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the apostolic successors, who, on account of their settled residence, were called bishops by restraint; whereas, the Apostles themselves were bishops at large, exercising episcopal power over all the churches, except in the case of St. James, who from the beginning was Bishop of Jerusalem. From this time, the word “ episcopos," used in the New Testament indiscrimi. nately with the word "presbuteros,” (particularly in the 20th chapter of the Acts where the same persons are called "episcopoi” and “presbuteroi,') became appropriated to the superior order of ministers. That the Apostles were thus succeeded by an order of ministers superior to pastors in general, the Episcopalians think they prove by the testimonies of the ancient fathers, and from the improbability that so great an innovation (as some conceive it) could have found general and peaceable possession in the second or third century, when Episcopacy is on both sides acknowledged to have been prevalent.* The argument is here concisely stated, but (as is believed) impartially ; the manner in which the subject is handled by Mr. Hooker and Bishop Hoadly being particularly kept in view.
Can any reasonable rule of construction make this amount to more than ancient and apostolic practice? That the Apostles adopted any particular form, affords a presumption of its being the best, all circumstances at that time considered; but to make it unalterably binding, it must be shown enjoined in positive precept. Bishop Hoadly clearly points out this distinction in his answer to Dr. Calamy. The latter having considered it as the sense of the Church, in the preface to the ordinal, that the three orders were of divine appointment, and urged it as a reason for non-conformity; the Bishop, with evident propriety, remarks that the service pronounces no such thing; and that, therefore, Dr. Calamy created a difficulty where the Church had made none; there being some difference (says he) between these two sentences-bishops, priests, and deacons are three distinct orders in the Church by divine appointment—and from the Apostles' time there have been in Christ's Church, bishops, priests, and deacons.”+
Now, if the form of Church government rest on no other foundation than ancient and apostolic practice, it is humbly submitted to a consideration, whether Episcopalians will not be thought scarcely deserving the name of Christians, should they, rather than consent to a temporary deviation, abandon every ordinance of positive and divine appointment.
Any person reading what some divines of the Church of England have written against Dissenters, would in general widely mistake their meaning, should he apply to the subject before us, the censures he will sometimes meet with, which have in view, not merely the merits of the question, but the duty of conforming to the Established Church in all things not contrary to the law of God. Thus Bishop Stillingfleet, who at the Restoration had written with great tenderness toward the Dissenters, and many years afterwards preached a sermon on a public occasion containing severe animadversions on their separation; on being accused of inconsistency, replies (in the preface to his treatise on the Unlawfulness of Separation) that the former was “before the laws were established ;" meaning principally the act of uniformity. So, also, Bishop Hoadly says the acceptance of reördination by the dissenting ministers would not be a denial of that right which (as they conceive) presbyters had to ordain; but a confession that their former ordination was “so far null and void ; that God did not approve the exercise of that right in opposition to the lawful settled method."* Dr. Henry Maurice, who also has written with great learning and reputation in defense of Episcopacy, makes the same distinction, observing that the “Dissenters do foreign churches great injustice when they concern them in their quarrels," the ordination of the latter being “not only without, but in opposition to bishops, against all the established laws of this Church, etc."! Even where the same distinction is not expressed, it is generally implied. Whether the above censures are well or ill-founded, is a question that has no connection with our subject; they can not be thought applicable to the liberty here pleaded.
* The original of the order of bishops was from the presbyters choosing ono from among them. selves to be a stated president in their assemblies, in the second or third century. Smectymnsum Divines, as quoted in Neal's History of the Puritans, anno 1640.
+ Reasonableness of Conformity, Part I.
Again, it can not be denied, that some writers of the Church of England apply very strong expressions to Episcopacy, calling it a divine appointment, the ordinance of Christ, and the law of God, and pronounce it to be of divine right. Yet, in reason, they ought to be understood only as asserting it to be binding, wherever it can conveniently be had ; not that law and gospel are to cease rather than Episcopacy. Mr. Hooker, who uses such strong expressions, makes, nevertheless, a clear distinction between matters of necessity and those of ecclesiastical polity; as may be seen at large in his third and fourth books. Even Archbishop Whitgift, said by somel to have been the first in his high station, under whose patronage such pretensions were annexed to Episcopacy, and whose zeal for that form and the other rites of the Church, made him verily believe in the famous conference at Hampton Court that “the king spoke by the spirit of God," is quoted by Bishop Stillingfleet, as asserting that “no kind of government is ex. pressed in the word or can necessarily be concluded from thence."* In short, particular expressions which writers use from zeal for that form they endeavor to establish, are not to be given in proof of their opinions concerning the conduct suited to extraordinary occasions. Many instances to the same purpose might be produced of English divines qualifying such high expressions, and guarding against seeming consequences ; but this part of the subject shall conclude with the authority of a clergyman of this country, who a few years ago wrote on episcopal government. He insists on it as of divine right, asserts that “the laws relating to it bind as strongly as the laws which oblige us to receive baptism or the holy Eucharist,"t and that “if the succession be once broken, not all the men on earth, not all the angels of heaven, without an immediate commission from Christ, can restore it."| Nevertheless, he acknowledges “the necessity of bishops is no more than a general necessity, or in other words, bishops according to the belief of the Church of England, are necessary only where they can be had.” He then distinguished between cases where the necessity is real, and those where Episcopacy had been willingly and expressly rejected, as by the people of Scotland and the English Dissenters.
* Reply to Ohjections against Episcopal Ordination.
+ The same distinction is accurately drawn and fully proved by Stillingfleet, in “ the Irenicum." Bat as that learned prelate was afterwards dissatisfied with his work, (though most probably not with that part of it wbich would have been to our purpose,) it might seem uncandid to cite the authority of his OPINION. Burnet, his cotemporary and friend, says, (IIistory of his own Times, Anno 1661,) " to avoid the imputation that book brought on him, he went into the humors of an high sort of people beyond what became bim, perhaps beyond his own sense of things." The book, however, was, it seems, easier RETRACTED than REFUTED; for though offensive to many of both parties, it was managed (says the same author) with so much learning and skill, that none of either side ever undertook to answer it.
Maurice against Clarkson, page 458. $ In England the members of the Established Church consider the Dissenters as blamable in Dot conforming to it as such, there being nothing requlrod contrary to the law of God. These, on the other hand, blame the members of the Establishment for not yielding to their conscientious scruples, which thas exclude them from public offices, and subject them to considerable burthens. Such were the principal sources of the animosities which have subsisted between the two parties; and hence arises an argument for charity and mutual forbearance among religious societies in America, with whom the same causes of contention and mutual censure have no place, and with wbom, of course, the same degree of bitterness would be less excusable than in England.
| Dr. Warner says (Book 14) that “ Archbishop Bancroft was the first man who had preached up the "divíue right of Episcopacy in the Church of England," The first occasion of his doing this, is said by others to bave been when ho was Wbitgiit's chaplain.
Now if even those who hold Episcopacy to be of divine right, conceive the obligation to it to be not binding when that idea would be destructive of public worship, much more must they think so, who indeed venerate and prefer that form as the most ancient and eligible, but without any idea of divine right in the case. This the author believes to be the sentiment of the great body of Episcopalians in America ; in which respect they have in their favor, unquestionably, the sense of the Church of England, and, as he believes, the opinions of her most distinguished prelates, for piety, virtue, and abilities.
It is to be expected that the far greater number of writers in defense of Episcopal government confine their observations to the ordinary state of the Church, without giving their opinion on supposed cases of necessity. Yet, if it were required to multiply authorities, and writers were consulted with that view, it is probable that many more than the following might be produced. But, as the lawfulness of deviation, in cases of necessity, is a fair inference from the sentiments of (perhaps) all, it will be sufficient if those quoted expressly to the purpose rank among the most respectable for their authority.
The first mentioned shall be the venerable Hooker. His books on eccle.
* Irenicain, Chapter 88. 1 Dr. Chandler's Appeal, p. 4.
+ Dr. Chandler's Appeal, p. 7.
siastical polity are universally allowed to be a work of masterly judgment, and deep erudition; they are frequently spoken of as containing the most rational and complete defense of the Church of England, and were recommended by King Charles I. (whose attachment to Episcopacy will not be doubted) as the best for fixing the principles of his children on those questions which had distracted the nation. This accomplished writer, after asserting with great zeal the authority of Episcopal government, makes the following exception : “When the exigence of necessity doth constrain to leave the usual ways of the Church, which otherwise we would willingly keep; when the Church must needs have some ordained, and neither hath, nor can have possibly a bishop to ordain ; in case of such necessity the law of God hath oftentimes and may give place; and therefore, we are not, simply and without exception, to urge a lineal descent of power from the apostles by continued succession, in every effectual ordination."* .
The same great man, speaking in another place of some churches not Episcopal, says: “ This their defect and imperfection, I had rather lament in such a case than exaggerate; considering that men oftentimes, without any fault of their own, may be driven to want that kind of polity or regiment, which is best, and to content themselves with that which either the irremediable error of former times, or the necessity of the present, hath cast upon them."
Had Mr. Hooker been asked to define “the exigence of necessity," could he have imagined any more urgent than the case in question? Or had he been inquired of concerning “the necessities of present times," could he have mentioned any in the cases to which he alludes (those of Scotland and Geneva) so strongly pleading for the liberty he allows, as those now existing in America ?
The name of Bishop Hoadly will probably be as long remembered as any on the list of British worthies; and will never be mentioned without veneration of the strength of his abilities, the liberality of his sentiments, and his enlightened zeal for civil liberty. He has written in defense of Episcopal government with more argument and better temper than is commonly to be met with in controversial writings. This amiable prelate expresses himself as follows: “As to the credit of the reformed churches abroad, we think it no presumption, as we censure them not, who in a case of necessity went out of the ordinary method, so to expect they will not censure us for not approving such irregularities where there is no such necessity for them."; In another place he says: "For my own part I can not argue that Episcopacy is essential to a Christian church, because it is of Apostolical institution; and, on the other hand, I do argue that we are obliged to the utmost of our knowledge, to conform ourselves to the Apostolical model in all cases, unless in such where the imitation is impracticable, or would manifestly do more hurt than good to the Church of Christ; neither of which can possibly be affirmed in the ordinary state of the Church." * Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 7, Section 14. + Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 3, Section 11.
Reasonableness of Conformity. Part I. $ Defence of Episcopal Ordination. Conclusion.
What necessity was there of the “reformed churches abroad” equal to ours? Is not an immediate imitation of the ancient usage "impracticable"? Would not such a plan as has been proposed be conforming (as far as cir. cumstances allow) to our ideas of “the Apostolic model "?
The character of Archbishop Usher for extensive learning and fervent piety is generally known; and is distinguished both by his great moderation on the subject of Episcopacy, and by the service it has received from his indefatigable researches. In a letter to Dr. Bernard, he writes thus: “In places where bishops can not be had, the ordination of presbyters stands valid."* What part of the Christian world could the learned primate have named, of which it could have been so properly said as it may be of ours, that ordination by bishops can not be had”
The great reformer and martyr, Archbishop Cranmer, was one of the first characters of the age in which he lived for learning, piety, and virtue; and is supposed to have done more than any other towards compiling the Liturgy of the Church of England. “His equal," says Dr. Warner, “was never yet seen in the See of Canterbury; and I will take upon me to say that his superior never will." In the reign of Henry VIII., according to Bishop Burnet, there were proposed by the king, to this great man, in conjunction with other learned divines, certain questions; among which are the two following, with the Archbishop's answers annexed :
Question. Whether, if it fortuned a prince Christian to conquer certain dominions of infidels, having none but the temporal learned men with him, it be defended by God's law, that he and they should preach the Word of God there or no, and also make and constitute priests there or no ?
Answer. It is not against God's law; but contrariwise they ought indeed so to do; and there be histories that witness that some Christian princes and other laymen have done the same.
Question. Whether it be defended by God's law, that if it so fortuned that all the bishops and priests of a region were dead; and that the Word of God should remain there unpreached, and the sacraments of baptism and others unministered; that the king of that region should make bishops and priests to supply the same or no ?
Answer. It is not forbidden by God's law.
The above may be offered as the opinions of not only Cranmer, but also of most of the eminent bishops and other clergy of that period; for whoever will attend to all the questions with the several answers as recorded by Burnet, † will find that although the Archbishop seems singular in his sentiments as to the original institution of bishops and priests, they generally agree with him on the supposed occasions of necessity. On the former subject, the learned historian believes that Cranmer soon afterwards changed
* Quoted from Neal's History.
+ History of the Reformation, anno 1540. Stillingfileet, with less appearance of authenticity, says it was in the reign of Edward VI.
History of the Reformation. Appendix to Vol. I.