Page images
PDF
EPUB

we are required to subject all that we either have written or may write; such an authority in short, as that to which Mr. Rutter professes to bow with an unmanly sacrifice of every intellectual power? Quite the reverse. The authority in question is not made to rest upon certain vague traditions, which, like those of the old Pharisees, make void the Bible: but it is expressly declared to be limited and confined and hedged in by Holy Scripture. " It is not lawful “ for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's word written: neither

may

it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to “ another.” Accordingly, in strict agreement with this rational principle, which is evidently propounded by way of accounting for the conduct of the English Church in setting forth her Articles authoritatively so far as her own members are concerned: in strict agreement with this rational principle, while she rightly declares, that " Holy Scripture containeth “ all things necessary to salvation,” she further declares almost at the very commencement of her Articles, that “whatsoever is not read therein, nor may

be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article “ of the faith or be thought requisite or necessary

to salvation." Hence, still on the same principle, she rightly teaches, that “ general councils both may

err, and sometimes have erred, even in things per

taining unto God: wherefore things, ordained by “ them as necessary to salvation, have neither

Bb

strength

VOL. III.

"strength nor authority, unless it may be declared " that they are taken out of Holy Scripture *."

Thus moderate are her views, as to the authority of the Church in matters of doctrine ; she considers her decisions as binding only upon those, who remain in communion with her: nor are they less moderate, when she is allowed to speak for herself, in what regards discipline and ecclesiastical polity.

She evinces her preference of episcopacy indeed, by adopting it as the form of her own internal government, and those of her members, who have at all examined into the question, have no hesitation in expressing their full conviction, derived from the careful perusal of history, that episcopacy is the primitive and apostolic model : but, since it is doubtless possible that our Lord's apostles may have ordained many things for the sake of decency and order which were most suitable to the Church of their day, while yet they may not so have ordained them as to bind them upon all

ages

in the way of divine and perpetual obligationt; the English Church very wisely does not take upon herself to determine

* Art. vi, xx, xxi. + This opinion, whether accurate or inaccurate, is maintained with no small learning and dexterity by Bp. Stillingfleet in his Irenicum: but he afterwards, I believe, retracted it. The epistles of Ignatius, which are received as genuine, oppose it most vehemently: but even these epistles are allowed to contain some spurious passages. The question therefore is, which pas

sages are spurious, and which are authentic. Of this knotty point I will not undertake the decision,

the

Ć 371 ) j , the often agitated question, whether episcopacy be absolutely essential to the very existence of a Church*.

* The proof, that episcopacy is of apostolic institution, is no necessarý proof, that it is likewise of divine origin and therefore of perpetual obligation. Yet these two perfectly distinct ideas have often been confounded together in argument, as if the proof of the one was of course the proof of the other also. It is easy to trace the esistence of the episcopal order, as an order manifestly distinct both from the presbyterate and the diaconate, up to the very time of the apostles: but here we shall find that our démonstration begins to fail us. Episcopacy muy indeed be of divine institution in the same strict and unbending sense as the Levitical High-Priesthood : but I know not; where we are to seek the proof of this opinion. It must strike even the most superficial observer, that the New Testament contains no such minute and unambiguous account of the specially divine origination of the one, aš the Pentateuch does of the other : and, since the Gospel is thus silent, I see not what we can prove from ecclesiastical history beyond the naked fact, that episcopacy bas certainly existed from the apostolic age itself. ` Following then the wise example of our own Church, I will not presume to speak positively on a matter, respecting which I feel myself to have no sufficient ground for thus speaking. But still, since episcopacy has been the ecclesiastical model in all ages and countries until the time of the reformation ; those, who then re: jected it, took a step of such extreme boldness that I should have shrunk from following them. The ancient Syrian Church of Malabar, secluded for many centuries from the rest of the Christian world, and deriving her line of succession from Antioch itself, affords an illustrious proof of at least the high and undoubted antiquity of bishops as a distinct order from presbyters.' Though I trust and hope that I am no outrageous highchurchman, yet I feel it my privilege to minister in a Church, which I know to be constituted on the venerable model that was (to say the very least of it) recommended and approved by the apostles as the best and the most perfect.

B b 2

Yet,

Yet, while she refrains from defining specifically the channel through which sacerdotal authority must needs be derived ; lest haply, by any unadvised rashness in determining what Scripture has left undetermined, she might unchurch many of her godly reformed sisters in Christ : she is careful not to leave the fold open to every presumptuous intruder ; remembering the apostolic monition, that “no man “ taketh this honour” of the priesthood“ unto him“ self, but he that is” ultimately “ called of God" through the medium of his sacerdotal predecessors *. Feeling assured therefore, that, at all events, she her. self is in the right, when she directs that holy orders shall be transmitted by the hands of bishops whose line of succession can be traced up to the apostolic college itself; she takes not upon her to judge other churches, who either maintain the identity of the scriptural episcopi and presbyteri, or who believe that the order of bishops might have been appointed .by the disciples of Christ though under no more absolute obligation of perpetuity than those prophets and teachers and helps and governments and interpreters who are yet all mentioned by St. Paul as no less instituted under a certain influence of God than the apostles themselves f. On this principle of charitable moderation, requiring that no one should assume the sacerdotal office without authority being given to him by his predecessors, and yet leaving those predecessors undefined as to their episcopal or

* Heb. v. 4.

ti Cor. xii, 28-30.

presby

presbyteral character, she will be found, I apprehend, to have put forth her twenty third Article.

“ It is not lawful for any man to take upon hiin “ the office of public preaching or ministering the

sacraments in the congregation, before he be law fully called and sent to execute the same. And

those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, " which be chosen and called to this work by men “ who have public authority given unto them in the

congregation to call and send ministers into the “ Lord's vineyard *.”

4. Since then the Church of England claims to speak authoritatively even on matters of faith to her own members, and yet since she expressly liinits her authority to the written word of God: what is to be done, the Romanist may ask, if any one shall judge her decision to be contrary to Scripture ?

In this case, as the grand protestaut principle of « searching the Scriptures whether these things are est so" can never be abandoned, the Church of England freely concedes the right of quitting her communion to all those who deem its terms unscriptural. She esteems them indeed mistaken and prejudiced men; and those, who hold with her, are amazed that any one should fancy her doctrines contrary to the Bible: but she would fain part in Christian charity, if not in Christian fellowship; she has no

* See Bp. Burnet's very sensible and judicious and moderate exposition of this Article. I have followed his sense in my whole view of the matter, as being the most agreeable at once to Scripture and to reason,

more

« PreviousContinue »