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ing the inalienable rights of man; its gradual advances, its accelerated growth, while Christians became sluggish, and Bishops grew ambitious; and the awful extreme of despotic sway to which it hastened, even in those first ages of Christianity, to which appeals are so often made with the most ungenerous confidence. Here we have that retrograde movement in spiritual things, which degraded the Church from the dignified simplicity of being under law to Christ, dressed her off in the meretricious attire of human institutions, and exchanged the glorious principles of the new covenant, for the forbidding peculiarities of a human compact. Here we have, in an altered form of government, the unity of the Church expounded as a political principle, instead of that pure, spiritual, ethereal subsistence, denominated "the unity of the Spirit." Here we have the origin of those authoritative rules of faith and manners, which have so completely taken the place of the Bible, that unless they are received, spiritual privileges are forfeited. And surely there has been nothing like a divine warrant exhibited and proved; nor any thing more than a mére transcript of historical facts, proving how quickly, and how entirely, religious society may be corrupted. It is utterly in vain to tell us of any Creed or Confession, introduced by any Apostolical Father or Fathers, as a bond of union in the Church, when the Church was united by no other bonds than those of charity; or of an authoritative rule of faith and manners, when

the Church had not yet conceived the idea of ecclesiastical power. "Letters of Communion," it would seem, were freely exchanged; but that idea, which transformed Ministers of the Gospel, who ought to have been among the most kind and compassionate of mortals, into Lords over God's heritage, was never formed, until that ecclesiastical measure, which created Synods and Councils, had changed the whole face of the church, and given it a new form. It is utterly in vain to tell us, that this new policy, while marked by a great deal of clerical modesty, was just as bad as when the bishops became bold adventurers, uttered their pretensions in the loudest tones, and brought Christendom to their feet. And surely it is worse than vain, to attempt to convince us that the glorious simplicity of the christian church was preserved, when church courts came out with their full grown prerogative, of majestic mien, and royal air, declaring that they were empowered to enact rules for the human conscience.

It is manifest that this historical portrait, which Dr. Mosheim has drawn, represents more than the deteriorated condition of the church during the second century. We must therefore follow him down through the third and fourth centuries, and observe the gigantic strides of this ecclesiastical power, which mismanaged circumstances had created. In the third century, he informs us: "The face of things began to change in the christian church. The ancient method of ecclesiastical government, seemed, in gene

ral, still to subsist, while, at the same time, by imperceptible steps, it varied from the primitive rule, and degenerated towards the form of a religious monarchy. For the bishops aspired to higher degrees of power and authority than they had formerly possessed; and not only violated the rights of the people, but also made gradual encroachments upon the privileges of the Presbyters. And that they might cover these usurpations with an air of justice, and an appearance of reason, they published new doctrines concerning the nature of the church, and of the episcopal dignity. which, however, were, in general, so obscure, that they themselves seem to have understood them as little as those to whom they were delivered. One of the principal authors of this change, in the government of the church, was CYPRIAN, who pleaded for the power of the bishops with more zeal and vehemence than had ever been hitherto employed in that cause, though not with an unshaken constancy and perseverance; for, in difficult and perilous times, necessity sometimes obliged him to yield, and to submit several things to the judgment and authority of the Church "*

Again,-"The bishops assumed, in many places, a princely authority, particularly those who had the greatest number of churches under their inspection, and who presided over the most opulent assemblies. They appropriated to their evangelical function the splendid ensigns of temporal majesty. A throne, surrounded with

* Ib. p. 258-9.

ministers, exalted above his equals the servant of the meek and humble JESUS; and sumptuous garments dazzled the eyes and the minds of the multitude, into an ignorant veneration for their arrogated authority. The example of the Bishops was ambitiously imitated by the Presbyters, who, neglecting the sacred duties of their station, abandoned themselves to the indolence and delicacy of an effeminate and luxurious life. The Deacons, beholding the Presbyters deserting thus their functions, boldly usurped their rights and privileges; and the effects of a corrupt ambition were spread through every rank of the sacred order."*

So much for the third century. In the fourth appeared CONSTANTINE the GREAT, who, having been converted to Christianity in consequence of seeing a miraculous Cross in the air, spread universal joy among Christians by becoming the PATRON of the Church. But Constantine, who was very far from leading a religious life, instead of breaking up this dominion over the human conscience, confirmed and extended it;―appropriating to himself the pre-eminence. "Though he permitted the church to remain a body politic, distinct from that of the state, as it had formerly been, yet he assumed to himself the supreme power over this sacred body, and the right of modelling and governing it in such a manner, as should be most conducive to the public good. This right he enjoyed without any opposition,

*Ib. p. p. 259-60.

as none of the bishops presumed to call his authority in question." The people chose their bishops; the bishops governed their districts; the provincial councils governed their provinces, and Constantine, at the head of oecumenical or general councils, governed the whole.

The first of these general councils, which owed their existence and authority, not to the commandments of the Lord Jesus given in the Bible, but, to the political schemes of this eulogized emperor, assembled at Nice, in Bithynia, in the year 325, and was composed of 318 bishops. In this assembly, the disputes between Alexander and Arius on the subject of the Trinity, among other matters, on which it was thought proper that the council should legislate. for the peace of the church, were to be adjusted by the exercise of absolute power. Our historian says, that "after many keen debates, and violent efforts of the two parties, the doctrine of Arius was condemned; CHRIST declared consubstantial, or of the same essence, with the Father; the vanquished presbyter banished among the Illyrians; and his followers compelled to give their assent to the Creed or Confession of Faith, which was composed by this council."* Reader, behold the origin of Creeds and Confessions of Faith; or of authoritative rules of faith and manners in the church of God; for which so earnest a plea is now advanced, as though they had been sanctioned by the master himself, and

*Ib. p. 402-3

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