« PreviousContinue »
continually ; when he meets them each week in the sanctuary when he administers to them the bread of life ; goes into thei abodes when they are afflicted, and attends their kindred to the grave ? or does it best apply to the union subsisting between the people of an extended diocese,--to the formal, unfrequent, and, in many instances, stately and pompous visitations of a diocesan bishop; to the kind of connection formed between a people scattered into many churches, who are visited at intervals of a year, or more, by one claiming “a superiority in ministerial rights and powers," robed in lawn, and perhaps with the crosier and mitre, as emblematical of office, state, and power; who must be a stranger to the ten thousand tender ties of endearment, which bind as one the hearts of a pastor and his people ? To our minds, it seems clear that the account which Dr. Onderdonk has given of the “identity" of the angel and the church, applies to the former, and not to the latter. It speaks the sentiments of our heart, as respects the union of a pastor and people. And while we would not allow ourselves to speak with disrespect of the Episcopal office, we still feel that the language of the Savior, by the mild and gentle John, to the churches of Asia, breathes far more of the endearing “identity" of the pastoral relation, than it does of the comparatively cold, and distant functions of one, who, in all other lands but this, has been invested with his office by the imposing ceremony of enthroning, and who has borne, less as badges of affection than of authority, the crosier and the mitre.
We have now gone entirely through with the argument of Dr. Onderdonk, in proof that there is an order of men superior “in ministerial rank and powers.” We have intended to do justice to his proofs, and we have presented the whole of them.
Our readers have all that Episcopalians rely on from the scriptures, in vindication of the existence of such an order of men. It will be remembered that the burden of proof lies on them. They advance a claim which is indispensable to the existence of their ecclesiastical polity. These are the arguments on which they rely. Whether their arguments justify the language of assumption which we sometimes hear; whether they are such as to render appropriate the description of all people but the members of Episcopal churches, as left to “the uncovenanted mercies of God;"* whether they are such as to prompt, legitimately, to a
* We do not charge Dr. Onderdonk with having any such views and feelings. We have great pleasure in recording bis dissent from the use of such language, and from such consequences. p. 6. An apparently formidable, yet extraneous difficulty, often raised, is, that'Episcopal claims unchurch all non-Episcopal denominations. By the present writer this consequence is not allowed.” We sim. ply state this, with high gratification. We are happy also that we are not called upon to reconcile the admission with the claim set up in this tract, that's the
Fery frequent reference to “ the primitive and apostolic order” of de ininistry; or to the modest use of the term “the church,” with an exclusive reference to themselves, must now be left to the judgment of our readers.
It was our intention, originally, to have gone somewhat at length into a defense of the scripture doctrine of ministerial parity. But the unexpected length of our article admonishes us to close. We are the less dissatisfied with this admonition, because we conceive the point already made out. If Episcopalians cannot make good their claims in reference to their bishop, it follows of course that ministers are on an equality. The whole argument is concentrated in their claim. We take our stand here. It is admitted on all hands, that there is somewhere in the church a right to ordain. Episcopalians, with singular boldness, in not a few instances with professed, and in all with real exclusiveness, maintain that this power lies only in the bishop. They advance a claim to certain rights and powers; and if that claim is not made out, the argument is at an end. The power of ordination must remain with those over whom they have set up the power of jurisdiction and control. This claim, as we have seen, is not made out. If from the authority of the new testament, they cannot succeed in dividing the ministers of religion into various ranks and orders, it follows that the clergy remain on an equality.
On this point, also, they are compelled, as we conceive, to admit the whole of our argument. So manifest is it, that the sacred writers knew of no such distinction; that they regarded all ministers of the gospel as on a level ; that they used the same name in describing the functions of all; that they addressed all as having the same Episcopal, or pastoral supervision, that the Episcopalians, after no small reluctance, are compelled at last to admit it. They are driven to the conclusion that the term bishop in the new testament, does not in a single instance designate any such officer, as now claims exclusively that title. Thus Dr. Onderdonk says, that “that name (bishop) is there, (i. e. in the new testament,) given to the middle order, or presbyters ; and all that we read in the new testament concerning bishops, (including of course the words overseers,' and 'oversight,' which have the same derivation,) is to be regarded as pertaining to that middle grade. It was after the apostolic age that the name bishop' was taken from the second order, and appropriated to the first.” p. 12. This admission we regard as of inestimable value. So we believe ; and so we teach. We insist, therefore, that the name bishop should be restored to its primitive standing. If men lay claim to a higher rank than is properly expressed in the new testament by this word, we insist that they should assume the name apostles. As they regard themselves as the successors of the apostles; as they claim that Timothy, Titus, Andronicus, Junia, were called apostles, why should not the name be retained? The christian community could then better appreciate the force of their claims, and understand the nature of the argument. We venture to say, that if the name “apostles” were assumed by those who claim that they are their successors, Episcopacy would be soon “shorn of its beams, and that the christian world would disabuse itself of the belief in the scriptural authority of any such class of men. We admit that if “the thing sought” (p. 12.) were to be found in the scriptures, we would not engage in a controversy about the mere name. But we maintain that the fact here conceded is strong presumptive proof that“ the thing sought” is not there. The name, therefore, is to be given up; that is, it is conceded by Episcopalians, that the name bishop does not any where in the new testament designate any such class of men as are now clothed with the Episcopal office.
authority of Episcopacy is permanent, down to the present age of the world;" (p. 40.) that the obligation of christians to support bishops, i. e. to conform to Episcopacy, is not ended; (p. 40.) that of “any two ministries now existing, the former (Episcopacy) is obligatory, to the exclusion of the latter ;” (parity, 39.) and that's the position cannot be evaded, that Episcopacy is permanently binding 'even to the end of the world.'” p. 39.
We remark now, that the thing itself is practically abandoned by Episcopalians themselves. If other denominations can be true churches, (see the remark on p. 6, that the Episcopal claims do not “unchurch all non-Episcopal denominations,”) then their ministers can be true ministers, and their ordinances valid ordinances. Their ministers may be ordained without the imposition of the hands of "a bishop;" and thus the whole claim is abandoned. For what constitutes “non-Episcopal denominations” churches, unless they have a valid ministry, and valid ordinances ? Still further. It is probably known to our readers, that even ordination is never performed in the Episcopal church by the bishop alone. In the “Form and manner of Ordering Priests,” the following direction is given. “ The bishop with the priests (presbyters] present, shall lay their hands severally upon the head of every one that receiveth the order of priesthood; the receivers humbly kneeling, and the bishop saying: Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office and work of a priest in the church of God now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands,” etc. We know that there is among them a difference of opinion about the reason why this is done. One portion regard the bishop as the only source of authority.* The other suppose that the presence and act of the presbyters express the assent and confidence of the churches,
* Hooker's Eccl. Pol. book vii. § 6.
and that it is essential to a valid ordination. But, whichever opinion is maintained, it is, in fact, a Presbyterian ordination. If not, it is an unmeaning and idle ceremony; and the presence of the presbyters is mere pageantry and pomp.
We have now passed through the argument. Could we enter farther into it, we could prove, we think, positively, that there were no ministers in the apostolic churches, superior to presbyters “in ministerial powers and rights ;” and that a presbytery did actually engage in an ordination, and even in the case of Timothy.* But our argument does not require it, nor have we room.
We bave examined the whole of the claims of Episcopalians, derived from the new testament. Our readers will now judge of the validity of those claims. We close, as Dr. Onderdonk began, by saying, that if the claim is not made out on scriptural authority, it has no force, or binding obligation on mankind.
Who can resist the impression, that if the new testament had been the only authority appealed to in other times, Episcopacy would long since have ceased to urge its claims, and have sunk away with other dynasties and dominations, from the notice of mankind? On the basis which we have now examined, this vast superstructure, this system which has heretofore spread over the entire christian world, this system which, in some periods at least, has advanced most arrogant claims, has been reared. The world, for ages, has been called to submit to various modifications of the Episcopal power. The world, with the single exceptions of the Waldenses and Albigenses, did for ages submit to its authority. The prelatical domination rose on the ruins of the liberties of cities, states, and nations, till all the power of the christian world was concentrated in the hands of one man,-"the serrant of the servants of God !”
The exercise of that power in his hands is well known. Equally arrogant have been its claims, in other modifications. The authority has been deemed necessary for the suppression of divisions and heresies. “The prelates,” says Milton, “ as they would have it thought, are the only mauls of schism.” That power was felt in the days when puritan piety rose to bless mankind, and to advance just notions of civil and religious liberty. Streams of blood have flowed, and tears of anguish have been shed, and thousands of holy men have been doomed to poverty, and want, and imprisonment, and tears, as the result of those claims to supremacy and validity in the church of God. It may surprise our hearers, to learn, that all the authority from the bible which could be adduced in favor of these enormous claims, has now been submitted to their observation.
cannot repress the melancholy emotions of our hearts, at the thought that such power has been claimed, and such domination exercised by man, on so slender authority as this!
We have little love for controversy ;-we have none for denunciation. We have no war to wage with Episcopacy. We know, we deeply feel, that much may be said in favor of it, apart from the claim which has been set up for its authority from the new testament. Its past history, in some respects, makes us weep; in others, it is the source of sincere rejoicing and praise. We cannot forget, indeed, its assumptions of power, or hide from our eyes the days of the papacy, when it clothed in sackcloth the christian world. We cannot forget the days, not few, or unimportant, in its history, when even as a part of the protestant religion, it has brought “ a numb and chill stupidity of soul, an inactive blindness of mind, upon the people, by its leaden doctrine;" we cannot forget “ the frozen captivity” of the church, “ in the bondage of prelates ; nor can we remove from our remembrance the sufferings of the puritans, and the bloody scenes in Scotland. But we do not charge this on the Episcopacy of our times. We do not believe that it is essential to its existence. We do not believe that it is its inevitable tendency. With more grateful feelings, we recall other events of its history. We associate it with the brightest and happiest days of religion, and liberty, and literature, and law. We remember that it was under the Episcopacy that the church in England took its firm stand against the papacy; and that this was its form when Zion rose to light, and splendor, from the dark night of ages. We remember the name of Cranmer, -Cranmer first, in many respects, among the reformers; that it was by his steady and unerring hand, that, under God the pure church of the Savior was conducted through the agitating and distressing times of Henry VIII. We remember that God watched over that wonderful man; that He gave this distinguished prelate access to the heart of one of the most capricious, cruel, inexorable, blood-thirsty, and licentious monarchs that has disgraced the world; that God, for the sake of Cranmer, and his church, conducted Henry as “by a hook in the nose," and made him faithful to the archbishop of Canterbury, when faithful to none else; so that, perhaps, the only redeeming trait in the character of Henry, is his fidelity to this first British prelate under the reformation.t
+ It may be proper here to remark, that Cranmer by no means entertained the modern views of the scriptural authority of bishops. He would not have coincided with the claims of the tract which is now passing under our review. He maintained " that the appointment to spiritual offices belongs indifferently to bishops, to princes, or to the people, according to the pressure of existing circumstances. He affirmed the original identity of bishops and presbyters; and