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to strip it, if they could, of that plea. They soon set their wits to work, to invent something that had a semblance of argument, and by means of the promiscuous use of bishop and presbyter-ofa supposed extinction of the apostolic office of the impracticability of an uninterrupted succession—of presbyterian ordinations, and congregational bishops,* have spread such a mist over a subject, which, before the 16th century was perfectly clear, that it has really become, to persons unlearned and unacquainted with the history of the Church, confused and perplexed. But this could never be, if the advocates for ministerial parity would cease to dispute about names and titles, and attend solely to facts. The government of the Church, like every other fact, must be proved by competent testimony; and if all the testimonies of the primitive writers are in favor of diocesan efis. copacy, even if the scriptures were silent upon the subject, in the name of common sense, what more would we have ? That we have this unanimous testimony, shall be demonstrated beyond every degree of reasonable coutradiction.
As the best writers on your side of the question have conceded, that the Church became episcopal about the middle of the 2d century, I need not quote from the fathers of a later date. Irresistible must be the evidence that could draw from them this important conces. sion, which, in its consequences, will completely prove the point we have in view.
The assembly of presbyterian divines, in their Jus, divin, minis. Angli. p. 104, have this question—" How long was it, that the Church of Christ was governed by the common council of presbyters, without a bishop set over them ? A. Dr. Blondel, a man of grcat reading and learning, undertakes in a long discourse to make out, that before the year 140, there was not a bishop over presbyters.”+ This gives us the opinion of the presbyterian ministers met at Westminster. Chamier, a protestant divine of the French Church, says, « that inequality (of bishops and presbyters) was very ancient, and near the times of the apostles. Nay, he acknowledges that “the innovation (as he calls it) took place, the first age having not yet, or scarcely elapsed."'S Now one of the apostles, St. John, outlived the first age, dying at Ephesus, A. D. 101. Salmasius, who wrote on this subject before Blondel, and of whom Blondel is generally an
* It is not a little amusing, to see how much the different denominations of dissenters from Episcopacy differ among themselves upon these points. Are their differences an argument for or against episcopacy?
+ Yet this same Dr. Blondel was so inconsistent, as to conclude his “ Apology for the opinion of Jerome,” with these words-“ By all that we have said to assert the rights of the presbytery, we do not intend to invalidate the ancient and apostolical constitution of episcopal pre-eminence. But we believe, that wheresoever it is established conformably to the ancient canons, it must be carefully preserved ; and wheresoever, by some heat of contention, or otherwise, it has been put down or violated, it ought to be reverently restored.”When the Westminster divines, at whose instance he wrote his apology, saw this conclusion of the manuscript, they warmly remonstrated against it, and insisted upon its being expunged. To please them, he gave it up. See Durell's view of the government of the reformed churches, p. 339, 340.
Inequalitatem esse vetustissimam ac vicinam apostolorum temporibus. Aut nondum elapso, aut vix elapso primo sæculo.
echo, says, in his book called Walo Messalinus, cap. 4, p. 253, « About the beginning, or middle of the second age, the first bishops were placed over the presbytery." Another divine of the same church, Du Moulin, instead of exposing himself by guessing, candidly gives up the point. He says that “ Episcopacy is of apostolic institution, and, whatever name we may give Timothy or Titus, whether that of bishops or evangelists, it is manifest that they had episcopal successors, who enjoyed their pre-eminence.”* Bucer, a divine of the Swiss Church, acknowledges, “ that though the episcopal office was imposed upon all the presbyters, yet so notwithstanding, that always, even in the times of the apostles themselves, one of the presbyters was chosen and ordained to be a guide of this (episcopal) office, and as it were, a prelate, who went before all the rest, and had the care of souls, and administered the episcopal office, chiefly and in the highest degree.”+ With Bucer agrees Calvin, in his comment on Titus, i. 5.1 « At that time of Timothy) there was no equality among the ministers of the Church, but some one in authority and council had the pre-eminence.” Richard Baxter, a nonconformist minister of the 17th century, acknowledges that there were fixed bishops in the time of St. John. He also says, that « episcopal ordination is to be sought for, and where there is no necessity, God does not approve of irregular ordinations.”S To these concessions I add the testimonies of Drs. Doddridge and Campbell. The former admits, that the distinction between bishops and presbyters was as ancient as the time of Ignatius, i. e. the beginning of the 2d century, and just after the death of St. John. The latter allows it to have taken place towards the close of the 2d century. I
Now, the first question that I would ask upon this point is, What can be the reason, that the most learned adversaries of episcopacy, are so much at a loss for the time of its origin? If there was a change of government, as they pretend, nothing could have been more obvious than that change. Let us state the case fairly. The apostles (you say) left the Church under a presbyterian form of government ; that is, all the ministers of religion were perfectly equal as to the right and power of ordaining, exercising discipline, and regulating the affairs of the Church. They had their presbyteries and their synods, or general assemblies, in which there was not the smallest distinction, but what the election of a moderator for the time being produced. This form of government must have been obvious to every Christian ; it was daily before their eyes; its operation they continually felt ; they must, therefore, have been perfectly sensible that it was of apostolic appointment. Yet, in the course of forty or fifty years, this apostolic form was, suddenly, without the least noise, opposition, or difficulty, changed into one materially different, both in
* Ordinem episcopalem esse juris apostolici, &c. | Liber de anima. cura interscript. Ang: p. 380.
# Non eam fuisse tunc æqualitatem inter ecclesiæ ministros, quin unus aliquis authoritate & consilio præesset.
Hoadly on conformity.
For the testimony of the former, see Chandler's Appeal; and of the latter, the Ecclesiastical Lectures.
its principle and its consequences. One of the presbyters in every Church, started up a prelate, or diocesan bishop, with the sole power of ordaining and confirming, and the chief power of exercising discipline ; and all this was effected (nobody knows how) by election, or usurpation, or magic, or any thing else. And the beauty of this transformation is, that not one of the ancient fathers, contemporary with, or subsequent to this change, knew any thing about the matter; but on the contrary, all declare that episcopacy is of apostolic insti. tution. I have read, Sir, the curious stories of transformations which Ovid gives us, and, no doubt, you also have read them; but certainly neither you nor I have the smallest degree of faith in them. Yet you seem firmly to believe, what, to my apprehension, is as incredible as any fiction in Ovid. However, if you can “ swallow this camel," I have no right to object; the inconvenience is entirely your own; but I must confess that my stomach is not sufficiently capacious for such a meal.
If a change of government took place so soon after the apostolic age, upon what principle did the Church act ? Had such contention and confusion every where arisen, that both clergy and laity perceived that subordination among the clerical order was absolutely necessary? If so, what a reflection upon the apostles, to have been so ignorant of human nature, and so destitute of sagacity, as not to be aware of the mischievious effects of their own institution ! Nay worse, what a reflection on the holy spirit, under whose influence the apostles regulated, in all material points, the affairs of the Church ! Surely, the authors of ministerial parity could never have been aware of the difficulties and absurdities in which they involved themselves, when they abolished episcopacy, and introduced in its place a presbyterian regimen ; a regimen which, when the Church was in a high degree of purity, and thousands were still alive who had lived under the government of the apostles, was found to be so bad, as to make a change absolutely necessary. And what completes the climax of incredibilities, there is not the least hint in all antiquity of any such thing, nor of any motion, tendency or design to that effect. Credat Judæus Apella, non ego.
Perhaps, Sir, you will say, that the change was not occasioned by any contention or confusion in the Church, which rendered an ecclesiastical superior necessary, but by the ambition, intrigue and usurpation of a few men of talents and enterprize. This is making the matter much worse, for a change upon this ground was morally impossible. Could the many thousands of presbyters in the Christian Church, in the 2d century, be so stupid as not to perceive an attempt to wrest from them their indisputable rights? Or could they be so degenerate and corrupt as to be totally regardless of them ? Is it in the nature of man to relinquish what he deems valuable, and can preserve without a struggle, or the slighest inconvenience ? At that time, ecclesiastical power was entirely spiritual, supported altogether þy opinion and conscience. The civil arm was not stretched out for the protection, but for the destruction of the Church. That, therefore, could not have been exerted in favour of the few ambitious prelates. Nor could intrigue and refined policy alone effect this wonderful
change. They require such a variety of happy coincidences, as could not have taken place in the state of the Church at that pe. riod. No general council had met ; in no provincial council was the question ever agitated; or if it had been, and carried too, it could not have extended the change beyond its own province. There is no record of this kind, no hint to this purpose, in all antiquity. This discovery was left for the sagacious moderns; and but for a comparatively small part of them.
I beg, Sir, that you will not think I mean to insult your under. standing, when I ask, do you suppose it morally possible, that a few of the most eminent presbyterian ministers in the United States, could, by any means whatever, short of compulsion by the civil power, effect a change of this kind ? I have no doubt that you will laugh at the folly of the question. But, Sir, the folly becomes still more glaring, when the question comprehends all the presbyterians throughout the Christian world. Upon your hypotheses, human nature in the 2d century was materially different from what it is in this. What was then easily effected, it would be morally impossible to effect now. Men loved misery in that age, but in ours they abhor it. Then, art and intrigue possessed magical power, and were irresisti. ble ; now, the extent of their influence is well known, and may be effectually counteracted. At that time, great events were not recorded, while the most insignificant were. Men then accomplished by simple volition, what now requires vigorous action. In short, a total revolution has taken place in the human mind. Its principles, its motives, its feelings, its powers, have undergone a complete change.
In my next I shall resume this subject, and continue to point out more of the absurdities in which this fiction of a change of government involves its advocates.
. LETTERS FROM COWPER.
The following Letters of the Poet Cowper, deserve to be read, not only as they prove the amiable propensities of the man; but as containing and illus. trating a very important sentiment, about which there has been some differ. ence of opinion among Christians.
April 17, 1766. MY DEAR COUSIN,
AS in matters unattainable by reason, and unrevealed in the scripture, it is impossible to argue at all; so in matters concerning which reason can only give a probable guess, and the scripture has made no explicit discovery, it is, though not impossible to argue at all, yet impossible to argue to any certain conclusion. This seems to me to be the very case with the point in question. Reason is able to form many plausible conjectures concerning the possibility
of our knowing each other in a future state, and the scripture has, here and there, favoured us with an expression, that looks at least like a slight intimation of it ; but because a conjecture can never amount to a proof, and a slight intimation cannot be construed into a positive assertion ; therefore I think we can never come to any absolute conclusion upon the subject. We may indeed reason about the plausibility of our conjectures, and we may discuss with great industry, and shrewdness of argument, those passages in the scripture, which seem to favour the opinion ; but still no certain means having been afforded us, no certain end can be attained ; and after all that can be said, it will still be doubtful, whether we shall know each other or not.
As to arguments founded upon human reason only, it would be easy to muster up a much greater number on the affirmative side of the question, than it would be worth my while to write, or yours to read. Let us see therefore what the scripture says, or seems to say towards the proof of it; and of this kind of argument also I shall in sert but a few of those, which seem to me to be the fairest and clearest for the purpose. For after all, a disputant, on either side of this question, is in danger of that censure of our blessed Lord's, “ Ye do “ err, not knowing the scripture, nor the power of God.”
As to parables, I know it has been said in the dispute concerning the intermediate state, that they are not argumentative ; but this having been controverted by very wise and good men, and the parable of Dives and Lazarus having been used by such, to prove an intermediate state, I see not why it may not be as fairly used for the proof of any other matter, which it seems fairly to imply. In this parable we see that Dives is represented as knowing Lazarus, and Abraham as knowing them both, and the discourse between them is. entirely concerning their respective characters and circumstances upon earth. Here therefore our Saviour seems to countenance the notion of a mutual knowledge and recollection ; and if a soul that has perished shall know the soul that is saved, surely the heirs of salya.. tion shall know and recollect each other.
In the first epistle to the Thessalonians, the 2d chapter and 19th verse, St. Paul says, “ What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoi.. “ cing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at. “ his coming ? For ye are our glory and our joy."
As to the hope which the Apostle has formed concerning them, he himself refers the accomplishing of it to the coming of Christ, mean. ing that then he should receive the recompense of his labours in their behalf; his joy and glory he refers likewise to the same period, both which would result from the sight of such numbers redeemed by the blessing of God upon his ministration, when he should present them before the great Judge, and say in the words of a great. er than himself, « Lo, I and the children whom thou hast given me.” This seems to imply that the Apostle should know the converts, and the converts the Apostle, at least at the day of judgment; and if then, why not afterwards?
See also the 4th chapter of that epistle, 13, 14, 16, which I have not room to transcribe. Here the Apostle comforts them under their .