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among them; whereas every one knows that the primitive churches were governed by bishops; and so is the church of England.
You say, Sir, replied I, that the Independents have not a bishop among them. This I must beg leave to call in question. Every congregational church, whether Baptist or Pedobaptist, has one bishop at least, who presides over it; and some of them have two, or more, as the primitive churches had Custom has indeed made the term Minister familiar to them ; but if you were to ask those ministers whether they are bishops, they would answer in the affirmative. Their having the name of bishop, however, would be of no importance, if their employment and character were not similar to that of the bishops mentioned in the New Testament. But permit me, Sir, to ask, Do the bishops of the church of England resemble the bishops mentioned in the New Testament? Was not the see of those bishops one church or congregation only? Where do we read of archbishops or lord bishops? Nay, was not a bishop expressly prohibited from lording it over God's heritage? What would they have thought if they had been told that bishops would arise who would be lords over a thousand congregations? Would they not have cried out, This is antichrist! And would they not have judged rightly? For is not antichrist represented as seate ed in God's place, and as exercising his authority? Are we to suppose that antichrist dwells only at Rome? He who claims the title of Universal Bishop, is undoubtedly the head of the grand apostacy; but are there not many in England, and other places, who follow his steps? Are there not some, who tread almost upon his heels? And will they not, so far as they are confederates in his guilt, be partakers of his punishment? I am at the same time ready to own, that there have been bishops in the church of England, and even in the church of Rome, who would have been ornaments to any church ; for the true nature of Christ's kingdom has not long been clearly discerned. We may therefore say of such, that although they were in those churches, they were not of them.
I do not like, Madam, replied Mr. law, to see young persons too positive. You talk much of the New Testament: I wish you understood it better. Pray tell me whether the apostles were bishops of no more churches than one; and also whether they did not go from place to place, to confirm the different churches which they had gathered ? In confirmation, therefore, as well as in having bishops over many churches, the church of England agrees exactly with the New Testament churches; while the Independents dissent as much, in these particulars, from the New Testament, as they do from the church of England.
If to be in earnest, Sir, replied I, is to be positive, I esteem it no crime. I have no inclination to offend Mr. Law, or any person living. But you have impressed me into the controversy; and if my sentiments are true, they cannot be defended too earnestly; if false, they deserve not to be defended at all. The apostles, you say, were bishops of several churches. To this, Sir, it may be sufficient to reply, that the apostles were twelve witnesses, sent by Christ to preach the gospel, or to testify what they had seen and heard ; that the holy spirit confirmed their testimony by the miraculous powers with which he endowed them; and that the keys of the kingdom of Heaven were delivered to them, by which is denoted the power that they were to exercise, under the direction of the holy Spirit, of binding over to everlasting destruction presumptuous, unbelieving sinners, or loosing men from their iniquities, and placing them in the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Hence it appears, that in their apostolic office, they neither had successors, nor could have any. Their writings, however, like their words, continue to carry life or death wherever they come. They are either the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death; and men will be acquitted or condemned at the bar of God according to their gospel. But tell me, Sir, whom they nominated, or ordained, to succeed them? Or, if they have successors, whether those successors can or dare say as they did, We are of God: he that knoweth God, heareth us; he that is not
of God, heareth not us? The bishop of Rome indeed claims the title of Successor of St. Peter, and consistently founds his infallibility, and his power of binding and loosing, on that claim ; and it will be difficult to overthrow it, if we once grant that the apostles left any successors to their office. With regard to their going from place to place to confirm the churches which had been gathered through their preaching of the gospel, the plain fact was this : they went to see if they continued in the faith and order in which they had left them, and to confirm them in the truth by preaching the same gospel which they had before preach ed. Worldly men are ambitious to be uppermost. Those time-serving Christians, therefore, who had found out that it was possible to make a gain of godliness, exalted themselves, with the assistance of their dependants, into a sta. tion somewhat resembling that of the apostles, and pretended to be their successors. But when, after they were thus exalted, they found nothing to do for which they were qualified, they fixed upon the going of the apostles from place to place to confirm the churches, as that which would furnish them with a plea for usurping their office, and, in imitation of them, as they pretended, went round their di- , oceses, in a lordly manner, and at stated times, to lay their hands on the heads of ignorant children.
I see, Madam, cried Mr. Law, you have imbibed the poison of fanaticism. Alas! what will become of our poor church! I may well say with the prophet, that she has brought up children, and they have rebelled against her. She has enemies without, and enemies within. Almost from the time, Mr. Barnwell, that you set off for Jamaica, old Mr. Silverwood, who is nearly superannuated, has employed a methodistical curate. The people, for several miles round, leave their own parish churches, and the lawful ministers, to go to hear him; and old Silverwood is so pleased to see his church crowded, not caring how many neighbouring churches are empty, that he will not disa miss him. Such preachers, I have long observed, make a greater addition to the number of dissenters than is made
by the preaching of the dissenters themselves. After he has left the place, not one in ten of those who go to hear him will return to their own parish churches; and if we ask them the reason, they will tell us with the greatest effrontery, that we do not preach the gospel, although many of them are so ignorant, that they scarcely know when their book is right end upward.
I do not plead the cause, Sir, replied !, of indecorous behaviour, nor of any thing which is contrary to Christian meekness. But the accusation of which you speak, though it should not always be tempered with meekness, may be just. In that case it is a great mercy when evangelical ministers arise in the church of England. In this I view the hand of God, who, by succeeding their ministerial labours, brings his servants out of that church.
I perceive, cried Mr. Law, that you are determined to show the church of England no favour; so true is the old proverb, that one renegado is worse than ten Turks. But let us proceed to another thing. Are not our articles excellent ?
With regard, Sir, to the articles of your church, I acknowledge that for the most part they are a form of sound words; notwithstanding which, I consider them as a great defect in its constitution. It is notorious, that almost all those who are brought up in our public seminaries to the profession of preaching, think they have a right to exercise that profession, whether they believe the gospel or pot. The articles were intended by the Reformers to keep unbelievers out of the church ; but if, instead of that weak fence, they had made a wall ten times as high, and a hundred times as broad as that of Babylon, unbelievers would have either broken through, or climbed over, as long a emoluments were attached to the clerical office.
Alas, cried my father, religious disputes are generally unprofitable; and after all that is said and done, a person can be no more than honest.
True, Sir, said Mr. Law, honesty and Christianity are synonimous terms. But as for those who leave the church, faith, according to them, is every thing, notwithstanding St. James tells us that the devils believe and tremble.
Permit me, Sir, replied I, to ask you, in what manner, after having taken a solemn oath of your belief of the thirty-nine articles, you can justify your preaching in opposition to them? Here Mr. Clifford cried out, Come, come, Sir, I
leave off while you are well; but, as a friend, I advise you to leave off before you are worse. What a clever parson I should have made! No; I am too honest to be a parson; I dare say Miss Barnwell thinks I am; don't
I confess, Sir, replied I, if I tell the truth, I have no great opinion of your honesty. That contempt which you have always shown for divine revelation, without sufficiently examining it and praying to God for illumination, demonstrates that you have been unfaithful in the management of that talent which the supreme Lord of all entrusted to your care. Thas, Sir, you have been dishonest to your own soul, and to the soul of your son. I confess, if in this state of unbelief you had undertaken the care of the souls of others for the sake of filthy lucre, you would have received the greater condemnation ; but as it is, you are very unwise and very dishonest. Moreover, Sir, you do not treat things of infinite moment with that seriousness which might be expected from your years, and which their importance demands.
There, Sir, cried Mr. Law, I am glad you have come in for your share of correction. But I desire to know, Madam, how, according to the doctrine of Calvin, Mr. Clifford can be blameable for being an unbeliever; since, if he be destitute of faith, he is only without that which God has not been pleased to give him?
Well done, cried my father, I will be bound for it, Mr. Law, you have set her fast there.
Alas, my dear father, said I, every argument which is opposed to divine revelation is like fax opposed to the de