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it, is surely also commendable. To undervalue or remove those institutions which God hath established as the means of salvation, is to contemn his authority, and to endanger the souls of men. It is an unauthorized, a criminal, a cruel charity, which would present salvation to men, strpped of those conditions on which it is attainable. Real charity, the charity which most effectually promotes the welfare of men, would lead us faithfully to point out the conditions on which God will restore fallen man to his favour; and then earnestly and affectionately to enforce these conditions. In the inscrutable plan of Divine Providence, as it has hitherto been unfolded, every dispensation of his grace has been confined to a part only of mankind. Did he not call Abraham and his family from a corrupt world to be the distinguished repositories of his will, his blessing, and favour?
Were not the Jews separated from the rest of the world, to be his chosen people; to whom “pertained the adoption and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises ?" Are not Christians now called from the rest of the world to be “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people;" blessed with the glorious light of the Gospel, with the consoling and renovating efficacy of the Redeemer's merits and grace, with the splendid hopes of immortality ? In thus distinguishing particular portions of the human race with his peculiar favours. God “acts ac
cording to the counsel of his own will ;" “ he giveth not to man an account of his doings;" he asserts the power of the potter over his clay, “ to create one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour.” As the Almighty Creator of the world, God may distribute his favours to mankind according to his sovereign pleasure. And when he finally determines the destinies of men, according to the improvement which they have made of the privileges conferred upon them, it can be no imputation on his justice or goodness that he distinguishes with peculiar favours particular portions of the human race, and renders them capable of higher bliss in a future state of existence. To suppose that the patriarchs, on whom shone the peculiar blessings of heaven; that the favoured nation of the Israelites, to whom the law was given in its divine majesty and lustre; and that Christians, under the luminous and glorious dispensation of the Gospel, were not rendered capable of higher degrees of virtue and happiness than the rest of mankind; would be to strip the favour and grace of God of their value and efficacy, and to render futile and contemptible the ordinances which he has appointed as the means of communion with him.
The Judge of the whole earth indeed will do right. The grace of God quickens and animates all the degenerate children of Adam. The mercy of the Saviour is co-extensive with the ruin into which sin has plunged mankind. And “in every nation, he that feareth God
and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” But where the Gospel is proclaimed, communion with the church by the participation of its ordinances at the hands of the duly authorized priesthood, is the prescribed me thod of salvation.* Separation from the divinely constituted ministry of the church, when it proceeds from involuntary and unavoidable ig. norance or error, we have reason to trust will not intercept, from the humble, the penitent, and obedient, the blessings of God's favour. But when we humbly submit to that priesthood which Christ and his apostles constituted; when in the lively exercise of penitence and faith, we partake of the ordinances administered by them; we maintain our communion with that church which the Redeemer purifies by his blood; which he quickens by his Spirit; and whose faithful members he will finally crown with the most exalted glories of his heavenly kingdom. The important truth which the universal church has uniformly maintained, that to experience the full efficacy of the sacraments, we must receive them from a valid authority, is not inconsistent with that charity which extends mercy to all who labour under involuntary error. But great is the guilt, and imminent the danger, of those who, pos
* In the first editions the expression was, “indispensable condition of salvation;" by which the author meant a condition with which man had no right to dispense. And he supposed his meaning would not be misunderstood, since, in the very next sentence, he expressed the opinion, that in certain cases there was reason to trust God would dispense with the condition which he had prescribed. The meaning of the author, however, having been misunderstood, the passage has been altered.
sessing the means of arriving at the knowledge of the truth, negligently or wilfully continue in a state of separation from the authorized ministry of the church, and participate of ordinances administered by an irregular and invalid authority. Wilfully rending the peace and unity of the church, by separating from the ministrations of its authorized priesthood; and contemning the means which God in his sovereign pleasure hath prescribed for their salvation; they are guilty of rebellion against their almighty Lawgiver and Judge; they expose themselves to the awful displeasure of that almighty Jehovah, who will not permit his institutions to be contemned, or his authority violated with impunity.
Let it be, therefore, thy supreme care, O my soul, to receive the blessed sacrament of the body and blood of thy Saviour, only from the hands of those who derive their authority by regular transmission from Christ, the divine head of the church, the only legitimate source of power in it. Thou wilt then enjoy the assurance, that his holy sacrament, which derives all its efficacy from the accompanying power of Christ, administered by those to whom he hath given his commission and authority, will be acknowledged and blessed by him to thy comfort and salvation; will, if humbly and devoutly received by thee, be the mean and pledge of his pardoning mercy and strengthening grace. By preserving thy communion with the authorized priesthood; by re
vering that ministerial authority, and submit ting to those institutions which thy Saviour established; thou wilt maintain the unity of the church, and thus fulfil the high injunction of Christ and his apostles often repeated and earnestly enforced. The humble and obedient member of his church on earth, thou wilt finally be advanced to those glorious rewards which he hath prepared in the Church Triumphant, for all the faithful members of his mystical body.
Deplorable, indeed, in this degenerate day, is the state of the church, where sect ariseth against sect, and altar against altar; where the apostolic ministry is invaded and violated; ordinances administered by invalid authority; and that sacred “ body," which should be 6 one” with its divine “ Head,” rent by numberless schisms. Let it be the subject of thy earnest prayers to God, that by bestowing on the church the divine spirit of peace and concord, he would heal the divisions that now deface her glory. Let it be the object of thy earnest solicitude and exertions, to restore all who profess themselves Christians, to that apostolic order and ministry which were so long the glory of the universal church. She would then shine forth, as she did in the primitive ages, in the garments of glory and beauty; and, attracting the nations within her spiritual fold, would become a praise throughout the earth. “ Jerusalem would be as a city that is at unity in itself. Thither the tribes would go up, even the tribes of the Lord, to testify unto