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every town, however small, ought ever to have an angel over its church, however few the members be. Seeing no mention is made of elders or deacons, it seems to be intended, both that they are not absolutely necessary to the being of a church in any place, and also, that like the counsellors of a king, they are included with the subsidiary offices in the person of the angel. There is no mention of Presbyteries, Synods, or General Assemblies; nor of Deacons, Archdeacons, Bishops, Archbishops, or Primates; teaching us, that none of these are necessary to the constitution of a church, but have their origin in the occasion or necessity, and must be able to shew reason for themselves, One responsible person, in whom the church may be regarded as summed up, whom Christ may look to, as his delegate, the Shepherd or Pastor, the Minister or Preacher, or by whatever name he is called, there must be; and no church, without such a head, hath completeness. Who are these heads? The parochial clergy in their several parishes. And are they not of derived authority? I think not, or else the churches are not rightly constituted. For if there be churches which assemble in the parishes of the land, it is absolutely necessary, in order to their being so, that there should be over them a man taking his orders from Christ, and Christ only. And what is a Presbytery? A court like that which met at Jerusalem, for settling questions that may
arise among the churches. And what is a Synod ? For the same end, when the Presbytery cannot accomplish it. And the General Assembly? Just the same. For order, for the prevention of schism, for the preservation of unity. May they not without a cause interfere with a minister's liberty ? They do it at their peril. Must a mi. nister resent such interference? He doth give way to it at his peril. And the same things say I, where this matter is ordered by grades of persons instead of courts. I like that worse, lest it should lower the angels of the several charges into some inferior station, which may not be permitted for any sake. In one word, church government, which hath cost so much blood and controversy, is in these epistles a simple matter; namely, a church in every place, and an angel over it who representeth Christ in the midst of them. And I believe a church thus constituted might be sure of Christ's fostering hand. But how they are to choose their angel, the vision saith not; or how they are to remove him, the vision saith not. Other parts of Scripture do indeed testify to this matter; as the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles ; but this vision is intent on other things.
Eighthly. Every church is tempted in its angel, and in its angel is judged ; just as every kingdom is visited in its king. It is, like angel like church; and, like church like angel. Each several church is so; and not the combination of churches, as the Church of England or the Church of Scotland. These combinations are growths of charity, not constitutions of God. And even though they had been constitutions of God, as is a kingdom, still they would not have broken up the law of the several churches laid down in this vision, any more than the constitution of the kingdom breaks up the law of the family, which is, that the children are judged and represented in the father of the family. I wish particularly to impress this upon the angels of the churches, because I feel it to be a cause of watchfulness, and an encouragement to piety, and a stimulus to perfection, which nothing else can supply; and I am assured that it is not felt as it ought to be. The confederation hath taken away the dignity and responsibility of the per
I would restore the dignity and responsibility of the persons, in order that the confederacy may regain its end of charity and promotion of unity. Whenever the persons merge their personality in the combination, it is the combination of slaves ; for the feeling of personality is indispensible to freedom, and such a combination must sooner or later oppress the liberty of the church. Now, this is the very state of things at present in existence in our church. The responsibility of the several ministers for their several flocks, which this vision maketh paramount, not deigning to mention another, is lost sight of in the responsibility of the whole confederacy. Now, in as far as the church is a confederacy, it standeth under the kingdom, and is represented in the king, who employeth its ministry for the sake of his people. Hence cometh the uniformity of its creeds and books of discipline. Thus it hath a being national, as being “the king's prophet." Creeds, in most cases, were drawn up under authority of the king in the exercise of his high function, of providing proper instructions for his people. Christ will not, at the
judgment-seat, acquit me of my responsibility as the head of a flock, if I should say, I did not this because the church forbade it, or yet because the state forbade it. We must do the will of His Father which is in heaven, if we would pass that tribunal. This is a great point of truth. There is no mention of either king or prelate, or church court in this vision; but there is continual mention of Christ. To him then I, an angel of the church, must look, and him serve, though the church should cast me out and the king slay me.
Ninthly. While the angel of each several church thus addresseth himself to his responsibility, with all reverence for every other angel, with subjection to none; with all reverence of ecclesiastical traditions, with subjection to none; with all consideration of the authority of councils and assemblies of the church, with blind subserviency to none; let him draw close to Christ, and feel himself ever under his eye, and before his face; and let bim give heed to the answer of the Spirit in the members of the body of which he has the oversight; whom he is to feed, and treat in all respects according to their wants ; in whom he is to rejoice according to their prosperity, and for them to give thanks according to their blessedness. And to bear them on his heart always, as Aaron did bear the names of the children of Israel on his breast-plate, and to give himself for them, as Christ gave himself
for the sheep. e is to think of nothing else but Christ and his sheep, between whom he stands to receive the supply, and to serve it out and to receive the increase, and to return it to the great Giver. He is a representative in his little sphere of the Headship of Christ, and should fulfil it as Christ doth; thinking only of God and Christ, and the people of his charge. Thus should every settled minister and pastor of a flock carry himself; nor is he to think of the persons who were instrumental in putting him there. They, be they laymen or clergymen, are but agents of Christ, to the effect of bringing him into a station, of which Christ himself hath defined the law and the limit; and no man, nor body of men, dare alter that law or limit, by a single hair's-breadth. Therefore I cry aloud to every minister of Christ, admi. nistering word and sacrament to a people, be they few or many, of this name or of that name, to think neither of powers civil or ecclesiastical, but of the Universal Bishop only, and to pour out his soul unto death for the salvation of the people : nor to measure his preaching by any human formulary; nor to think of articles, or creeds, or confessions; nor to fear the face of clay; but to preach God's own word with all his might, and watch with all diligence for the fruits thereof. In doing so, he will both save his own soul and the souls of those that hear him. As his church increaseth, he will need elders and deacons to help him with their oversight both of things spiritual and temporal. And such he will seek out according to the apostolical rules. And having set them apart, they, looking up to him as the responsible person, will occupy their spheres according to the spirit of the same holy administration. This I take to be the way of God in the affairs of the church ; and if the angels of the church will walk in this way, they may nothing doubt of his blessings upon their several charges, and through these upon the whole church, and through the church upon the whole kingdom, and through the kingdom upon the whole world. And if in carrying out this the inherent law, liberty, and power of his office, he meet with let and hindrance from the powers that be, whether civil or ecclesiastical, then is he just in the condition of his Master and his disciples, who were in like manner cast out and hunted from the earth. Be care. ful, brethren, to provoke no strife, and to give no offence, to acknowledge the delegated power, both civil and ecclesiastical, but to maintain the original source of power to be in Christ alone ; to give a reason from his word of the hope that is in you, and the thing which you do, and so leave your faithful and true witness to work in its own way, and if need be seal it with your blood. That is all which is to be done. Speak the word which is true; do the thing which is right: stand forth and justify it, and then be ready to die for it.
Tenthly. Besides an angel, there is also a people appertaining to every church, who have their duties as well
And what are these ? To regard themselves as the temple of the Holy Ghost, which should be holy, as the members of Christ, which should be sinless and spotless, as the witnesses to God's Fatherhood, to Christ's redemption, and to the Holy Ghost's sanctification, of those who once were sinners. Therefore ought they ever to cry Abba, Father; and not only to cry it out, but to have the assurance of an Almighty God working with Fatherly love within them. They are witnesses to an indwelling, inworking Almighty God; and therefore they ought not to stand at works natural, but go into works spiritual or supernatural. For there is no manifesting of an Almighty God by works merely natural; things natural manifest neither the perfect goodness, nor the perfect power of God. Nature is out of course : its course is evil, and Satan is its god. To take it out of his hands, proveth the power of Christ, in whom dwelleth God: and we, as being members of Christ, should look to possess this power of God in Christ; and so we should not stop at natural actions, but go on, yea be chiefly conversant with things supernatural, as having new life striken into us, which is the life of the risen Christ, and because we are members of the one body of Christ, we should cleave together with a continual fastness, with the cleaving of an unquenchable love. And to the end the gift of the Holy Ghost may serve the two-fold purpose of striking a common life into us, and of teaching us that the same life is not complete in every person, but by the conjoining of many persons into one, the gifts are diversely given; to one the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, to another the gift of faith, &c.; that we may depend one upon another, and honour one another. Therefore we ought to be careful against the very appearance of schism. The spirit of schism is the very contradiction of the spirit of love, and cannot co-exist with it. The member of a church, therefore, ought to cleave fast to the brethren, and grapple them to his bosom with all the fastenings of truth. Truth is the principle of all union ; and wherever a man is walking in the truth, he will be walking in love towards all the brethren. And if the brethren should be standing in the truth, they must be animated with the same spirit of love; and so through the mediation of truth they cleave to one another; and a church in this way is always gathering particles to itself, and increasing its stature and its strength. Withal there grows a wonderfully sweet spirit of enjoyment, and grace and goodness, a feeling of health and strength, a glad