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we that his office was more than temporary, being adapted to the existing circumstances of the parent church?—that he was anything in short, but the stationary agent of the apostles in their absence from Jerusalem? Is it clear that his functions were similar to those of a modern bishop?* or that he was intended to be a divinely-appointed example of Episcopacy to all future ages ? That the first inspired missionaries of the gospel should frequently intrust some one known and tried individual with the nurture of a church which they had planted, was perfectly natural, often perhaps necessary: modern and ordinary missionaries must frequently do the same. Yet what argument is this,- of an intention to establish, in the church of Christ, the permanent and essential ordinance of an imparity of order among presbyters or ministers; no intimation whatever of anything of the kind being found in the doctrines or precepts
have been the son of Zebedee; compare Matt. x. 2, 3; Acts xii. 2. xv. 13.
• Dr. Burton, having previously remarked 'we know little of the constitution of the primitive church, and speaking in another passage of James, as ‘Bishop of Jerusalem,' says, “I by no means intend to affirm that the office which he bore was analogous to that of bishop in later times.' Lectures upon the Ecclesiastical History of the first century. By the Rev. Edward Burton, D.D., Regius Professor of Divinity, and Canon of Christ Church. Oxford. 1831. pp. 95, 102.
of the New Testament? As well surely, might it be argued, in the case of any Society for promoting a benevolent object, that because the founders employed some of their own friends to make the first arrangements, and to select the first agents, they intended, by so doing, to announce to the world, that a distinct and thoroughly-defined subordination of rank, in the board of management or committee, the authoritative control of one order of its members over another, was absolutely necessary, in all future time, to the objects, or perhaps the existence of the Society.
It is certain that we have no divine warrant for a standing order of ministers in the church, who are to exercise such control over inferior brethren, or over the assemblies in which they preside. That the primitive churches were each under its own self-government, and free from all external human authority, is the unanimous testimony of ecclesiastical antiquity, and is admitted by men of all parties. And with regard to the office of Timothy and Titus, or of James,—their functions were probably only such as any ordinary pastor might in their circumstances have sustained, without any distinctive change in his official character or relation to the apostolic church. Will it be contended, then, that those who are not able to perceive, in these three plain, humble missionaries and evangelists of Jesus, the prototypes of hierarchical dignity
and diocesan power, and who cannot regard them as having been placed, by any apostolic ordinance, at so great a distance as is supposed, from all their ministerial brethren,-ought, on this account, to be regarded as sinning against the institution of Christ, as aliens from the unity of the faith, and unworthy of being recognised as christian brethren, or as ministers fitted to preach, and to be accredited everywhere, throughout the universal church?
Surely the absence of all decisive scriptureauthority in his favour, ought, at least, to prevent the Episcopalian Christian from demanding for his system of church-government, a preference on the ground of divine right. Rather should he, like Protestant Christians of other denominations in the community, be content to admit the universal right of judging, as in the presence of God, of the path of duty, in whatever direction it may lead, over this controverted ground; while all, though differing on ecclesiastical polity, agree to differ; freely and practically recognising each others ministerial character, if ministers; and as Christians, meeting on the common level of unity in Christ; the hateful claim of precedency,--the fond question 'Who shall be the greatest ?"* the ancient germ of strife among christian brethren, being for ever laid aside.
* Luke ix. 46.
THE TESTIMONY OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, IN
REFERENCE TO CHURCH-GOVERNMENT.
If there be nothing in the New Testament which authorises any class of Christ's followers to make their own views of external church-order essential to unity, may not the appeal be made to ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY? Do we not, here, find a veracious interpreter of what is left doubtful in the sacred record? and is there not placed before our eyes, the very image and exemplification of that form and order, which, though it may seem to have been but faintly traced by the apostles, yet stands out in full and bold relief, in the actual practice of those who came immediately after them,-or who were even their contemporaries? Is not the voice of the earliest antiquity, after the apostolic age, decisive of the right of Episcopalian Christians to demand the adoption of their form, as an indispensable condition of that entire christian equality, which is most fitted to prevent 'envyings,' 'uncharitableness,' and 'pride,' and best harmonizes with Christ's law, that all his followers are ' brethren?' *
In the fifth number of 'Tracts for the Times,
* Matt. xxiii. 8.
the argument for divine right, founded on terms or names, appears not to be insisted on, but only that which is derived from the supposed 'powers with which the Apostles, or rather the Holy Ghost, by their means, invested those who were to bear rule in the church in times when they themselves should have gone to their reward. Those times came.-St. John, the last of the glorious company of the apostles, entered into his rest, and the church found itself committed, under Heaven, entirely to the charge of the three established orders of its ministers. To each of these a specific title was now ascribed, and applied with greater exactness than before. The title Bishop, which had at first been used indifferently with Elder, became the exclusive property of the highest class of functionaries, the colleagues of Timothy and Titus.' * This passage
would seem to transfer the final appeal for the exclusive claim of Episcopacy, partly at least, to ecclesiastical history. Now it should be remembered, preliminarily, that the Fathers are but human witnesses. Their religious opinions must be judged of by the rule of scripture, and their testimony to facts subjected, as the case may allow, to the ordinary laws of moral evidence. In proportion as the simplicity of the gospel became corrupted, (and corruption began early to develop itself,) it is evident, from the
• Tracts for the Times, No. 5. p. 8.