Guy Mannering Fessenden.

The history of Warren, R.I., from the earliest times; online

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Online LibraryGuy Mannering FessendenThe history of Warren, R.I., from the earliest times; → online text (page 1 of 17)
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world, and his rising again to newness of life.
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were
baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into
his death ? Therefore we are buried with him
by baptism into death : that like as Christ was
raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
even we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together in the
likeness of his death, we shall be also in the
likeness of his resurrection.'"'

Thus, each believer declared his own disci-
pleship, to his own Master. What was required
of one, was necessary for all. All therefore
were received into the community of Brethren,
on equal conditions.* There were no char-

*The church was in the beginning, a community
of Brethren. All its members were taught of God ;
and each possessed the liberty of drawing for him-
self from the Divine Fountain of life. (John vi.
45.) The Epistles, which then settled the great
questions of doctrine, did not bear the pompous
title of any single man, or ruler. We find from
the holy Scriptures, that they began simply with
these words : " The apostles, ciders and brethren,
to our brethren." Acts xv. 123." — D\luhignr's Rc-
fonnafinrr, vol. 1, p. 17.


tered or hereditary rights, attaching to any clasft
or order. Each Christian Society was consti-
tuted on the basis of the social and moral equal-
ity of all its members, upon the professed Faith
of each. There being no divinely appointed
model of church constitution and government,
given by Christ or his apostles, the disciples
were left to their own discretion in arranging
the details of each separate community, accord-
ing to the customs of their particular age, or
country. But the great fundamental principles
of their Faith contained all the general outlines,.
within which the particular arrangements of
each Society must be necessarily embraced.
Each church inherently possessed the authori-
ty to elect its own officers, who should act as
the pastors, and official representatives of the
body; to determine the regulations by which their
affiiirs were to be governed, and the particular
conditions of admitting, or rejecting members; —
all subject however to the general outline-laws
laid down by Christ and his inspired apostles.
The churches, accordingly, which were
formed during the life time of the apostles,,
seem to have been nothing more than convert-
ed, or Christianized Synagogues, which in each
case had been a separate and independent re -


ligious society by itself.* So that when the
whole, or the majority of the members of any
particular Synagogue had become converted,
they still continued the same organized body
as before ; and they continued to use their for-
mer privilege of electing their own overseer,
bishop, or pastor, and to choose deacons, stew-
ards, or whatever other officers were necessary,
for the executive management of their own in=-.
ternal affairs.

Each Christian Church, therefore, became,
or continued to be, a society or popular assem-
bly, formed on the model of the previously ex-
isting Synagogue, having a free, voluntary and
elective government, in the choice of its own
officers, and inheriting within itself, all the ele-
ments of religious liberty. The pastor was
simply the elected teacher, and moderator in
their assemblies, holding no hereditary rights,
but only primus inter pares, — the principal
elected by his peers.

* See Lightfoot's Harmony of the New Test. Vol,
III. p. 257. Also, Coleman's Primitive Church, pp.
'.^3 — 47. Also, \Vhatolevs Kingdom of Christ, pji


The standard of all authority, was the re-
corded teachings of Christ himself, or the in-
spired epistles of the apostles, who alone held
a higher rank, from their position as the wit-
nesses of Christ's ministry and resurrection ;
and they exercised a paramount authority as
the infallible interpreters of the Divine Will.
But the apostles themselves, disclaimed any-
thing like the hereditary aristocracy of the Le-
vitical priesthood ; and by their own sanction,
they legalized the popular form of government
in the Synagogue worship, as the mode of or-
ganization in the newly formed Christian
Churches. They made not the slightest claims
to an order of the Christian ministry, parallel
or analagous, to the Levitical priesthood : nor
did they incorporate into their worship, the ele-
ments of their national temple service, such as
a sacrificing priest, the altar for sacrifice, the
sacred vessels, or any of the glittering regalia
of their ritual service. The only Priest they
recognized was Jesus Christ, their ever-living
intercessor ; the only sacrifices they olfered,
were their own bodies and souls, a living sacri-
Oce, as a voluntary and spiritual service, — the
sacrifices of a pure heart and a benevolent life j

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24 Historical discourse.

ren, as independent, yet separate branches oi
the one Spiritual Community, of which the Lord
Jesus Christ, was the Invisible and Heavenly
Head. Still with all this outward diversity in
organization, they were all one in the fellow-
ship of love and faith, holding the communion
of the saints, united in spirit as different mem-
bers of one body, or as brethren of the same
great family. But with all their diversity of
endowments, there was the unity of Religion.
'' There were diversities of gifts, but the same
Spirit : diversities of administrations, but the
same Lord : diversities of operations, but it is
the same God who worketh all in all. There
is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are call-
ed in one hope of your calling : one God and
Father of all, who is above all, and through
all, and in you all : one Lord, one faith, one

There was no visible representative, as the
earthly head of each of these churches, or of
all of them together : but Christ himself was
the invisible Head of the universal, invisible
church. His kingdom was indeed within the
world, but it was not of the world. Though

jHistorical discourse. 2^

each community possessed the organized form
of a human society, it was yet not of the nature
of an earthly kingdom ; as it was not originat-
ed for any earthly purpose, nor conducted on
the principles of worldly policy. Those who
were members of this spiritual society, formed
for spiritual purposes, might yet in another
capacity, be members of a secular society,
formed for secular purposes : if they were schol-
ars, they might belong to an Academy : if farm-
ers, they might belong to an Agricultural Soci-
ety : if they w^ere citizens of any particular
country, they were to retain their citizenship^
*' rendering unto Caesar, the things that are Cae-

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Online LibraryGuy Mannering FessendenThe history of Warren, R.I., from the earliest times; → online text (page 1 of 17)