« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
From this time onward, to give the rite more effect, it was administered with more imposing solemnity." And in all probability it became customary at this early period to utter in the laying on of hands, those words of prelatical arrogance and shocking irreverence, Receive the Holy Ghost' for the office and work of a bishop.96
Dr. Neander has assured the writer, in conversation on this point, that beyond a doubt presbyters were accustomed to ordain in the ages immediately succeeding the apostles. The testimony of Firmilian, given above, is, according to Neander, explicit in confirmation of this fact, and the same sentiments are also expressed or implied in his works. If further evidence is needed on this point, it is given at length and with great ability by Blondell, who, after occupying one hundred quarto pages with the argument, sums up the result of the discussion with the following syllogism.
"To whom the usage of the church has assigned, in reality, the same functions, to them, it has also from the beginning ascribed the same ministerial parity, and of course, the same dignity.
"But the usage of the church has assigned to bishops and presbyters, in reality, the same functions in the rites of confirmation, of dedication of churches, of taking the veil, of the reconciling of penitents, and in the ordination of presbyters, deacons, &c.
"Therefore, it has, from the beginning, declared that bishops and presbyters, are in all respects equal, and of necessity, that they are the same in dignity or rank."97
Even the decrees of council, which restrict the right of ordination to the bishops alone, distinctly imply that from the beginning it was not so limited. Why deny, by a formal decree, to presbyters the right to ordain, if they
96 Planck, Gesell. Verfass., 1, pp. 158-161.
97 Apologia pro sententia Hieronomi de Episcopis et presbyteris. Amstelod., 1616, 4to.
have never enjoyed that right? The prohibition is an evident restriction of their early prerogatives.
But I forbear; enough has been said to vindicate the right of presbyters to ordain, and to perform all the functions of the ministerial office. Indeed, I cannot but wonder that it should ever have been called in question. How extraordinary the hardihood with which, in the face of authorities a thousand times collated and repeated, we are still told that "the idea of ordination, by any but bishops was an unheard-of thing in the primitive church.”’98 Whereas the burden of proof really rests upon them who venture upon such assertions. This idea is forcibly presented by Dr. Miller, in the following extract, with which we close this review of the authority of the fathers on the point now under consideration.
"The friends of prelacy have often, and with much, apparent confidence, challenged us to produce out of all the early fathers, a single instance of an ordination performed by presbyters. Those who give this challenge might surely be expected, in all decency and justice, to have a case of Episcopal ordination ready to be brought forward, from the same venerable records. But have they ever produced such a case? They have not. Nor can they produce it. As there is, unquestionably, no instance mentioned in Scripture of any person, with the title of bishop, performing an ordination; so it is equally certain that no such instance has yet been found in any Christian writer within the first two centuries. Nor can a single instance be produced of a person, already ordained as a presbyter, receiving a new and second ordination as bishop. To find a precedent favorable to their doctrine, the advocates of Episcopacy
98 "So much for the idea of any but bishops ordaining in the primitive. church. Never was this allowed before the Reformation; either in the church, or by any sect however wild! "-Review of Coleman's Christian Antiquities, by H. W. D., a presbyter in Philadelphia.
have been under the necessity of wandering into periods when the simplicity of the gospel had, in a considerable degree, given place to the devices of men; and when the man of sin had commenced that system of unhallowed usurpation, which for so many centuries corrupted and degraded the church of God.
"Such is the result of the appeal to the early fathers. They are so far from giving even a semblance of support to the Episcopal claim, that, like the Scriptures, they every where speak a language wholly inconsistent with it, and favorable only to the doctrine of ministerial parity. What then shall we say of the assertions so often and so confidently made, that the doctrine of a superior order of bishops has been maintained in the church, 'from the earliest ages,' in 'the ages immediately succeeding the apostles,' and 'by all the fathers from the beginning?'. What shall we say of the assertion, that the Scriptures, interpreted by the writings of the early fathers, decidedly support the same doctrine? I will only say, that those who find themselves able to justify such assertions, must have been much more successful in discovering early authorities in aid of their cause, than the most diligent, learned, and keen-sighted of their predecessors."99
We have even high Episcopal authority for presbyterian ordination. Repugnant as this view of ordination is to the modern advocates of Epíscopacy, the sentiments of Archbishop Cranmer, and the first protestant bishops of the church of England, were not widely different. The following extract from a highly interesting document contains the answer of the venerable prelate himself, to certain questions propounded to a select assembly at Windsor Castle, in the reign of Edward the sixth.
"A bishop may make a priest by the Scriptures, and so
99 Miller's Letters, pp. 108, 109.
may princes and governors alsoe, and that by the auctority of God committed to them, and the people alsoe by their election. For as we reade that bishops have done it, so Christian emperors and princes usually have done it. And the people before Christian princes were, commonly did elect their bishops and priests. In the New Testament, he that is appointed to be a bishop or a priest, needeth no consecration by the Scripture; for election or appointing thereto is sufficient." 100
A volume might be filled with authorities from the English church alone, in which both her most distinguished prelates and her most eminent scholars concede to presbyters a virtual equality with bishops, and a right to ordain.
The Necessary Erudition of a Christian Man, drawn up with great care, approved by both houses of Parliament in 1543, and prefaced by an epistle from the king himself, declares, that "priests [presbyters] and bishops are, by God's law, one and the same; and that the powers of ordination and excommunication belong equally to both." Under Elizabeth it was enacted by parliament, "that the ordination of foreign churches should be held valid.”
The learned Whittaker, of Cambridge, declares the doctrine of the reformers to be, that "presbyters, being by divine right the same as bishops, they might warrantably set other presbyters over the churches."
Archbishop Usher, one of the brightest ornaments of the Episcopal church, on being asked by Charles I, in the Isle
100 See transcript of the whole of the original, which was subscribed with Cranmer's own hand, in Bishop Stillingfleet's Irenicum, Part II, c. .7, § 2. See, also, Burnet's History of the Reformation, P. 1, pp. 318, 321. Cited from Conder's Nonconformity. Many other authorities from English writers are given in S. Mather's Apology for the Liberty of the Churches, Chap. 2, p. 51. They have also been collected, and collated with great industry and research, by Rev. Dr. Smyth, in his Apostolical Succession, and his Presbytery not Prelacy. So, also, in an article in the Christian Spectator, New Series, Vol. II, p. 720, from whence several of the authorities given below are taken.
of Wight, whether he found in antiquity that "presbyters alone did ordain?" answered, “yes," and that he would show his Majesty more-even where presbyters alone successively ordained bishops; and brought us an instance of this, the presbyters of Alexandria choosing and making their own bishop, from the days of Mark till Heraclas and Dionysius.
Bishop Stillingfleet says, "It is acknowledged by the stoutest champions of Episcopacy, before these late unhappy divisions, that ordination performed by presbyters in case of necessity is valid."
Bishop Forbes. "Presbyters have by divine right the power of ordaining as well as of preaching and baptizing."
Sir Peter King, Lord Chancellor of England, after asserting the equality of bishops and presbyters, and showing at length, that the latter had full authority to administer the ordinances, adds, "As for ordination, I find clearer proofs of presbyters ordaining, than of their administering the Lord's supper."
The first reformers, under the reign of King Edward, according to Neal, in his history of the Puritans, "believed. but two orders of churchmen, in holy Scripture-bishops and deacons; and, consequently, that bishops and priests [presbyters] were but different ranks or degrees of the same order." Acting in this principle, "they gave the right hand of fellowship to foreign churches, and to ministers who had not been ordained by bishops."
Even at the present time the validity of presbyterian ordination is acknowledged by many in the Episcopal church. Not twenty years since, one of the principal conductors of the Christian Observer said to an American gentleman, "I have not for ten years seen the man who was so utterly foolish, as to claim any exclusive divine right for our ordination, or ordinances; or who hesitated to acknowledge other communions as churches of Christ."