« EelmineJätka »
warmly urged, and Presbyterian principles loaded with opprobria ous epithets; it was supposed that they would scarcely think it very consistent or decent to attack with violence, if at all, a publication so moderate, so respectful, and so exclusively intended for Presbyterians. It was, iherefore, my prevailing expectation, that the work would be considered as not belonging to the polemic class and would be suffered to pass without a reply.
But in this I was mistaken. With all the mildness and inoffen. siveness of their character, my letters no sooner made their appearance, than murmurs of resentment, and threats of overwhelming refutation were heard from various quarters. These threats had not been long proclaimed, before attempts were made to ful6l them. The first who presented himself before the public, as an assailant, was Mr. Thomas Y. How (since the Rev. Mr. How, of New York,) who, in about six months after the publication of my volume, produced an angry and vehement pamphlet, which he announced as introductory to a more full discussion of the subject. Mr. How, after an interval of six months more, was followed by the Rev. Dr. Bowden, Professor of Moral Philosophy, Logic, and Belles Lettres in Columbia College. This gentleman, who had been long versed in the episcopal controversy, and who, more than twenty years ago, stepped forth as a champion of the hierarchy, did me the honour again to take the field against me, and undertook in a work, at least formidable in size, to give a complete refutation of all my arguments, and to prostrate the Presbyterian cause. About the same time with Dr. Bowden's two volumes, there appeared, on the same side, and with the same object, the first of a series of letters addressed to me by the Rev. Dr. Kemp, Rector of Great Choptank, in Maryland. And, finally, with this number, the Rev. Dr. Hobart has united hiniself, as an occasional remarker on my letters, in the Churchman's Magazine, published in the city of New York, for the contents of which he acknowledges himself, both as editor and proprietor, to be responsible.
To be fallen upon by so many assailants, and with so much vehemence, is a compliment as great as it was unexpected. My thanks are due to these gentlemen for conferring on my work a degree of importance, and unwittingly disclosing that it has made a degree of impression, which I had never ventured to anticipate or to claim. I have also to thank them for another favour. Their
violent attacks, and their numerous cavils, have induced me to examine the subject with more care, and to pursue my inquiries respecting it to a greater extent than I should probably otherwise have done. The result is, a deeper conviction than ever of the weakness of their cause, and of the apostolic character of our church.
With respect to Mr. How's pamphlet, it is written with so much heat and impetuosiiy; discovers such a singular want of acquaintance with radical parts of the subject; and breathes a spirit so evidently calculated, with all sober and impartial readers, to discredit the author himself, more than the object of his attack; that my first resolution, as well as the general advice of my friends, was to let it pass unnoticed. I could scarcely, indeed, form a more selfish wish than that all my opponents might write thus. And it is certain that Mr. How would never have received a syilable of public reply from me, had there been any reason to suppose that his work would fall into the hands of none but the discerning and well-informed. Recollecting, however, that all readers are not qualified to distinguish between assertion and proof, between lofty assumption and solid argument, I felt doubtful whether some remarks might not be usefully made, especially on some of the more extraordinary and exceptionable parts of his book. The appearance of Dr. Bowden's work terminated my doubts. This work, written in a style of more calmness, and rather more decorum than Mr. How's; more respectable on the score of sober and grave reasoning, and discovering more acquaintance with the subject, appeared to me entitled to some reply. In making this reply, I determined to bring into one view, the most material allegations and reasonings of all the gentlemen who have honoured me with their notice; and, as they have taken care to praise and quote each other, they cannot be displeased at being associated together in my remarks.
And in the first place, my acknowledgments are due to these gentlemen, and particularly to Mr. How, for being so kind as to remove all uncertainty with respect to the real nature of the opinions, which they hold. Dr. Bowden, it is true, does not appear very fond of committing himself by explicit avowals; but Mr. How manifests no scruple in declaring, in his usual" masterly" manner, that he considers Presbyterian clergymen as having no more right
to administer sacraments, or to ordain, than so many“ laymen or women;" that all their ministrations are perfectly unauthorised and void ; that without episcopal ordination, there is no ministry, no church ; that no case of necessity, however extreme', can justify any minister or body of ministers, in attempting to ordain otliers, or to form churches, without the intervention of a prelate's hands; and that all who are not in communion with an episcopal bishop are out of the church, and have no covenanted title to salvation. Letters, p. 16.68, and elsewhere. Mr. How also lets us know that Dr, Bowden holds similar opinions, p. 68.; and truly the doctor himself repeatedly uses language which admits of no other construction. It is agreeable to find opponents thus candid and explicit. We now know the nature of the claim which these gentlemen advance, and of course, how to meet them. I am happy also to perceive, that in my former publication, I have neither misrepresented nor exaggerated their sentiments. They are precisely such as I ascribed to the third, or highest-toned class of Episcopalians. It is to the claims of this class only, and not to the moderate and liberal part of that denomination, that the reasonings in the following sheets are intended to apply.
But while these gentlemen are very undisguised and decided in advancing their claims, they write in a manner strangely vague and obscure on another point. Even admitting, (what we cannot admit, for we know the contrary,) that the question whether episcopacy was in fact, the primitive constitution of the church, were decided in favour of our «piscopal brethren; still another question remains, viz. Is a compliance with that constitution so unalterably and indispensably binding on the church, that there can be no church, no ministry, no ordinances without it? These questions are totally distinct, and ought never to be confounded. Yet Dr. Bowden and Mr. How almost uniformly confound them; and seem to think that if the former question be answered in the affirmative, the latter must of course be answered in a similar manner. In a few instances, indeed, they admit the distinction to which I allude, and assert, that their only object is to establish the apostolical institution of episcopacy, without undertaking to pronounce on the consequences of rejecting it. But it is evident that, for the most part, they entirely lose sight of this distinction, and write as if the establishment of the fact, that prelacy existed in the primitive church, must
effectually destroy the character of all churches not found in possession of ihat form of government. Whether these positions so totally distinct are so generally confounded by my opponents for want of clear and distinguishing views, or with design, I presume not 10 say.
But every discerning reader will be on his guard against in positions from either source.
These gentlemen, indeed, themselves assert, with the whole body of episcopal writers, that the apostles neer intended to lay down a model of church government, which should be, in all its parts, perpetually binding : and, of course, that the church is not bound to be, in all respects, conformed to the apostolic model. I am not now inquiring whether this doctrine be correct or not. But if it be, how can the want of prelacy destroy the character and even the existence of the church? In what part of scripture is it said, that every other part of the apostolic government of the church is mutable, and may be modified by human wisdom; but that dispensing with the single point of bishops, is fatal to the whole ? My opponents, then, even on their own principles, are far from having accomplished the task which they prescribed to themselves. They have never shown, and are not able to show, that prelacy was instituted by the apostles; but even if they could, many links would still be wanting in the chain of proof, that this form of government is so necessary, that there can be no church without it.
Mr. How endeavours to represent my work as an unprovoked attack on the episcopal church, and to throw upon it all the odium of aggression. To those who are acquainted with the incontrovertible facts stated in the beginning of this letter, such a representation will appear something more than strange! If to state and defend the principles of my own church, after they had been frequently and violently attacked; if a calm and respectful plea against a sentence of excommunication from the church of Christ; if an attempt to show, that we, as Presbyterians, are not aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise ; if a work designed to prove that our ministry and ordinances have as fair a claim to divine warrant as those of our episcopal brethren ; and that they, in denying us the character of a church, and in consigning us over, with the heathen, to the uncovenanted mercies of God, act wholly without warrant-if these things constitute an unprovoked attack on the episcopal church-then, indeed,
I have been guilty of such an attack. But I am not afraid that any one who is acqnainted with facts, and who understands the import of ternis, will either bring such a charge himself, or consider it with respect when brought by others.
Another charge which these gentlemen concur in urging, is no less unexpected and extraordinary. It is, that I have written with great bitterness, and that even my moderation is affected and insidious. This is a point concerning which no man can be an impartial judge in his own case. But, after receiving so many respectable suffrages in favour of the mildness and decorum of my style ; after receiving the acknowledgments of so many moderate and candid Episcopalians in different parts of the United States, both clergymen and laymen, that I had avoided asperity and bitterness to a very unusual degree; it is impossible to avoid suspecting that these gentlemen, (who so far as I know stand alone in making this charge,) have felt irritated by statements which they could not deny, and by arguments which they could not refute ; and that they have mistaken both for bitterness and abuse. Dr. Bowden and Mr. How never discover so much wounded feeling and irascible temper, as when they meet with intimations of any affinity between some of their high-toned doctrines, and those of popery. The intimations of this kind which my book contains, were made neither lightly, nor with passion; but with a conscientious persuasion of their correctness. This persuasion remains with undiminished or rather with increased force. And it happens, unfortunately for these gentlemen, that similar charges of popish origin and tendency, have been brought against several of the same doctrines, by some of the most pious and learned bishops of their own church. Nor can I forbear to add, that the pointed resentment which my opponents manifest at every suggestion of this kind, is calculated to excite the suspicion, that they feel it more easy to rail at such intimations than to answer them.
But Dr. Bowden makes a further complaint, which is still more extraordinary. He thinks me very censurable for not having stated, in addition to the arguments in support of our opinions, the principal answers," the triumphant replies,” which episcopal writers have given to these arguments. In one case, particularly, he addresses me thus: “You certainly must have heard of, if you have