Images de page
PDF
ePub

dividual ministers?” Dr. Bowden replies, “ I " think there can be no doubt of it.” A very strong argument, it must be acknowledged ! But unfortunately there is much doubt of it. Some of the most learned and able Episcopalians that ever lived, have not only doubted, but denied it. And Dr. Mason has lately shown, with a force of argument which, in my opinion, no impartial mind can resist, that the title of Angel in this portion of scripture, is a symbolical term, intended to express the ministry collectively of each of those churches; that both the phraseology and matter of the addresses made to the angels are, in several instances, such as could only be directed to collective bodies; and that to consider the title as designating an individual, is a construction attended not only with insuperable difficulty, but with manifest absurdity *

But, admitting that this term designates individual ministers, does it follow that they can be no other than diocesan bishops ? By no The angels of Ephesus, Smyrna, &c. might have been, as was observed in my former Letters, the Moderators of the Presbyteries of those cities respectively; or they might have been the Senior pas

means.

* See that gentleman's very luminous and able Review of the Episcopal Essays, in the Christian's Magazine. This work, which I consider as one of the ablest periodical publications that ever appeared, ought to be in the hands of every one who wishes to ain clear and sound views of “ Evangelical truth and order."

tors, to whom, on account of their standing and age, all communications intended for the churches in which they ministered, were, by common consent, directed. The Rector of Trinity Church, in the city of New York, has five congregations under his pastoral care, and is aided by the labours of several assistant clergymen; yet this rector is not, as such, a bishop; nor are his assistant clergymen inferior in order to him. The whole city of Edinburgh in Scotland, is one Parish, while there are near twenty churches, and more than twenty ministers, within and belonging to that parish; still all these ministers are ecclesiastically equal, excepting that there is a Moderator of the city Presbytery, who has certain powers vested in him, for convening the body, and preserving order during the sessions; and to whom, also, all letters are directed, and all communications made. And yet this is not considered as at all infringing the doctrine of Presbyterian parity.-In truth, neither the title of Angel, nor the addresses made to those on whom it was bestowed, nor any of the powers implied in these addresses, give the least countenance to the system of prelacy; and to suppose that they do, is as gross an instance of begging the whole question in dispute, as can well be produced.

Dr. Bowden appears, indeed, to be sensible, that the Scriptures, left to speak for themselves, by no means decide that the angels in question were prelates : he, therefore, has recourse to Irenæus, Clen:ens of Alexandria, Eusebius, Ambrose, &c. to help him out in his difficulty. They, it seems, assert that these angels were the bishops of the respective churches mentioned in connection with their names. But supposing these Fathers to be, in all respects, credible witnesses; and supposing, too, that their assertion is founded, not on conjecture, but authentic records ; it still remains to be ascertained in what sense they use the word bishop. What kind of bishops do they mean? Such bishops as the Presbyterian, and the great body of the Reformed Churches, allow to have existed in the days of the apostles, and still retain ? or such as our Episcopal brethren contend for? Dr. Bowden undertakes to assert that they were of the latter kind; but he says it without authority; for the Fathers whom he quotes as witnesses, do not say so. They might have been scriptural bishops, without, in the least degree, serving the Episcopal argument.

Dr. Bowden endeavours to press the learned Blondel into his service, by representing him as admitting that the angels of the Asiatic churches are addressed as “ having jurisdiction over both “ clergy and laity;" and thus by implication as acknowledging the existence of diocesan Episcopacy in the apostolic age. This is a mistake. Blondel says no such thing. After investigating this subject perhaps as profoundly as any man ever did, he tells us, that during the apostolic age, and for a consi. Jerable time after, Bishop and Presbyter were reciprocally one and the same; that these were com

Vithasmind.

bined into Classes or Presbyteries; that the eldest minister, pastor, or bishop belonging to the Presbytery, was, by virtue of his seniority, constantly the moderator ; that when he died, the next in age succeeded him, of course, and continued to hold the place during life.-" These senior pastors," says he, “had a certain singular and peerless

power, such a power as all moderators, after “ whatsoever manner constituted, ever had, and

ever will have, belonging to them. Neither was " the moderator of any of these sacred colleges, 166 " chief among his colleague Presbyters, as a “ Presbyter, or as one placed in higher order “ above all the other Presbyters; but as the eldest and first ordained pastor. Nor did the

rest as Presbyters, but as younger Presbyters, " and afterwards ordained, yield the moderator

ship to him. His office was to exhort the bro" therhood ; to war a good warfare ; lo commend " them to God by prayer; to gather the Presby.

tery ; to give them a good example; and to de" clare himself to be a diligent messenger of 6 God to mankind. And, therefore, as Christ “ does in his admonitions to the angels of the " Asiatic churches, both the good and the evil “ deeds of the churches might be imputed to " these moderators."-And again he says,

nus, as he was a bishop, had for his colleagues * Clement and Anacletus, who were shortly after " ordained bishops, with himself, in the same 56 church of Rome. But as he was the exarch

[ocr errors]

or moderator of the brethren, he neither had, “ nor could have any colleagues, (seeing the mo“ deratorship can only fall to one person at once) “ but only successors. There was a plurality of “ Bishops, Presbyters, or Governors, at the same “ time, and in the same church. All these Pas

tors or Bishops, on the very account of their “ Presbyterate, were endued with equal power and 66 honour.

The moderator was subject to the « Presbytery, and obeyed its commands with no « less submission than did the meanest of their “ number. He had the chief power in the col" lege of Presbyters, but had no power over the

college itself.” And, as if this learned man had been aware of every cavil that ignorance or sophistry could suggest, he expressly compares these ancient moderators, with the moderators of Presbyteries, in the reformed churches of Scotland and France, and assigns to the former no more power or pre-eminence than belongs to the latter. Blondelli Apolog. Præfat. pag. 6. 7. 18. 35. 38. I make no comment on Dr. Bowden's perversion of these plain declarations. If he fell into it ignorantly, he is to be excused; if wilfully, no reader will be at a loss for appropriate reflections.

Of the same character, and equally destitute of force, is all that Dr. Bowden has advanced to show that Timothy and Titus were prelates. After fill. ing about thirty pages with what he calls his proofs of this point, he will really be found, when closely

« PrécédentContinuer »