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Free Churchmen ought to be prepared to answer such questions, and to prepare their children to answer them. And as the best way to answer certain sorts of questions is by asking another, so in this case the question in the first place presents itself—"What right has anybody to preach ?" The answer of a Church of England minister to this question would be, that at his ordination he received from the Bishop authority to preach and to administer the sacraments, namely, in the Church of England. But he has no right to preach in a Presbyterian, or Congregational, or Methodist, or other non-Episcopal Church, because his Church forbids him. He may be a faithful minister of Christ, and so have all the authority the Lord Jesus can give him. He may be invited by the pastor, the church-officers, and the congregation to preach, and so have all the right they can give him. But the rules of his Church deprive him of this right. And in like manner, no minister of any of the Free Churches of England has a right to preach in the Church of England, because the rules of that Church forbid. But he may have just as good a right to preach outside the Church of England as the Episcopally-ordained minister has to preach within it.
According to the canons of the Church of England, however, the Established Episcopal Church is one and the same with the Church of Christ in England; and there neither are nor can be any other Christian churches "in this realm of England," but only "pretended churches." In like manner the Roman Catholic maintains that the Church of England is itself an heretical and "pretended" church, and that the Church of Rome alone is the Catholic Church of Christ.
In reply to these pretensions we can only appeal to Scripture and to facts. As matter of fact, during the last two hundred years and more, hundreds of thousands of the most earnest, pious, and useful Christians in England, including a great number of able divines, powerful and successful preachers, teachers wise to win souls, and devoted labourers in every kind of Christian work, have been members of other Christian bodies than the Anglican Church. So it is to-day. To deny that these multitudes of Christian believers and faithful workers, whose ministry the Lord has blessed as He blessed that of the Apostles, are members of His Church, is to turn. the Christian Church itself into a sect. To deny that these societies, large or small, many of them rigidly
modelled on the apostolic churches, are true churches of Christ, is to give this sacred name "church" a meaning wholly different from what it plainly bears in the New Testament. It is to divide those to whom the Lord has said, "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." It is schism.
To come back to the question, "What right has any one to preach the gospel?" Evidently this word "right” has more than one meaning. It may mean the natural right everyone has to do whatever is not wrong or unlawful; or it may mean the special right given to one above another to perform certain acts. This is what we mean by "authority." God is the fountain of authority. "There is no power (i.e., authority) but of God. The powers that be❞—i.e., ruling authorities, kings, magistrates, Parliaments, and the rest, actually existing among men-"are ordained of God." (a) Any power or authority of man over man which cannot trace back to God's ordinance, must be usurpation and tyranny. Thus the authority of parents over their children rests directly on God's appointment, expressed in the Fifth Command
(a) Rom. xiii. 1; where it is strange that the Revised Version has not put "authority" either in the text or in the margin.
ment, but binding from the beginning. The authority of civil rulers over their subjects, according to St. Paul, rests at bottom on the same basis; but since God has not ordained any one form of government, but has permitted men to organise government according to national conditions and varying circumstances, we infer that those governments are most according to His will which best fulfil the great end of administering justice.
How, then, stands this matter of authority in the Christian Church, in regard to the ministry of the Gospel? Clearly, if by "preaching the Gospel we simply mean making known the Gospel as we have ability and opportunity, this is not only the right but the duty of ALL CHRISTIANS. As we are bound to share our bread with the hungry, and to give water to the thirsty, how can we be otherwise than bound to spread, wherever and whenever we can, the "glad tidings of great joy”— the message of the truth of God and of the love and grace of Christ? Thus it was that the Gospel was largely spread in the beginning. The Church at Jerusalem was founded by the preaching of Peter and the other Apostles. But we do not know of a single church besides though no doubt there were many-which could
boast of being founded by one of the original Apostles. The Church of Samaria was founded by Philip the Deacon. The great and famous Church of Antioch was founded by preachers whose names are not recorded. No proof exists that they were ordained or official ministers. While the Apostles remained at Jerusalem, "they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word." (Acts viii. 1–5.)
Our Saviour's command to "make disciples of all nations" and to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature," was given not to the Apostles alone, but to the great multitude of His disciples—His whole Church on earth. Otherwise there would have been no need for the Apostles to leave Jerusalem to meet their Lord in Galilee. St. Paul tells us there were "more than five hundred brethren assembled." (Comp. Matt. xxviii. 16-20 with 1 Cor. xv. 6.) The conversion of the world is the work of the whole Church: a hopeless work, were it not for the promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
'Of course,' it may be said, 'every Christian does right in privately trying to win sinners to repentance and unbelievers to faith. Nobody denies that. But this