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 base our conduct now on the principles 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.
Now is there any doubt in our minds, as to the feelings of the Primitive Church regarding the doctrine of the Apostolical Succession? Did not the Apostles observe, even in an age of miracles, the ceremony of Imposition of Hands? And are not we bound, not merely to acquiesce in, but zealously to maintain and inculcate the discipline which they established?
The only objection which can be made to this view of our duty, is, that the injunction to obey strictly is not precisely given to us, as it was in the instance of the Mosaic Law. But is not the real state of the case merely this; that the Gospel appeals rather to our love and faith, our divinely illuminated reason, and the free principle of obedience, than to the mere letter of its injunctions? And does not the conduct of the Jews just prove to us, that, though the commands of CHRIST were put before us ever so precisely, yet there would not be found in any extended course of history a more exact attention to them, than there is now; that the difficulty of resisting the influence, which the world's actual proceedings exert upon our imagination, would be just as great as we find it at present?