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OF THE CHURCH.
earthly kingdoms in its authority and laws, The end of civil society is temporal happiness; the end of Christian society is future and eternal happiness. For this reason it is called “an holy priesthood," 1 Pet. ii. 5. : “ an holy nation,” ver. 9.; and the members of it are called 66 saints,” Rom. i. 7; 1 Cor. i. 2; “ the elect,” Tit. i. 1; 1 Pet. i. 2, ii. 9: as being chosen to peculiar privileges and blessings, confirmed to them by the covenant of the gospel.
Owing to this distinction between the civil and religious societies, men may be members of the one without being members of the other; and by their admission into the Church they neither forfeit any temporal privileges, nor obtain any exemption from their obligations to the State; only by becoming Christians they become members of a distinct, holy, and spiritual society, and are thereby entitled to new rights, blessings and rewards. Thus their admission into the one does not destroy their relation to the other, nor cancel their rights to the privileges it confers; but, as belonging to two distinct societies they can reap the full advantages of both. Nor, as both are derived from God, though by different ways, can either the duties which they respectively require, or the privileges they respectively bestow, ever thwart each other, since all the ordinances of heaven must conspire in perfect harmony to one great and benevolent end. ad d.
3. Hence it is an outward and visible society; inasmuch as it is composed of persons living in the world, joined in the outward profession of a common faith, and in the use of outward ordinances and administrations. There is, no doubt, an invisible Church, by which is meant those believers who are in covenant with God, who are true members of Christ, holding an inward communion with him as the Head, and who, though they have lived at different ages, and are not now all upon earth, are conceived as forming one invisible and mystical body, because they cannot be discerned by men, nor seen by human eyes. But, in reference to external profession, Christians form a visible society; since they are distinguished by an outward observance of the institutions of the gospel, and by the performance of visible external acts. These visible acts and offices are the proof of being Christians, or belonging to the Church of Christ, and of course those who afford this practical proof form an outward and visible society.
As all who make this outward profession of the Gospel are not united to Christ by an inward communion, the visible Church, it is evident, must consist of two descriptions of persons, the sincere and the insincere. It is represented in scripture as a great house in which are vessels of honour and dishonour, 2 Tim. ii. 20, 21.; as a field in which tares are mingled with the wheat, Matt. xiii. 30.; as a net that gathereth into it good and bad fishes, Matt. xiii. 47.; as a marriage which a king made for his son, and sent his servants out into the highways, who gathered together all as many as they found, and the wedding was furnished with guests, Matt. xxii. 2, et seq. There are in it sheep and goats, wise and foolish virgins, Matt. xxv. 2, 32, 33.; and many are called, but few are chosen, Matt. xx. 16. According to this representation, the visible Church includes all who make outward profession of the faith, and join in Christian communion, though many of them are not true converts, nor living members of Christ's body. And this is a dispensation of stupendous grace, by which the ignorant and the wicked are received into the visible Church, as
an asylum for the recovery of spiritual maladies, · where by a diligent use of the prescribed remedies, they may acquire spiritual health and life.
4. The Church is independent of all human power, being totally distinct, and deriving none of its authority from the kingdoms of this world. It is an institution complete in all its internal regulations, subsisting and exercising its jurisdiction without the aid of secular power. This follows from its being a spiritual society, which, as such, cannot be dependent upon worldly governments; and from its being founded by Christ, who is its only supreme Governor and Legislator. As a religious corporation, ita is not altered in its nature by the magistrate's admission into it, or by his patronage of it His station gives him no additional powers in it, but is equally with other members subject to the same conditions, and is under the same. rules and orders of the society. The Christian Church owes its establishment to a Divine origin, derives its laws from the same source, and aims alone at spiritual and heavenly objects; in every point of view, in short, it is a distinct society, separate from the State, and must in consequence be independent of it in. regard to its holy offices, ministry, and spiritual jurisdiction.
5. Lastly, the Christian church is an universal society. The kingdom of Christ is co-extensive with mankind; it comprehends all persons, and all nations, who believe on his name. All the heathen are “ for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession ;" “ all kings shall fall down before him; all nations! shall do Him service ;” and our Lord commanded the apostles to teach and baptize all. nations, and to convert the utmost parts of the , earth. Ps. ii. 8, lxxii. 8. 11; Matt. xxviii. 19; Acts i. 8. Nor is this society confined to one: age; it is designed to continue to the end of the world; for Christ's kingdom is “ an everlastingo kingdom,” which shall be established throughout all generations," and shall never be de-to
stroyed.” Ps. lxxii. 5; Isa. ix. 7; Luke i. 33; so that all Christians, however dispersed over the whole face of the earth, and in all ages to the end of time, are comprehended in this one society, called the catholic or universal church, because they possess the same faith, are subject to the same Lord and Master, worship the same God, and are joined in a community of the same ordinances and administrations.
III. Such are the marks and characters of the universal church of Christ; but as it cannot possibly be under one and the same governor and teachers, cannot use the same rights and services : it is necessarily divided into various societies, all of which have their respective officers and ministrations, yet, in their combination, constitute the whole body of Christ's catholic church. But how far ought these subdivisions to extend? what are their limits ? and what are the properties and characteristics requisite to constitute each ramification a sound branch of the universal church? I mean as to the number and locality of the members; for we are here only concerned with the question of extent; and the real point at issue is, whether a particular visible church ever comprehends more than one congregation, linked together under certain bonds of union, or invariably only one.',
The latter is the position of a large section of the Dissenters, who define a church to be sa