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there is that set up by some, of a right of every independent congregation to ordain. But there is so very little even of allegation of Scripture warrant for the theory; that, as the ground here taken militates as well against it, as against the other; the brevity consulted may excuse from adding any thing concerning a scheme of discipline, which, besides its contrariety to the gospel, is a precedent operating generally to the setting up of human will, as a test of the requisitions of revelation. : The result is this: Jesus Christ in'stituted the ministry of his apostles, as is not denied by any: The apostles admitted others to a participation with them, as is evident from the documents recited: That this order, once taken, was to be continued beyond them, is evident in the nature of the case; and is particularly recognized in what St. Paul says to Timothy in his second epistle—“ The things thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”* St. Peter too, after discoursing of the exercise of his own ministry, tells those whom he addresses-“ Moreover, I will endeavour, that ye may be able after my de- . cease,' to have these things always in remembrance:”f Which supposes a continuance of the same ministry, after that he should have put off his earthly tabernacle, which was to be “shortly;" as, he says, " the Lord Jesus Christ had showed him.” But while we contend for this order, on the ground of divine institution; let it not be inferred, that the exclusive possession of an ecclesiastical succession, involves an arbitrary power in the administration of the attendant rite. There can be no doubt, that the exercise of it is a subject of ecclesiastical legislation. Independently on this, the great object of the whole, which is the edification of the Church, should le. gislate to the consciences of all concerned. St. Paul, in laying down regulations, applying alike to a bishop and to a presbyter, makes it necessary that he have a good report of them that are without:”* And if so, still more necessary is it, that he have a good report of them that are within. On these considerations is.grounded the solemn calls made on the congregation, in our services of ordination. And as to any other provisions, having a regard to popular satisfaction in this department, they harmonize with the institutions of our Church; which know no other end than the good of the flock, while yet she does not profess to deduce the rights of her ministry from their will, or from any other source than apostolical appointment.
• Ch. ij. 2.
tii. . 15.
The second stated principle of our communion; is that in every local Church, the ministry is independent on all foreign authority and jurisdiction: The position being principally intended to deny the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, or his claim to the submission and the obedience of all the Churches of Christendom. We deny not, that all these constitute one whole or Catholick Church; being bound together by the same constituent principles in faith, in worship, and in discipline; and being under the obligation of the same law of charity. But we say, that whereas there is the ma. terial difference between the Jewish Church and the Christian, of the restriction of the former to a single nation, and of the suiting of the latter to all the local éircumstances to which the glad tidings of salvation might extend; it was essential to such a de. sign, that, agreeably to one of the Articles already quoted, every particular or national Church should have within itself, all power necessary to its good government. Otherwise, Christians generally will be under säch a subjection in spirituals, as must necessarily be liable to be abused; to the withdrawing of them from their civil allegiance, with its
* I Tim. jäi, 7.
corresponding duties. And this is in direct contrariety to the declaration of our Saviour, that “his kingdom is not of this world."*
The passage which the Roman claim the most relies on for its establishment, is that in Matt. xvi. 18.-" Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” There was a reason to address these words to St. Peter only, at that special time; because of the relation which the subject had to the confession, which he had just then made the rock on which the Church should be built. But that the figurative language in question did not be. long to him only, appears in its being said "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets;”+ without the mention of St. Peter in particular. In the passage of St. Matthew, of which the words recited are a part, much stress is laid on its being added“Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in hea. ven.”\ And yet, in the next chapter but one, the very words thus addressed to St. Peter, because of an existing circumstance applying to him only, is addressed to the whole company of the disciples: Which proves, that be the sense of the words what it may, it concerned them alike. If all alleged to establish the primacy of St. Peter were correct; it would remain, to demonstrate a successorship in the bishops of Rome. Some have even questioned St. Peter's having been present in that city. The better opinion seems to be, that he was there; but that this is true of St. Paul, is still more certain. And they are said to have there ended their gospel labours, by martyrdom; having first appointed a bishop of the see. But there is nothing proving St. Peter's episcopacy in Rome, which does not prove that of St. Paul, in the same place. It is a question of ecclesiastical history merely: For as to the testi.
• John, xyiü. 36. Eph. ii. 20. v. 19. v. 18.
mony of Scripture, there is not a particle in favour of St. Peter's having claimed superiority over his brother apostles, or of their yielding of it to him. St. Paul says-"I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed."* The mother Church of Jerusalem had for her bishop, not St. Peter, but St. James, surnamed “The Just;” who appears also to have presided in the assembly of the apostles and elders in that city, as related in the fifteenth chapter of the acts: that assembly being the first of the deliberative councils of the Church.
There is no question, on which the early history of the Church should have more effect, than on this. Now the most respectable of the writers of the Roman Catholick Church do not allege, that, during the first three hundred years, there was any paramount authority, attached to the Roman see; al. though doubtless great respectability, because of the multitude of believers in it, and of its being the seat of the imperial government. In the beginning of the third century, we have an instance of a holy bishop of Lyons,t rebuking the arrogancy of a Ro. man bishop. I And in the middle of the same cen. tury, we have a holy bishop of Carthages conducting himself in the same manner towards another Roman bishopll. But neither did these two good bishops conceive of those forward men, as claiming a sovereignty over the whole Christian world; nor was any such claim at that time set up.
The very texts of Scripture, since tortured to de. rive splendour from them for the adorning of the Roman chair, had not yet received any interpretation to that effect. These considerations show, that whatever claim of antiquity of doctrine may be set up in favour of the Church of Rome; a well constituted and orthodox Church may claim an antiquity of doctrine still higher.
Gal. ii. 11. Stephen.
+ St. Irenæus.
St. Cyprian. * John, xxi. 16, 17.
When the recited texts underwent perversion, it was natural to bend two or three more to the same purpose. Accordingly, stress was laid on our Lord's command to Peter to "feed his sheep"*-on his being instructed—“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”t-and even on his being the first named in the list of the disciples, in three of the evangelists. But in all this, there is so far from being an intimation of jurisdiction, that a mere reference to the places may be sufficient to show their irrelevancy.
It would be too copious a theme, to enlarge on the abuse of the power, here denied to be from God. It is however a solemn warning against submitting to it, in the least degree. For although legitimate power of any description is liable to abuse; yet, in proportion as this is perceived to grow out of the other, by a connexion coinciding with the corruptions of the human heart; there is the duty of looking well to the grounds of claims, which have an unfavourable aspect on human happiness.
But it would be injustice to the subject to dismiss it, without expressing the full persuasion, that the authority here in question is the very matter prophesied of in Scripture, as what should be set up in the Christian Church; in the second chapter of the second epistle to the Thessalonians, under the image of the man of sin, who was to “sit in the temple of God," and there challenge to himself divine honours; and in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Revelation, under the image of "a beast coming up out of the earth, who had two horns like a lamb, and spake like a dragon.” It is a very low sense of these places, to apply them to the persons of a succession of men; some of whom may be supposed to have been virtuous, without an impairing of the propriety of the description thus given, of the stations which they occupied. The object contemplated in the prophecies is an agency, of a character
+ Luke, xxi. 32.