« VorigeDoorgaan »
20); to rule without preferring one to another, and without partiality (v. 21); which acts of government all proceed upon an acknowledged authority and superiority. And, as the Apostle recognises him as possessed of this authority, he also gives him the power of ordination, and instructs him in the manner how he ought to perform it; that he should lay hands suddenly on no man; neither be partaker of other men's sins. They observe also, that the argument acquires additional force from this circumstance, that the Apostle himself had laboured three years together in the Church of Ephesus, of which Timothy was Bishop a longer space than in any other Church, had reduced it to much greater perfection, and consequently had formed a Presbytery in it, as he did in all other Churches, which proves this Episcopal power to have been no temporary arrangement, suiting an imperfect state of things, but a permanent institution, ordained in that Church, and by consequence in all Churches. With the divine authority of St. Paul's Epistles, they observe that the testimony of all Ecclesiastical antiquity conspires to prove that Timothy was the first Bishop of the Church of Ephesus. 6 Other instances might be given, but these are sufficient to show, that the Apostles did not look upon our Saviour's institution of a superior order of Ecclesiastical Officers as a temporary thing, that was to expire with them, but as a standing model of Ecclesiastical Government, since they derived to others that superiority over the Churches of Christ which he communicated to them."*
In the next place the advocates of Episcopacy argue from the general consent of the primitive fathers. St.
• Scott's Christian Life, p. 402.
Clement who, as Irenæus tells us, saw the Apostles, and conversed familiarly with them, mentions in his epistle to the Corinthians, three orders of Ecclesiastical officers in his time, whom he calls the High Priests, the Priests, and the Levites; which words can be understood no otherwise than of Bishop, Presbyter, and the Deacons. Ignatius, the next of the fathers whose writings have come down to our times, in the six epistles which he wrote on his way to martyrdom, has given the most ample evidence of the existence of the three orders, Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons, in the Christian Church, and enjoins the two latter, as well as the laity, to be subject to the former. In his epistle to the Trallians, “ What is the Bishop,” says he, “but he that hath authority and power? What is the Presbytery, but a sacred constitution of Counsellors and Assessors to the Bishop? What are the Deacons, but Imitators of Christ, and Ministers to the Bishop, as he was to the Father ?"
The testimony of the writers of the next age, who had intercourse with those who had conversed with the Apostles, the advocates of Episcopacy observe, are expressly to the same purpose. Of this number are Justin Martyr, Hegesippus, Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, and Clemens Alexandrinus. These all represent Bishops as acknowledged by the Churches in their time, to be superior to Presbyters.
The last argument of the advocates of Episcopacy that our limits will admit, is taken from our Saviour's addressing the epistles in the Apocalypse to the Seven Chur. ches in Asia, to single persons in each of those Churches, who are called the Angels of the Churches. That there was a plurality of Elders in some of those Churches is evident, and it is most probable that there was such in all
of them, as it was the practice of the Apostles to ordain Elders or Presbyters in every Church. Now, say they, if Presbyters had been the highest order in the Seven Churches, would not the epistles have been directed to them as the Ministers of those Churches ? But we find them directed to single persons, which evidently proves, that in each of the Seven Churches, there was one person who was superior to the Presbytery, and to whom it belonged to superintend those Ministers, as well as the private members of the Church. The name given them, Angels, likewise shows them to have been persons of high rank and eminence, and points them out as distinguished from all the other officers of the Seven Churches. They are likewise represented as persons invested with authority to try and reject cheats, impostors, and immoral livers. Some of them are praised for exercising that authority; others censured for not exerting it. on the supposition that they had not full power to act, they could neither have deserved praise in the one case, nor censure in the other.
Some of the advocates for Episcopacy have taken a higher, and some a lower ground, in contending for that form of government. Some of them have considered Bishops as absolutely necessary to the very existence of a Christian church. The consequence of which position is, that one half of the religious societies called Protestant, are not Churches of Christ, and the ordinances of religion dispensed in them are of no value, the dispensers not having episcopal ordination. These sentiments were adopted by Archbishop Whitgift, and some high doctrinal Calvinists in the latter part of Elizabeth's reign, by Archbishop Laud, in the reign of Charles I, and by many of the Bishops in the reigu of Charles II. In the reign of
Queen Anne, they were revived by one Dodwell." He pursued these notions so far,” says Bishop Burnet, “ that he asserted that the souls of men were naturally mortal, but that the immortalizing virtụe was conveyed by baptism, given by persons episcopally ordained."* This certainly was tremendous doctrine to all ungodly and careless livers in the Church, but very comfortable to all such persons who were Dissenters; since the one had nothing to look for but eternal misery, and the other nothing to fear but the eternal sleep of death. Such doctrines never did, and never will do any real service to Episcopacy. The strongest and most convincing argument for the power of Bishops, and that of which all men are equally capable of feeling the force, is the pious and properly directed use of it. With this application it will seldom be questioned in the countries where it is established ; and without this, there are no laws, which, in a free country, will be long able to protect and secure its operation.
The general sentiments of the Church of England at present are supposed to be as follows. They believe Episcopacy to be the best form of Church Government, and that which they think had the sanction of the Apostles, and which certainly obtained the general consent in the times next to the Apostolic age, of which we have any certain history. They think it the most venerable, and the most effective mode of government; but they do not suppose the Grace of God and the influences of his Holy Spirit to be confined to the Churches which have adopted it, and to be withdrawn from those who have
• Burnet's History of his own Times, Vol. II, p. 361.
rejected it. They believe it necessary to the perfection, but not to the existence of a Church. The three branches of the Legislature recognise the Church of Scotland as a true Church. The conciliatory spirit and language of an office of prayer, drawn up by the Dignitaries of the Church, on a recent public occasion, shows that they acknowledge the Foreign Churches, and such of the Dissenters as retain the great doctrines of Christianity, as their Christian brethren. With this statement the sentiments of Bishop Pretyman (now Tomline) agree,* and also those of Mr. Gisborne.t Besides the authorities to which we have already referred, the arguments for Episcopacy will be found in Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, Chillingworth's Apostolic Institution of Episcopacy Demonstrated, Bishop Hall's Episcopacy by Divine Right, and Bishop Barnet on the Thirty Nine Articles.
To the arguments for Episcopacy, the Presbyterians and Independents, who contend that Elders, Presbyters, and Bishops are only different names for the same office, reply :- They acknowledge the Apostles to bave been a superior order to the Seventy, and also an order superior to Elders, or Presbyters. But they insist that these were extraordinary Ministers, who could not, in the nature of things, have any successors in the later times of the Christian Church. To qualify a man for being an Apostle, they observe it was necessary that he had been a witness of our Saviour's resurrection; or, in other words, that he had seen our Lord after his resurrection from the dead. “ Wherefore of these men which have companied
• Elements of Christian Theology. Vol. 11, p. 398.