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altars; though it is fair to acknowledge, that they did not do so until they were almost forced into that measure.
It is fully and freely admitted, that the neglect of the hierarchy of England is alone the cause of the extent to which schism now prevails. In the first place, the Rulers of the Church had no right to institute ordinances for the mere government and discipline of the church, and thereupon excommunicate all who do not conform to them. It is not the inherent right of the governing part of every community to institute what regulations they see fit which I here call in question ; for that would be absurd, because all governors must er necessitate rei possess such a right. But I deny the propriety of the exercise of the right accompanied with the penalty which was annexed to it; namely, that of being cut off from the body of Christ. For let it be remembered what excommunication meant: a refusal to allow the parties to partake of the sacrament of the body and blood of their Saviour; a prohibition from attending the ordinance of God by preaching, for the nourishment of their souls; a denial to their children of the rites of baptism, and to themselves and children of Christian burial; an incapacity to dispose of their property, or to be received as witnesses in a court of justice for any injury which might be committed against them : and this all followed a conscientious objection to rites and ceremonies which the word of God had never enjoined ! Moreover, the ministers of a church are not empowered by Christ to make new laws, but to carry into effect His laws : so that new laws are bad ab initio, from want of power in the court to enact them. Every public body must have a limit somewhere to its power; and, above all, a church, which is a corporation-i.e. a body entrusted to do certain things according to its deed of trust. If the act which it enjoins exceed its power, the penalty of disobeying lies at the door, not of him who disobeys, but of him who orders the illegal act. A hierarchy is entrusted not to make laws, but to enforce the laws of Christ. Two things only are necessary to constitute membership in his church, - Baptism and the Supper of the Lord ; and all who dare to add to these two, ought to be, or at least may be properly, disobeyed. Instead of which, a penalty upon a conscientious dislike of immaterial human inventions was inflicted, as severe as could have been upon heresy and apostasy itself; the church thereby shewing that it considered compliance with such forms as of equal importance with faith in Christ and obedience to his ordinances.
In the second place, the State should not have permitted one denomination to be alone the judge of who were and who were not Christians; but have allowed any sect, holding the orthodox faith, to have furnished members to the state's use, for office and
rule. Nevertheless, the misconduct of the hierarchy and of the state did not justify the setting-up of opposite altars. The duty of Christians in those days, was to have assembled together for mutual edification in the word of God, but on no account to have omitted frequenting the ordinances of Baptism and of the Supper in God's church. It has been held by all the catholic church, and it is obviously impossible that it should be otherwise from the nature of the case, that the character of the minister who administers an ordinance has no influence whatever upon the ordinance itself (see xxvith Art. of Religion). If they had not absented themselves from the ordinances, nonconformists would not have multiplied, and the country would not now be involved in the inevitable ruin which is consequent upon the schisms which have followed. They ought also to have remonstrated with the pastors, and subsequently with the bishops and archbishops, upon the departure from sound doctrine which was promulgated from the pulpits. This would have been raising a witness for Christ, and taking up his cross, in the church, that he would have honoured and blest; and sound divinity would have been preserved.
Many of the early Non-conformists, however, were not schismatics: they refused to conforın, indeed, to ceremonies which the clergy of the Church of England, following the tyrannous injunction of the Queen, had no right to enjoin upon penalty of excommunication ; but they did not set up altars in opposition to true churches in the land. This is a point of very great importance, and which Polhill has handled, though briefly, with great perspicuity.
“ When our divines,” says he, “ charge the monasteries as schismatical, because they have separate meetings and ordinances, Bellarmin answers thus : Soli schismatici sunt qui ita erigerent altare proprium, ut altare aliorum prophanum censeant : *They only are schismaties who so set up their own altar, that they esteem the altar of others profane. It is indeed one thing to have distinct meetings for worship, and another to have opposite ones. The Non-conformists have meetings of their own, but without the contempt of others.” In the same manner the followers of Whitefield and Wesley never, during the lives of those great men, could be properly called schismatics; nor am I aware that they have done any thing since to merit the term.
The state of things has grown worse and worse, both with respect to the Non-conformists and with respect to the bierarchy of the Church of England; for in the early days of the Reformation the question about espiscopal ordination, in the absurd manner in which it has been treated in latter times, was never heard of. Bishops have no spiritual, though they have ecclesiastical, rank above the ministers of the churches : if they pretend they have, they make themselves as Antichrist at once; for the ministers of the churches in Asia are immediately in the hand of Christ, and no one dare interfere between Him and them. Bishops were appointed merely for discipline, and to take cogisance of heresy, if the people of their congregations should prefer such a charge against any minister who might have fallen into it; but they have no jurisdiction whatever over the ministers, or power to interfere with them, but on complaint of heresy or immorality preferred before them. In latter times the bierarchy of England has set up a new claim, founded upon a pretended right to a superior kind of ordination, flowing through persons called bishops, instead of persons called presbyters. But as to the offices originally signified by these terms, they were both inferior to that of ministers, except in so far as, the latter including the former, the one is sometimes used indifferently for the other : much as, in the corporation of a town, every mayor is also an alderman, but every alderman is not a mayor.
The modern argument in favour of the superior spiritual rank of bishops, may be stated in the manner most favourable to them as follows: “ Ministers are ordained to preach the word and administer the ordinances, but they are not also appointed to ordain others to do the same: Bishops are appointed to ordain others; and none, therefore, but those ordained by bishops are lawful ministers.” In putting the argument in this form, my wish is to place it in the strongest and most favourable point of view for the contenders for episcopal ordination ; because I deny it in toto, and mean to cut it up root and branch, from Scripture, from the doctrine of the church, and from the practice of the Church of England herself: and in so doing rank myself among her most affectionate sons; for the episcopal argument, if good for any thing, would prove her a limb' of Antichrist.
It is quite certain, from the epistles addressed to the seven churches in Asia, as well as from the benedictions and salutations at the beginning and end of the Apostolic Epistles, that the catholic or universal church of Christ was to consist, under Him, of several distinct churches ; which, though one in faith and in spirit, should be diverse in place, time, and circumstance. The seven churchES are not called the church of the Roman Empire, though they all existed in the provinces of that empire; as we hear now of the Church of England, or The Church of Scotland: whence it follows, that mere diversity of place, though under the same civil government, was sufficient to constitute distinct churches. In each of these several churches there was but one angel, or minister; though we know, from Acts xx., that there must have been several elders, or
overseers, or bishops. A minister to administer the word and ordinances to the flock, is the essential of a church: elders and deacons are good, as his assistants in conducting its discipline; but they are not essential.
A very great confusion arises in the minds of many persons from the term “ Church of England;"-a term decidedly improper, if meant to convey any other idea than the name of one particular denomination which has certain privileges from the state. The Apostle does not write to
the Church of Asia,” but the “seven churches in Asia.” Every parish in England, which has a minister and a congregation with orthodox profession, and observing the commandments of Christ, is a church. The division of parishes is a mere geographical or statistical matter, which might be altered every year; but a church is an ordinance of Christ, which neither laws nor institutions of man can touch. To speak correctly, we ought to say the churches in England, Scotland, &c.; and of these orthodox churches none is before or after the other, but all of equal rank, title, privilege, and authority in the sight of God.
Where a church in any place became too numerous to assemble with convenience to hear the word, or to sit down at the communion table, it was necessary to divide for those purposes. But no elder, presbyter (or priest, for it is the same word), might take upon himself to minister word or sacraments to these divisions of the flock, on pain of excommunication to himself and to all who partook of them, as we learn by the primitive canons : so sacred was the distinction between an elder, presbyter, or bishop or overseer, and he who ministered the word and sacraments. Neither had any minister the power to appoint another to perform that office to the portion of the flock which had been separated, unless the deputy had been set apart in the same manner as he himself had been. The selection rested with those who already possessed the gift, and were consequently competent to judge whether others possessed it or not. When such a one was found, he might, with the consent of the people, be set over them by the laying on of hands; and in this manner a new church was constituted. This new church is just as complete within itself as that from whence it sprung; and whatever deference of filial homage, respect, and love, it might pay to its parent, it must on no account give up independent dignity and rights. I therefore contend, that every minister, appointed over a church by those who were appointed over other churches before him, is a minister of the universal church of Christ ; responsible to Him alone; and of equal rank and dignity, be he a Non-conformist minister in London, Presbyterian minister in Scotland, Archbishop at Canterbury, or Bishop at Rome. For, be it remembered, of the office of bishops and
presbyteries, separate from that of ministers of the word and sacraments, we are not now speaking.
It will not be denied that painters are better judges of pictures than those who are ignorant of that art; and, in like manner, musicians and sculptors in their several lines. The same may be said of poetry, oratory, geometry, and every branch of human knowledge. Common sense, therefore, as well as the direction of Scripture, would teach us, that capacity to judge who do possess or who do not possess a particular gift, abides only in those who already possess the same.
Power of determining, then, who have the gifts of rule, preaching, and all the other necessary gifts for a minister, can only reside in those who have those gifts themselves. Hence arises the fact of what is called Apostolical succession : we say fact, because the question is one of fact rather than of doctrine; for the doctrine consists in the universal recognition of the principle, that they only who have any gift themselves can determine in what other persons that gift resides. Hence, also, we perceive the absurdity of those schismatics who receive no ordination or call but from the people.
So little was the modern notion of the bishops from being sanctioned by the reformers, that a learned man (Wright), who had lived fourteen years in the university of Cambridge, preferred the ordination of a presbytery to that of a bishop, and went over to Holland on purpose to obtain it. Upon his return home he was appointed chaplain to Lord Rich, in whose chapel he constantly performed : but before he had any ordination whatever, he preached, under a licence, for seven years in the university of Cambridge ; though subsequently the Bishop of London refused to consider him as any thing but a layman. This was in the twenty-fifth year of Elizabeth's reign; and in the thirteenth year of that same reign an Act (chap. 12) was passed, admitting the ministrations of those who had only been ordained in the manner of the Scots or other foreign churches. There were some scores, if not hundreds of them, then in the church; and the Archbishop of Canterbury commanded Dr. Aubrey, his vicar-general, to license Mr. Morrison, a Scots divine, who had no other ordination than what he received from a Scots presbytery, to preach over his whole province. This licence was as full a testimonial of the validity of Presbyterian ordination as can be desired.—But the other notion was growing into fashion. All orders of men are for assuming some peculiar characters and powers to themselves. The bishops will be a distinct and superior order to presbyters; and no man must now be a minister of Christ on whom they lay not their hands. (See Neale, i. p. 310; or ab. 212). This modern assumption of the bishops is one of their reasons for refusing to open the meetings of the Bible Society with prayer ; alleging, that they