When we look around upon the present state of the Christian Church, and then turning to ecclesiastical history acquaint ourselves with its primitive form and condition, the difference between them so strongly acts upon the imagination, that we are tempted to think, that to vase our conduct now on the principle acknowledged then, is but theoretical and idle. We seem to perceive, as clear as day, that as a Primitive Church had its own particular discipline and political character, so have we ours: and that to attempt to revive what is past, is as absurd as to seek to raise what is literally dead. Perhaps we even go on to maintain, that the constitution of the Church, as well as its actual course of acting, is different from what it was; that Episcopacy now is in no sense what it used to be; that our Bishops are the same as the Primitive Bishops only in name; and that the notion of an Apostolical Succession is “a fond thing.” I do not wish to undervalue the temptation, which leads to this view of Church matters; it is the temptation of sight to overcome faith, and of course not a slight one.
But the following reflection on the history of the Jewish Church may perhaps be considered to throw light upon our present duties.
- Consider how exact are the injunctions of Moses to his people. He ends them thus: “These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which He made with them in Horeb…..Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do…..Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; but with him that standeth here this day before the LORD our GOD, and also with him that is not here with us this day.” Deut. xxix.