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Here, then, let us admire and magnify the mercy
of God, (1 quote the words of the Rev. Mr. Mason, of Oxford, when speaking of this subject,) who did not forget this remote island, sitnale in a corner of the world, but did most graciously shine upon it with his golden beams from the sphere of heaven. For whereas, in other countries, the Bishops, which should be stars and angels of the Church, did resist the Reformation, and persecuted such as sought it; it pleased God, that in England, among other Bishops, Archbishop Cranmer, the chiefest Prelate of the kingdom, was God's chiefest instrument to restore the Gospel, which afterward he sealed with his blood. The consequence of which was, that whereas other Reformed Churches were constrained by necessity to admit extraordinary Fathers; that is, to receive ordi. nation by Presbyters, which are but inferior Ministers, rather than to suffer the fabric of the Lord Jesus to be dissolved, the Church of England had always Bishops to confer sacred orders, according to the ordinary and most warrantable custom of the Church of Christ. And although, in Queen Mary's time, five blessed Bishops were burnt to ashes, yet God reserved to himself a number, which, being then forced to take the wings of the dove, and Ay beyond the seas, or to hide themselves in the cleft of the rock; when the tempest was overblown, the clouds cleared, and the sun of righteousness began to display itself in the happy reign of Queen Elizabeth, returned again, clapped their wings for joy, praised God, preached the Gospel, and with holy imposition of hands, ordained Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons in the Church of England."
But still, after all, our'adversaries will cavil. Still we shall have Dr. M'Hale, and other high prerogative Papists objecting and saying, why had you only four consecrators ? What was the reason in an affair of such im. portance that you had not an Archbishop amongst the Officiators at the consecration? What was the reason you
had a Bishop whose registry was mislaid ? What was the reason, in fact, you had not one Archbishop and
three ordinary Bishops ? What was the reason of this, and of that, and of the other ? Now I ask this Bishop worthy of the APOSTASY, I ask this apostate instrument of ANTICHRIST, whose mouth seems scarcely large enough for the great swelling words of vanity that he babbles forth against the Ministers of the HOLY Catholic Church of Christ, I ask the Priest of Belial, this Dr. M'Hale, when he puts these questions to us, what is the reason that blood-thirsty Papists had burnt to ashes Dr. Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury? What is the reason that they had burnt to ashes the holy Latimer, Bishop of Worcester ? What is the reason that they had burnt to ashes Dr. Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London? What is the reason that they had burnt to ashes the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rev. Dr. John Hooper ? Let the Priests of THE APOSTASY answer these questions, and we will then tell them the reason why we had not a greater variety from which to select those who might become in the article under consideration, the Canonical Fathers of our Church. Blessed be God in that he was pleased to spare to England a very small remnant whom he did not give over as a prey to the teeth of the adversary. Blessed be his holy name, that he hath from such beginnings constructed a Church that hath clutched the ANTICHRISTIAN monster, and is, under God, shaking her to pieces, not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.
I shall conclude this lengthy Introduction by extracting an article from the Witness that bears upon the subject.
TWO ECCLESIASTICAL HERESIES PREVALENT AT THE PRE
There are two ecclesiastical heresies prevalent at the present day, which I think deserve the attentive consideration of Christian men. The first is, that the Church of Rome was not duly
constituted a Church of Christ; or that in consequence of its errors it has lost its ecclesiasticity.
The second is, that the dissenters in England have not had true religion among them, or that individual dissenters have not constituted a truly spiritual portion of the Church of Christ.
I look upon it, that the Church of England renounces both these opinions as erroneous.
By her recognition of the orders of the Church of Rome, she admits the apostolic authority of that Church, and sets her seal to the obvious truth the principle of which is set forth in her twenty-sixth article, to wit—that “ the unworthiness of Ministers hinders not the effect of Sacraments." While, by refusing these Ministers the privilege of ministering in her sanctuaries until they renounce their errors, she stamps upon them the brand of Apostasy. : On the other hand, by the use she makes of the writings of dissenters, and the fellowship in Christian exertion which she allows them, she recognises the fact that they hold the truth. While, at the same time, by denying the validity of their orders and their Sacraments, she affixes on them the stamp of disorder and irregularity.
ROME AND DISSENT.
That the Church of Rome was established by Apostles, and has had continued in it a regularly descending succession of Ministers from the very age of these primitive teachers, is to me as evident as possible. I cannot but think that it is ridiculous to hear men contending against the voice of all antiquity that “ Peter never was at Rome," where all the world believes, on the authority of Eusebius, that he suffered martyrdom under Nero, by being crucified with his head downwards; and where, at his request, St. Mark wrote his Gospel for the confirmation of the faith of the Roman Christians, * among whom Peter had preached. But even if Peter had not been there, surely Paul was there, and the reputation of the Roman Church is abundantly testified by that great Apostle.
* Euseb., lib. II., c. 15.
No reasonable man, then, can, in my mind, doubt the apostolicity of the Church of Rome; and no true Protestant Christian is at all concerned to deny it, but the contrary.
Scripture and antiquity are as loud in announcing the Apostasy of that Church as they are its Apostolic origin. The truth of God is manifest by both.
And as to the Dissenters, the single case of John Bunyan—the admirable Bunyan, (for one instance is quite sufficient to establish a principle such as this,); I say the single case of Bunyan, (not to mention Watts and Doddridge, Matthew Henry, Dr. Gill, and others,) is quite sufficient to show me that God has been among them of a truth.
The business of a wise man, with such facts staring him in the face, is, not to deny or cloak the facts, or hide his eyes from them ; but to admit them and learn from them—in fact, to “ follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth ;" and when he finds the Spirit of God in a place where it would not seem likely that he should be found, to inquire why he is there?
WHAT WE LEARN FROM THE CHURCH OF ROME.
I say, then, it seems to me to be a very satisfactory circumstance, and very much calculated to confirm the truth of the Christian religion, and meet the cavil of the infidel, that we can say in the Church of England “ Here we are the Ministers of Jesus Christ. Here is his own würd.—We call on you to turn from the errors of your ways-examine this blessed book, the record left to his Church-read here the consequences of your transgressions, and flee from the wrath to come.”
ENQUIRER.—But how know I that this Bible is the Word of God ?
MINISTER. -Among other reasons, here is one. -The Society or Church to which we belong was established by Christ himself. An uninterrupted succession of Pastors, whose names I here present to you, has existed in this Church from the beginning, which fact has in many ways a tendency to confirm the other arguments for the divinity of our religion that I have laid before you, (supposing the ordinary evidences to have been enjimerated.)*
* I put this objection and reply on another occasion in this form : “ How do we know," the infidel may ask,“ that Christianity was not foisted in upon the world during the early part of the dark ages ? Some crafty persons found a romance, entitled, “The History of Jesus Christ, or his Gospel,' written centuries before. They thought that it would be a good speculation to palm this off as truth upon their contemporaries, who had no means of proving that the story was altogether without foundation. They persuaded them to be. lieve it, and thus the delusion was spread.”
For example, let us suppose ourselves living in the year 2835. A set of infidels start up, and assert that Christianity was invented by John Wesley. “This Wesley, say they, discovered the profitable romance, which he asserted to have been a history that occurred 1798 years before. Now, (says the infidel with triumph,) who could contradict him in this? He was a man of persevering spirit. He fancied good likely to arise from the promulgation of this system, and with indefatigable activity he traversed the world to promulgate his notions, and constructed a Church that has now become respectable, from its long standing, and extensive influence. It was an easy thing to do. We renounce the fable.”
I say, an infidel might speak thus. Infidels have spoken thus. They have asserted, that no such person as Jesus Christ ever existed, and that his history has been palmed upon the simplicity of an ignorant age.
But the fact of due succession in the ministers of religion, is a complete refatation, which even infidels could not resist, of such a supposition. We shew an unbroken chain of messengers, who were each contemporaneous with the other—who duly and carefully received authority to exercise the functions of pastors in the Church, and who reach from the present day to Apostolic times. There was no lapsed interval. There was no unauthorised indi. vidual who started forth to promulgate facts, doctrines, or opinions, that men could not contradict, however much they might mistrust them. I say, there was no such thing as this. The fact of Apostolical succession in the Church refutes the notion.