Page images

On the other side, however, those who refuse to admit any but the Episcopal Churches into their definition of the Church Universal, are obliged to adopt a strange expedient in order to avoid the consequences of their theory. For they cannot, in the kindness of their hearts, deny, that the piety of Christian men in the various sects will bring them to the Church above, although they refuse them any place in the Church below. But is it not worthy of serious consideration, whether the promising men salvation without the Church, has not the strongest tendency to persuade the world that the privileges of this ark of God are of no importance? Is it not wiser to extend the definition of the Church Universal to the utmost limits, than to indulge men with the expectation, that out of its sacred enclosure, they may be saved? Is it not every way more consistent with Scripture and with reason to say, that we know of no nursery for heaven but the Church Universal-that whatever the secret counsels of God may be in reference to the heathen or the unbaptised-whatever hope we may cherish for those who have not, in this life, embraced the blessed offer of the Gospel-yet we can give neither encouragement nor promise, that any who belong not to the kingdom of Christ here, shall be allowed to enter it hereafter. (a)

[ocr errors]

(a) Calv. Instit. Lib. 4. Cap. 1 § 4. Verum quia nunc de visibili Ecclesia disserere propositum est, discamus vel uno matris elogio quam utilis sit nobis cognitio, imo necessaria: quando non alius est in vitam ingressus nisi nos ipsa concipiat in utero, nisi pariat, nisi nos alat suis uberibus, denique sub custodia et gubernatione sua nos tueatur, donec exuti carne mortali, similes erimus angelis. Adde quod extra ejus gremium nulla est speranda peccatorum remissio, nec ulla salus.'

And Melancthon, see 'Loci præcipui Theologici,' Ed, Witt. 1577. p. 343. says, 'Neque invocari, neque agnosci Deus aliter vult, quam ut se patefecit: nec alibi se patefecit, nisi in Ecclesia visibili, in qua sonat vox Evangelii,' &c.

[ocr errors]

And again, ib. p. 347. Sciamus igitur Ecclesiam Dei cœtum esse

Let us, then, humbly and faithfully endeavor to keep this deeply important subject within the limits of the word of God; neither closing up the entrance to the fold of Israel on the one side, nor enlarging it upon the other; but earnestly and affectionately urging all men in this as in every other concern, to search for truth; and without condemning any, for Christ is the Judge-exhorting them never to cease that search until they have found what they conscientiously esteem to be 'the more excellent way.'

I shall close this chapter with a tribute from the learned Theodore Beza, the successor of Calvin, in favor of the Apostolic system.

(d) 'Truly,' saith he, 'I wonder that any one could ever dream that the Church could be purer or fairer than in the times of the Apostles. For who is so blind as not to see, who is so perverse as not to acknowledge, that those were indeed the golden ages of the Church, beyond all others, whether we consider the purity of doctrine, or the form and order of the Church, or the excellence of the pastors, or the virtues of the hearers.' Most heartily do I respond to this eulogy; the only difference between Beza and us lying in the point at which we should look for the Apostolic pattern. Some of our Christian brethren have taken it

alligatum ad vocem seu ministerium Evangelii; nec extra hunc cœtum ubi nulla est vox Evangelii, nulla invocatio Christi, esse ullos hæredes vitæ æternæ.'

(d) Tract. de Polygam, Vid. Confes. Christ. Fid. &c. Theod. Bez. Vez. Ed. Genev. A. D. 1573. p. 152. At ego sanè miror potuisse quenquam unquam somniare puriorem vel ornatiorem urquam faisse Ecclesiam quàm Apostolorum temporibus. Quis enim adeò cæcus est ut non videat, quis adeò præfractus ut non agnoscat (sive doctrinæ puritatem, sive ecclesiæ formam et ordinem, sive pastorum præstantiam, sive auditorum virtutes consideremus) aurea tum verè secula fuisse præ iis quæ statim consequuta sunt?'

in the first stage, our Presbyterian friends have taken it in the second, but we in the third, when the ecclesiastical edifice was finished, and Paul, the wise master builder,' writes to Timothy, 'I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. '


In the peculiar position occupied by the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, there are many questions of great interest likely to arise, in the settlement of which there is some danger of collision, unless there be a steadfast reference made to fundamental principles.

The first and most important of these questions is the following:

From what source are we to derive our ideas of the powers and character of the bishops and clergy?

To this the answer, as it seems to me, is a matter of course; so much so, that I should never have conceived that it could be a question amongst Episcopalians, if I had not heard and seen a principle advocated, which maintains, that the frame of our ecclesiastical polity, and the measure of Episcopal powers, must be taken from the constitution and canons of the American Church; and that bishops and clergy have no inherent and official rights, until some express provision of our own code bestows them.

If the Episcopal Church were a modern invention, coined from the fancies of some human brain, and first starting into being with the American revolution, there would be some sense and propriety in the above opinion. But as it claims affinity with the primitive Church, rests its foundation on the divine will, proves its principles by the very language of Scripture, and draws its descent directly from the Apos

tles through the channel of the Church of England, the theory above described must be characterised as a pure absurdity. Nevertheless, as it is a kind of absurdity which is congenial, in many respects, with the spirit of the age, and the prevailing temper of our country, it may meet with acceptance from some who have not yet given to the subject any serious consideration; and therefore I shall devote the remainder of this dissertation to the exposition of the true principles of our ecclesiastical system.

I commence by the proposition, that the Episcopal Church is maintained by all her members to be the Church of Apostolic institution, characterised by the order of bishops, who exercise the powers of ordination and government which were peculiar to the Apostles; on which account they are considered the successors of the Apostles, and their Church is in this particular, an Apostolic Church.

Hence, the preface to the ordinal declares the office of bishop to have been from the Apostles' times, and that this fact is evident to all men diligently reading Scripture and ancient authors.'

[ocr errors]

Again, in the consecration service for bishops, we meet with the following recognition of the principle:

'Brother,' saith the presiding bishop, addressing the person to be consecrated, 'as the holy Scripture and the ancient canons command that we should not be hasty in laying on hands and admitting any person to government in the Church of Christ, which he hath purchased at no less price than the effusion of his own blood; before we admit you to this administration we will examine you in certain articles, to the end that the congregation present may have a trial, and bear witness how you are minded to behave yourself in the Church of God.'

In the third question following this introduction, the pre

« PreviousContinue »