Imágenes de páginas

For the Albany Centinel.

The "LAYMAN's" Defence of the Church. No, I.



HURCH 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 upon 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 stric tures 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 manner. 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


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 eduction 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. 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

years, have arisen in the western Church. There are supposed to be two hundred and twenty millions of Christians in the world; of which fifty millions are Protestants, eighty millions are of the Greek and Armenian Churches, ninety millions of the Romish communion. The Greek and Armenian Churches are entirely Episcopal; so also are those of the Romish persuasion. The Protestants are very much divided. Episcopacy exists in the Protestant Church in Denmark, Prussia, Sweden, Norway, and, with a little exception, in Great-Britain and Ireland. All the Lutheran Churches in Germany are Episcopal.* The dissenters from Episcopacy bear no sort of proportion to those who adhere to it. They are confined to the western Church, and there their number is comparatively very small. Will it be said we ought not to calculate on the Romish Church, since she asserts the supremacy of the Pope? Nevertheless that Church contends for distinct orders in the Ministry, and admits the validity of Episcopal ordination. But let the Roman Catholics be struck entirely out of the calculation. The advocates of parity constitute but a very trifling proportion of the remaining part of the Christian world. These are facts.

I cannot help taking notice, also, of the manner in which this writer makes use of a passage of scripture, upon which the advocates of parity place much reliance. In the first Epistle to Timothy, fourth chapter, and fourteenth verse, St. Paul says, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, WITH the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." It is to the passage which follows that I object. "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." The passage of scripture, correctly stated, is "WITH the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." Our author has it, "BY the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." The important word WITH is entirely omitted, and the word BY substituted in its place. True, the word BY is not included in the crotchets; but the word WITH is omitted, and the word BY placed immediately before the pas sage, so as materially to affect the sense. Of this I complain. In order to show the unfairness of the thing, I must beg the attention of the reader to a few observations.


"Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, WITH the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery. So says St. Paul in his first Epistle to Timothy-" Wherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, BY the putting on of my hands." Such is the language of the second Epistle to Timothy.

If we would arrive at a just interpretation of scripture, we must view all the parts of it in connection. This is a dictate of common sense. The two passages in the Epistles to Timothy must, therefore, be taken together; and such a construction given them that both may stand.

*But few of the Protestants of Prussia and Germany are Episcopal. Ed.

"The gift of God which is in thee, BY the putting on of my hands." St. Paul, then, imposed hands on Timothy; and by this imposition Timothy received his power. The Greek word here used, is dia; and it signifies the means by which authority was conveyed. "The gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, WITH the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." Here the mode of expression is different. Timothy received his power BY the laying on of Paul's hands, WITH the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery. St. Paul conveyed the power, while the Presbytery expressed approbation.-The Greek word here used is meta, which signifies nothing more than concurrence, not at all designating the conveyance of authority. What is the practice of the Episcopal Church? The Presbyters lay their hands on with the Bishop; so that every Minister receives his ordination by the laying on of the hands of the Bishop, with the laying on of the hands of Presbyters.

The reader is, I trust, convinced of the importance of the words by and with, in this case. Was it fair, then, to give the passage from the first Epistle to Timothy in a mutilated state? Ought the word with to have been omitted, and the word by so situated as to give a sense to the passage which it will not bear? True, the remark is made in an incidental way; but that does not exonerate the writer from the obligation of a strict adherence to accuracy. It is to be recollected, too, that the passage of scripture thus dealt with, is one on which the advocates of parity have relied. I complain then here of unjust treatment; and I feel strongly disposed to suspect weakness in a cause when I find such expedients employed to defend it.

Thus much I have thought proper to say, for the purpose of placing the passage from the first Epistle to Timothy in its true light. But it may not be unprofitable, before dismissing this part of the subject, to make such further observations as may be applicable to the words of St. Paul, although not particularly called for by any thing in the strictures which have given rise to this address. "By the putting on of my hands." "With the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." These are the two passages. It is not at all improbable that the Presbytery here spoken of, were some of the Apostles themselves, who laid their hands on Timothy, in connection with Paul. The term Presbuteros, in its general import, signifies a Church Governor; and, of course, although ordinarily appropriated in the New Testament to the second grade of Ministers, it is capable of being applied to all the grades. The Apostles call themselves Presbyters. Well, then, the term Presbuteros being applicable to all the orders, and the Apostles occasionally applying it to themselves, it is at least probable that the Presbytery spoken of by Paul were Apostles. At all events, it cannot be proved that they were mere Elders. And when we go to ecclesiastical history, we find that the practice of Presbyters uniting with Bishops in the imposition of hands, was not introduced until the latter part of the fourth century. In the Greek Church, indeed, it has never prevailed. These circumstances render it extremely probable that the Presbyters, who, with Paul, imposed hands upon Timothy, were really and truly Apostles. But let it

be conceded to the enemies of Episcopacy, that they were nothing more than Elders. The concession will avail them nothing; for Paul was an Apostle, and superior to the order of mere Presbyters. He imposed hands on Timothy, and by such imposition, the sacerdotal power was conveyed. Elders alone, therefore, upon the most indulgent supposition, cannot ordain. The presence of a superior order is necessary. In what then does this passage avail the advocates of parity?

Here the subject seems naturally to call for a few observations on that promiscuous use of the terms Elder, Bishop, Presbyter, on which the opposers of Episcopacy place so much reliance. The fair inquiry, certainly, is as to the orders of Ministers which existed in the Church in the Apostolic age, and the ages immediately succeeding; not as to the particular titles of office that were used at different periods. Names frequently change their signification; and, even in the same period are sometimes used to denote one thing, and sometimes another, according to the manner in which they are applied. Presbuteros signifies a Church Governor, or it signifies an Elder or grave man. Accordingly, as has been remarked above, the Apostles applied the name occasionally to themselves. Episkopos signifies an overseer. Every Bishop is overseer of his diocese, and every Presbyter of his particular flock.

The Apostles then are called Presbyters. This proves conclusively that no argument can be drawn by the advocates of parity, from the promiscuous use of the terms Presbyter, Bishop, in the sacred writings. If it proves that there is now but one order in the Ministry, it proves equally that Paul was upon a perfect level with the Elders of Ephesus.

In Roman history we find the term Imperator at one period applied to designate a General of an army; at another, a Magistrate clothed with unlimited civil and military authority. Suppose we should be told that every General of an army was Emperor of Rome, and that the Emperor of Rome was merely General of an army; what would be the reply? That the term Imperator had changed its signification. And how would this be proved? By the Roman history, which shows us, that the Emperors had Generals under them, over whom they exercised authority. Apply this reasoning to the case under consideration. The terms Bishop, Presbyter, are used promiscuously in the New Testament. Therefore, say the advocates of parity, they designated the same office in the ages subsequent to the age of the Apostles. Is this a logical conclusion? Surely not. Names change their signification. Ecclesiastical history tells us, and the most learned advocates of parity have admitted the fact, that the order of Bishops existed in the Church as distinct from, and superior to the order of Presbyters, within forty or fifty years after the last of the Apostles. The Bishops then had Presbyters under them, over whom they exercised authority. The offices were distinct from the beginning; Bishops being the successors, not of those who are promiscuously called Bishops, Presbyters, Elders, in the New Testament, but of the Apostles themselves. Theodoret tells us expressly, "that in process of time those who succeeded to the Apostolic office left the name of Apostle to the Apostles, strictly so called, and gave the

« AnteriorContinuar »