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Q. But is not this communion with the Church impossible upon the supposition that every society of professing Christians is the Church of Christ?
A. Upon the supposition that every society of professing Christians is the Church of Christ, the Church, in that case, consists of as many separate societies, under different forms, as there are fanciful men to make them, and, consequently, is no longer in that collected state in which it is possible to live in communion with it. For before the members of the Church can live in communion with each other, the Church, as a society, must be at unity in itself.
Q. Prove that the Church of Christ is but one; and that, therefore, the preservation of Christian unity is a necessary duty.
A. The Apostle expressly says, “ There is one body :V for by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body."w As there is one Father, the fountain of the Deity; one Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, who is “over all, God blessed for evermore," the head of the Church which he bath redeemed and purchased with his blood; one Holy Spirit, by whom " the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified;" one faith in this Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to the profession and acknowledgment of which all Christians are called; one baptism, by which we profess this faith, are admitted into Christ's Church, and made partakers of that Spirit in whom our union with Christ subsists; one hope of our heavenly calling, the hope of seeing God in glory :* so the Church, distinguished by these blessings and characters, depending on this one Father, governed by this one Head, sanctified by this one Spirit, cemented by this one faith, washed by this one baptism, supported by this one hope, can be only one.*
Q. How is this one Church of Christ to be known?
A. It has been already proved that the Church of Christ is a visible institutions It is to be known by its ministry, which, as we have seen, was established by Christ and his
w 1 Cor. xii. 13.
v Eph. iv. 4.
* Eph. iv. 3, 4, 5, 6. • On the important subject of Christian unity, the reader is referred to Bishop Seabury's able discourse on “ Christian unity,” in the first volume of his sermons; and also to “Daubeny's Guide to the Church," and to the “Appendix” to the same work. This eminent Presbyter of the Church of England endeavours, in language characterized not less by zeal and fervour, than by the most mild and insinuating simplicity, to restore Christians to those opinions on the doctrine and constitution of the Church, which distinguished the apostolic and primitive age.
y Sec page 25.
Apostles under the three orders of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons; by its doctrine, and by its sacraments. Where these are as Christ ordained them, there is the Church of Christ; where these, or any of them are wanting, there the Church is not: at least, not in a sound and perfect state.
Q. Prove that this unity of the Church is not inconsistent with the existence of particular independent local Churches.
A. Christ's Church is universal, not limited to any period of time, nor confined to one nation. But this Church must necessarily be divided into different portions, each portion being a member of the one Church of Christ. Locally considered, these portions may be denominated particular Churches, and take their names either from the city where the Bishop resides; or from the country, when a number of these Churches are united under a Metropolitan or Archbishop. In the mode of their worship, in the particulars of their discipline, in their rites and ceremonies, these Churches may differ; but so long as they retain the ministry, faith, and sacraments instituted by Christ, they are parts or meme bers of his Church.
Q. How then is the unity of the Church preserved?
A. The people of the several congregations into which these local Churches are divided, keep up their unity with the Church, by submitting to its discipline, by communion with their Presbyter, and by their right of communion with every branch of the universal Church, wheresoever God's providence may cast them. The clergy preserve the same unity, by their submission to their Bishop, by their commua nion with him and with each other, In this way was the unity of the primitive Church preserved ; its government, faith, and sacraments, maintained in their integrity; and its discipline duly administered. The people preserved communion with their Presbyter; the Presbyters with their Bishop ; the Bishops with each other, in government, doctrine, sacraments, and councils. In this way, all orders and degrees of Christians may enjoy all the means of grace and holy living which the all-gracious Head of the Church hath appointed for them; and each member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and acceptably serve God; and "holding the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righte. ousness of life," may obtain the hope of his calling, eternal life with God in heaven.z
Q. How is the unity of the Church violated ?
A. The unity of the Church is violated when any Bishop separates from the communion of the other Bishops of the universal Church; more particularly when any Presbyter separates from the communion of his Bishop, and sets up an independent government in the Church, and when the people separate themselves from the communion of their duly authorized ministers, and from the government of the Church.
Q. What is a wilful separation from the communion of the Church styled in the language of Scripture and primitive writers ?
A. A wilful separation from the communion of the Church is styled in Scripture, and by the primitive writers, the sin of schism. The term schism, in its application to the Church of Christ, denotes a division among the members composing that body; occasioned by any of them rejecting that ministry which Christ established in his Church, and thereby separating from its communion.
Q. What is the judgment of Scripture and the primitive writers concerning the sin of schism
A. From the writings of St. Paul it may be collected that he considers schism as a carnal singa and that this sin consists in a separation from the communion of the Church, and a setting up of teachers independent of its government, and destructive of its unity. In the Epistle of St. Jude mention is made of those who perished in the gainsaying of Core. There is, therefore, a sin in the Christian Church answering to that of Korah in the Jewish.
His sin consisted in his rebelling against the order of government established in that Church, of which he was an inferior minister. The sin of Christians, therefore, corresponding to that of Korah, consists in their rebellion against that government by Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, which Christ and his Apostles instituted in the Church. The uniform testimony of all the apostolic and primitive writers establishes the general conclusion, that whoever was in communion with the Bishop, the supreme governor of the Church upon earth, was in communion with Christ, the head of it; and whoever was not in communion with the Bishop, was thereby cut off from communion with Christ; and that sacraments not administered by the Bishop, or those commissioned by him,'were not only ineffectual to the parties, but
a 1 Cor. iü. 3, &c.
moreover like the offerings of Korah, provocations against the Lord.b
Q. But do not these sentiments concerning the nature of schism and the necessity of communion with the Church contradict the general opinions of the present day, and violate that liberal judgment which we should form concerning the spiritual character and state of our fellow-men?
A. To determine upon the legality or illegality of a practice from man's opinion concerning it, is to set up a standard of judgment which is perpetually varying, and on that account ever liable to deceive. Christians, in religious matters, have a more sure word than that of man to depend upon ; if they are wise, therefore, they will not suffer themselves to be governed by a lesser authority when they have a greater always at hand to direct them. Custom has, indeed, so far reconciled us to the divisions which have taken place among Christians, that they are no longer seen in the light in which they were seen in the primitive days of the Church; whilst charity forbidding us to speak harshly of the spiritual condition of our brethren, has in a manner tended to efface the sin of schism from our minds. But though we presume to judge no man, leaving all judgment to that Being who is alone qualified to make allowance for the ignorance, invincible prejudices, imperfect reasonings, and mistaken judgments of his frail creatures; yet it must not from hence be concluded, that it is a matter of indifference, whether Christians communicate with the Church or not; or that there is a doubt upon the subject of schism, whether it be a sin or not.
Q. What may be considered as justifiable causes of sepaYation from any branch of the universal Church ?
A. When any branch of the universal Church imposes sinful terms of communion, we may justifiably separate from her. But we are not then authorized to form a Church upon a new plan, and to reject the authorized ministry of the Church; by which conduct we should be guilty of the heavy sin of schism. We are still bound to preserve the unity of the Church, and therefore to adhere to the government of the Church, by Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, by which government the visible Church of Christ is known. The important principle should ever be kept in view, that the unity of the Church is broken, and the benefits of Church
communion forfeited, when we separate from that priesthood which was constituted by Christ as the essential characteristic of his Church, the charnel through which the blessings of his redemption are to be conveyed to men.
Q. On what grounds do you justify the separation of the Church of England from the communion of the Church of Rome?
A. The separation of the Church of England from the Church of Rome was grounded, not upon the idea that she had a right to form a Church for herself, upon any new plan ef her own, but upon the idea that it was no ionger compatible with the spiritual welfare of her members to hold communion with a corrupt Church. It was neither the ministry nor. doctrine of the Church of Christ that was protested against on this occasion, but the corruptions which had taken place in both; the usurped supremacy of the Bishop of Pome, and those dangerous tenets which were incompatible with some of the most essential articles of the Christian Church. The Church of England, therefore, returned to that primitive government and faith from which the Church of Rome had degenerated; and as she still retained the true priesthood and government of the Church, it is evident she cannot, in any sense, be charged with the sin of schism, but still continues in the unity of the Church.
Q. From the foregoing view which has been taken of the important subject of the unity of the Church, does it not appear to be the sacred duty of all Christians to preserve and endeavour to promote this unity?
A. Most ardently and affectionately did the blessed Redeemer pray
for his Apostles, and all those who should be. lieve on him through their word, " that they all might be one.” Most earnestly does the Apostle exhort us to “endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” The unity of the spirit can only be kept by keeping the unity of the Church, which is the body animated by it. The disposition to do so will show itself by continuing in the Church, if, by God's grace, it is our happy lot to be already in it; or by coming into it with all sincerity of heart, if it be our misfortune hitherto to have kept ourselves out of it submitting quietly and peaceably to its government-abiding in sacraments and worship with its ministers-steadfastly holding the common faith once delivered to the saints