« PreviousContinue »
Secular, as well as Ecclesiastical Princes earnestly urged to use their influence
for the restoration of the Apostolic office to its primitive integrity and efficiency.
The proposition I would therefore now presume to submit to the secular princes, but more especially to the ecclesiastical princes of the Universal Church, is this :- that the Apostolic Office of general superintendence over the Universal Church ought never to have ceased. Not only was the Apostolic Office thus defined, of Divine origin—(this alone would not be sufficient to commend its permanency to the world)--but the circumstances which constituted its original necessity, have continued, and still continue. The necessity, therefore, of the upholding of this Divine Law remains; and therefore its obligation remains : and the mere fact of its cessation through so many centuries is no valid reason for its perpetual discontinuance. It is as much, and as certainly, therefore, the duty of the Christian princes, secular and ecclesiastical, to endeavour to heal the disunion among Christians, generally, and to restore the former and better state of Christianity, as it is their duty to protect and maintain the public peace, either by promoting the progress of civil liberty, or by strengthening the authority of civil government among their own subjects. The only question is, In what manner may this holy and useful work be begun, and commended to the Catholic Church? This question may be rendered more easy of solution, if we look back very briefly, upon the origin and causes of the present anomalous condition of the Christian world.
Rise of the usurpation of the Roman pontiff traceable to the early departure of
the ecclesiastical rulers from the Apostolic mode of regulating the affairs of the Church Universal. Difference between the Primitive and Modern theories of
episcopal Church government. This diversity of practice unjustifiable. It will be found that the departure of the rulers of the Primitive Churches from the Apostolic Government was the foundation of the usurpation of that one Bishop, who gradually obtained authority over the Churches-the resistance of whose authority, or the upholding of whose authority, is the principal cause of the hatreds and dissensions which have changed the religion of peace and love, into a religion of hatred and contention. The ancient, Scriptural, and Apostolical form of Church government, and the modern, Scriptural, and episcopal form of Church government, are both identified in this respect,- both consist of teachers who rule, and teachers who do not
rule, and assistants to the teachers : that is to say, they both consist of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. They both acknowledge these three orders to be the only essential orders in the Church of Christ. The difference, therefore, between the Primitive and the Modern theories of Episcopal Church Government consists only in the extent of authority assigned to the rulers of the Churches. The modern theory assigns to every Bishop his diocese; to every minister his parish; to every deacon his charge. The ancient theory was the same in all respects but one-that the principal ruler was not confined to the limits of any charge. “Go ye into all the world *” was the commission. It was not said, “Go ye into one particular part of the world.” Some took charge of the Jews; others, of the Gentiles; not in any separate or specifically defined country, continent, or island, but in the world generally. Where the command is divine, the necessity of the command is perpetual and obvious; and no proof whatever is afforded that the divine command is abrogated, no lapse of time can justify the continuance of the non-observance of the Holy Law. The revival, therefore, of the Apostolic Office would be an act of obedience to the will of God. We may believe, therefore, that it would be the best remedy for the disunion of Christians.
Causes and consequences of the discontinuance of the Apostolic office. Parochiæ
and Dioceses. Bishops originally called “ Apostles.” Reason for declining the appellation; and mischievous consequences attending its discontinuance. Rise of Metropolitans.
Let us briefly consider the causes and the consequences of the discontinuance of the Apostolic office.
The causes of its discontinuance are given in Ecclesiastical History. The districts over which the earlier successors of the Apostles in the office of preaching ministered were sometimes called Parochiæ, and sometimes Dioceses“. The word Diocese was subsequently confined to its proper meaning, the district subject to a Roman prætor; and the word parochia to a smaller district in that diocese. As the terms of the districts in which they were appointed to teach, was once common, so, also, the titles which described the first successors of the Apostles, were at first common. They were alike called Bishop, and Presbyter, or Elder. Of these Bishops or Elders, some were rulers, and some were not. According to Theodoret? the Bishops in the Early Church were often called árboto.o., Apostles, to distinguish them from the Presbyters, who also bore the name, éniokotrol. Cyprian and Jerome 8 tell us, that the Bishops were called also “successors of the Apostles °," and every term which could denote the utmost veneration on the part of the laity, was given to the chief rulers or pastors of the Churches. Now, it is necessary that a divine command should be observed, whether it leads us to contempt or honour. The divine command to the immediate successors of the Apostles was the same with that to the Apostles themselves : that is, while a certain number were to be assigned to definite districts and localities, others were to retain the more general, indefinite, undefined, and undefinable superintendence over the Churches, similar to that of St. Peter over the Jewish, or to that of St. Paul over the Gentile converts. We are informed' that the earliest successors of the Apostles refused to continue the title Apostle, from diffidence, or unwillingness to assume or accept a title of honour, which implied a lofty superiority over their brethren. If this be so, they committed this great error — they resigned the title; but as the resignation of a title of honour implies the resignation of the honour, so the resignation of a title implying office, implies the resignation of the office, with all the labours, responsibilities, and obligations, peculiar to that office. By contenting themselves, therefore, with the honourable title of Bishop, they assumed to themselves the superintendence only of a province, city, or district. They resigned the general and undefinable responsibility; and the deplorable consequences of their mistaken humility may be traced in every age of the Church. The first consequence of their most erroneous decision was, that the Churches, immediately after the death of the Apostles, and the closing of the Canon, were left without any visible conciliar head. Each Bishop, it is true, within his own district, appointed his own liturgy, which was always supposed to be in accordance with the forms and modes of worship adopted by other Churches. He ruled in all spiritual matters over all spiritual persons, Churches, societies, and schools. He presided in diocesan synods, and ordered the direction generally of the property of the Church. But as there were no officers who presided over the affairs of the Universal Church, as the Apostles had presided, so long as they remained at Jerusalem, there was a perpetual and incessant appeal from the Bishop of one district to the Bishop of another. The equality among the rulers of the Churches became the source of disunion, as equality will ever be. Sects and schisms began. Controversies multiplied between particular Bishops. One in each province was selected as the umpire, to whom the decision of questions might be referred. The higher titles and gradations of Archbishop, Patriarch, Metropolitan, began to be heard of. Traces of this gradual accumulation of the higher titles of the Rulers or Bishops are discernible in the second century Still the divisions continued. The Church had no head. The pretensions of the Church of Rome were unknown, both in, and immediately after, the
4 Mark xvi. 15.
5 Bingham, b. ix. chap. ii. § 1. 6 Compare 1 Tim. v. 17. Acts xx. 17–28. Phil. i. 1. 1 Tim. ii. 1, &c. 7 Comment, in Phil. i. 1, and I Tim. iii. 1.
Cypr. Epist. 69. al. 66. Hieron. Epist. 85. ad Evagr. 9 Διάδοχοι των αποστόλων. 1 Bingham, b. ii. c. ii. § 1.
Bingham, b. ii. c. xvi. § 2.
Apostolic age. The Bishops of the larger Churches, which had been founded by the Apostles, obtained, as might have been expected, more influence than their brethren. The Apostolical Canons decree, that nothing important should be done by the Bishops of a province, without the concurrence of their chief Bishop: and by the time when the Council of Nice was summoned, we may affirm, that the rights and privileges of Metropolitans gradually assumed, or gradually yielded by their original equals in ecclesiastical authority, were recognized and acknowledged.
The Metropolitan order proved so unequal to the task of removing the evils occa
sioned by the suspension of the Apostolic functions, that recourse was at length
had to General Councils, which were suggested by Provincial Councils. This gradual institution of the order of Metropolitan might have been justly deemed the useful substitute for the Apostolical authority, if their influence had extended beyond the limits of their own provinces ; but the divisions of the Church immediately before the Council of Nice had reached the Metropolitans themselves. The Metropolitan of Cæsarea, with other Bishops, had adopted the heresy of Arius. The want of some such power as that of the Apostles at Jerusalem was strongly felt; and the first general Council, under the auspices of the first Christian emperor, was summoned as the substitute for the Apostolical authority, which had been so long scattered and divided among the rulers of the Churches. Provincial Councils, the senates of the Metropolitans, formed the precedent for the General Council ; and happy would it have been for the Churches, if these parliaments of the Universal Church had been rendered the permanent advisers of the universal monarchy which was, and which will again be, co-extensive with the civilized world.
General Councils are found to be an insufficient substitute for the Apostolic office.
This paved the way for the usurpation of the Bishop of Rome, who claimed an exclusive right to an authority which he could only share with every other bishop of the Church Universal. Causes which favoured the pretensions of
the Bishop of Rome. The history of the government of the Churches by Provincial, Metropolitan, and General Councils, must be considered as too well known to the student to be
3 C. 35. The first fifty of these Canons may be considered genuine. See Civil and Ecclesiastical History Philosophically considered, vol. i. p. 324.
detailed in this place. It will be sufficient to say, that the opposition of Council against Council convinced the Churches of the necessity of some more permanent yet deliberative head; and the most fatal consequences of the cessation of the Apostolic office displayed itself more and more, century after century, till the authority of the ceaselessly-increasing power of the Church and Bishop of Rome superseded the influence of the very Councils, which both acknowledged to be general. This was the chief and most fatal consequence of the cessation of the Apostolic office. The union of the Apostles in one assembly at Jerusalem had given a visible head, under Christ, to the Universal Church. The Christian world rightly and justly demanded the continuance of some visible authority. No one individual was vested with this authority. Councils assumed it; Rome subsequently usurped it. Slowly, gradually, imperceptibly, two causes acted concurrently to give that supremacy, influence, and power to Rome, which has, in the earlier ages of the Church, proved to be sometimes a blessing, but which, in the later ages of the Church, immediately prior to, and during and following the great effort of the Churches to restore a better state of things, proved to be more uniformly a curse to the world. These two causes were, the longing of the Churches for some visible head; and the peculiar position of Rome, which enabled it to be the protector of the Athanasian, the defender of the common faith, the standard of orthodoxy against Arianism; the opponent of the barbarism of one age, and of the cruelty and despotism of another.
Extent of the Romish usurpation, and noble insurgent spirit which that usurpation
at length excited. Luther and the Reformation.
We must never forget the advantages which the Churches of Christ derived from the earlier influence of the Church of Rome, in the just and well-founded abhorrence of its later errors, treacheries, and idolatries. But when the whole ecclesiastical authority over the Western and Eastern Churches had fallen, though with continued resistance, yet without any effectual control, into the hands of the Bishop of Rome; when the temporal power of princes was compelled to submit to the spiritual power of the Bishop of Rome ; when the conquest of the temporal by the spiritual changed that spiritual into the temporal, and thus made the kingdom of Christ the kingdom of this world ; when doctrines never to be believed were enforced by penalties which could never be endured; when the Sacraments were mutilated, and Purgatory was invented, as the lever which rested on the other world to remove in this world the wealth of the layman into the coffer of the monk and the priest ; when the Scriptures were read by the permission of one who was guilty of blasphemy, in claiming the power to withhold or to give that permission ; when morality was outraged, liberty annihilated, Christianity debased, and the common inferences of reason from the evidence