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Art. III.—THE HISTORIC EPISCOPATE: A SYMPOSIUM,
THE HISTORIC EPISCOPATE.
Unity itself is dead, or carnal at the best, if the spirit of unity be wanting. Hence the spirit of unity is precious and fulfills the law given to all Christians, so far as the individual is concerned, if he makes himself in no wise responsible for the divisions of Christendom, and does all that in him lies to restore that primitive unity which answers to the requirements of the Master. The organic unity of a body-of a “whole body”—is the requisite for effective work and progress of the Christian army against the “world lying in the evil one.” This only shall the world believe that the Son of God is sent by the Father for its salvation.*
The Primitive Church realized this ideal from the period when “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” The spirit of unity (so forcibly outlined in Acts ii, 41, 42) was predominant for ages ; and to violate unity and create a schism was recognized as a sin against the Holy Spirit. This fact must not be entangled with the fact that, from the first, schisins were generated. The point is, that unity was the recognized law of ecclesiastical life. When Athanasius stood “ against the world ” there were practical blunders as to truth, but the law was recognized in principle, so that unity was only functionally disturbed; the body was sound and returned very soon to healthful vitality. The spirit of unity in every healthful Christian heart responds to a law of the Gospel which operates for the restoration of organic unity now; but only the Spirit of God can effect this great restoration. It is something not to be worked out by man's wisdom; but let the spirit of Christian unity be revived, and the Spirit of Christ can surely bring about a universal conformity on the part of his children to what he himself commands. It is in this hope that I enter upon a subject the godly and charitable discussion of which must lead to good results.
It has been the successful stratagem of the enemies of the Reformation to credit it with the divisions of Christendom, and thousands, disgusted with these divisions, have blindly “ leaped in the dark," and landed in Rome to escape from the evils of schism. Such a leap had been emphatically out of bad into worse, for (the fons et origo malorum) the fruitful parent of all these disorders is the Paparchy itself. I say the Paparchy* with emphasis, as differing from the papacy as it first appeared in Boniface III. In its first form, as it still recog. nized the canons of the great Councils, it could not enforce any supremacy. It was held by those canons to a mere primacy of order, and all the Easterns, with many bishops of the West, + knew how to resist the aggressions of Rome by an appeal to canons and councils. The “ Decretals
* St. John xvii, 21.
were forged to break down the whole system of the Councils and to frame a new canon-law for the West, when organized by Charlemagne into an empire separate from the East. On these forgeries Nicholas I., in the ninth century, took his stand, and assumed a “supremacy” to which the East indignantly refused submission. But the East was historically the matrix of the Church, and the schism of Nicholas damaged not them, but the Latins. To help himself he created the inscriptural theory of Petrine supremacy and the fable that this was perpetuated in the Ro man See. From the intolerable confusions and inextricable errors generated by the schoolmen to sustain such pretensions came all the divisions of the Reformers. Their system had so perverted all true and primitive ideas of the Church, that, in the great struggle for fundamental truth and righteousness, there was little thought of the frame-work in which the truth was originally enshrined. He who made the body of man for the human spirit was not less the author of a similar system to embody the vitality of the Church. It was the mystical body of Christ. Not for a moment should this historic refutation of papal arrogance be forgotten. History convicts the papacy of creating and fomenting almost all the divisions of Christendom.
The great expounder of the original synodical system of visible unity is Cyprian, the martyr-bishop of Carthage. He knows nothing of any papacy, but accepts the Canons of
* The historic importance of this distinction is illustrated in the Institutes of Christian History by Bishop Coxe, a manual published by McClurg & Co., Chicago.
+ Notably by Hincmar of Rheims, who resisted Nicholas, and founded the historic school of the Gallicans," which exists to this day.
Nicæa, which recognized certain apostolic sees (four in the East and one in the West) as local centers of church discipline and order.* Among these none was superior, none inferior; nor was there any inequality thereby created among Christian bishops as such. The sees of Rome and "New Rome” were tirst and second on the list, for no other reason than that they were the capitals of the einpire—its great centers of resort ; a reason expressly stated in the canons that created them and endowed them with a co-equal primacy of order only, and no confession of any supremucy whatever. Such an idea was unheard of and unthought of. Cyprian's great canons were that (1) the apostolate was a unit, expressed in the gift of it as such to one of the apostles first; and (2) that this unit was equally lodged in its integrity with each apostle, as expressed by the same gift to all the other apostles, without any difference or inequality between them. Hence (3) all Christian bishops, as derived from these apostles, hold apostolic powers in solidarity; all equal, and each one exercising the same gift in its undivided integrity. Great as was his respect for the see of Rome as the matrix of the Western churches, Cyprian yielded nothing to it; “giving place by subjection, no, not for an hour.” His great canons were universally recognized by the whole Church, and through them the aggressive spirit of Rome itself was checked and withstood by the entire Orient, and less efficiently by the Latins, down to the time of Nicholas. The Orientals, adhering to the synodical constitutions to this day, regard the Western schisin of the papacy just as the Anglicans regard it. They smile at the excommunications and anathemas of Nicholas and his successors, as cutting off nobody but himself and his adherents from the Catholic and scriptural unity of antiquity. I
“Now look you, Brother Nicholas, how crazy you must be ;
And sawed the bough ou which he sit, betwixt the tree and him." The “historic episcopate," then, is to be considered here in its original constitutional simplicity, apart from any theories
* See Ante-Nicene Fathers (New York, 188C), vol. V. Elucidation, xiii, p. 415. | Ibid., p. 557; also Firmilian's View, p. 419.
# For proof that the see of Rome was only a Greek mission, a mere colony of the Eastern Church, see Milman's Latin Christianity, vol. I, pp. 24-30.
53-FIFTH SERIES, VOL. V.
concerning its origin, or the degree of authority it may claiın from Holy Scripture. Whether this principle can be proved satisfactorily to be involved in the Ephesine canon of St. Paul,* illustrated by other Scriptures, is not now the question. Allow that it was created by church legislation under the great charter of Christ, who binds in heaven what his Church, under the apostles, solemnly enacted. Nobody but those who suppose the episcopate, in its own nature, is unlawful can fail to admit its claims on Hooker's great position, that constitutional law, as such, must bind until what is lawfully established by the whole body is by the whole body lawfully abolished. In point of fact, let us note just here that even the great majority of the Reformed, including Calvin and Baxter and the English Presbyterians, reject the idea that Episcopacy is per se unlawful; of which more hereafter. The Lutherans of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland maintain at least a formal episcopate, and so do the Moravians and the Methodists and others, so that providentially there exists no great discord among these divisions as to the lawfulness of Episcopacy, whatever they may maintain as to its necessity. Nor is there any conceivable difficulty, provided the spirit of unity exists, why all these bodies inight not admit that what is lauful becomes expedient, if only its necessity (quoad hoc) be proved, viewing it as a primary condition for the return to unity.
Here, then, are certain obvious facts; namely, (1.) That Greeks, Latins, and Anglicans maintain the practical value (to say the least) of a historic episcopate as something not to be compromised without still further increasing the disorders of Christendom. (2.) Greeks and Anglicans are united in demanding of the Latins a rejection of the paparchy, and among the Latins themselves millions have demanded the same for centuries, on Cyprian’s principles, which alike the “Gallicans," the “Jansenists," and the “old Catholics" still maintain theoretically. (3.) As has been shown, Lutherans, Calvinists, Moravians, Methodists, and others, among denominations originating with the Reformation, admit the lawfulness of episcopacy, and formally adopt it in a great proportion of their numbers. (4.) To harmonize the greater differences among Christians thus separated, it is important, in the first place, to unite on what is
* Ephesians iv, 13–17.
so generally accepted. (5.) The “historic episcopate,” once adopted practically, on whatever theory, as a base of unity by all the Reformed, a grand base is secured on which, by the Spirit's aid, we may “go on to perfection;" for thus an apple of discord is removed, which, so long as it remains, will continue to foment all other discords, and to perpetuate, as heretofore, the evils which all profess to deplore. It must also be borne in mind that we are aiming at the principle of universal unity, not merely of unity among English, American, and German Christians. If, then, we must press great and fundamental reforms upon Latins and Orientals, how vast the advantage when, on our part, we concede to them one great organic principle the disregard of which stops the way at present to all further and more radical reforms. Millions of the Latin communion are opening their eyes to the intenable position of the papacy. The new dogmas have profoundly weakened its whole system in the mind and conscience of Europe. It is not too much to say that France might be evangelized and restored to a sound faith comparatively speedily, were only a united effort made in her provinces on the base here suggested. The Latin churches will never be reformed on any other, as leading French Protestants allow.
Here it must be remembered that, although the historic episcopate, in its essence, exists in the Latin Churches of Europe, it is dogmatically repudiated by Rome. The school. men invented the idea that the episcopate is a mere vicariate of the papacy, destroying the Cyprianic principle that all bishops are equal, and depend on Christ alone as their head. This was done to depress all bishops, and to deprive them of the principle on which Cyprian and Augustine, with all the Easterns and many Westerns, had resisted the upgrowth of papal pretensions. The Gallicans opposed this school-doctrine; but it was enforced by the Council of Trent, which, in its Catechism, denies the existence of any “holy order” of bishops ! * It maintains seven orders of the clergy, of which bishops are not one! The highest order is that of presbyters; deacons and subdeacons being the other two "holy orders”—the remaining four are “ecclesiastical orders” only. The Gallicans, Bossuet foremost among them, never accepted this theory, but placed
* Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. V. Elucidation, ii, p. 410, and viii, ix, x, p. 413.