« PreviousContinue »
Paul begins his Epistle to the Romans thus : " To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be Saints, grace to you and peace,” &c.; not mentioning in the remotest manner any of those high dignitaries and stately officials who bear the whole authority in the Church of England. It is perfectly certain, therefore, that the Church of Rome was not the least like the Church of England when he wrote his Epistle, for had there been the body of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Archdeacons, Canons, Rectors, Vicars, and Curates, he certainly would have noticed them; but as such priestly dignitaries did not then exist, he could not mention them, excepting by the spirit of prophecy, which I think he has done in the Second Chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, when he says, “ Let no man deceive you by any means, for the day of Christ shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” The man of sin was the mystery of iniquity in the Roman Catholic Church, from which, I believe, the Church of England has received these things and cherished them, though they are a most pernicious and ungodly heritage.
The other Epistles of Paul begin with similar salutations : -“ Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth; to them that are sanctified, in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”
• Paul unto the Church of God, which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in Achaia.” “ Paul an Apostle, and all the brethren which are with me, unto the Churches of Galatia."
- Paul to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus ;” and so of the rest; but never once does he direct his letters to a diocesan Bishop, as he ought to have done, had he been a true member of the Church of England, which my uncle Lucifer says he was. Now supposing the Church of Corinth had been like the Established Church, Paul would have thus written the salutation : “ Paul to the Right Reverend Father in God the Lord Bishop of Corinth. My Lord, inasmuch as your lordship has been consecrated Bishop of the diocese of Corinth, I direct this Epistle to your lordship,” &c. &c. This is the style in these days : it therefore either was extremely incorrect in Paul to neglect the Episcopal authority, and to write to the whole body of believers about the state of their Churches; or else the Prelates of the establishment are usurpers and tyrants, part of the man of sin, “ whose coming has been, after the working of Satan, with all power and lying wonders."
The testimony of Scripture is always sufficient for me, nor do I covet any assistance from the Fathers, or Ecclesiastical tradition ; nevertheless, as you and my uncle Lucifer often press this sort of authority upon my consideration, allow me to
you, that Clemens Romanus, whose Epistle to the Corinthians has great authority with some, owing to its antiquity, and the simplicity of its primitive spirit, knew of no other Church government than that which Paul recognised. His Epistle begins thus,—“The Church of God which dwelleth at Rome, to the Church of God which dwelleth at Corinth.” The believers in one city write to the believers in another, in the same way that the brethren of the Church of Antioch determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain others, should go up to Jerusalem and consult the Apostles and Elders,
From the Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians (supposing it to be really written by Ignatius, which is very doubtful) we learn that the whole Church had the power to elect the overseers, who are now called “ Bishops,” in Popish language. “It becometh you as the Church of God to choose an overseer, who may perform the embassy of God, that it may be granted unto them to be gathered together in one place, and to glorify the name of God*;" for the more I read the records of primitive Christianity, the more do I meet with proofs of an authority vested in the whole body of believers, which is quite unknown in the Established Church. The testimonies to this truth are superabundantly
Πρεπον εστιν υμιν ως εκκλησια Θεου χειροτονησαι επισκοπον, εις το πρεσβευσαι εκει θεου πρεσβειαν εις το συγχωρηθηναι αυτους εις το αυτο γενομενους, και δοξασαι το ονομα του Θεου.
numerous, and indeed it seems conceded that the body of Christians for a long time exercised the privilege of electing the Church officers-even after the time when something like diocesan Episcopacy had come into fashion. One passage to this effect I will quote from Cyprian, because, though the writings of this father use a very lordly and prelatical language, yet they still bear testimony to the primitive power of the body of believers—“ nor* let the people (plebs, all the faithful, called in Greek anoos,) flatter themselves as though they could be free from the taint of sin when they communicate with a priest who is a sinner, and when they give their consent to the authority of an unjust and lawless overseer; because the people, obeying the precepts of our Lord, and fearing God, ought to separate themselves from a sinful overseer, nor have anything to do with the sacrifices of an impious priest; since they, the people, have especially the power either of electing worthy priests, or rejecting those who are unworthy : which privilege we see has descended from Divine authority.”
* Nec sibi plebs blandiatur, quasi immunis esse à con. tagio delicti possit cum sacerdote peccatore communicans, et ad injustum et illicitum præpositi sui episcopatum consensum suum commodans. Propter quod plebs obsequens præceptis dominicis et Deum metuens à peccatore præposito separare sedebet, nec ad sacrilegi sacerdotis sacrificia miscere, quando ipsa maximé habeat potestatem vel eligendi dignos sacerdotes vel indignos recessandi, quod et ipsum videmus de Divinâ auctoritate descendere !
This specimen of the sentiments which may be brought forward by referring to the Fathers, ought to keep all the Clergy of the Established Church close to the Scriptures; for though the Fathers were very fond of enlarging the power of the newly-invented Priesthood, yet they had no idea of such a Church as we have in England ; so that I am sure more harm than good will come to the prelatical party by sending down to Egypt for help. The Scriptures are against the Church of England; but the Fathers still more so. The Scriptures whip the Establishment with whips, but the Fathers with scorpions.
I am sorry, my dear uncle, that my uncle Lucifer, the renowned author of the Letters of L. S. E., should have committed himself in some passages of his immortal epistles. I beg you to compare some of his words in the Seventh of his Letters with those words which I have just quoted from Cyprian. My uncle says, “ Should they, the Clergy, do anything which we humbly think is not right, we, as private Christians, are not to judge them, but leave them till the Lord, whose servants they are, calls them to give an account of their stewardship. No private Christian can take upon him to find fault with God's Ministers without great arrogance, presumption, and spiritual pride. It ought to be concluded, that as they have more learning—have had more experience, and have the presence of Christ with