Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

knowledge that there is more religion in the church, than out of it; more of the image and love of the Redeemer among his covenanted people, than among those who are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise. To deny this, would be to call in question every promise which the King of Zion has made to his people, and every advantage of union with him as their head. Now if all non-episcopal societies are to be considered as mere uncommanded associations, which have nothing to do with the church of Christ; and, if union with that church is a privilege which belongs to Episcopalians alone; then those who believe this doctrine, are bound, on every Christian principle, to show, that Episcopal churches contain within their bosom more pure and undefiled religion, more harmony, more love for the truth as it is in Jesus, more universal holiness of heart and of life, than any, or than all other religious denominations. But is this in fact the case? Will the friends of Prelacy undertake to show, that they alone give this evidence that they belong to Christ? Will they even undertake to show, that Episcopalians exhibit in a preeminent degree, this practical testimony, that they are the chosen generation, the peculiar people, who are purified by the blood, and quickened by the Spirit of the Redeemer?

The efficacy of Episcopal government in securing the unity of the church, in guarding against schism, and in promoting harmony and peace, has been

much celebrated. But is there such a peculiar and benign efficacy in that form of ecclesiastical order? I am willing to refer the decision of this question to any man who is acquainted with ecclesiastical history. If we consult Eusebius, he will present us with a picture of the violence, the strife, and the divisions among Bishops, and among different portions of the church, through their means, which is enough to make a Christian weep. If we consult Gregory Nazianzen, he will tell us, in language before quoted, that Prelacy“ has caused many fruit" less conflicts and bruises, has cast many into the

pit, and carried away multitudes to the place of “the goats.” If we examine the history of any Episcopal church on earth, we shall find it exhibiting, to say the least, as large a share of heresy, contention, and schism, as any which bears the Presbyterian form ; and, what is more, we shall ever find the Prelates themselves quite as forward as any others, in scenes of violence and outrage. The Episcopal professor Whitaker, had no high opinion of the benign effects of Prelacy, when he declared, that if this form of government were introduced as a remedy against schism," the remedy was worse " than the disease.” “ The first express attempt," says the learned Dr. Owen,“ to corrupt and divide

a church, made from within itself, was that in the “ church of Jerusalem, made by Thebulis, because Simon Cleopas was chosen Bishop, and he was re66 fused. The same rise had the schisms of the “ Novations and Donatists, the heresies of Arius and “others.” In short, the animosities and divisions

in the church of Christ, which have taken their rise from the contending interests, the lawless ambition, and the indecent strife of diocesan Bishops, are so numerous, that history is full of them; and so disgusting to every mind imbued with the spirit of Christianity, that it would give pain even to an opponent to dwell upon the subject. But further ; do we not all know Episcopal churches, at the present day, in which all varieties of theological creeds are received, from the purest orthodoxy, down to the most blasphemous heresies, and that by all ranks of their clergy, as well as their lay members. Is this that unity of the spirit of which the Scriptures speak? Is this that unity which constitutes men one body in Christ, and which will prepare them for the more sublime and perfect union of the church tri. umphant above!

Again; if the Episcopal church alone is in com. munion with Christ; if she possesses the only authorized ministry, and the only valid ordinances; then we have a right to expect that she will pre-eminently display the purifying effects of these peculiar privileges. For if the Christian ministry and ordinances were given to edify the body of Christ, and are the great instruments which God does, in fact, employ for this purpose, as both Presbyterians and Episcopalians concur in believing; then we must suppose that more, much more, of their sacred influence will appear among those who possess these precious gifts, than among those who possess them

To suppose that an invalid ministry and or

not.

dinances will be, in general, as useful in their effects, as those which are valid, is to surrender one of the most important distinctions between truth and error.

Do we, then, actually find in Episcopal churches more real and vital religion, than in other churches? Do we actually find among them more of the image of Christ ; more attachment to evangelical truth'; more faithful preaching of Jesus Christ, and him crucified; more brotherly love; more pure and holy living ;, more care to avoid a sinful conformity to the world; more vigorous and scriptural discipline ; more zeal for the Divine glory; and a temper and conversation more suited to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, than in the mass of non-episcopal churches ? In short, are Episcopalians, as a denomination, more serious, devout, self-denied, benevolent, meek, forgiving, and heavenly-minded, than Presbyterians, as a denomination ? Perhaps it will be said, that much of what we call vital religion, is rather superstition; and that with respect to true and rational piety, there is full as much, if not more, in Episcopal than in other churches. On this question I will not dwell long. By real religion, I mean a conformity of temper and practice with that system of evangelical truth which is exhibited in the writings, and which adorned the lives of Bishop Jewel, Bishop Hall, Bishop Davenant, Archbishop Usher, and many other illustrious Prelates of the church of England, of former ages ; that system which has been since defended and ex

emplified by the Herveys, the Romaines, the Newtons, the Scotts, and a multitude more of unmitred Divines of the same church, in later times; that evangelical system which is embodied in the Articles of that church, and which breathes in the greatest part of her Liturgy and Offices; that system which exalts the Divine Redeemer to the throne, which places the penitent sinner in the dust, at his footstool, which teaches men to rely, solely on the atoning sacrifice and perfect righteousness of the Saviour, for pardon and life, and which at the same time, prompts them to follow holiness, and to be zealous of good works. Is there more of this kind of religion in Episcopal churches than in any others? I cannot suppose that there is a single Episcopalian in our country, either so ill informed, or so prejudiced, as to believe, for a moment, that his own church is in the least degree superior, in any of these respects, to her Presbyterian neighbours.

But, perhaps, this reasoning will be objected to by our Episcopal brethren. They will tell us that there is often a wide difference between entertaining correct opinions, and pursuing a suitable practice; that men may and do hold the truth in unrighteousness; and, that the same reasoning, if admitted, would prove that no form of religion is true, because in

every

church we may find many luke. warm and immoral professors.

This objection, however, is nothing to the purpose. It is merely an evasion of the argument. We all daily make and

« PredošláPokračovať »