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SECTION III. SKETCH OF ANCIENT HIERARCHIES, AND THAT OF THE JEWS.
The general subject of sacerdotal power, and the abuses to which it
is liable, cannot be treated with reference merely to modern
institutions, modern notions, and immediate interests. Neither-the
guiding principles which we have to seek for in the New Testament,
nor the real import of the allusions made therein to the
constitutions of the primitive Church, can be understood without
some knowledge of the notions and usages of the times; and these
involve, not merely Jewish but heathen opinions and practices. One
cannot read a page of the ecclesiastical controversies of the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries without feeling that the
reasoning, on both sides, is very often vitiated, either by the
want of this sort of information, or by the misuse of it. A just
conception of the Jewish church polity is, we say, indispensable to
an understanding of the polity of the Christian Church; and the
former demands at least a hasty glance at the contemporary pagan
systems. Our modern European institutions, civil as well as sacred,
combine heterogeneous materials, of various accidental origin, and
often not so much composed, as jumbled together by the revolutions
of ages. On the contrary, the ancient oriental politics suggest the
idea of homogeneous abstract conceptions, the products of single
minds, or of a few minds in concert. The former are accumulations,
in the rearing of which the hand of time is more apparent than
themind or purpose of man: but the latter are, or seem to be,
digested schemes, whereof the several components stand rationally
related one to the other. Might it be said that the freedom of
Europe has sprung, in part at least, from the accidental
construction of our social systems; while the despo...
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