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In the foregoing Letters, "I have, as near as I could, seriously answered things of weight; with smaller, I have dealt as I thought their quality did require."

It was not so much my object to point out the weakness of the ground which you occasionally take, as to examine the strength of it, wherever it was to be found: much less was it my wish to take notice of those littlenesses, which will sometimes creep into our writings, in spite of our better judgment; which, on the supposition that they really apply to the man to whom they are addressed, do not belong to the cause in which he is engaged. "The discourtesies which we experience, (said the excellent Jortin, alluding to the reception which some of his writings met with from those who differed from him in opinion) are things too common and too insignificant, to deserve a place in

* Hooker.

our memory, or in our writings; it is best to bury them in eternal oblivion."

The object in view in my publication, however indifferent the exeention of it may be, ought to have entitled the anthor to the candour, if not to the good opinion of every well-wisher to the estabishment. For the axion, that without religion no government can long misist, is not. I believe, a more decided one, than that the appointment of some regular ecclesiastical constitution is necessary to the preservation of pare doctrine.

Our Saviour thought so, and therefore established his Church: that, as it was the office of the priest under the law to keep the light always burning in the temple, it should become the office of their successors under the Gospel, so to keep the pure light of Divine truth burning in the Church; as thereby to preserve it from being blown out by the false doctrines, which He, in his wisdom, foresaw the vain imaginations of men would be continually raising up.

When we communicate with flesh and blood, we may think nothing essential in Divine worship, but what our own fancies may direct: we may separate from the temple of the Lord, and with Jeroboam cast off the priests from executing their office. But when we see God's will by his word, we find that under the Gospel, as under the law, there are certain positive institutions, which do not leave to Christians that liberty in religious matters, which some among them have been at times apt to * Jortin's Dedication to the second volume of Remarks, &c. † 2 Chron. xi. 14.

imagine. The God whom we worship has, under every dispensation, distinguished himself as the God. of order, not of confusion. The offices and service of the Jewish temple had the sanction of His express. appointment; and every violation of order, under that dispensation, was followed by an immediate. judgment on the party. To secure the worship of the true God from the corruption of heathen idolatry, it was deemed necessary, in the council of Divine wisdom, to restrain the vain imaginations of men, by some settled and appointed forms. This idea gave rise to the establishment of that economy, which was designed as introductory to a more perfect system; by which the Jewish people, as the keepers of the oracles of God, were distinguished from all the nations of the world."

In conformity with the same idea, of preserving the knowledge of that salvation which was prefigured under the law, did our Saviour establish his Church under the Gospel; upon which occasion the oracles of God and the mysteries of religion were delivered to appointed guardians, for the purpose of their being duly administered for the benefit of mankind. This treasure, as the Apostle calls it, was committed, it is true, to earthen vessels, who stood in need of divine assistance to enable them to preserve their important charge; still it was committed to them, that it might be so continued in them, as to become a standard of faith, necessary to secure the unity of the Church.

When God enters into covenant with man, there must be some visible appointed ministers, and visible * Rom. iii. 2.

sacraments, for the purpose of applying the benefits of that covenant to the parties concerned in it. Without these instituted means of grace, the visibility of the Church of Christ will not be preserved in the world. And if there be no visible Church communion, men will by degrees return to the religion of nature; a religion without a priest, and without a sacrifice; in which no man shall be saved, who rejects that plan of Gospel salvation that has been provided for him.

To counteract this gracious plan, has been the uniform object of the grand deceiver of mankind from the beginning. With this view he has been engaged, in every age of the world, in setting up the vain imaginations of the creature against the revealed religion of the Creator; "seeing (as St. Augustine observed) the temples of the heathen idols deserted, and the world running after the name of Christ,"* his kingdom would have been at an end among mankind, had he not succeeded, by impure mixtures and imaginations, so to corrupt the doctrine of the cross, as to render it but partially effectual to the purpose for which it had been revealed. Under his patronage, the philosophy of the Gentile and the superstition of the Jew have, under different forms, been received among Christians: the former, by annexing new and strange interpretations to certain passages of scripture, has made the word of God subservient to the propagation of human theories; the latter, by piecing

"Videns diabolus templa dæmonum deseri, et in nomen Christi currere genus humanum," &c. Avo. de Civitat. 18.

out (as Bishop Andrews expresses it*) the new garments with old rags of traditions; that is, by adding to and eeking out God's truth with men's phansies, with the philacteries and fringes of the Pharisees," has tended to bury the simplicity of the Gospel under that load of superstitious ceremonies, which were thought necessary to accompany its propagation.

1.

The Reformation in this country, by purging our Church from numberless corruptions, restored the religion of it, in a great measure, to its primitive perfection. But though our Church has happily discarded superstition, she has not been able to guard against the powerful effects of that engine, which her grand enemy has since been employing against her. Whilst superstition prevailed, the gross errors that accompanied it, ensured, in a great degree, the failure of the object for which the Church had been established: but when the eyes of the Christian were opened, and became sufficiently. strong to look through that veil of corruption, which had by degrees been drawn over the Christian doctrine; and the Church of this country was placed once again on primitive ground; division among its members was the engine, by which the destruction of the Christian cause remained to be effected.

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For this purpose the vain imaginations of men were again set at work, and the language of scripture wrested and tortured, in order to give countenance to the different senses, which self-sufficient professors had determined to draw from it. The *Sermon on Acts ii. 42.

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