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few testimonies from ecclesiastical history, which will speak for themselves. When Mr. Alston has satisfactorily interpreted these testimonies, in harmony with the above quotation from his work, it
Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.' If, even in reference to such matters, intrusion was never dreamed of, how much less in reference to the care of those immortal souls, for which the people themselves behoved one day to answer at the judgment-seat? If both this case and the former one may seem to some minds to prove a little more than simple nonintrusion, certainly, by far stronger reason, they prove that no minister may be thrust upon a congregation against their will."
" It has already been shown," says the Rev. William Cunningham, “ that the pastoral relation can be rightly formed only with the consent of both parties, viz. the minister and the flock; that the statements of Scripture, the practice of the apostles, the dictates of right reason, and the testimony of experience, all concur in proving that ministers should not be settled without the people's consent; and that the very least share of influence which a christian people should have in the settlement of their pastor is, the power of preventing any one being intruded upon them contrary to their will.
“ It is certain that the christian people had substantially the choice of their own ministers during the first five centuries of the history of the church. This practice had come down from apostolic times, and was not laid aside until long after the establishment of Christianity by Constantine,-a conclusive proof that there is no necessary connexion between patronage and a national establishment of religion. The great body of the Reformers from Popery were decidedly in favour of the necessity of the people's consent in the appointment of their ministers, and statements, implying this, and much more than this, are to be found, not only in their own writings, but also in the public confessions which, under their direction, were adopted by most of the Reformed Churches.
“The latter confession of Helvetia was approved of by almost all the Reformed Churches, and among others by the Church of Scotland, (which excepted only the sanction given by it to two or three anniversary holidays,) and it lays down this as the true principle, in regard to the election of ministers, that they should be chosen by the Church, or by persons deputed by the Church for that purpose.' The Belgic Confession, which also received the approbation of the representatives of most of the Protestant Churches, at the Synod of Dort, declares, 'that ministers, elders, and deacons, should be called and advanced to these functions, by the lawful election of the Church. The Saxon Confession, adopted by the Lutheran Churches, says that Christ approves of the election (of ministers) of the Church, and causes the Gospel to sound forth by means of men chosen by the suffrages, or in the name of the Church. The discipline of the French Church seems to have left the nomination of ministers to the Consistory, but required the consent, tacit or express, of the congregation, and expressly provided, that even if the objections made by them against any one proposed as their minister, should not be substantiated to the satisfaction of the Church Courts, yet he should not be given as pastor to that people against their will, or to the discontentment of most of them. After these testimonies from the Confessions of the Reformed Churches, it is not necessary to produce extracts from the writings of the men who were the principal authors of these Confessions, and the chief instruments in the hand of God in delivering the Church from the yoke of Popish bondage. It is certain that Luther, Zuinglius, Bucer, P. Martyr, Calvin, Beza, Zanchius, in short, all the leading Reformers, were opposed to patronage, and held it as a scriptural principle, that the christian people should, at the very least, be at liberty to give or withhold their consent to the settlement of a minister among them.
“Cardinal Bellarmine, the great champion of Popery, lays it down as a Protestant principle, which he, as a Papist, denied, and attempted to refute, that will be time enough for me to trouble you with a few more remarks. Till then, there will be no necessity for this, as his readers will themselves, if I mistake not, be able to form a judgment, as to what kind of “arguments” the author, sometimes, at least, employs. Tertullian says, speaking of the christian congregations, (while as yet, as Mr. Alston ought to know, the bishops, i. e. pastors or ministers, were bishops of one congregation,) “The older men preside.” (Tert. Apol. c. 39.) On this, Bishop Kaye, on Tertullian, p. 223, says, "Tertullian appears to speak of the Presidentship as conferred solely in consideration of superior age and piety.” The same candid prelate says, “How clearly soever the distinction between the bishops and the other orders of the clergy may be asserted in the writings of Tertullian, they afforded us little assistance in ascertaining wherein this distinction consisted.” Ibid. p. 234. It will be recollected, too, that Tertullian wrote as far from the Apostles as two centuries.
In the writings of the Fathers, we find the original primitive bishop, (after the distinction by this name obtained,) spoken of as the pastor of a congregation. (Cypr. Epist. 55, $ 6. Cornelius apud Euseb. lib. vi. C. 43.) The church over which he presided is said to be the church in or at any town or city, agreeably to the usage of the New Testament. (Ignat. ad Smyrn. Irenæus, lib. ii. c. 56.) The scene of his cure is often called a parish or neighbourhood—a locality in which a greater or less number of houses are situated near to each other. Thus we read of the “ parish of Ephesus,” 56 of Corinth," “ of Athens," " of Carthage;" and the church at a given place is said to be the church “parishing," or dwelling together as neighbours in that locality. (Enseb. iii. c. 4, and passim. Clemens Rom. Epist.) On the Lord's-day all assembled together in one place, (Justin Martyr, Apol. 2.); “ for,” says Igna. tius, “ where the bishop is, there must be the people. Where the pastor is, there, as sheep, do ye follow him. If the prayer of one or two have so much force, how much more efficacious must that be
no one should be held as rightly called or chosen to the ministry, without the consent and suffrage of the people;' and the great writers who answered him never denied that this was a Protestant principle, but set themselves to defend it as scriptural and true.
“ Even the defenders of the Church of England have been obliged to acknowledge the soundness of this principle, as to the necessity of the people's consent to the formation of the pastoral relation, and have been greatly puzzled to vindicate the constitution of their own church in this matter, which utterly excludes the exercise of any such right on the part of the christian people. The following notable piece of absurdity shows the way in which the judicious' Hooker disposes of this difficulty :- The power of order I may lawfully receive, without asking leave of any multitude; but that power I cannot exercise upon any one certain people utterly against their wills; neither is there in the Church of England any man, by order of law, possessed with pastoral charge over any parish, but the people, in effect, do choose him thereunto: for albeit they choose not by giving every man personally his particular voice, yet can they not say that they have their pastors violently obtruded upon them, inasmuch as their uncient and original interest therein hath been by orderly means derived unto the patron, who chooseth for them.'”- Eccles. Pol. b. vii. sect. 14.
which is made by the bishop and the whole church.” (Ignat. ad Trall.—ad Smyrn.—ad Philad. et alibi). “There is but one altar," says Ignatius, - as there is but one bishop." (Ignat. ad Philad. Cypr. Epist. 63.) Justin Martyr (Apol. 2.) says, that “ if any were absent from the eucharist, it was sent to them by the deacons.”
“ The bishop (or pastor) besides preaching and praying in the assembly, also baptized.” (Origen in Ezek. Hom. 3.) He superintended the christian poor, thc orphans, and widows, the sick, prisoners, and strangers; and acted as the almoner of the society. (Tertull. de Baptism.—Justin Martyr, Apol. 2.) Of the extent of the charge which belonged to some of the primitive bishops, we may often form a judgment from circumstances mentioned incidentally. “Let your assemblies be held more frequently," says Ignatius to Polycarp,“ seek out all by name.” (Ignat. Epist. ad Polyc.) When Anterns, bishop of Rome, died, about 236, “ all the brethren met to choose his successor.” (Euseb. vi. c. 28.) Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, knew every one of the people of his pastoral charge. (Cypr. Epist. 58.) “And when he was exiled, he sent messengers to pay off the debts of the brethren, and to aid any who might want assistance in their trades." (Ibid.)
The primitive churches were popular institutions, subject to no spiritual control beyond the limits of each individual congregation. It is obvious, from the apostolical epistles, that in the churches to which they were addressed, the whole body of the faithful were concerned in maintaining the discipline and regulating the affairs of the society. This was the case, also, for centuries after the apostolic age. Clemens Romanus calls acts of discipline, “things commanded by the multitude.” (Epist. ad Cor.) In Cyprian's time, the “Schism of Felicissimus," and the question respecting restoring the Lapsed, were judged of by the people. (Cyp. ad Plebem, Epist. 40, $7. Epist. 12, s 1.) Offenders were restored by their consent (Epist. 10, § 4); and without it, none could be received into the peace of the church. (Cyp. Epist. 59, § 1.)
The bishop (pastor) was elected by the whole church. (Cyp. Epist. 68, § 6. Euseb. lib. vi. c. 28.) Cyprian says, he was made bishop of Carthage by the suffrage of all the people (populi universi, Epist. 67, § 2.) The concurrence of the neighbouring ministers, also, appears to have been usually obtained. Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, was chosen by the people, and the bishops (pastors) of the neighbourhood gave their approval. (Euseb. lib. vi. c. 11. Cyp. Epist. 67, § 2.) The people were consulted in the ordination of any person of their body. (Cyp. Epist. 68, § 4. Epist. 33.) Clement of Rome testifies that even the Apostles ordained bishops (pastors) and deacons with the approbation of the whole church. (Člem. Rom. Epist. ad Cor.) The ordination service was conducted by the neighbouring bishops; (Cyp. Epist. 53, 81, comp. Epist. 55, § 12.) and we read of as many as sixteen being present at the settlement of a brother. (Cyp. Epist. 52, § 16. Comp. Epist. 55, $ 12.) When certain individuals who belonged to the church over which Cyprian presided, had committed an offence, he says, that he himself was not a sufficient judge of their conduct, and that it must be investigated by the people. (Cypr. Epist. 28, § 2.) Every church, indeed, exercised discipline over its own members; (Cypr. Epist. 55, $ 16. Epist. 72, $ 3. Epist. 53, $ 13;) and managed its own internal affairs. (Cypr. Epist. vi. & 5.) Sometimes they elected one of their deacons as a messenger to some other church. (Ignat. ad Philad.)
The very name “ pagans," indicates the fact that heathenism lingered in country places, after christianity had gained a solid footing in towns and cities. Yet it is by no means to be supposed that, in the primitive times, the Gospel was wholly confined to populous places. Clement of Rome says, that the Apostles preached both in the country and in cities, and instituted bishops and deacods. (Epist. ad Cor.) We learn that Paulus Samosatenus had many Hatterers among the bishops of the adjacent country places and cities. Zoticus was bishop of the village of Comane, and it is probable that many of the eighty-seven bishops assembled at Carthage in the year 258, were pastors of obscure village churches; for the very names of the places are unknown to geographers. (Euseb. lib. vi. c. 30. lib. v. c. 16. Concil. Carthag. apud Cypr.) In some instances, the congregation came partly from the neighbouring raral districts; and all who composed it, both of city and country, met together, and the “ bishop" preached and administered the eucharist. (Justin Martyr, Apol. 2.)
I would further beg leave to direct Mr. Alston's attention to what is said on these subjects by Barron, in his works by Tillotson, 1716, vol. i. p. 772: Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. 1806. vol. i. ch. i. pp. 97. 99, 100, 105, 106, 107. Milner's History of the Church, 1812. century ii. chap. i. pp. 161, 162. Gieseler's Account of the First Period of the Church, in his Lehrbuch der Kirchengeschichte. Neander's Universal Church History, vol. i. part ii. section 2. A History of the Church by the Rev. Geo. Waddington, M. A., Prebendary of Chichester. 1833. p. 20.
I think, Sir, that when Mr. Alston has carefully studied the above quotations, he will see reason to modify some of his theories of church government, even independently of the main question of his book.
I remain, Sir, yours truly,
A STUDENT OP CHURCH-HISTORY. June 1, 1840.
ON THE PRESENT POSITION OF THE CONGREGATIONAL
(To the Editor.) SIR,Most sincerely do I thank God for the formation of the Congregational Union of England and Wales. The numbers who crowded to the metropolis to attend its last anniversary meetings, the stern adherence to principle manifested by the delegates, the harmony of feeling which pervaded the assembly, and the resolutions expressed of increased exertions to promote its interests, prove the hold which this Union has taken of our churches, and the position
it occupies among the great and noble institutions of the country. Cordially do I congratulate the Union on the increase to its strength and influence, by the accession of the Home Missionary and Irish Evangelical Societies; and earnestly do I pray that it may long exist and prosper for a blessing to the world and the church of God. Yet I am not free from anxiety as to its future movements. We are apt to be excited by fraternal intercourse, by friendly recognition of beloved brethren, and by stirring addresses. We talk-resolve on splendid efforts-return home-get involved with our respective engagements, and too often forget to carry out the resolutions of the Assembly. The resolutions of the recent annual meeting, though excellent, will prove little better than a dead letter, unless the churches, which compose the Union, make increased, vigorous, and self-denied exertions to evangelize the whole country and to save souls, Let it not be overlooked that our denomination is committed, fairly committed, before the public. It has taken its position. In past ages it has been the conservation of English liberty, and in our own days it has gradually increased in numerical and moral strength, in christian zeal and influence, till it has reached the vantage ground where it now attracts the notice of the United Kingdom. All eyes that observe the signs of the times are directed to this section of the christian church, to mark the line of conduct which will be pursued by the Congregational Churches of the British Empire. The times are favourable for a spiritual campaign, for a great moral enterprise, for the publication of the Gospel on an extended scale, for indi. vidual and combined attempts to carry the truth into all the towns, villages, and hamlets of the kingdom. Then think of the claims of home. The millions who are perishing at our doors-dropping into perdition before our eyes! Think of the ready access we have to the population every where, and of the command of our Lord and Master “ to preach his Gospel to every creature.”
Much now depends upon the officers of the Union, and the Committees of Management for home-missions, for Ireland, and the colonies, as to their decision of character-their firmness and consistency in maintaining their principles and pressing their claims. There must be no compromise, no partiality, no middle course pursued. The vessel, with the truth on board, is now launched, and is about to pursue her course. They are called to the helm, and the prosperity and success of the voyage, under God, depends on them. O, how great is their responsibility! May they be directed by Infinite Wisdom, and be upheld by Almighty power! May they receive out of the fulness of Christ grace for grace! But these esteemed brethren must have the sympathy, and support, and co-operation of the churches. Churches of the living God, I would say the appeal is made to you. Purchased with the blood of Christ-called out of the world by the preaching of the Gospel, through the influence of the Divine Spirit-and separated by sovereign grace to be a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people,” think of your responsibility. You must awake from your lethargy, and put on strength. You must imitate the spirit and practices of primitive chnrches, and you will be crowned with primitive success.
N. S. VOL. IV.