« PoprzedniaDalej »
ordain. There are two things, amongst many others, which I beg leave to offer to your consideration upon this point.
1. That the ministers of the reformed churches, in all foreign parts, have almost all of them, I apprehend, no other than presbyterian ordination.
The whole company of illustrious protestant churches of Scotland, France, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, except perhaps Sweden, &c. have none but presbyterian ordination amongst them; for Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Melancthon, Bugenhagius, &c. and all the first réformers and founders of these churches, who ordained ministers among them, were themselves presbyters and no other. And, though in some of these churches, there are ministers which are called superiotendants, or bishops, yet these are only primi inter pares,* the first among equals, not pretending to any superiority of order. Having themselves no other orders ihan what either presbyters gave them, or were given them as presbyters, they can convey no other to those they ordain.4 You are a gentleman of too great discernment to urge the stale pretence, that this is to these churches a matter not of choice, but of necessity and force. For if they thought episcopal ordination, I do not say necessary, but even more regular or expedie ent, could they not with the greatest ease immediately obtain it? Would not the church of England, upon the least intimation of their willing
* Account of Denmark, p. 235.
+ The Danish Church is, indeed, at this time, governed by bishops. But they look upon episcopacy as only a human institution; and the first protestant prelates in that kingdom were ordained by Bugenhagius, a mere presbyter ; who, by consequence, could convey no other than a presbyterian ordinatione to their successors ever since. Seekendorf. Hist, Lutheriana Lib. 20, Sect, 1, with caveat, p. 15,
ness to receive it, most readily send them bishops, to sụpply this defect? You know, Şir, too well its charitable disposition, and even offers of this kind, in the least to suspect it. Whatever censures you pass then, upon the orders and administrations of the ministers among us, they equally fall upon all the reformed churches throughout the whole protestant world. If ours are an unnecessary and wanton departure from the primitive order, theirs are the very same. Now it gives me great pleasure to see myself in such a crowd of excellent and good company. And, unless you can offer something more demonstrative on this head, than I have ever yet seen, my mind will enjoy full peace as to the regularity of the ministration on which I attend. But,
2. It seems a little strange to hear you glorying over us, and consequently over all the foreign churches, as to this matter of orders, when these very orders in which you glory, you acknowledge to have been derived only from the church of Rome, a church which yourselves, in your homilies, confess to be idolatrous and antichristian; « Not only a harlot, as the scripture calieth her; « but also a foul, filthy, old withered harlot, the “ foulest and filthiest that ever was seen.-- And, “ that as it at present is, and hath been for 900
years, it is so far from the nature of the true “ church, that nothing can be more.”* these homilies every clergyman publicly declares, and subscribes with his hand, that they contain a godly and wkolesome doctrine, fit to be read in churches by ministers.
Now it is only from this filthy, withered, old harlot, that you derive, by ordination, your spi. ritual descent. You confess yourself born of her As to ecclesiastical pedigree: and the sons of this
foulest and filthiest of harlots, you acknowledge as brethren, by admitting their orders as regular and valid, whereas those of the protestant churches you reject. If a priest, ordained with all the superstitious and idolatrous rites of this antichristian and false church, comes over to the church of England you admit him as a brother duly ordained, without obliging him to pass under that ceremony again : but, if a minister of the reformed churches joins himself to you, you consider him as but a layman, an unordained person, and oblige him to receive orders according to your form. How, Sir, is it possible to account for this procedure! Can that church, which is no true church, impart valid and true orders ? Can a filthy old harlot produce any other than a spurious and corrupt breed ? Will
you rest the validity and regularity of your administrations on your receiving the sacerdotal character from the bishops and popes of the Romish church? many, if not most of whom, were men of most corrupt and infamous lives,men who were so far from being regular and valid ministers in the church of Jesus Christ, that they had neither part nor lot in this matter, their hearts not being right in the sight of God:* such men, therefore, could not possibly, duly, or regularly, officiate therein ; consequently had no power to communicate, or convey, orders or offices in the christian church. Whatever offices they conveyed, therefore, are at best doubtful and suspicious, if not absolutely null, irregular, and void. So that really your own orders, if strictly examined, may minister great doubt and disquietude of mind.
If charity then were silent; prudence, methinks, should loudly dictate, that you speak gently as to the authority and orders of our ministers, when you know it is in their power so strongly to retort.
• Acts viii. 21,
It was, therefore, surely not wise, Sir, as well as extremely unkind, to set them up as objects of public odium and avoidance, and to admoniska
every good man not to have any intimate or unnecessary acquaintance with them, or fami
liarity in common life.”. But, blessed, our Lord hath said, are ye when men shall hate you, and separate you from their company, and cast out your names as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, your reward in heaven is great !*
You very strenuously contest, what one of the favourite and fundamental princi+
ples of the dissention, namely, that every lay“ christian has a right to choose his own pastor.”+ A right so evidently founded on reason, scripture, and the undoubted practice of the priinitive church, and so generally acknowledged by all the learned of your own communion, that I cannot but wonder at the alertness with which you make your attack upon it. The charge given to the christian people,--to take heed what they hear, to beware of false prophets - not to believe every spirit, but to try the spirits --incontestably proves them to have a right of judgment and of choice relating to this matter; and that this right, which God has given them, it is their duty to use.
When an apostle was to be chosen in the room of Judas the traitor, the whole body of the disciples were applied to on that occasion, Acts i. who appointed, by common suffrage, two from their whole number to be candidates for that of. fice, ver. 23. “ The election, you say, was evi« dently made by God.” But was it not as evidently made by the people also ? If the choice of one from the two he acknowledged to be the
• Luke vi. 22, 23. * Letter II. p. 6.
Letter II. p. 3.
act of God, was not the choice of these two, from among the whole number, as much the act of the people? - The people then were actually concerned in that choice. « The seven deacons, “ Acts vi. you say, were presented, or recom« mended, by the brethren."* But let the sacred story determine: wherefore brethren, look ye out amongst you seven men of honest report. And the saying pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen and Philip, &c. Can words be more express ?
That bishops and pastors were chosen in the ancient church, by the suffrage of the people, the evidence is so strong, as greatly to try the countenance of the person who disputes it. Ignatius, if you will allow him genuine, says, APETOV. εσιν υμιν ως εκκλησια Θεα, χειροτονησαι επισκοπον.+ It becomes you, as the church of God, to choose a bishop. Alexander was made bishop of Jerusalem by the compulsion or choice, of the members of that church. Upon the death of Anterus, bishop of Rome, all the people met together in the church to choose a successor, and they all took Fabianus, and placed him in the episcopal chair. So Cora nelius, his successor, was elected by the suffrage of the clergy and laity. Cyprian often acknowledges he was made bishop of Carthage, favore plebis,-populi universi suffragio, &c. By the favour and vote of all the people. And expressly says, Plebs maxime habet potestatem, vel eligenda dignos sacerdotes, vel indignos recusandi.
The chief power of choosing worthy ministers, and of rejecting the unworthy, belongs to the people. I produce no farther evidence upon a point so incontestable, but the words of a learned brother of your own, high enough for church power: “ That « the people had votes in the choice of bishops
* Letter II. p. 8.'
t Epist. 2d Philad. Vide constitution and discipline of the primitive church, p. 46..