« PrécédentContinuer »
"the Bishop, either to baptize, or to celebrate the "holy communion," it is evident that his Presbyters could not have been the same with those who bear that title in modern Episcopal Churches, who in virtue of their original commission, and without any subsequent permission of the Bishop, are empowered, at all times, and in all places, when called upon, to administer both Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Again; when Ignatius says, "Let that "Eucharist be looked upon as valid, which is ei"ther offered by the Bishop, or by him to whom "the bishop has given his consent;" Dr. Bowden chooses to take for granted that the person to whom the Bishop might give his consent and who, with that consent, might dispense the Eucharist, was one of the Presbyters whom Ignatius distinguishes from the Bishop. But this is not said by Ignatius; he might mean the Bishop of some neighbouring congregation. There is not a single instance in which the pious Father represents his Presbyters as, in fact, preaching or administering Sacraments. But even supposing his Presbyters to be Ruling Elders, and supposing him to mean, that they, with the Bishop's (or Pastor's) leave, might administer both sacraments; this would only show that Ignatius was in an error, as Tertullian was after him, who, in his work de Baptismo, after asserting that the administration of Baptism was appropriated to the office of Bishop, does not scruple to say, that even a Layman may baptize with the Bishop's leave. There is, then, nothing in the EpisM
tles of Ignatius at all inconsistent with the supposition that a portion, or even the whole of his Presbyters were Ruling Elders, whose official duty it was to assist the Pastor in maintaining order and discipline in the Church.
It is no solid objection to this argument from the Fathers, that they sometimes mention these Elders after the Deacons, as if the former were inferior to the latter. Nothing can be inferred from a fact of this kind. Ignatius, speaking of the different classes of Church officers, expresses himself thus: "Let all reverence the Deacons as Je"sus Christ; and the Bishop as the Father; and "the Presbyters as the Sanhedrim of God, and "college of the Apostles." But, notwithstanding the extravagance and impiety of this exhortation, did any one ever suppose that Ignatius designed to represent Deacons as a higher order than Bishops? In like manner, Clemens Alexandrinus speaks of "Presbyters, Bishops, and Deacons," but who ever dreamed that any inference with respect to the order of authority was to be drawn from this arrangement? Again; Dr. Bowden objects, that " Ignatius makes the Deacons a branch "of the Ministry; but every branch of the Mi"nistry had authority to preach; consequently the "Deacons, instead of being inferior to the Ruling "Elders, must have been superior to them." This objection is of as little force as the last. It is notorious that the word Ministry, both in Scripture and the writings of the Fathers, is by no means
confined to the Clergy, but is frequently employed to express any kind of official service rendered to the Church. To produce instances in support of this position is needless. Every well-informed Divine knows it to be so. When, therefore, the word Ministry, unaccompanied with any distinctive epithet, is applied either to Elders or Deacons, it no more implies a power to preach, or adminis ter sealing ordinances, nor does it throw any more light on the point of order and precedence, than the general word officer.
Having seen that both Scripture and the Fathers afford a clear warrant for the office of Ruling or Lay Elders in the Church; let us next inquire whether the Reformers and other distinguished witnesses for the truth, in different ages and countries, declared for or against this office. I know that the authority of the Reformers is not to be considered, any more than that of the Fathers, as a rule either of faith or practice; but when we recollect the great talents, the profound learning, the fervent piety, and the eminent services of many of those distinguished men, in clearing away the errors of Popery, and restoring the faith and order of the Primitive Church, we cannot fail to acknowledge that their opinions and decisions are worthy of high regard. It is worth while, therefore, to inquire what those opinions and decisions were, with respect to the question before us.
John Paul Perrin, the celebrated historian of the Waldenses, and who was himself one of the
Ministers of that people, in a number of places recognizes the office of Ruling Elder as retained in their Churches. He expressly and repeatedly asserts, that the Synods of the Waldenses, long before the time of Luther, were composed of Ministers and Elders*.
The same writer tells us, that, in the year 1467, the Hussites being engaged in reforming and separating their Churches from the Church of Rome, understood that there were some Churches of the ancient Waldenses in Austria, in which the purity of the Gospel was retained, and in which there were many eminent Pastors. In order to ascertain the truth of this account, they (the Hussites) sent two of their Ministers with two Elders to inquire into, and know what those flocks or Congregations were †.
The same Historian, in the same work, speaks of "the Ministers and Elders of the Bohemian Churches +."
The testimony of Perrin is supported by that of Gillis, another historian of the Waldenses, and also one of their Pastors. In the Confession of Faith of that people, inserted at length in the "Addition" to his work, it is declared, (p. 490.
Hist. of the old Waldenses, Part ii. Book 11. Chap. 4.
Ibid. Chap. 9.
This Confession, Gillis expressly declares to have been the Confession of the ancient, as well as the modern Waldenses.
Art. 31.) that "It is necessary for the Church "to have Pastors to preach God's word, to admi"nister the Sacraments, and to watch over the "sheep of Jesus Christ; and also Elders and "Deacons, according to the rules of good and "holy Church discipline, and the practice of the "Primitive Church."
Here, then, is direct and unquestionable testimony that the Waldenses, the Hussites, and the Bohemian Brethren, had Ruling Elders in their Churches long before Calvin was born. Yet Calvin, we are gravely told by Dr. Bowden and his friends, was the inventor of this class of Church officers! I cannot help thinking that a "learned "man," and a "scholar," (a character which Dr. B. often impliedly assumes to himself) ought to have taken care to be better informed before he ventured to make such an assertion.
But we have still more pointed evidence that the Churches which ecclesiastical historians have generally distinguished by the title of the Bohemian Brethren, and which flourished before the time of Luther, bore their testimony in favour of the office of Ruling Elder, by retaining it, amidst all the degeneracy of the times. This fact is attested by Martin Bucer, a learned Lutheran Divine, whose fame induced Archbishop Cranmer to invite him to England, where he received preferment and patronage, and was held in high estimation. He speaks of it in the following terms:
"The Bohemian Brethren, who published 2