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For the Albany Centinel.
IN the course of these numbers I shall devote one, now and ther, to the subject of Church Government. Some may think that this promises little entertainment; that it has been, in former times, amply discussed; and that no doubt can remain in the minds of any who are at the pains to read and to judge for themselves. But, from the different forms which are found in this country, and from publications which have been lately made, it seems that a diversity of opinion still exists. Bigotry, superstition, and old prejudices are not easily and suddenly destroyed. If no benefit should arise from a few strictures, no evil is foreseen, and no good reason can be given, why "the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace" may not be preserved.
As the Classical or Presbyterial form of Church Government is the true and only one which Christ hath prescribed in his word, *** so it is the best adapted to the temper of the people of the United States, and the most conformable to their institutions of civil government. The Episcopalians appear to have been sensible of this in arranging their ecclesiastical code.t. In the preface to the book of Common Prayer, which was ratified by a convention in 1789, they point out the necessary alterations made in their public service, and declare as follows: “ When in the course of divine Providence, these American States became independent with respect to civil government, their Ecclesiastical Independence was necessarily included, and the different religious denominations of Christians in these States were left at full and equal liberty to model and organize their respective Churches and forms of worship and discipline, in such manner as they might judge most convenient for their future prosperity, consistently with the constitution and laws of their country.”
Episcopacy here is not such as is established in Great-Britain, but approaches a little nearer to what has the fairest claim to a di
* Let the reader take particular notice of this assertion with which the Author of Miscellanies commences his attack upon Episcopacy. He does not hesitate to assert, that “the Classical or Presbyterial form of Church Government is the true and only one which Christ hath prescribed in his word.” And yet the reader will soon find that it is the subject of bitter complaint, that some Episcopalians, in unison with the faith of pri. mitive ages, have presumed to think that Episcopacy was instituted by Christ and his Apostles.
Editor. † Episcopalians were indeed fully sensible that a primitive Episcopacy, stripped of those adventitious appendages which in some nations are connected with it, was not only adapted to the temper of the people of the United States,” but “ he most conformable to their institutions of civil government.” And the reader will see this point ably proved by Cyprian, and by the Layman
vine right. The formerly pretended uninterrupted line of succession from the Apostles, the pompous array of dignitaries in the Church, and the conferring upon them civil offices, serve their purposes under Monarchies: in this country they have passed, except with a few fanatics, as a tale that has been told, or like “ a vapour they have vanished away." There is not one spiritual lord in the United States resembling those in the British empire.*
By Episcopalians I mean those who sprung from the established Church in England, and have formed their constitution on that model. They have assumed here the title of the Protestant Episcopal Church,” and are thus distinguished from the other sects of Christians, particularly from the Roman Episcopal Church. By Presbyterians I mean those who, in their Church Government, follow the plan of the Church of Scotland, of Holland, and of almost all the foreign Protestant Churches. Were the derivation of the word Episcopalian explained, it would be seen that it belongs as much to others as those who have assumed it; but it is used, at present, for the sake of distinction. While the greater part of professing Christians are known by the term Presbyterian,t the Churches of Rome and of England are as well known by the term Episcopalian. Some of the points of difference are more in name than in reality. The Presbyterians have their Sessions or consistories, their Presbyteries or Classes, their particular Synods, their General Synod or General Assembly. The Episcopalians have their Church Wardens, their Vestries, their State Conventions, and their General Convention. The Presbyterians have their Standards of Doctrine and Directories for public worship, the Episcopalians their Articles and Liturgy. The Presbyterians have their Bishops, commonly called Pastors or Ministers of the word, and their candidates; to the former of the two orders, Bishops, and Presbyters or Priests or Ministers, correspond among the Episcopalians, and to the latter their Deacons. In both Churches, the former have full power to administer the sacraments; and in both, the latter have not, being considered only as Probationers.
* How unworthy of a candid writer is this attempt, at the outset of his remarks, to prejudice the minds of his readers against Episcopacy, by connecting it with the cause of monarchy. Does not this writer know that the temporal and spiritual powers of the English Bishops are totally distinct, and are in no respect necessarily connected ? Does he not know that a primitive Episcopacy, such as now exists in the United States, flourished for three hundred years under the frowns of the civil power; when the Bishops, so far from enjoying temporal honours, were the constant marks for the arrows of bitter and vengeful persecution?
Ed. + So far from the greater part of professing Christians being Presbyterian, the Presbyterians, in proportion to those who are. Episcopal, form but a small number. The whole eastern Church is Episcopal, and by far the greater part of the western. The Presbyterians sprung up at Geneva in the sixteenth century, and constitute the inferior number among Protest
Ed. Deacons in the Episcopal Church are more than Probationers. They are, in a qualified sense, Ministers of the word and sacraments. They have the power of administering baptism, and are allowed to preach. Ace cordingly, as Ministers, they are ordained by imposition of hands. They There are, however, some things in which the Episcopalians have deviated from the exact classical form, either through inat. tention to the scriptures, the only sure guide, or (what charity is unwilling to suppose) through a fondness of singularity, and of sua periority over their brethren.* The latter cause is the less to be suspected, because they declare, in Article XX. “ It is not lawful for the Church to order any thing that is contrary to God's word writ. ten." Here they profuss to take the written word of God for their rule. In this the Presbyterians heartily agree with them, and the only difference is, that one denomination have found what the other, after the most diligent research, have never been able to discover.t
The Episcopalians apply the name Bishop exclusively to certain persons, and hold the office to be superior to that of other Ministers of the word, having peculiar privileges and duties annexed to it. This distinction is prominent in their government, and in their Liturgy. When they meet in General Convention, there is the “ House of Bishops” distinct from the “House of Clerical and Lay Deputies.” Canon I. passed 1789, runs thus: “In this Church there shall always be three orders in the Ministry, viz. Bishops, Priests, and Deacons." Their prayers are for “ Bishops and other Clergy" -for “ Bishops, Priests, and Deacons"--and some parts of the service may not be performed by a Priest, if the Bishop be present. All the Clergy in a diocese or district are subordinate to him. He is, from his office, President of the State Convention ; dispenses solely what they call “ the Apostolic Rite of Confirmation ;” consecrates Churches; administers censures; and there can be no ordination without him. To make one of these diocesan Bishops, is deemed to be a work of such magnitude, as to require the presence and exertion of three others.
The Presbyterians cannot see where these things are written; and the Episcopalians, in order mercifully to open the eyes of the blind, reject Presbyterian ordination, so that whoever would join the Episcopal Church must be anointed from the horn of their Bishop, though he had received before a sort of ordination by “ the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." Examples of this have occurred in the State of New-York. In one case, a Minister was persuaded not only to renounce his former ordination, but to believe that the baptism of his children was invalid: he was re-ordained by a Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and his children were re-baptized. I mention this fact to show the sentiments which are held by the Episcopalians and the Roman Catholics. The latter of these sects, though consistent, yet may be thought unneighbourly; for they would in no wise admit even an Archbishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church into theirs, until they had placed a mitre of their own upon his head.
cannot indeed exercise the full power of the Priesthood, the consecration of the elements in the Holy Eucharist, and the pronouncing of the declaration of absolution, and the authoritative benediction.
Ed. Charity would have spared this uncharitable insinuation. Ed. † Might it not with more propriety have been said, that Episcopalians happily retained at the Reformation that apostolic and primitive form of Church Government which sone Protestants unhappily discarded? Ed.
For the Albany Centinel. The “ LAYMAN's" Defence of the Church. No, I. CHURCH government is certainly a subject of deep importance. It has received the merited attention of the most enlightened scholars. There is nothing new to be said upo it at this day.” At the same time I know not that those are to be censured who direct their thoughts to this subject, with the view of submitting them to public examination. I much doubt, however, the propriety of discussing such matters in the newspapers of the day. It was with no little surprise, therefore, that I read the strictures of a late writer who has devoted one of his miscellaneous essays to the nature and origin of ecclesiastical authority. The preceding piece being on the subject of demagogues, who could have supposed that the affair of Church Government would so soon be brought up? Between such a topic and the marks by which a demagogue may be known, there seems to be no very intimate connection. The author of the strictures under consideration has certainly given a very appropriate title to his lucrubations. He is undoubtedly a MISCELLANEOUS writer.
If the subject of ecclesiastical authority is to be brought before the public, let it be done in a dispassionate and systematic man,
Can it be proper to introduce it into a series of fugitive essays on the topics of the day, or to mingle it with loose, political discussions? This, certainly, is the way to deprive the subject of that high dignity which it undoubtedly possesses, and to excite feelings little favourable to the discovery of truth. After the regular and profound investigation which the question of ecclesiastical authority has received, can a loose inquiry of this kind shed any light upon it, or conduct the lovers of truth to a just decision? Surely not.
Impressed as I am with the truth of the preceding reflections, I should, nevertheless, feel myself deficient in duty in suffering such an attack upon the Episcopal Church to pass without notice. It is calculated to operate on the minds of the ignorant. I believe the motives of the writer to have been pure. I have long known him, and have long felt for him sincere respect and esteem. I lament that he has imbibed so strong a prepossession against the Church; still more that he has permitted himself to attack it in a manner which will not, I presume, be justified by his warmest friends. Many will, doubtless, read his piece who have never seen any thing on the subject of ecclesiastical government. It is this consideration alone that induces me to enter upon the disagreeable task of addressing the public in a way so little consistent with what I have thought the proper mode of calling the attention of men to matters of this nature.
The Episcopal Church asks only a dispassionate hearing. She invites those who are so strongly opposed to her, to lay aside preconceived opinions for a moment, and to inquire into her government, her worship, and her discipline, apart, as much as possible, from that dislike to her which eduu sion may have implanted in their minds. The zeal against her she sincerely believes to be the result of a want of acquaintance with her institutions and services. Could this difficulty be removed, she fondly indulges the belief that multitudes would flock to her communion, and that those who ought never to have been separated from her would return with joy to her bosom.
It is by no means my design to go into a regular examination of the subject in question. This is far from being the proper mode; nor do I feel myself competent to the undertaking. Be it my task to notice, as briefly as possible, the observations under consideration, presenting simply those ideas that may be necessary to correct the errors into which (what I sincerely think) a most partial and unfair view of the subject seems calculated to lead.
The Episcopal Church has a right to complain of the uncharitable manner in which this writer treats her. She perceives in his piece a style and a spirit that appear to her little congenial with a sincere desire of appealing only to the understanding of his readers. If on any question the judgment alone ought to be addressed, this surely is that question. Any remarks calculated to excite animosity should be most carefully avoided. Has the writer under consideration conducted in this manner? Why does he attribute the attachment of Episcopalians to the principles which distinguish their Church to prejudice, superstition, and bigotry? Why does he represent the important doctrine of an uninterrupted succession from the Apostles to which the Episcopal Church subscribes, as a tale in which none but a few fanatics believe? Why does he talk of the necessity of anointing Ministers from the horn of the Bishop, or represent Episcopalians as PROFESSING to take the written word of God for their rule ? Such language is surely unjustifiable. The writer in question cannot subscribe to the doctrines and government of the Episcopal Church. She has the misfortune to differ from him in opinion. But has he any right to ridicule her institutions, or to charge her with fanaticism and bigotry? Is it in this way that a love of truth is to be excited, or the minds of men prepared to discover or embrace it? No. Whatever may have been the intention of the writer, such language is calculated only to sour the feelings, and to pervert the judgment. It is unworthy of the cause of truth, and every friend of virtue ought to set on it the stamp of his most decided reprobation. I have too good an opinion of the writer to believe that he cherishes in his heart those feelings that his language is calculated to inspire in the hearts of others. He has expressed himself inadvertently, and I persuade myself he will, in his cool moments, regret what he has done. Let us proceed to notice the matter of this address.
« While the greater part of professing Christians are known by the term Presbyterian, the Churches of Rome and England are as well known by the term Episcopalian.” I must be permitted to say that this is a wide departure from fact. By Episcopacy is meant the necessity of distinct orders in the Ministry; the highest order possessing alone that power of ordination by which the sacerdotal authority is conveyed. Now, the whole Christian world is Episcopal, except a few dissenters, who, within two or three hundred