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possess them. To whom were they committed if they were taken from me? Let them take this blessed word of God, who sent me and promised to be with me "to the end of the world"; these ancient records of primitive Christianity; and let them shew when and how I could have usurped those powers-when and how the early Christians could have been induced with one consent to concede them to me, unless they had been from the first given to me from above -when and how I could have gained the submission of all primitive Christians (however differing in other respects, and even severely censured by me for errors) to my authority and form of Church government---a submission so universal, that no trace or hint of the time, and means of such an important step should remain among the records, history, or controversies, of the Primitive Church. Let them shew a single vestige of the existence of any early Church, of which the ministration and rule was conducted by any other than Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Let them shew any one Christian kingdom, any important community of Christians, who for Sixteen hundred years ever denied, or questioned, that Christ and his apostles established the episcopal rule and order of His Church, as you now behold it; and as, (notwithstanding the corrupt additions of Rome) it has continued for more than Eighteen hundred years. When, and in what early Church (if not in me) existed the form of sound doctrine, from which to dissent the Scriptures decreed it heresy, or in respect of which the Spirit speaking by the mouth of Paul prohibits divisions. Was that Church or that form of doctrine, that of any one of the countless spawn of sects which now stand before us? If it were, say which of them! Name the sect. Come forth any one of you; and shew that your sectarian and humanly devised forms of Church polity existed even two hundred years ago! or that mine hath ceased at
any one time from the days of the Apostles to this very moment! Here are the records; produce from them your authority; exclaimed she fearlessly, as she laid her hand on the Bible and the volumes on the pedestal.
She paused for a reply, but none dared to answer the challenge. They replied only by looks of malignity and confusion.
In that more respectable and intelligent portion, however, of which we made mention in the former part, as standing aloof and looking with alarm and disgust at their violence; a considerable movement began to take place. Several of them, (though reluctant to quit their former associates, and fearing their vengeance and derision) began to feel the truth so strongly, that they made efforts to withdraw from the Hall, lest they should countenance with their presence, outrages, which their hearts and consciences condemned.
The Matron continued her defence.
My existence and commission are not matters of opinion, but facts; determined and established long ago by the "Ancient of Days,"—the Allwisethe Almighty! My existence is derived not from man, but from the will and fiat of Him, who said "Let there be light-and there was light." (Gen., I.) My commission is from that dear and great Lord and Head (Eph., 1., 22, 23. Coloss., I., 18, 19.) to whom was given "all power in Heaven and in earth" (Matt., XXVIII., 18.) who gave me the "promise" of the Holy Ghost, but commanded me to wait His time, and His PUBLIC CALLING and AUTHORITY, (Luke, XXIV., 49. Acts, I., 8. Acts, II.) before I should presume to act in His name; and who also set the example, of not taking upon Himself the honour of the Priesthood unless "called of God."
(Hebrews, V., 5.)
Can it for a moment, O "Common Sense," bave. entered into thy sober imagination, that, whether
there is a Church, or what that Church is, can be left as a question, to be settled by discoveries made about Sixteen hundred years after the days of the Apostles? Can it be a question, to be decided by human conceits, or by the votes of men from their ploughs, or shopboards, or of women from their wash-tubs or parlours, who are to be “ambassadors” of Christ, and "stewards" of His mysteries? Canst Thou believe that yon discordant gathering of sects are the Church? They! who have nothing in common with each other-whose passwords are strife and agitation—whose weapons are lawlessness and revilings-who have pledged their right hand even to the polluting grasp of Atheism and infidelity, of revolution and anarchy, to gratify their hostility against me?
Thy words, said the Judge reverently, Thy words, most noble and favoured Matron, are the words of truth. There is no gainsaying the plain fact of thy uninterrupted possession and inheritance.
strange-incredible indeed to "Common Sense," must be the assumption; that all Christians (so jealous and eager as they were in disputing every variation of doctrine or discipline) should immediately after the days of the Apostles, whose conduct must have been in the memory of many, have submitted universally to thy polity and dominion if unauthorised and usurped: incredible also that they should have left no protest, no record of even partial denial—no trace of any other rule or practice than thine! incredible, I say; impossible such a state of things, unless upon the supposition, that thine was the power established by JESUS AND HIS APOSTLES.
"Common Sense" at once decides, that any other supposition must be absurd. To deny and to defy thee is as foolish, as it is wicked. Thou hast now possession; thy possession bath never been interrupted; thy title, till some better title can be shewn, is UNDENIABLE!
And now, continued He addressing the angry and envious claimants, I call on you to SHEW YOUR title! If this crown belong not unto this holy Matron, who now posseses, and ever has possessed it, say to whom it should belong!
To us! to us! they all impatiently shouted with one voice, tossing their arms in the air, as though they longed to rush upon the Matron, and not only to tear from her the Crown, but also to tear her in pieces.
Softly! Sirs, cried the Judge. "COMMON SENSE" doth not use words without a meaning. "To us"! you say. What means "to us"? The crown can be worn only on one head. You like "Legion" are many. You have more heads than the Hydra; and heads which multiply faster. You cannot all wear it. Before I can decide upon the claim, I must know WHO is the claimant! "To us"! is no satisfactory answer to my question. I ask to WHOM is the crown to belong-WHO brings a better title, than that of this Godly and venerable Matron? There must be one claimant; and, as you all join in this opposition, be so good as to join and settle among yourselves, WHO is to be that claimant. Who is to be the HEAD of such a disjointed body and tail? Decide WHO claims the right-when-and how--and where he acquired that right?
Has the Shaker, the Quaker, the Jumper, the Ranter, the Independant, the Socinian, the Irvingite, the Muggletonian, or which, of all your innumerable, and ever springing, divisions and sects, the title to be crowned as the CHURCH-the Church, to which the Lord Jesus, who is the fountain of all rule and power, gave His commission, and of which He was made the Head?
Answer me this simple question; which of you is the Church to whom you will all concede the authority-the order-the priesthood-of the ancient
scriptural, and apostolical Church?
What was the form or doctrine of the primitive church? Was it Quaker, Shaker, Jumper, Ranter, or which of all your sects? Which of you, like this Matron, can trace your existence Eighteen hundred years? Nay which of you is two hundred, or even one hundred years old. Let the claimant who can shew a better title than hers stand forth, and openly state the ground of his claim!
The whole multitude looked aghast at this call. They turned upon each other looks fierce, distrustful, and disdainful.
Come Sirs! said the Judge, which of you claims to have the authority, the commission, the order, the doctrine, the discipline, of the "Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church "?
Still they were silent. At length in sullen desperation one of brazen front stood forth, and said-I claim it!
You! screamed a thousand voices of the leagued sects. You! what are you, to be preferred before us and made the CHURCH? What impudence! what are your pretensions above mine! or mine! or mine! You! with your unscriptural notions and practices! Down with him! Down with the presumptous upstart! exclaimed the enraged multitude. "COMMON SENSE" smiled, and said coolly---Is any other claimant?
After a pause up sprung a wild fanatic, rolling his eyes strangely, waving his arms, jumping and shouting, laughing and weeping, and ranting incoherently--I am the Church--there is no Church but me. I have seen visions. I have heard revelations. I de spise ye all. I warn ye. .....He was cut short in his raving, seized by his disgusted allies, and dragged down with derision and indignation.
None dared to follow him. For each beheld in the jealous looks of his confederates, plain indications