Page images

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 belong 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 heaven." 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, xviii. 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; although 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,† rebuking the arrogancy of a Roman bishop. And in the middle of the same century, we have a holy bishop of Carthage conducting himself in the same manner towards another Roman bishop. 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 derive 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. + St. Irenæus. + Victor. § St. Cyprian. Stephen.

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

* John, xxi. 16, 17. † Luke, xxii. 32.

[ocr errors]

partly ecclesiastical and partly political: And in this point of view, history is a clear exposition of the prophecies. [See Dissertation IX.]

The third proposition to be established, is that the ministry, as instituted by Jesus Christ and his apostles, includes the three orders of bishops, priests and dea


Of the last mentioned order, there needs but little

There is no circumstance which would sooner lead the author to doubt of the soundness of any opinion which he may have formed on mature reflection, than its being found to lead to intolerance of the opposite, or to the want of charity towards any sincere and virtuous persons who may entertain it. To guard against such an abuse of what has been said concerning the two passages appealed to, he takes the opportunity of stating a circumstance pertaining to the construction given; which, although naturally arising out of the views which many able writers have taken of the same passages, has not-he thinks-been noticed with sufficient clearness.

The circumstance is, that the man of sin in the epistle to the Thessalonians, and the two-horned beast in the Apocalypse, and, it may be added, other individual characters in the latter book expressive of political agencies, no further implicate the individuals respectively comprehended, than as they may have contributed to the different objects from wicked motives, or the excitement of wicked passions.

It is well understood, that the imagery of the Apocalypse is very much founded on that in the book of Daniel. Now when in this we read of the lion which had eagle's wings, of the bear which raised itself up on one side, of the leopard with four heads, and of a fourth beast with great iron teeth; although the resemblance to the principal monarchies of an tiquity is too obvious to be overlooked; yet in tracing the fea tures of the designated empires, we do not consider them as dependent on the personal characters of the princes-much less of all the individuals under their respective rule. On the same grounds, the author, while he thinks he perceives the Papacy clearly designated in the two passages in question, has always consoled himself with the reflection, that in regard to the merits or the demerits of individual persons, there is room to estimate on one hand the influence of prejudice and a mistaken piety; and on the other, that of ambition, whether ecclesiastical or civil. In short, there may be, in regard to different persons, a great difference of personal responsibility; while there is no other than a metaphysical person spoken of in the text.

to be said. There is an agreement, as to the original object of the institution: And if there be any point of difference, it is, whether the duties required of them are to be limited to that original object; or the Church may not, in her discretion, superadd other duties, not interfering with such as are peculiar to the designation of any higher order. We find so very early notices in the primitive Church, of the employment of deacons in sundry offices; especially of reading in the Church, and of assisting in the administration of the communion; as renders it difficult to account for such facts, in different places, otherwise than on the principle, of their being prevalent even in the apostolick age. And at any rate we cannot perceive, that the mere record of the incident which gave an origin to the order, is unfavourable to the idea of there being a considerable latitude for the subsequent discretion of the Church; so as that she may use their agency, in the exercise of the powers committed to her.*

The question then is reduced to this-Whether, in the consituting of the Church, it was contemplated that, exclusively of deacons, there should be two orders, or only one order of the ministry. Now, as in every controversy, it is best to ascertain how far the opposite parties are agreed; there shall be stated, in regard to each of them, a point which is conceded to opponent.


The Anti-Episcopalians concede, that during the lives of the apostles, there were two orders; one of whom were those holy men themselves, and the other were an order subordinate to them, called by two Greek words, which are translated bishops and presbyters:+ names designating the same persons.

That the two terms were thus indiscriminately applied, is the matter conceded by Episcopalians. But they say, that the general superintendence of the

The duties of the offices of deacon are to be learned rather from the Ordinal, than from actual practice either in England or in America,

† Επισκοποι, Πρεσβύτεροι.


« PreviousContinue »