Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

Firmilian, Bishop of Cæsarea, says, “ that in Elders is vested the power of Baptizing, Imposition of hands, and Ordination.”

Hilary says, " The Presbyters were at first called Bishops."
Theodoret

says,

“ Of old they called the same men both Bishops and Presbyters.”

Finally, Jerome says, that“ the Presbyters of Alexandria ordained their "Bishop for more than two hundred years from the first planting of that Church.”

To these testimonies I shall subjoin a single modern one: that of Mosheim ; who says, that “in the first century the rulers of the Church were called either Presbyters or Bishops, which two titles are in the New Testament undoubtedly applied to the same order of men."

From these testimonies it is, if I mistake not, clear, that the principal doctrine, maintained in this, and the preceding discourse, is the doctrine of the Scriptures concerning the subject in debate.

Another argument, alleged in favour of the distinction against which I contend, is derived from the character, and commission, of Timothy and Titus, as exhibited in the Epistles, addressed to them by St. Paul.

It is said that Timothy was Bishop of Ephesus, and Titus of Crete; and that, as such, Paul directed them to ordain Elders, or Presbyters, in the Churches at Ephesus, and in Crete.

To this assertion I answer in the first place. It cannot be proved, that Timothy was Bishop of Ephesus, or Titus Bishop of Crete, in any sense; much less in the Diocesan sense.

The Scriptures say this in no place, and in no manner, whatever. Dr. Whitby, who was a zealous advocate for Episcopacy, declares, that he “ can find nothing in any writer, of the first three centuries, concerning the Episcopate of Timothy and Titus; nor any intimation, that they bore that name.” Indeed, he gives up this whole argument in form.

Secondly. It is certain that Timothy was an Evangelist; and therefore not a Diocesan Bishop, until after the second Epistle was written; because Paul directs him to do the work of an Evangelist in the fourth chapter of that Epistle ;* and directs him to come to him at Rome.t An Evangelist, as you know, was an Itinerant Minisler; and could not be a Diocesan Bishop; whose business it is to rule, and therefore to abide, in his own diocese.

Besides, there were other Bishops in Ephesus, when the first Epistle to Timothy was written : viz. those whom Paul sent for to Miletus.

The Truth unquestionably is, that Paul left him at Ephesus with extraordinary authority, as an inspired and eminent preacher, to charge some to teach no other doctrine than that which he had been

* 2 Timothy iv. 5.

+ 2 Timothy iv. 9.

taught; nor gide heed to fables, and endless genealogies. When. this business, and other things naturally connected with it, were finished; he returned to St. Paul again. What is true of Timothy is equally true of Titus. He also resided in Crete but a short time before he returned to Paul at Nicopolis ; and was not, so far as appears, ever settled in Crete at all: certainly not at the time specified in the Epistle. And except from the Epistle, there is nothing known about the subject.

Thirdly. Were we to admit, that Timothy and Titus were Bishops, and settled at Ephesus and Crete; it cannot be shown, that they had any other authority, than that, which all Ministers possess, except what was derived from this commission of St. Paul, their superior wisdom and piety, and their inspiration. Until this can be shown, the debate concerning this subject can answer no purpose, in the present case. But it cannot be shown.

Another argument for Episcopacy is derived from the 2d and 3d Chapter of the Apocalypse. Here the seven Épistles of Christ to the seven Churches of Asia are directed, each, to the Angel of the Church, specified in the Epistle. Now it is said, that the Angel denotes one Minister, superior to the rest in authority. Among these Epistles the first is directed to the Angel of the Church at Ephesus. Hence it is argued, that there was one Minister in the Church at Ephesus; and, therefore, in the other churches; who was superior to the rest, or, in appropriate language, a Bishop. To this I answer,

First; That, granting every thing, which can with any pretence be pleaded, the foundation of this argument is too unsolid and uncertain, to support any conclusion.

Secondly. The word, Angel, is often used in the Apocalypse to denote many. In these Epistles it seems evidently to be thus used; because in the four first of them, the singular pronoun, thou, is changed into the plural, you; while the same person is still addressed. Thus Christ says to the Angel of the Church in Thyatira, But unlo you I say; 'Tua de asyw; and unto the rest in Thyatira. This

ds being allowed, and it certainly cannot be denied, the argument falls to the ground.

Tnirdly. Should it be acknowledged, that there was but one Minister in each of these Churches at the close of the first Century; (the time specified) it will be nothing to the present purpose.

It is certain, that there were several Bishops in Ephesus, at tho time, when Paul had this church immediately under his direction. These were all constituted Bishops by the Holy Ghost. This, therefore, was certainly an establishment of God. If, then, the Church at Ephesus, either voluntarily, or from some species of necessity, had changed this Institution; it had changed a divine Institution: a fact, which cannot possibly affect the present question.

Fourthly; The senior Minister in each of these Churches may have been the person,

addressed in these letters.

It has also been pleaded in behalf of Episcopacy, that there has been an uninterrupted succession of Bishops from the Apostles to the present time; and that, as the Apostles received their power from Christ, so the first Bishops received theirs from the Apostles; and 80 every succession of Bishops received theirs from those who preceded them. In this manner, it is alleged, the powers, as well as the Officers, have their only proper, legitimate existence, at the present time.

If this argument were now first to be alleged, the author of it would be considered as sporting with his antagonist : for,

First; This succession is only supposed, and cannot be proved.

Secondly; Irenæus dclares, that the succession, and together with it, the Episcopate also, had, down to this day, (the latter part of the second century) descended through a series of Presbyters, not of Bishops. According to the testimony of this father, the best witness concerning the point in question, the powers, now existing in Ministers of the Church, are merely Presbyterian ; not Episcopal.

Thirdly; Both Bishops and Presbyters must now trace the succession, if traced at all, through the Church of Rome. There were in this Church, at one time, four Pontiffs, who all denounced each other as Usurpers.

It would be a difficult point to determine through which of these men the powers in question descended to us. That any powers, of a divine nature, passed through such impure hands, will be slowly admitted by a man of piety.

Fourthly; All that can be pleaded on this subject, can be pleaded by Presbyters, equally with Bishops.

There is yet another argument, which has been often alleged in favour of Episcopacy. It is this ; that the Jewish Church contained a High Priest, Ordinary Priests, and Leviles; and was a type of the Christian Church. The Christian Church, therefore, it is concluded, ought to have three orders of Officers : viz. Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. As the New Testament does not give us a single hint of this nature ; it certainly must be trifling to waste the time of my audience in refuting a mere conjecture. I shall only observe, therefore, that the Christian Church, without the aid of Bishops, is possessed of the three orders, contended for. Christ is the Great High Priest of our profession; his Ministers correspond to the ordinary priests; and the Deacons to the Levites.

From all these considerations it is clearly decided, to my apprehension, that Diocesan Bishops are not of Scriptural, but of human origin; introduced either casually, or from considerations of a prudential nature only. Christ has established pastors in his Church : the Church itself has constituted its Bishops : and this,

o a great extent, has been acknowledged by the Bishops themselves.

Such, clearly, appears to me to be the truth concerning this so much debated question. Still, I have no disposition to contend with those Christians who are attached to Episcopacy, and who think they find any peculiar advantages in that form of Ecclesiastical administration. Nor can I willingly adopt the severe aspersions, sometimes thrown upon it by individual Presbyterians. I cannot but remember, and remember with emotions of gratitude and respect, the very great and beneficial exertions, made by the English Church in the cause of Christianity; and made in many instances by the dignitaries of that Church. Butler, Berkeley, Jewel, Beveridge, Bedell, and Wilson, were Bishops. Cranmer, Leighton, and Usher, were Archbishops. Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, were martyrs.

In that Church, also, real Religion has at times flourished to a great and very desirable extent. Like other Churches, it has had its bright and dark days; but it has undoubtedly sent multitudes of its members to heaven; and at the present time, is fast rising in the gradations of piety.

While, therefore, 1 claim the common right of judging for myself concerning the subject of this discourse; I freely yield the same right to others. Nor can I take any satisfaction in thinking hardly of them, because they do not adopt my opinions, although, as I think, founded on the Scriptures, concerning Ecclesiastical government.

SERMON CLII.

THL EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.—THE END OF NATURE,

AND SUBJECTS OF PREACHING.

MATTHEW xxviii. 19.-Go ye, therefore, teach all nations.

IN the two last discourses I attempted to show, that there are but Two classes of permanent officers in the Christian Church, designated in the Scriptures. One of these classes, I observed, is spoken of under the names, Elders, Pastors, Bishops, Teachers, &c. ; and the other under that of Deacons. To the former belongs that, which is appropriately called the Ministry of the Gospel.

The next subject of consideration is obviously, the Duties of this class of Officers. These I have heretofore mentioned as being, especially, public and private Prayer in the Church, Preaching the Gospel, Administering Baptism and the Lord's Supper, Ruling, and Ordaining other Ministers. These are, however, far from being the only duties of Ministers. There are many others, which belong to them as Ministers ; and many more, as men.

As Ministers, they are bound, peculiarly, to be Examples to believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in pube rity; 1 Tim. iv. 12: to visit, comfort, instruct, and pray with, the sick and distressed: James v. 14, &c.: to study, or meditate, diligently on the things of the Gospel, and give themselves wholly to them, that their profiling may appear to all ; 1 Tim. iv. 15: to take heed unto themselves, and unto their doctrine; and to continue in these things, that in so doing they may both save themselves, and those that hear them : verse 15: to be apt to teach ; to be given to hospitality; to rule well their own houses ; to exhibit such good behaviour, as to be well reported of them that are without ; 1 Tim. iii. 2, 4, 7: and to contend earnestly for the faith, once delivered to the saints, as being set for the defence of the Gospel; Jude 3, Phil. i. 17. All these, and all other, ministerial duties may be found, most forcibly enjoined, in the Scriptures; especially in the Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy and Titus.

As a Man, a Minister is bound to be an eminent Example of all the Christian virtues.

Among the Official duties of a Minister, Preaching is undoubtedly of far higher importance, than any other. This, therefore, merits a particular discussion in a system of Theology.

Such a discussion I shall now attempt under the following heads. 1. The End; II. The Nature;

« ÎnapoiContinuați »