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society. But if, as we trust and believe, the more diligent inquiry will only the more fully establish the truth and conformity of our doctrines to the holy Scriptures ; let us “stand in the way and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and we shall find rest for our souls.". May the Almighty look down upon us, and be merciful to us; may he build the ruined places; may he behold and visit the vine which his right hand hath planted, and restore peace to our Jerusalem. Amen.
Page 3, line 6. “ For Christ made no change but what was necessary : baptism was a rite among the Jews, and the Lord's Supper was the postconium of the Hebrews changed into a mystery from a type to a more real exhibition; and the Lord's Prayer was a collection of the most eminent devotions of the prophets and holy men before Christ, who prayed by the same spirit, and the whole religion was but the law of Moses drawn out of its veil into charity and manifestation, and to conclude in order to the present affairs, the government which Christ left was the same as he found it ; for what Aaron, and his sons, and the Levites were in the temple, that Bishops, Priests, and Deacons are in the Church ; it is affirmed by St. Hierom more than once, and the use he makes of it is this, . Esto subjectus pontifici tuo et quasi animæ parentem suscipe, Obey your Bishop, and receive him as the nursing father of your soul.?” Taylor's Sermons, works, vol. vi. pag. 311.
Page 4, line 18. This statement has been controverted by many writers. It is not to be wondered at, because if once admitted it proves the divine authority of episcopal government. It occupied a prominent place in the Bangorian controversy, where all the defenders of Bishop Hoadly advocated the worship of the synagogue as the pattern from which our hierarchy was derived. Various theories to reconcile the form of the synagogue with the ministry of the Christian Church had been put forward by Grotius, Lightfoot, Vitringa, &c. We may well ask how these writers were able to discover what had escaped the notice of the early Christian writers? How were they enabled to discover that the reference was to the arrangement of the synagogue, while the early Christians lived under the notion that the Levitical Priesthood was the type ? Again we may ask, why there are as many systems as writers? We may reply for them, that each is anxious to establish his own peculiar theory of Church government, and then he makes out from the few particulars on record a system of synagogue worship which bears some resemblance. We may say of them, as Lord Bacon said of the ancient theorist, “ postquam pro arbitrio suo decrevisset, experientiam ad sua placita tortam circumducít et captivam.”
Upon this subject Vitringa has exhausted a profusion of learning, which might better have been applied in some more useful manner, and I shall only give one instance of his mode of reasoning. After having laboured to prove that numbers of presbyters and pastors are derived from the officers of synagogues, he comes to fríoxotos, and his argument is, “Hic præsumendum videtur, tum quia cætera nomina disciplinæ ecclesiasticæ conformia sunt iis quæ in synagoga recepta sunt, tum quia hoc cum cæteris quæ de synagoga depromta sunt, frequentissime componitur.” De Synagoga, pag. 644. And in the sequel it appears that Grotius and he cannot agree about the Hebrew word which was used in the synagogue. Indeed the greater part of Vitringa's work is occupied in refuting the opinions about the synagogue of those who agree with him in deriving from it the government of the Christian Church.
Vitringa's notions of a Church were loose indeed. He allows every man to join himself with that sect of Christians whose profession and discipline he may approve, provided that, notwithstanding this external communion, he will consider his real union with the society he has thus joined to be hypothetical, depending entirely upon the condition, that his preference of the sect is justifiable, and that it is really a part of the Church of Christ. “Nimirum adjungo me huic vel illi cætui Christiano, cujus professio et disciplina mihi placent, sub hac oxira vel hypothesi, quate
nus Ecclesia illa particularis partem facit Ecclesiæ internæ, hoc est mystici corporis Christi. Ecclesia interna sive mysticum Christi corpus sola est vera Ecclesia, ut Augustinus optime multis locis docerit. Externa vero Ecclesia non dicitur Ecclesia, nisi cum respectu ad internam, nec est Ecclesia nisi sub hac oxéost et hypothesi.”—Vitringa Obser. sacr. lib. v. cap. 9, s. 11, p. 136. “ Thus," as Dr. Spry remarks, “ by a little sophistry and some convenient mental reservation, the whole character of the Church. as an external society founded by Christ, and directed by laws of his enactment, and governors of his appointment, is at once destroyed ; and men are taught that they may join any and every sect by turns, without schism, and be true churchmen without being connected with the Church by any real bond of communion.”—Bampton Lectures, page 300.
If the advocates for this synagogue pattern will look to Epiphanius, Hæres. xxx. 16, p. 162, they will find a leader whose assistance they will not be anxious to claim. Ebion appears first to have adopted this pattern, to have called his congregation συναγωγήν, and the governors of his congregation αρχισυναγώγον.
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I cannot see any reason for doubting the authority of Eusebius, Origen, Jerome, and Epiphanius upon this subject. Surely their direct testimony ought to outweigh the negative argument from the silence of Irenæus. Dr. Wall's principal argument is founded upon the age of Clement, but this is not tenable. There is no great interval between the times of his death and St. John's, according to the received opinions, yet St. John was a disciple of Christ for several years before the conversion of Saint Paul. Clement, therefore, the Bishop of Rome, might have been a companion and fellow-labourer of St. Paul, and yet have lived to the end of the first century. See Oudinus Comment. de Script. Eccles. i. p. 19. Wetsten. Prolegom. in Epist. Syriac. p. ix. Lardner. Credibil. p. ii. ch. 38. s. 23.