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and the Works of God, and exhorted the people to “search,” to “enquire,” and “to observe.” And so did John to his disciples. He did not send them to have their doubts resolved by an infallible Priesthood. He sent them to see, and to hear for themselves.
Now, looking at the Baptist and the Redeemer merely as ministers of God, whom it became “to fulfil all righteousness,” it is inconceivable that in the origin—the spirit, and the whole conduct of their ministries—they should overlook the continuous, and unerring tribunal, which God had appointed “ to guide the Church into all the truth."* On Christian principles, this is perfectly inconceivable. We are, therefore, again driven from the idea of such a tribunal, and compelled to take refuge in what was recognised and respected by the Baptist and the Redeemer—the local and limited authority of the different administrations.
But this is still more forcibly impressed upon us by the success of the different ministries. For example : when we see such a man as the late Thomas Chalmers proclaiming and enforcing the Redeemer's Gospel in the spirit and power of God's servant—when we see him combating infidel objections with fairness, and force, and a luxuriance of argument which bears down all before it-illustrating the purest doctrine by the exhaustless and redundant overflowing of a brilliant imagination, and a sanctified heart-adorning his profession by self-denying labour, an independent character, and a consistent life, and attended by a cloud of living and dying witnesses, into whom he had infused his own spirit of “power, and love, and of a sound mind ;'* and when we reflect that effects like these can only be traced to the “ointment” of the Saviour's name, and to the finger of His Spirit, we cannot close our eyes against a matter of fact of this description.
* John xvi. 13.
We may be devotedly attached to our own administration of religion ; we may believe, most devoutly, that the Church of England is more in accordance with the nature of man, the scriptures of God, the structure of society, and the Apostolic model than any other upon this earth. We may admire her enlarged moderation, and may exult in her generous and manly acknowledgment of the Catholic spirit of true religion. We may submit with reverential fondness to her mild, and venerable, and useful authority. We may feel borne upward, and may rejoice in the clear, quiet, sober, and steady light which she continues to emit, when ministers like Chalmers have passed away
We may apply to her system, and to her services, the words of the poet,
"Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull, Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full.”
* Tim. i. 17.
feel all this with the combined force of a filial and philosophic regard, but still ! the matter of fact stares us in the face. We may be reminded of hereditary authority, Apostolic succession, Episcopal ordination, and antique resemblance, and we are thankful for these things so far as they go, and there is unquestionably an essential difference between this administration and the other, but when we have the honesty to examine the real state of the case, we find matter of fact too strong for scholastic notions, however respectable. The proclamation of God's Grace, and the self-denying purity of God's servant, and the witness of God's Spirit, and the manifest ingathering of God's people, surge over our ecclesiastical prepossessions, and bear down upon us, whether we will or not, the double-edged conclusion, that there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
It need scarcely be observed how immeasurably this evidence is augmented by the ministries that co-existed with the Church of Israel. The modesty of the Baptist, and the lowliness of the Redeemer, the purity of the doctrine, and the holiness of the life, the doing good in the valley, and the teaching on the mountain, the thronging of the multitude, and the virtue that was afloat to heal them, the singular combination of tenderness, and power, of dignity and meekness, and the other countless instances of unearthly excellence, which the Evangelists
have showered around us - What is all this alongside of the ancient, and indisputable Church of Israel, but a Divine recognition of the arrangement of the different administrations. And when to this we add the shepherds, and the angels, and the Star, and the voice from Heaven, and the face shining as the sun, and the blind recovering their sight, and the dead raised up, and the devils trembling, and the graves opening, and the poor sympathised with—what is all this but the power of Grace, and the course of Providence, and the obedience of Nature, and the voice of God bearing concentrated testimony against the sole corporation system of an exclusive and infallible Church authority.
THE HEALTHY RESULTS OF THESE INDEPENDENT
“All Nature's difference keeps all Nature's peace."
Pope (Essay on Man, iv. 56.) The arrangement before us, while it satiates the understanding with evidence of its truth, does, at the same time, convey lessons of considerable value to the heart. (e.g.) There is no religious error more common, and more fatal, than that of leaning for salvation upon the external forms of the Church to which we belong. The higher our Church notions are, the stronger is the temptation to do so. Of the strength, and of the evil of this delusion, we have a solemn example in the Bible—the example of the Jewish people with their neglected Saviour standing in the midst of them! In proportion, as they took away the key of knowledge, and taught for doctrines the commandments of men, and preferred their grains of “anise” and “cummin” to judgment, mercy, and faith, and made the Word of God of none effect by their traditions