nevertheless, truth is truth, and principle is principle, and it is by adhering to these that we shall best promote, in the end, the diffusion of this leaven. There can be little doubt p142 that were they to have full sway on the subject of the Christian ministry — were they to bear down all obstructions to their course, not indeed by the hand of violence, but by their own native efficacy the result would be a far wider and deeper flowing of the waters of life, than has hitherto been experienced since the days of primitive Christianity. The sacred stream which flows from under the throne of God and of the Lamb, instead of being bricked up in particular channels, and confined within certain precincts, marked out by the caprice and prejudice of man, would diffuse itself, by a divine and unrestricted energy, on every side. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." The liberty of the Spirit would be found a blessed freedom indeed, fraught with happiness to mankind, and wonderfully efficacious in promoting the reign of the Messiah, and the glory of God.

What then is the truth, and what the recta ratio, or right principle, in reference to this subject? For an answer to this question, we must apply ourselves, with all diligence and simplicity, to the testimony of Scripture, and particularly to that of the New Testament. p143 Now the New Testament is so far from giving any countenance to the division of the body of Christians into the two classes of clergy and laity, priests and people, that it everywhere upholds a unity by which any such division is wholly precluded.

In the first place, it is ever to be remembered that the church is not the select body of those who are appointed to feed the flock of Christ, but the flock itself either the assembly of believers in any particular place; or in a wider sense, the whole community of true Christians all the world over. Thus the apostle Paul salutes "all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops (or overseers) and deacons, (or servants.)" The "overseers" here mentioned, formed part of the body. They might be, and probably were, its most important and influential members; yet they were only members of that whole body of which Christ is the head. This point is so obvious, that it will not be disputed by any reasonable person, and need not be further argued.

But we cannot stop here. Discarding from our view, for the present, the mere professor of Christianity, p144 whose membership in the church of our blessed Lord is purely nominal, we must consider the true believers who constitute the living people of Christ, as baptized by one Spirit into one body; and although all the members of that body have not the same office, yet they all have some office; and if any single member fails to perform his own functions, or to perform them aright, the health of the body is thereby affected, and in proportion to the measure of the loss experienced, its life languishes; for the life of the body depends on the healthy, vigorous, and united action of all its parts. The whole subject is laid down, in the most vivid and explicit manner, by the apostle Paul. "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; p145 to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not of the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need p146 of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked; that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way:" 1 Cor. xii. 4-31; comp. Rom. xii. 4-9; Eph. iv. 11-16. p147 That more excellent way is charity or love, which cements all these members of the body together, and is itself the "bond of perfectness."

It is evident from this description, first, that all the members of the true church of Christ are partakers of one and the same life, even as the whole body lives by the circulation of the same blood; and the life by which every Christian lives unto God, is the influence of the Holy Spirit. By this, and this alone, he is quickened from dead works to serve the living God, in whom are his "springs." And, secondly, it is clearly taken for granted by the apostle, that every living member of the church will be brought into usefulness, and under some administration or other, will become profitable to the body. Thus it appears that in the true economy of the Christian system, the saving grace of the Spirit of God, and his gifts for particular services, although distinct, and not to be confounded, are correlative and co-extensive; and there is surely every reason to believe that the liveliness of any Christian body can never fail to be greatly augmented, where the spiritual functions, instead of being concentrated by force of human systems, in an p148 individual, are suffered to diffuse themselves, under the native energy of the Spirit, through the whole body. Such, at any rate, is the theory of the church, and such the practical pattern of it, presented to us in the Scriptures. It is to the whole of Israel, that the prophetical promise is addressed "Ye shall be named the priests of the Lord; men shall call you the ministers of our God:" Isa. Ixi. 6. And it is to the whole body of Christian believers that the apostle Peter applies a corresponding language, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ;" and again, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:" 1 Pet. ii. 5, 9.

It will probably be admitted by every reader, whose mind is free from educational bias on the subject, that this apostolic view of the component parts of a Christian church, while it proclaims a wonderful diversity of administration and function under one and the same Spirit, is directly opposed p149 to the customary division of the body of Christ, into the two distinct classes of clergy and laity. The setting apart of a tribe, like that of Levi of old, to be supported by their brethren, and to be devoted to the services of the temple, belongs to the dispensation of the law. So far as appears from the New Testament, it is wholly foreign from the nature and plan of Christianity. Under the gospel, there is indeed a great variety of gifts, but no division into classes or tribes; no formula of one tribe officiating for God, while all the rest of Israel, so far as relates to spiritual function, is dead and passive. On the contrary, all belong to one and the same great class, that of the servants, ministers, and priests of the living God. In this character, "the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people, as a dew from the Lord, as the showers that water the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men:" Mic. v. 7.

Yet we do not forget that all the members of the body have not the same office. On the contrary, the distinctness of the service into which every member is called, must be maintained in its integrity; for it is thus alone that we shall preserve p150 the order and harmony of the whole body. Among such distinct services, are those of pastorship, eldership, and overseership, all which terms of spiritual office are nearly synonymous, and represent that care and government of the flock, which devolved, in primitive days, on the most experienced members of the body. These were appointed to their office, with the laying on of the hands of the apostles and their brethren, but always under the especial guidance and qualifying influences of the Holy Spirit. They were probably, for the most part, the older Christians, who exercised, under Christ, a beneficent rule over the flock, and whom the younger and less experienced believers were exhorted to obey. There is reason to believe that in most of the churches of the apostolic age, these guides of the flock were numerous. In others they might be few. In others again the office of overseership or government might devolve on a single individual. But whatsoever might be the circumstances of any particular church in this respect, the office itself was the result of a distinct gift or call of the Spirit, and not of the setting apart of a separate tribe or class by the authority of their fellow men. p151 As to the function of ministry (as we now call it), it was sometimes exercised by those who also received the gift of government; and the elders who laboured in word and doctrine were counted worthy of peculiar regard. "Let the elders who rule well, be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in word and doctrine:" 1 Tim. v. 17. But there was no official or necessary connexion, in primitive days, between the gift and office of government, and the gift and office of preaching. The preachers of the word, in that day were called prophets; not because they uttered predictions, but because they spake under the immediate influence of the Spirit of God. The gift of prophecy, although perhaps not of so high an order as that of tongues, and other gifts of a directly miraculous nature, is represented by the apostle as peculiarly desirable because of its usefulness. "He that prophesieth," says Paul, "speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." The prophets or preachers in the primitive churches were numerous, and exercised their gifts in the assemblies of the saints, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Their services were not only for the building up of God's people, but p152 also for the convincement of the ignorant and unbelieving. "But if all prophecy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest, and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and acknowledge that God is in you of a truth:" 1 Cor. xiv. -4-, 25. When, however, the anointed servants of the Lord were sent forth among the heathen to declare the salvation which is in Christ, to a dark and perishing world, they probably received the name of Evangelists.

The apostles were enabled, by the laying on of hands and prayer, to call down on others the gift of prophecy, but the gift itself was bestowed only by the Great Head of the church; and as He alone could call unto this sacred office, so He alone, by his Spirit, could qualify any man to perform it. The immediate influence of the Spirit was indeed found to be necessary, not only for the original introduction to the functions of a preacher, but for every successive act of speaking in the name of the Lord. Whether the prophets were called into preaching or prayer, in the primitive assemblies p153 for divine worship, they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; and at all times when that divine motion was withheld, they must of course have kept silence. "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace; for ye may all prophecy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted:" 1 Cor. xiv. 29-31.

From the description which the apostle gives of the prophets and their functions, it is abundantly evident that while they possessed a distinct gift, they were not, any more than the elders and rulers, a separate tribe or class. All the living members of the church were admissible into these functions, provided always that the Lord was pleased to call them into the work. Neither did they require any preparatory course of literary instruction to qualify them for their service the grace of Christ was sufficient for them. There is every reason to believe that these remarks are true, as it regards the sisters as well as the brethren, in the church. When the apostle commands the women to "keep silence in the churches," the key to his meaning appears to be p154 given in the words which follow, "And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home." They might not interrupt the preachers of the word by asking them questions, as was commonly done in the Jewish synagogues; neither might they undertake the office of public teaching which involved an assumption of authority over the flock: 1 Tim. ii. 12. But that Paul had no intention to forbid their prophesying i. e. their preaching or praying under the immediate influence of the Spirit may be safely concluded, first, from his saluting many women, in his epistles, not only as his helpers, but as his co-workers: and secondly, by his giving directions, in what manner the women were to be attired, when they were engaged in the public act of prophesying: see 1 Cor. xi. 1-16. The plain fact is, as Grotius has observed, that the direct influences of the Spirit of God are beyond positive laws; and the effusion of those influences on both sexes, as a qualification for prophesying, was predicted by Joel, and marked out by the apostle Peter, as one of the distinguishing signs of the Christian dispensation. When the Spirit was poured forth, on the day of Pentecost, upon the whole company p155 of believers, Peter said, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, And it shall come to pass in the last days (saith God) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and on my servants and on my hand-maidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy:" Acts ii. 16-18; comp. Joel ii. 28, 29.

Nor are we to imagine that an inspired ministry, as it has now been described on apostolic authority, was to be confined to the primitive church. This might be in a great degree the case, as it regards those gifts which were directly miraculous, and intended as resistless evidences to an unbelieving world such as those of healing and tongues. But the gift of prophecy was for the use of the church in all ages, being "profitable for edification, and exhortation, and comfort;" and the blessed influence under which alone it can be rightly exercised, was to be bestowed on the believing children of God to the end of time. "The Holy Ghost" was to "abide" with them "forever:" John xiv. 16. "The promise," cried Peter to the multitude of his hearers, "is unto you, and to your children, and to all that p156 are afar off; even to as many as the Lord our God shall call:" Acts ii. 39. Now this was the promise of the Spirit as the Author not only of grace, but of the gifts which were necessary for the edification and enlargement of the church. "My Spirit that is upon thee," says Jehovah to his Christ, "and my words which I have put into thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, from henceforth, and forever:" Isa. lix. 21.

In this last most cheering passage of Scripture, is unfolded the true secret of continuation and succession, in the work of the Christian ministry. It was all well that a Timothy should commit those precious truths which he had himself heard from the lips of Paul, to faithful men, that they, in their turn, might be able to teach others also; and it was still better, that Paul and his inspired brethren should record those truths in the volume of the New Testament, which was appointed to become an infallible standard of faith and doctrine — a test by which all human preaching should afterwards be tried. But for the continuation of the work of the ministry in the church for the actual succession p157 of living preachers of the gospel our whole dependence must be placed upon God; who, by his own power, put his words into the mouth of his servants, even those whom He chooses, raises up, and ordains from generation to generation, in the church of Christ. I am persuaded that up to the present date, such living witnesses to the truth of God have never failed from the earth; and since the promises of God are yea and amen for ever, we may rest assured that they never will fail, while there is a church to be edified, and souls to be saved. The golden oil will still flow from the olive trees of the Lord, which himself has planted, and through the golden pipes which himself has formed; nor can it be doubted that persons have been, and still are, truly called into the work, under a great variety of names and administrations. Yet it is not too much to assert, that if there was less of the admixture of human wisdom, system, and authority in some of these administrations, the work of the Lord would go forward with greater clearness, greater brightness, and greater effect. His own word of truth would run and be glorified, and abundant would be the joy of his people in Him. p158 In the system of ministry which, on the simple authority of the New Testament, has now been described and advocated, two evils, which have since greatly perplexed the professing church of Christ, are entirely avoided. The first is patronage, and the second, the popular election of ministers.

It is obvious that in primitive times, when all exercised the function of preacher, who were called into the work by the great Head of the church, and anointed for it by the Holy Ghost, there could, in the very nature of things, be no secularities mingled with the preaching of the gospel. It was exclusively a spiritual office, and as it could not possibly be procured by purchase or hire, so it required no pecuniary remuneration. It was one of the Lord's free gifts to his children, and was exercised on the basis of his own precept, "Freely ye have received freely give." True indeed it is that the evangelists the apostles the travelling preachers of the word who had turned their backs, in the love of Christ, on their customary means of livelihood, had an undoubted claim, for temporal support, on those for whose benefit they were sent to labour. The workman was worthy of his meat. But we find that Paul, p159 when he tarried any considerable length of time in one place, never failed to recur to his handicraft business for his own maintenance, that he might not be burdensome to the churches which he had planted; and he even ministered in temporals to those who were with him, being well assured that it is "more blessed to give than to receive." A fortiori there can be no doubt that the "prophets," who continued to occupy their own homes, pursued their various worldly callings for the support of themselves and their families, and for the help of those who needed their assistance. Their spiritual office was accompanied by no temporal emolument; it could not therefore be a matter of patronage.

For the very same reason, it could not be an object which any man would pursue in the way of canvassing the votes of the members of a congregation. There was nothing in the functions of a prophet, which could gratify either the avarice or the ambition of man, nothing which could call any one into the strife and turmoil of a popular election. The plain fact is, that the prophets were chosen from their very birth, by the Lord of life and glory, who reigns supreme over his own church: and p160 when ripened by his grace, and called to his work, they rose up in the congregations of his people, to declare of his goodness, or knelt down in public vocal prayer; not at the command or suggestion of man, but as the Holy Spirit, on each successive occasion, led them into their service, and qualified them for its performance. Yet we are not to forget that the "spirits of the prophets" were subject to the prophets. They were to maintain a watchful regard for their brethren, to make way one for another, and to speak two or three (in succession of course) while the others judged. Among the various gifts then bestowed on the church, was that of the discernment spirits; there was the spiritually instructed ear which tasteth words as the mouth tasteth meat; there were the elders in the church, whose duty it was to look to the preservation of the quietness and harmony of the assemblies, that all things should be done "decently and in order." Finally, there was the body of the Lord's people, who could not fail to compare the doctrine preached with the testimony of Scripture, and to feel whether it was so delivered in the life of the truth, as to reach the witness for God in their own bosoms. While p161 therefore the choice of the preacher could never be a matter of popular election, there can be no question that it rested with the church, under the guidance of its Holy Head, to try the pretensions of the prophets; to encourage or disallow their services; and publicly to acknowledge the validity of the gift, when experience had afforded sufficient evidence that it was indeed of God.

In order to bring our subject to a satisfactory conclusion, we must, in the last place, inquire what was the primitive plan of conducting congregational worship. If the clerical system which crept into the church in times of diminished vigour and purity, and to which the generality of Christians are accustomed in the present day, had been instituted by our Lord, and practised by his earliest followers, there can be no doubt that we should have found ample notices of it in Scripture. We should have read of the congregations of the Lord's people, each under the presidency, guidance, and teaching of some one appointed preacher who should act as the head, heart, lungs, and tongue of the whole assembly; on whose lips all were to hang; on whose doctrine all were to depend, to the utter exclusion of the rest of the congregation. p162 But so far are we from finding such a pattern in the New Testament, that a directly contrary view is there presented to us. The apostle Paul has given us, incidentally indeed, yet most graphically, a living description of the Christian assemblies for divine worship as they were held in his own day see 1 Cor. xiv. There we find that the vocal ministrations, practised on these solemn occasions, were, in no degree, restricted to the individual tenant of a pulpit; but were completely congregational, conducted under the immediate influences of the Spirit in the liberty of the Holy Ghost. One had a psalm, another a doctrine, another a tongue, another a revelation, another an interpretation. On all were poured forth, under different administrations, the gifts of the same Spirit. Above all the blessed gift of prophecy, through which the word of truth was freely preached, was liberally diffused by the Great Head of the church so that "all might prophecy" (when rightly called to the work), and all be edified. Here the whole body is represented to us as alive in the native power of truth a joint and united spiritual priesthood, prepared of the Lord to offer up "spiritual sacrifices, acceptable unto God through p163 Jesus Christ." Now since all the vocal offerings of primitive congregational worship, were thus prompted by the moving of the Holy Spirit, it follows that when no such divine motion was felt, the congregation must have remained in silence. Nor is it, as I apprehend, possible that such a system of worship could have been conducted in true decency and order, on any other basis. "Keep silence before me, all ye islands, and let the people renew their strength; let them draw near, then let them speak," &c. "The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him." These awful commands must surely have been found to have a virtual application to the primitive assemblies of God's people; composed, as they were, of persons who dared not speak aloud in divine worship, except as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. At such times of awful silence, the Lord Jesus Christ must have been felt to be present with them, taking the office of Preacher into his own hands, and ministering to every member of the body, according to its need. He is indeed "the Minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which God pitched and not man" our Prophet as well as our Priest, who still speaks, p164 by his Spirit, "with authority" "as never man spake;" and it is only as we are gathered to a living dependence upon his teaching, that we can really grow and flourish in religion, and bring forth the fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of God. In the whole matter of Christian ministry as its author, conductor, inspirer, and theme, and above all, as He who teaches us immediately by his Spirit our Lord Jesus Christ is, and ever will be, our ALL in ALL. Could we but renounce our dependence on the systems, forms, and contrivances of men, and put the fulness of our trust in His wisdom, love, and power, there is every reason to believe that his truth would spread with wondrous energy; and mightily would that blessed day be hastened when "the kingdoms of this world" shall "become the kingdoms of our Lord; and of his Christ."

To: Table of CONTENTS

Chapter 7



THE oath which it was customary to administer to every Roman soldier, on his joining the armies of the empire, was called a sacrament — sacred words, accompanied by a solemn interior meaning, by which the newly enlisted warrior was bound to the service of his general and his prince. No such term is to be found in the Holy Scriptures; nor is it easy to discover at what date, or on what occasion, it first found its way into the vocabulary of Christians. Its theological meaning, however, is ably developed by Hooker, as follows: "As often as we mention a sacrament" says he, "it is improperly understood; for in the writings of the ancient fathers, all articles which are peculiar to Christian faith, all duties of religion, containing that which sense or natural reason cannot p166 by itself discern, are most commonly named sacraments. Our restraint of the word to some few principal divine ceremonies, importeth in every such ceremony, two things; the substance of the ceremony itself which is visible; and besides that, somewhat else more secret, in reference whereunto we conceive that ceremony to be a sacrament." See Johnson's Dictionary on the word. From this passage it is evident, that the true point which is necessary to make any thing a sacrament, is some internal and mysterious truth or operation, hidden both from the outward senses and natural reason of man, and therefore an object of religious faith. Thus the word is applied to certain ceremonies, because they are outward and visible signs of an inward grace, supposed to be annexed to them, and properly inherent in them.

That there are, in the first and general sense of the word, as used by the ancient fathers, many sacraments in the Christian religion cannot be denied; for all the peculiar doctrines of our faith are mysterious in the view of human reason they contain a depth which the unassisted wisdom of man cannot fathom. So also the precepts of Christianity are many of them peculiar, and have their foundation p167 in Him who is himself the Word of God the Wonderful One whom man knows not by nature, but in whom nevertheless "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Again, if certain ceremonies are called sacraments in consequence of some mysterious virtue, or powerful operation, with which they are supposed to be connected, it is certain, that this efficacious interior must in itself be still more a sacrament, on the old logical principle, "Quo quidvis tale fit , id magis tale est; That by which any thing becomes such, is itself more such"

On this last point we shall have more to say hereafter. In the mean time, a view must be taken of those ceremonies, or ordinances, which are called sacraments, because of their supposed necessary connexion with a hidden or mysterious operation, or, in other words, an inward grace. The Romish church insists on seven such ordinances baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penance, ordination, extreme unction, and marriage. From this list, Protestants have selected baptism and the eucharist, as the only sacraments of Christianity; these, therefore, will require our chief consideration. In the meantime, in order to the clearing of our subject, p168 it may be well to make a few remarks on the five remaining articles.

1. Confirmation. That it is the duty of parents and others who have the care of children, to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, is an undoubted truth; and when they come to an age approaching to manhood, it is surely incumbent, both on their natural protectors and their spiritual overseers, to confirm them, both by precept and example, in a religious life and conversation, that they may not enter the callings of the world, or be exposed to its manifold temptations, without the protection of those Christian principles which can alone insure their virtue here, or their eternal happiness hereafter.

So far we are fully warranted by the acknowledged principles of scriptural truth. With respect to confirmation in its technical meaning, it may be defined as the ceremony by which young people, when they come to years of discretion, take upon themselves, under the laying on of the hands of the bishop, the vows made for them at their baptism in infancy by their sponsors that they will renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, and lead a righteous and godly life. It is almost needless p169 to say that such a ceremony is never once mentioned or alluded to in Scripture. Both among Roman Catholics and some Protestant churches, it forms part of a plan, which, whether expedient or not, notoriously belongs to the inventions of man, and not to the law of God.

It is not my present business to inquire what benefit may accrue to individuals from their entering on such solemn engagements, or from the advice and instruction with which the ceremony is usually accompanied. I have only to remark, that whatsoever else confirmation may be, it is not a sacrament; because it is not necessarily or properly connected with any interior powerful operation, with any inward grace. Experience amply proves that thousands and tens of thousands of those who are recipients, and (so far as appears) honest and willing recipients, of this ordinance of the church, are by no means partakers of an effective inward grace. On the contrary, they grow up to manhood in the character of mere worldlings; and throng the broad and easy road which leads to destruction.

My lot was once cast in a foreign country where this result is notorious. The clergy of the church, p170 there established, are officially engaged in training the young of their flock, until the period arrives for confirmation. When this ceremony has been performed, the young person is no longer considered to be under any peculiar clerical care. The vow has been exacted, and liberty is now given. This liberty soon degenerates into licentiousness; and "confirmation," so far from being the fastening of the principles of Christian truth and virtue, is found, in very many instances, to be a sort of signal for unrestrained entrance on the paths of vice. Who then can imagine that there is any inherent sacramental virtue in the ceremony of confirmation?

2. Penance. That there is an extreme danger of confounding penance with repentance, is evident from the fact that in Roman Catholic versions of the New Testament, the former is generally substituted for the latter. Penance I understand to be disciplinary punishment, inflicted by the Romish clergy on those who have acknowledged any transgression at confession. When some poor Irishman, for example, is seen creeping round one of the chapels on his bare knees, over rough stones, or is heard repeating a thousand Ave Marias, this is penance a performance p171 which Rome celebrates with the name of sacrament. This disciplinary infliction is considered, as I understand, to serve the purpose of satisfaction for sin. That it often takes the place of those grand essentials of Christianity, "repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ," is, in my opinion, highly probable. The suffering which reconciles the offender to his priest, and procures him absolution as its meed, is sufficient for the children of superstition and ignorance; they forget the necessity of a broken spirit; they forget the efficacy of the blood of Jesus for the blotting out of sin. This tendency in the practice, of penance, may possibly be at times counteracted by a watchful care on the part of the clergy; but no one can fail to perceive that it is at once natural and highly dangerous. Be that as it may, however, penance, with its accompaniments, is no sacrament; it is destitute of any necessary connexion with inward grace. Many of those who are thus punished, and thus absolved, sincere though they be in their submission to the infliction, pursue the path of sin; are punished and absolved again and again; and have, in the end, nothing to depend upon for their p172 salvation, but priestly discipline and priestly absolution.

3. Ordination. Did the gift of the Holy Ghost truly and necessarily accompany the ceremony of ordination, that ceremony might justly claim the name of a sacrament. But as the fact is otherwise, and is generally understood and allowed to be so, ordination is an outward form without any hidden or mystical interior; and therefore no sacrament.

4. Extreme Unction. "Is any sick among you?" says the apostle James, "let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." The apostle wrote during the age of miracles; when in answer to the prayers of his saints, the sins of sick persons were freely forgiven through faith in Jesus, and they were at the same time restored to bodily health; the miracle wrought on the body being the evidence of the spiritual deliverance or cure. Just such was the happy lot of the palsied sufferer, who, after Jesus had forgiven his sins, was miraculously healed, and took up his bed and p173 walked. There is no reason to suppose that even in that day, the anointing with oil (a common oriental practice) was of any efficacy for procuring either the pardon of the soul, or the cure of the body. That it has no inward grace connected with it in the present day that it is no means of obtaining reconciliation with God, no means of admission into heaven, as many a superstitious votary of Rome ignorantly imagines is evident from the fact, that the old sign of the miraculous healing of the body is totally wanting. Extreme unction therefore, whatever else it may be, is no sacrament.

5. Marriage. It is fervently to be hoped, notwithstanding all the legal facilities which are, in the present day, given to marriage, to the exclusion of religious ceremony as a necessary accompaniment, that this sacred tie, will always be regarded by Christians as a religious compact, honourable in the sight of God and man, and bearing the stamp of a divine sanction and authority. Nor can it be denied, that this compact has been blessed to many souls that husband and wife, in very numerous instances, are found to be each other's helpers in spiritual things, and joint partakers of the p174 "grace of life." But to imagine that inward grace is connected with the ceremony of marriage, in such a sense as that when the latter is performed, the former is thereby bestowed, is to imagine a fiction, of which experience is constantly demonstrating the utter futility. Rich blessing therefore, as it is to man, and when rightly entered into, truly a religious as well as a civil covenant - Marriage unquestionably is no sacrament.

On a calm review of the five articles of ecclesiastical practice or ceremony, which have now been briefly considered, it must be evident to every impartial inquirer, that there is no inherent mysterious virtue in any one of them. In making this assertion, it is necessary for us to observe the distinction between the blessing which may rest on the sincere mind in the conscientious performance of any supposed religious duty, and a hidden power in the performance itself, by which alone it is constituted a sacrament. I presume that even the votaries of Rome would allow, that the reception of any of these ceremonies, by the mere hypocrite, would avail him nothing; and the most zealous Protestants might willingly grant, that the sincere p175 and conscientious performance of ceremonies, believed to be ordained of God, may be accompanied by a blessing, even though the rites themselves are destitute of any true divine authority. But Rome asserts that there is in these ceremonies an inherent power or virtue, by which grace is conveyed to every sincere recipient. Protestants, on the contrary, are of the judgment in accordance with the plainest dictates of reason and truth that there is no such inherent power or virtue in Confirmation, Penance, Ordination, Supreme Unction, or Marriage; and therefore that none of these ceremonies are sacraments. And now having briefly disposed of these five articles, we must proceed to take a view of the two remaining ceremonies, to which the generality of Protestants, as well as the members of the church of Rome, ascribe such an inherent power, and therefore apply the name of sacraments I mean water baptism, and the eucharist.

I. It is generally believed both by Roman Catholics and Protestants, that water baptism was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, as a standing ordinance in his church. In this sentiment I cannot concur; but whether it is correct or otherwise, I believe it may be easily shown that this ceremony p176 is no sacrament. We have no reason to imagine that it contains any inherent power or virtue, by which grace is conveyed to the soul of the recipient whether that recipient be the sincerely believing adult, or the harmless unconscious infant.

In order to unfold the subject with clearness, it must in the first place be observed, that the inward grace which is supposed to be contained in water baptism, is the grace of regeneration — the grace by which man, naturally corrupt and dead to holiness, is born again, or born spiritually, unto righteousness. In adults this grace must be regarded as tantamount to conversion.

The history of the New Testament furnishes no clear instance of the baptism of infants. The "household of Stephanas," and the families of Lydia, and of the jailer at Philippi, may have included little children, or they may not; we are in possession of no evidence either way. In the mean time, the examples are numerous, in the New Testament, of the baptism of grown up persons. Many were they who flocked to the banks of Jordan, that they might receive this rite of purification at the hands of John. Even Jesus himself, who needed no p177 repentance, submitted to the ceremony, because of the character which it then undoubtedly bore of a divine ordinance. And no sooner had he commenced his own ministry, then his disciples made use of the same rite in his name; so that when a dispute arose "between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying," it was said to John, "Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to him:"' John iii. 25, 26.

It is probable that the disciples of Jesus continued to practice this rite, during the whole course of his ministry. So also the historical fact is clear, that after our Lord's resurrection and ascension, they made frequent use of water baptism. The converts on the day of Pentecost, the Samaritan converts, the Ethiopian eunuch, Cornelius and his family, the jailer at Philippi, and Lydia, with their respective households, the Corinthian and Ephesian believers, were all baptized with water, by the hands of the apostles, or with their sanction and authority: see Acts ii. 38; viii. 12, 38; ix. 18; x. 48; xvi. 15, 33; xviii. 8; xix. 5.


Now I freely confess my own apprehension, that in thus making use of water baptism, the apostles and their brethren were not acting under any command from their Lord and Master, but only following up an old practice which was perfectly familiar to the Jews. When the law was delivered to the Israelites from Mount Sinai, they were commanded to "wash their clothes;" and the Rabbins determine that this washing was the immersion of their whole persons with their clothes on; this being the baptism, or rite of purification, appointed for the people, on their entering into the covenant of the law. We are assured by Maimonides, and other learned Jews, that the baptism of proselytes to the Jewish faith, was a practice on which their forefathers insisted from a very early antiquity; and that no proselyte could be considered a partaker of the national privileges, who was not both circumcised and baptized. If either ceremony was wanting, the Judaism was incomplete.[8]

In point of fact, bathing or washing in water, under some form or other, was the constant sign by which the Israelites were accustomed, under the p179

Jewish law, to mark the change from defilement to purity, or from one degree of purity to another. Thus every new doctrine every new subject of belief was accompanied by a corresponding cleansing of the body in water. The proselyte from heathenism was baptized on adopting the Israelite's faith, in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The disciple of John was baptized, on a further stage of belief namely, in the near approach of the Messiah. The disciples of Jesus were baptized, in their turn, when they were converted to faith in the Messiah already come. Each step in the process indicated an advance in the law of holiness, and each step was accompanied, as a matter of course, by a new baptism. Yet the rite of purification, in all these cases, was of the same nature, and belonged to the peculiar mode of thinking and acting, to which the Israelites were accustomed. In other words, it belonged to the system of divine worship established under the law - a system which "stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances," imposed on the Jews until the "time of reformation." From such practices, p180 so familiar to their thoughts and habits, the apostles of Jesus were emancipated only by degrees. Neither did our Lord insist on any sudden change in this respect; but having promulgated the great doctrine that, under the Christian dispensation, God who is a Spirit, was to be worshipped only in spirit and in truth worshipped under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and in the reality, as distinguished from the shadow, type, or figure he left that grand principle to work its own way in the minds and hearts of his followers. In the mean time, his example, on the subject of baptism, was very significant. Before he commenced his own ministry, he submitted to the baptism of John, which was divinely authorized, and formed part of the righteousness which then was; but as the messenger of the New Covenant, he personally abstained from the use of any such rite. When the apostle John records "how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John," he adds, "though, or howbeit Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples:" iv. 2.

Shortly or immediately before his ascension, and p181 in the course of his parting conversation with his disciples, our Saviour made repeated mention of baptism. Then it was that he gave his apostles their commission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles "baptizing them in (or into) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" Matt, xxviii. 19. Were we to grant that water baptism was here intended, it obviously does not follow that our Lord instituted this ceremony for the use of his apostles; much less that he established it as a permanent ordinance in his church. The apostles, as has been observed, were already in the practice of using this rite; and if the outward ceremony was here intended, our Lord's words cannot (as I conceive) be fairly understood as commanding it, but only as giving to it (or rather to the ministry with which it was connected) a new direction. The apostles had hitherto confined their labours to their fellow-countrymen, who were believers in the Father and the Holy Ghost; and the faith into which they were the means of bringing them, and into which they baptized, was faith in Jesus the incarnate Son. Now they were to go forth among the idolatrous heathen, p182 and the faith in which they were to instruct their hearers — the faith into which their doctrine and baptism were to introduce them, was faith in the true God JEHOVAH ELOHIM, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In this point of view, the words Doctrine and Baptism were almost synonymous — it being, as before remarked, the acknowledged principle of the Jews, that where there was a new doctrine, there also, as a matter of course, was a new baptism.

But Jesus was accustomed to speak of baptism in a spiritual sense: (Mark x. 39,) and another passage in which, in his last conversation with his disciples, he adverted to the subject, seems to afford a key to his meaning here. "Being assembled together with them," (immediately before his ascension) he "commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence:" Acts i. 4, 5. On the day of Pentecost, the apostles, and with them the whole infant church, were indeed baptized with the Holy Ghost; and being thus endowed, they were made instrumental p183 (under the power of Him who promised to be with them always unto the end of the world) in extending the same baptism to others. Theirs was a living ministry; the words which they spoke, like those of their divine Master, were spirit and they were life. Thus was their preaching the means of bringing down a most blessed spiritual influence on those who heard them; as was the case with Peter, when he declared the truths of the gospel to Cornelius and his friends. Not by any form, not by any outward element, but by the proclamation of the whole truth, under the power of God, they baptized the Jews into the name of Jesus — the Gentiles into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Well therefore might Paul (an undoubted partaker in the great apostolic commission) say to the Corinthians, "Christ sent me not to baptize (i. e. with water) but to preach the gospel." Well might he add, that the "preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God:" 1 Cor. i. 17, 18.

This view of the subject perfectly agrees with Mark xvi. 15, 16, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth p184 and is baptized shall be saved." He that believes the gospel, from the heart, and is baptized by the one Spirit into the one body, shall indeed receive the "end" of his faith, "even the salvation" of his soul: comp. 1 Pet, iii. iM. 28,

On the review of this statement, the unprejudiced inquirer may perhaps agree with me in the sentiment, that there is no sufficient evidence in the New Testament that water baptism was ordained by our Lord; or that we are required to observe this ceremony as of permanent obligation, under the Christian dispensation. The more we reflect on the spiritual and vital nature of the New Covenant, the clearer (as I believe) will be our apprehension that all types and shadows, in the worship and service of God, are by a general law abolished, having received their fulfilment in the glorious realities of the gospel; and being for ever finished, in point of authority, first, by the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross, and secondly, by its blessed consequence the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the church of Christ.

To continue to observe such types and shadows, seems to me to be an adherence to the principles of the Jewish law, and to be at variance with one p185 of the grand features of our common Christianity. But whatever may be the conclusion deduced from our premises on this point, one thing appears to be clear that the rite of baptism as practised by John the Baptist and the apostles, contained no hidden or mysterious grace, no regenerating or converting power, whereby the honest recipients of the ceremony were made partakers of newness of life. In other words, it was no sacrament. In order to substantiate this remark, we have only to recur to the plain history of the subject.

When the multitudes from Jerusalem, Decapolis, and other places, flocked to the banks of Jordan, to be baptized by John, it may be presumed, that many of them were sincere in the belief of his doctrine, and were truly brought to repentance towards God. Now of this repentance, if we may judge from the analogy of Scripture, his preaching was the means, and the baptism by which it was accompanied, nothing more than the appointed sign.

Again, when "Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John," (John iv. 1), or rather, when Jesus made these disciples, and his followers baptized them (see ver. 2), there can be no doubt that the p186 grace of conversion went forth towards these new believers, under the preaching of Jesus; and that the ceremonial act of the apostles, which followed their conversion, was simply the visible sign and acknowledgment of that which had already taken place. Just similar was the case with the three thousand converts on the day of Pentecost, (Acts ii. 38); with the Ethiopian who was convinced and converted under the preaching of Philip (viii. 38); with Lydia and her household, and the jailer and his family, at Philippi (xvi. 15, 33); with the believing Corinthians (xviii. 8), and Ephesians (xix. 5). All these were brought to a knowledge and acceptance of the truth as it is in Jesus, by means of apostolic preaching; and were afterwards baptized, by the hands or with the permission of the apostles, as a public sign of that conversion which had already taken place.

Saul himself is a notable example of the same character. Who can doubt that his regeneration took place by a singular and immediate act of divine grace, when the Lord Jesus arrested him on his journey with an exceeding great light, and spake to him with a voice from heaven? His subsequent p187 baptism was clearly a ceremonial act, by which was denoted the washing away of his sins in the blood of Jesus, and the change of heart which God had already wrought in him.

The account of the Samaritans who attended to the preaching of Philip (Acts viii. 12), and of Cornelius and his family, who listened to the words of Peter (x. 48), are both worthy of particular consideration, in reference to this subject. The Samaritans, including the sorcerer Simon, when they beheld the miracles wrought by Philip, were unable to resist the evidence; they gave credence to the word preached, and "were baptized both men and women." Yet we find that they had not then received the full grace of conversion; as is obvious in the case of Simon; for it is expressly declared, that the "Holy Ghost was fallen upon none of them, only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus:" (Acts viii. 16). Afterwards, wholly apart from their baptism, that grace was bestowed upon them (Simon excepted) through the laying on of the hands of the apostles Peter and John. On the contrary, Cornelius and his friends were most remarkably baptized with the Holy Ghost, under the preaching of Peter; and p188 after they had received this divine gift, they submitted to the ceremony of water baptism, which was the token and recognition, but not the means, of their regeneration.

In all these cases, it is surely very clear that the grace, virtue, or interior power of regeneration, not inherent in the ceremony of baptism; but was the gift of God through other means; and that the ceremony served its own purpose only; namely, that of an outward, visible, and for the most part, public sign. The same view of the subject is obviously applicable to the baptism of adult converts in the present day; whether those converts are made from among nominal Christians, or in the heathen world. They hear the words of truth; they receive, or are supposed to receive, the grace of conversion, through the instrumentality of the preacher; and water baptism, a purely ceremonial practice, is afterwards added as a public confession or sign. The grace of regeneration is no way inherent in the ceremony itself, and therefore, whatever else it may be, that ceremony is no sacrament.

Much less is the inward grace of regeneration contained in this rite, when applied to unconscious p189 infants. These are all equally worthy recipients of the water of baptism. The Roman Catholic church, and not a few professing Protestants, declare that water, to be the water of regeneration. They even allow of no regeneration, but that which they suppose to be inherent in the drops which are sprinkled on the bodies of these innocents. But what is the actual result what the practical fruit of this ceremony, which time and experience develop? A vast proportion of these children prove, by their subsequent conduct and character, that they have never been born again born from above — born of the Spirit. To the inward grace of regeneration they are utter strangers, and while they "follow the multitude to do evil," they afford a palpable and unanswerable argument to convince us that, whatsoever may be the supposed advantage or authority of the practice, infant baptism is destitute of any interior grace, or power of regenerating the soul, and is therefore no sacrament.

II. And now we must advance to the one remaining practice of professing Christians, which is not only regarded both by many Protestants as well as by the Roman Catholics, as a sacrament, but is looked p190 upon as sacred above all other ceremonies of the church, and is often spoken of par excellence, as the sacrament. Unwilling as I am to run counter to any habitual feelings of reverence in my fellowChristians, truth compels me to confess my own judgment, that this ceremony also, according to Hooker's definition of the term, is destitute of any claim to such a title.

I cannot however allow that the Lord's supper, as it was practised by the primitive Christians, came under the head of ceremonies. A little attention to the history of the practice will suffice to convince us that it bore a different character.

It was a common custom among the Jews, at their suppers or dinners, to break their loaf of bread in order to distribute it among the company, and to take this opportunity of returning thanks to that gracious Being who so bountifully supplied all their need. The cup of wine also was handed round the table, to be drunk of by each individual, for the refreshment of the body, yet in token, probably, of social and religious fellowship.[9]

There can be no doubt that this custom was p191 observed by the Lord Jesus and his disciples, as by other Jews, when they partook of their daily social meals; and we have a distinct account of their doing so, at the last paschal supper, which they ate together, for the sustenance of the body, as well as in obedience to the law of God on this particular subject. It was, however, a most touching and solemn occasion. The lamb of the passover was an expressive type of Jesus himself the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world; and the hour was now at hand when he was to be offered up on the cross, as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. No wonder that at such a time he saw meet to give to customs, otherwise familiar, a religious direction; to speak of the bread which he was breaking, as a symbol of his own body, so soon to be broken; and of the cup of wine which he handed to his friends, as a token of his own blood which was now about to be shed. No wonder that he should command his immediate followers, when they observed these customs, (whether at the feast of the passover, or on other more common occasions,) to do so in remembrance of Him. "Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance p192 of me," and again, "This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me."

In pursuance of this command we find that the primitive disciples were careful even at their social meals, to keep the Lord, who died for them, always in remembrance. These believers had all things in common; and, "continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart:" Acts ii. 46. It was at their daily meals that they broke their bread; and then, doubtless, that they called to mind that sacred body which the bread symbolized, and which had been broken for the salvation of their souls. After a little time, however, when the number of Christians became larger, and churches were formed in various parts of the world, the daily social meal was, naturally enough, exchanged for the weekly love-feast a moderate repast, of which the believers in each place partook together, in token of their mutual good will and religious fellowship.

It appears that these repasts were held on the first day of the week; but separately from their p193 meetings for worship. Paul and his companions partook of the love-feast, on that day, at Troas, where the disciples "had come together to break bread;" and when "he had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, so he departed:" Acts xx. 7, 11. So at the close of the first century, we find from Pliny's celebrated letter to the emperor Trajan, that the Bithynian Christians met, early in the morning, on a stated (doubtless the first) day of the week, for the purpose of worshipping Christ; and at a later hour of the same day, assembled again in order to partake of a moderate social meal. This was evidently the love-feast, when the bread was eaten and the wine drunk, in commemoration of the death of Jesus the crucified, but now living and reigning Saviour.

The love-feast is particularly mentioned by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians, whom he sharply reproves for a most miserable abuse of this practice. It appears that the Corinthians flocked to this meal in a careless and irregular manner; that many of them abused it for the sinful indulgence of their appetites; that while some were p194 left to hunger, others were feeding themselves luxuriously, and drunken with wine. Another subject of complaint was, that persons who partook of this Christian meal, which the apostle calls the Lord's supper (doubtless because of its resemblance to the last supper of which the Lord partook with his disciples), were also accustomed to unite in the feasts of the heathen, and to eat meats which had been offered to idols. The apostle sharply reproves both these abuses, which were indeed utterly opposed to that devotional feeling, and that holy moderation, which become the Christian character. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing? or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, p195 they sacrifice to devils, and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils"

As the priests who ate of the flesh of the sacrifices which had been offered on the Lord's altar, were united partakers of the altar i. e. of those things which appertained to the altar and the sacrificial service of God; and as the heathen feasters were united partakers of devils i. e. of those things which respected the worship of devils; so the Christian believers, who attended the Lord's supper, were united partakers of the body and blood of Christ i. e. of those things which had respect to the body and blood of Christ.

In making use of these expressions, the apostle refers to the circumstance, that it was customary, among the primitive Christians, to break their bread and drink their wine, on these occasions of social and religious fellowship, in commemoration of the body and blood of Christ or in other words, of his propitiatory death on the cross. The religious direction of the practice had indeed been grievously overlooked by those persons who had abused it for their own p196 carnal gratification. "When ye come together therefore into one place" says Paul, "this is not to eat the Lord's supper; for in eating, every one taketh before other his own supper; and one is hungry and another is drunken. What have ye not houses to eat and to drink in; or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not." The apostle follows up this just rebuke with a brief description of the Lord's last supper with his disciples, when he broke the bread and handed round the cup of wine, as symbols of his own body and blood an account which (either by immediate revelation or through the medium of the other apostles) he had "received of the Lord." He reminds them of the true intent of the observance "for as oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this wine, ye do show the Lord's death till he come;" points out to them the danger of eating and drinking unworthily, "not discerning the Lord's body;" and exhorts them to a Christian and orderly conduct on these occasions of social enjoyment, and solemn religious commemoration. "Wherefore, p197 my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, (that is, be very hungry,[10]) let him eat at home, that ye come not together unto condemnation:" 1 Cor. xi. 33, 34.

Now on a review of this simple statement, it is evident to my apprehension, that the love-feast, or Lords supper of the early Christians, ranged under the head not of religious ceremonies appertaining to the worship of God, but rather under that of pious practices, in connexion with the social duties and enjoyments of the present life. It was impressing a religious tendency and direction on a particular custom, which naturally spread from the Jewish to the Gentile believers. It was one instance of conformity to the general principle "Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" and again, "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him:" 1 Cor. x. 31; Col. iii. 17. I cannot perceive that our Lord's injunction can be reasonably understood to extend beyond the limits of the custom to which p198 it refers "as oft as ye drink this cup, do it in remembrance of me." Just so the washing of the feet of a neighbour or a friend, was customary among the Jews, at the Christian era. Our Saviour, therefore, enjoins his disciples to wash one another's feet the substance of the command being obviously that they should be kind and submissive one to another, in love. The practice has ceased, but the spirit of the commandment remains the same. So I apprehend that the substance of the other injunction that substance which will ever continue, whether the custom to which it related, be maintained or not is neither more nor less than this that Christians should ever keep in deep and hallowed remembrance, the dying love of the Saviour of men.

Tertullian, at the end of the second century, speaks of the celebration of the eucharist, in connexion with the meals of the Christians in tempore victus;[11] but it was at a somewhat earlier date, as we learn from a well-known passage in the works of Justin Martyr, (A. D. 147,) that the practice in question had assumed the form, in some parts of the church, of a directly ceremonial observance.


The morsel of bread was then eaten, and the wine tasted by the believers, at the close of their assemblies for worship not for the satisfaction of any bodily want, but simply as a religious rite. Every one knows that this is the character of the Lord's supper, as it is now used among Christians. It has become a purely ceremonial act, and is regarded, especially among Roman Catholics, as the most solemn part or article in the public worship of God. Under this new character, it seems directly to interfere with the general law, that under the gospel dispensation, God is to be worshipped spiritually that all type and figures in the worship of the Most High, are now exchanged for the eternal reality and substance of religion that they are at once fulfilled and abolished by the coming in the flesh, and propitiatory death, of the Son of God.

In the mean time, whether we look at the practice of the early Christians, or that which has prevailed among the professors of the truth, in modern days, we are left without the shadow of an evidence, that the participation of bread and wine, in the Lord's supper, is a sacrament i. e. an p200 outward observance, properly containing an interior grace.

In order to render this point clear, we must advert first to the Roman Catholic, and secondly to the Protestant view of this subject.

The inherent mystery, which the advocates of Rome ascribed to the bread and wine, is an actual bodily participation of that which the bread and wine symbolize, even the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. They strangely imagine, that after the consecration, by a priest, of the wafer and the wine, these substances are miraculously converted into that body and blood, which are truly and substantially eaten and drunk by those who partake of the sacred elements; and they further allege, that this corporeal eating of Christ's body, conveys with it a spiritual blessing to the soul, and is one appointed and necessary means of man's salvation.

These preposterous notions have, in my judgment, no other origin than the direful superstition, which, not very long after the times of the apostles, began to brood like a cloud over the professing church of Christ, and involved it by degrees p201 in gross and perilous darkness. Yet the Romish church pleads, as authority for transubstantiation, the words of Jesus, when he brake the loaf and distributed it to his disciples "This is my body which is broken for you." The question then lies in the meaning of these words. Now there is a clear and all-sufficient reason why our Lord cannot be understood as declaring that the bread which he had broken, was actually his body namely, that his body was then a living frame, not yet broken a veritable body which his disciples saw and handled, and which was occupying a portion of space, distinct from that which the bread occupied, while the very words which form the subject of dispute were flowing from its lips. Christianity most justly requires us to believe many mysterious truths which are beyond reason; but it never yet claimed our faith in that which is contrary to reason. It was indeed attested by many miracles suspensions and counteractions of the established order of nature; but here there is supposed, not merely a miracle, but , an actual, physical impossibility. The same body or substance cannot possibly exist in two places at once. To suppose the contrary, is to suppose an absolute p202 absurdity that which never was, is not, and never can be.

Nor is the case at all different in the present day. We may rest assured that the glorified body of Christ is in heaven a place of infinite enjoyment and glory. It is not possible that it should at the same time be in the hands of the priest on earth, whether in the form of a wafer, or under any other appearance much less in the hands of a thousand priests at once, in a thousand different places.

That our text does not afford any reasonable pretext for the fabrication of so enormous a fiction, a little calm consideration may be sufficient to evince. It is surely matter of common parlance to use the verb to be, in the sense of figuring or representing; as for example, any one might say, when looking at figures in a picture representing Christ and the apostle Paul, That is the Saviour! that is Paul! We ought moreover to remember that our Lord spoke, as there is every reason to believe, in the vernacular Syriac, in which language the verb in the sentence "This is my body," would not have been expressed at all; as the reader may satisfy himself by a reference to p203 the old Syriac version of the New Testament. "This my body" said our blessed Lord as he held the bread in his hands; words which may, with perfect propriety, be understood as conveying the idea that the bread symbolized or represented his body.

As the corporeal eating of the body of Christ must therefore be regarded as fictitious, it would be irrelevant to argue the second question, whether such an eating conveys grace to the soul. That which has no existence, can have no effects. But in the notion that the body of Christ is actually eaten in the consecrated wafer, and that this carnal act is necessary to salvation, there is surely much that degrades the cause of truth; much that directs the mind of those who are honestly seeking their salvation, into wrong channels; much that is calculated to divert from a simple reliance on the crucified, risen, and reigning Saviour, and to substitute for him an idol of man's own imagining. How many poor bewildered sinners have been taught, on their death beds, to regard this ceremony, with its supposed hidden mystery, as their viaticum to heaven, instead of casting themselves, in deep repentance and lively faith, on Him who died p204 for them; and through whose blood and righteousness alone, we can enter the portals of heaven, and take possession of the inheritance of the saints in light. In so corrupt a superstition, so gross a perversion of the great realities of the gospel, there can surely be no inherent grace; but rather loss, and danger, and sometimes perhaps even death, to the immortal spirit.

How then, in the second place, does this matter stand with those Protestants, who while they reject the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation, and regard it as utterly unreasonable, nevertheless practise the eucharist as a ceremony in divine worship, and under the notion that it contains, within itself, some mysterious power for the benefit of souls? Is such a notion founded on Scripture? — or is it justified by experience? I apprehend that both these questions must be answered in the negative. The precept of Christ, to which Protestants as well as Papists refer as their authority for the rite, makes mention of the breaking of the bread and the handing of the cup, only as a memorial "Do it in remembrance of me." Accordingly we find, that the early Christians, without the slightest view (as far as appears) to any internal p205 mystery, applied that practice to the purpose of commemoration. This commemoration might be blessed to the souls of the right-minded, who truly desired to keep their Lord in remembrance; — but we have no reason to suppose that there was any peculiar inward grace connected with it, any more than with other acts of Christian piety. The true feeding on the body and blood of Christ by a living faith, might or might not accompany the practice in question; and certainly this feeding might take place at other seasons, when the outward symbol was far removed from the Christian believer. Now if there was no inward grace inherent in the practice, and inseparable from it when honestly performed, that practice was no sacrament.

Much less can it be regarded in that point of view, in its present form, as a ceremony in the worship of God. That this ceremony may be overruled, as a solemn remembrancer, to the benefit of some minds, I am by no means disposed to dispute; but such an effect affords no evidence that there is a mystical interior attached to the rite, and properly contained in it; and this could alone render it a sacrament. On the other hand, there is surely a danger lest p206 the rite in question should operate unfavourably, especially in those persons who have the strongest sense of devotion and mystery attached to it. To them it may often prove a diversion from the very truth; a substitution of the lifeless form for the sacred reality - a miserable exchange of Christ himself, for a favourite symbol or shadow.

It is a singular confirmation of these remarks that many of the clergy, in the present day, have departed from their former simplicity in this matter, and are now laying an almost popish stress on the ceremony of the eucharist, have at the same time divested their discourses, to the people, of the cardinal doctrine of Christ crucified. Thus, while the symbol of the Saviour who died for us, is inordinately cherished, the Saviour himself, and his most precious atoning sacrifice, are made to retreat within the vail of awful concealment — perhaps of absolute oblivion.

It appears then, that whether we allow or disallow the practices of water baptism and the Lord's supper, p207 as they are now used among Christian professors, we are brought to a sound conclusion, that like the ceremonies of the Jewish law, they are destitute of any interior mystery or grace, by which the soul can be affected; and can be regarded only as shadows or representations of those divine mysteries which truly belong to the plan of our redemption, and are absolutely necessary to salvation.

Now it is on all hands acknowledged, that had such mysteries been inherent in the rites of baptism and the eucharist, they would have imparted to these ceremonies the true character of sacraments. On the logical principle therefore already alluded to Quo quidvis tale fit, id magis tale (that by which any thing becomes such, is itself more such) we cannot refuse to allow that these blessed realities are themselves sacraments indeed. Yes, Christianity has her sacraments in very truth not any outward form affecting the bodies of men but a spiritual baptism, and a spiritual supper. Both these are clearly introduced to our notice, and strongly insisted on as of vital importance, by our Lord himself and his apostles.

First, as to spiritual baptism; it is divine in its p208 character, proceeding not by any natural law, but immediately and supernaturally, from that God who is a Spirit. It is that sovereign work of grace, by which the dark, dead, sinful soul of man is enlightened, quickened, and converted to God; so as to be translated into the kingdom of Christ even in this world, and to become a partaker of the divine nature, by a new creation.

Sometimes it is described as a new birth — as in John i. 12, 13: "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God:" and still more at large by our Saviour himself in John iii. 3-8: "Except a man be born again, i. e. as in the margin, from above[12]) he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." The latter of these clauses is an enlarged repetition, or paraphrase of the former. To be born of water and the Spirit, and to be born from above, are synonymous terms. Hence it is clear, that the substantive p209 water is here used, as in many other passages of Scripture, figuratively to denote the cleansing influence of the Spirit, which " conies from above;" so that " water and the Spirit" must here be regarded as expressing only the Holy Spirit and his divine influence. This view is confirmed by the immediate context in the verses which follow, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto you, Ye must be born again (or from above.) The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

This divine work is described by the apostle Paul as a washing: see 1 Cor. vi. 9 11. "Be ye not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, &c. &c. shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, but ye are washed" &c. Again Eph. v. 25, 26: "Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." Here the word, even the preaching of the gospel, is set forth as the appointed means p210 by which Christ washes or baptizes his church a doctrine which proves that a truly anointed minister of the Lord Jesus may, through the power of his ever-present helper, thus baptize his hearers into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. But this is a work which the Lord is sometimes pleased to effect without the intervention of any human instrumentality, as was the case with Paul himself. The marvellous change of heart, which he had experienced, is elsewhere described by the apostle, under the same figure: see Tit. iii. 3 6, "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared; not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Like the water and the Spirit in John iii. the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, may be regarded as perfectly identical. These terms appear to set forth one blessed and necessary work, even the baptism of Christ, the baptism of the Spirit.


Under the gospel dispensation, Jesus Christ is the true Baptizer. "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance," said John the Baptist, "but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:" Matt. iii. 11. In the gospel of John, the Holy Ghost alone is mentioned. As for the fire, like the water in John iii. it may here stand for that divine influence, by which the soul of the believer is purified, and his very heart changed within him. When this baptism is experienced, he puts off "the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts," and puts on "the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."

Lastly, that quickening, cleansing work, by which the needful change is effected in us, from death to life, and from sin to righteousness, is the baptism which saves, mentioned by the apostle Peter. After speaking of the ark "wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water," the apostle adds, "The like figure whereunto (or that which answereth whereunto doth also now save us; not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the p212 answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him:" 1 Pet. iii. 21, 22. The risen and ascended Saviour baptizes from above. He sends forth that living influence of the Holy Ghost, by which sinful man is enabled savingly to believe in his atoning sacrifice, and to bring forth the fruits of righteousness. Thus are we made partakers of a conscience void of offence in the sight of God and man: comp. Heb. ix. 14.

There is surely much reason to believe that Paul is speaking of this powerful internal work, when he insists on the necessity of dying unto sin, and of rising again with Christ, unto a life of righteousness. "What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life:" Rom. vi. 1 4. And again, to p213 the Colossians, "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein ye also are risen with him, THROUGH THE FAITH OF THE OPERATION OF GOD, who hath raised him from the dead:" Col. ii. 10-12.

So also when he assures us that there is "one body and one Spirit, even as we are called by one hope of our calling; one Lord (Jesus Christ), one faith, one baptism" we may fairly conclude, either that "baptism" here takes the sense of "doctrine," of which (as before-mentioned) it is evidently capable; or that the apostle is speaking of the one baptism of the one Lord, which is with the Holy Ghost. This view of his meaning is perfectly accordant with another passage, in which he speaks of this spiritual baptism as the means of introduction to a living membership in the body or church of Christ: see 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by ONE SPIRIT p214 we are all baptized into one body; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." Happy and holy are they who drink at this sacred fountain; for ever blessed they, who submit to the baptizing and renovating power of the Holy Ghost. All these, and these only, are living members of the body of Christ, children of grace, and heirs of glory.

But secondly, if the sacrament of regeneration is at once the only and the sufficient means of bringing us into union with Christ our Head, and with all his members the world over, and if imparting to us the principles of a new and heavenly life, that union and that life can be maintained only by our participation (may I not say our daily participation?) in another sacrament, even the spiritual supper of our Lord. "Behold," says Jesus to the churches, "I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me:" Rev. iii. 20. This cheering promise is in exact accordance with some very remarkable expressions which our Lord uttered after he had broken the bread and handed the wine, at the last paschal supper. "But I say unto you, that I will not p215 henceforth drink of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom:" Matt. xxvi. 29. On another occasion he said to his disciples, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom," etc.: Luke xxii. 28 30. Nor can it be denied, that it is the same gracious Saviour who, in the prophetic language of the Song of songs, thus addressed his spouse, the church "I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, beloved:" Cant. v. 1.

I should suppose that no evangelical Christian, of whatsoever peculiar name, could for a moment hesitate in accepting these beautiful passages in a purely spiritual sense, as representing the communion which true believers in Jesus, in times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, are permitted to enjoy with their holy Head, and one with another in Him; a communion which, from season p216 to season, cheers them on their journey to the promised land, and will constitute their chiefest joy in heaven itself. Here is sustenance for the inmost soul! here is the saving supper of the Lord!

But Christ himself is the food of the Christian, and is to be eaten by his disciples in this true sacrament. Nothing can be more affecting, and nothing more important, than his own doctrine on this subject, contained in that memorable discourse which the apostle John has placed on record with the pen of inspiration: see John vi. 35 63. "I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE: he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.... I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead; this is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews, therefore, strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say p217 unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying, who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? IT is THE SPIRIT THAT QUICKENETH, THE FLESH PROFITETH NOTHING: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."

The declaration with which our Lord here concludes his discourse, is of incalculable weight and p218 importance. It seems to me virtually to undermine and abrogate for ever all typical and carnal ceremonies in divine worship. Most assuredly it affords the true key to the preceding doctrine. We have our Lord's own explicit authority for understanding it spiritually. Those who under the immediate influence of the Spirit, and by a living faith, appropriate the glorious Saviour who came down from heaven that he might give life to the world, truly feed on Jesus, the bread of God, the bread of life. The Christian, whose sole reliance is placed on the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, and who lives by that precious faith, may justly be said to eat the flesh of the Son of man, and to drink his blood. There is indeed no spiritual life for any man, to whom the gospel is preached, on any other terms; and all who, under the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit, thus believe with the heart, are nourished up by this heavenly food to all eternity. They dwell in Christ, and Christ dwells in them. Furthermore, when the believers in Jesus are assembled and united in solemn worship when they draw near to the Father, in one Spirit, through the Son of his love when they are livingly brought to the remembrance p219 of the body which was broken, and of the blood which was shed for them — when "the love of God" is "shed abroad" in their hearts "by the Holy Ghost which he giveth us" then are they rich partakers of a true sacramental communion — then are they honoured guests, even here, at the TABLE OF THE LORD, in his kingdom.

[8] Footnote:
Issure Biahj cap. xiii.
[9] Footnote:
See Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. in Matt.
[10] Footnote:
Vid Schleusner lex. et Grotius in loc.
[11] Footnote:
De Coron. milit.
[12] Footnote:
This is the sense in which the apostle John always uses the word.

To: Table of CONTENTS

Chapter 8



A VERY slight knowledge of the papal and hierarchical system, may suffice to convince every honest inquirer, that under its darkening and deadening influence, the grounds of the Christian's hope of salvation have been fearfully obscured, and the hope itself, to a very great extent, placed in jeopardy. The greatest of all evils is sin; and Christianity teaches us that all men are under condemnation, because all have sinned. The awful penalty consequent on that condemnation, is the death of the soul, or in other words, its eternal separation from God, in a state of unutterable woe.

How, then, in the first place, are we to experience deliverance from this weight of condemnation; p221 how are we to make our escape from this dreaded penalty?

Under the dismal effects of moral and doctrinal apostacy, the professing church answers, By plenary indulgences from the pope; by penance; by priestly absolution; by the extraordinary mortifications of the flesh; by fastings frequent and severe; by voluntary torture; by the repetition of prayers without number; by the hardships of monasticism and hermitage; by the magical influence of relics, and pictures, and images; by the intercession of Mary and the saints; by the sacrifice of the mass; by the faithful observance of all kinds of ceremonies; and finally, by purgatory that last resource for the cleansing away of those stains of sin, in the Christian, which the other means now alluded to have left untouched.

In what measure and in what proportion these various modes of reconciliation with God are depended on by the votaries of Rome, I have no means of forming an adequate judgment; but it is evident, that they are severally objects of faith, on which poor deluded souls are taught to rely for the blotting out of their sins, and for securing their p222 escape from the pains of eternal death. There is a strong tendency in the heart of man to rest on these delusions, instead of coming fully and unreservedly to Jesus Christ and him crucified; for Christ crucified continues to be "to the Jews a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness." It is a fact, amply proved by experience, that visible and tangible representations of the crucified Saviour, and ceremonies in worship, which are intended to renew his sacrifice for sin with all other departures from simplicity in religion are so far from truly leading the soul to Christ as the only ground of the sinner's hope, that they often operate as diversions from the truth, and let in a vast variety of ways of salvation, as they are falsely supposed to be, instead of the Lord Jesus, who is himself, the way, the truth, and the life. Well may this strange medley of satisfactions for sin, be described as a quicksand, in which many currents meet, and hollow out a pit beneath the glowing surface, into which the children of superstition are prone to fall, never more to rise unless some peculiar miracle of grace be wrought in their favour.

True, indeed, it is, that the Romish church professes p223 a firm faith in the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the doctrine of his propitiatory sacrifice on the cross; and that many pious adherents of that church availingly believe in Christ as their Saviour, and seek for the forgiveness of sin through his atoning blood. Yet there can be no doubt, as I conceive, that the superstitious notions and practices to which we have now alluded — these strange paths and by-ways to heaven — are fraught with peculiar peril to the soul. They may often be the means of preventing an entrance through the door into the sheepfold; and therefore properly belong to the system and reign of antichrist, the false prophet, or the second beast who has the visage of a lamb, and the voice of a dragon.

It is greatly to be feared that there is a recurrence in the present day, even among churches called protestant, to many of these unauthorized and dangerous inventions. More than a few of the professors of scriptural religion have lapsed into a disregard and concealment of those cardinal truths which once occupied their chief attention, and seem to have lost the strength and clearness p224 of their vision respecting the way the only way of SALVATION.

In the mean time the truth of God remains unchanged, and the very agitation and sifting of things, which is now abroad among professing Christians, will doubtless be the means of confirming thousands in their adherence to Christ. Well may we exclaim with the poet,

"Oh, how unlike the cumbrous works of man,
Heaven's easy, artless, unencumbered plan!
No meretricious graces to beguile,
No clustering ornaments to clog the pile;
From ostentation as from weakness free,
It stands like the cerulean arch we see,
Majestic in its own simplicity.
Inscribed above the portals from afar,
Conspicuous as the brightness of a star,
Legible only by the light they give,
Stand the soul-quickening words, believe and live."

Nothing can be more simple and decisive than the doctrine of our Lord himself, on the condition or means of salvation: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life:" John iii. 16. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting p225 life:" vi. 47. "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die:" xi. 25, 26. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? said the jailer at Philippi to Paul and Silas; "and they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house:" Acts xvi. 31.

From these, and many similar declarations, it is evident that in order to obtain salvation even deliverance from the wrath to come we are required to believe on Jesus, the Saviour of the world; and that all men, of every name, age, or country, who truly believe on him, will assuredly be saved. In these simple yet comprehensive declarations, nothing is said of penance, and masses, and fastings; nothing of any ceremonial observance; nothing of absolution, indulgence, or satisfaction for sin, doled out by the power or pity of man. Faith in the Saviour, and this alone, is the thing which God demands of us in order to the forgiveness of our sins, and the salvation of our immortal souls. Yet the devils believe and tremble. It is not a mere knowledge of the truth, p226 with the conviction of the understanding, which will serve this mighty purpose. It is the deep affiance of the soul; it is the leaning of the loving heart on Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost a disposition which can never fail to be accompanied by repentance towards God, and the unreserved surrender of the whole man to his righteous will and service.

This, however, is a subject which requires to be somewhat more developed. We have "redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of sins." Hence it follows, that the faith in him, whereby, under the gospel, we obtain that forgiveness, has a marked and peculiar respect to his bloodshedding on the cross. Thus we find, that when presenting himself to his hearers, as the object of saving faith, our Lord repeatedly directed their attention to this central point. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so shall the Son of man be lifted up, (that is, on the cross, comp. John xii. 33) that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life:" John iii. 14, L3. And again: "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, (whoso livingly believeth in me as the atonement p227 for sin) hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day:" vi. 54.

The pardon of sin through faith in Christ crucified, is often described by Paul as justification. All mankind are sinners, guilty in the sight of a holy and righteous God. Neither the tears of repentance, nor the Christian virtues afterwards implanted by divine grace, can possibly efface those stains of guilt. Never can these be washed away, except in the fountain set open in Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness, even the fountain of the blood of the Lamb; and this blessed purpose is effected through the instrumentality of faith. Therefore "we are justified by faith without the deeds of the law."

This subject is admirably set forth by the apostle in various passages. "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren," said he, to the Jews of Antioch, "that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him, all that believe are justified of all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses:" Acts xiii. 38, 39. To the Galatians, he says: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, p228 but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Soon afterwards he adds, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:" Gal. ii. 16; iii. 13. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." And again: "God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him:" Rom. v. 1, 8, 9.

It is chiefly, however, in the preceding chapters of this epistle, that the apostle insists on the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith, traces it to its root, and unfolds the principles on which it rests.

In the first place, he enters on an awful description of the corruption and wickedness of the heathen nations, who sinned against the law of a righteous God, revealed in the heart. He next p229 shows that the Jews, on whom was bestowed the written law, were no better; for while they made a profession of godliness, they were deeply alienated from God by their sins. Thus he proves that all mankind, in the fall, and in consequence of the transgression of our first parents, are prone to iniquity, sinners in point of fact, and guilty in the sight of a holy and omniscient Creator.

From this guilt, and from the condemnation and punishment which are its inevitable consequence, no human power or virtue, no works of the law, either ceremonial or moral, can possibly deliver us. It stands to reason that we cannot be justified by the works of the law, because we have broken the law, and it is the law that condemns us. The more clearly it is revealed to us, the more marked and conspicuous, the more aggravated also, is our guilt. "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin:" Rom. iii. 20.

But God, who is rich in mercy, and whose love is an unfathomable deep, for our sakes spared not his own Son, but sent him into the world to die for sinners, that whosoever believeth in him, and in the blood of his atonement, might receive the forgiveness p230 of sin, and live for ever. This is a simple sketch of the apostle's views, as unfolded in this epistle. "All have sinned," says he, "and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. To declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness, that he might be just, and the JUSTIFIER OF HIM WHICH BELIEVETH IN JESUS."

The divine attributes of justice and mercy, perfect and absolute, and liable to no defalcation, meet, unite, and blend in the doctrine of the atonement. The penalty of death has been exacted; and One of infinite dignity, virtue, and power, in his own voluntary love, as well as in obedience to the will of the Father, has undergone that penalty. "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Thus the utmost claims of the p231 law of God — that unchangeable expression of his perfect righteousness — are fully satisfied. "The righteousness of God," is declared and established in his own glorious plan "for the remission of sins." And the Judge of all flesh is demonstrated to be just, while he justifies "him which believeth in Jesus."

After this explicit enunciation of that cardinal doctrine of Christianity, justification by faith, the apostle proceeds to illustrate the subject by the example of Abraham, and the experience of David. "For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was COUNTED UNTO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace but of debt; but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his FAITH is COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God IMPUTETH RIGHTEOUSNESS without works, saying, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord WILL NOT IMPUTE SIN:" Rom. iv. 3-8.


Two points of great interest and importance here claim our attention.

We find in the first place, that Abraham and David are adduced as examples of that faith, by which sinners are justified in the sight of God; or in other words, receive the forgiveness of their transgressions, and are dealt with as if they had never sinned. Now although these faithful men were far from being destitute of some knowledge of their Redeemer, it cannot be supposed that they enjoyed that clearness of view respecting his coming in the flesh, and his propitiatory sacrifice on the cross, which is the privilege of true Christians under the gospel dispensation. Yet they believed in Christ according to the measure of the light bestowed upon them; and their faith was counted unto them for righteousness. The same observation unquestionably applies to all the saints of the Old Testament. Nor can it be reasonably doubted, that even among nations which have no direct knowledge of revealed religion, there have been many persons in different ages of the world, who have believed in God, according to the measure of the light of the Holy Spirit immediately p233 bestowed upon them, as a guide and rectifier to their consciences. These also, as we may fully believe, have been justified by faith, through the mediation and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ; for "in every nation, he that feareth (God) and worketh righteousness is accepted of him;" Acts x. 35. "For not the hearers of the law," says the apostle to the Romans, "are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified; for when the Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another:" Rom. ii. 13 15.

The mercies of God and the operation of his grace, are, as I venture to believe, much more comprehensive than many persons suppose. Yet none can be saved but "by grace, through faith;" and that not of themselves "it is the gift of God." In the mean time, let all who enjoy the unutterable privilege of the noonday light of the gospel of Christ, never fail to remember, that "unto whomsoever much is given, of him much will be required" a p234 faith corresponding to their knowledge, a conduct worthy of their faith.

The second point alluded to, is embraced in the words just quoted, "the doers of the law shall be justified." I conceive that this sentiment fully applies to those persons whom the apostle elsewhere describes, as being "justified by faith without the deeds of the law." The deeds of the law have no part whatsoever in procuring the pardon of their sins; for they have broken the law, and the law condemns them to death. But now, under grace, they are become doers of the law; nor could they have been justified by faith, had not their faith been so vital and divine in its nature, as to be necessarily productive of this practical result. Such a view of the subject will explain the apparent difficulty of the doctrine of James, as compared with that of Paul. "Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was p235 not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only:" James ii. 17-24.

James, in the character of a consistent and fruitful believer, here addresses some imaginary person who professes faith in Christianity, without practising its precepts. He challenges him to display his spurious article to the best advantage, and offers to bring his own belief to the test of the works which it produces. Powerfully does he illustrate his doctrine by comparing faith without works, to the body without the Spirit; and to the belief of devils who know God and hate him. On the other hand, he justly dwells on the example of Abraham, who proved the vitality of his faith, by a memorable and most difficult act of obedience. Thus is he, brought to his general conclusion, that "a man is justified by works, and not by faith ONLY." p236 On this subject we are competent to say, that as sinners we are justified (i. e. we receive the pardon of our sins) by faith in Christ without the deeds of the law; and that as believers, we are justified by good works; for these alone afford a sufficient evidence that our faith is vital, divine, and saving. This distinction is, I trust, sound and clear. But if there be any doubt of its critical exactness as an explanation of the apostle's use of the word "justified," we may rest on the obvious tendency and intent of the whole passage; namely, that faith cannot be the means of our acceptance with God, unless it be of such a nature as to produce obedience in the believer. For it remains to be an unquestionable truth, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. The plain fact is, that neither faith nor obedience, however pure they may be in their character, and however well pleasing to God, are in their own nature justifying; but faith — even that vital faith which works by love, and produces the fruits of righteousness is the appointed instrument, in the order of grace, whereby we lay hold on the mercies of God in Christ Jesus that blessed Mediator who truly and properly justifies the sinner. p237 Most assuredly there is nothing in the doctrine of the apostle James, which supports the opinion of the Romish church, that good works are meritorious in the sight of God, and actually give a title to the reward of everlasting felicity. It appears to be an opinion prevailing among the advocates of the papal system, that almsgiving, and other acts of Christian piety and mercy, deserve an eternity of bliss as their just and equal reward. If, however, it is allowed that many good persons — faithful sons and daughters of the church are yet imperfect, the righteousness of Christ may take its share in making up the supposed deficiency in their deserts.

In the Romish saints, however, there is imagined to be no such deficiency. Never probably was there so anti-christian a notion propagated under the name of Christianity, as that which arose in the dark ages, respecting works of supererogation. It was then first openly declared, that the church was in possession, of an immense stock of merit, accumulated in her keeping from age to age, by such sufferings and labours of the saints, as exceeded the requirements of the law of God — a stock which she has the power of dealing out, through her visible head the pope, p238 in such times and in such portions as she pleases, in order to secure the favoured recipients of the boon, from the punishment of their sins a new method truly of escaping from the wrath to come, and of obtaining an entrance into the kingdom of rest and purity!

It cannot for a moment be questioned, that beneficence, and the exercise of other virtues and graces, are sacrifices acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ. As vice is abominable in his sight, so true virtue, in all its lovely forms, and under every variety of circumstance, can never fail to be well-pleasing to a perfectly pure and righteous being; and when the sinner is converted from the error of his ways, the angels reflect their Father's smile, and rejoice in his holy presence. But while this admission is most freely to be made respecting that glorious Being, who is ever found on the side of righteousness, the Christian must distinctly deny that the best works of man even those which are wrought under the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost have any merit; in such a sense as justly to claim the reward of eternal life. Our sins indeed deserve death even the death of the soul; and p239 the death of the soul is their "wages." But eternal life "is the GIFT of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord" a gift wholly unmerited and spontaneous; flowing forth, through its one appointed channel, to the fallen children of men, from the fathomless abyss of Jehovah's love.

We know that our first parents were created in the image of Jehovah, and after his likeness; a truth which probably had respect, first, to the intellectual mind; secondly, to a perfect moral nature; and thirdly, to the eternal continuance of life. There can be no doubt, that had they remained in their pristine state of innocence, an eternity of happy existence would have been the consequence. But this consequence would not have arisen in the way of wages gained by good works, or because of any inherent merits in their virtuous dispositions and conduct, but simply in the appointment of infinite and gratuitous love. God is not profited or placed under obligation by the obedience of his own creatures, but obedience is his due; and the creature who renders that obedience, does but pay a debt already incurred. Well might the Temanite ask, "Can a man be profitable unto God, p240 as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous (in the sense of adding to that happiness which is already infinite)? Or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?" Job xxii. 2, 3. "So likewise ye," said our Saviour to his disciples, "when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are UNPROFITABLE SERVANTS: we have done that which was our duty to do:" Luke xvii. 10.

But the fact, at once clear and awful, is that we are fallen creatures that we have lost the moral image of our Creator that we are by nature corrupt and prone to iniquity, and therefore children of wrath. The golden chain which connected our first parents with an eternity of happiness, provided for them in the wondrous love of God, is broken, destroyed, demolished. Therefore our hopes are solely in Christ through whom our sins are forgiven, and we ourselves reconciled unto God. Repentance and amendment, although the work of grace, and approved of God, can never blot out the stain of our past sins. Present virtue, the fruit of that Spirit which is given to us in Christ, p241 can do no more than fulfil present obligation. In the meantime, where is the child of piety and faith, who has not yet "finished" his "course," in whom some lingering remnants may not be found of indwelling sin? What can the best of men do, therefore, but cast themselves on the infinite resources of the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord?

"If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world:" 1 John ii. 1, 2. Let a Roman Catholic poet tell us the simple truth on this most important of subjects; and let all, whether Papists or Protestants, rally to that foundation of which he so emphatically speaks:

But if there be a power too just and strong
To wink at crimes, and bear unpunished wrong;
Look humbly upward, see his will disclose
The forfeit first, and then the fine impose;
A mulet thy poverty could never pay,
Had not eternal wisdom found the way,
And with celestial wealth supplied thy store.
His justice makes the fine, his mercy quits the score.
See God descending in thy human frame,
The offended suffering in the offender's name.
All thy misdeeds to him imputed see,
And all his righteousness devolved on thee.
- DRYDEN — Religio Laici.


To sum up the whole subject in a few sentences, it is plainly the doctrine of Scripture, that righteousness is imputed to the true believer. Thus Abraham is declared to be the father of all them that believe, even among the Gentile nations, "that righteousness might be imputed to them also:" Rom. iv. 11. Again, the apostle says, respecting Abraham, "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe in him that raised up Jesus from the dead, who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification:" iv. 23 25. In the following chapter he declares, that "they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life, by one, Jesus Christ." Now what is this righteousness which is thus imputed, thus freely given, to the believer? If we are to take the Scriptures for our guide, we cannot fail to answer, It is the righteousness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is the branch who was to be raised up unto David, the king who was to reign over Israel, whose name was to be called "Jehovah OUR righteousness:" Jer. xxiii. 5, 6. "Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I p243 righteousness and strength. In the LORD (that is in the divine Saviour) shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory:" Isa. xlv. 24, 25.[13] " Christ Jesus" is " made unto us of God, righteousness:" 1 Cor. i. 30. God " hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God IN HIM:" 2 Cor. v. 21.

Not only are we saved from the awful penalty of our sins by his propitiatory death and sacrifice; not only are we delivered, for his sake, on whom was the "chastisement of our peace," from the bitter pains of eternal death; but we are placed in possession of an indisputable title to the joys of a glorious immortality, in virtue of our union by faith with Him, whose righteousness is, in its own nature, perfect, absolute, ever-abounding, and infinitely meritorious in the sight of the Father. That divine righteousness is imputed to the believer by faith. This is the clothing of wrought gold, even the purest gold of Ophir, in which the Bride, the Church, is invested: Psal. xlv. 13 the "robe of righteousness," wherein she greatly exults and p244 rejoices: Isa. lxi. 10 the best of all robes, in which the penitent and returning sinner is mantled by his Father's hand — the garment of salvation, the wedding garment, without which we can never be accepted guests at the home of our Lord Jesus Christ, the everlasting abode of rest and of glory.

"Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Rom. vi. 1,2.

It is the highest praise of Christianity, and its main distinguishing characteristic, that it is a religion of holiness — a religion which, by setting in action the most influential motives, leads, with a resistless power, to the abandonment of every sin and the practice of every virtue. The awful discovery which it makes to us of judgment to come? and of the perfect justice of God, imbues the true believer with a salutary yet awful fear of the Supreme Being. This fear is ever found to be p245 "a fountain of life, preserving from the snares of death." The blessed prospect of eternal happiness animates our hope, and this hope quickens our footsteps in the race of righteousness. We run as those who have the glorious goal set before us; reaching forth unto those things which are before, we press "toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." This hope, moreover, sustains our patience, and strengthens our fortitude; it is an anchor to the soul, sure and stedfast. Above all, the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, so paternal, so tender, so infinitely great, produces love in our own bosoms; and the heavenly flame once kindled, is of such a nature, that it will burn with ever-increasing brightness to all eternity. Love induces, in the Christian believer, a holy decision of character, an unreserved sacrifice of self, a constancy of allegiance to the Shepherd of Israel, who bought us with his own blood. Yet as the mechanical forces (such as the wedge, the screw, and the lever) cannot produce their effects unless they are applied with power, so fear, hope, and love, strong motives as they are, and capable of being most beneficially excited by the great truths of the gospel of Christ, will never p246 be made to move effectually, or move in the right direction, unless those truths are accompanied, in their application to the mind, by the Spirit of God. This Spirit is itself the grand moving power the very spring of life, in the soul, and of all that is lovely, holy, and heavenly, in the conduct and conversation of the Christian.

The word sanctification may be taken in two senses. Sometimes it signifies the first dedication of the soul, as a holy thing, to God, the author of our being. In this point of view, it must be regarded as simultaneous with justification, being the immediate result of that change of heart which is wrought in the Christian convert by the power of God. The sinner who comes with a penitent and believing heart to Christ, deposits his sins — that intolerable burden at the Saviour's feet: he receives the free pardon of them through the blood of Jesus, and without a moment's hesitation or delay, renounces them for ever.

But where is the Christian, who truly knows himself, who will not confess that even after this signal change in his condition, he has a perpetual struggle to maintain between the flesh and the spirit that p247 although sin may no longer have dominion over him, it sometimes prevails, in word and deed, and especially in thought and imagination, over his better mind? The lingering corruptions of his fallen nature require many baptisms under the waves of the "river of God," which is "full of water," before they can be entirely purged away, so that nothing may be left not even one particle of the polluting mire of this world to interrupt his entrance, through the pearl gates, into the new Jerusalem. It was to a company of Christian converts, in their character of truly regenerate persons, that Paul addressed the words, "The very God of peace sanctify you WHOLLY:" 1 Thess. v. 23. "The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth MORE AND MORE unto the perfect day:" Prov. iv. 18.

Sanctification, then, in its secondary sense, is that purifying work of the Holy Spirit, by which regenerate persons are gradually more and more weaned from the world — more and more fitted for that glorious inheritance, into which nothing that is impure, nothing that worketh abomination, nothing that maketh or loveth a lie, can ever enter. I have heard it remarked by a wise and learned man, p248 well instructed in the school of Christ, that in order to enter on this inheritance, there must be both "a right and a rightness." Our right of entrance — the only title which is clear and indefeasible is in Christ, our advocate with the Father, and the propitiation for our sins. But there must be a rightness also; even that state of purity, without which we can never be fitted for the society of saints and angels, and for the immediate presence of the immaculate Lamb. This rightness, or to adopt another and parallel view of the case, this ripeness, can be produced in the dispositions and character of a man, only by the sanctifying operation of the Holy Spirit of God. He who has begun a good work in us, must "perfect it to the end," or we shall never be presented faultless in Christ, before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy. Sometimes, indeed, the work of regeneration, justification, and sanctification, are all effected within a very short period: for with God all things are possible. The example of the thief on the cross, who first railed on his Lord, and very soon afterwards was a true believer, and a new creature in Christ, with heaven immediately before him, is sufficient to preclude p249 despair, even in prolonged cases of sin and rebellion against God.

But let no man dare to depend on a death-bed repentance; for according to the ordinary dealings of divine wisdom and love, the work of sanctification and preparation for heaven is very gradual. It is a matter of spiritual education conducted by a divine hand; and often one of severe discipline. The cross must be endured by every warrior in the army of the Lamb; we must take it up in faith, hold it fast in patience, and uplift it with holy magnanimity as our standard in battle. "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me:" Gal. ii. 20. Again, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world:" vi. 14.

It was the declaration of the apostle who wrote these things, when he confirmed the souls of the disciples in many places, that "we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom;" Acts xiv. 22, a doctrine which agrees with the fact recorded in the Apocalypse, that the multitude around the throne p250 of God, who were clothed in white robes, and held in their hands the ensigns of victory, had come "out of great tribulation:" Rev. vii. 14. "Ye shall indeed drink of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with," said our blessed Lord to his disciples; and no one, as we may believe, has ever more largely experienced the truth of this saying than Paul himself. In the first place, he was crucified with Christ, when he died to the law, renounced his self-righteousness, sacrificed his reputation as a Jew and a Pharisee, and gave in his adherence to that once lowly and suffering, though now risen and reigning Saviour, whom he had before despised and persecuted — when he counted all things loss, and did esteem them as dung and dross, that he might win Christ. And, secondly, in consequence of this self-renunciation, and in connexion with his service in the gospel, he was himself exposed to mockery, hatred, and persecution; he underwent cruel scourgings, bonds, and imprisonments; he fought with wild beasts; hardships by sea and by land, and terrors of impending death, met him, as it were, at every turn; and, finally, he sealed his testimony to the truth, by willing submission to a p251 martyr's death. Add to all these things, his anxious care of the churches, his vast exertions, the "buffetings of Satan, his painful exercises of spirit, the deep conflicts of his soul. Nothing can be more admirable than the triumph of a holy faith over all these trials: "We are troubled on every side, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body:" 2 Cor. iv. 8-10.

No one can reasonably doubt, that under the grace of the Holy Spirit, this course of severe discipline was, to the apostle, a most effective means of sanctification, and of preparation for a state of perfect purity and unbounded joy. Thus, when death approached, he could speak in triumphant language; "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day:" 2 Tim. iv. 68.


Undoubtedly the case of the apostle Paul was in various respects peculiar, and even singular. But our Saviour's declaration is absolutely universal: "Whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple:" Luke xiv. 27. How, then, is the cross laid on Christians in general?

In the first place, it remains to be a certain truth that "all who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution." The world lying in wickedness is still opposed to vital and decided Christianity; so that, even in the present day, when a high profession of religion is more or less fashionable, they who yield themselves, without reserve, to those humbling and searching principles which our Lord and his apostles promulgated, will find much to endure of contempt and opposition. Even if the persons themselves are respected, their principles are often despised and ridiculed. But independently of this fact, the cross of affliction, in this state of probation, is laid on the followers of Christ, as well as on the rest of mankind. So far are they from being exempt from the general law "man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards" that we often find the most p253 devoted servants of God disciplined, in an extraordinary degree, in the school of adversity. Nor does the sincere Christian fail to perceive that his trials of faith and patience are, for the most part, well adapted to his peculiar dispositions or weaknesses obviously intended as correctives suitable to his need. Thus does he realize the truth of the declaration, that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth;" and that although "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby:" Heb. xii. 6-11.

A wise writer has declared that "gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity:" Ecclus. ii. 5. "Behold," saith the Lord to Israel, "I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction: Isa. xlviii. 10. Sustained by the uplifting arm of omnipotence, gifted with patient resignation, and comforted by the remembrance of sympathies which are in Christ, the true hearted follower of the Lamb is sometimes enabled to rejoice in his tribulations; his patience works experience of the Lord's tender lovingkindness, and this experience confirms and animates p254 his hope. Thus is he disciplined and educated for heaven, and taught to look peacefully forward to the quickly coming day of final deliverance and joy.

But far above all, in order to our progress in sanctification, there is a cross to be known, and felt, and patiently borne within. In the strivings of grace against nature; in the secret monitions of the Lord Jesus Christ dwelling in us by his Spirit, and directed with undeviating certainty against all things which are defiled in his sight; and in a thorough surrender of the soul to these monitions there is a cross to be endured, which mortifies our carnal affections and lusts, brings us into more and more of conformity to the death of Christ, and so prepares us to rise with him, into light, and life, and heavenly mindedness. Thus is "our life hid with Christ in God;" and "when Christ who is our life shall appear," we also "shall appear with him in glory:" Col. iii. 3, 4.

While, however, a submission to the cross of Christ is the necessary preparation for our sitting together in "heavenly places" in him, even during the course of our mortal pilgrimage, it is far indeed from unfitting us for our citizenship in the p255 world, and for the duties which devolve on us, as Christians and as men. "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world," said our holy Redeemer, " but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil:" John xvii. 15. Yes, truly; that law of the Lord which is perfect, converting the soul written as it is in the page of Scripture, and engraven by a master hand of indubitable authority on the regenerate mind is an all-pervading light. It follows the Christian with counsel and instruction by night and by day, in public and in private, in sickness and in health — in the pursuits of agriculture, commerce, literature, and science; in the labours of philanthropy, in the services of religion, in the senate, in the court, on the throne, in the cottage, in the solitude of the closet, in the fireside circle, in the vast assembly. It leads to the performance of every relative duty in the fear and love of God. In all places, and on all occasions, it bears testimony to the absolute necessity of abstinence from evil. Powerfully does it search our words and actions, as well as our imaginations, motives, and affections. Unfailingly does it proclaim the language, "Cease to do evil, learn to do well." "TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN p256 THING, and I will receive you; and will be a Father to you; and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty:" 2 Cor. vi. 17, 18.

The Holy Scriptures promulgate, in a lively and explicit manner, the general principles of the divine law, and abound in precepts respecting our relative duties. Yet in reducing these principles and precepts to daily and hourly action in applying them to the endless diversity of occasion and circumstance, to which we are exposed in life we stand in need of the immediate and perceptible guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is a light which, as I believe, shines in a measure, in the consciences of all men; though often very faintly, like a small candle in a dark and extensive cavern "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." But to the true Christian it is a bright and steady lamp which will never fail him; a swift witness against all that is evil in the sight of God; a monitor within, which cannot be silenced; a guide to righteousness, which never deceives. "The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and p257 is truth, and no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide io him:" 1 John ii. 27.

Nor is it to be forgotten, that in connexion with a diversity of spiritual gifts, there is an equal diversity of individual duty, to be performed by the living members of the church of Christ. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal — one is led into one duty, and another into another. In all such matters, the obedience of faith in the church, and its individual members, ought to adapt itself to the scope and variety of divine administration; and the day's work, if we would witness the needful progress in sanctification, must keep pace with the day. Thus the pure leaven of truth spreads more and more in the believing mind, and gradually pervades the whole inner man softening, sweetening, and cleansing the immortal spirit until it is fully prepared to burst away from the shackles of mortality, and to enter on its new habitation of perfect purity and bliss. Thus also, through individual faithfulness, that leaven shall diffuse itself through the church of Christ, struggling and militant as she is on earth, until the saying is fulfilled, "The king's p258 daughter is ALL GLORIOUS WITHIN" fit for her final coalescence with the "general assembly" of the "spirits of the just made perfect."

I make no question, that the view which has now been taken of sanctification is, in substance, embraced by many a pious Roman Catholic, as well as Protestant. But how widely does it differ from those notions respecting the cross of Christ, which during a long night of ignorance and superstition, were palmed on the world, under the papal and hierarchical system notions which are still maintained and acted on to a vast and terrible extent!

In the first place, wooden or silver images of the cross (such is the strength of our natural tendency to idolatry) are, in thousands and tens of thousands of instances, the worthless substitutes for the all-important reality; both in its doctrinal character, and in its practical operation on the heart. They are folded to many a trembling bosom, and upheld before many a bended knee; embraced, trusted in, and worshipped, with a multitude of other worthless relics and figures; as if there was any life for the soul, any efficacy for the renovation of the heart, any virtue for the reformation of character, in the works p259 of men's hands, which speak not, hear not, smell not, taste not or in the dead materials with which nature builds!

Yet not less dead for any spiritual or saving purpose, are the forced celibacy of the clergy, the splenetic solitude of hermits, the seclusion and imprisonment of myriads of unmarried females, the shorn heads, rough garments, and spare living of friars, the formal and often-repeated fastings, the long and painful vigils, the iron beds, the hair shirts, the unpaired nails, the voluntary filth and wretchedness, the long and wearisome pilgrimages, the self-imposed stripes which Rome has invented for the mortification or torture of her votaries, in order to their improvement and perfection in holiness.

"Forbidding to marry" was one of the earliest tokens of a spirit, which under the guise of a high religious profession, was utterly opposed to vital and saving Christianity: 1 Tim. iv. 3. It must be considered, on scriptural grounds, one of the peculiar characteristics of Antichrist; and certainly there is no feature which has more conspicuously marked the professing church in her apostacy, than this p260 unrighteous interference with the laws of God and nature.

The declaration of Jehovah, immediately before the creation of woman, that "it is not good for man to be alone," (Gen. ii. 18.) corresponds with that sacred seal of sanction, which our Lord, in his discourses, impressed on the matrimonial covenant (Matt. xix. 4-6), and with the apostolic doctrine that "marriage is honourable IN ALL:" (Heb. xiii. 4.) But as the church became more and more overshadowed with darkness (even in very ancient times) the notion that celibacy formed an essential part of sanctification, made gradual progress, until it took deep root in the bosom of popery. Thus it became a primary ecclesiastical law, that none of those who minister of holy things, might have any part in this rich blessing, which God has bestowed, in his bounty, on the whole human race.

Vast are the multitudes of men, in the thrift and vigour of life, who have been devoted by this stern decree of the mother of spiritual fornication, to a condition as much opposed to their moral welfare, as to their temporal comfort; and tens of thousands of young females have been doomed, under the same p261 dark rule, to perpetual celibacy, and incarceration. What tongue can tell the secret misery which has been endured by many an unhappy victim of rash vows, under this iron yoke of despotism? What pen can adequately depict the moral and spiritual darkness which (under the profession of superior sanctity) has brooded, from age to age, over the monasteries and nunneries of perverted and degraded Christendom?

There can be no question, that in numerous instances, the several practices now mentioned have been a mere cover for iniquity; that under these disfigured and unsightly appearances, pride, malice, and evil concupiscence have very often lurked, and have revelled abundantly in their day. But even when adopted and adhered to, in all sincerity, they are at variance with the laws of nature, subversive of the social harmonies of society, destructive of that usefulness which every man owes to the fellows of his race, injurious to the happiness of the church, and utterly opposed to the diffusive stream of divine liberality and benevolence.

Persuaded as I am that this is the native and uniform tendency of self-imposed crosses and mortifications, p262 far be it from me to deal superciliously with any tender conscience. We are not to forget that a variety of experience in this respect, in matters naturally indifferent, is recognized in Scripture; and the great principle is plainly declared, that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." In the mean time, let not him that eateth not, judge him that eateth; and let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not. Rather than offend a weak brother, Paul was ready to abstain from meat all his life long; and circumstances sometimes arise, when abstinence even from the moderate use of lawful things, may be required of us, on the grand principle of Christian love, for the benefit of those around us, and for the furtherance of the ever-blessed cause of truth and righteousness.

Nevertheless, there is nothing harsh, or unseemly in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in its genuine practical application. His yoke is easy and his burden light. Vital religion to the soul and character of a man, is what the soul itself is to his body. It pervades the whole man; it animates and enlivens every part of his mental constitution, every part of his character and conduct. There is no straining, no awkwardness, no unhealthiness p263 in its operation. All its effects are in unison with the true order of nature; all are embued with the influences of divine love; all tend to the welfare and comfort of our species, and (though it may be through much of suffering and conflict) to the highest enjoyment for ourselves, of which man is capable. The more unreservedly we obey the will of God, as it is declared in Scripture, and manifested by his own Spirit, in the secret of the heart, the more tolerable will be our pains, the more exquisite our pleasures, the larger the amount of our happiness even here. "The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." "I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee in the way that thou shouldest go — that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments — Then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea."

[13] Footnote:
The immediate context of this passage is twice quoted by the apostle Paul, as applying to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Two systems of worship, ministry, and doctrine, have now been submitted to the deliberate attention of the reader. They contain some important features of truth in common, and experience proves, that under either system, there may be spiritual life, and therefore salvation for the soul. Indeed there are not wanting instances of eminent attainments in grace, among the professed adherents of both these systems; so that there has been developed, at times, among persons belonging respectively to these opposite classes, a unity of religious feeling and exercise, so marked and peculiar, as to have become matter of common observation. The most simple and spiritual of Christian believers — worshipppers of God, the most divested of all dependence upon forms may find much to admire, and much to sympathize with, in the experience and sayings of a Fenelon, a Guion, a Thomas a Kempis. The Jansenists, who openly preferred evangelical religion p265 to the errors of popery, form a distinct class of themselves; and it is probable there might be more of a mental alienation from many of those errors, in the individuals now mentioned, than was known or apparent. Something may also be ascribed to the prevalence of solitude and silent devotion in the Romish communion, which, in the midst of abuses, may promote the formation and growth of the spiritual mind.

But I conceive that these are rare exceptions to the general rule. While genuine Christianity can never fail to be productive of spirituality of soul, and of sound practical fruits, the Papal and Hierarchical system has produced the opposite effects, precisely in proportion as it deviates from the religion of the New Testament.

The objectionable features of that system, as it has been unfolded from a very early age of the church, but especially during the last twelve centuries, may be briefly recapitulated as follows.

First, and principally, it rests, to a very great extent, and in a vast variety of particulars, on the authority of man. While it acknowledges the divine origin of the Holy Scriptures, it claims for a priesthood p266 ordained by man, the sole right of interpreting their contents; and it adds to Scripture, as an authoritative ground, both of doctrine and practice, writings, both ancient and modern, which were not given by inspiration, together with an undefined and undefinable mass of oral traditions. Hinc illae lacrymae here is the fruitful fountain of other departures from the truth.

Secondly, this system has not only claimed, from an early age, the armed protection of states and princes, but has humbled both under its feet, and has involved, to an amazing and unparalleled extent, both the usurpation and abuse of temporal power. That abuse has been chiefly manifested in the cruel persecution of sincere Christians, who have not conformed to the principles of the ruling hierarchy. Myriads of these have fallen victims, under the tyrannical influence of Rome, to the tortures of the inquisition, the fires of martyrdom, or the sword of assassination.

Thirdly, the papal hierarchy, with its clergy, assume and exercise a despotic spiritual power over the subordinate grades of their own class, and over the whole body of the laity, being p267 truly "lords over God's heritage." This power is maintained, within the clerical body itself, by an arrangement purely military in its form and action. The Bishop, or General of the Romish church, can say with the centurion, "I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it." No liberty of thought, no dictates of conscience, may interfere with this implicit obedience. As to the laity, they are kept in servile subjection to the priesthood, by means of confession, absolution, penance, and the sacrifice of the mass by the stern and awful fact, that their viatica to heaven (without a single exception) are in the hands, or under the key, of their spiritual guides.

The power of the priesthood, in the apostacy, both temporal and spiritual, has moreover been propped, from age to age, with an incalculable multitude of "lying wonders;" most of them so gross and ridiculous as to be fit only to cheat the ignorant and vulgar: others so artfully contrived, or so strange and anomalous, as almost to deceive the very elect; but taken as a whole, (whether we look to p268 the evidence of their reality, or to their own nature, or to the character of the system which they are intended to support) as much in contrast with the miracles of Christianity, as light is with darkness, or life with death.

Fourthly, this system involves the religious adoration of Mary the supposed queen of heaven, and mother of God, and of a vast multitude of departed spirits, saints in reality or imagination thus trenching on the sacred prerogative of the true God, as the only right object of divine worship. This spiritual fornication, moreover, descends into gross and palpable idolatry, the worship of images of wood and stone, gold and silver, and even of the consecrated wafer. Further than this the worship of the true God is defiled, and the whole doctrine of probation and rewards, corrupted and confounded, by the invention of purgatory, and by prayers and masses for the dead: not to mention those gaudy trappings, that worldly splendour, those carnal fascinations, which are wholly at variance with spiritual religion, and which, in destroying the native simplicity of Christianity, deprive it of its wholesome influence, its sober practical operation.


Fifthly, while it ascribes to the ministers of religion the sacerdotal character, it separates them, as a distinct class or tribe, from the whole body of believers; provides for their ordination by the hands and authority of man; invests them with a levitical claim on the produce of the earth; and pretends to supply them, through an unbroken succession from the apostles, with the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Sixthly, it bids us return headlong to the old covenant of Judaism; imposes on its votaries the yoke of a multitude of ceremonies; celebrates some of these with the title of sacraments, as if the outward form did actually and necessarily contain the inward grace; and above all, promulgates the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Rome does not blush to declare that her priests have the power to convert the substances of bread and wine, into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ; and that these, while the risen Saviour is glorified in heaven, are corporeally eaten on earth, and eaten in a thousand different places at the same moment an amazing fiction, respecting which the second beast, who has the visage of a lamb and p270 the voice of a dragon, has often been heard to cry, Believe it and confess it, or burn!

Lastly, it weaves around the souls of men an inextricable web of error; injects false confidences into the superstitious mind; proposes a strange variety of substitutes for Christ; and in undermining the scripture doctrine of justification by faith, saps the only true foundation of the Christian's hope of salvation. With equal rashness and perseverance, it substitutes for that blessed work of the Spirit of God, by which every living member of the church must be prepared for heaven, a long series of self-imposed crosses and human ordinances beginning with the "Touch not, taste not, handle not," and going on to seclusion, celibacy, imprisonment, and self-torture. By these the few are supposed to be sanctified; while the many are left without any resource but the performances of their priests, the merits of their brethren, and the flames of purgatory.

It is delightful to contrast, with this anti-christian system, the sweet and simple religion of the New Testament, in its original force and efficacy.

In the first place, Christianity, as it is there p271 developed, rests in all its parts on the authority of God, and absolutely rejects the traditions of men. It upholds the Holy Scriptures, including, of course, the writings of the apostles and evangelists, as the one divine record of doctrines to be believed, and duties to be practised. From this record (intended as it is for the use of all mankind) no man may take away, and to it no man may add. It is complete in its own harmony, strength and singleness.

Secondly, this holy religion admits of no dependence for its support, on the arm of flesh, or on any carnal weapons. While it calls on the princes of the earth for a kindly influence and Christian example, it claims not the interference of human law, or the forcible protection of human government. The true church depends only on her own glorious Head, who governs her by his Spirit, and rules over the universe itself for her sake.

Thirdly, it is proposed to the reason and consciences of all men, and in its application, recognizes only two parties Almighty God and the rational responsible soul. Thus no man living, and no body of men, can have any right to interfere with the religious convictions and practices of p272 others (so long as these do not interrupt the good order of society) except by the diffusion of THE TRUTH.

Fourthly, it gives no countenance to the continuance, under any form, of the sacerdotal office; or to the setting apart of a distinct class or tribe, as ministers of holy things, who have a claim to live on the temporalities of their brethren, and to exercise dominion over them. On the contrary, it leaves to the people of God, under the supreme rule of Christ himself, the right of self-government; it salutes all the living members of the church as priests of the living God; acknowledges the capacity of all to receive and use the gifts of the Spirit; and sanctions no ministry in the churches, but that which flows from the free and immediate operations of the Holy Ghost.

Fifthly, it allows not for a moment, on any plea whatsoever, of any object of religious worship, but JEHOVAH HIMSELF Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; it utterly rejects all false or subsidiary gods, and all bowing down to graven images; it proclaims that God is a Spirit, and that they who worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth; it annuls the whole ceremonial system of p273 the Jewish law; asks for no fascinations for the eye or the ear; enjoins simplicity, sobriety, and order in all the assemblies of the saints; and calls for the prostration of souls, before the majesty of heaven, in the silence of all flesh.

Sixthly, while it fulfils, and virtually abrogates all types and shadows in divine worship, it affords no support whatsoever to the notion, that any external performance properly or necessarily contains an inward grace; but it forcibly insists on two living and essential sacraments the washing of regeneration, or baptism of the Holy Ghost; and a participation, by faith, in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.

Lastly, it defines and settles the ground of the Christian's hope sole and simple as it is; even this that whosoever believes in the Son of God shall never perish, but shall have eternal life. It points out the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the one appointed means of our reconciliation with God; and freely offers to every penitent sinner who comes to Jesus by faith, the spotless robe of his perfect righteousness. At the same time, it demands the purification of the soul, from all the p274 defilements of the flesh and the world; it lays upon the Lord's children the cross of Christ, which they must patiently bear both in doing and suffering their heavenly Father's will; it supplies the perpetual help and unfailing guidance of the Holy Spirit; it offers abundant qualification for all the duties which devolve upon us in the world and in the church; it commands an absolute separation from all that is evil in the sight of God; it proclaims our victory in Christ over all our spiritual foes; and finally, in the riches of the grace of God, it provides for our becoming fit for the enjoyment of that perfectly pure inheritance, which Christ has purchased for us with his own blood.

Between the two systems which have now been developed between the fulness of the authority of man, and the fulness of the authority of God, in matters of religion there is, as I believe, no permanent resting place. Mediums have been tried, in a variety of forms, and on an extensive scale. But the sentiment which has now been expressed, appears to be confirmed by the fact, that a large proportion of the clergy of episcopal churches is, at this very time, notoriously rushing back into the bosom of popery, p275 Retrograde movements of the same nature (though different in degree) may be traced in the decrease of original simplicity, and the increase of form and splendour, in the worship of some of the non-conforming bodies. In the meantime, there can be no doubt, that spiritual religion, in its native vigour, is more and more diffusing itself among the thousands and tens of thousands of the Israel of God. With these, under whatsoever name, and in whatsoever nation they may be found, the writer of the pages now about to be concluded, desires to be preserved in living heartfelt unity. May the favour of God be upon his own children and followers all the world over! May the Sun of righteousness arise upon them from day to day, and the dews of heaven rest all night upon their branches! And finally, may the law of peace, and purity, and love, without any foul admixtures, overspread this earth, "as the waters cover the sea!"

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The End