Page images
PDF
EPUB

all the principal Churches, with one or two exceptions, elected for themselves a president under the name of bishops.We have seen the value of his one exception—where does he get his second ?

Objection may be taken to the matter of the election alluded to. This very same epistle of Clement says of the Apostles, that “preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits of their conversions to be bishops and deacons, over such as should afterwards believe, having first proved them by the spirit.” (“Karà xwpac oùy kai πόλεις κηρύσσοντες, καθίστανον ταρ απαρχάς αυτών δοκιμάσαντες το πνεύματι, είς επισκόπους και διακόνους των μελλόντων πιστεύειν.) Α passage this, which proves even more than that for which we have quoted it—witnessing, in fact, that there were bishops and deacons in this same Church of Corinth—nor will it do for Mr.. Waddington to assume that Clement meant by bishops, presbyters. Certain however, it is, that these same bishops were not elected by the churches, but appointed by their predecessors, the Apostles. It should be borne in mind that the words “ Apostle, bishop, or angel of the Churches," as used in the New Testament, are synonymous. In a subsequent passage, St. Clement remarks that the Apostles, foreknowing that contentions would arise concerning the name of the bishopric, appointed persons, to whom they gave directions to provide in like manner other chosen and approved men to succeed them when they should die. Is it not extraordinary that an epistle like this, which was written to reprove the contentions in the Church of Corinth, and which lays down the rule that, for the above reasons, “ those may not justly be thrown out of the bishopric, who were thus appointed by the apostles themselves, or afterwards chosen by other eminent men with consent of the whole Church,” should be now perverted to justify sectarianism, and a mode of discipline constituting the only exception to the else universal rule ? The very notion is monstrous—absurd.

Reasoners like these-(if men whose judgements are always warped by sinister considerations can be called such)-deny to the Church what must be granted to every other association under heaven-a freedom from popular control in all that regards the most elevated claimsthose abstractions which precede, and are pre-supposed in, the aet of election, however often repeated. The wisest and best of every age have rights which inferior minds cannot partake-Genius has privileges which the crowd may not inherit. A great poet has his admirers, and is admitted by popular consent to the honours of his order-but was it by popular suffrage that he became a poet? No! Of Divine origin is his Divine gift-from Him it descended, “ from whom every good and perfect gift doth proceed.” So of the primitive Churchi. Behold in its Divine Founder the most perfectly accomplished Son of Man, in all those endowments which are derived from the Father of Lights. Hast thou Genius ? Aufustius, as the last step in a series of high-reaching abstractions, traced it as existing in the highest perfection in the Son of God. Nay-Genius, according to Aufustius, was the Son of God. Hast thou Virtue? In him was the Word, the Law of God embodied; “ Virtue went out of him” at the slightest approach of Faith. Ay, but the Saviour of Men is an exception to the general rule. Well, then, did he submit his own Apostles to the

suffrages of his followers ? Nay—but he appointed them himself. The multitude of believers could not make Apostles-neither might they appoint them. For who made them the judges ? Not God; for he had not, neither has he, given them the capacity of orthodox election. We are, however, answered that this appointment was well enough in his hands—to him is readily granted the absolute right. Well, then, did the Apostles postpone any such supposed right to the general body? The epistle of St. Clement, above quoted, affirms that they did not. To the Apostles and other “eminent men,” was reserved the right of choice to the Church at large the power of assenting or dissenting from such choice—a power which cannot be taken from any assembly, and which God forbid a body of men should be deprived of, “ whom the truth has made free. Christianity deprives no man of his natural rights; nevertheless the privileges of Divine wisdom are granted but to few. Only those to whom they are granted are capable of discerning a like spirit in others, and only to such discernment can election be safely entrusted. Only, therefore, in the Apostles and their successors can the ordination of their successors, where such ordination is sought, be properly invested. The call of the individual belongs to God." The republican spirit of Greece” had consequently neither part nor lot in the matter ever or anywherenot to the Spirit of Greece, but to the Spirit of God in Christ only lies the great appeal. Had the Gospel depended upon the people it would have failed for “the people to which the faith was immedíately addressed was that which was most reluctant to receive it."

This republican spirit, had it been permitted for a moment, would have subjected most fatally the Church to the State, from the hour that an alliance took place between them. The State from that period became the great body of the Church-a body containing in it a vast proportion of merely nominal Christians at all times; and, in some times, many infidels—in some places a majority of the latter. This republican spirit would put into such hands, with the power of election, a weapon for the subversion of the Church. The presidents of the Church, under such circumstances, would be the Apostles of Infidelity, and not of Faith. Its existence would thus depend upon the number of its faithful sons; but it is now so ordered that the few should rule, as a few may constitute it. Wherever only two or three are gathered together, there in the midst of them is the Shepherd and the Bishop of their souls. Not by multitude but by faith is the Church established.

In accordance with, and in corroboration of, this argument, we find the Christian Church previous to a Christian State. This, Mr. Waddington himself is not slow in asserting. Throughout the eastern provinces of the Roman empire, in Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, and Greece, a respectable portion of the people were Christians. The great number of Councils assembled about the years 195 and 196, on the controversy about Easter, proves, as Tillemont (vol. iii. p. 114,) observes, the tranquillity of the Church; it proves also its prosperity; and the authority of Tertullian has persuaded that historian that the Christians formed at that period almost the majority of the inhabitants. Clear enough it is, that it was so firmly rooted in the parts above enumerated, that its extirpation by any domestic persecutor would have been wholly impossible. This opinion, says Mr. Waddington, it is an important service to have established from the fair examination of such imperfect records as remain to us; for infidel writers are fond of insinuating that Christianity emanated from the court of Constantine, and had nowhere assumed any permanent or consistent form until its character was fixed, and its stability decided, by the policy of an emperor.

Not from the court of Constantine, but from the court of Heaven, emanated the New Jerusalem, within whose sacred inclosures entered Constantine and all his court, and bowed humbly at her altars. There within was the State assembled,

and within holy walls included ; but she was spiritually larger than the State, more comprehensive, more ancient.-So long as it remained within her bounds, it was Christianwhenever it may choose to depart, it is Christian no more,—but she remains the same and for ever, infinitely capacious, and with wide doors, willing to receive all nations of the earth-whether monarchical, republican, or aristocratic. All constitutions of state are alike to her

- blessed is she to sow beside all waters, and to gather into her garners all manner of fruit,—but her own government must be apos. tolical for ever, (whether the apostolicity have the evidence of the call of God only, or that of episcopal ordination also,) or into bondage she and her children must be brought by those constitutions—whether of prince, or peer, or people—but worst the bondage of the latter, as of all the forms of despotism, the democratic has ever proved the heaviest.

But let not any simple man think that this government of hers is a whit altered by the mere denomination of her president, whether bishop, or elder, or presbyter. Mr. Waddington, however, seems to think that there is something in a name, for he insists upon translating ETT LOKÓNOUS, in St. Clement's epistle, by presbyters. The Church of Corinth, “ had dismissed from the ministry certain presbyters ;” and he asserts, in a note, that till the date of St. Clement's epistle, the government of the Church of Corinth had been clearly presbyterial, using the term in contradistinction from episcopal ; yet only a few lines before, he has informed us that the words presbytery and bishop are synonymous. In what, then, consists the difference? The only difference admitted by the argument, is in the mode of appointment, and the ETLOKÓTous, dismissed by the Church of Corinth, were appointed in the apostolic line-.e. either by the Apostles themselves, or their successors. How worse than idle, then, is this truckling on the part of a Churchman to the infirmity of Dissent!

Surely the venerable Hooker has written in vain !-the axiom laid down by him, that“ things are ancienter than the names whereby they are called,” has been forgotten. The thing existed, by many appellations, before its name was fixed—nay, all Church-Governors were at first called by some generic name; but which name, in process of time, and according to the regular course of such appropriations, came to be confined to “ such episcopal authority alone as the chiefest Governors exercised over the rest." With this guiding

light before us, we are able to find our way through all the different names, and the different definitions applied to each at different periods of the history of the Primitive Church. The terms bishop and elder, or presbyter, might be, in the first instance, synonymous ; those now called bishops might also have been called apostles, and shortly afterwards the name of apostles be appropriated to those who were apostles indeed ; and the name bishops given to those before less properly called apostles. In like manner, a distinction might have obtained between presbyter and bishop. All these changes might have been, and were, yet remains our equanimity undisturbed ; for, like Milton, in addressing Urania,“ the meaning, not the name, we call.” A bishop, in the sense of Hooker," is a minister of God, unto whom, with permanent continuance, there is given, not only power of administering the Word and Sacraments, which power other presbyters have; but also a further power to ordain ecclesiastical persons, and a power of chiefty in government over presbyters, as well as laymena power to be by way of jurisdiction-a pastor even to pastor themselves.” Invested with such powers were Titus and Timothy; and such were appointed by the Apostles as their successors in the ecclesiastical duties of the blessed Teachers who had founded the Churches. “ The concurrence of ancient records," says Mr. Waddington, “ confirms this last conclusion; the earliest Church historians enumerate the first bishops of the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Smyrna, Alexandria, and Rome, and trace them in each case from the Apostles. And thus it came to pass, that for more than twenty years before the death of St. John, most of the considerable Churches had gradually fallen under the presidency of a single person, entitled Bishop; and that, after that event, there were certainly none which did not speedily follow the same name and system of administration.” None, we may add, were ever under any other.

Wherein, in fact, differs the Episcopalian and the Presbyterian? Do not the Presbyterians believe that the authority of their ministers to preach the Gospel, to administer the Sacraments, and to feed the flock, is derived from the Holy Ghost, by the imposition of the hands of the presbytery? Do they not oppose the independent scheme of the common rights of Christians by the same arguments which are used for that purpose by the Episcopalians? The Episcopalian, however, escapes from the absurdity of making his presbyter, or ruling elder, a layman. He will have him to be a diocesan bishop, distinct from, and superior to the ordinary priest. He acknowledges that every apostolic bishop was undoubtedly a presbyter, but denies that every presbyter was likewise a bishop. Can any one, with his senses about him, believe Church government could possibly be any other than aristocratic—that is, the government of the best, as opposed to democratic—or the government of the worst?

A moral and intellectual society can only be so ruled--a spiritual assembly can know no equality while its members are in different states of improvement, different conditions of thought and feeling. The wisest, the most faithful, the most hoping, the most loving, must bear sway—and to him the less in all these qualifications must, for their own good, submit. The Church recognizes Babes and Men-she has milk for the

[ocr errors]

one, and strong meat for the other. There were, and will be, some apostles and some prophets, and some to whom they are sent on messages of salvation. Shall these, while yet in the rudiments of evangelical knowledge, immediately on their admittance claim equal sway in the assembly, and dictate to their teachers ? This would be the subversion of the Church indeed, whether such neophytes were a few isolated individuals or the collective body of the State. These, through her officers, are to be taught by, and to be obedient to, the Church, in all matters relative to her, whether of discipline or doctrine. No man is by nature, or can make himself, a member of the Christian Church ; and authority to govern such a society can be derived only from Him by whom it was founded. It is by virtue of a spiritual and a moral eminence-detected and recognized by the spiritually and morally eminent in a long line of apostolic succession—that the high places of the Church are occupied. Right and Might, in its government, are identified-Fiction is not admitted-all is real in its connexion-Merit and Power are united in the same person-only what ought to be, is. This, and this only, is the constitution of the Church. In most of these particulars it differs from that of the State-in these, also, its history is distinguished from that of civil constitutions. Hence it is, that while in the civil the order of hereditary descent is natural, in the ecclesiastical it is spiritual—a wise ordinance, securing, as far as possible, the government of the wisest and the best, the only true aristocracy. All this in the Idea.

Thus set free from the world, whether in subservience to the will of the populace or of the State, the Ark of the Church soared safely above the commotions, which, like a flood, overcame the nations. Free was she when she accepted the homage of the Emperor Constantine. Polytheism had been a political engine—not such was Christianity. It would appear, on the first blush of the thing, as Mr. Waddington rightly observes, that nothing might be more tolerant than Polytheism. “ The intrusion of one stranger would scarcely be noticed in the numerous synod of Mount Olympus; the golden portals were ever open-useful virtue or splendid vice gave an equal claim to admission ; and the policy or servility of Rome bowed with the same pliancy to the captive gods of her enemies, or the manes of her imperial tyrants." But the statesmen of antiquity admitted not into their closets the various and irrational worship which they encouraged in the people, and valued it only as connected with obedience to man. Hence, by the most ancient laws of Rome, the magistrate was empowered to prevent all foreign worship; to expel its ministers from the forum, the circus, and the city ; to search for and burn the religious books (vaticinos libros), and to abolish every form of sacrifice except the national and established form. It was under these old regulations that the Christians were persecuted, and not by any new laws, expressly made for the purpose. All right, therefore, of private judgement in matters of religion, was explicitly forbidden by an original law of Rome, which was never repealed. Thus the Roman polytheism was inherently intolerant in itself; and, with regard to its statesmen, was no creed—no matter of faith—but a political caprice only, for the purpose of government. Christianity, in its origin and in

« PreviousContinue »