Imágenes de páginas

reader. Proofs on this head might have been multiplied; but it being my design to draw the subject within the smallest possible compass, recourse was had to such only as might be deemed conclusive. With this view, an appeal was made to the writings of St. Paul; where, in his directions to Timothy, the first bishop of Ephesus, mention is expressly made of the several ministers of the Church, distinguished by their several stations and offices.

To remove every doubt with respect to the interpretation of some particular passages in St. Paul's writings, the testimony of two primitive writers brought forward, must, it was presumed, be deemed competent to furnish decided evidence. St. Ignatius and Clement were contemporaries with the Apostles; the latter is spoken of as a fellow labourer with St. Paul.* His epistle to the Corinthians, from which I made my extract, is considered to be, after the Holy Scriptures, one of the most eminent records of antiquity. The authenticity of the epistles of St. Ignatius, from whence I have also made an extract in proof of the Christian Church, has been placed by Bishop Pearsont beyond the reach of controversy. If the abundant testimonies which are to be produced from these epistles in support of the constitution of the Christian Church, as originally established under the government of bishops, priests, and deacons, be not deemed sufficient to establish the point, I do not see how it is possible to form any decisive judgment upon the subject. The description which St. Ignatius, in his epistle to the Magnesians, gave of a Church, is express

[ocr errors]

* Phil. iv. 3. + Pearson's "Vindicia Ignatiana."

and decided. "Your bishop presiding in the place of God, your presbyters in the place of the council of the Apostles, and your deacons entrusted with Such was the idea the ministry of Jesus Christ."

annexed to the word Church, as a visible society, in those early days. There is, moreover, some reason to think, from St. Ignatius's manner of writing, if we give credit to his character, that he was favoured with revelations on this subject. In his letter to the Ephesians, he tells them that he had the intention of writing a second letter, for the purpose of instructing them in certain points, μαλιστα εαν ο Κυριος μοι αποκαλυψη, especially if the Lord should reveal any thing to me.-In his epistles to the Philadelphians he writes thus: "When I exhorted you to adhere to your bishops, priests, and deacons, some of you suspected that I had been informed of dissentions among you ; but he is my witness, for whom I am now in bonds, that I have known nothing on this subject from human information; but the spirit has preached to me in the following words, Let nothing be done without the bishop,'—μaptus δε μοι εν ω δεδεμαι οτι Το δε πνευμα απο σαρκος ανθρωπινης εκ εγναν. εκήρυσσεν λέγων ταδε. Κωρις τε Επισκοπε μηδεν ποιείτε. In another part of his writings, he calls the appointment of bishops to be according to the will and direction of Jesus Christ, Inox X158 yvwμnv


Ignatius, according to the account given of him by St. Chrysostom, was familiarly conversant with the Apostles, and drank freely from their spiritual

fountain; was brought up together with them, and partook with them in all doctrines and mysteries; and was at length thought worthy of so great a dignity as that of being a governor of the Church; which he obtained in consequence of the hands of the blessed Apostles having been laid on his sacred head.* When Ignatius wrote these epistles, he was in bonds, and on his journey from Antioch to Rome, in expectation of being shortly called to seal the truth with blood. The testimony of such a man, under such circumstances, must, it should be supposed, have great weight with every consi derate, unprejudiced, and impartial person.

On such testimony, in conjunction with what has been drawn from the writings of St. Paul and Clement, have I ventured to speak confidently on the original constitution of the Christian Church; setting it down as a most infallible truth, in the words of the celebrated Hooker, "That the Church of Christ is at this day lawfully, and so hath been from the first beginning, governed by bishops, having permanent superiority and ruling power over other ministers of the word and sacraments.”+ The authority of the learned Bishop Sanderson appearing to have weight with you, will, I trust, be my apology for troubling you with another quotation, before I close this part of my subject. "My. opinion (says that learned writer) is, that episcopal government is not to be derived merely from Apostolical practice or institution, but that it is founded in the person and office of the Messias, our blessed Lord and Master Jesus Christ, who being sent by

* Chrysost. Ιγνατ. Εγκυμο + Hooker, book vii. p. 376.


his Father to be the great Apostle, Bishop, and Pastor,t of his Church, and anointed to that office, immediately after his baptism by John, which power and the Holy Ghost ‡ descending then upon him in a bodily shape || did afterwards, before his ascension into heaven, send and empower his Apostles, (giving them the Holy Ghost likewise as his Father had given him) in like manner as his Father had before sent him§ to execute the same apostolical, episcopal, pastoral office; for the ordering and governing of his Church, until his coming again; and so the same office to continue in them, and their successors, unto the end of the world.'**/ This I take to be so clear from these, and other like texts in scripture, that if they shall be diligently compared together, both between themselves and the following practice of all the Churches of Christ, as well in the Apostles' time, as in the purest and primitive times nearest thereto, there will be left little cause why any man should doubt thereof."

That there long has been a difference of opinion upon this subject, is a fact well known; and that this will continue to be the case to the end of time, is a circumstance to be lamented. But, had Calvin been a bishop when he separated from the communion of the Church of Rome, this difference of opinion, with respect to the particular form of Church government, would, I am inclined to think, never have taken place. For that Calvin's objection was not to episcopacy, as the institution of **Heb. iii. I. +1 Peter ii. 25. Luke iii. 22.

[ocr errors]

§ John xx. 21.

Acts x. 37, 38. ** Matt. xxviii. 18, 20.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ནཱ ཞ ་

Christ, but to the corruption of it in the person! of the Pope we understand from the sentence denounced by him and Beza upon those who separated from the reformed episcopacyim this country; namely, that they were worthy of every anathema," Nullo non anathemate dignos" Had Calvin entered into communion with that reformed branch of the Church whose episcopacy heap! proved, it had been happy for the peace of the Church in general, and that of this kingdom in particular. But Calvin, though a man of distin guished and highly respectable character, was not without his infirmities. One of them I fear was,» the pride of being looked up to as the founder of a new form of Church government. To justify himself in that novel proceeding, authority of some kind or other must be brought from scripture and the primitive writers. But Calvin (though it rarely happens that a man of information is at a loss for arguments to support a cause which he has warmly espoused) was too well acquainted with scripture and Church history, to feel himself at all times satisfied on this subject. His disciples have been more decided and unequivocal upon it. As the Presbyterians removed from their founders, they became more rigid in their principles; at length they lost sight of episcopacy so far as to commence open war against it; and they have now been engaged for these two centuries in producing and re-producing all those texts and arguments, which, in their judgment, appear to favour the cause they have previously adopted; because they would not

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »