« EelmineJätka »
But these gentlemen insist, that however high and offensive their claims may be considered, we, on our part, advance claims as high and as offensive as theirs; and, therefore, on our own principles, have no right to complain. They urge this argument with much confidence, and seem to regard it as a triumphant answer to the charge of unscriptural assumption. Mr. How expresses himself thus : “ Episcopalians lay no more stress on external order 6 than does the society to which you belong. Who could have < supposed it possible, after seeing you through several pages, u declaiming against the monstrous pretensions of your opponents, " that they carry external order precisely as far as your own “ confession of faith, and not a tittle further.” p. 16. Again he
“ You inveigh bitterly against your episcopal neighbours, 6 for asserting the exclusive validity of episcopal ordination. But “ you equally assert the exclusive validity of presbyterial ordina. “ tion; telling us, that, without such ordination, there can be no “ ministry; without a ministry, no church ; and without a church,
no covenanted title to salvation. In addition to all this, you 66 assert the divine institution of presbyterial government, in all its “ parts, excluding its habitual violators, cases of unavoidable igno6 rance or involuntary error excepted, from the kingdom of « heaven. If the episcopal doctrine is of a nature nearly allied to " the claim of papal infallibility, your doctrine must be the claim 6 of papal infallibility itself.” p. 117. Nay, he asserts, that Presbyterians carry their ideas of the importance of external order much further than Episcopalians. p. 22, 23. “I proceed to s observe that Presbyterians go much further than Episcopalians 66 in their ideas of external order. Thus, not contented with “ making presbyterial ordination essential to the existence of the “ church, and to all covenanted title to salvation they tell us that « presbyterial government is, in all its parts, sketched out in « scripture; that it is the duty of all Christians to conform to it; " and that, in refusing or neglecting to do so, they incur great “ guilt. The plan of ruling elders and deacons, with mere « temporal functions; the whole system of church sessions, « presbyterial assemblies, synodical assemblies, and general assem« blies, they say, is prescribed in the word of God. In fact, it is “impossible to carry external order further than these men carry u it. See the language which they bold ! Presbyterial govern“ ment, in church sessions, presbyterial assemblies, synodical " assemblies, and general assemblies, is established by the apostles, " and is the law of God's house. All are bound to conform to it. “ Habitual disobedience to any of the divine commands will exclude " from the kingdom of heaven. Thus all but Presbyterians are 6 consigned to perdition. And what relief do they give ? Why, “ simply, that there are sins of ignorance and infirmity which may « consist with a gracious state. So that our opponents not only “make presbyterial ordination essential to the existence of the “ church, but they represent obedience to their particular mode of “ ecclesiastical government as a condition of salvation : placing “ all who reject it on the ground of the general mercy which, it is “ hoped, God will extend to persons labouring under unavoidable, “ or involuntary, error. And is not this, sir, the exact ground on “ which those who depart from the episcopal constitution of the « priesthood are placed by the very men against whom you so “ bitterly inveigh ?” This is such a favourite topic of declamation with Mr. How, that he can scarcely get through a single page, without directly or indirectly recurring to it. His coadjutors seem to be never better pleased than when joining in the same strain. And truly it wants nothing to render it a very plausible argument, but the single circumstance of having some foundation in fact. Of this, I am compelled to say, it is totally destitute.
To show that Mr. How, in writing thus, unjustly accuses our church, nothing more is necessary than to transcribe the following chapters from our Confession of Faith, and Form of Government. They are given entire, that there may be no suspicion of concealment or mutilation; that the several sections of each chapter may explain one another; and, I will add, that Mr. How, if he should ever happen to look into these pages, may have an opportunity of reading them, which, after perusing such remarks as are quoted above, I cannot suppose he has ever yet done.
CONFESSION OF FAITH.-CHAP. XXV. OF THE CHURCH.
“ I. The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
“ II. The visible church which is also catholic or universal under the gospel, (not confined to one nation as before under the law,) consists of all those throughout the world, that prosess the true religion, together with their children ; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
« III. Unto this catholic visible church, Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world : and doth by his own presence and spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.
« IV. This catholic church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.
“ V. The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error: and some have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless there shall be always a church on earth, to worship God according to his will.
66 VI. There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome, in any sense be head thereof; but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself, in the church, against Christ, and all that is called God.”
FORM OF GOVERNMENT.-CHAP. I. OF THE CHURCH.
« I. Jesus Christ, who is now exalted, far above all principality, and power, hath erected, in this world, a kingdom, which is his church.
« II. The universal church consists of all those persons, in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of the holy religion of Christ, and of submission to his laws.
“ III. As this immense multitude cannot meet together, in one place, to hold communion, or to worship God, it is reasonable and warranted by scripture example, that they should be divided into many particular churches.
“ IV. A particular church consists of a number of professing Christians, with their offspring, voluntarily associated together, for divine worship and godly living, agreeably to the holy scriptures; and submitting to a certain form of government."
FORM OF GOVERNMENT.-CHAP. II.
OF THE OFFICERS OF THE
" I. Our blessed Lord, at first, collected his church out of different nations, and formed it into one body, by the mission of men endued with miraculous gifts, which have long since ceased.
“ II. The ordinary and perpetual officers, in the church, are bishops or pastors; the representatives of the people, usually styled ruling elders, and deacons."
FORM OF GOVERNMENT.- CHAP. VII. OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT, AND
THE SEVERAL KINDS OF JUDICATORIES.
“ I. It is absolutely necessary that the government of the church be exercised under some certain and definite form : and we hold it to be expedient, and agreeable to scripture and the practice of the primitive Christians, that the church be governed by congregational, presbyterial, and synodical assemblies. In full consistency with this belief, we embrace, in the spirit of charity, those Christians who differ from us, in opinion or in practice, on these subjects.
“ II. These assemblies ought not to possess any civil jurisdiction nor to inflict any civil penalties : Their power is wholly moral or spiritual, and that only ministerial and declarative. They possess the right of requiring obedience to the laws of Christ; and of excluding the disobedient and disorderly, from the privileges of the church. To give efficiency, however, to this necessary and scriptural authority, they possess the powers requisite for obtaining evidence and inflicting censure; they can call before them any offender against the order and government of the church: They can require members, of their own society, to appear and give testimony on the cause; but the highest punishment to which their authority extends is to exclude the contumacious and impenitent from the congregation of believers."
In these chapters, every line is marked with wisdom, moderation, and charity. They are so far from asserting that no church is enti
tled to the name of a church of Christ, but our own, that the contrary is clearly and unequivocally acknowledged. They are so far from maintaining, that there is no salvation out of the pale of our church, that they could scarcely have found words more strongly to express an opposite opinion, without running into unlimited latitudinarianism. They make the visible church to consist of all those throughout the world, who profess the true religion, together with their children; and, lest the phrase, the true religion, might be construed to mean an exact conformity with our own standards, they declare that they consider as included in the visible catholic church, many churches less pure than their own, and that they freely “ embrace in the spirit of charity, those Christians who differ “ from them, in opinion, or in practice, on these subjects.” They go on to state, that this visible church is the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation ; thus making express provision for the, exercise of mercy in ways extraordinary, and therefore unknown to us. Could any thing be more guarded or remote from bigotry? These gentlemen, however, insist, that in the chapter of the Confession of Faith, (Chap. 27.) which treats of the sacraments, it is formally declared, that " neither of the sacraments may “ be dispensed by any other than a minister of the word lawfully 66 ordained.” But what is this to the purpose ? Who is a
" minis« ter of the word lawfully ordained ?" If any preceding or subsequent passage in our public standards, had asserted, or even intimated, that no minister is lawfully ordained, but one who has been set apart exactly in our mode, there would be some pretext for this cavil. But no such assertion or intimation, nor any thing that resembles either, is contained in the whole book. It prescribes the course of study, and the kind of trials which candidates for the ministry, in our church, shall be required to pass through, and it also directs the mode of their ordination : but it pronounces no sentence of invalidity on other modes of conducting these important concerns; nor does it give a hint, from which, by fair reasoning, such a sentence can be deduced.
But this is not all. While the language of our confession of faith and articles of government, is catholic and charitable in a very remarkable degree, their history illustrates and confirms their language. They were drawn up by the Westminister Assembly