« AnteriorContinuar »
the plan, and continue the form of polity which the apostles had begun, and which form, we have seen, was properly, and in the true sense of the word, Episcopal. If Dr. Campbell did not see this in the same light with us, and was disposed to put a different construction oa what is laid down in the sacred books, we can only regret this circumstance, as an additional evidence in support of s his own observation, “that even good and learned men allow their judgments to be warped by the sentiments and custom of the sect which they prefer; and the true partizan of whatever denomination, always inclines to correct the diction of the spirit by that of the party.” Foreseeing, no doubt, that this would be more particularly the case, in the article of church government, our Lecturer proposed an appeal to those early writers, who, by his own account, as to what depends on testimony, in explaining any part of K scripture which is thought to be doubtful, “are in every } case, wherein no particular passion can be suspected to have swayed them, to be preferred before modern inter* preters or annotators.” Agreeing very cordially with him in this opinion, respecting the testimony of the fathers, we have listened to the evidence of these unexceptionable witnesses, and have found it, from the general and uniform tenor of their writings, to be full and direct, in favour of apostolic Episcopacy, as the invariable form of government, which had obtained in the Christian church.-This was a matter of fact, in relation to which their testimony could not be doubted; and if we consider the nature of the thing, it was surely “a case, wherein no particular passion could be suspected to have swayed them.” The apostolic institution of Episcopacy was a truth believed, and openly avowed, at a time when no worldly temptation could have operated in producing that belief, or supporting that “particular form of ecclesiastic polity.” There was no room for a spirit of pride or ambition to exert its influence on the minds of Christian pastors, when the highest office in the church, so far from securing to those invested with it any portion of worldly honour, or legal revenue, served only to expose them to a greater degree of reproach and poverty. The station of a bishop was that of the most imminent danger; and whoever possessed that degree of zeal and firmness which induced him to accept it, was almost certain, as soon as persecution commenced, to fall the first victim to the fury of his enemies. While the Episcopal character was thus held up, as the principal mark to be aimed at by the rage of heathen op, pression, we can hardly suppose that any other motive would have been sufficient to the undertaking an office so peculiarly encompassed by danger and difficulty, but the firm conviction of its being absolutely necessary to the maintenance of order and unity in the church, and to the preservation of that apostolic commission, from which must be derived, by regular succession, all the right that any man can have to minister in holy things. The form of this ministry, and the several degrees of office by which it has been always distinguished, we have now fully considered; and by every argument adapted to the subject, we have seen it clearly evinced, that the constitution of the church, as established by its divine Founder, and given in charge to his chosen apostles, was by them transmitted to their several successors, and so handed down through the primitive ages as a regular diocesan Episcopacy. This is the plain and important fact, which we have been endeavouring to establish as the second part of our plan, with all the original evidence in its favour, which could be required from scripture, and all the additional testimony which has since been afforded to its support, by “ANTIQUITY, UNIVERSALITY and CONSENT.” We may therefore be allowed to recommend, as a matter of undoubted certainty, and worthy of the most serious consideration, what was proposed as the title of this chapter—“That the church of Christ, in which his religion is received and embraced, is that spiritual society in which the ministration of holy things is committed to the three distinct orders of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, deriving their authority from the apostles, as those apostles received their commission front Christ.”
* See his note on Mat. iii. 11.-in his Translation of the Gospe:
A Part of this Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, though deprived of the Support of Civil Establishment, does still exist in this Country, under the Name of the Scotch Episcopal Church, whose Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship, as happily agreeing with that of the first and purest Ages of Christianity, ought to be steadily adhered to by all who profess to be of the Episcopal Communion, in this Part of the Kingdom.
IT is a well known fact, that in all the nations of the world, where any sense of a God or religion has been preserved, certain persons have always been set apart, as the more immediate servants of that God, and for performing the more solemn offices of his religion. The sacred function appropriated to these persons has, for the same reason, been ever considered as a divine and most salutary institution. This much may be gathered even from the dark records of heathen antiquity. But, if, wishing for clearer information than these can afford, we consult the sacred history, we shall find this matter set in a just and true light. The nature of the priesthood is there laid down in the plainest manner, the design of it fully explained, and its authority placed on the only proper foundation. The mediation of a Redeemer, as absolutely necessary to the salvation of mankind, is there held forth as the source of that typical priesthood, and those figurative sacrifices, which the law of God appointed and required, in all that period which preceded the incarnation of the promised Saviour.—It was from their relation to him, and dependence on him, that both priests and sacrifices derived all their honour and efficacy: And when at last this glorious Intercessor “appeared upon earth, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” we are assured, that “he did not glorify himself to be made an High Priest, but received this honour from his Father that
sent him, and was called of God, as was Aaron.”* In
consequence of this high and heavenly commission, he stood forth as the great High Priest of our profession, and having purchased his church with his own blood, he not only “died, but rose again, that he might be Lord both
of the dead and of the living.” It was, therefore, after his
“resurrection that he was heard to declare, that “all power was given unto him in heaven and in earth;” and with this declaration he introduced the commission which he then gave his apostles, delegating to them such a portion of his power as was necessary for authorizing them to convert the nations to his faith, and teach them to observe whatever he had commanded, even unto the end of the world. From the extent of time allotted to the execution of this commisision, we may see, it was impossible for the apostles to execute it fully, and to that extent, in their own persons, or in any other way, than by doing what they could themselves, and transmitting to others the same charge, which they had received, that so a succession of such commisisioned officers might be continued in the church, to the end of time.
The manner in which this succession has been carried on, and the certainty of its having met with no breach or interruption, from the days of the apostles to the present time, have both, we presume, been sufficiently established in the preceding chapter, which has also exhibited the most ample and satisfactory evidence, to prove the apostolic institution of the three distinct orders of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, to whom the Christian ministry was originally committed, and by whom, according to their several degrees of office, it has always been exercised in
* Heb. v. 4, 5.