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reviving light and learning checked the progress of this degrading despotism, chiefly by unfolding the pages of the inspired volume to an ignorance, of which the exercisers of that power looked for the support and maintenance of their assumed and abused authority. I need not say, how fast the black and chilling frost of ignorance is melting away before the genial warmth of those enlivening rays which emanate from the Word of God. Every thing that can contribute to this great amelioration has its value; every effort that can pluck a feather from that borrowed plumage which has so long sustained, and still continues to support the flight of that imperious bird of prey, possesses its use; and, as the supposed supremacy of Peter constitutes the very atmosphere on which he floats, I am not without hope, that even these humble pages may be contributing to the great purpose.
The duties and offices to which public titles are affixed, vary so much in the course of time and the change of circumstances, that, though the name still remains, the functions to be performed, or the authority to be exercised become at last wholly dissimilar to those of the original appointment. We find the word bishop or superintendant (ETT LOKOTOS) at an early period of the Christian ministry, and St. Paul's instructions to Timothy which here follow, afford a full explanation of its nature.
- This is a true saying, &c. from v. 1. of 3rd chapter of 1st Epistle to Timothy, to v. 8. I dare say that there are few priests of any episcopal church who do not perfectly acquiesce in the contents of the first verse, that he who desireth the office of a bishop desireth a good work, or as some might be disposed to construe it, a good thing. Passing to the second verse, we find a very startling qualification, and which nothing but the ostrich stomach of papal infallibility could possibly digest. A bishop says the inspired apostle must be the husband of one wife! that is to say, he must not have more than one wife at a time, for in those days polygamy was frequent. Perhaps some of my Roman Catholic readers, if I shall have any, taking it for granted that the Holy Scriptures, though withheld from them, do nevertheless form the rule of their church's conduct, may suppose that I have misquoted. The supposition will be natural; for, if I have not, here is the infallibility of Sanctus Paul against the infallibility of Sanctus Papa, two infallibilities at utter variance ! He may continue to believe the Pope, I am content with the apostle. The Pope says, a bishop must have no wife at all—to have one is a mortal sin, and not in him only but in every priest of that holy church. They may have, at least they have often been licensed to have, concubines. St. Peter and other apostles were married men-yes, says the Romish church, before they became disciples, after that they dismissed their wives. Now I can produce pretty strong proof of the contrary. Matrimony is declared in Scripture to be, honourable in all (no exception of priests.) Our Saviour says, “ for this cause, a man shall leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh;” and in another place he enjoins, that “no man shall put away his wife save only for adultery.” Now as no charge of this nature has been ever brought against apostolic wives, and as we are authorized to say that their husbands would not be justifiable in putting them away on any other, it is most proper and natural to think that they cohabited with their husbands, and never were repudiated. It may indeed truly enough be said that Peter had no wife when bishop of Rome, for it was an office he never possessed.
Every reader must perceive how little there is in St. Paul's character of a bishop which bears the smallest analogy to Papal episcopacy, or indeed to what the general character of episcopacy rose to in after times. This however, be it remembered, was the character he bore when St. Peter lived and wrote; for, as he soon followed St. Paul to the acquisition of the only crown either of them ever wore-that of martyrdom, it is perfectly incredible that 50 violent a change of character should have taken place within so short a space. A bishop then possessed no higher dignity of rank than a presbyter or elder, (opeoBurepos) and differed from him only in having a certain district committed to his particular charge and superintendance. The apostles stood upon higher ground. They were limited by no circumscription of place, no appropriation of service. Whilst most active labourers and preachers themselves, they exercised over all others that controlling influence which, as peculiarly commissioned ministers of their divine Lord and master, they were so highly entitled to exert. Much of their valuable time was employed in going from city to city, from province to province, from country to country, ordering, iaspecting, regulating, and enjoining. The functions of a bishop were upon a much smaller and more limited scale. Converts, however, soon became numerous, and the increase of Christians in wealth and respectability gradually changed the primitive state of things, and gave a corresponding augmentation of dignity and importance to the office of a bishop, particularly in large and opulent cities. Accordingly we find, but long after the death of Peter, bishops of this description possessed of high authority at Jerusalem, at Antioch, at Rome, and at other places. Whoever considers the state of Rome, the character of its emperors, and the per. secution that took place there in the latter days of St. Paul and St. Peter, must be aware that its bishop, if it then bad one, was an ecclesiastic unpossessed of a spark of that lordly dictation, that three-crowned glory, that absolute dominion, which Roman Pontiffs pretend to derive from St. Peter its primary bisbop. I say, if it had one ; for St. Paul who seems to have taken most interest in Roman affairs, is silent on the subject of Roman episcopacy, and never gives the smallest hint of St. Peter's employment there in any capacity, which, in common civility he must have done, had his brother apostle exercised such high authority over the Roman converts. Had St. Peter been metropolitan of the imperial city, he would surely have left us (more episcopali), at least a pastoral letter to his clergy. But he does no such thing, and in a minute examination of his two valuable letters, we shall find that there exists not the most shadowy pretext whereon to found the notion of his ever having assumed the title of episcopal sove. reign of the diocese of Rome, far less of the whole Christian world. Now if he did not, what becomes of the Pope's apostolical supre
macy? There is but one answer--it is an impious and presumptuous usurpation. I shall, perhaps, be asked, if this be the case, why has it been permitted by the providence of God to flourish so much, and to exist so long ? I will answer this question when the enquirer shall tell me, why the reign of tyrants, the abominations of idolatry, the misery of false creeds, and the chains of grovelling superstition, have been so long suffered to curse, degrade, and enslave the fallen sons of Adam ? God knows his own time —whoever takes a serious and impartial view of the Christian world, from the first propagation of the Gospel to the present day, will not fail to mark'a series of events incontrovertibly demonstrative of divine superintendance. He will see the test, so sagaciously propounded by Gamaliel, most wonderfully exemplified — (refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought, but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it-lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.' Acts, chap. v. He will see the religion taught by a few poor fishermen, openly declaring war against the vices, the corruptions, and the prejudices of the world; he will see it, though abused, opposed, vilified, contemned, and persecuted, yet rising superior to all obstacles, and working its slow and quiet way into the hearts of nations, supported only by 'the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God.'-He will see it triumphant over the most inveterate malice of jealous superstition, as well as the most unbcunded power of imperial enmity. He will see it alike able to survive the open or insidious attacks of wit, genius, eloquence and learning which arrayed themselves against it in the beginning, and the overwhelming night of barbarism which threatened its extinction at a subsequent period.
He will see its deliverance from barbaric extermination, ungratefully requited by a presumptuous attempt to render it a ladder for ecclesiastical ambition, a contrivance for rendering that kingdom which our Sa. viour declared to be of another world, a throne for the total subjugation of this. Let any man read the history of that church in the pages of her own historians, let him read of Popes disposing of kingdoms, deposing kings, transferring allegiances, excommunicating nations as well as sovereigns, giving grants of foreign lands discovered or to be discovered, forbidding marriage, licensing concubines, establishing inquisitions, and amassing wealth by the sale of indulgences, and then let him say whether the pure religion of Christ was not in more danger from professed friends than from open enemies, from the corruptors than from the opposers
of its doctrines. Let him consider also the virulence with which all endeavours to remedy those abuses was pursued, the sanguinary vengeance with which every thing tending to reformation was put down and punished, and the invincible obstinacy with which the exercisers of Popish despotism resisted every progress to amendment, and persisted in the maintenance of a system alike inimical to the laws of God, and the liberties of mankind. Let bim consider how din was the hope of spiritual emancipation before the days of the intrepid Luther, and how little it
to could have entered into the sorrowing hearts of those who sighed for light and liberty to behold the fury of the oppressor successfully resisted, and a way to the exercise of private judgment, the just rights of conscience, and the free worship of God happily laid open. Let him lastly compare the state of Christianity as exhibited to view at the present moment, with that which it presented even twenty years since; let him contemplate, not with the ardour of an enthusiast, but with the unbiassed impartiality of the coolest judgment, that spiritual energy which, fostered in the great country of religious reformation, is now calling forth the exertion of the brightest talents, and animating the purest bearts; which, unconfined by kindred or country, undeterred by danger or difficulty, and seeking its sole reward in the consciousness of doing good, diffuses the spread of divine truth throughout the whole earth, working its way into the remotest regions of heathenism, and rapidly undermining the colossal power of that Italian idol, at whose feet, with small exceptions, the Western world was ingloriously prostrated for so many ages. Had Christianity been, what the prejudices of Gamaliel led him to believe, a system originating in human artifice or delusion, it must long since have experienced the termination he predicted; or, if it did survive, must have owed its duration to the profits of its establishment, to the facilities it afforded of exalting altars and thrones by depressing and subjugating nations. It would, in that case, have continued to be in all countries what it still unfortunately is in a few, an instrument of tyrannical oppression in the hands of kings and clergy. It would have been like the heathen superstitions of old, believed by none but the feeble-minded and ignorant, by the wise and learned outwardly professed, but internally despised. It would have been converted into a mere engine of civil and ecclesiastical polity similar to Mahometanism, which maintains by persecution the doctrines it propagated by force and fraud. But in the religion of Christ there is a divine spark which may be obscured but cannot be destroyed, which may be overlayed but cannot be extinguisbed. The tyranny of the devil, the world and the flesh may keep the light of heaven-born truth in abeyance; but through the grace of the divine Author, operating on the hearts of the faithful, it will finally diffuse its lustre, and resume it sway:Towards this great and glorious end, the exertions of those who, rejecting the commandments of men, draw their doctrines from the pure fountain of evangelical verity, are tending with a calm but congregated impulse, which neither the rage of interested opposition, the ferocity of bigotted pre-possession, or the duration of usurped authority, will eventually be able to resist. Unhappy Spain, you perhaps, will be late in the tents of him who bringeth glad tidings-yet even for you there is hope-your chains are too galling to be borne-your wretchedness too great to be enduredbut your hour of deliverance will come ! The day-star from on high will visit your benighted land! You will at length burst the yoke of your degrading thraldom, you will welcome the gracious message that calls you to life, to liberty; and, rousing your native and national strength, you will shake off the incumbrances of your enslaving oppressions like dew drops from the mane of the lion.'
But it is only with the system that I am at variance—I deny not that the virtues and value of Christian character bave been eminently displayed in individuals both lay and clerical; for, though that church has thrown her mantle of darkness over the popular mind, though she has admitted numberless superstitious abuses, and though she has imitated Jewish arrogance in corrupting the pure Word of God by human traditions, yet has she not thrown away the great and fundamental doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement. It cannot be that the influence of these is always and altogether lost, although too frequently neutralized by impure mixture. They have, I trust, often been the means of communicating saving health ; as the very touch of the Saviour's garment was known to infuse new life into the diseased and debilitated body. But it is time to put away the puerilities of ignorance, the follies of monachism, the fabrications of idleness, the encroachments of artifice, and the usurpations of ambition. The very name of infallibility, employed to cover a farrago of errors and excrescences, has become, instead of a title of honour, a bye-word of mockery and reproach. St. Paul did not claim it, St. Peter did not claim it; though commissioned from on high they knew themselves to be bul men.-St. Paul says to those who would have worshipped him and his apostolic brethren.• We also are men of like passions with you ; and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God!'
(To be continued.)
ON THE LOOSE INTERPRETATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER.
SIR,— The heart of man is so depraved and alienated from God, that it is not only ungrateful for the blessings he bestows, but it often prevents and misapplies, and in fact, turns those blessings into curses. It is easy to prove, that if this were not the case, there would not be upon earth a glutton or a drunkard, a spendthrift or a miser. But there is a blessing far transcending any temporal one however valuable, which is most grievously abused, and receives from those to whom it is given, a treatment which may well fill them with alarm. I mean the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is disbelieved--it is slighted—it is rejected by the great majority of those to whom it comes; and only that it would be unfashionable openly to discard all the obligations of religion, they would be found by the Christian observer sitting in the seat of the scorner, denying the Lord God Almighty; and gloring in their pride and presumption. It is not, however, of such that I wish now to speak, but of those who say Lord, Lord—and are ready to exclaim with the Jews of old, “ the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are we.”