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alleged; and above all, thatif Christian integrity omitted to raise its voice against the usurpation, the same should not proceed from those passions of our frame, which sometimes impel to resistance of legitimate authority, but scarcely ever fail to set themselves against unfounded and arrogant pretensions; is a combination of unaccountable events, of which we think that they could not have happened; while yet they must be supposed, in order to render the opposite theory consistent.
Hitherto we have been occupied on a question of fact: and I must take the liberty to say, without the least wish to show disrespect to the persons or the opinions of any, that I hardly know any facts better attested, than first, there having been in the apostolick age, as is confessed, an authority paramount to what was ordinarily vested in the presbyters of the Church; and then, the transition of the same paramount authority to an order of clergy, under the denomination of bishops; designated to the office by the imposition of hands, although they may have been presbyters before; and competent to certain offices not permitted to the others.
But the facts being supposed; the question is raised, whether it be evidence of divine institution; obligatory like the sacraments, at all times, and under all circumstances of the Church. If the moving of this question had originated in the mere rage for innovation; it would be hardly worth the resolving, at the expense of the danger of disparaging an institution, made venerable by apostolick origin, and by the uninterrupted usage of fifteen centuries. But it happened at the refor. mation, that in some countries, Christians were so circumstanced, as that they had no alternative, between dispensing with this particular regimen, and the con. tinuing in the bosom of a Church extremely corrupt in doctrine: and under this embarrassment, many ecclesiastical systems of discipline were established, without the requisition of Episcopal ordination.
It should be remembered, that I am engaged in opening and in defending the sense of the Episcopal Church, as received from the Church of England. At the same time, that, on the point of fact, she decidedly set her feet on the ground of the apostolick origin of episcopacy, she carefully avoided passing a judgment on the validity of the ministry of other Churches; or the determining, in any shape, on the question the last proposed. This line of conduct, on the part of the Church, has left room for considerable variety of sentiment among her clergy. For my own part, I profess to admire the moderation of the Church of England, transmitted to the Church in these states, in this par. ticular. And although I am fully persuaded, that when the time shall come of consent and communion among Churches, now unhappily estranged from one another; a circumstance distinguishing the change, will be a restoration of the episcopacy of the early ages; yet in the meanwhile, I am content to adopt the words of one of the wisest men who ever wrote in the Church of England, * where, speaking of non-episcopalian Churches, he delivers himself as follows" This their defect and imperfection I had rather lament in such a case, than exaggerate; considering that men, oftentimes, without any fauit of their own, may be driven to want that kind of polity or regimen, which is best; and to content themselves with that, which either the irreme. diable errour of former times, or the necessity of the present hath cast upon them.”+ [See Dissertation X.]
Having gone over the ground which was opened to the prospect in the beginning; I will so far take a retrospect of the argument as to show, in regard to each of the points wherein we differ from other communions, its obvious tendency in practice, as to the operation to be expected on the condition of the social body.
First, in regard to the ministry as a divine institution, and transmitted in succession, in opposition to the idea of the performance of its duties being open Mr. Hooker.
† Book 3, section 11.
to every Christian, on the ground of a motion in his mind; this is a fancy so directly tending to disorder, that we are warranted in considering our principle, as coming under the commendation which says--"God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all Churches of the saints.”* It has been already hinted, that in societies professing a principle tending to disturbance, the evil may be prevented by a discipline inconsistent in theory, but beneficial in practice. The discipline, however, cannot be such as was instituted by Jesus Christ and his apostles; and must moreover have the disadvantage, that it cannot be conducted by known rules; and is very liable to be abused. There is therefore practical utility in our system, in its placing of the power of ordination in a designated authority: this however not to be exercised without advise. ment, nor without responsibility, nor without the regu. lation of known laws.
Secondly: Our system's rejection of all foreign prelacy, shuts a door which might otherwise be abused, to the admission of foreign influence of a civil kind. It is not here contemplated, to throw out an insinuation against any description of our fellow citizens, as though they were at present biassed by their religious tenets, to any political interests unfavourable to those of our common country. And in regard to what may happen under future changes, we ought to be aware, how much is to be hoped from the increase of information and the improved habits of thinking, of the present age. Still, we may confidently refer to a relation between a certain cause and its effects, as apparent in theory, and fruitful of much mischief in practice. There was a time, within the memory of him who now addresses you, when, these states having become severed from the parent country, it was apprehended, that her bishops, having planted and governed our Churches in the former colonies, would still expect the spiritual subjugation of our Communion
. I Cor. xiv. 33.
to be continued; and thus endeavour, through us, to exercise an influence hostile to the independence which had been assumed, and at last acknowledged. But it soon appeared, that those religious and enlightened personages were as far from claiming, as we should have been from conceding, what might have been made an engine of malignant influence on the civil interests of our country.
Lastly, on the question between episcopacy and presbytery; if we are not partial to our system, it tends to give weight to age, and to experience; and to mode. rate the pretensions of rival competitors for influence. A very learned father* has ascribed the introduction of episcopacy to this cause: and much is made of what he has said on this subject; in order to extort from it the confession, that the regimen was not from the beginning. But no such sense can be drawn from his words, if they be taken consistently. For he dates the evil of its remedy so high, as where we read of divisions in the Church of Corinth, in St Paul's first epistle to them. Still, the sense of Jerome is pertinent, as it points out so good an origin, as that of an expedient for the preventing of divisions in the Church.
Perhaps it may seem, that these concluding remarks are designed as a panegyrick, on the actual state of our Communion; and as insinuating, that there is among us more of the Christian spirit, and of course of all its various fruits, than in other societies, not so conformed to primitive antiquity. But this is not the meaning. On the contrary, if any others should be extolled as exceeding us in these respects, it is here intended, not to controvert their pretensions; but to contend, that the fault is in ourselves, and not in the system, which we have inherited. Popular manners are influenced by a variety of causes: and although both civil and religious discipline may be of the number, yet as well under the one as under the other, the good or the evil may be counteracted by extraneous circumstances. Therefore
without any intended self commendation, the opinion may be entertained by us, that our religious system is eminently calculated, in the points which have been before us, to sustain the integrity of Christian doctrine, to cherish a spirit of genuine and rational devotion, and to apply discipline to practice, so far as the nature of the subject admits, and without abusing it to ecclesiastical intolerance.
OF THE PUBLICK SERVICE.
General Remarks. Of a known Language.--Of the Tra
ditions of the Church - Appointment of Occasion and Time.--Question of forms of Prayer.- Objections. Evi. dence of Forms.-Utility.--Objections.-- Application.
may be of use to make a few remarks, for the ascertaining of what should be the prominent properties of social and Christian prayer. These shall be briefly stated; the notice being confined to such as are the most obvious, and the least liable to be denied.
The first property to be mentioned is, that since prayer, according to the general idea of the subject, ought to be an exercise of the rational faculty of the supplicant, publick prayer should be such, as to be agreeable to the dictates of the same faculty, in its highest grade of cultivation. All the endow. ments of our nature should be made subservient to the glory of the Creator: And if so, most of all should the great gift of an intelligent spirit; in res.