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in this country. It will save endless disputes about words, and much useless toil in endeavouring to give consistency and sense to the Fathers. This mode of reasoning, too, will soon decide the controversy. Long have we wished to see this matter brought to so obvious and so just an issue; and long have we expected that when this should be the case, the matter would be soon decided. Hereafter let it be held up as a great principle, from which, neither in spirit nor in form, we are ever to depart, that if the peculiar doctrines of Episcopacy are not found in the Scriptures, they are to be honestly abandoned, or held, as Cranmer held them, as matters of mere expediency. Let this truth go forth, never to be recalled; and let every man who attempts to defend the claims of bishops, appeal to the Bible alone. On this appeal, with confidence, we rest the issue of this case.
The great principle on which the argument in this tract is conducted, is indicated in its title; it is further stated at length in the tract itself. Thus, in the opening sentence, "The claim of Episcopacy to be of divine institution, and, therefore, obligatory on the church, rests fundamentally on the one question," Has it the authority of Scripture? If it has not, it is not necessarily binding." Again, on the same page, "No argument is worth taking into the account, that has not a palpable bearing on the clear and naked topic-the scriptural evidence of Episcopacy." Having stated this principle, the writer proceeds to remark, that "the argument is obstructed with many extraneous and irrelevant difficulties, which, instead of aiding the mind in reaching the truth on that great subject, tend only to divert it and occupy it with questions not affecting the main issue." The first object of the "essay" is then stated to be, "to point out some of these extraneous questions and difficulties, and expose either their fallacy or their irrelevancy." "The next object will be, to state the scriptural argument.'
In pursuing this plan, the writer introduces and discusses, as one of these extraneous difficulties, the objection that Episcopacy is inimical to a free government. He next notices, as "another of these extraneous considerations, the comparative standing in piety as evinced by the usual tokens of moral and spiritual character, of the members respectively of the Episcopal and non-Episcopal churches." A third "suggestion" noticed is, "that the external arrangements of religion are but of inferior importance, and that, therefore, all scruple concerning the subject before us may be dispensed with." p. 5. A fourth, "apparently formidable, yet extraneous difficulty, often raised, is, that Episcopal claims unchurch all non-Episcopal denominations." p. 6. This consequence, the author of the tract says is not by him allowed. "But granting it to the fullest extent," it is asked, "what bearing has it on the truth of the single proposition than Episcopacy is of divine ordinance ?" A fifth among these extraneous points, is, "the practice of adducing the authority of individuals, who, although eminent in learning and piety, seem at last to have contradicted themselves on their public standards on the subject of Episcopacy." p. 7. The last objection noticed, as not affecting the ultimate decision of the controversy, is, "that though the examples recorded in Scripture should be allowed to favour Episcopacy, still that regimen is not there explicitly commanded." p. 9.
To most of the observations under these several heads, we give our hearty assent. And it will be perceived, that the controversy is thus reduced to very narrow limits; and that, if these principles are correct, numberless tomes which have been written on both sides of the question are totally useless. We are glad that all this extraneous matter is struck off, and should rejoice if every consideration of this kind were hereafter to be laid out of view.
In discussing the second topic proposed, "the scriptural
evidence relating to this controversy," (p. 11,) the first object of Dr. Onderdonk is to state the precise point in debate. It is then observed, that "parity declares that there is but one order of men authorized to minister in sacred things, all of this order being of equal grade, and having inherently equal spiritual rights. Episcopacy declares that the Christian ministry was established in three orders, called ever since the apostolic age, bishops, presbyters or elders, and deacons; of which the highest only has a right to ordain and confirm, that of general supervision in a diocese, etc." p. 11. The main question is then stated, correctly, to be, that "concerning the superiority of bishops;" and the object of the essay is to prove that, according to the New Testament, such an order existed, and was clothed with such peculiar powers. p. 11. Let it not be forgotten that this is the main point in the case; and that if this is not made out, so as to be binding on the church everywhere, the claims of Episcopacy fall to the ground.
In endeavouring to establish this point, the author maintains, "that the apostles ordained," and denies that elders (presbyters) ever did. p. 14. In supporting this position, the plan of argument is to show, that "the apostles and elders had not equal power and rights. p. 14. An attempt is, therefore, made to prove that the difference between the two orders is, that the former had the power of ordination, the latter not. In pursuing the reasoning, (p. 16,) the writer endeavours to show, that "there is no scriptural evidence that mere elders (presbyters) ordained." Under this branch of the argument, he examines the texts which have usually been adduced in favour of Presbyterian ordination. Having shown, as he supposes, that these passages do not prove that they did thus ordain, Dr. Onderdonk next proceeds to the last branch of the subject, viz., that "this distinction between elders and a grade superior to them, in regard especially to the power of ordaining, was so persevered in, as to indicate that it was a
permanent arrangement, and not designed to be but temporary." p. 23.
This is the outline of the argument. It manifestly embraces the essential points of the case. And if these positions cannot be maintained, Episcopacy has no binding obligation on men, and such a claim should be at once abandoned. This argument we propose, with great respect, but with entire freedom, to examine. And we expect to show, that the point is not made out, that the New Testament has designated a superior rank of church officers, intrusted with the sole power of ordination, and general superintendence of the church.
In entering on this discussion, we shall first endeavour to ascertain the real point of the controversy, and to show that the Scripture authorities appealed to, do not establish the point maintained by Episcopalians. In pursuance of this, we remark, that the burden of proof lies wholly on the friends of Episcopacy. They set up a claim,-which they affirm to be binding on all the churches of every age. It is a claim which is specific, and which must be made out, or their whole pretensions fall. In what predicament it may leave other churches, is not the question. It would not prove Episcopacy to be of divine origin, could its friends show that Presbyterianism is unfounded in the Scriptures; or that Congregationalism has no claims to support; or that Independency is unauthorized; or even that lay-ordination is destitute of direct support. The question, after all, might be, whether it was the design of the apostles to establish any particular form of church government, any more than to establish a fixed mode of civil administration? This question we do not intend to examine now, neither do we design to express any opinion on it. We affirm only that it is a question on which much may be said, and which should not be considered as settled in this controversy. The specific point to be made out is, that there is scriptural authority for that which is claimed
for the bishops. And we may remark, further, that this is not a claim which can be defended by any doubtful passages of Scripture, or by any very circuitous mode of argumentation. As it is expected to affect the whole organization of the church; to constitute, in fact, the peculiarity of its organization; and to determine, to a great extent at least, the validity of all its ordinances, and its ministry; we have a right to demand that the proof should not be of a doubtful character, or of a nature which is not easily apprehended by the ordinary readers of the New Testament.
We repeat, now, as of essential importance in this controversy, that the burden of proof lies on the friends of Episcopacy. It is theirs to make out this specific claim. To decide whether they can do so, is the object of this inquiry.
The first question, then, is, What is the claim; or, what is the essential point which is to be made out in the defence of Episcopacy? This claim is stated in the following words: (p. 11:) "Episcopacy declares, that the Christian ministry was established in three orders, called, ever since the apostolic age, bishops, presbyters or elders, [if so, why do they now call the second order priests?] and deacons; of which the highest only has the right to ordain and confirm, that of the chief administration in a diocese, and that of the chief administration of spiritual discipline, besides enjoying all the powers of the other grades." The main question, as thus stated, relates to the authority of bishops; and the writer adds, "If we cannot authenticate the claims of the Episcopal office, (the office of bishops,) we will surrender those of our deacons, and let all power be confined to the one office of presbyters." The same view of the main point of the controversy is given by Hooker, in his Ecclesiastical Polity.". b. vii. § 2.
It will be seen that several claims are here set up in behalf of bishops. One is, the right of ordination; a second, that