Images de page
PDF
ePub

nothing would have been more easy than to obtain regular consecration for protestant Bishops. No necessity, therefore, of rejecting prelacy, or of adopting Presbyterian parity, in Holland, ever existed, or was pretended to exist. But such was the knowledge which the great and good Reformers, in that country, had obtained of the government, as well as the doctrines of the primitive Church, that when they broke off from Popery, they thought it their duty to restore the scriptural order, together with the primitive truth of the Church. They had seen the mischiefs of Prelacy. They knew that it had ao divine authority for its support-And, therefore, when they threw off the yoke of bondage, they rejected this, not by any means as the worst, but still as one of the errors of the Church of Rome.

The Faith, Government, and Discipline of the Reformed Dutch Church were settled by a succession of National Synods, beginning with that of IVeselin 1568, and ending with that of Dort in 1618 and 1619*. The Synods held at Wesel, in the year above mentioned, and at Embden, in 1571, are considered as having formed the fundamental articles of that Church, both with respect to doctrine and government. Among the proceedings of the Synod of Wesel, it was ordained, in the second arti. cle of their acts, “ That besides forming a Consis

• See a brief and perspicuous sketch of the rise, progress, and principles of the Reformed church of Holland, in a small Book entitled, Kerkelyk Hantboekje, &c. i. e. Church Manual, necessary for Ministers and Consistories. Delf. 1738.

tory in every congregation, the Netherland Pro16 yinces should be divided into certain Classes". And in the third article, they say, “ As soon as it “ shall please the Lord to open a door for the free “ preaching of his word in the Netherlands, care " shall be taken immediately for calling Provincial “ Synods, for arranging all matters," &c. And it is expressly added, that in these judicatories the ministers shall preside in rotation. In the Synod of Embden, in 1571, their acts commence with the same regulation respecting Consistories, Classes, and Synods, as were stated as having passed at Wesel, three years before. One of their articles begins with these words-“ No Church shall be “ considered as having authority over another ♡ Church. No minister of the Gospel shall be “ vested with power above another minister ; but

every one shall avoid the very suspicion, and

watch against every temptation that might draw 6 him to assume a superiority.”

It is observable that, for the formation of these ecclesiastical judicatories, this Synod distributed the Reformed Churches into three great districts. One comprehended all the Churches in the Western part of Germany, and Holland, or East-Friesland. Another comprised what they called the Churches under the Cross, meaning those which were surrounded by Papists, and exposed to the persecution of Popish magistrates and ecclesiastics. And the last district which they named, took in all the English Churches. The 12th article, which re

lates to these last, is very remarkable." And the “ members of the Church of England shall be ad" monished to distribute their Churches also into “ Classes without any further delay." From this article it is evident, not only that the Dutch Church, at this period, was decidedly anti-Episcopal in her principles; but also that she wished and hoped to prevail on the Church of England to come nearer to her views of ecclesiastical government, if not to adopt them. There is peculiar emphasis in the word admonish, which conveys the idea of exhortation and warning, with some fear of delinquency.

In every succeeding national Synod down to that of Dort, the same Presbyterian principles were de. cidedly avowed and maintained, as every public document respecting them unequivocally proves. In fact, with regard to the parity of ministers, and the government of the Church by consistorial, classical, and synodical assemblies, there was not only a perfect harmony, and absolute decision, in all the Synods antecedent to that of Dort, but each succeeding Synod literally copied the language of the preceding; and all, with undeviating consistency, opposed prelacy, and adhered to the Presbyterian model. I challenge Mr. How, or any of his friends, to produce a single authentic testimony which shows that, among all the discussions and transactions of the Church of Holland, respecting ecclesiastical policy, there was ever so much as a proposal to make the government of that Church Episcopal ; or a single sentence from the writings of any res. pectable divine in her communion, which expresses a belief in the divine right of diocesan Episcopacy, or even a preference for this form of Church order.

With respect to the Synod of Dort, every one who is acquainted with its history, and with its published Acts, knows that it was entirely and exclusively Presbyterian. To assert or insinuate the contrary, is to insult the understanding of every well-informed man.

The ministers who composed that Synod, were among the most learned, pious, and dignified divines that ever adorned the christian Church. In transacting the business entrusted to them, they bound themselves by the solemnity of an oath, to adhere strictly to the word of God in all their proceedings. And the indisputable fact is, that these men, acting under this awful solemnity, did, among other articles relating to Church government, form and adopt the following: “ We believe + that this true Church must be governed by 'that

spiritual policy, which our Lord hath taught us in " his word; namely, that there must be Ministers “ or Pastors, to preach the word of God, and to 66 administer the sacraments; also Elders and Dea

cons, who, together with the Pastors, form the “ council of the Church. As for the ministers “ of God's word, they have equally the same pow" er and authority wheresoever they are ; as they are 66 all ministers of Christ, the only universal Bishop, " and the only Head of the Church*.”

Confession of Faith of the Reformed Churches in the New therlands. Articles 30 and 31.

But Dr. Bowden and Mr. How, in the face of all this unquestionable testimony, still contend, that the principal members of the Synod of Dort gave their suffrage in favour of Episcopacy. In support of this assertion, they quote a laconic and equivocal reply of Bogerman, the President of the Synod, to Bishop Garleton; and also certain private conversations said to have been held by the Bishop with the other members of the Synod. But neither of these when examined, will be found to justify the use which is attempted to be made of them.

The nature and circumstances of the polite reply of President Bogerman, on which so much stress has been laid, were as follows. Bishop Carleton, when the article maintaining the parity of ministers came under consideration, rose in his place and opposed its adoption. He declared that diocesan Bishops were of divine appointment; that this order had been retained in the Church from the time of the Apostles, and that he could by no means give his sanction to the article proposed. Το this address the Bishop_himself expressly tells us,

no answer was made by any*" And Dr. Heya lin says, of the same speech, that though it was “ admitted, and perhaps recorded, it received no

other answer but neglect, if not scork withalt.”

Bishop Hall, however, (though by the way, he was not present when this event occurred, having

* See his Protestation, published after his return, and entitled Appello ad Cæsarem.

Hist. of Presbyter. Book 12. P. 400.

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »