EVILS, CONSTITUTIONAL AND PRACTICAL, OF THE PRELATIC ESTABLISHMENT OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE.
—THOMAS NEILSON, A.M.
IN a course of Lectures designed to exhibit and elucidate the great principles of the Second Reformation, and to vindicate the distinctive ecclesiastical standing and Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, the prelatical establishment of the British Empire has an early and a special claim upon our attention. To pass it by without animadversion is, we feel persuaded, more than could be reasonably expected, by any party, of men who have plighted their faith in solemn covenant, to “endeavour the extirpation of Prelacy,” whose forefathers, during nearly an entire century, struggled most heroically against the imposition of this galling yoke; and who, in their uncompromising opposition to it, endured a great fight of afflictions, and were subjected to sufferings the bare recital of which causes our ears to tingle, harrows up the soul, and chills the very current of our blood. Let it not be imagined, however, that an early place has been assigned to the exposure of this system, simply because it stands condemned in the Solemn League and Covenant—to which, as is well known, we strictly adhere—or that we are actuated in our opposition to Prelacy by any mere hereditary prejudice, on account of the cruel persecution which our fathers experienced at her hands. No, no: while these important considerations are entitled to influence, and cannot but influence our minds in all discussions upon this subject, we beg explicitly to declare, that our condemnation of the prelatic establishment in England and Ireland arises from a deep and solemn persuasion, that, as a system, it is without foundation in the word of God, and from a solid assurance, grounded upon the experience of ages, that it has been productive of baleful practical results, and hence must continue to oppose, as in times past it has done, “a formidable barrier to the extension and establishment of Messiah’s glorious and universal empire.” Nor is this all. He must be an inattentive observer of the signs of the times indeed, who does not perceive that there are considerations of a special nature, urging us to the performance of this, as a present and seasonable duty. It must be fresh in the recollection of all, that great pains have of late years been taken—and that in not a few instances, by individuals from whom better things might have been expected—to persuade the people of Scotland that the persecution under Charles II. was really a popish and not a prelatical persecution.
A disposition to fraternise with the Church of England, upon the part of eminent ministers of the Scottish establishment, has also, at no very distant period, been matter of notoriety and remark. That the subverters of all established churches should have been regarded as a common enemy, by the friends and supporters of both these institutions in our land; and that their defence should have been esteemed a common cause by such individuals, was no doubt perfectly natural. But, as staunch friends of the great scriptural principle of establishments, we have ever thought it matter of deep regret, that on account of agreement in this one point, our once sturdy presbyterians of the north should have indulged in the soft and silken language not merely of palliation, but even of positive eulogy, when speaking of “the venerable sister establishment;” that they should have talked as if the fate of both churches were completely identified; and that they should have suggested accordingly, in pretty plain terms, the propriety of our presbyterian establishment taking shelter in the day of trial under the splendid bulwarks of prelacy. Hence, any proposed interference by the legislature, with either department of the prelatical establishment, encountered almost as keen opposition on this, as on the south side of Tweed.[1.]
This, we felt persuaded, was wrong in principle, and hence could not fail to prove practically injurious. In her present struggle for spiritual independence, according, we find that the Church of Scotland has had but a small share indeed of sympathy and support from her haughty sister. Yea, Episcopalians have not been backward to take advantage of these untoward circumstances for the advancement of their own cause in Scotland: and much as we hear of the alarming progress of popery, it will be found, we are confident, that during the past few years prelacy has gained, in this country at least, more than double the number of converts, and these too mainly from the upper and influential circles of society.
Add to this also, the arrogant pretensions lately put forth—or rather revived—by a powerful party in the Church of England; pretensions according to which she is the only true Church—yea, the only Church of God in these lands, none other—that of Rome alone excepted—having either a regular ministry, or the true Sacraments.
In Scotland we are all unchurched, denominated mere communities of presbyterians, and consigned to “the uncovenanted mercies of God.” Under such circumstances, no genuine presbyterian will question the propriety of that arrangement, by which an early and prominent place has been assigned to the exposure of prelacy.
We beg farther to premise, however, that while there is much to deplore and condemn, both in the constitution and practice of the Church of England, we do not deny that she is a church of Christ. That she is the “least reformed of all the reformed churches,” and on various grounds justly obnoxious to the charge of being semipapistical, we shall by and by adduce ample evidence; but we will not, and dare not assume her exclusive tone, nor imitate heroffensive example, by denying her a place among the reformed protestant churches. As the character of many christians is disfigured by many imperfections, and sometimes exhibits spots which can scarcely be regarded as those of God’s children; even so it is with churches. He who walks in the midst of the candlesticks, may have somewhat, yea, much against them; but still he may not entirely cast them off. The question, then, is not whether she be a church of Christ—that we do not deny.
Nor does our controversy turn mainly upon the orthodoxy of her creed. That, we admit, so far as the articles are concerned, is upon the whole Calvinistic. We are far indeed from having so high an idea as many, of the thirty-nine articles, either on the head of accurate logical arrangement, or the correct statement of theological truth. To some of them we have strong and decided objections; and in the general and unqualified approbation of them which we often hear expressed, even by presbyterians, we can by no means concur. As a doctrinal formulary, they are not fit to be compared with the Westminster Confession of Faith. But they are in the main evangelical, or in other words contain the doctrines of grace; and that is vitally momentous.
Nor do we deny that in every period of her history she has had ministers—sometimes more and sometimes fewer—distinguished for learning and piety. At no period indeed, so far as we know, have these borne any proportion in point of numbers to those of a totally opposite stamp. Still, however, it is cheering to reflect, that eminent servants of God, whose praise is in all the churches, have from time to time adorned her annals; and that of late years the number of her evangelical ministers has been decidedly on the increase.
Let us not be met at the very outset, then, with the hackneyed question, Do you mean to deny that there have been, and still are, many excellent and pious divines in the Church of England? This we by no means deny; but it is not the question at issue at all.
Nor finally, do we deny that a considerable proportion of God’s people have always been found within her pale. When serious and well-founded objections are preferred against certain churches, not a few seem to think it sufficient vindication of their purity, to aver that they contain, it may be, many good people. Without waiting to make a single remark upon the obvious fallacy of all such defences, we readily admit the truth of the statement, so far as the Church of England is concerned.
Notwithstanding these admissions, however, which we make cheerfully and in good faith—and others might have been specified—we have numerous and weighty objections against the prelatical establishment—objections is in our view, of such magnitude and importance as fully to warrant us in making it matter of special supplication at the throne of grace, that this great national obstruction to the spread and triumph of the Redeemer’s kingdom may be speedily removed.
I. And first, we object to the Hierarchy of the Church of England, as utterly destitute of foundation in the word of God.
Upon the subject of church government a great diversity of sentiment obtains. Some would have us to believe, that there are no determinate rules in scripture upon this point; and that it is therefore left “to be settled by christian prudence, in accommodation to the various circumstances in which church members may be placed.” This view, however, is quite untenable. It were highly unreasonable indeed, to suppose that her glorious Head and Lawgiver would have left her destitute of any fixed form of government for maintaining unity, order, and peace, since no society whatever can exist without law and subordination; and since we find that, in point of fact, every church is compelled to establish some form of government. Such an idea appears derogatory to the wisdom and goodness of the reigning Mediator. And upon appealing to the inspired record, we find that it is a mere gratuitous assumption; for the grand leading features of ecclesiastical polity are there distinctly delineated.
But those who are at one upon the point—that a certain form of church government is prescribed in Scripture—differ widely among themselves respecting that particular form, which is of exclusive divine authority. Without attempting to enumerate the various discordant views entertained upon this subject, suffice it to remark, that “there are three principal and distinct forms of ecclesiastical government, to which all others may be referred,”[2.] namely, Presbytery, Episcopacy, and Independency. Now, while approximating, and even coinciding in some points, these systems differ so widely in their fundamental principles, that if a divine warrant can be distinctly adduced in support of one, the other two must be destitute of Scripture authority. With Independents we have at present no concern; nor is it our direct object to establish the divine right of Presbytery. No; our business is simply to show that Episcopacy—or in other words, the hierarchy of the Church of England—has no foundation in Scripture.
“The question at issue is the equality or inequality of ministers in the Christian Church.”[3.] “According to the Church of England there is a distinction of ranks among the ministers of religion, and one of its fundamental articles is, that a bishop is superior to a presbyter. In opposition to this, Presbyterians hold that the pastors of the church are of one order and of equal authority.”[4.] We have adopted this statement of the ground of controversy, because it is admitted on all hands to be fair and candid. We take the liberty also of subjoining the following proposition, as containing a lucid and accurate statement of the Presbyterian view. “The pastors of the flock who are to give themselves to the ministry of the word, and to conduct the ordinances of religion are of one order, have no earthly superiors, and are equal in rank and power.”[5.] Besides pastors, or teaching elders, there are also in the Presbyterian Church ruling elders, and deacons whose province it is to attend to the wants of the poor. And hence we hold that “the ordinary and permanent officers of the church are presbyters and deacons—and of the presbyters there are two distinct kinds: teaching elders or pastors, and ruling elders.”[6.] Episcopalians, on the other hand, maintain, that there are three distinct orders of clergy, placed in subordination to each other—Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. In constructing the hierarchy, indeed, they have framed a long and cumbrous gradation of ecclesiastical ranks from these three orders, extending from the archbishop, or rather primate, down to the curate. On this head there is a striking resemblance between the Romish and Anglican churches; almost the only thing awanting to render the hierarchy of the latter an exact fac simile of that of the former being the Cardinal and Pope. It seemed good to Henry VIII. to permit scarcely any change in the gorgeous framework of the Romish hierarchy; and in displacing his Holiness he took good care to have the royal supremacy—an element if possible still more monstrous—vested in his own person. And as things were arranged then, they have continued to the present day. No intelligent episcopalian, however, so far as we know, pleads an absolute jus divinum for any thing but the three orders—bishop, priest, and deacon; and in this there is at least discretion, for in vain would all the learning of Oxford attempt to extract from the inspired oracles even the semblance of support for the unwieldy hierarchy of the British Empire. Nor can prelatists vindicate their three orders from Scripture, or shew that there is any warrant at all for such a thing as superiority and inferiority among the ministers of religion. Diocesan Episcopacy is, we fearlessly assert, a mere human invention.
Conscious, it would seem, that it is no easy task to make out a divine warrant for the hierarchy, Episcopal writers endeavour to supply what is lacking in strength and conclusiveness by the number of their arguments. Upon this topic accordingly, we find them appealing to the different orders of the Jewish priesthood—the rulers of the synagogue—the extraordinary officers of the christian church—the cases of Timothy and Titus who, it is pretended, were diocesan bishops of Ephesus and Crete—the angels of the seven churches—and the primitive church, and early fathers. Now we feel truly sorry that our limits will not admit of any thing like a minute examination of these sources of argument, as we are in a condition to prove that the fabric, in support of which they are adduced, is utterly baseless. A brief glance is all that we can bestow upon them.
Zealous episcopalians lay much stress upon the presumed similarity of the Jewish hierarchy to that of their own church. That the services of the ancient temple were conducted by the high priest, priests, and levites, is an obvious and acknowledged fact. But we utterly deny the prelatical inference that “its threefold orders were carried out into the ministry of the Christian dispensation;” and hence that the ministers of the gospel “must necessarily in three distinct orders.”[7.] This is a mere assumption, in support of which no solid argument ever has been—and we venture to predict never will be—adduced. Where is the shadow of evidence that the three orders of the Jewish priesthood were types of the gospel ministry? Do we ever find the latter called even by the names of these their supposed ancient models? No; the designation priests is never employed in the inspired volume to point out christian ministers. It is one of the many departures from Scripture-warrant of which we complain in the churches of Rome and England, that they call one of the orders of their ministers priests. A mere name, indeed, is in some instances of small moment; but in this case it is utterly unwarrantable, tends to uphold the delusion of a christian hierarchy, and should therefore be strongly condemned. Under the law the priesthood was confined to one tribe, and was hereditary. Do we find any thing corresponding to this among the ministers of Christ? The grand business of the ancient priests was to offer sacrifice. Will any protestant minister have the presumption to say that this lies within the sphere of his duties? The priests of Rome, indeed, quite consistently—although with daring impiety—pretend to offer the sacrifice of the mass; but Episcopalians join us in denouncing this as utterly blasphemous. Seeing then that upon their own showing they have no sacrifice to offer, why not at once relinquish the very title of priests, and cease to denominate the Lord’s table an altar? But what analogy, we would ask farther, is there between the functions of the ancient high priest, and those of our modern archbishops and bishops? Here we have a contrast, not a parallel. The fact is, the Jewish priesthood typified the priesthood of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus; and the high priest in particular was a striking type of the great High Priest of our profession. When the Son of God appeared upon earth, therefore, and offered up the one perfect sacrifice of himself, the type was swallowed up in the antitype; the shadow gave place to the substance; and the past economy having subserved the end for which it was instituted speedily vanished away. The priesthood being thus changed, there was made of necessity a change also of the law. Yes; the gospel dispensation is not merely distinct from the Mosaic ritual, but was substituted in its room, and pre-supposed its entire abolition. In vain, therefore, do we look for the counterpart of the different orders of the Jewish priesthood among the ministers of Christ. Those who pretend to find in the former exact types of the latter, must possess a kind of analogical alchemy, adequate to solve whatever difficulty they please. It has been justly remarked that “their privileges and functions are so completely different, that to make one the pattern of the other is to cast an air of ridicule over the whole system of typical ordinances.”[8.] Whittaker says truly, “As there is now no sacrifice, so neither is there any priesthood.” And Bishop Stillingfleet candidly acknowledges, that “this mistake” (of regarding the different orders of priests as types of the gospel ministry,) “has been the original and foundation of many errors.”
Should we grant however, for the sake of argument, that the analogy is well-founded—will the advocates of the English hierarchy really profit by the concession? We fear not. It may seem pretty plausible to represent the levites as types of the deacons; and the priests as types of a large body of ministers, whom they very absurdly call priests; but where, in the Church of England, shall we find the corresponding antitype of the Jewish high priest? Not certainly in the bench of bishops; for they being many can never be regarded as an exact parallel—or indeed any parallel at all—of the one head of the Jewish church. But if the bishops are not, and cannot be the counterpart of the single ancient high priest, then the analogy fails; and fails too at the very point where the prelatist stands most in need of its aid. There are other hierarchies, however, besides that of the Church of England. When we cast our eye towards the elder sister of the seven hills, we find something like a representative of the ancient high priest seated in the chair of St. Peter! Yes; if the necessity of three orders in the Christian ministry be maintained from the officers of the temple, the hierarchy of Britain must give way to that of Rome; for there, and there alone, upon this principle of reasoning, do we find the three orders in their full and legitimate proportions. The high priest, if the analogy be worth any thing, must be represented by an individual; but there is no such personage in the Church of England. In the one pope, however, we have such a parallel to the one high Priest, as we can at least understand; and hence this vaunted argument, from the ancient priesthood, completely overshoots the mark, in as much as it demolishes not merely presbytery, but also the anglican hierarchy at one fell swoop; and wins over the ruins of both a triumph for the papacy. We should like to know how an Episcopalian could withstand the Romanist upon this point. We believe he would maintain that the ancient high priest was a type of the great high priest of our profession, and not either of the pope, or of any order of ministers in the Christian church; and this would be an impregnable position; but alas! he could thus make good his ground against the papist only by throwing overboard the hierarchy of his own church; for this would annihilate the argument for the three orders of ministers drawn from the Jewish priesthood.[9.] Whether we deny the propriety of this analogy altogether, therefore—which is the proper ground to take—or concede it to the fullest extent, the English hierarchy is in either case left equally destitute of support.
But the office-bearers of the Jewish synagogue are adduced farther as models of the three orders of the hierarchy. A brief glance, however, at the synagogue arrangement will suffice to convince us that the pretended analogy is destitute of all foundation. “In each synagogue there were ten officers. One was the minister, known also by the names angel, or bishop of the church. He conducted the public devotion. With him were associated in government three rulers, who had the management of the finances of the church, and judged in all cases of offence among the members. Three were deacons, who had special care of the poor. The eighth was an interpreter of the Hebrew into the language commonly spoken. The ninth and tenth were sacred critics, who were appointed for the study of the Scriptures, in order to assist the interpreter. A very useful institution, when there were no translations or commentaries to be had.”[10.] Here then we have in each synagogue a minister, called also angel or bishop, it matters not which, for he was no diocesan, but a bishop in his own synagogue, as every presbyterian minister is in his own congregation; and with him were associated three elders or rulers, and three deacons to take charge of the poor. The existence of the other three was owing obviously to peculiar circumstances. We appeal to every unprejudiced person whether this is not a model of presbytery instead of prelacy. “Take away from the synagogue what was. peculiar to the state of the Jews, and you have the christian consistory, or congregational session.” And the parallel is still more complete, when you take into account that an appeal might be made from the decisions of the elders of the synagogue to the Sanhedrim, or Supreme Council of Presbyters.[11.] To us it appears extraordinary, and something bordering upon infatuation, for Episcopalians to pretend that there is any analogy between the officers of the synagogue and the three orders of their hierarchy. Beyond doubt the synagogue was almost an exact pattern of a Presbyterian congregation. And, while we would not lay undue stress upon the argument derived from this analogy, in support even of presbytery, it is clear from various considerations that the synagogue affords an example for imitation in the Christian church, whereas the temple affords none. In reply to the question, “Whether does the external order of the church resemble more that of the temple, or of the synagogue?” Dr. M‘Leod gives the following judicious answer: “The temple and the temple-service were local and typical; and are, together with the priesthood, abolished in the death of Christ. The constitution and order of the synagogue being more simple, and adapted to the edification of the saints, not in Judea only, but in every nation under heaven, the synagogue is the model upon which the church, with some appropriate variations, is constituted; and in the apostolic age, the name synagogue was applied to a Christian church. James 2:2. For if there come into your assembly—synagogue (συναγωγην)—a man with a gold ring.”[12.] So much for the argument in support of the hierarchy from the Old Testament, which we may now safely pronounce futile and impotent. Let us next see what can be advanced from the New.
First, then, it is alleged that the twelve and seventy were of different orders, and from this assumption an argument is adduced in favour of Prelacy. It must be borne in mind, however, in considering this point that, during our Lord’s personal ministry, the church was not regularly organized; and hence the state of matters then must not viewed as the pattern for subsequent ages. Besides, the office of the twelve and the seventy was extraordinary and temporary, and it is not therefore to be taken for granted that the ordinary and permanent office-bearers of the church must, in all respects, correspond with them. But we find farther, that their commission was exactly similar, and their power and authority equal. Let any one take the trouble of comparing the passages in which the twelve and the seventy were respectively commissioned, and he cannot fail to be convinced of this.[13.] We are at present, let it be remembered, speaking of the commission of the twelve during our Lord’s personal ministry, which must not be confounded with the other and more enlarged commission that they received from him immediately before his ascension to glory. Granting, however, that there had been a difference in their commission, and also a difference in point of rank and authority, that would avail the episcopalian nothing, unless he could prove farther, that the seventy received their instructions from the twelve, and were subjected to their inspection and control, since according to him, the inferior are subordinated to the superior office-bearers. This is a point, however, which, although essential to his argument, no churchman has ever yet attempted to prove, and truly it is prudent not to make the attempt; for who does not know that the seventy had their commission immediately from the Saviour, and rendered an account upon their return, not to the twelve, but to him? The twelve, in fact, had no more authority over them, than they over the twelve.
Let us hear the testimony of Dr. Whitby, a high episcopal authority, upon this point: “Whereas, some compare the bishops to the apostles,” says he, “the seventy to the presbyters of the church, and thence conclude that divers orders in the ministry were instituted by Christ himself. It must be granted that some of the ancients did believe two to be diverse orders, and that those the seventy were inferior to the order of apostles, and sometimes they make the comparison here mentioned. But then it must be also granted that this comparison will not strictly hold, for the seventy receive not their mission as presbyters do, from bishops, but immediately from the Lord Christ, as well as the apostles, and in their first mission were plainly sent on the same errand and with the same power.”[14.] To add another word after such a deliverance from Whitby, were a work of supererogation.
Equally untenable is the argument founded upon the extraordinary office-bearers in apostolic times. It is a favourite idea of prelatists, and in fact the key-stone of the entire hierarchical fabric, that diocesan bishops are the immediate successors of the apostles. Such a supposition, however, proceeds upon a total oversight of the plain and important distinction already referred to, between extra-ordinary-temporary, and ordinary-permanent office-bearers. That apostles, prophets, and evangelists belong to the former class is, one would think, too obvious to need proof or require illustration. Take for instance the apostle—the chosen model of the diocesan bishop—and you find that he required the following qualifications: He must have personally seen the Lord; must have obtained, immediately from Christ, his commission; must have the power not merely of working miracles, but of communicating miraculous power to others; and possess authority, not limited to a particular congregation, parish, or diocese, but extending equally over all the churches.[15.] Now, if modern bishops will insist upon being the successors and representatives of the apostles, it is perfectly fair to call upon them to establish the validity of their claim, by exhibiting the above credentials; and since this is out of the question, let them at once and for ever renounce their arrogant and groundless pretensions. It has been truly and justly remarked, “that as the office of the apostles was such as to require extraordinary and miraculous endowments for the discharge of many parts of it, it is impossible that they can have any successors in those services, who are not empowered for the execution of them as the apostles themselves were.”[16.]
It is very strange too, by the way, that while the apostles have so many pretended successors, there is no attempt made to find representatives and successors of the prophets, and evangelists. Why should one class of these extraordinary office-bearers have legitimate descendants, and not the other two? But the apostles had an ordinary as well as an extraordinary character, and they accordingly assumed the name, and performed the duties of ordinary ministers. In this capacity, it is worthy of remark, that they never took the designation—bishop—which their pretended successors appropriate so exclusively—but that of presbyter, or elder. Accordingly, Peter says, the presbyters which are among you, I exhort, who am also a presbyter. (l Epis. 5:1.) In their ordinary ministerial character they preached the word—the grand and leading part of their work, in which they peculiarly delighted—dispensed the seals of the covenant—ordained, although rarely, and by no means exclusively, and exercised the functions of discipline and government, Now, all these were competent to presbyters in apostolic times, as well as subsequent ages. Yes, presbyters exercised both “the prerogative of government, and the privilege of ordaining,”—which diocesan bishops claim as their exclusive right—in common with the apostles themselves. Of the former we have an example in the appeal from Antioch to the apostles and elders—presbyters at Jerusalem; (Acts 15.) and of the latter in the fact that Timothy was ordained by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, (1 Timothy 4:14.) And in regard to the preaching of the word, which is unquestionably the far most difficult and important part of the ministerial work, it will not be questioned, we presume, that the teaching elders of presbyterian churches have copied the example of the apostles, as faithfully at least as diocesan bishops! “Teaching,” it has been well remarked, “is the highest dignity in the church, because it is the most useful and laborious service. Preaching was the principal work of the apostles. The ambition of prelates has inverted this divine order. Preaching is the meanest service in the Popish and Episcopal Churches. It is merely subservient to the government of bishops and popes. The bishops exalt the mean above the end. Government is with them the principal part of religion. To be in power is more dignified than to edify.”[17.] This, alas! is a pregnant proof that instead of being the exclusive successors of the apostles, the order of bishops has its foundation in carnal and unholy aspirations after worldly pomp and aggrandisement. Setting aside then what was extraordinary, and consequently temporary, in the character and work of the apostles, we appeal to the unprejudiced Christian world, whether in all the ordinary and permanent duties of the ministerial work, presbyters or prelates have more faithfully copied the example of these holy and devoted servants of Christ.
In regard again to the argument founded upon the alleged prelacy of Timothy at Ephesus, and Titus in Crete, it is sufficient to observe that, like all other arguments in support of the hierarchy, it is merely an assumption destitute of all proof. No evidence has ever been adduced, or ever can be adduced, that they occupied the station, or exercised the functions of diocesan bishops. “They had not a stated residence in these churches, but only visited them for a time.” Such residence indeed, would have been inconsistent with their character as evangelists, who were itinerant officers that acted as assistants to the apostles. And although there is every reason to believe that Timothy was with Paul when he took leave of the elders of Ephesus, (Acts 20.) the apostle gives not the slightest hint that he was invested with episcopal powers, nor says one word to engage their obedience to him, which is a very strong presumption indeed, that no such relation either subsisted, or was to be formed.[18.] “The evangelists have been transformed into prelates,” says Dr. M‘Leod, “by the churches of Rome and England. These churches can canonize saints, and consecrate bishops, at pleasure. It is remarkable that they are always for increasing the power; but never for appreciating the labour of the teacher.”[19.]
But prelatists endeavour farther to prop up the tottering hierarchy, by an appeal to the angels of the Asiatic churches, who, it is pretended, were diocesan bishops. This, however, is another assumption. Angel is obviously a figurative term. The minister of the synagogue was, we have seen, thus denominated; and it seems to be by way of allusion to him, that our Lord employs it in addressing these churches. By the angel of the church, then, we may understand, either the minister of the congregation, where there was only a single congregation in the city; or the moderator of the court of presbyters, where there was a plurality of congregations and pastors; or the collective pastorate of each church. This last is, in the estimation of many, the most correct view, in as much as it preserves the unity of the figure. Since the candlestick represents the collective church, whether consisting of one or more congregations; even so it is most natural to conclude that the star and the angel represent the pastorate of that church—whether comprising more or fewer individuals. Let those hot-headed zealots, who are for proceeding at once to consecrate the angels of the seven churches diocesans, and award them mitres, and assign them sees, ponder the language of Bishop Stillingfleet: “Why may not the word angel,” says he, “be taken only by way of representation of the body itself, either of the whole church, or what is far more probable, of the consensus, or order of presbyters in that church.”[20.]
Having thus removed in succession the props by which it has been attempted to support prelacy from Scripture, the ponderous incumbent fabric of the hierarchy tumbles, as a matter of course, into ruins; or at all events, must be contented with the place which its more discreet advocates assign it among mere human institutions, the offspring of ambition on the one hand, and tame servility on the other. But we must now take a step in advance; and show that it is positively discountenanced and condemned in the Word of God—that it is not merely unscriptural, but anti-scriptural.
And first, we find our Lord severely rebuking the incipient manifestations of the prelatical spirit in the case of James and John, the sons of Zebedee; (Mat. 20:20-28.) The thing on which their hearts were set, and which they prompted their mother to ask from the Saviour, was, that they might sit the one on the right hand, and the other on the left, in his kingdom. They were actuated with a two-fold ambition. Imagining that he was about to set up a glorious temporal empire, they were not backward to bespeak honourable situations, where they might repose in ease, and dignity, and splendour. This was mere worldly ambition. But they longed also for official pre-eminence over their brethren. Yes; if they obtained seats, the one on his right hand, and the other on his left, then must the other ten have been in subordinate situations. Now these two constitute the very essence of prelacy. Without the wealth, or temporal grandeur, and the official pre-eminence, what would the bench of bishops be but simple presbyters? That their brethren understood them to be aspiring after official superiority is clear; for when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against them. Now so far was our Lord from countenancing such pretensions for a moment, that he tendered a very solemn rebuke to these ambitious aspirants after the episcopate. He told them in the first place, Ye know not what ye ask. And afterwards called the whole twelve unto him, and thus addressed them: “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. Nothing could be more explicit than this condemnation of any attempt upon the part of Christ’s ministers to aim at the splendour, and assume the titles of princes, lords, and great men; and especially of any endeavour, upon whatever pretence, to institute a gradation of rank. Yes, the divine Saviour perceived with sorrow these longings after pre-eminence, and clearly foresaw that the workings of this ambitious spirit would in aftertimes be the source of countless ills in the church; and therefore, he here brands it with eternal reprobation. While all ministers should seriously ponder this passage, and learn to know that their true honour lies in humility and usefulness, we would specially recommend it to the attention of the spiritual lords, entreating them to lay their hands upon their hearts, and say, whether it does not most pointedly condemn both their political and ecclesiastical lordship?
To the same effect, is what we find, Mat. 23:8-12. “But be not called Rabbi: for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren,” &c. A careful perusal of the entire passage must serve to convince every unprejudiced person, that it teaches the equality in point of rank and authority of the ministers of Christ; and condemns the whole spirit of prelatical assumption.
But we find farther, that the terms Bishop and Presbyter are used indiscriminately in the New Testament; and this completely demolishes the hierarchy. In Acts, 20th chap. for instance, those called Elders πρεσβυτερους in the 17th verse, are in the 28th denominated επισκοπους Bishops. In Titus, first chapter and fifth verse, Paul says, that he left the evangelist in Crete, that, among other things, he might ordain elders—presbyters—in every city. Now, when pointing out the qualifications of these elders, he adds, verse 7th, “For a bishop must be blameless,” &c. which clearly proves that eiders and bishops are one and the same. In 1 Peter 5:2, the verb from which the word translated bishop is derived, is employed to describe the duties of elders, ver. 1. The elders πρεσβυτερους which are among you, I exhort. 2. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, επισκοπουντις doing the duty of bishops.[21.] The identity, therefore, of presbyter and bishop is clear as noon-day.[See Note A.] They are, in fact, just two out of a number of names, by which ministers of the gospel are designated in the New Testament. “Presbyter is a term of power, and points out the ruler; pastor points out a public purveyor of spiritual provisions for the church; bishop, the spiritual inspector of the state of the congregation; teacher, the public instructor of the congregation; and angel, the messenger of God to men. All these characters unite in the minister of the Gospel. By each of these names is he known in the Scriptures.”[22.]
We are surely entitled now to conclude, that the hierarchy is not merely without foundation in the Word of God, but directly opposed to the pattern there laid down, and that the idea of the three orders upon which so much stress is laid is a perfect chimera. Of the first, the diocesan bishop, we have already disposed; and did our argument require it, we might easily show that the last, the deacon, is equally without warrant. “Yes; there is a wide difference between a deacon of the New Testament, and a deacon of the Church of England. The former was appointed for the management of temporal affairs only, the latter is clothed with a spiritual office.” The top and the bottom being thus removed, the edifice must be in a sadly dismantled and tottering condition!
Upon the testimony of the early fathers, and the government of the primitive church, we cannot at present enter. Nor will our limits permit us to trace the gradual progress by which prelacy was introduced, and constantly advanced in proportion as purity declined, till it attained its full consummation in the papacy; nor to show, on the other hand, how at the era of the Reformation the prelatical, establishment was constructed, with certain modifications, upon the model of the anti-christian church; so that, as has been acutely remarked, Prelacy is at once the mother and the daughter of popery. To the law and to the testimony we have made our appeal, and we shall cheerfully abide the result. If we have failed in the scriptural argument, we should scorn to protect our worthless head behind the ponderous tomes and folios of the fathers; and if we have succeeded on this high vantage-ground, we can afford to let the fathers slumber on in their time-honoured repose.[See Note B.]
II. We come now to the consideration of the Erastianism of the Church of England, with which—as they are intimately connected—we may conjoin her discipline. The term erastianism is derived “from Erastus, a German divine of the 16th century.[23.] The pastoral office, according to him, was only persuasive, like a professor of science over his students, without any power of the keys annexed. The Lord’s Supper, and other ordinances, were to be free and open to all. The minister might dissuade the vicious and unqualified from the communion; but might not refuse it, or inflict any kind of censure; the punishment of all offences, either of a civil or religious nature, being referred to the civil magistrate.”[24.] Hence, erastianism is employed comprehensively to point out all unwarrantable interference, by the civil magistrate, in ecclesiastical matters. Now, while a prelatical church may exist disconnected from the state, as in Scotland and America, and thus be free from magistratical control, the united Church of England and Ireland is, as every one knows, an established church; and in both her constitution and administration we prefer against her the charge of gross and palpable erastianism. In her case, the civil magistrate has beyond doubt stretched forth his hand far, far beyond his legitimate province.
We need not wait to say that we approve of the principle that the church and state should be united; nor enter upon any explanation of the terms upon which this union can alone be lawfully formed. That the church adopted by the state, should, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, be reformed according to the gospel model—that the state itself with which she is allied should possess a moral and religions character—and that the nature of the alliance should be such, as to leave her free and unfettered to perform all the duties required by her divine Head—are principles which we consider ourselves at liberty to take for granted.
Now the Church of England is faulty in all these particulars. In the first place, she is not such a church as should have ever been established in a reformed protestant land—in the second place, she is allied to a highly objectionable civil constitution—and lastly, the manner of her establishment is such as to convert her into a mere state engine. If there be any principle that believers of every name should maintain inviolate, it is surely this, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the sole king and Head of his church. Since the Father has set him as King upon his holy hill of Zion, and given him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is his body, it must be daring impiety for a creature to arrogate this high and holy prerogative, and detestable treason in any church to concede to such a claim, for any secular advantages whatever. We blush to think, however, that this claim has not only been preferred by the Sovereign of Great Britain, but that it is actually declared by statute, to be an inalienable prerogative of the crown; and that the church, in her very articles, concedes, or more properly declares it in the broadest and most unqualified terms.
“The king,” says Blackstone, and of course the queen too, “is considered by the laws of England, as the head and supreme governor of the national church.”[25.] The papal jurisdiction in England was destroyed, by Parliament, upon the express ground that “the king’s majesty justly and rightly is, and ought to be supreme head of the church of England. The 1st of Elizabeth enacts, that “all jurisdictions, spiritual and ecclesiastical...should for ever be united and annexed to the imperial crown.” And in her 37th article, the church endorses the impious claim. It rails thus, “the king’s majesty hath the chief power in this realm of England, unto whom the chief government of all the estates of this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, IN ALL CAUSES, doth appertain.”[26.] Thus do both church and state agree, in declaring it to be a fundamental principle of the constitution, that the king or queen is supreme head in all causes civil and ecclesiastical. A more grossly unscriptural element, therefore, has been introduced into the Church of England than is to be found in that of Rome. In the fearful impiety of making a sinful mortal head of the church, indeed, both have concurred; but then, the head of the Church of Rome must be an ecclesiastic, and a man—female popes are not esteemed quite canonical—whereas the head of the Church of England is a lay or civil person; and may be a man, a woman, or a child!!! Her erastianism, therefore, is emblazoned on her very forehead.
Now from this polluted fountain of royal supremacy has flowed, as might have been expected, a copious stream of erastian encroachment. Her clergy, for instance, have all their authority to rule and ordain from the sovereign. In 37 Henry VIII. cap. 17, it is declared, that “archbishops, bishops, archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical persons, have no manner of jurisdiction ecclesiastical, but by, under, and from his royal majesty; and that his majesty is the only supreme head of the Church of England and Ireland.”[27.] Words could not more explicitly declare that instead of having their authority from the Lord Jesus Christ, these dignitaries derive it immediately from poor erring mortal. What a humiliating position for the pretended successors of the Apostles! Would the Apostle Paul have accepted a bishopric upon such terms?
In exact accordance with this, we find that the clergy cannot meet in convocation without her majesty’s permission. “By the 25th Henry VIII. cap. 19, it is a Praemunire[28.] for the convocation to meet without the king’s writ.”[29.] How pressing soever the necessity, the prelates dare not meet in ecclesiastical assembly, without leave asked and obtained from her majesty; and should she see meet to refuse, they must just even look helplessly on, and behold the church, it may be, corrupted to the core with heresy, or torn in pieces with dissension. The idea of any thing like discipline in such a church is out of the question.
But even when met, they can enact nothing without her majesty’s consent, nor publish what has been enacted without her authority. If she disallow any of their decisions, they have no validity; and should those that she does ratify be thought to contain any thing calculated to damage or hurt the royal prerogative, they are liable to the judgment of the Courts of Westminster Hall, which decide upon their validity accordingly. And Hale, no mean judge, says, “If ecclesiastical laws are not confirmed by parliament, the king may revoke and annul them at pleasure.”[30.] Thus are the powers of the clergy met in convocation prostrated at the sovereign’s feet; and for upwards of a century past these assemblies have been altogether discontinued.
Another proof of her erastian bondage is, that the appointment of all the bishops belongs to the sovereign. “Upon the vacancy of a bishop’s see, the king grants a licence, or conge d’ eslire, under the great seal, to the dean and chapter, to elect the person whom by his letters missive he hath appointed; and they are to choose no other.” Should they delay the election above twelve days, the nomination devolves on the king, who appoints the individual accordingly.[31.] While the conge d’ eslire is couched in the form of a request to the dean and chapter, no communication can be more imperative. They have no choice in fact in the matter at all.[32.] In Ireland, the form or rather farce of conge d’ eslire is dispensed with, the appointment being made directly by the sovereign, which is certainly the more honest and straight-forward coarse. Now while the sovereign, or rather the prime minister of the day, has the exclusive appointment of all the bishops, we find that this important functionary can also with consent of parliament extinguish bishopricks. It must be fresh in the recollection of all, that Earl Grey, some years ago, introduced and carried a bill by which ten Irish bishopricks were annihilated. Nothing could more conclusively prove that the bishops of the United Church are creatures of the state, and liable consequently, like all other state officers, to be disposed of by civil enactment.
But the bishops are also subjected to the most humiliating erastian restrictions in the discharge of their ecclesiastical functions. They have no power, for instance, to visit even pestilent heresy with condign punishment. Whiston’s case, during the reign of Queen Anne, is a conclusive proof of this. Although bishops and archbishops, met in convocation, found that his books contained “damnable and blasphemous assertions,” and sent a deputation to the Queen to receive her pleasure in the matter; yet her majesty thought not fit to send them any answer, and consequently their condemnation was of no avail; for Whiston, safe under the maternal wing of royal protection, retained his full standing, and went on with the publication of his works, as if nothing had occurred.[33.] Can we wonder that error and heresy luxuriate in the Church of England, when her very bishops are so utterly powerless? Indeed, for a long period, they seem to have abandoned the idea of attempting to check the spread of error; and accordingly among her clergy—not excepting the bishops themselves—we find almost every diversified shade of heretical sentiment.
In admission to benefices the bishop’s power is also exceedingly circumscribed. Should he refuse to admit the clerk—or as we would call him the presentee—then the patron can compel him to appear in court, and show reason why he has not. Now Blackstone tells us what kind of a case the bishop must make out in order to vindicate his conduct, and truly it must be a strong one; for the learned judge says, that if the bishop “object such a fault as haunting taverns, playing at unlawful games, or the like, it is not good cause of refusal.” In other words, although the presentee be a tippler, and a gambler, the bishop dare not refuse to admit him! And farther, “if the cause be of a spiritual nature, (as heresy specially alleged,) the fact, if denied, shall be determined by a jury.”[34.] Only conceive of a special charge of heresy, as that he is an Arian or Socinian, left to the determination of a common English jury, composed of the grossly ignorant, those that look upon doctrine as a mere matter of opinion; yea, perhaps, papists, socinians, arians, and socialists, and the bishop awaiting their decision with as much anxiety as the presentee himself! The thing is a perfect mockery and burlesque. Of the three grand points, namely, life, literature, and doctrine, the bishop can only decide upon literature. Should he refuse admission on the ground of heresy or immorality, he is liable to be dragged into court. No wonder that the bishops cannot comprehend what we Scotch people mean by the spiritual independence of the church. Having no power themselves, either to exclude a heretical or immoral presentee, or to expel such a character when once invested with holy orders, they can scarcely be expected to sympathise with the Church of Scotland in her present struggle. So much for the utter prostration of discipline among the ministry of the Church of England.
But we find farther, that these ministers themselves are compelled to dispense the sacraments to the grossly ignorant and openly profane. It is expressly enacted in the 14th canon, that “no minister shall refuse or delay to christen any child that is brought to the church to him on sundays or holidays to be christened. If he shall refuse, he shall be suspended by the bishop of the diocese from his ministry by the space of three months.” Without discrimination, therefore, must the ministers of the Church of England dispense baptism to the children of all who choose to apply for it, including, of course, the vilest miscreants in the empire.[See Note C.] We wait not to descant upon the impiety, delusion, and practical mischief of such procedure. The church that acts, yea is bound to act in this manner, is not merely destitute of all discipline herself, but renders it very difficult for other churches to uphold faithful discipline in the face of such a system.
To the Lord’s table again, admission in the Church of England is almost quite indiscriminate, unless the minister can prove, by the clearest evidence, some flagrant iniquity against the applicant, he dare not refuse him. Before the repeal of the Test and Corporation Act, in 1829, when candidates for situations under government had to qualify by taking the sacrament, it is a known fact that “atheists, professed deists, veteran debauchees, and the most open and avowed sinners,”[35.] were all freely admitted to the holy table of our blessed Lord. Had the minister refused, he would have been subjected to an action of damages, amounting to the whole value of the situation to which the applicant was appointed. In point of fact, however, such refusals were never thought of, and accordingly, youthful candidates did not fear to go reeling from the tavern to the altar in a state of intoxication; yet high churchmen devoutly bewail the repeal of this act, as the removal of one of the bulwarks of our glorious constitution in church and state. In case again of any common profligate being refused, if he can, upon appeal to the ecclesiastical court, only secure the favour of the lay chancellor, he may defy both the priest and the bishop to keep him from the communion table. But such cases scarcely ever occur, for the ministers are in general perfectly accommodating, and in this there is discretion, for once upon a time, Dr. Wilson, bishop of Sodor and Man, was thrown into a dungeon, where he had well nigh perished, for refusing the sacrament to the deputy’s mistress.[36.]
Enough then has been said to show that the Church of England is utterly erastian, “managed and manacled, bound hand and foot by the state, and that she has no scriptural discipline at all. To talk of discipline indeed, in a church whose ministers are obliged to baptise any child that is brought to them, and to admit the grossest profligates to the table of the Lord, were a complete perversion of language. But even where discipline is attempted, it is conducted in the most erastian manner. Yes, the chancellor of the ecclesiastical court is a layman and yet he decides the most important cases of discipline, involving even the censure and excommunication of the clergy, and his judgment will stand in law although contrary to the mind of the bishop. Add to this, that there is an appeal in the last resort to the king or queen in council, and the climax of absurdity is complete. “We believe,” says the Presbyterian Review, “that we speak much too favourably of the discipline of the Church of England, when we place it upon a par with that of the Church of Rome. In fact there scarcely can be such a thing as discipline in a church, in which admission to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper was a civil privilege, enforceable by law, and in which the church has not the right of deposing her own office-bearers, and the power of excommunication is vested in lay officers.”[37.]
III. Let us now briefly consider the Liturgy, or Book of Common Prayer, which is statedly and invariably used in the worship of God by the Church of England.
And, in the first place, we object altogether to the stated employment of prescribed forms of prayer in the church, from Sabbath to Sabbath, from year to year, and from generation to generation, even although unexceptionable in matter and sentiment. Such an arrangement is without warrant in the word of God, was unknown to the Jewish church, and to the Christian also, till towards the conclusion of the fourth century. These forms (except in rare and special cases) are in our view incompatible with the genuine spirit of prayer, which consists in pouring out the heart before God—tend to quench the operations of the Holy Spirit—are unsuited to the various exigencies of the church, the country, and individuals—exert an unfavourable influence upon ministers, by rendering it unnecessary for them either to stir up the spirit or cultivate the exercise of prayer—and induce languor and apathy in the audience. On these, and similar grounds, we object to forms of prayer in the public worship of God, although unexceptionable in point of matter. But the Liturgy of the Church of England is very far from being unexceptionable on this head. That it contains much precious gospel truth indeed, expressed occasionally in a solemn and impressive manner, we readily grant; but then, alas! its defects, errors, and absurdities are numerous and striking. Nor is this wonderful, when we consider its origin. “From three Romish channels,” says a learned divine, “was the English service raked together; from the Breviary, the Common Prayers are taken; from the Ritual, the administration of the sacraments, burial, matrimony, and the visitation of the sick are taken; from the Mass Book, the consecration of the Lord’s Supper, collects, gospels, and epistles are taken.”[38.] Well, therefore, might king James, in his speech to the General Assembly, 1590, say, “As for our neighbour kirk of England, their Service is an ill said mass in English.” Calvin, “In the English Liturgy I see that there are many tolerable fooleries.” And Lord Chatham, “We have a Popish Liturgy, Calvinistic Articles, and an Arminian clergy.” So closely does it harmonize with that of Rome indeed, “that Popes Pius and Gregory offered to Queen Elizabeth to confirm the English Liturgy.”
In looking into its contents, we find that a chain of error pervades the Liturgy, beginning with the baptismal and terminating with the funeral service. The monstrous doctrine of baptismal regeneration is obviously implied, or rather distinctly taught in the office of baptism. Immediately after baptizing the infant, the priest says, “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s church, let us give thanks to almighty God for these benefits,” &c. And again, “We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant with the Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own by adoption,” &c. As if to place the matter beyond all doubt, the following declaration is appended to the baptismal service: “It is certain, by God’s word, that children which are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved.” Following out the same idea, the church forbids the funeral service to be read over unbaptized infants, thus classing them with excommunicated persons, and self murderers, and homologating the abhorrent and cruel popish doctrine, that baptism is essential to salvation, and hence that infants, dying unbaptized, perish everlastingly.”[39.] Yea more, in the church catechism, the child is taught to believe and declare that he was regenerated in baptism. “What is your name? A. or B. Who gave you this name? My godfathers and godmothers, in my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.”
Now as soon as the child can repeat the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the church Catechism, he is to be brought to the bishop for confirmation, who, in regard to him and those with whom he is associated in receiving this rite, says, “Almighty and everlasting God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by water and the Holy Spirit, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins,” &c. “And laying his hand on the head of each particular person, he certifies him by that sign of God’s favour and gracious goodness towards him.” In a word, having been regenerated in baptism, these youths are now solemnly confirmed in a state of grace. When they go to communion again, which they are at liberty and expected to do after confirmation, they are, upon receiving the elements, thus individually addressed by the minister, “Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died FOR THEE; drink this in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed FOR THEE;” Not, mark, FOR YOU, but FOR THEE, the language of express personal appropriation, proceeding we presume upon the supposition, that having been regenerated in baptism, and confirmed in grace, every communicant is a true believer. Now when these individuals, who are allowed by the church to live as they please, are laid on a dying bed, they can, by simply sending for the minister, obtain unqualified absolution; yes, he solemnly declares, “I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” This is stronger than the Romish absolution, in which the word all does not occur; it is merely, “I absolve thee from thy sins,” whereas, here it is “from ALL THY SINS.”
But the Funeral Service is the last appropriate link of this chain of deadly error. There it is taught that, with the exception of unbaptized infants, excommunicated persons, and self-murderers, “all who die go to heaven, whatever was their previous character.” With the above exceptions, every clergyman is commanded by the 68th canon, under pain of suspension by the bishop for the space of three months, to read the funeral service over all others, whatever was their previous character, or die under what circumstances they may. And in that service the church compels him to say, “Forasmuch as it hath pleased almighty God, of his great mercy, to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.” Again, “We give thee hearty thanks that it hath pleased thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world, beseeching thee that it may please thee of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of the elect.” We abstain from farther quotation, believing that these two extracts are quite sufficient to prove that this service actually puts all over whom it is read into heaven. And let it not be forgotten that the dear brother departed, whose soul, it is presumptuously asserted, God has of his great mercy taken to himself, “may have died in a duel, or a pugilistic contest, or a drunken fit; yea, may have perished on the scaffold as a murderer, and remained impenitent till his last breath.”[40.]
“Thus, then, we have found that, according to the Liturgy, all are regenerated by baptism—confirmed in grace by the bishop—assured that Christ’s body was broken and his blood shed for them individually, at the communion of the supper—absolved from all their sins when sick—and declared to have gone to heaven at death. And let it be remembered that these very persons are allowed to hold what opinions, and pursue whatever line of conduct they please during life. Those that can believe all this, may; but in the words of the Prayer Book itself, we would devoutly exclaim, from such sentiments, Good Lord, deliver us.”[41.]
Many other things in the Liturgy merit exposure and animadversion, as the vain repetitions of the Litany—the damnatory clauses of the Athanasian creed, which have no place in the religious form of any other church in protestant christendom—the mixing up of some of the most objectionable passages in the Apocryphal books with the holy words of inspiration [42.]—the services appointed for the anniversary of' the execution of Charles I., and the restoration of Charles II.; which are a compound of fulsome flattery, and barefaced falsehood; and in the former of which passages of scripture which relate to the sufferings of Christ, are impiously introduced as applicable to the ‘royal martyr,’ as he is sometimes styled, &c. &c. Upon these, however, and other points which we do not even wait to specify, our limits permit us not to descant. And, in dismissing the Liturgy, it is with unfeigned astonishment that its manifold errors and absurdities should find any advocates, or even be tolerated in this nineteenth century, and with the fervent prayer that the time may speedily come, when it shall either be completely remodeled or entirely discarded. While its use continues to be imperatively enjoined in episcopal churches, they must remain separated as by a wall of brass from Presbyterians, and orthodox dissenters of every name. And, alas! there is still but a dark prospect of any thing like a speedy and effectual remedy of this prominent and long-continued grievance; for, as has been truly remarked, “the Prayer book is the peculiar badge of the system of episcopacy. With the zealous prelatist it matters not that you commend the Articles, Homilies, or any or all other things connected with his church, unless you approve the Liturgy. The Liturgy, the Liturgy, is that in which he specially glories. In this channel his zeal and bigotry flow with spring-tide swell and impetus. Nothing short of the introduction of “the Service Book, with its surplice, its rubricks, its collects, its responses,” into Scotland, would satisfy the royal bigot Charles I, and why? Because he esteemed it the grand badge of episcopacy. This in fact was the mutual understanding, and hence the spirit of Scottish presbyterianism was aroused to determined and successful resistance. Much had been borne, and much might still have been borne, but the service book being regarded as the signal of the triumph of episcopacy, and the consequent prostration of presbytery, precipitated the crisis, and thus led to the complete subversion for a time of the obnoxious system in Scotland. In this country therefore, the Liturgy awakens no very pleasant historical reminiscences; and we would warn presbyterian dissenters to pause and reflect seriously, whether the recent introduction of it into some of their churches be not wrong in itself, inconsistent with their own principles, and a poor exhibition of respect for the memory, and gratitude for the struggles of those brave and devoted men, to whose uncompromising opposition to “Prelacy and the Prayer Book,” we owe, under God, our civil and religious liberties.
IV. This brings us briefly to consider the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England.
Nothing can be more beautifully and impressively simple than the mode of divine worship, delineated in the New Testament, and practised by our Lord and his apostles. It consisted in solemn, fervent prayer, without form, and without book; singing the praises of God with the human voice; preaching the gospel, with reading and expounding the Scriptures, wherever an audience could be collected, and a consequent opportunity was afforded; and dispensing the seals of the covenant with a divine simplicity, appropriately suited to their holy symbolical character. How happy would it have been for the church had these ordinances been preserved “pure and entire” in their primitive form and native simplicity!
“The naked exhibition of the cross, however, soon became distasteful to carnal and formal professors; and hence one adornment after another was thrown around it, till at last its glory was entirely shrouded by the meretricious trappings of apostate Rome.”[43.] Popery is chargeable, not so much with a positive denial of divine truth, or a positive exclusion or abandonment of divine ordinances, as with perverting the one, and corrupting the other, by overlaying them with traditions, and human inventions, and all manner of foolish and fantastic ceremonies. From Judaism and Paganism she carefully selected what was best calculated to impress the imagination; and adding to these rites of her own devising at pleasure, and without end, she in the course of ages reared up an anomalous, piebald, monstrous system, partly Pagan, partly Jewish, partly Christian, and yet distinct from each and all of these, possessing a character quite sui generis, so childish and fantastic, and yet so gorgeous and imposing, that the whole world became spell-bound with her fascinations. Now at the Reformation, the Church of England retained not a few of the Popish ceremonies, and in her selection—if we may presume to express an opinion in such high matters—she seems to us to have displayed bad taste. Some of the more outrageously absurd Romish rites indeed, she has discarded, but then she has, at the same time, retained a considerable portion of the more childish and ridiculous ones; so that what she gains in point of decorum and propriety over the old lady of the seven hills, she loses in splendour, gorgeousness, and scenic effect. The principle involved in the ritual of both is equally unscriptural, and the Anglican has far fewer charms for the vulgar imagination than the Romish.
Not satisfied, however, with retaining a number of Popish rites, as a matter of expediency, at the Reformation, and clinging with insensate tenacity to them ever since, the Church of England asserts her right to establish a separate and independent manufacture in these prelatical commodities. In the 20th Article it is distinctly declared, “The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies.”
Now we should like, in the first place, to know who gave the church this power. As a protestant church, she will readily admit, we presume, that all her power, in matters strictly ecclesiastical, is, or ought to be, derived from Christ Jesus, the glorious king and lawgiver in Zion. Let her appeal to the statute-book of heaven then, and establish, if she can, her warrant for this claim. Such an attempt alas! were utterly vain; yea more, pretensions of this nature are rebuked and condemned in terms of solemn and awful severity in the word of God. (See Exod. 25:40; 26:30; Deut. 4:2, 12, 32; and Rev. 22:18, 19.) Let presumptuous man beware of adding to or taking away from the words and ordinances of God. The impiety, in either case is daring, and the danger extreme. Away with such an arrogant assumption. It embodies the very essence of Popery.
But we should like to know farther what church has this power. It is said the church has power; now, we ask, which church? the Church of Rome? the Greek Church? the Church of England? or the Church of Scotland? We ask pardon; this last, we should have remembered, is no church at all, but a mere community of Presbyterians! Well but the others are, according to the principles of our opponents, and where is this mysterious power lodged? Does any one possess it exclusively, or is it equally distributed among them? These are points of moment, which should be settled, and not left at large as in the Article.
But admitting that the Church of England has this power, as the Article unquestionably intends to assert, then we should like to know where within her pale it is placed? It lies not with the members, for they have no power in ecclesiastical matters at all—nor with the members and clergy combined, for no such combination is known or recognized—nor with the bishop and clergy in each diocese, for they dare not presume to enact a single rite—nor, finally, does it lie with the archbishops, bishops, and clergy of the whole kingdom met in convocation, for we have already seen that they cannot meet in convocation, without the sovereign’s license; and that no resolution of theirs, when thus met, has any validity, unless confirmed by the sovereign and parliament. Thus it turns out that this power to decree rites or ceremonies does not exist in the Church of England at all, but in the civil magistrate; and accordingly, her whole clergy cannot, and never have attempted, to decree a single rite upon their own authority. Yea, “instead of framing the Articles and rites of the English Church, these were enacted at the Reformation, in spite of the hostility of the bishops and clergy,” who generally favoured Popery. The sovereign and parliament managed the matter, not only without their consent, hut in the face of their remonstrances, and determined opposition.
Passing this, however, we should like to know how far the church is at liberty to carry the power in question. Perhaps it may be thought a sufficient answer to say that the church’s power is limited in the very article itself, for it is added, “and yet it is not lawful to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s word written.” But although this sounds well, it is practically quite futile. It allows the church to carry on this rite-manufacturing up to the point of enacting what is expressly contrary to the word of God; with. in which convenient limit much serious mischief may he done. But should she transgress this boundary, and decree what is directly contrary to God’s word written,; still she is perfectly secure; for being the sole judge, she has merely to declare that the thing enacted is not contrary to God’s word written, and there is an end of the controversy. Now we should like to know which of all the rite-decreeing churches will admit, that in a single particular they have ordained any thing contrary to the word of God. Will the Church of England admit this? No, indeed. She carries on a considerable trade in these articles; she consecrates churches and burying grounds, for instance, which, judging from “the form used by Archbishop Laud, in consecrating the church of St. Catherine Cree,” seems a sufficiently superstitious and absurd ceremonial—she enjoins the sign of the cross to be made on the child’s forehead in baptism, and substitutes godfathers and godmothers as sponsors, instead of the parents, and to their exclusion—she commands the Lord’s supper to be received in a kneeling posture, and will not dispense it to the most credible believer on earth, except he comply with this arbitrary requirement; while, with the consecration of the elements, and the altar at which it is administered, there are many superstitious notions connected: nor should her private administration of baptism and the Lord’s supper be overlooked—she confirms youths—professes to communicate the Holy Ghost at ordination—and absolves the dying from all their sins—she commands the worshippers to bow towards the east at the name of Jesus, in certain portions of certain services—makes it imperative for her ministers to conduct the worship of God in fantastic garments (one of which, the surplice, was originally worn by the Pagan priests, and introduced into the Church of Rome by Pope Adrian, in 796) and within consecrated walls—she has even encumbered the ordinance of marriage with absurd rites—employs instrumental music in the worship of God—uses vain repetitions and unmeaning responses in some of her most solemn devotional exercises—and, not farther to enumerate, she has appointed upwards of one hundred and fifty holidays to be annually observed.
Such is a specimen of the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, and we object to them in toto, as superstitious and unscriptural, as wantonly violating christian liberty, and as involving the observers of them in the guilt of symbolizing with idolaters. But will a rigid prelatist admit any such thing? No; he will stoutly maintain that there is not one of them contrary to God’s word written; yea, that they are decent, godly, and edifying rites. And the papist, whose church has taken a much wider range in this matter, maintains just as stoutly that not one of her rites is superstitious, or contrary to the word of God, Now, to us it appears that he is just as well entitled to maintain this as the other; for we have never been able to comprehend upon what principle the ceremonies of the Church of England can be regarded as comely and edifying, while those of Rome are denounced as absurd and debasing superstitions. If the Church of England has a right to make the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead in baptism, in token that it shall confess a crucified Saviour, what objection can there be to the Romish priest putting a little spittle into the ear, in token that it should be open to hear the word of God; and a little salt upon the tongue, in token that the speech should be seasoned with salt? If the Church of England has a right to consecrate earth, stones, timber, &c., why may not the Church of Rome consecrate water? If the one is at liberty to enjoin the rite of confirmation or absolution, is not the other at liberty to ordain the ceremony of extreme unction? “The bowings to the altar, bowing at the name of Jesus, kneeling at the communion, sponsors, surplice, hoods, lawn sleeves,” &c. &c., in the Church of England, are certainly near akin to “the slippers and staff, knocking on the breast, elevations, crossings, gesticulations, sprinklings with holy water, &c. &c., practised in the Church of Rome.”[44.] The wit of man cannot vindicate the English ceremonies, except upon principles that afford an equally good vindication of the Romish; and thus are the mummeries and abominations of popery sanctioned by the 20th Article, and the corresponding practice of the Church of England. Ah! it is pitiable to think that by the rigid enforcement of these silly and beggarly popish rites, thousands of her best and most pious sons were driven beyond her pale, yea, subjected to cruel and remorseless persecution; and that till this hour, no communion can be enjoyed with her, except by submitting to this galling yoke. That such fooleries should be tolerated in a protestant church, at this time of day, is lamentable enough; but that they should be enforced upon the conscience with tenfold more rigour than the very fundamental articles of faith is absolutely unbearable. One who disbelieves the doctrine of original sin, or who is an open adulterer or drunkard, will readily get his child baptized; but the godliest parent in England will not, unless he submit to the sign of the cross. The veriest miscreant has no difficulty in finding his way to the communion; but although the apostle Paul were on earth, he would not be permitted to show forth the Lord’s death unless he should kneel at the altar. It is well known that the ministers of the Church of England may preach almost any kind of doctrine they please, yea, and live too almost as they list; but should they dare to dispense with the surplice, lay aside the prayer book, or preach in unconsecrated walls, they would be visited with speedy and severe reprehension. To exalt rites and ceremonies of human invention thus above what is essential to a life of faith and holiness, requires no farther remark.[See Note D.]
V. We should next proceed to show that the prelatic establishment in these lands is inimical to civil and religious liberty, and characterized by a persecuting spirit.
Upon this important topic, however, we must satisfy ourselves with a very few brief remarks.
If we rightly understand the gospel of the Son of God, it breathes a spirit of enlarged and genuine liberty, free from the slightest taint of licentiousness, and is oppose to tyranny and persecution in every form. If we find a church, therefore, invading the Christian liberties of her own ministers and people—inculcating despotical maxims in regard to the power and prerogatives of princes—firmly supporting tyranny—and persecuting, even to the death, those that dissent from her, we cannot but conclude, that hers is not the spirit of the gospel; yea, that she is to a great extent, anti-christian. Now we distinctly charge the Church of England with being guilty of all these.
She invades the rights of her own members. The christian people have no voice in the election of their own pastors at all; for absolute patronage prevails universally and unchallenged, without veto, without call, without in fact any check whatever. They are denied also representatives, or ruling elders, an admirable divinely instituted order for protecting the liberties of the people against clerical aggression and tyranny. Nor can they enjoy the sealing ordinances of religion, without submitting to the yoke of superadded popish ceremonies. The members of the Church of England are not ecclesiastically represented, have no voice in her concerns, and are treated as mere children; so much so, that in the month of a high episcopalian, the church means the clergy, irrespective of the people altogether; and when the cry is raised, the church is in danger, it just means that the revenues and power of the clergy are menaced.
But the liberty of the clergy themselves is extremely circumscribed. The inferior clergy, for instance, have nothing to do with the government of the church; the archbishops, bishops, &c. take this entirely into their own bands. They are liable to be rebuked and suspended, also, at the bishop’s pleasure. How anxious soever to preach the gospel to those that are perishing for lack of knowledge, they dare not stir for this purpose beyond the bounds of their own parish. How much soever their consciences may be aggrieved by certain portions of the baptismal, funeral, and other services, they may not, they dare not, omit a single sentence. Should the hardened adulterer bring the offspring of his guilt and infamy to the baptismal font, the minister must, under pain of suspension, administer the sacred rite. When an avowed member of the kingdom of satan approaches the altar, the minister must put into his hands the symbols of Christ’s broken body and shed blood, or abide a prosecution. And over the grave of the most infamous wretch, must he give hearty thanks to Almighty God for having taken to himself in great mercy the soul of this dear brother departed, &c., when in reality, he has every ground to believe that it has descended to the fiery lake. To be compelled to do these and similar things must to a tender conscience be an unbearable bondage.[45.] We have seen farther, that the inferior clergy have no power in the appointment of those bishops that are to rule over them; yea more, that the bishops and all the clergy together have not power to enact a single canon, or decree a single rite! Christian and ministerial liberty in fact is utterly prostrated in the Church of England. In addressing her, Paul could with no propriety have said, Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free; for, alas! she has no liberty. To her therefore we would say in the words of the evangelical prophet, Loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
But the Church of England is equally inimical to civil freedom. In the time of Queen Elizabeth, Burnet informs us, there were many excellent men who had been driven by the Marian persecution to Geneva, and other places, and who having witnessed the form of church government set up there with its happy fruits, were anxious to have something of the same kind introduced into England. And he tells us farther, the reason why Elizabeth would not accede to it, “Lord Burleigh, and others, demonstrated to her, that these new models would certainly bring with them a great abatement of her prerogative. This she perceived well, and THEREFORE resolved to maintain the ancient government of the church.” This proves clearly enough, that in the estimation of that despotical princess, presbytery was inimical to arbitrary power, and prelacy favourable to it; and hence she rejected the former, and adopted the latter.
In precisely the same spirit, and with exactly the same views, did the Stuart dynasty endeavour to subvert presbytery and establish prelacy in Scotland. Every one must have heard of the famous maxim of the most high and mighty Prince James, which has been appropriately denominated the motto of tyrants, “No bishop, no king.” This was religiously adopted and faithfully acted upon by both Charleses; and has come down to us as a truism. Justly does Dr. Burns say, “The Presbyterian Church was always considered by the lovers of arbitrary sway, as a democratical sort of system; and whenever they wished to depress or take away the liberties of the people, stern, unbending Presbytery, was the first thing they tried to get out of the way. From the period of the Convention at Leith in 1572, down to the revolution of 1688, the history of the Church of Scotland presents little else than a succession of keen contests betwixt the aggressions of civil and religious tyranny on the one hand, and the injured rights of civil and religious freedom on the other.”[46.] And down even to our own times we find, that almost in exact proportion as civil rulers and others imbibe high despotical notions, they become enamoured with prelacy, and vice versa. This is perfectly natural, indeed; for she has been in all ages the steadfast ally of arbitrary power, and the unflinching enemy of all extension of privilege to the subject. Where do we find the “divine right of kings to govern wrong,” and the abhorrent doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance taught in the broadest and most unqualified terms? In the writings of bishops, and other high-church dignitaries. And by a reference to the votes of the spiritual lords, during the last half century, every one may satisfy himself that if the cause of human freedom were in their hands, it would soon be utterly strangled. We speak of the bench as a body; at all times there have of course been honourable exceptions.
Nor is this all: her spirit is positively persecuting. The protracted and fearful sufferings of the English Non-conformists and Scottish Covenanters bear, alas! ample, convincing, and resistless evidence to the truth of this charge. The page of history teems with accounts of the bloody and remorseless persecutions of popery; but in Scotland, the sufferings under prelacy were incomparably more extensive, protracted, and dreadful. During twenty-eight long years did she heat her fiery furnace, and wave her bloody sword over this our beloved land, subjecting to sufferings and tortures at which humanity shudders, and to death in its most appalling forms, many thousands of our devoted and godly forefathers. Copiously has she drunk, like the Romish whore, of the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; largely is it found in her skirts; the names of the ruthless agents of her cruelty, ecclesiastical, civil, and military, stand recorded on the page of impartial history, to their eternal infamy, and have descended to posterity loaded with the accumulated execrations of ages; and the souls of them that were slain by her for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus, are under the altar invoking vengeance from him that is holy and true, upon her guilty and devoted head.
Tell us not in the face of fact and of history, that although ostensibly a prelatic, this was in reality a popish persecution. We are not ignorant of the popish leanings of some of the courtiers of the Second Charles; nor of the avowed popery of James Duke of York, when he succeeded to the throne; but while Wodrow and Cruickshanks, the Cloud of Witnesses and the Scots Worthies, remain in our families, and are read by our population; and while the simple, but heart-thrilling inscriptions upon the tombstones of the martyrs, scattered up and down through the mountains and moors of our native land, continue legible, the attempt must be futile, as we esteem it base, to persuade Scottish Presbyterians that the persecution of the covenanters was not in reality, as well as appearance, a prelatic persecution. Now the Church of England has expressed no sorrow for the shedding of all this blood and given no assurance that her spirit and policy are changed. The times indeed are altered and her power is happily circumscribed; but circumstances favouring, for any thing we know, she might say again what she once said, and do again what she once did.
She has even of late displayed in various ways no small share of intolerance; and it is our firm persuasion, that civil and religious liberty will never rest upon a broad and stable basis in this country, till she be entirely taken out of the way.
VI. The pretensions of the Church of England upon the head of apostolic succession, and Episcopal ordination, next claim our attention.
It is a well-known fact, that a large proportion of her clergy entertain the most extravagant notions in regard to the exclusive validity of episcopal ordination, and the pretended unbroken succession of her bishops from the apostles down to the present day. Their boasting and gloriation on this head have of late been peculiarly offensive; and their tone, when speaking of other protestant churches, in which they imagine these blessings are imperfectly, if at all enjoyed, has become contemptuous and arrogant in the extreme. They broadly assert, that “it appears absolutely necessary, that there should be a continual succession of men invested with the same authority as the first apostles, and deriving power from them to ordain, and keep a lawfully commissioned clergy.” “That the sectaries have no ministry.” “That those pretended ministers who officiate in the meetings of Methodists, Presbyterians, &c. have not been ordained by bishops, and consequently these men have not been sent by God: and therefore it must be utterly unlawful to attend their ministry. To hear them, is rebellion against God, and utterly unlawful, and is countenancing them, and hardening their presumption and daring imposture.” “We must plainly insist, that federally speaking, not one of the Dissenters have such a thing as either the word or sacraments among them.”[See Note E.] We Presbyterians in Scotland “are in a state of unjustifiable separation from the lawful bishops; and consequently are cut off from the apostle’s fellowship and catholic communion.” Presbyterian ministers are denominated “humanly-appointed professors of the art of persuasion.”[47.] Even the Established Church of Scotland is a mere community of Presbyterians! Our churches in fact have no ministry, and no sacraments; our people have no solid ground upon which to hope for salvation; and accordingly we are all handed over to the uncovenanted mercies of God, which is just a mild but hypocritical way of intl. mating to us that we shall all eternally perish.
Such sentiments, of which the above is but a small specimen, happily carry along with them their own confutation. They seem indeed [more] like the ravings of insanity, than the words of truth and soberness; and in reflecting upon them, it is difficult to say whether pity or contempt should predominate.
The following is a mere outline of the argument, by which, had time permitted, we intended to have disposed of these preposterous and arrogant pretensions.
In the first place, we have already proved that presbyters and bishops are of one order, and of equal authority, that in the New Testament the same individuals are designated by both names indiscriminately. To pretend therefore, that ordination by a bishop is valid, but by presbyters invalid, is a miserable begging of the question; for “in the beginning of Christ’s religion, and till it was corrupted by antichrist,” no such distinction was known.
In the second place, we can prove from Scripture, that ordination was performed by presbyters. In Acts 13:1-3, we have an account of the ordination of Paul and Barnabas, by certain presbyters at Antioch; and Timothy was ordained by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Presbyterian ordination then is unquestionably valid. And for our own part we are perfectly satisfied, with having been put into the ministry in the same way as Paul and Barnabas and Timothy.
But in the third place, there is no evidence that the twelve apostles, from whom it is pretended bishops derive this magic power, by virtue of direct and unbroken succession, did themselves ever ordain either presbyter or bishop. This is not specified in the commission which they received from the Lord; and accordingly they ordained none, so far as we know, except the deacons at Jerusalem, who were to manage the concerns of the poor. Paul indeed ordained; but it must be remembered that he was not one of the twelve. Besides, they gave no authority to ordain, nor laid down any directions on the subject. Paul did both, but he had nothing more than presbyterian ordination. Yea more, with the exception of a successor to Judas, they did not even supply vacancies in their own number; and from the nature of the apostolic office, they could obviously have no successors.[48.] From these suggestions it is plain, that to pretend that bishops are the lineal successors of the apostles, and hence have exclusive authority to ordain, is an utter delusion. Although they could trace up the chain to apostolic times, they would still find, that the link necessary to connect them with the apostles is entirely awanting. All ordination in the Christian church is derived from those that were themselves ordained by presbyters. And were it not that presbyters impose hands along with the bishop, thus preserving the substance of scriptural ordination, it were difficult to understand how the validity of prelatic orders could be vindicated. Scotch episcopalians maintain the power of the bishop to ordain without his presbyters, which must render their ordination still more irregular than that of the Church of England.
In the fourth place, we utterly deny that any such thing as an unbroken succession can be traced to the apostles. The most effectual and the most summary way of treating such as advance these foolish pretensions, is to put them at once to the proof. You rest the validity of your orders upon the circumstance that you were ordained by a bishop descended by uninterrupted succession from the apostles. Produce your genealogical tables then, and trace your pedigree up to any one of them; but remember if you fail in a single link, if you cannot show that every one of your spiritual progenitors was regularly ordained, ay and baptized too, you cannot object, upon your own principles, to be treated like those who, in the days of Ezra, preferred a claim to be enrolled among the priests, which they could not make good. These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they as polluted put from the priesthood. Ezra 2:62. Let the episcopal clergy beware; for we pledge ourselves by this plain and simple test to annihilate the orders of every minister in the united church of England and Ireland, the Archbishop of Canterbury not excepted, who dares to lay claim to apostolic succession.
When we take into account the many instances of simony, and other flagrant crimes among bishops, who had ordained extensively, on account of which they were deposed, and all their ecclesiastical acts declared null and void—the conflicting claims of two or three rival popes, all ordaining, anathematizing one another, and perhaps all pronounced usurpers, deposed, and their deeds cancelled—the alleged occupancy of the chair of St. Peter by a female—the annulling of all the deeds of Pope Formosus, who ordained Plegmund Archbishop of Canterbury, from whom many of the clergy in England obtained ordination in their turn—the impossibility of determining who were the first seven bishops of Rome—the long, long gaps that the wit of man cannot fill up—the fact, that a large number of the English clergy at one time received ordination from Scotch presbyters, coupled with another fact, that in the reign of Henry VIII. and Edward VI., the leading bishops took out commissions from the king for exercising spiritual jurisdiction, and hence acted not as ministers of the Gospel in ordaining, &c., but as officers of state—when these (and they are but a specimen of the insuperable difficulties that might be mentioned) are taken into account, it seems like perfect infatuation for ministers of the Church of England to put forth such pretensions, since upon their own principles, it is extremely doubtful, or rather perfectly certain, that there is not a regularly ordained clergyman among them all.
But in the fifth place, it must be very humbling for them to reflect that this vaunted apostolic succession is derived through the polluted medium of the Church of Rome. That the Church of Rome is an apostate and harlot church, is declared in the strongest and coarsest terms in the “Homilies of the Church of England.”[49.] But notwithstanding, prelatists glory in having received their orders from this vile and debased church, and readily admit the validity of her ordination; so that if one of her priests come over to the church of England, his orders are not for one moment disputed; whereas if Dr. Chalmers, or Dr. Cooke of Belfast were to do so, he would require to be re-ordained! But the Church of Rome does not return the compliment; no, she denies the validity of their ordination, and the status of their clergy altogether. Is it not humiliating and pitiable in the extreme, to see the protestant Church of England standing forth to vindicate the ministerial acts of Romish priests; while she treats with scorn and contumely those of the most devoted servants of God in other protestant churches? We too, could lay claim to ordination from the Church of Rome; for Knox, Calvin, and the other leading Reformers were regularly ordained presbyters in that church; but we repudiate the idea of resting the validity of our ordination upon any such footing.
But in the sixth place, it should be regarded as a weighty and solemn consideration, by the Church of England, that these high pretensions go to the annihilation of by far the largest and fairest portion of the protestant churches. Yes, the question is not one of order, or regularity, but of validity. If these notions are correct, then all protestant churches that lack this amazing blessing of apostolic succession, and an immense majority of them do, are no churches; their ministers no ministers; and their sacraments no sacraments. Ecclesiastically considered, indeed, they are annihilated. Now to a pious and charitable mind, there must be something painful and revolting, one would think, in the very idea of uprooting the reformed churches of Scotland, France, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Denmark, and America, together with all Independent, Methodist, and Baptist churches. Were the evidence not very clear, it would be a luxury for such a person to indulge the hope, that some of them at least are true churches of Christ; and were it quite overwhelming, it would not be without a pang and a sigh that he could bring his mind to the thought of unchurching them all. The recollection of the great and good men by whom they were founded, as Calvin, Knox, Bucer, Melancthon, Beza, Zuingle, &c. &c., of the eminent servants of God, whose praise is in all the churches, that have adorned their annals, and of the numerous believers that have been converted and trained up for glory within their pale, would lead him to pause, and doubt, whether after all there might not be some flaw in the argument which is fraught with such fearful consequences. How shocking the thought therefore that a high episcopalian (unknown, it may be, for ought but bigotry and in tolerance, beyond the walls of his own cathedral,) should without evidence, yea, against all evidence, take a kind of savage delight in reducing, by a few strokes of his pen these renowned ministers of Christ to mere “humanly-appointed professors of the art of persuasion”—in turning these fair portions of the christian vineyard, which once bloomed like the garden of the Lord, into a howling moral wilderness—and in handing over their millions of devout worshippers, like unbaptized pagans, to the uncovenanted mercies of God. My soul, come not thou into the secret of these fierce and uncharitable polemics!
Another great evil of these absurd pretensions is, that they tend to exalt unduly what is merely ritual, and lead to a consequent depreciation of the grand essentials of a faithful gospel ministry. According to them, the question is not whether the gospel be purely, ably, and successfully preached in our pulpits; whether discipline be faithfully administered; and whether sinners be converted and saints edified. No, no: the grand thing is apostolic succession, and episcopal ordination! And if people are baptized, confirmed, receive the communion, are absolved, and have the funeral service read over them at last, by a minister that is possessed of this mysterious virtue, then all is well. It is of small moment whether he preaches truth or error, has foul or clean hands, apostolic succession covers all defects, and cures all evils.[See note F.] These notions are instinct with the very spirit and essence of popery.
But they must tend farther to disturb and unsettle the minds of the common people. When the validity of all religious ordinances and ministerial acts is suspended upon a qualification that is incapable of being proved; yea, which the more it is examined must appear more an more doubtful, and to the intelligent, utterly baseless; the people must either be harassed with perplexing doubts—resign themselves to implicit faith and superstitious credulity—or, despising such pretensions as arrogant priestcraft, give way to scepticism and infidelity. All these results are we fear too common.
Truly and justly does one of their own prophets, bishop Hoadly, observe, “I am fully satisfied that till a consummate stupidity can be happily established and universally spread over the land, there is nothing that tends so much to destroy all due respect to the clergy, as the demand of more than can be due to them; and nothing has so effectually thrown contempt upon a regular succession of the ministry, as the calling no succession regular, but what was uninterrupted; and the making the eternal salvation of Christians to depend upon that uninterrupted succession, of which the most learned must have the least assurance, and the unlearned can have no notion, but through ignorance and credulity.[50.]
From the above specimen, and it is but a hasty and imperfect one, of the evils, constitutional and practical, of the prelatic establishment of these lands, it cannot certainly be thought strange that we should deeply deplore, and earnestly deprecate the apathy, and in many instances positive dislike and contempt, with which our testimony against this monstrous system has long been regarded by a large proportion of our presbyterian fellow-countrymen. And much less can it be thought strange, that we should deeply deplore and most earnestly deprecate the disposition of late years, so unequivocally manifested upon the part of our Scottish establishment, to fraternize with the Church of England, and identify her very existence with the upholding of it. That the worldly-politician, who regards all such questions with the jaundiced eye of a mere temporising expediency, should, in considering her enormous wealth, and the interested favour of the great and powerful, which she has so long and largely enjoyed, esteem a more intimate alliance with her a tower of strength in the day of trial, for the comparatively poor and friendless Kirk of Scotland, is not at all wonderful. But that Christian men; yea, our learned and godly divines, who profess to take their stand upon the high and firm footing of decided Bible-principle, should be led away with and give currency to this delusion, is both astonishing and lamentable.
Already indeed a little reaction has begun to take place upon this subject; and by and by, we doubt not, its folly and infatuation will be generally felt and acknowledged; for who does not see that the present difficulties of the Church of Scotland are rendered tenfold more perplexing, by the incorporating Union, and her consequent political connexion with the prelatical establishment? Had we a Scottish parliament, as in the time of the Second Reformation, we should not despair of seeing patronage at no very distant day completely abolished, and the church’s spiritual independence once more fully recognized. But alas! when these vitally important topics, which are now menacing the very existence of the Scottish Establishment, have to be submitted to the British legislature, in which there is an overwhelming majority of episcopalians, the issue we fear, through the ignorance of some, the hostility of others, and the apathy of all, must be exceedingly doubtful. The spiritual Lords in particular, are not very promising judges of such questions, for they know well that the abolition of patronage, and the recognition of spiritual independence in the church of England would completely revolutionize her. And if these points are conceded to Scotland the contagion might cross the Border.
Both principle and enlightened expediency require therefore that this fraternizing should be forthwith and for ever discontinued. What! identify the fate of the presbyterian Church of Scotland with the English prelatic establishment! Of the downfall of the latter there can be no more doubt than of the overthrow of the papacy itself. The very breath of the Millennium will blow them both away. Let the Church of Scotland prove true and single-hearted in her loyalty to her glorious Head, and retrace her steps till she reach the ancient firm footing of the covenanted uniformity; and should she even be severed from the state, we tell her that she has nought to fear. No, no; rooted in the affections of a united Christian people, and enjoying the protection, favour, and blessing of the King of Zion, she will shine forth with a moral splendour and glory, altogether unknown since the era of the Revolution. But if she fawn upon, and crouch before prelatists, sometimes appealing to their generosity, and sometimes working upon their fears, representing herself as the ally of “the venerable sister establishment,” and suggesting that her downfall will assuredly involve that of prelacy, as if indeed this were a catastrophe not to be contemplated but with grief and horror, then we fear that her worst forebodings will be realized, and if she perish, hanging as a mere pendicle to the skirts of the Church of England, she will fall unhonoured and unwept, a worthless and degraded thing. Thou also shall be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria: yea, thou shalt go forth from him and thine hands upon thine head: for the Lord hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shaft not prosper in them. Say ye not, A conspiracy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Jer. 2:36, 37: Is. 8:12.
Nor can it be thought strange farther, that we should have strong conscientious scruples, in regard to the propriety of yielding unqualified allegiance to the British Constitution, of which the prelatical establishment forms an integral part. The sentiments and practice of reformed presbyterians upon this head have been unsparingly assailed; and it seems by many to be thought almost self-evident, that here at least, we are wrong. Let the whole circumstances of the case be calmly and candidly considered however, and we despair not of obtaining a much more favourable verdict. We publicly and solemnly profess adherence, it must be remembered, to the great principles both civil and ecclesiastical of the Second Reformation. Now these were formally set aside at the Revolution settlement, or rather, left buried in a dishonoured grave, under the incumbent weight of the infamous act rescissory, which is still unrepealed. We had no alternative therefore, but either abandon our principles, or dissent from, and testify against, the present complex constitution. Had we adhered merely to the ecclesiastical part of the Second Reformation, we might have satisfied ourselves with dissenting from the established church; but in as much as we approve the civil part also, our dissent and protest must necessarily partake of a civil character. This arises from the nature of the case. Besides in the Solemn League and Covenant we pledge ourselves “to endeavour the extirpation of Prelacy;” but by unqualified allegiance to the British Constitution, we should necessarily stand bound to uphold this system, which would involve us not merely in palpable inconsistency, but even perjury. Believing therefore that the prelatical establishment of these lands, which is an essential part of the constitution, is, as we have attempted to prove, unscriptural and antichristian; and believing that the royal supremacy, according to which it is a fundamental principle of the constitution that the Sovereign is Head of the church, is a daring, and even blasphemous invasion of the inalienable prerogatives of the reigning Mediator, our allegiance to Him compels us to refuse allegiance to that constitution. When Caesar claims what is due to God alone the line of duty is plain: we must obey God rather than man. Caesar cannot have our loyalty on such terms. From long and painful experience we are alas! well aware of the difficulties, sacrifices, and obloquy connected with this position; but we cannot, we dare not recede. Renouncing voluntarily all claim to share in the honours and emoluments of the state, it is our desire and our aim to demean ourselves as good and peaceable citizens. To our native land we are ardently attached by the recollections and endearments of both piety and patriotism; for her peace and prosperity, and for the temporal and eternal weal of all ranks of her inhabitants, we constantly and devoutly pray; and our object is to bring back our fellow-countrymen and fellow-christians, to the good old paths in which our fathers trode, to lead them to discard prelacy, and prosecute to their high and holy consummation, the grand ends of the Covenanted Reformation. Speedily, O speedily, may the time come, when our officers shall be peace, and our exactors righteousness, our walls salvation, and our gates praise! When we shall no more be termed Forsaken: neither shall our land any more be termed Desolate; but when we shall be called Hephzibah, and our land Beulah, for the Lord delighteth in us, and our land shall be married.
Nor finally can it be thought strange after what has been advanced, that reformed Presbyterians should cherish profound respect for the memory and the principles of those holy and devoted men, by whose exertions and sufferings the prelatical yoke, in connexion with arbitrary power, was averted from our land, and the inestimable blessings of civil and religious liberty secured to unborn generations.
We are well aware that in certain quarters it has been common and fashionable to represent the Scottish martyrs as wild and mischievous fanatics, who were enemies to lawfully constituted authority, both in church and state, impatient of every thing like restraint and subordination; and who threw away their lives in a kind of wantonness of enthusiasm. From the pen of the novelist, and writers not a few of a less imaginative cast, have these effusions of falsehood and bitterness copiously flowed; and time was when such vile caricatures were received as gospel, and ministered food for profane merriment to shallow-pated, cold-hearted, recreant presbyterians; and when the principles and even characters of the nicknamed Cameronians, their descendants, were esteemed the very consummation of all that is absurd and ridiculous. Thank God these times have passed away, and it is beginning at last to be felt and acknowledged that the covenanters died not as a fool dieth, but laid down their lives in defence of the highest and holiest principles for which free men and christians can contend. At the expense of all that is dear to the human heart, did they contend for the headship of Christ over the church and over the nations—for the spiritual independence of his spiritual kingdom—for the sacred and inalienable privilege of worshipping the God of their fathers according to the requirements of his blessed word—and for that civil liberty which is the birthright and boon of every free-born Briton. Looking upon their own sufferings and their own lives as nothing, and regarding themselves as the conveyancers of truth and freedom to coming generations, they opposed a determined front against prelatical encroachment, and arbitrary power—kindled upon the mountains and moors of our native land, the sacred fires of civil and religious liberty; and have thus bequeathed to us, their ungrateful posterity, unnumbered and inestimable blessings, and to coming ages an example worthy of all imitation, and never to be forgotten not they were mere human beings we know, and that they had their own share of human frailties and failings we know, but of them the world was not worthy, and, as they deserve, they shall be held in everlasting remembrance. Till there be a return to the great principles for which they contended, and till Prelacy that shed their blood be completely overthrown, we firmly believe that our distracted land will enjoy no solid and permanent peace. “When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.” Ps. 102:16.
The scriptural evidence upon this point is so conclusive, that most episcopalians make a show of admitting, what indeed they find it impossible to deny, that the same individuals are denominated bishops and presbyters indiscriminately. But then, they pretend that this does not affect their argument, since they do not contend for the name but the office, and since the term bishop came, in process of time, to be employed in a restricted sense, to point out an ecclesiastical ruler superior in rank to a presbyter Now we cannot comprehend this; for if a bishop and a presbyter are admitted to be convertible terms in the New Testament, we care little about the sense in which they came to be used after the church was corrupted by human ambition. We contend both for the name and the office. Yea more, we do not only maintain that bishops are presbyters, and presbyters bishops, but that presbyter is the more honourable of the two designations. The presbyter rules the bishop only oversees or inspects. In his “Few friendly parting words with Dr. Burns,” Mr. Wade of Parsley says, As to occasional application of the word ’Επισκοπος (bishops) to one who was only Πρεσβυτερος (presbyter, i.e. ministering elder) or vice versa; Why really to found upon this an argument against the episcopal degree and office is about as rational as to affirm that St. Peter was no apostle because he declares himself an elder; or to maintain that the Son of God was a deacon, because he is called in the Greek of Rom. 15:8. “Διακονος, translated ‘minister.’” Unhappily for Mr. Wade’s argument however, apostle and elder are not convertible terms like bishop and presbyter; and hence, although apostles were elders, it does not follow that elders were apostles; while in regard to the Son of God being denominated a deacon or minister, the absurdity (not to say impiety) of the reasoning must be apparent to all.
Let it not be imagined that we either fear an appeal to the fathers, or altogether undervalue their testimony. Within the narrow limits of a single lecture it is out of the question to embark upon this mare magnum else it were easy to adduce ample evidence from the most ancient and respectable of them, in support of presbytery. Many of the fathers however it must be remembered, were weak and credulous men, who wrote in a very loose and inaccurate manner; and hence their authority upon such topics as that in hand, is of comparatively small value. A peculiar infelicity in appealing to them is, that there is no difficulty in quoting father against father; yea, one part of the writings of the same father against another; while there is scarcely any opinion or practice so absurd, but its advocates may find ample support from the fathers. Plenty of quotations from them are to be found ready at hand also in all works upon this subject, so that it were easy to make a great show of learning, by simply transferring them to our pages, without having ever looked into a single original. Nor do we mean to deny that a modified episcopacy had crept at an early period into the primitive church, and that its advances by, the undue deference paid to eminent ministers, perpetual moderators, metropolitans, patriarchs, &c. &c., were insinuating and steadily aggressive, till at last, as Milton aptly remarks, it became “the stirrup by which antichrist vaulted into the saddle.” It is not wonderful therefore that Prelacy should find countenance and support in some of the fathers; but their opinions must be estimated at their proper value. In the following sentiments upon this subject we entirely concur: “Antiquity is not a sufficient foundation of our faith. If doctrines are to be regarded as necessarily true, because they are ancient, then must the cry heresies which the apostles combated, be implicitly received, because they existed in the earliest periods of the church Testimonies from the fathers are very little to be regarded; many sayings attributed to them were, in all probability, never uttered by them. During the dark ages their writings were changed from the simplicity of primitive times, to suit the domineering views of the Papacy, which claimed the world for its dominion, and all mankind for its slaves. At all events, they are useless as a test of discipline or doctrine.” Again, “I appeal to the scriptures alone. Whatever they have required and directed is required and directed by God, and is invested with his authority. Man has no authority over the conscience, and can never bind his fellow man in any religious concern whatever. If then we find at the present day, or in past ages, any thing said upon this subject, whether by divines or others, however learned or esteemed they have been, and which, at the same time, is not said in the scriptures, or clearly warranted by the practice of our Lord and his apostles, it is in no way binding upon us. It may be said wisely, or it may not—the opinion may be good or it may be bad, but it cannot, in any degree, have the nature of a law, and we are quite justified in rejecting it as the invention of fallible, uninspired men. All that they have written is a fallible testimony. To the scriptures alone we can appeal without danger of being led astray.” Presbyterianism Defended, pages 184, 82.
The Rev. Thomas Scott, in his reply to Bishop Tomline, exhibits the fathers in their true light; “The ancient fathers of the Christian church,” says he, “may be read with benefit in various ways; their persons ought in general to be venerated; even their supposed mistakes are entitled to our candour; but they have no authority over our creed, any more than we have over the creed of our remote posterity. So little agreement in sentiment is found among the fathers, that it would be a very easy task to bring together a long catalogue of their mutual discordances; and so inaccurate were they as to historical facts, that it would be equally easy to make a long list of their undeniable mistakes. Their comments upon the scripture were often such as would be universally rejected, nay despised, in these days. They were uninspired men, and fallible as others are.” Vol. ii. p. 223.
The following ease speaks volumes upon this subject: “Bound hand and foot by this law,” says the Rev. Mr. Denham, Londonderry, in reply to the Rev. Mr. Boyd, “you stand at the baptismal font, and must administer Christ’s holy ordinance to the adulterous offspring of the vilest wretches who walk our streets. Here I give you a case—that of a man who had banished his wife—who was openly living in adultery—who had been refused all ordinances in the presbyterian church—who had never been in the communion of the Church of England, and yet, whenever the children of his guilt and infamy were presented to the minister of the Church of England, he was obliged to administer that holy ordinance, by which they were sealed as having been born under the covenant of God, and as members of the visible church.” Plea, p. 397.
Since writing the above, we have, through the kindness of a friend, been favoured with a perusal of “A Dispute against the English Popish ceremonies obtruded upon the Church of Scotland,” by the celebrated George Gillespie. This work was originally published, we understand, in 1637, when Charles I was strenuously endeavouring to introduce the Service Book, with its accompanying ceremonies, into Scotland. The copy before us was printed in 1660. It is an extremely valuable work, but has now become very rare and we would take this opportunity of recommending some one of our spirited booksellers to publish a new edition of it, with a view to counteract the episcopal leanings of certain classes of Scottish Presbyterians The editor however would require to be thoroughly acquainted with the history and controversies of those times, and a genuine presbyterian.
We give the following from “The Epistle to all and every one in the Reformed churches of Scotland, England, and Ireland, who love the Lord Jesus, and mean to adhere unto the reformation of religion,” as a specimen of the power with which the giants of the seventeenth century could write; and also to show this puny and squeamish generation, how boldly and appropriately these venerable men could employ the imagery of scripture in condemning the meretricious adornments of a corrupt church.
“Neither is there need of Lyncean eyes, for if we be not poreblinde [purblind, i.e., near-sighted], it cannot be hid from us what dolefull and disastrous mutation (to be bewailed with tears of blood) hath happened to the church and spouse of Christ in these dominions. Her comely countenance is miscoloured with the fading lustre of the mother of harlots. Her shamefaced forehead hath received the mark of the beast. Her lovely locks are frizled with the crisping pins of antichristian fashions. Her chaste ears are made to listen to the friends of the great whore, who bring the bewitching doctrine of enchanting traditions Her dove’s eyes look pleasantly upon the well attired harlot. Her sweet voice is mumming and muttering some missal and magical Liturgies. Her fair neck beareth the halter-like tokens of her former captivity, even a burdensome chain of superfluous and superstitious ceremonies. Her undefiled garments are stained with the meretricious bravery of Babylonish ornaments, and with the symbolizing badges of conformity with Rome. Her harmless hands reach brick and mortar to the budding of Babel. Her beautiful feet with shoes are all besmeared, whiles they return apace in the way of Egypt, and wade the ingruent brookes of Popery. Oh! transformed virgin! whither is thy beauty gone from thee? Oh! forlorn prince’s daughter! how art thou not ashamed to look thy Lord in the face? Oh I thou best beloved among women! what hast thou to do with the inveigling appurtenances and habiliment of Babylon the whore.” pp. 5, 6. Again, “We have heard before from Spotiswood, that novations in a church, even in the smallest things, are dangerous. Who then can blame us to shun a danger, and fearing the worst, to resist evil beginnings? to give no place to the evil? to crush the viper while it is in the shell? and to take the little ones of Babylon whiles they are young, and dash their heads against the stones?” p. 76.
In the Conservative Journal, Jan. 30th and Feb. 6th, there is a report of an interesting process before the Court of Arches, against Rev. Thomas Sweet Escott, vicar of Gedney Parish Lincolnshire, for refusing to read the funeral service over Elisabeth Ann Cliff; the infant daughter of Methodist parents, which illustrates very clearly the views of the apostolic-succession clergy of the Church of England.
The process against Mr. Escott was founded upon the 68th canon, “which decrees that if any minister shall refuse or delay to bury any corpse, ‘except the party deceased were denounced excommunicated’ majore excommunicatione for some grievous and notorious crime, and no man able to testify his repentance,’ he shall be suspended by the bishop of his diocese from his ministry by the space of three months.” Now, “the articles alleged that the parents of the infant were Protestants, of the class of people called Wesleyan Methodists, and that she had been baptized according to the rite or form of baptism generally received and observed among the said class, namely, with water and in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister, preacher, or teacher of the said class.” We beg particular attention to the arguments in defence of the minister’s conduct. The responsive allegation of the defendant pleaded, that, in refusing to read the burial service on the occasion in question, he had acted in obedience to the obligations by which be bound himself when he became an ordained minister of the Church of England, by the liturgy of which it is expressly provided, that none shall be accounted lawful bishop, priest, or deacon, in the said church, unless he be admitted according to the form therein prescribed; that the minister by whom the deceased had been baptized not having been ordained, any rite or form of baptism performed by him is null and void: that since the Conference at Hampton Court, in 1608, lay baptism had been repudiated by the ecclesiastical authorities of this realm, and the liturgy had not allowed the rite of baptism performed by unordained persons to be valid, but has held the contrary; that in the rubric of the Book of Common Prayer, in the order for the burial of the dead, it is enjoined, that such office is not to be used for ally that die unbaptized or excommunicated; that the 9th, 12th, and 15th canons decree, that whosoever shall separate from the communion of saints in the Church of England, and continue together as a new brotherhood, or affirm that it is lawful to make rules or orders in causes ecclesiastical without the king’s authority, or affirm that any of the thirty-nine articles are in any point erroneous, shall be excommunicated ipso facto, and not restored without repentance and public revocation of their errors; that by the 23d of the Thirty-nine Articles, it is decreed that it is not lawful for any one to take upon him the office of ministering the sacraments before he be lawfully called and sent; that Elisha Bailey, the minister by whom the rite was administered to the deceased, had never received episcopal ordination or consecration, and was not a lawful minister, and consequently, Elisabeth Ann Cliff was not in fact baptized by him, the pretended baptism being altogether invalid, and in contempt of the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England.” Without episcopal ordination it is clear, according to this reasoning, that all ministerial acts are invalid!
The celebrated Mr. Melvill of Camberwell, in the second sermon of his published volume, entitled “Christ the minister of the Church,” from Heb. 8:2, gives expression to the most extraordinary, and in our view, impious sentiments on this point.
“If Christ,” says he, “remain always the minister of his church, Christ is to be looked at through his ministering servant whoever shall visibly officiate. And though there be a great deal preached in which you cannot recognise the voice of the Saviour; and though the sacraments be administered by hands which seem impure enough to sully their sanctity; yet do we venture to assert, that no man, who keeps Christ steadfastly in view as the ‘minister of the true tabernacle,’ will fail to derive profit from a sermon, and strength from a communion……The ordained preacher is a messenger from the God of the whole earth. His mental capacity may be weak—that is nothing. His speech may be contemptible—that is nothing. His knowledge may be circumscribed—we say not, that is nothing. But we say that, whatever the man’s qualifications, he should rest upon his office. And we hold it is the business of a congregation, if they hope to find profit in the public duties of the sabbath, to cast away those personal considerations which may have to do with the officiating individual, and to fix steadfastly their thoughts on the office itself. Whoever preaches, a congregation would be profited, if they sat down in the temper of Cornelius and his friends.”
“But if a sermon differ from what a gospel sermon should be, men will determine that Christ could have had nothing to do with its delivery. Now this, we assert, is nothing less than the deposing Christ from the ministry assigned him by our text. We are far enough from declaring that the chief minister puts the false words into the mouth of the inferior. But we are certain, as upon a truth which to deny is to assault the foundations of christianity, that the chief minister is so mindful of the office, that every man, who listens in faith, expecting a message from above, shall be addressed through the mouth, AY, EVEN THROUGH THE MISTAKES AND ERRORS OF THE INFERIOR. If, wheresoever the minister is himself deficient and untaught, so that his sermons exhibit a wrong system of doctrine, you will not allow that Christ’s church may be profited by the ordinance of preaching; you clearly argue that the Redeemer has given up his office, and that he can no longer be styled the ‘minister of the true tabernacle.’ There is no middle course between denying that Christ is the minister, and allowing that, whatever the faulty statements of his ordained servants, no soul, which is hearkening in faith for a word of counsel or comfort, shall find the ordinance worthless and be sent away empty. And from this we obtain our first illustration of our text. We behold the true followers of Christ enabled to find food in pastures which seem barren, and water where the fountains are dry. They obtain, indeed, the most copious supplies—though, perhaps, even this will not always hold good—when the sermons breathe nothing but truth, and the sacraments are administered by men of tried piety and faith. But when every thing seems against them, so that, on a carnal calculation, you would suppose the services of the church stripped of all efficacy, then by acting faith on the head of the ministry, they are instructed and nourished, though in the main, the given lesson be falsehood, and the proffered sustenance little better than poison,” pp. 46, 49.
This is a most convenient doctrine, if the people could only be brought to embrace it, for heretical and immoral ministers: for instead of seeking their deposition, or withdrawing from their ministry, they would; as they dread being guilty of rebellion against Christ, sit devoutly, and listen to Arminian, Pelagian, and Socinian heresies, without a murmur: yea fully expecting to have their souls nourished up to eternal life by the most “damnable heresies” that an ordained blasphemer may choose to address to them! While from the hands of the drunkard and the profligate they would readily and cheerfully receive the seals of the covenant! According to these views it would be quite unwarrantable to abandon the communion of the Church of Rome! Such sentiments from Mr. Melvill, the most popular preacher in the Church of England, and till of late understood to be perfectly orthodox, are truly calculated to excite alarm.
We had intended also to have made a few remarks upon the qualifications and character of the clergy of the United Church of England and Ireland: and finally, to have shown the inefficiency of the prelatical establishment, as a national institute for upholding and diffusing christianity To have attempted the discussion of these points, however, after the length to which our previous remarks had extended, was deemed imprudent, and we accordingly desisted.
[1.] We are aware that a reaction has begun to take place upon this subject, which in some quarters is progressing rapidly. The above, with what is found in the conclusion to the same effect, is rather applicable therefore to certain occurrences a few years past, by which many of our best presbyterians were deeply and justly aggrieved, than to the present state of matters: although, still, there is not awanting ground of complaint on this head.
[2.] Dr. M‘Leod’s Ecclesiastical Catechism, p. 26.
[3.] Boyd on Episcopacy, p. 38.
[4.] Plea of Presbytery, p. 138.
[5.] Plea of Presbytery, p. 138.
[6.] M‘Leod’s Catechism, p. 35.
[7.] Boyd’s Sermons on the church.
[8.] Plea of Presbytery, p. 171.
[9.] It was long ago justly remarked, that in contending with papists episcopalians assume presbyterian ground and employ presbyterian arguments; whereas in disputing with presbyterians they take popish ground, and have recourse to popish reasoning.
[10.] Dr. M‘Leod’s Catechism, p. 116.
[11.] Dr. M‘Leod’s Catechism, p. 117.
[12.] Catechism, p. 31.
[13.] See Plea of Presbytery, pp. 174, 175, where these passages are arranged in parallel columns.
[14.] Whitby’s Commentary, vol. i. p. 334.
[15.] Dr. M‘Leod’s Catechism, p. 34.
[16.] Buck’s Theological Dictionary—Article, Episcopacy.
[17.] Dr. M‘Leod’s Catechism, Note G.
[18.] Buck’s T[heological] Dictionary,—word, Episcopacy.
[19.] Catechism, Note H.
[20.] Stillingfleet’s Irenicum, p. 336.
[21.] Truth and Love, versus Prelacy and the Prayer Book, by Dr. Burns, &c. p. 6.
[22.] Dr. M‘Leod’s Catechism, p. 120.
[23.] So say both Buck and Adams in their Dictionaries, but Gillespie calls him “Thomas Erastus Doctor of Medicine at Heidelberg,” which there can be no doubt is the correct designation.—Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, p. 162.
[24.] Buck’s T[heological] Dictionary—Article, Erastians.
[25.] Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. i. p. 278.
[26.] Plea, 389.
[27.] Plea, 390-91.
[28.] “Praemunire is the forfeiture of lands and tenements, goods and chattels, and imprisonment during the king’s pleasure. The term is derived from praemunire, an English writ for the purpose of repressing the papal encroachments on the power of the crown. It was authorised by statutes passed with a view to suppress that power, and from the first words of the writ, praemunire facias, both the writ and the punishment received the name of a praemunire.”—Bell’s Law Dictionary.
[29.] Towgood, 21.
[30.] See Towgood’s Dissent from the Church of England, p. 21, and Plea of Presbytery, p. 391,392, for farther information.
[31.] Blackstone’s Com[mentaries] vol. I. p. 379: Buck’s T[heological] Dict[ionary] Article Bishop.
[32.] This led Dr. Johnson, in course of a conversation upon the subject truly and wittily to remark, that the dean and chapter have the same right of choice, whether they will grant the royal request by returning the individual whom they are desired to elect, that a man thrown out of a window has to choose whether or not will fall to the ground!
[33.] Towgood, p. 264-268.
[34.] Com. p. 289.
[36.] Towgood, p. 294.
[37.] No. XXX.
[38.] Quoted from Alt. Dam. p. 452, in Plea of Presbytery, 527.
[39.] Scottish Presbyterian, Article, Prelacy.
[40.] Scottish Presbyterian, Article, Prelacy. Towgood.
[41.] Scottish Presbyterian, Article, Prelacy.
[42.] Dr. Burns’ lecture on the use of the Episcopal Liturgy, p. 9.
[43.] Scottish Presbyterian—Article, Prelacy.
[44.] Scottish Presbyterian—Article, Prelacy. Plea of Presbytery, pp. 443, 444.
[45.] Rather than submit to such a yoke, many excellent men have declined taking orders in the Church of England, others have resigned rather than continue to do what they felt was entirely wrong. Many are at this moment (their consciences being sorely aggrieved,) sighing for deliverance from these impositions, while the vindication of their conduct on this head, offered by those good men who have quietly and tamely discharged prescribed duty, must to every unprejudiced person appear quite unsatisfactory not to say utterly fallacious.
[46.] Lecture on the use of the Episcopal Liturgy, &c. p. 7.
[47.] Towgood, p.p. 418, 419, and Presb[ytery] Defended, p. 27.
[48.] Towgood, p. 424.
[49.] She is there styled “not only a harlot as the Scripture calleth her, but also foul, filthy, old withered harlot—the foulest, and filthiest that ever was seen.” Homilies, 162, 295.
[50.] Buck’s Theol[ogical] Dict[tionary]—Article, Succession. See note G.