Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

who were authorized to teach and rule, and of those who only ruled. And accordingly, in the Christian Church we read of Elders who labour in the word and doctrine, as well as rule; and of other Elders who rule only. In the Synagogue the office of the Deacons was to collect and distribute alms to the poor, and, when called upon, to assist the Bishop, in conducting the public service. In conformity with which, the Deacons of the Christian Church are represented, in the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, as appointed for the purpose of ministering to the poor, and serving tables.

5. Finally, the mode of ordaining officers in the Synagogue was transferred to the Christian Church. In the introduction of men to the ceremonial Priesthood of the Jews, or into the offices pertaining to the Temple service, there was no such thing, strictly speaking, as ordination. Both the Priests and Levites came to their respective offices by inheritance, and were inducted or installed, simply by being brought before the Sanhedrim, and receiving the approbation of that body. But, in the Synagogue service, the officers were solemnly elected, and ordained by the imposition of hands. Every Presbyter, who had himself been regularly ordained, was authorized to act in the ordination of other Presbyters : and to make a valid ordination in the Synagogue, it was necessary that three ordainers should be present, and take part in the transaction. In like manner, we learn from the New Testam

ment, that in apostolic times, as well as ever since; the ministers of the Christian Church were or. dained by the imposition of hands; that Presbyters, as well as the Apostles themselves, were empowered to ordain ; and that in the first ordination of ministers of the Gospel recorded by the inspired writers, there were always a plurality of ordainers present, and engaged in the solemnity.

Thus I have given you a very brief sketch of the evidence that Christian Churches were organized by the Apostles, after the model of the Jew. ish Synagogues. I have shown that the mode of worship adopted in the Church, the titles of her officers, their powers, duties, and mode of ordination, were all copied from the Synagogue. This evidence might be pursued much further, did the limits which I have prescribed to myself admit of details. It might easily be shown that in all those respects in which the service of the Synagogue differed from that of the Temple, the Christian Church followed the former. The Temple service was confined to Jerusalem ; the Synagogue worship might exist, and did exist wherever there was a sufficient number of Jews to form a congregation. The Temple service was restricted with regard to the vestments of its officers; while in the Synagogue there was little or no regulation on this subject. And, finally, it is remarkable, that the mode in which the Bishop and Elders of each Synagogue were seated during the public service, was exactly copied into the Christian assemblies. With regard to

these and many other particulars which might be mentioned, the Christian Churches in primitive times, it is well known, departed from the ceremonial splendor of the Temple, and followed the simplicity of the Synagogue. In fact, there is ample proof, that the similarity between the primitive Christian Churches, and the Jewish Synagogues was so great, that they were often consid. ered and represented by the persecuting Pagans as the same.

Unless I deceive myself, I have now established the four positions which were stated at the beginning of this letter, viz. That the Scriptures contain but one commission for the Gospel ministry, and that there is no evidence of the powers conveyed by this commission being afterwards divided between different orders of ministers :That the words Bishop and Presbyter are uniformly used in the New Testament as convertible titles for the same office :- That the same character and powers are, also, in the sacred writings, ascribed interchangeably to Bishops and Presbyters, thus plainly establishing their identity of order as well as of name :-And that the Christian Church was organized by the Apostles, after the model of the Jewish Synagogue, which was undeniably Presbyterian in its form.

These positions thus established, decide the controversy. Such a concurrence of language and of facts in support of the doctrine of ministerial parity, is at once remarkable and conclusive. I

mean conclusive as to the simple fact, that this was the system adopted in the Apostle's days. With respect to the question, how far the Apostolic model of Church order is unalterably binding in all ages, in all nations, and under all states of society, it is wholly a different inquiry. On this point men equally pious and learned have entertained different opinions. My own opinion on the subject has been expressed in a former letter. But I see not how any one can peruse the New Testament, with an impartial mind, without perceiving that the Presbyterian form of Church government is there distinctly portrayed. This is the “truly primitive and apostolic form." And the more closely we adhere to this form, the more we testify our respect for that system which was framed by inspired men, sanctioned by mi. raculous powers, and made pre-eminently instrumental, in the midst of a frowning and hostile world, in building up the Church in holiness, through faith, unto salvation.

LETTER III.

The Arguments drawn from Scripture in favor of

Diocesan Episcopacy, stated and examined.

CHRISTIAN BRETHREN, You have seen what the Scriptures declare in support of our doctrine of the Christian Ministry. I might safely rest the cause on this testimony. But as it is my wish to do full justice to our opponents, and not to overlook or suppress a single plea urged by them, which has the most distant appearance of plausibility, I will now proceed, with all the candour I can exercise, to examine the principal arguments in favor of their system, which they suppose are to be found in the word of God.

In examining these arguments, I must again request you to keep steadily in view the doctrine for which our Episcopal brethren contend, and the r.ature of that proof which it is incumbent on them to adduce. They appeal to Scripture to prove that Bishops are an order of Clergy superior to Presbyters; that their superiority rests on the appointment of Christ; and that with this superior order alone, are deposited all the treasures of ministerial authority and succession. To support such a claim, we demand express warrant. We require those who make the appeal, to produce passages of

« PredošláPokračovať »