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acknowledged axiom. Admitting, therefore, Sir,
In treating of the constitution of the Christian
schismatic, whilst he lived in communion with the episcopal Church; at the same time that the circumstance of his having been regularly ordained, established the validity of his ministerial office. With respect to the character of the Archbishop, both as a divine and a man, the public, I believe, entertain but one opinion; consequently the pages dedicated to his subject might have been omitted..
The object of my Second Discourse was to point out to the reader the nature, design, and constitution of the Christian Church, considered as a visible society. As such, it was observed that the Church must have her rules and orders, and, consequently, governors to carry those rules and orders into effect; because, without such a provision for order and government no society can subsist. Thus, far, Sir, it is presumed, we must agree. That such a provision has been made, was proved from the commission delivered to the Apostles; by virtue of which, a power, originally derived from God the Father to Christ, was by him communicated to the first planters and governors of his Church; and, through them, to all his successors in the same high office, for the purpose of directing the affairs of his spiritual kingdom on earth, to the end of time,
To ascertain what particular form of government was established on this occasion, an argument was drawn from the early practice of the primitive, Church; which, it was conceived, would furnish such a comment upon it, as must be sufficient to determine the judgment of every unprejudiced. * Guide, p. 15 and 16.
reader. Proofs on this head might have been multiplied; but it being my design to draw the subject within the smallest possible compass, recourse was such only as might be deemed conclusive. With this view, an appeal was made to the writings of St. Paul; where, in his directions to Timothy, the first bishop of Ephesus, mention is expressly" made of the several ministers of the Church, distinguished by their several stations and offices. ge To remove every doubt with respect to the interpretation of some particular passages in St. Paul's writings, the testimony of two primitive writers brought forward, must, it was presumed, be deemed competent to furnish decided evidence. St. Ignatius and Clement were contemporaries with the Apostles; the latter is spoken of as a fellow labourer with St. Paul.* His epistle to the Corinthians, from which I made my extract, is considered to be, after the Holy Scriptures, one of the most eminent records of antiquity. The authenticity of the epistles of St. Ignatius, from whence I have also made an extract in proof of the Christian Church, has been placed by Bishop Pearsont beyond the reach of controversy. If the abundant testimonies which are to be produced from these epistles in support of the constitution of the Christian Church, as originally established under the government of bishops, priests, and deacons, be not deemed sufficient to establish the point, I do not see how it is possible to form any decisive judgment upon the subject. "The description which St. Ignatius, in his epistle to the Magnesians, gave of a Church, is express * Phil. iv. 3. + Pearson's "Vindicia Ignatiana."
and decided. "Your bishop presiding in the place of God, your presbyters in the place of the council of the Apostles, and your deacons entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ." Such was the idea annexed to the word Church, as a visible society, in those early days. There is, moreover, some reason to think, from St. Ignatius's manner of writing, if we give credit to his character, that he was favoured with revelations on this subject. In his letter to the Ephesians, he tells them that he had the intention of writing a second letter, for the purpose of instructing them in certain points, μαλιστα εαν ο Κύριος μοι αποκάλυψη, especially if the Lord should reveal any thing to me.--In his epistles to the Philadelphians he writes thus: "When I exhorted you to adhere to your bishops, priests, and deacons, some of you suspected that I had been informed of dissentions among you; but he is my witness, for whom I am now in bonds, that I have known nothing on this subject from human information; but the spirit has preached to me in the following words, Let nothing be done without the bishop,’—μαρτυς δε μοι εν ω δέδεμαι οτι
απο σαρκος ανθρωπινης εκ εγναν. Το δε πνευμα εκήρυσσεν λέγων ταδε. Κωρίς τε Επισκοπε μηδὲν ποιείτε. In another part of his writings, he calls the appointment of bishops to be according to the will and direction of Jesus Christ, Inox Xg158 yvwμnv
Ignatius, according to the account given of him by St. Chrysostom, was familiarly conversant with the Apostles, and drank freely from their spiritual
fountain; was brought up together with them, and partook with them in all doctrines and mysteries; and was at length thought worthy of so great a dignity as that of being a governor of the Church; which he obtained in consequence of the hands of the blessed Apostles having been laid on his sacred head. When Ignatius wrote these epistles, he was in bonds, and on his journey from Antioch to Rome, in expectation of being shortly called to seal the truth with blood. The testimony of such a man, under such circumstances, must, it should be supposed, have great weight with every considerate, unprejudiced, and impartial person.
On such testimony, in conjunction with what has been drawn from the writings of St. Paul and Clement, have I ventured to speak confidently on the original constitution of the Christian Church; setting it down as a most infallible truth, in the words of the celebrated Hooker, "That the Church of Christ is at this day lawfully, and so hath been from the first beginning, governed by bishops, having permanent superiority and ruling power over other ministers of the word and sacraments."+
The authority of the learned Bishop Sanderson appearing to have weight with you, will, I trust, be my apology for troubling you with another quotation, before I close this part of my subject. My opinion (says that learned writer) is, that episcopal government is not to be derived merely from Apostolical practice or institution, but that it is founded in the person and office of the Messias, our blessed Lord and Master Jesus Christ, who being sent by * Chrysost. Ιγνατ. Εγκωμ. + Hooker, book vii. p. 376.