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“ stands in need of some one to be moderator. But let it be always “ understood, that he who is first of all should be as a servant according to Matthew 23. 11."
Where is the testimony from Calvin now ? The truth is, the whole passage, like tenor of all Calvin's writings, is decidedly anti-prelatical. That great reformer, as will be more fully seen hereafter, believed in no authority of one minister over another, as having existed in the primitive church, but a moderatorship, either occasional or standing, for the maintenance of order.
This is not the only instance in which Dr. Bowden entirely perverts the language of Calvin, and represents him as delivering opinions directly opposite to those which he really does deliver. Of this, more in a future letter, in which the writings of Calvin, so far as they relate to episcopacy, will be particularly considered. In the mean time I cannot forbear to notice a single specimen, so gross and remarkable, that I could scarcely credit the testimony of my own senses when I found it advanced by both my opponents, not only with confidence, but even with sarcastic and reproachful exultation, as a great concession from the reformer of Geneva in their favour.
In his commentary on Titus 1. 5. Calvin speaks largely of the mission of that evangelist to the churches of Crete. Dr. Bowden and Mr. How wish to persuade their readers, that, in these remarks, he fairly gives up the point that Titus was a diocesan bishop, or prelate. Accordingly they both represent him as saying—" Hence " we learn that there was not any equality among the ministers of “the church, but that one was placed over the rest in authority and "counsel.” On this pretended quotation from Calvin, Mr. How observes, “Here the divine institution of superior and inferior “ grades of ministers, is asserted in unqualified terms." p. 63. Dr. Bowden quotes the passage from Calvin, exactly in the same manner, and makes precisely the same use of it with Mr. How.
You will, no doubt, be filled with astonishment, my brethren, to find that the passage from which these gentlemen prosess to make this quotation, is in fact as follows: “ Presbyters, or elders, “it is well known, are not so denominated on account of their age, « since young men are sometimes chosen to this office, as for in“stance, Timothy; but it has ever been customary, in all languages,
to apply this title, as a term of honour, to all rulers. And, as
" we gather from the first epistle to Timothy that there were two • kinds of elders; so here the context shows that no other than 6 teaching elders are to be understood ; that is, those who were 6 ordained to teach ; because the same persons are presently call“ed bishops. It may be objected that too much power seems to “ be given to Titus, when the apostle commands him to appoint 5 ministers over all the churches. This, it may be said, is little " less than kingly power; for, on this plan, the right of choice is "taken away from the particular churches, and the right of judging “ in the case from the college of pastors ; and this would be to “ profane the whole of the sacred discipline of the church. But 6 the answer is easy. Every thing was not intrusted to the will of « Titus as an individual, nor was he allowed to impose such bi“ shops on the churches, as he pleased : but he was commanded to “ preside in the elections as moderator, as it is necessary for some 6 one to do. This is a mode of speaking exceedingly common. “ Thus a consul, or regent, or dictator, is said to create consuls « because he convenes assemblies for the purpose of making choice 6 of them. So also Luke uses the same mode of speaking concern6 ing Paul and Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles ; not that “ they alone authoritatively appointed pastors over the churches, " without their being tried or approved; but they ordained suita« ble men, who had been elected or chosen by the people We 66 learn also from this place, that there was not then such an equali
ty among the ministers of the church, but that some one might « preside in authority and counsel. This, however, was nothing 6 like the tyrannical and unscriptural prelacy which reigns in the “ papacy.* The plan of the apostles was extremely different.”
Here is not only a passage taken out of its connexion, and interpreted in a sense diametrically opposite to the whole scope and strain of the writer ; but, what is much worse, the passage itself is mistranslated, and made to speak a language essentially different from the original. Mr. How may possibly plead that he never saw the original ; that he quoted entirely on the authority of some other person. But Dr. Bowden cannot make the same plea. He inserts in the margin the very words which he mistranslates and perverts!
* Here Calvin not only represents prelacy as a tyrannical and unscriptural system, but evidently considers it as a part of the corruptions of popery.
What are we to think of such a fact? Is Dr. B. unable to translate a plain piece of Latin ? or did he design to deceive ? He may choose which alternative he pleases.
Dr. Bowden thinks me inconsistent with myself in demanding decided scriptural warrant, and in maintaining the sufficiency of Scripture to direct us on the subject of ecclesiastical order; while, at the same time, I acknowledge that there are no formal or explicit decisions delivered on this subject, either by Christ or his apostles. But where is the inconsistency here ? Do I not maintain that, although the scriptures present no formal or explicit decisions on this subject, yet we find in the New Testament, “a mode of
expression, and a number of facts, from which we may, without 6 difficulty, ascertain the outlines of the apostolic plan of church 66 order ?” And is not this “ scriptural warrant ?” Is it not “de6 cided” scriptural warrant, in the estimation of all those who consider the form of the apostolic church as a model intended for our imitation ? This is perfectly clear to every impartial mind : with others it is vain to reason.
With respect to Dr. Bowden's open declaration, that the scriptures, taken alone, are not a sufficient guide on this subject; that we cannot “stir a step” in the controversy, to any purpose, without the aid of the fathers; and even that we cannot establish the genuineness and authenticity of the scriptures themselves, without the writings of the fathers; I can only say, that I consider it as a declaration equally unworthy of his character as a divine, and as a Christian. Has Dr. Bowden no evidence that the scriptures are from God, but what the fathers say? Then he is exceedingly to be pitied; for his hope rests upon a most precarious foundation, I bless God that much better judges have been of a different opinion. I bless God that the greatest ornaments of his own church, from Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, to the present day, have considered the internal evidence of the scriptures as the strongest, the best, and most precious of all. The testimony of the fathers, indeed, has its use ; but to place it in the point of light in which Dr. Bowden does, and to lay so much stress upon it as he avows a disposition to do, is really extraordinary conduct for a protestant minister of the gospel!
The doctrine of our Confession of Faith is full and explicit on this subject. “ We may be moved and induced by the testimony
.“ of the church, to an high and reverend esteem for the Holy Scrip“ ture : And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doc“ trine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the “ scope of the whole, the full discovery it makes of the only way " of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, “ and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth « abundantly evidence itself to be the word of God. Yet, notwith“ standing, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, " and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the “ Holy Spirit, bearing witness, by and with the word in our hearts. “ The whole council of God concerning all things necessary for “ his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly 6 set down in scripture, or, by good and necessary consequence,
may be deduced from scripture; unto which nothing, at any
time, is to be added, whether by new revelations, or by the spirit 66 and traditions of men.” chap. 1. This is the doctrine of all the reformed churches. The doctrine of the latter clause, is explicitly recognized in the VIth article of Dr. Bowden's own church, which, in my opinion, he misunderstands and perverts. “ Holy Scripture “ containeth all things necessary to salvation ; so that whatsoever " is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be re
quired of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the “ faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” This is the rock on which we stand. As long as we can show, and while the Bible lasts I am sure we shall always be able to show, that Presbyterian government was the apostolic model of church order, we may stand unmoved at all opposite testimony, however plausible in its nature, and however confidently adduced.
TESTIMONY IN FAVOUR OF THE OFFICE OF RULING ELDER.
In several passages in my former letters, 1 adverted to the office of ruling elder, and offered some considerations to show that it was instituted in the primitive church. Dr. Bowden, perceiving that this position, if maintained, would prove fatal to his cause, has endeavoured, with all his force, to drive me from it, and to persuade his readers, that no such officer was known in the christian church until modern times. As this will hereafter appear to be a question of great importance, not only on account of the office itself, but also on account of its close connexion with the doctrine of ministerial parity, I hope you will pardon me for discussing it more carefully, and at greater length than I was able to do in my former volume.
There is, independent of all historical testimony, strong presumptive evidence that such an office must have been instituted by the apostles. There is a demand, little short of absolute necessity, that one or more persons, under some name, to perform the duties of ruling elders, should be appointed in every well ordered congregation. The minister, whether he be called pastor, bishop, rector, or by whatever title, cannot individually perform all the duties which are included in maintaining government and discipline in the church, as well as ministering in the word and sacraments. He cannot be every where, or know every thing. He must have a number of grave, judicious, and pious persons, who shall assist