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our zealous Episcopalians, warmly contended that the power of ordination was confined to diocesan bishops, he declares, “This "Sorbonne doctor objects, that our ministers are only presbyters, "and not bishops; and therefore could not ordain other ministers, "since only bishops have a right to ordain. That this opinion is "false, I shall immediately show. It is evident, from the word of "God, that bishop and presbyter are the same. This appears from "Titus 1. 5, from Acts xx. and from Philip. 1. 1. But the doctor "will reply, that the names are indeed used interchangeably in the (6 passages above stated; but that the offices themselves are care"fully distinguished in scripture. But, I answer, when the pres
byters are called bishops, the apostle is, in such places, treating "not of the names and titles only, but of the office and function it"self. For when he exhorts the presbyters of Ephesus to the right "exercise of their office, he adds this reason, that the Holy Ghost "had constituted them bishops; and, therefore, he says, not that "they were only called so; but that they were, in very deed, con"stituted such bishops. So that the answer touching the confusion "of names is quite overthrown.-But the Sorbonne doctor tells us "that Paul enjoins Timothy to lay hands suddenly on no man, and, "therefore, none but Timothy had the right of ordination. But "this conclusion is utterly without foundation; for Timothy is also "enjoined to reject fables, and to give attendance to reading, ex"hortation, and doctrine, &c. Did Timothy, therefore, arrogate "all these things to himself alone? Did they not belong to pres"byters, who, by Paul's testimony, laboured in the word and doc"trine? Timothy's episcopacy at Ephesus cannot be made good "by any testimony of Scripture." Again-" If we allow to pres"byters the right to preach the gospel, to administer baptism, and "to celebrate the Lord's supper, upon what imaginable ground can "we deny them the right to ordain? Therefore such as exclude "presbyters from the right to ordain, show themselves to be gross"ly ignorant both of the nature of ordination, and of the pastoral "office." And in support of all this reasoning, and much more, which I am compelled to omit, he quotes the famous testimony of Jerome, and pronounces it to be conclusive. He quotes also Irenæus, Ambrose, and Augustine, as giving testimony which coincides with that of Jerome; and adds, "I cite these, because the
"papists esteem the authority of the fathers, more than that of "plain declarations of scripture."*
But, in addition to all this, there is testimony of a different kind. It not only appears, from the public confessions, and individual declarations, which have been quoted, that the apostolical institution of ministerial parity was believed by the Lutheran as well as the Reformed churches; but it is evident that they were considered by others as having avowed their belief in that doctrine.
The famous cardinal Bellarmine certainly understood the protestants of his day generally to hold the equality of bishops and presbyters by divine right. "If," saith he, "episcopacy be a "sacrament distinct from the presbyterate, it will be easy to prove "that a bishop is, both in order and jurisdiction, greater than a "presbyter, by divine right; which NOW, ALL THE HERETICS (the "protestants) DENY." De Sacramento Ordinis, Cap. 5. And
in his work, De Clericis, he makes a similar declaration in terms equally express. For having asserted that a bishop is superior to a presbyter, by divine right, both with respect to order and jurisdiction, he ascribes the contrary doctrine to Aerius, to Wickliffe, to the Lutherans, and the Calvinists. Cap. 14.
Crakenthorp, a learned divine of the church of England, contemporary with Bellarmine, speaking of Luther, and the other reformers on the continent of Europe, expresses himself in the following terms. "They have not, I know, bishops, distinct from "presbyters, and superior to them; but at the same time, they do "not teach, as Aerius did, that ministerial imparity is contrary to "the word of God. They do not condemn it. They hold that, "by the word of God, and divine right, either parity, or imparity
Oper. Theol. Tom. 1. Tract. De Legitima Vocatione Pastorum Ecclessæ. p. 65-67.
+ Bellarmine was contemporary with archbishop Whitgift. It seems that, at that time, the cardinal knew of no protestants who held to the divine right of prelacy. It is evident, therefore, that this doctrine was then either wholly unknown in England, or maintained by so few, that they were not considered as worthy of being recognized as an exception.
"is lawful, and that every church has authority or power to "admit either the one or the other as it thinks best."
On these documents I shall not trouble you with many remarks. They speak a language so uniform, decided, and conclusive, that it can neither be mistaken nor resisted. And they establish, beyond the possibility of dispute, that all the leading reformers were firm believers in the primitive parity of ministers. That this was the opinion of Luther, Melancthon,† and all the principal divines of their communion, has been abundantly proved. That Calvin was uniformly of the same opinion, will be demonstrated in the next letter. That the Saxon, Helvetic, French, Belgic, and Bohemian Confessions, all declare in favour of this doctrine, as received and practised in the apostolic age, you have seen with your own eyes. And, finally, that Cranmer and his associates, who commenced the reformation in England, did also, at least at one period, concur in the same acknowledgment, has been placed beyond all reasonable doubt.
After viewing this body of testimony, what must we think of Mr. How's repeated declarations, that "the reformers, universally "admitted the apostolic claims of the episcopal constitution ;" that "Luther and Melancthon acknowledged the obligation of episco"pacy; excusing their departure from it on the ground of neces"sity," that " episcopacy was never ranked, by the reformers,
* Defensio Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ. Cap. 42. Sect. 6.
It has been said that Melancthon, on a certain occasion, expressed a willingness to submit to the power of prelates, provided they would become patrons of the reformation. This is true. It is also true, that the same pious and amiable, but too accommodating, Melancthon, when he subscribed the famous Smalkald Articles, annexed to his subscription a declaration, (which is still to be seen,) that he was willing to allow the pope a superiority over all other bishops, for the sake of the peace of the church; provided he would aid in reforming the church. And it is as true as either, that by these concessions, Melancthon gave great offence to the protestants of his own communion, and complains in one of his letters, of the resentment which they manifested against him on this account. See Melancthon's epistles, near the beginning of the volume. Having mislaid the notes which I made, at the time of perusing the passage, I am not able, at present, to make a more particular reference.
66 among the corruptions, or innovations of the papacy;" that "they all recognized it as an institution primitive and apostolic; " acknowledging without reserve, their obligation to conform it ?" And what must we think of Dr. Bowden, (from whom better information and more caution might have been expected,) when he fully concurs with Dr. Hobart and Mr. How, in this language of bold and unqualified assertion? How gentlemen who have any accurate knowledge of the rise and progress of the reformation; or who have attended to the history and the contents of public confessions, could write thus, is, indeed, unaccountable! I am lost in astonishment when I think of the fact !
It only remains that we notice, for a moment, the assertion of Dr. Bowden and Mr. How, that in the Lutheran churches of Sweden and Denmark, prelacy, both in fact and name, is received. If these gentlemen mean, that there are ministers in Sweden and Denmark, who bear the titles of bishop and archbishop, their assertion is undoubtedly correct; and this is no more than I explicitly stated in my former letters. But if they mean, that the Swedish and Danish churches believe in the divine right of prelacy; that they consider episcopal ordination as necessary to constitute the Christian ministry; or that they do, in fact, always insist upon such ordination-they are unquestionably in a gross error; and have given their readers a most delusive view of the subject.
With respect to Sweden, it is well known, that those who planted the reformation, and ordained the first protestant ministers in that country, were mere presbyters. And although, from the influence of habit, they chose to retain the names and some of the functions of bishops and archbishops; yet it is equally certain, that the first persons who bore these titles, were set apart to their office by presbyters; and, of course, received themselves, and were enabled to communicate to others, no other than Presbyterian ordination. As to the point of light in which this subject is regarded by the church of Sweden, I am happy in being able to produce the testimony of the Rev. Dr. Collin, pastor of the Swedish church in Philadelphia, a gentleman whose acquaintance with the ecclesiastical system of his native country cannot be doubted; and whose character is a sufficient guarantee for the accuracy of his statements. He assures me, in a letter, written at my request, that all the Swedish divines, and particularly those who themselves
enjoy the episcopal dignity, consider episcopacy merely as a human regulation; that this is the doctrine of all their standard books; that accordingly, in the absence of those who are styled bishops, ordinations are performed by ordinary clergymen ; and that even bishops and archbishops, may be set apart to their office by presbyters. In support of these facts, Dr. Collin produces the most decisive testimony from Swedish writers of the highest authority; and declares, that there is but one opinion among them on the subject. He adds," The Danes agree with us in this matter. "Vandalin, Primarius Professor of Theology in Copenhagen, in "a much esteemed work published in the year 1727, has the fol"lowing passage, p. 354. An jure divino Episcopi a Presby"teris distincti sunt? Negatur, contra Pontificios et quosdam "Anglos." i. e. "Are bishops and presbyters distinct orders by divine right? We deny it; in opposition to the papists, and to certain persons of the church of England." He then goes on to establish his opinion by reference to a number of passages of scripture, which are precisely those which Presbyterians usually quote.
The result of all the testimony exhibited in the present Letter, is this. That the Waldenses, the Bohemian Brethren, and all the great individual witnesses for the truth, prior to the time of Luther, were, almost without exception, decidedly anti-prelatical in their sentiments. That at the period of the reformation, the Presbyterian form of church government was established in all the reformed churches in Germany, Scotland, France, Geneva, and Holland; and its establishment in all these countries, accompanied with public and solemn declarations that they considered this as having been the apostolic and primitive form. And, that, although in the Lutheran churches of Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and other parts of Europe, some ministers were invested with pre-eminent powers, under different titles; yet that they all, with one voice, declared, that in the apostolic church, ministerial parity prevailed; and acknowledged, that the order of Bishops was brought in by human authority, and was a regulation of expediency alone. Such was the doctrine maintained by those churches, at that interesting period; and the same doctrine has been maintained by them uniformly to the present hour. It follows, then, agreeably to my declaration in a former letter, that the church of England stands