Obrázky na stránke

have, to the present time, acted on this principle, acknowledging but one order in the Christian ministry. I know that attempts have frequently been made to give a different representation of this matter. Whether these attempts have arisen from ignorance, or from a less excusable source, I will not inquire ; but the position which they aim to establish is unquestionably groundless. Luther, the great founder of the church which bears his name, gave a practical declaration of his opinion on this subject, by one decisive fact, which is, that, though only in Priest's orders, he himself undertook, in 1524, a few years after commencing the work of Reformation, to ordain, and, actually performed this rite, with great solemnity. His coadjutors and followers, though of no higher ecclesiastical dignity than himself, did the same. Could more decisive testimony be given as to the principles of the first Lutherans on this subject?

It is true, Luther and the leading divines of his denomination, differed from Calvin and his associates, with respect to one point in church govern

The latter totally rejected all ministerial imparity. The former supposed that a system embracing some degree of imparity, was, in general, expedient ; and accordingly, in proceeding to organize their churches, appointed Superintendants, who enjoyed a kind of pre-eminence, and were vested with peculiar powers. But they explicitly acknow. ledged this office to be a human, and not a divine institution. The Superintendants in question were


mere Presbyters, and received no new ordination in consequence of their appointment to this office. The opinion of their being a distinct and superior order of clergy, was formally rejected. And all regular Presbyterian ordinations were recognized by the church in which they presided, as valid. Nor have modern Lutherans apostatized in any of these points from the principles of their Fathers. In all the Lutheran churches in America, and in Europe, to the south of Sweden, there are no Bishops. Their Superintendants, or Seniors, have no other ordination than that of Presbyters. When they are not present, other Presbyters ordain without a scruple. And the ordinations practised in Presbyterian churches they acknowledge to be as valid as their own; and accordingly receive into full ministerial standing, those who have been ordained in this


The testimony of Dr. Mosheim, the celebrated ecclesiastical historian, who was himself a zealous and distinguished Lutheran, will doubtless be considered as conclusive on this subject. He remarks, (Vol. 4. p. 287) that “ the internal government of “the Lutheran church is equally removed from Episcopacy on the one hand, and from Presbyteu rianism on the other; if we except the kingdoms “ of Sweden and Denmark, who retain the form of “ ecclesiastical government that preceded the Re

formation, purged, indeed, from the superstition 6 and abuses that rendered it so odious. This “ constitution of the Lutheran hierarchy will not

seem surprising, when the sentiments of that peo

ple with regard to ecclesiastical polity are duly “ considered. On the one hand, they are persuad“ed that there is no law of divine authority, which “ points out a distinction between the ministers of " the gospel, with respect to rank, dignity, or pre

rogatives ; and therefore they recede from Episo

copacy. But, on the other hand, they are of opi“nion, that a certain subordination, a diversity in

point of rank and privileges among the clergy, “ are not only highly useful, but also necessary to “ the perfection of church communion, by connect“ing, in consequerce of a mutual dependence,

more closely together the members of the same “ body; and thus they avoid the uniformity of the

Presbyterian government. They are not, how

ever, agreed with respect to the extent of this " subordination, and the degrees of superiority and

precedence that ought to distinguish their doc“ tors; for in some places this is regulated with “ much more regard to the ancient rules of church

government, than is discovered in others. As “ the divine law is silent on this head, different “ opinions may be entertained, and different forms " of ecclesiastical polity adopted, without a breach " of Christian charity, and fraternal union."

In perfect correspondence with this representation, it is an undoubted fact, that the church of England, and those of the same sect in this country, consider the Lutheran church as being destitute of an authorized ministry, and her ordinations as com

pletely a nullity as those in Presbyterian churches. You have seen, in our own city, a Lutheran minister, on uniting himself with the Episcopal church, re-ordained*, and the baptism of his children, which had been performed by the venerable Senior of the Lutheran church in this State, pronounced invalid, and performed a second time by an Episcopal clergyman. If the Lutherans are Episcopalians in the same sense with the church of England, why treat their church with this pointed disrespect? If they have no claim to this title, why, for the purpose

of endeavouring to support by the weight of numbers an unscriptural principle, is the contrary insinuated ?

But although the Lutherans in America and in the south of Europe are not Episcopal ; perhaps it will be contended, that this form obtains among the Lutherans of Sweden. This plea, however, like the former, is altogether destitute of solidity. It is readily granted that the Lutheran churches in that kingdom have officers whom they style Bishops ; but when we examine the history and the principles of those churches with respect to their clergy, these Bishops will be found to have no other character, according to the doctrine of the church of England, than that of mere Presbyters. For, in the first place, all ecclesiastical historians agree, that when the re. formation was introduced into Sweden, the first ministers who undertook to ordain were only Pres

* The Rev. George Strebeck, late Pastor of Zion Church, in Mott-street; now Minister of St. Stephen's Church, in the Bowery.

byfers. Their ministerial succession, of course, flowing through such a channel, cannot include any ecclesiastical dignity higher than that of Presbyter. Further; in the Swedish church, it is not only certain that Presbyters, in the absence of those who are styled Bishops, ordain common ministers, without a scruple; but it is equally certain, that in the ordination of a Bishop, if the other Bishops happen to be absent, the more grave and aged of the ordinary pastors supply their place, and are considered as fully invested with the ordaining power. Finally; the Swedish churches explicitly renounce all claim of Divine right for their ecclesiastical government. They acknowledge that the Scriptures contain no warrant for more than one order of gospel minise ters*; that their system rests on no other ground than human expediency; and that an adherence to it is by no means necessary either to the validity or regularity of Christian ordinances.

Several of the foregoing remarks apply to the United Brethren or Moravians. They, indeed, have Bishops in their churches. But they explicitly renounce all claim of Divine right for their system. Of course, they utterly deny the necessity of Episcopal ordination in order to the institution of a valid ministry. And, in full consistency with this belief, they freely admit into their church, clergymen who have received no other than Pres

* The Swedish churches wholly discard Deacons as an order of clergy.


« PredošláPokračovať »