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letters, rather than prejudices against them.-Å beloved Parent, who was born, and educated, and first admitted to religious communion in the bosom of the Episcopal Church, early taught me to regard that sect of Christians with respect and veneration. The influence of this early impression remains to the present hour. My readers, therefore, will do me great injustice if they suppose that any thing in the following sheets is dictated by a spirit of animosity or bitterness towards any portion of the religious community, or is intended to cherish such a spirit in others. My object is, not to intrude into another society for the purpose of making proselytes; not to disturb the convictions, or irritate the feelings of any who are fixed in a different creed from mine ; but to inform and satisfy You, who are not only of my own denomination, but more particularly committed to my charge, that you have not followed cunningly devised
fables ; that you are connected with a Church as nearly conformed to apostolic and primitive order as any on earth: and that Christian ordinances come to you in a channel at least as pure and legitimate, and in a manner at least as agreeable to the simplicity that is in Christ, as to those who make the most extravagant and exclusive claims.
In the discussion of all controverted subjects it is of the utmost importance to ascertain, at the commencement, the precise state of the question. Much has been said and written on the main subject of dispute between the Presbyterian and Epis
copal Churches, without understanding, or, if they were understood, without distinguishing, the points in which these denominations agree, and in which they differ. To guard against mistakes here, it will be proper to state explicitly, in what respects their opinions are at variance.
We agree with our Episcopal brethren in believing, that Christ hath appointed Officers in his Church to preach the word, to administer sacraments, to dispense discipline, and to commit these powers to other faithful men. We believe, as fully as they, that there are different classes and denominations of officers in the Church of Christ; and that, among these, there is, and ought to be, a due subordination. We concur with them in maintaining, that none are regularly invested with the ministerial character, or can with propriety be recognized in this character, but those who have been set apart to the office by persons lawfully clothed with the power of ordaining. We unite with such of them as hold the opinion, that Christians, in all ages, are bound to make the apostolic order of the church, with respect to the ministry, as well as other points, the model, as far as possible, of all their ecclesiastical arrangements. And, finally, we contend, equally with them, that both the name and the office of Bishop were found in the primitive Church, and ought to be retained to the end of time. Many Episcopalians of narrow views, and of slender information, seem to take for granted that we discard Bishops in every sense
of the word ; and therefore, when they find this term in scripturē, or in early uninspired writers, they exult, as if the word established their claim. But nothing can be more unfounded than this tri. umph." We all acknowledge that there were Bishops in the days of the apostles, and that there must be Bishops in every regularly constituted Church in every age*
But we differ from this sect of Christians in our views of the character and powers of Church offi
They suppose that there are three orders in the Christian Ministry, viz. Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons : The first possessing the highest ccclesiastical
the second invested with authority to preach and administer both sacraments ; and the third empowered only to preach and baptize. We suppose, on the other hand, that there is, properly speaking, but one order of gospel ministers; that there are, indeed, two other classes of Church officers, viz. ruling Elders and Deacons ; but that neither of these are authorized to labour in the word and doctrine, or to administer either of the Christian sacraments. We suppose that there
* In the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church, the pastors of Churches are expressly styled Bishops ; and this title is recommended to be retained, as both scriptural and appropriate. The same may be proved with respect to most, if not all the Reformed Churches. I am sensible that this title, as applied to ordinary pastors, has been the subject of much ridicule among the friends of prelacy ; a ridicule, however, which recoiis with double force upon those who thus betray a want of acquaintance with the priinitive application of the word.
is a plain distinction made in scripture between Elders who only rule, and Elders who, to the power of ruling, join also that of teaching and administering sealing ordinances. And we believe, that the friends of modern Episcopacy, in considering Deacons as an order of Clergy, and in empowering them to preach and baptize, are chargeable with a departure from the apostolic pattern.
But we differ from our Episcopal brethren, principally, with respect to the character and powers of the scriptural Bishop. They contend that Bishops are an order of ministers superior to Presbyters, having a different ordination, different powers, and a different sphere of duty. That while Pres. byters have a right, by virtue of their office, to preach the word, and administer sacraments, to Bishops exclusively belong the powers of ordination, confirmation, and government. On the other hand, we maintain, that there is but one order of ministers of the gospel in the Christian Church that every regular pastor of a congregation is a scriptural Bishop ; or, in other words, that every Presbyter, who has been set apart, by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, and who has the pastoral charge of a particular Church, is, to all intents and purposes, in the sense of scripture, and of the primitive Church, a Bishop; having a right, in company with others, his equals, to ordain, and to perform every service pertaining to the Episcopal office. We can discover no warrant, either from the word of God, or from the early history
of the Church, for what is called Diocesan Episcopacy, or the pre-eminence and authority of one man, under the title of Bishop, or any other title, over a number of Presbyters and Churches : On the contrary, we are persuaded and affirm, that Christ and his Apostles expressly discountenanced such claims of pre-eminence ; and that all those forms of ecclesiastical government which are built upon these claims, are corruptions of apostolic simplicity, and deviations from the primitive order of the Church.
This being the case, you will readily perceive the necessity of clearly marking and keeping in view a distinction between the primitive and the modern sense of the word Bishop. Accordingly, in the perusal of the following sheets, you are earnestly requested to recollect, at every step, that by a scriptural or prim tive Bishop, is always meant a Presbyter, Minister, Pastor, or whatever else he may be called, who has the pastoral care of a particular congregation ; and that by scriptural or primitive Episcopacy, is meant that government of the Church, by such Bishops, which existed in pure apostolic times, and for near two hundred years afterwards. And, on the other hand, that, by modern Bishops, and modern Episcopacy, is meant that government of the Church by prelates, which took its rise from ecclesiastical ambition, long after the days of the apostles, and which, with other innovations on primitive order, has since claimed to rest on the authority of Christ.