You are in the practice of distinguishing between the Visible and Invisible Church. Of course I have no wish to maintain, that those who shall be saved hereafter are exactly the same company that are under the means of grace here; still I must insist on it, that Scripture makes the existence of a Visible Church a condition of the existence of the Invisible. I mean, the Sacraments are evidently in the hands of the Church Visible; and these, we know, are generally necessary to salvation, as the Catechism says. Thus it is an undeniable fact, as true as that souls will be saved, that a Visible Church must exist as a means towards that end. The Sacraments are in the hands of the Clergy; this few will deny, or that their efficacy is independent of the personal character of the administrator. What then shall be thought of any attempts to weaken or exterminate that Community, or that Ministry, which is an appointed condition of the salvation of the elect? But every one, who makes or encourages a schism,must weaken it. Thus it is plain, schism must be wrong in itself, even if Scripture did not in express terms forbid it, as it does.
But further than this; it is plain this Visible Church is a standing body. Every one who is baptized, is baptized into an existing community. Our Service expresses this when it speaks of baptized infants being incorporated into GOD'S holy Church. Thus the Visible Church is not a voluntary association of the day, but a continuation of one which existed in the age before us, and then again in the age before that; and so back till we come to the age of the Apostles. In the same sense, in which Corporations of the State's creating, are perpetual, is this which CHRIST has founded. This is a matter of fact hitherto: and it necessarily will be so always, for is not the notion absurd of an unbaptized person baptizing others? which is the only way in which the Christian community can have a new beginning.
Moreover Scripture directly insists upon the doctrine of the Visible Church, as being of importance. E.g. St. Paul say;—"There is one body, and one SPIRIT, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one LORD, one faith, one baptism, one GOD and FATHER of all." Ephes. iv. 5, 6. Thus, as far as the Apostle's words go, it is as false and unchristian, (I do not mean in degree of guilt, but in its intrinsic sinfulness), to make more bodies than one, as to have many Lords, many Gods, many Creeds. Now, I wish to know, how it is possible for any one to fall into this sin, if Dissenters are clear of it? What is the sin, if separation from the Existing Church is not it?