« AnteriorContinuar »
to hold the Calvinistic form of Christianity. But many members of the Scotch Kirk, as well as the English Presbyterians, are understood to be Calvinists only by inheritance. Blair, who introduced a new style into the pulpit, is distinguished by good sense and elegant writing; but he has no Calvinism, and, indeed, not much Christianity. In Scotland, there are two sorts of preaching, of which Blair and Ebenezer Erskine
be regarded, severally, as the models. The Seceders are all Calvinists; as are also the stricter ministers of that establishment. For these, and for the English Calvinistic sects, the same reasoning will suffice, which has already been pursued at great length in our treatise on the Quinquarticular Controversy..
2. Presbyterianism is chiefly deserving of attention, by reason of its distinctive form of church-government. Its adherents hold, not less than the Episcopalians, the divine authority of the priesthood : they regard' their mode of religion as an institution derived immediately from Christ and his Apostles: but they deny that the order of bishops belonged to the primi. tive church; and they assert the validity of orders conferred solely by the imposition of the hands of the presbytery. They contend, that there is no distinction, excepting in name, betwixt a presbyter and a bishop ; that they are one and the
‘All ministers are equal, as ambassadors
of Christ, by commission : so it was in the beginning, till episcopacy crept in, from the practice of establishing, as a permanent officer, the moderator, or temporary superintendent, of the presbytery.' They refer to i Peter, v. 1, 2, 3; Heb. xiii. 7-17; and i Thess. v. 12; in the first of which passages the presbyter performs the office of a bishop; in the other two, the bishop that of a presbyter.
A presbytery is an association of ministers and ruling elders, possessed of equal powers; and Presbyterian church-government is founded on the principle of admitting no superiority of rank in the ministry, saving official preference, for the sake of order, conferred by the body of the clergy.
In some continental churches, the superintendents are appointed for life; -but in general, the office of moderator is annual. A body of presbyters, with a moderator, stands exactly in the place of a bishop; it judges of qualifications for the ministry, confers orders, institutes, inducts, and exercises inspection and jurisdiction over all ministers within its bounds. Dr. Hill affirms, that every person so ordained, is as much a successor of the Apostles, as any Christian teacher can be. Theol. Instit. p. 166.
There is a Low Church party of the Presbyterians, with respect to government, who, considering that no form has been prescribed in
Scripture, vindicate their choice on the score of expedience. Both to these, and to the advocates of Presbyterianism by divine right, we have endeavoured to reply, in the dissertation prefixed to the second volume: proving, first, that a form has actually been prescribed ; and, secondly, that that form is episcopal *.
* On the question of expedience, it may briefly be observed, that from the episcopal establishment many happy results arise. The clergy are under a fit control, both in regard to their morals and doctrines. The inspection of a bishop is, in most instances, preferable to that of a presbytery, where local animosities and personal jealousies may warp fair judgment. Dignity is added to the church by means of the titles, the respectable establishments, and the venerable character of its heads. In the inequality of church revenues, such as-are scanty, open a field for disinterested zeal; while such as are ample, reward the labours of the pious and learned ; and (as there is nothing incompatible betwixt zeal and opulence, or rank) furnish suitable provisions for those well-disposed sons, in families belonging to the superior classes, who prefer the peaceful vale of religion, to the noisy turbulence of the other paths of life. An easy ecclesiastical income confers the
power cising extensive benevolence and hospitality : while the scantier pittances excite an honest desire to obtain that respect, by worth and talent, which the inferior clergy have not the gifts of fortune to secure.
If the revenues of the church were exactly equalized, they would each be too scanty for the subsistence of individuals who derived their sole support from their profession. Thus, if the great estates in this country were broken down, and an acre given to every man, no man would have more than an acre.
Granting that each living and curacy were made one hundred pounds a year by strict equalization (and that is much more than the right calculation); the order of the clergy would quickly fall into disrepute. Persons of education who had families to maintain, however desirous they might be of serving God in the church, would be deterred by reasonable considerations from entering it. Some few disinterested individuals, it is true, might be found, willing to give their labour for what is next to nothing; and either possessed of independencies, or content with poverty. But as they who live at the altar, live, in general, together with their dependent families, by the altar (and it is reasonable they should do so), it is probable that, under such an arrangement, the majority of the clergy would be men, not of education, respectability, and rational zeal, but of enthusiastic principles, low birth, coarse manners, and mean acquirements. And, however successful the ministry of such characters in opposition to an established church may sometimes be ; that it would be equally so, in the church opposed, and, as opposed, deserving some extraneous weight to counterbalance the force and spite of opposition, is extremely problematical. Certain it is, that the nature of their success would be far less valuable than the proselytism effected, and the piety preserved, by the address of educated men, whose urbanity exemplifies their Christian principles, to the calm reason of their fellow-beings.
It is here necessary to observe, that we have in this place been unavoidably led to identify the order of deacons, with the holders of stipendiary curacies or small ecclesiastical prefer, ments. Many stipendiary curates are priests, and many priests possess scanty ecclesiastical preferments. The general scope of the argument, however, is not affected by a few necessary anomalies. Deacons are for the most part stipendiary curates : the order of deacon being the first step in the church, and a stipendiary curacy the usual title to ordination.
There is also an analogy betwixt deacons in reference to
priests, and curates in reference to beneficed persons, which renders the foregoing observations applicable to both cases.
A deacon, by the laws of our church, does not pronounce the absolution, consecrate the bread and wine, or administer the bread. Deacons were, in the primitive church, young men waiting at the altar, baptizing, and serving tables. Persons are admitted to deacons' orders at the age of twentythree, and to priests' orders, one year later, and this, after a new and a stricter examination, relative to their talents and morals; an ordinance which provides that, during the first year of his ecclesiastical life, the minister shall establish the salutary habit of weaning himself from secular pursuits ; retaining his academical information; and establishing a character for gravity, piety, morality, application, and knowledge, which is a pledge for his behaviour throughout the whole of his life.
In regard to ceremonies, we would maintain, on the same ground of expedience, that every church is at liberty to appoint its own ceremonies; there being no express ordinance in Scripture, relative to minute ceremonious observances. It is obvious, however, that this liberty may be abused; as it is, undoubtedly, by all those who employ gaudy, unmeaning, or multiplied ceremonies: these tending to draw off attention from that
and spiritual worship which consists of the homage of the heart and the regulation of the conduct. If man were a pure intelligence, 11o ceremonies whatever would be either requisite or proper : but as he is composed of body and soul; and as great part of his knowledge comes through the medium of his senses ; some accommodation to this compound condition of his nature becomes advisable in prescribing a form for the direction of his public devotions. His attention must be fixed, and his affections engaged on the side of religion, by the solemn music and the modest decorations of a church, and by the grave
and decent vestments of those who minister in holy things. That church, then, moves in the precise line of reason, betwixt the total absence of ceremonies, and an extravagant use of them,