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Let it be remembered, however, that, so far as the insulated word Angel carries with it a meaning to us, that meaning is much more favorable to Presbytery than Episcopacy. It was shown in a former letter, that, in every Synagogue among the Jews, there was an officer, who, among other names, was called the Angel of the Church. It was also shown that the Synagogue model, particularly with respect to the names and duties of ministers, was adopted in the Christian Church. Now if this reasoning be admitted, we must consider these angels as ordinary pastors, addressed either in their individual or collective capacity, probably the latter*; and the whole strain of the addresses to them serves rather to confirm than in. validate this conclusion.
But we are gravely told, that some of the early Fathers declare, that these Angels were single persons, and Bishops. Though this is not that Scrip tural testimony, which we are now demanding,
* I am sensible that there is considerable diversity of opinion among Presbyterians, as well as Episcopalians with respect to the character of the Apocalyptic Angels. But as the sacred writer gives us no information relative to their character, excepting what may be gathered from the name : and as there are at least half a dozen different opinions on the subject, all equally reconcileable with the scriptural representation, it is no wonder that this diversity of opinion should exist. In truth, when thoroughly sifted, the whole argument will be found perfectly nugatory, and to afford no solid evidence in favor of either Episcopacy or Presbytery.
yet we will admit the fact. Some of the Fathers do say so. And some of the Fathers go further, and tell us that they were Archbishops ; nay, some of them even go so far as to mention the names of these Archbishops ; though, unfortunately, they disagree among themselves in making out a list of the names, and, therefore, excite a suspicion that all their tes, timony on the subject is unworthy of credit. But,fur ther, it is certain that some other Fathers, equally entitled to respect, represent these angels, not as indi. vidual Bishops, but as collective bodies. Now which of these early writers shall we believe? No wise man can be at a loss to answer. Their mutual contradictions teach us to put no confidence in this kind of testimony.
I will only add, that the learned advocate for prelacy, Mr. Dodwell, expressly gives up this whole argument. In his book, entitled, One Priesthood and One Altar, published in 1683, he expresses the opinion commonly held by episcopal writers, that the Angels of the Seven Asiatic Churches were diocesan Bishops; but in his Parænesis, published about twenty years afterwards, he explicit ly renounces this opinion ; and, while he expresses much uncertainty with respect to the character of these angels, and concedes the impossibility of deciding who they were, he rather intimates his belief that they were itinerary legates, sent from ferusalem, answering to the seven spirits, mentioned Zech, iv. 10, that are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
VI. The last argument deduced by the friends of Episcopacy from Scripture, which appears worthy of notice, is that which is founded on two parallel passages, one in 1 Cor. xii. the other in Ephes. iv. The former is in these words-And God hath set some in the Church; first, Apostles ; secondarily, Prophets ; thirdly, Teachers ; after that miracles; then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. The latter, as follows—And he gave some, Apostles ; and some, Prophets ; and some, Evangelists, and some, Pastors and Teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, &c. In these passages, the friends of Episcopacy assure us, there are various orders of Christian Minis. ters, not only enumerated, but also expressly said to be set or fixed in the Church by its great Head. There must, then, say they, be various orders of clergy, by divine appointment, to the end of the world.
But if these passages of Scripture are consider. ed as representing the ordinary ministry of the Church, in all ages, they prove by far too much. They prove that every regular Church must have more than three orders of clergy: They prove that, among these, there must be Apostles and Prophets, as well as Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers :
They prove that no true Church is without miracles, gifts of healing, and diversities of tongues : And, if the order of arrangement is that of dignity, they prove that governing the Church is among the low
est grades of ecclesiastical duty. The friends of Episcopacy will, perhaps, say, that some of the offices and gifts here enumerated, were extraordinary, and confined to the Apostolic age. This is readily granted. It is too obvious to be denied. But the moment our Episcopal brethren take this ground, they surrender the whole argument founded on these passages. For if all the offices enumerated in these passages were not fixed in the Church, and if the whole enumeration were not intended as a model for us, the principle of the argument is abandoned.
But, admitting, for the sake of argument, that the various classes of Gospel ministers here enumerated were all intended to be perpetual in the Church: admitting all the difficulties with respect to Prophecy and Miracles, which no Church now claims, to be surmounted : and admitting also, that the number of orders enumerated, can, by some process of ecclesiastical arithmetic hither. to unknown, be reduced from four or five to three, the number of which Episcopalians are so fond; there is still an unfortunate circumstance, which effectually deprives them of all benefit from the argument; or rather, which turns it against them. It is this : All the classes or denominations of ministers here enumerated, are represented in the New Testament, as vested with power to ordain, and as actually exercising this power. The ordaining power of Apostles is disputed by mone. Prophets and Teachers, we have scen, per
formed an ordination at Antioch ; Timothy and Titus, who were Evangelists, exercised the ordaining power at Ephesus and Crete ; and Presbyters or. dained Timothy to the work of the ministry. Now if these different denominations correspond with the three orders of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons, in modern times; then it follows, that the power of ordination, instead of belonging exclu. sively to the first of these three orders, belongs equally to them all.
A consequence which, though perfectly reconcileable with our doctrine, is absolutely destructive to the Episcopal scheme.
I have now given you, my brethren, a sketch of the strongest arguments deduced from Scripture in favor of Episcopacy, with which I am acquainted. It is for you to judge whether these arguments do really establish the claim which they are intended to support. It is for you to judge whether they give even probability to this claim. Above all, it is for you to decide, whether they show that it is a claim of unalterable divine right, and its admis, sion essentially necessary to the regular organization of the Church, and the valid ministration of the sacraments. For myself, I must conscientiously declare, that the arguments attempted to be drawn from Scripture, in favor of prelacy, do not appear to me to possess the smallest degree of real force; and that even to concede to them the merit of plausibility, is more than an impartial judge would allow. I can truly say, that when I first ap