Obrazy na stronie

evidence was confirmed by several other witnesses, and if we all agreed in the same fact, and further, if we had no secular motive for making the statement, would it not be the greatest degree of scepticism ever known for the descendants of the strangers to deny our asseverations.

The evidence in this case is parallel with the traditional evidence in support of episcopacy. There is the testimony of those who were ordained by the apostles, and of those again who were their immediate successors, and of the first bishops who were ordained in the churches all over the world, to prove that this third order of ecclesiastical functionaries existed in their time.

The first witness I shall produce, is Clement of Rome, who lived so early as A. D. 70. St. Paul mentions him Phil. iv. 3. He was cotemporary with the apostles; and the friend and companion of St. Paul, Is there not a particular value in the evidence of this man ? Next to the authority of the Scripture, is it not possessed of the highest authenticity ? He must have been well acquainted with the discipline of the apostles, and therefore he could labour under no mistake bimselt, while the holiness of his character is a sufficient security that he would not wish to deceive others.

The following is his testimony, occuring in his first epistle to the Corinthians, the genuineness of which is incontrovertible:

“ It will behove us to take care, that looking into the depths of the divine knowledge, we do all things in order, whatsoever our Lord has commanded us to do : and particularly that we perform our offerings and services to God, at their appointed seasons, for these he commanded to be done, not rashly and disorderly, but at certain determined times and hours. Therefore he hath ordered by his supreme will and authority, both where and by what persons they are to be performed, that so all things being piously done, upto all wellpleasing may be acceptable to him. Hence it is, that they wbo make their offerings at the appointed seasons are happy and accepted; because that obeying the commandments of the Lord they are free from sin. And the same care must be had of the persons that administer unto him. For the chief priest has his proper services ; and to the priests their place is appointed; and to the Levites appertain their due ministrations, and the layman is confined within the bounds of what is commanded to laymen. Let every one of you, therefore, brethren, bless God in bis proper station with a good conscience and with all gravity not exceeding the rule of his service that is appointed to him."

And after showing the source from whence the apostles received their authority and the zeal with which they discharged the duties that were enjoined on them by our blessed Saviour, he adds,

“Thus preaching through countries and cities, and proving by the Spirit the first fruits of their conversion, they appointed out of them bishops and ministers over such as should afterwards believe. And in truth what wonder is it, if they to whom such a work was committed by God in Christ, established such offices as we before mentioned ?"

And further, after pointing out their fidelity according to the example of Moses, he adds,

“ For our Apostles knew by our Lord Jesus Christ that contentions should arise on account of the ministry. And therefore having a perfect foreknowledge


of this, they appointed persons as we before said ; and then gave directions how (when they should die,) other chosen and approved men should succeed in their ministry.”

This is a simple naked testimony given us by Clement to a matter of fact. This quotation from him, proves, First, That as the apostles received authority from Christ, in like manner, they were to appoint others to succeed them in the general management of the church. Secondly, It proves that the form of church government established by the apostles was analogous to the Jewish system, consisting of three separate offices, high priest, priests, and Levites, or in other terms, bishops, priests, and dea

And in the third place, it clearly shows to us, that this form of church government was not designed to be a temporary expedient, but that it was intended for a permanent object, to prevent schism in the church.

The next witness I shall produce is Ignatius, the martyr of Antioch, he lived so ea as A. D. 71. In the commencement of his epistle to the Trallians, he thus addresses them :

“ Be ye subject to the bishops as to the Lord, and to the presbyters as the apostles of Christ. Likewise the deacons also, being ministers of the mysteries of Christ, ought to please in all things; without these there is no church of the elect. He is without who does any thing without the bishops, and presbyters, and deacons."

I use the testimony of Ignatius merely to prove that the existence of the three orders was known ; it is irrevalent to the question whether he was right or wrong in the unqualified obedience which he inculcated. In the beginning of his epistle to the Magnesians, he speaks of Damas their bishop, of Bassus and Apollinus their presbyters, and Sotion their deacon.

To the Philadelphians he writes, to those "who were in unity, with their bishops, priests, and deacons.” There are many other parts of Ignatius that clearly recognize the difference between bishops and presbyters, but the quotations I have given, are from the incontrovertible parts of the writings of this holy father.

Irenæus who flourished A. 1). 180, was the disciple of Polycarp; he says, (adversus hæres. lib. 3.c. 3.)

“ We can reckon those bishops who have been constituted by the apostles, and their successors, all the ways to our times. And if the apostles knew hidden mysteries, they would certainly, chiefly commit them to those to whom the churches were committed, and whom they left as their successors, and in the same place of government as themselves."'*

Tertullian, who was cotemporary with Irenæus, in his proscriptions against heretics, ch. 3. by the very fact of episcopacy argues against the heretics; he says,

“ Let them produce the original of their church ; let them show the order of their bishops, that by their succession, deduced the be fromginning, we may

This quotation as well as proving the doctrine of episcopacy, and episcopal succession, also powerfully refutes J. K. L’s notion of secret doctrines being delivered by the apostles besides the revealed word. Irenæus denies to the heretics that such was the case.

see whether their first bishops bad any of the apostles, or apostolic men, who were cotemporary with the apostles, for their founders and predecessors. For thus the apostolic churches do derive their succession, as the Church of Smyrna from Polycarp, whom John placed there, the Church of Rome from Clenient, who was ordained by Peter, and so the other churches can produce those who have been instituted in their bishoprics by the apostles.”

It is useless to multiply quotations from the fathers in the second, third, and fourth centuries, as they all from Clement down to Jerome unite in proving the fact.

There is a testimony stronger than even the language of these fathers, because this is but the testimony of individuals. It is the voice of multitudes, the consentient testimony of hundreds, and this we have in the declarations tbat were made at the councils held in the early ages, and the decrees which at them were enacted.

In the council of Carthage which was held A. D. 256, at which Cyprian presided, we are told by him, “ that besides the bishops, there met there presbyters and deacons, and a great number of the laity."

At the council of Elliberis, A. D. 304, cap. 18, 19, bishops, priests, and deacons are named distinctly. Cap. 32. priests and deacons are forbid to give the communion to those who have grievously offended, without the command of the bishop,

The council of Ancyra, which was held A. D. 315, of Laodicea, A. D. 321, of Antioch, 341, and Carthage, 348, these with the earliest general councils, agreed upon several canons, which indubitably prove that the episcopal form of government was known all over Christendom, and universally believed to have had the sanction of apostolic authority.

It was not for the purpose of inventing any new doctrines, or making any innovation in the primitive form of church government these men met together; it was more for the purpose of restraining heresy, and checking the innovations which were then creeping into being. It is impossible with any regard to truth, to maintain that those matters of faith which were declared there, were of human invention; or that the matters of discipline which they universally agreed to observe, were of no more ancient authority than the date of those canons which contain them, because the anxiety of the councils was to place every thing upon the foundation of Scripture; they enquired from all the bishops of the apostolic churches; how long those particular matters had been received by the church before the beretical opinions sprung up, against which their judgment was directed; so great was the regard they had for primitive antiquity, for that which was known to be “quod semper, quod ubique, quod omnibus," that in the Can. 6. Nic. Coun. it was decreed thus“ apxála eôn kpateltw.”“ Let those things which are ancient be enforced.”

These authorities are all so plain and full, as to supersede the necessity of making any application of them, or multiplying further quotations, which might be easily done. To whatever part of the world we turn our attention, and ask what form of church government is observed there : if we enquire among the members

of the Greek church, the Armenians, the Georgians, the Syrians, and the Christians of St. Thomas in India; or among the Coptics in Egypt, the Abyssinians in Æthiopia, and the western churches, with the exception of those small parts who prefer the newly invented system of Geneva, they all unite in telling us that their churches are governed by bishops.

Let us go back from age to age, let us search the records of antiquity, and we find the three orders existing among men who were the immediate successors of the apostles,--we find these very men asserting that they had been appointed by the apostles, or by their cotemporaries to the bishoprics they held. These offices were not objects of ambition in those days, when the fury of the adversary was principally directed against them. This bitter persecution to which they were subject naturally must have made them accept with reluctance so conspicuous a station. The common saying 'nolo episcopari,' derives its origin from this circumstance, the difficulty of getting men to succeed to those bishops who had been martyred.

Though condensed as these remarks are, they have exceeded the space which I thought they would occupy. I am therefore obliged to postpone to another opportunity the observations which I had intended to offer on the objections made by Presbyterians and Independents to our form of Church government.


Weigh all things, hold fast that which is good.”

Yours &c.




TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER, SiR-1 am inclined to think that your ingenious correspondent B. is mistaken in his view of 1 Cor. v. 9, 10, and that our translators have given the true sense of the original.

To the doctrine of B. that God calls people to come out from an ungodly world, I do most heartily subscribe : but the point at present before us is, whether the passage in question relates to that subject, or to one of a quite different nature ? To me, it appears that the verses on which B. has commented, are intended as a rule of conduct to Christians under peculiar circumstances ; and that a little consideration will point out both the propriety and the importance of the distinction to which your correspondent objects.

The Apostle had, in a former letter, desired the Corinthian believers, μη συναναμιγνυσθαι πoρνoις, “ not to company with fornicators." The verb employed certainly means in the literal sense, "to be mixed up with," but it has a peculiar reference, I believe, to social intercourse in civil life; and especially that which was maintained by eating together at the same table. That this is not a fanciful surmise, may appear from the the following passage of Clem. Alex.-Και ει τις ημας καλει των άπιστων και πορεύεσθαι κρινομεν (καλον γαρ μη συγαναμιγνυσθαι τοις άτακτοις) παν το παρατιθεμενον KElevel ipev soglalv. 'Vol. I. Edit. Aberthur. This is a key to passage now under our consideration.- If a believer was invited to the table of an unbeliever, and that it appeared to him to be expedient to accept the invitation, he might eat whatever was laid before him, without enquiring whether it was consecrated to an idol or no ; but it would not have been lawful for him to accept of such an invitation, or to hold such intercourse with a brother, if he were ατακτος, disorderly. καλον γαρ μη συναναμιγνυσθαι τοις άτακτοις. In this passage there is an evident allusion to 2d Thess. iii. 6, and 14. in which the Apostle enjoins the Church to discountenance the disorderly draktors, by declining any intercourse with them, that might be interpreted as an approbation of their conduct.

Let us now, Sir, return to I Cor. v. 9–13. and I humbly conceive we shall come to this conclusion, that our translators have, as in most instances, caught the true meaning of the original. The Apostle then, I observe, had in his former epistle, enjoined on believers an abstaining from that species of intercourse with immoral men, denoted by the word ovvavaulyvoje.

Either he had heard that his meaning had been misunderstood, or he supposed that this might be the case. In the present passage, therefore, he expresses himself more fully 'on the subject, by informing the Corinthians, that the immoral persons he meant, were not of the world; but were those, who, though belonging to the Church, had fallen into evils from which they must either be reclaimed by discipline, or for which they must be punished by exclusion ; while the case continued doubtful, every thing was to be done that would, as far as possible, mark the disapprobation of the Church, and of every individual belonging to it, on the subject of conduct so entirely opposed to the holy principles of the Gospel. Neither the Church, as a congregation, nor any individual belonging to it, was to act toward that person so as to appear to afford him any countenance in his misconduct. This mode of acting was not necessary with respect to the world. There was no danger that the sins of those who were manifestly unconnected with the Christian Church, would be in any way identified with the name of Christ; and, on this account, what was expedient and right in the one case, was not so in the other. By a reference to the verses following those quoted by B, it will plainly appear, that the Apostle is marking a distinction in the relative circumstances of those who were, and of those who were not identified with a Christian assembly, that furnishes a reason for the direction which he gives the Church, in respect to the difference of conduct to be observed toward different persons guilty of the same offence, but under different circumstan

" For what have I to do, to judge them that are without ? Do ye not judge them that are within; but them that are without God judgeth. This mode of reasoning evidently applies on the supposition that our translators have given the sense of the passage, but not, in my humble opinion, if we adopt the correction of


« PoprzedniaDalej »