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Q. But may not the Bishops have usurped this superior power over the other orders of the ministry?
A. No supposition can be more absurd and improbable than that the Bishops usurped their superior powers. That there was originally no distinction of office or prerogative between Bishops and Presbyters, but that a set of designing and ambitious Presbyters usurped authority over the rest of their brethren; that this usurpation should take place, and yet the degraded Presbyters make no resistance, and enter no protest against this daring invasion of their rights; that the whole Christian world should, in the space of a few years, submit to the unjust authority of these usurping Bishops; that this fundamental revolution should take place in the Church, and no accounts of it be given by any ecclesiastical writers, are suppositions which common sense would immediately reject, even if they were not refuted by the decided and universal testimony of primitive writers, in favour of Episcopacy, as the original constitution of the Church.
Q. Does it pot appear necessary from the constitution of the Church, as thus established, that the Episcopal succession from the Apostles should be uninterrupted ?
A. As a divine commissionz is required to qualify any one to exercise the priestly office, there must be a succession of persons authorized from Christ to send others to act in his name, or there can be no authority in his Church. For if that succession which conveys a divine commission for the ministry be broken, people must either go into the ministry of their own accord, or be sent by those who received no power to send them.
And it is surely evident that those persons cannot be called ministers of Christ, be considered as his ambassadors, be authorized to proclaim the testimony of his salvation, or to administer his sacraments, who never received a commission from him. As, therefore, it has been proved that a divine commission to exercise the ministry was to be conveyed through the order of Bishops, it is necessary that the Episcopal succession, from the days of the Apostles, should be uninterrupted. The divine Head of the Church has pledged himself to preserve the succession of his ministry is to the end of the world.” There is not the slightest evidence for believing that the succession has been interrupted : its interruption seems indeed morally impossible. For it has been the universal practice of the Church, from the time of
2 The necessity of a divine commission has been proved page 26, 27.
the Apostles to the present day, to receive none for Bishops who were not ordained by other Bishops. The consecration of Bishops was always a public solemn act, of which there were many witnesses; and, in disputed cases, it would be easy to discover whether a person claiming to be Bishop had received a proper commission. The received doctrine in every age of the Church, that no ordination was valid but that of Bishops, has been a constant guard upon the Episcopal succession. It is in the highest degree absurd, therefore, to suppose that any person could ever have been permitted to succeed to the Episcopal office, who was not duly commissioned. Nor does it invalidate this succession, that the divine commission to exercise the ministry has been sometimes conveyed through corrupt and wicked men; since, in the language of our Church, in her twenty-sixth article ; " Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometime the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the word and sacraments; yet, forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their ministry, &c."
Q. But though it be granted, that in the apostolic age Bishops alone possessed the power of ordination, does it follow that this is a permanent institution, and cannot be changed?
A. That Episcopacy, as established by Christ and his Apostles, is not a mutable, but a permanent institution, designed to continue in the Church.“ till the end of the world," is evident from the very nature of it. It is the instituted mode of conveying a divine commission to exercise authority in Christ's Church; and, consequently, if you alter the instituted mode of conveying this commission, you lose the com. mission itself. If Christ is the source of all authority in the Church; if he conferred the power of conveying the priesthood on the Apostles, that through them it might be transmitted in the Church to the end of the world; if they constituted as their successors in this power of conveying the ministry, an order of men distinct from, and superior to those called Presbyters and Deacons, and all these facts appear from the united testimony of Scripture and the primitive fathers of the Church,) the conclusion is certain and irresistible, that no change can be made by any human authority in this mode of conveying the ministry. "If Presbyters or Deacons, or Laymen, should assume the power of
ordination, the authority of the persons ordained by them would rest on human institution, and therefore in the Church, where a divine commission is necessary to the exercise of the ministry, their acts would be nugatory and invalid.“ All power was given unto Christ in heaven and in earth.” “ He is the Head of the body the Church.” All authority in his Church must therefore be derived from him ; and the means which were originally instituted by him and his inspired Apostles, for conveying this authority through all successive ages, cannot be changed or interrupted. The moment this change or interruption is made, human authority usurps the place, in the Church, of divine.
Q. What do you mean by Episcopacy?
A. Episcopacy is the divine constitution of the ministry, in the orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, with their appropriate powers; the order of Bishops possessing exclusively the power of ordination, of superintendence, and of supremacy in government.
Q. What do you mean by Episcopal government?
A. Episcopal government is a general term, including the orders of the ministry; but extending to other offices instituted by the Church; to the mode, by which her ministers are vested with jurisdiction; and to the particular organization of her legislative, executive, and judiciary powers. As these latter things are left to human expediency, and may be ordered differently in different Churches, it is not proper to speak of the divine institution of Episcopal go. vernment. Episcopacy, or the three orders of the ministry alone, with their subordinate and appropriate powers, are of divine institution.
Q. State then the argument which proves that Episcopacy was not merely a form of government suited to the particular circumstances of the primitive Church, but that it was designed to be a permanent and unchangeable institution.
A. The Christian ministry is a divine, positive institution, which, as it could only begin by the divine appointment, so it can only descend to after ages in such a method as God has been pleased to appoint. Now, as Episcopacy is the method which was at first instituted for continuing the ministry, therefore Episcopacy is unchangeable. The apostolic practice shows that Episcopacy is the order that is appointed for conveying the ministry; but it is the nature of the ministry which proves that Episcopacy is unalterable. The office of the ministry is of no significancy but as it is of divine ap
pointment, and rests on a divine commission, for the conveyance of which Episcopacy was the mode appointed. The continuance of the commission, therefore, and of course the authority of the ministry, depends upon the continuance of the mode appointed to convey it. So that the question is not fairly stated, when it is asked, whether Episcopacy, as being an apostolic practice, may not be laid aside ? But, whether an instituted particular method of conveying the ministry be not necessary to be continued ? Whether an appointed order of receiving a commission from God be not necessary to be observed in order to receive a commission from him ? If the case were thus stated, any one would soon perceive that we can no more lay aside Episcopacy, and yet continue the Christian ministry, than we can alter the terms of salvation, and yet be in covenant with God. *
Q. State the general result from the foregoing view of the constitution of the Church.
A. From the foregoing view of the constitution of the Church it results, that the Church is a visible society, regular and well organized, spiritual and distinct from the world; that the Christian ministry, exercising powers that are purely spiritual, can derive its authority only from God; that, therefore, it is necessary that some mode should be instituted for successively conveying, through all ages, the divine authority which at first instituted the ministry; that Christ, as the supreme Head of the Church, sent his Apostles, as the Father had sent him," the instructors, priests, and rulers of the Church; that the gracious promise which he made them, evidently implied that the authority with which he invested them was transmissive, and to be continued, through their successors,“ to the end of the world;"
* The argument is here stated nearly in the words of the celebrated divine, W. Law, and is a conclusive answer to the conjectural opinion of Archdeacon Paley, that the primitive constitution of the Church was merely adapted to the circumstances of the age, and was not designed to be unalterably binding under future circumstances. Law's three letters to Hoadly, then Bishop of Bangor, (published in the Scholar Armed,) contain one of the most complete and rational vindications of Episcopacy, and the authority of the Church, which have ever appeared. They are written by the hand of a master, with the bold animation of a man who feels that he advocates the truth. In language delicate, yet severe and pointed, by reasoning cogent and irresistible, he exposes ihe dangerous errors of his adversary, detects the fallacy of his arguments, and drives him humbled from the strong holds in which he fancied himself secure. They are the most able productions of Law, and discover a manly and vigorous mind, which unfortunately too much abstraction and solitude afterwards enervated.
that from the concurrent evidence of the Scripture and primitive writers, the first order of the ministry, called Bishops, were successors to the Apostles in the divine authority of commissioning others for the ministry, and governing the Church; and that, therefore, it is only through a succession of Bishops, as distinct from, and superior to Presbyters and Deacons, that authority to exercise the ministry can be derived from the divine Head of the Church.
Q. Having thus established the nature of the Church, and the officers by whom its powers are to be exercised, we proceed to consider the nature of those powers. Does the Church claim any civil authority?
A. The powers of the Church are entirely spiritual, and relate wholly to the next world. Our Lord himself wholly disclaimed all civil power, and left the civil rights of mankind in the same state wherein he found them. And when the Apostle exhorts the Hebrews to yield obedience to their pastors, he restrains it to the affairs of their souls, for which their pastors were accountable to God': Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves ; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account.a
Q. What are the powers that belong to the Church?
A. The powers that belong to the Church may be reduced under the following heads, viz. The power, 1. Of preaching; 2. Of prayer; 3. Of baptism ; 4. Of celebrating the Lord's Supper; 5. Of confirming persons baptized; 6. Of ordaining ministers; 7. Of making canons; 8. Of excom. munication; 9. Of demanding maintenance.
Q. By whom is the power of preaching which belongs to the Christian Church to be exercised?
A. None have a right to preach without a commissjon ; for how shall they preach except they be sent 2b Our Lord himself was sent and commissioned by the Father to preach the gospel, and this was one of the functions to which he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. In like manner he solemnly called and set apart his Apostles to this office, and gave them commission to teach all nations.e And this branch of the apostolic office, viz. preaching the gospel, was derived to their successors the Bishops; hence St. Paul charges Timothy to preach the word,' and one previ.
a Heb. xiii. 17.
d Mark ii, 14; vi, a
b Rom. x. 14, 15. c Luke iv, 18.