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Even Gregory, one of the most learned and eloquent men of his age, worthy to have been "a professor of eloquence," after having studied in Caesarea, in Alexandria, and at Athens, was, in the last half of the fourth century, bishop, first of Zazime, "a dismal" place; and afterwards of Nazianzum, лólews tutelovs, vilis oppidi, an inferior place.127 Even in the middle of the fifth century, diocesan Episcopacy was but partially established. In some countries, "there were bishops over many cities," but in others, they were still" consecrated in villages," xóuas.128
But I need not enlarge. If any one wishes for further information on this point, he has only to refer to Clarkson on Primitive Episcopacy, an antiquated work, evincing a remarkable familiarity with the records of antiquity, from which a collection of facts, innumerable almost, has been brought together, all tending to show that the bishop of the primitive church had a charge no greater than any curate, or presbyter, or parish minister.
Grant then to prelacy all her claims. Run back her unbroken succession up to these days of primitive simplicity, and she leads you up, not to an Episcopal palace, but to the cottage, the cell, it may be, of an obscure curate. The modern bishop has only deceived himself with a name. While he reads of ancient bishops, he idly dreams of Episcopal powers and prerogatives unknown in the church until the days of Constantine the Great.
It is a sophism, often played off with effect, deceiving the simple and the wise, to surround an ancient and venerable name with modern associations. So delusive are our comparisons of that which is unknown with what is known; so deceptive our judgment of the past by the present. Tityrus, the poet's simple swain, foolishly thought Rome herself just such another as his own Mantua, where
127 Socrates, Eccl. Hist., Lib. 4, c. 26, p. 242.
the shepherds were wont to drive out their tender lambs. So he had seen whelps, like dogs; so kids, like goats. Thus he was wont to compare great things with small. But what was his surprise to see that imperial city rearing her head as high above others as the cypress rises above the limber shrubs.129 He had deceived himself by his false comparisons. The same deception one practises upon himself by bringing a modern into comparison with a primitive bishop. But, on examination, the delusion vanishes. The far-spreading domains of the diocesan, which had charmed his fancy, shrink into a little hamlet; the proud Episcopal palace becomes a poor parsonage; and the lofty prelate, a humble presbyter, the pastor of a little flock.
The bearings of this view of the subject upon prelacy are obvious.
1. It annuls the virtue of Episcopal ordination.
The relations of the foregoing view to the validity of Episcopal ordination exclusively, are clearly set forth in the following passage from Clarkson, himself an Episcopalian:
"Hereby, also, some mistakes about Episcopal ordinations, of ill consequence, may be rectified. A bishop, in the best ages of Christianity, was no other than the pastor of a single church. A pastor of a single congregation is now as truly a bishop. They were duly ordained in those ages, who were set apart for the work of the ministry by the pastor of a single church, with the concurrence of some assistants. Why they should not be esteemed to be duly ordained, who are accordingly set apart by a pastor of a
129 Urbem quam dicunt Romane, Moeliboee, putavi
Stultus, ego huic nostrae similem, qua saepe solemus
single church now, I can discern no reason, after I have looked every way for it. Let something be assigned which will make an essential difference herein; otherwise they that judge such ordinations here, and in other reformed churches, to be nullities, will hereby declare all the ordinations in the ancient church for three or four hundred years, to be null and void, and must own the dismal consequences that ensue thereof. They that will have no ordinations but such as are performed by one who has many churches under him, maintain a novelty never known nor dreamt of in the ancient churches, while their state was tolerable. They may as well say the ancient church had never a bishop (if their interest did not hinder, all the reason they make use of in this case would lead them to it), as deny that a reformed pastor has no power to ordain, because he is not a bishop. He has Episcopal ordination, even such as the canons require, being set apart by two or three pastors at least, who are as truly diocesans as the ancient bishops, for some whole ages." 130
2. It exposes also the futility of the doctrine of apostolical succession.
"The theory is, that each bishop, from the apostolic times, has received in his consecration a mysterious 'gift,' and also transmits to every priest in his ordination a mysterious 'gift,' indicated in the respective offices by the awful words, 'Receive the Holy Ghost;' that on this the right of priests to assume their functions, and the preternatural grace of the sacraments administered by them, depends; that bishops, once consecrated, instantly become a sort of Leyden jar of spiritual electricity, and are invested with the remarkable property of transmitting the 'gift' to others; that this has been the case from the primitive age till now; that this high gift has been incorruptibly
130 Primitive Episcopacy, pp. 182, 183. London, 1688.
transmitted through the hands of impure, profligate, heretical ecclesiastics, as ignorant and flagitious as any of their lay contemporaries; that, in fact, these 'gifts' are perfectly irrespective of the moral character and qualifications both of bishop and priest, and reside in equal integrity in a Bonner or a Cranmer,-a parson Adams or a parson Trulliber." 131
Now, we ask, have these countless multitudes of bishops all been episcopally ordained, scattered through the earth, as they were, from Britain to the remotest Indies; in cities, towns, villages, forts, military stations, monasteries, and what not? Can these mysterious 'gifts' and graces be so diffused abroad over the earth, and bandied about from hand to hand, without the hazard, amidst a thousand contingencies, that they may have fallen away, or lost their ethereal power? Has no graceless hypocrite crept in unawares among the Lord's anointed, and, with unholy hands, essayed these awful mysteries, transmitting, by uncanonized rites, this heavenly grace? Has no link been broken in this mysterious chain, stretching onward from the distant age of the apostles down to the present? Has no irregularity disturbed the succession, no taint of heresy marred the purity of its descent? Believe it who.can.132
131 Edinburgh Rev., April, 1843, pp. 269, 270.
132 We can imagine the perplexity of a presbyter thus cast in doubt as to whether or not he has ever had the invaluable 'gift' of apostolical succession conferred upon him. As that 'gift' is neither tangible nor visible, the subject neither of experience nor consciousness;-as it cannot be known by any 'effects' produced by it (for that mysterious efficacy which attends the administration of rites at its possessor's hands, is, like the gift which qualifies him to administer them, also invisible and intangible),—he may imagine, unhappy man! that he has been 'regenerating' infants by baptism, when he has been simply sprinkling them with water. 'What is the matter?' the spectator of his distractions might ask. 'What have you lost?' 'Lost!' would be the reply; 'I fear I have lost my apostolical succession, or rather, my misery is, that I do not know and cannot tell whether I ever had it to lose!' It is of no use here to suggest the usual questions, 'When did you see it last? When were you last conscious of possessing it?'
3. It is fatal to the claims of the " one catholic and apostolic church" of high Episcopacy.
This holy catholic church, one and indivisible, deriving divine rights in regular succession from the apostles,where, or what is it? Who this house of Aaron, that have kept, all the while, the sacred fire of the altar, borne up and defended the tabernacle of the Lord, and guarded thus from all profane intrusion the ark of the covenant? This royal priesthood, these that were, at first, created, and have always continued, wholly a right seed,-who, or what are they? What form of error, we seriously ask, what species of delusion, what tribe of schismatics, what creature of sin, has not, at some time, found a place within this same immaculate church, as a component part of this strange Episcopal unity, a unity only of chaos and infinite confusion? The whole system of high, exclusive Episcopacy is itself any thing but a semblance of that apostolic church to which it so proudly clings. In its doctrines, in its government, and in all the trumpery of its canons and its traditions, what has it now in common with the church, as she was in the days of the apostles? This "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" of prelacy,—like the famous ship of ancient Grecian story, which, by continued decay and repairs, came to be so changed at last that nothing of
What a peculiar property is that, of which, though so invaluable,-nay, on which the whole efficacy of the Christian ministry depends,—a man has no positive evidence to show whether he ever had it or not! which, if ever conferred, was conferred without his knowledge; and which, if it could be taken away, would still leave him ignorant, not only when, where, and how the theft was committed, but whether it had ever been committed or not! The sympathizing friend might, probably, remind him, that as he was not sure he had ever had it, so, perhaps, he still had it without knowing it. 'Perhaps he would reply; 'but it is certainty I want.' 'Well,' it might be said, 'Mr. Gladstone assures you, that, on the most moderate computation, your chances are as 8000 to 1 that you have it!' 'Pish!' the distracted man would exclaim, 'what does Mr. Gladstone know about the matter?' And, truly, to that query we know not well what answer the friend could make.”—Edinburgh Rev., p. 271.