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light before us, we are able to find our way through all the different names, and the different definitions applied to each at different periods of the history of the Primitive Church. The terms bishop and elder, or presbyter, might be, in the first instance, synonymous ; those now called bishops might also have been called apostles, and shortly afterwards the name of apostles be appropriated to those who were apostles indeed ; and the name bishops given to those before less properly called apostles. In like manner, a distinction might have obtained between presbyter and bishop. All these changes might have been, and were, yet remains our equanimity undisturbed ; for, like Milton, in addressing Urania, “ the meaning, not the name, we call." A bishop, in the sense of Hooker, " is a minister of God, unto whom, with permanent continuance, there is given, not only power of administering the Word and Sacraments, which power other presbyters have ; but also a further power to ordain ecclesiastical
persons, and a power of chiefty in government over presbyters, as well as laymena power to be by way of jurisdiction-a pastor even to pastor themselves.” Invested with such powers were Titus and Timothy; and such were appointed by the Apostles as their successors in the ecclesiastical duties of the blessed Teachers who had founded the Churches. “The concurrence of ancient records," says Mr. Waddington, firms this last conclusion; the earliest Church historians enumerate the first bishops of the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Smyrna, Alexandria, and Rome, and trace them in each case from the Apostles. And thus it came to pass, that for more than twenty years before the death of St. John, most of the considerable Churches had gradually fallen under the presidency of a single person, entitled Bishop; and that, after that event, there were certainly none which did not speedily follow the same name and system of administration.” None, we may add, were ever under any other.
Wherein, in fact, differs the Episcopalian and the Presbyterian? Do not the Presbyterians believe that the authority of their ministers to preach the Gospel, to administer the Sacraments, and to feed the flock, is derived from the Holy Ghost, by the imposition of the hands of the presbytery? Do they not oppose the independent scheme of the common rights of Christians by the same arguments which are used for that purpose by the Episcopalians? The Episcopalian, however, escapes from the absurdity of making his presbyter, or ruling elder, a layman. He will have him to be a diocesan bishop, distinct from, and superior to the ordinary priest. He acknowledges that every apostolic bishop was undoubtedly a presbyter, but denies that every presbyter was likewise a bishop. Can any one, with his senses about him, believe Church government could possibly be any other than aristocratic—that is, the government of the best, as opposed to democratic-or the government of the worst? A moral and intellectual society can only be so ruled--a spiritual assembly can know no equality while its members are in different states of improvement, different conditions of thought and feeling. The wisest, the most faithful, the most hoping, the most loving, must bear sway—and to him the less in all these qualifications must, for their own good, submit. The Church recognizes Babes and Men-she has milk for the one, and strong meat for the other. There were, and will be, some apostles and some prophets, and some to whom they are sent on messages of salvation. Shall these, while yet in the rudiments of evangelical knowledge, immediately on their admittance claim equal sway in the assembly, and dictate to their teachers ? This would be the subversion of the Church indeed, whether such neophytes were a few isolated individuals or the collective body of the State. These, through her officers, are to be taught by, and to be obedient to, the Church, in all matters relative to her, whether of discipline or doctrine. No man is by nature, or can make himself, a member of the Christian Church ; and authority to govern such a society can be derived only from Him by whom it was founded. It is by virtue of a spiritual and a moral eminence-detected and recognized by the spiritually and morally eminent in a long line of apostolic succession—that the high places of the Church are occupied. Right and Might, in its government, are identified-Fiction is not admitted-all is real in its connexion-Merit and Power are united in the same person-only what ought to be, is. This, and this only, is the constitution of the Church. In most of these particulars it differs from that of the State—in these, also, its history is distinguished from that of civil constitutions. Hence it is, that while in the civil the order of hereditary descent is natural, in the ecclesiastical it is spiritual—a wise ordinance, securing, as far as possible, the government of the wisest and the best, the only true aristocracy. All this in the Idea.
Thus set free from the world, whether in subservience to the will of the populace or of the State, the Ark of the Church soared safely above the commotions, which, like a food, overcame the nations. Free was she when she accepted the homage of the Emperor Constantine. Polytheism had been a political engine--not such was Christianity. It would appear, on the first blush of the thing, as Mr. Waddington rightly observes, that nothing might be more tolerant than Polytheism. íThe intrusion of one stranger would scarcely be noticed in the numerous synod of Mount Olympus; the golden portals were ever open-useful virtue or splendid vice gave an equal claim to admission; and the policy or servility of Rome bowed with the same pliancy to the captive gods of ler enemies, or the manes of her imperial tyrants.” But the statesmen of antiquity admitted not into their closets the various and irrational worship which they encouraged in the people, and valued it only as connected with obedience to man. Hence, by the most ancient laws of Rome, the magistrate was empowered to prevent all foreign worship; to expel its ministers from the forum, the circus, and the city; to search for and burn the religious books (vaticinos libros), and to abolish every form of sacrifice except the national and established form. It was under these old regulations that the Christians were persecuted, and not by any new laws, expressly made for the purpose. All right, therefore, of private judgement in matters of religion, was explicitly forbidden by an original law of Rome, which was never repealed. Thus the Roman polytheism was inherently intolerant in itself; and, with regard to its statesmen, was no creed-no matter of faith—but a political caprice only, for the purpose of government. Christianity, in its origin and in
its progress, was far other, at any rate, until the reign of Constantine. Doubts have been expressed as to the miracle by which this Emperor was converted, We confess that it appears to us a far more unaccountable wonder that such a man should think it worth his while to feign such a vision. We are at a loss to find the predisposing cause, either in the religious state of his mind-seeing that he remained unbaptized till on the point of death, from a superstitious sentiment common to the Roman emperors, yet pagan in nature, though Christian in name, that thus they could live a life of sin, and wash themselves free from its consequences at the very moment when it was out of their power to commit more-or in any state necessity, - seeing that the empire was yet so pagan, as to render it expedient to accommodate the pure spirit of Christianity to the ritual and ceremonies of the old idolatry, that the change might be moderated for surer reception by the people. Free was the Church when she accepted the imperial homage-it was not to be expected, however, that her alliance with such a state and such a statist, should be exempt from peril.
A great change had, indeed, taken place, when the world became subjected to a Christian ruler; but this conversion was but as a single visible sign of the change which was thenceforth to appear in the economy of the evangelical system. It marked the commencement of a new order of things—of one, in which mankind found themselves the sole depositaries of the treasure which had been left them by the Redeemer, and in which they were to be proved, not, as heretofore, by peril and suffering, but by the temptations with which Satan in all ages of the world, opposes the conversion of the soul to righteousness. The consequence of this was the perfect fulfilment of our Lord's prophetic parables respecting his kingdom. It became as a wide field, well sown and white for the harvest, but interspersed with many tares, -as a net cast into the sea, and gathering of every kind. We have, therefore, for the future, to behold the contest between Heaven and the powers of the air carried on in a widely different manner from that in which it was commenced ; and in proportion as we lose sight of the Almighty's hand, visibly disposing things according to His wisdom, the task of tracing the absolute advancement of His kingdom becomes difficult and uncertain. Constantly liable, on the one hand, to fall into the mistake of supposing that the apparent increase of the Church was its real increase ; and, on the other, of losing sight of the real work of the Holy Spirit, in the doubtfulness with which the mere nominal Church is to be regarded, we have to exercise, at the same time, the caution of inquirers and the devotion of thankful worshippers.
The “ apparent" was confounded with the “real” increase of "the Church,” we fear, at the time of its Reformation in England. Hence its incompleteness, which forms, at this moment, one of the most important subjects of consideration that can engage the meditative mind.
No true lover of the Protestant Religion-no faithful professor of its principles-no philosophic opinionist in favour of the good which the propagation of its doctrines and the practice of its precepts are calculated to do to society-can fail to perceive the perils which, from this cause, as from a fountain of bitter waters, beset on every side both Church and State. The sectarist looks on in triumph-the Churchman with fear.
Reform, whether in Church or State, is, in the abstract, undoubtedly a good thing. Such will always be wanted in both,—not because the principles of either require alteration, but that individuals are imperfect. It is not the substantial form of either which demands amendment, but the spirit, as represented in individuals, by which that form is administered. The union of the Church with the world has an evident tendency to produce what was prophesied of the Last Days-men having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." This, and the other signs of the “perilous times,” were sufficiently apparent in the age of Constantine, and about the period of the Reformation were not unobserved by Wickliffe ; and therefrom he inferred that the period in which he lived was the last age of the Church. Such signs are common to all periods ; and, accordingly, we find that pious men in all times have been observant of such, and many have accordingly launched into speculations concerning “ the end of the world,” which they thought “had come upon them.” Such works have unfortunately partaken of a fanatical character, owing to the very partial view of the argument adopted by the writers. It is extraordinary that they did, and do, not perceive that these signs were as applicable in the apostolic-in the Constantine-age, as in theirs—and that, in consequence, the apostles were fervent in preaching the speedy approach of the Second Advent and the Last Judgement. But “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”—an admonition given by the Apostle Peter with respect to this very matter; and to those things in St. Paul's Epistles which are “ hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction."
All times have been times of peril to the Church, for the world has always been, and will be, at enmity with God. A stable for his chamber, and “a manger all his couch,"—the Divine Founder of our holy religion was born under no worldly auspices favourable to the cause which he was appointed to project. The money-changers, who had made the temple of his father as a den of thieves, opposed him all his life long, and have opposed his religion since his ascension into heaven. The husbandmen whom he threatened with the iron rod by which they should be broken; the hypocrites who shut against others the gates of that heaven which they were never destined to enter themselves, who devoured the houses of the widows, and made long prayers; were, and have been, the declared enemies of him who pronounced them to be but whited sepulchres, externally beautiful, yet hiding within dead men's bones, uncleanness and corruption. Into the power of these implacable foes he was consigned, and dying a violent death, left the doctrines which he had delivered in heavenly purity to be promulgated to the world by unlearned men, his followers, who, during his life, had shown but a very imperfect apprehension of the truths he taught, yet afterwards“ spake with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance,” with a zeal and an eloquence equally miraculous in itself and in its effects. But, ere long, “the
beggarly elements of this present world" were mixed with the eternal verities of the world to come; and the rivers of life, pure at their source, gathered defilement in their progress. The Jewish converts, desirous of imposing on the Gentiles the ceremonies of their ancestors, endeavoured to fetter Christian liberty with legal chains. The various polytheists, subsequently enlisting under the banner of Christ, brought in also their own corruptions; and the most opposite heresies, each extreme and extravagant, marked the introduction and identified the presence of error. Of these heresies, some were subdivided into many others. The Gnostics, for instance, split into more than fifty particular sects; and now, with more or less of purity and unity, we find the religion which had grown up in silence and obscurity, and derived new vigour from opposition, finally erecting the triumphant banner of the cross on the ruins of the Capitol.” Converted, then, into a political engine, it was employed to make concessions where conquests were difficult; and, to win pagans, was compelled by a worldly power to enter into an unholy league with paganism. The truth, once spiritually delivered to the saints, was recommended to a superstitious generation by the carnal attractions of an idolatrous worship. For awhile its imperial defender halted between two opinions, and then attempted to reconcile their difference by a forcible coalition. In the same year the same man enjoined the solemn observance of Sunday, and the regular consultation of the aruspices. This profane mixture is even indicated by the name appropriated to the first day of the week; for Constantine styled, in his edict, the Lord's day dies solis, that the ears of his pagan subjects might not be offended. Already had the sacrament of baptism been degraded to the rank of a magical charm, which was supposed to contain a full and absolute expiation of sin; and tyrants delayed to the latest hour the reception of a rite which offered, as they believed, sure and easy absolution for the past, and which, as it could never be repeated, might be thrown away if imprudently precipitated—an abuse of a sacred ordinance of which it is horrible to think, and subversive of the very religion which it was intended to support and adorn. The Church and the world became henceforth blended in intimate union, and in the mortal embraces of her insidious foe, the polluted spouse of the Almighty well nigh perished, an adulteress, and a witch - the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth."
The nations drank of “the golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.” But meanwhile Wisdom was justified of her children. She whose delights were of old with the sons of men, was now fain to take refuge in the wilderness. There she reared up witnesses to the truth. Thus, in later days, in the valleys of the Cottian Alps, she nurtured a race of hardy mountaineers upon the strong meat of the Gospel, until the times were ripe for change. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” They were “perilous times,” in which the Church suffered in the persons of the Vaudois. But the perils with which these faithful witnesses were surrounded only personally affected them in life and Jimb, both which they would have willingly sacrificed, so the truth
N.S.- VOL. VI.