« PreviousContinue »
also his adherents might find a safe retreat, whenever they should be pursued by the civil power.” These statements are made, in order to show how much, under some circumstances, the spiritual power may derive its complexion from the temporal. It is also fair to re. mark, how different must be the spiritual authority of the papacy, as exercised for many centuries, from any that subsisted in Rome, not to say in the primitive times, but until the middle of the eighth century; when by the gifts of Pepin, the father of Charlemagne, the Pope became a temporal prince. For until then, he had not exercised civil authority, within the city of Rome and in its neighbourhood.
The interest recently taken, in the concerns of a body of Christians long known to have existed in the interior of India, because of some circumstances concerning them lately brought to light, induces the author to plead the fact of the existence of such a people, as strong evidence of the absolute nullity, during many centuries after Christ, of the affirmed jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome over the Church. There is here supposed to be evidence of the following facts: that when the Portuguese, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, sailed round the Cape of Good Hope to the coast of Malabar, they found on it the body of Christians in question; that they were in entire ignorance of there being in Rome an ecclesiastick, who claimed jurisdiction over the Christian world; and that they professed to have derived their faith from Antioch, wherein the disciples of Christ were first called Christians, and to have retained their faith for the space of thirteen hundred years. If they should be supposed to have swelled the account of their duration, it applies to the strengthening of the present argument. What is known of the Syrian Christians here referred to, is fa
vourable to the principles of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in various ways. It demonstrates the high antiquity of episcopacy, and of worship by forms of prayer. But there is no point to which it applies with so much weight, as to that of the exemption of the primitive Church from Roman jurisdiction.
The moderate ground taken by the Church of England, and
by this Church.—The Special Ministry of the Apostles, including St. Paul.-They Associated oihers in the Permanent Ministry.-Case of St. James. Of Barnabas.-Of Timothy, Titus and others.-Ignatius.-Other Fathers.The Episcopacy was Diocesan.. Of Congregational Episcopacy, in a Pastor and Lay Elders.--Or in a Bishop dif. fering from Presbyters in office only.-Limit of this Dis. cussion.
THE subject may be considered in two points of view-as it relates to fact, and-as it relates to precept. That is, the inquiry may be limited to the question-Whether the apostles instituted an order of the ministry, of a higher grade than that commonly known, in the acts, and in the epistles, under the name of presbyters or elders: and this fact being supposed proved, another question may be raised — Whether the institution be obligatory on Christians, in all times and places; so that on this is dependent the being of a Christian Church. Although the present argument is to be occupied on the former point, yet it may not be improper, to premise a few remarks concerning the latter.
* See Lecture VII.
The question is not confined, in its relations and its consequences, to those who govern in ecclesiastical concerns; whether in virtue of their ministerial calling, or as civil rulers, who have incorporated the concerns of religion with those of the state. It must be a duty incumbent on both these descriptions of people, where they perceive the interference of apostolick appointment, to adhere to it as closely as possible: at least, with no other exception, than cases of imperious necessity; the effects of this to continue no longer, than the crisis which gave occasion to them. But the religious influence of the question is of wider range; and affects the con. sciences of all those individuals, whom the provi. dence of God has placed in such circumstances, as that without communicating with a Church not episcopal, they must, with their families, either abandon Church communion; or join in a worship loaded with doctrines and with observances, which they believe to be great corruptions of Christianity.
It is not designed to consider the subject, in its bearings on the concerns of the great variety of communions which have not the Episcopacy. The above difficulty has been stated, merely as what is here supposed to be in part the cause of the very moderate ground taken at the time of the reformation, by the Church of England, in the present matter. Certain it is, that she did not, in any of her institutions, say any thing decisive, on the question now contemplated. Not only so, many of her publick proceedings show her care to avoid it: of which, only the following instance shall be given. When the Episcopacy was conveyed by that Church to the Church of Scotland, in the reign of James the first; it was pressed by some, that the ministers sent for consecration, should previously be ordained deacons and priests: their ministerial character being in virtue of ordination not episcopal. But Archbishop Bancroft—the very prelate accused by the Puritans of that day of carrying the Episcopal claims higher than had been done by his predeces. sors-over-ruled the objection—“lest the calling and character of the ministry, in most of the reformed Churches, might be questioned.” The historian Collier, recording this, notices after Heylin another principle, on which the course taken might be defended. The principle is, that a layman may be ordained a bishop, without passing through the inferiour grades: and of this, as he adds, there are two well known instances in the fourth century, in the persons of St. Ambrose of Milan, and Nectarius of Constantinople. Still, the opinion of the archbishop and the publick proceeding founded on it, are to the point. *
Not long before this, Mr. Hooker published the first five books of his immortal work on Ecclesiastical Polity. Perhaps there is no work which, from the circumstances connected with it, has so good pretensions to be considered as evidence of the opinions of the leading churchmen of the period. The third of the books, is devoted to the proof of what includes the negative of the present question. The same sentiment seems to have prevailed universally, from the reformation until after the time of Hooker. At least, if there be opposing authorities, they have not come to the knowledge of the present writer.
To some it may seem inconsistent with the moderation here affirmed, that in the Church of England and in this Church, no minister ordained in another communion not episcopal, and conforming to the institutions of either of the said Churches, can be admitted to its ministry without Episcopal ordination. But there is no inconsistency in the maxims. These Churches do not judge of the sufficiency of peculiar circumstances, in regard to others. But they perceive no such circumstances, in the relations in which they stand. Therefore, for them to dispense, within their respective bounds, with the difference of grade in the ministerial character, when they think that they discover clear evidence of it in the appointments of the apostles; would be conduct which they could not defend, on any principle of consistency.
* The proposal in regard to the Scottish Church, must have been atiended by all the weight belonging the high character from which it came--the learned and pious bishop Andrews. It is reported of the late excellent bishop of Norwich (Dr. George Horne,) that the highest station which he coveted among saints in heaven, was the sitting at the feet of the abovementioned venerable prelate:
To return to the question of fact: This is to in quire, whether the higher grade of the ministry be of apostolick institution. It is proposed to prove as follows.
First: That besides there having belonged to the apostolick character, certain properties peculiar to the first apostles, and not communicable by them to any others; there was a ministry, to be handed down by them in succession, through all ages.
Secondly: That in the exercise of this ministry, they associated with themselves others, coordi. nately; and to be of a higher grade than those commonly called presbyters and elders.
Thirdly: That the higher grade of the ministry, thus established, has been transmitted in succes. sion; along the line of those usually called bishops.
And fourthly: That the Episcopacy thus institut. ed, was not congregational, but diocesan.
As the question will be considered to be altoge. ther dependent on the Scriptures; their sense to be ascertained by the usual maxims of interpretation, and with the aid of legitimate criticism; and as, under the warrant of the latter circumstance, there will be quoted some early writers, on the different points arising; the degree of importance to be at. tached to their testimonies should be understood. They are here considered as entitled to the same