« PoprzedniaDalej »
partly ecclesiastical and partly political: And in this point of view, history is a clear exposition of the prophecies.* [See Dissertation IX.]
The third proposition to be established, is that the ministry, as instituted by Jesus Christ and his apostles, includes the three orders of bishops, priests and dea
Of the last mentioned order, there needs but little to be said. There is an agreement, as to the original object of the institution: And if there be any point of difference, it is, whether the duties required of them are to be limited to that original object; or the Church may not, in her discretion, superadd other duties, not interfering with such as are peculiar to the designation of any higher order. We find so very early notices in the primitive Church, of the employment of deacons in sundry offices; especially of reading in the Church, and of assisting in the administration of the communion; as renders it difficult to account for such facts, in different places, otherwise than on the principle, of their being prevalent even in the apostolick age. And at any rate we cannot perceive, that the mere record of the incident which gave an origin to the order, is un. favourable to the idea of there being a considerable latitude for the subsequent discretion of the Church; so as that she may use their agency, in the exercise of the powers committed to her. *
* There is no circumstance which would sooner lead the author to doubt of the soundness of any opinion which he may have formed on mature reflection, than its being found to lead to intolerance of the opposite, or to the want of charity towards any sincere and virtuous persons who may entertain it. To guard against such an abuse of what has been said concerning the two passages appealed to, he takes the opportunity of stating a circumstance pertaining to the construction given; which, although naturally arising out of the views which many able writers have taken of the same passages, has not-he thinks-been noticed with sufficient clearness.
The circumstance is, that the man of sin in the epistle to the Thessalonians, and the two-horned beast in the Apoca lypse, and, it may be added, other individual characters in the latter book expressive of political agencies, no further implicate the individuals respectively comprehended, than as they may have contributed to the different objects from wicked motives, or the excitement of wicked passions.
It is well understood, that ihe imagery of the Apocalypse is very much founded on that in the book of Daniel. Now when in this we read of the lion which had eagle's wings, of the bear which raised itself up on one side, of the leopard with four heads, and of a fourth beast with great iron' teeth; although the resemblance to the principal monarchies of an. tiquity is too obvious to be overlooked; yet in tracing the fea. tures of the designated empires, we do not consider them as dependent on the personal characters of the princes-much less of all the individuals under their respective rule. On the same grounds, the author, while he thinks he perceives the Papacy clearly designated in the two passages in question, has always consoled himself with the reflection, that in regard to the merits or the demerits of individual persons, there is room to estimate on one hand the influence of prejudice and a mistaken piety; and on the other, that of ambition, whether ecclesiastical or civil. In short, there may be, in regard to different persons, a great difference of personal responsibility; while there is no other than a metaphysical person spoken of in the text.
The question then is reduced to this—Whether, in the consituting of the Church, it was contemplated that, exclusively of deacons, there should be two orders, or only one order of the ministry. Now, as in every controversy, it is best to ascertain how far the opposite parties are agreed; there shall be stated, in regard to each of them, a point which is conceded to its opponent.
The Anti-Episcopalians concede, that during the lives of the apostles, there were two orders; one of whom were those holy men themselves, and the other were an order subordinate to them, called by two Greek words, which are translated bishops and presbyters:t names designating the same persons.
That the two terms were thus indiscriminately applied, is the matter conceded by Episcopalians. But they say, that the general superintendence of the Church, and the power of ordination in particular, were never committed to that order; but remained in the apostles, and in persons whom they associated with themselves, with a view to those higher ends.
The duties of the offices of deacon are to be learned rather from the Ordinal, than from actual practice either in England or in America,
1 Επισκοποι, Πρεσβυτεροι.
It is essential to the Anti-Episcopalian scheme, to say, that the confessedly superintending authority of the twelve apostles, was peculiar to themselves, and died with them. On the other hand, the contraryaccording to our ideas-is shown in actual instances: in that of Barnabas, who is expressly called an apostle;* in those of Timothy and Titus, who governed the elders ordained by them; and in that of St. James, who was not of the number of the twelve, as some imagine from the identity of name; but concerning whom, there are strong appearances in scripture, of the truth of what ecclesiastical history affirms, that he presided in the mother Church of Jerusalem, being constituted its bishop by the apostles. It was a natural course for events to take, that while the most of the apostles were alive, the economy should not be generally carried into effect, of having local episcopal authorities, attached to the respective districts. And there seem to have been but few instances, in addition to the case of the episcopacy in Jerusalem; until we come down to what we read in the figurative language of the Apocalypse, concerning the seven Churches of Asia. The only member of the apostolick college, then surviving, was St. John. And accordingly, it is natural to find the system more generally carried into effect; as is the fact. For that those seven angels of the Churches were so many presiding officers in the same, we consider as a matter abundantly proved by ecclesiastical history. Some contend, that the angel of each Church is a figurative expression, for a college of presbyters: but this we think disproved by the tenour of the several messages. Others presume, that each Church, meaning by that term the collective body of Christians in each city, was furnished with only a single pastor: but this
* Acts xiv. 14.
we contend to be contradicted by the great increase of the number of believers, at the time in question; and to be supposed especially applicable to a region, which had been eminently blessed by apostolick labours.
There is one circumstance, which has been thought to hang heavy on the cause of episcopacy, under the present question. It is the acknowledged fact, that the two Greek words, translated bishop and presbyter, are applied in scripture to the same order. This appears especially in St. Paul's address to the Ephesian pastors, in the twentieth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and in the address of the same apóstle to the Philippian Church. Our answer to this is, that having proved a disparity of authority, we think nothing can be fairly inferred from the intercommunity of name; when we perceive a cause for a change in regard to two names, at first indiscriminately used; but after. wards separated, in consequence of the gradual growth in number of an order, the need of which was called for by the gradual decrease of the apostles. Two of the number call themselves “ Elders:"* And yet none deny, that they were of a grade above the persons, to whom that name was ordinarily applied. Our Lord himself is called a deacon,t(in the common translation a minister) of the circumcision; † although he is the supreme shepherd and bishop of our souls: which lat. ter name it would have been blasphemous to have applied to him, in common with ecclesiastical persons of any grade, if there were so much in names as some contend for in the present instance. In short, custom which gives the law to speech, has exercised her legislative authority in this particular: while the discrimi. nation contended for in the ministry, has been provided for by the great ordainer of it.
Episcopalians lay great stress on the testimony of the primitive Church, on the present subject. It is not that they conceive of it, as bringing any addition to the
1 Pet. v, 1.--2 John i. and iii. 1. | Rom. xv. 8.
authority of holy writ. But on any question, in which opinion is mixed with fact; they think that much depends on the testimony of those who lived the nearest to the time, when the fact is said to have happened: and this is a use of antiquity very commonly made, with great advantage, in sustaining the evidences of revealed religion. Now we read of no other government than the Episcopal, in the very early times, There is something very remarkable, in the care with which we often find an early Church deducing the line of its episcopacy. This would deserve the less stress, if it were done in the way of disputation; for it would imply an opposite party, whose arguments may not have reached us. But there was no such party, until within these three hundred years.
Episcopacy had its undisputed sway during all the centuries preceding: unless it can be proved, to have begun about the middle of the second century, as is gratuitously affirmed; this being the hinge on which the whole merit hangs of the anti episcopalian system. The very few writers between the death of the apostles and the date assumed, has made it the easier to set up the plea. But although the time was barren of writers, it was fruitful of saints and martyrs; and of all times the least likely to favour the entry of an innovation, thought to originate in and to favour the corruption of the human heart. But independently on this, we think the hypothesis altogether inconsistent with the most obivous properties of the human character generally. One of the apostles had compared the spreading of the gospel in his own day, to the universally extending influence of the heavenly bodies. That it had a pro. portionate progress in the age succeeding their decease, is a fact which none deny. Now, that in so widely extended a body as the Christian Church, with no other government than what subsisted in the Church of each district within itself, there should be a general consent to exchange presbytery for episcopacy; and that there should not be any record of consultations and determinations to the effect-for nothing of this kind is