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An Essay on the invalidity of Preslyterian Ordination ; by John Estis

COOKE, M. D. In examining the bistory of the church in past ages, we find but two grand divisions, in respect to the momentous subject of man's salvation. Before the reformation, these divisions consisted of those who held to justification through the merits of Christ alone, and those who mingled with the doctrines of grace, what they denominated the freedom of the will," ecclesiastical observances, and personal exertions, as sharing in the work of securing our acceptance with God.

The Waldenses and the Lollards once composed the former, and the countless hosts of Papacy, the latter Since the reformation, when protestantism arose to the partial estinction of the papal order, this same distinction has appeared, more generally, under the denomination of Calvinists and Arminians. Not that all who belong to the former class subscribe to every sentiment of Calvin, or that the great body of the latter class, have confined themselves within the limits prescribed by the cautious policy of Arminius. The fundamental principles of a system are one thing, the mode of defending them is quite another.

With the progress of biblical criticism and mental philosophy, the controversy has repeatedly changed its aspect on minor points. Proof passages have been abandoned on both sides, which were once contended for, as “ articuli stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ.” Numerous philosophical explanations of the two opposing systems, which in the eagerness of debate had been considered as of equal importance with the systems themselves, have gradually sunk into oblivion before the progress of mental and inoral science. Since the days of Edwards, particularly, those in this country who maintain the doctrines of grace, have given increased precision and clearness to their statement of these doctrines. Technical terms have been employed with greater accuracy ; sweeping declarations of a general nature have been more carefully guarded by the proper qualifications; and some doctrinal positions which were once thought indispensable to the support of the whole system, have been found of no advautage-mere buttresses erected by the hands of inen, to sustain the rock of ages. Thus, for example, the doctrine of limited atonement; of our participation in the act or criminality of Adam's sin; of special grace as in any other sense irresistable, than that it is not actually resisted; or of any want of freedom or ability in man, except such as consists in his intense aversion to holiness, although designed by their inventors to support the doctrines of grace,-have, to a great extent, been rejected

by Calvinists in later times. But the great and fundamental difference between the friends and the enemies of the doctrines of grace, remains unchanged. The former believe in the utter alienation of the human heart from God, and its entire destitution of holiness, in a state of nature; the latter reject this doctrine with indignation, and maintain that a portion of divine influence is imparted to each individual of our race to restore his “ lapsed powers," which principle of grace, as they term it, will under the cultivation of human etort

, ripen into the maturity of holiness, and secure eternal life. The former consider God's choice of men to eternal life, as a choice to make certain individuals holy or believers, and thus to prepare them for heaven; the latter contend that this choice or determination results solely from God's foreseeing that these individuals will be holy or believers, and that his gracious purposes are dependent on this contingency. The former hold, that spiritual regeneration is the result of a special operation of the Holy Spirit; the latter ascribe this change to the ordinary influence of that divine agent, enjoyed in equal degrees by all, and made effectual, whenever it becomes so, by the choice of the individual to yield to that influence—thus securing the favorite point, that it is the mạn himself, and not God, “who maketh us to differ.” The former maintain the unchanging love of God to those whom he has brought to repentance: that carrying them forward in the progress of his merciful moral cultivation here, he will present them in full and final justification at the last day; the latter believe in successive fluctuations, from a state of holiness and acceptance, to a state of sin and condemnation. We will only add, that the former consider man as a complete moral agent in himself, aside from all divine influence; as capable, in every respect, of performing his whole duty; and deterred from doing it by no other cause than his intense aversion to holiness. They of course maintain, that those individuals whom God does not choose to cternal lise, or renew by his special grace, have no ground of complaint, since they are under no necessity of continuing in sin, or falling short of salvation, but might all in the exercise of their own capacities as moral agents, return to their allegiance and receive the mercy offered equally to all. The charges of fatalism, of making God a hard master, etc. which are so often urged against those who maintain the doctrines of grace, are therefore without foundation, and derive all their plausibility from the grossest misrepresentation.*

In no part of christendom has the contest between the friends and enemies of the doctrines of grace, been maintained with more spirit and determination, than in the church of England. But from

See this subjoct discussed in our last No. Roview of methodist doctrines. VOL. II.


the time of Charles II. to the latter part of the last century, the doctrines of Arminius were generally prevalent in that communion, owing to the low state of public morals, the deadening influence of a religious establishment, and the natural tendencies of the human heart. Connected with these doctrines in the English church, we usually find what are, denominated high CHURCA PRINCIPLES. By these is meant, the assertion of some peculiar and mysterious efficacy in the ordinances performed by an episcopal priesthood. In the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, for example, the communicant is brought near to his Savior in a manner, which no ardor of love or aspirations of faith, could in themselves secure. The infant presented at the baptismal font is instantly “born again in this regenerating ordinance,” is “translated from a state of condemnation to a state of grace,” and “obtains a title to the influences of the Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness of sins.** According to these principles, too, where there is no prelatical bishop, there is nothing which can be acknowledged as a church of Christ, and no covenant or promise known to exist, of eternal life. The simple want of subjection to a prelatical priesthood, turns men over to the uncovenanted mercies of the heathen, with the accumulated guilt of rejecting the means which God has himself appointed for their salvation. The followers of the late Dr. Hobart unite with that gentleman in declaring, that “none can possess authority to administer the sacraments, but those who have received a commission from the bishops of the (Episcopal) Church”—that " great is the guilt, and imminent the danger of those, who negligently or wilfully continue in a state of separation from the authorized ministrations of the church, and participate of ordinances administered by an irregular and invalid authority; wilfully rending the peace and unity of the church, by separating from the administration of its authorized priesthood ; obstinately contemning the means which God has prescribed for their salvation. They are guilty of rebellion against the Almighty Lawgiver and Judge: they expose themselves to the awful displeasure of that Almighty Jehovah, who will not suffer his institutions to be contemned, or his authority violated, with impunity.”+ Some high churchmen there are indeed, who do not

Grant, the high church historian, states the doctrine thus. “This opinjon supposes a charm, a secret virtue, by which, to state an extreme case, a vicious minister of the church of England can confer something necessary to salvalion, as a sacrament is, while the same office performed by a pious sectary, who has in his heart devoted himself to God, is an absolute nullity.” Yet, strange as it may seem, after stating the case thus strongly in the form of an objection, he declares that the fact is so. “ Truth is sacred and immutable, and must be received, whatever inconveniences attend its reception.” Grant's Eng. lish Church. Vol. II. p. 7–8.

+ Companion for the Altar, edition of 1814, pp. 198—200, 203_204. Since this article was written, we have looked into the last edition of this work, and

go the full length of these statements. They do not positively unchurch all other denominations, they only do it negatively. They will not admit any church but their own to exist: they see no reason whatever to believe it: they “are yet to learn,” in the words of bishop Ravenscroft, " where a promise to fallen man is to be found, that is not limited on the previous condition, that he be a member of the visible (Episcopal) Church on earth.” Now this negative exclusion—this refusal to acknowledge any other communion as a church of Christ-though not so presumptuous or offensive as the positive declarations of bolder men, amounts to precisely the same thing in all its practical results. He who sees no authority for the rites of other denominations, must act as if there were none; and in a matter which he deems of so much importance, must use all his endeavors to make others act so likewise. Indeed, with the final and perfect revelation of God's will in our hands, to say we see no authority for any church ordinances but our own, we are yet to learn where any promise is made except to those of our communion-what is it but to say in more modest terms, “we do believe there is none ?" To make any nice distinctions between un-belief and dis-belief, in such a case, does seem to us extremely idle. It is a subject on which the scriptures are very far from being silent, on which all antiquity, if we may credit high churchmen, has spoken in the most decisive manner; and if with all these means of knowledge we are yet to learn where any covenant or promise for fallen man can be found, except within the boundaries of a single church, it is vain to hope that a coming eternity will disclose any thing but unmingled wrath, for those who, under all this light, have rejected the most sacred institutions of their Maker. Here, in a condition worse, we apprehend, than that of the heathen, the high churchman leaves thousands of protestant churches, which have been walking in faith and love from the time of the reformation to the present hour; while the church of Rome, that mother of abominations, is freely recognized as a part of Christ's mystical body, a pillar in the temple of the living God.*

find that some of these expressions have been altered in a manner to strike the mind less offensively, but no one, we suppose, will contend that Dr. Hobart ever changed his sentiments on this subject. We have liere the plain exposition of his views as always maintained by him, and as now maintained by his followers; and we are therefore fully auihorized to appeal to the statements quoted above. If there were reason to believe that in softening or generalizing the expressions, Dr. Hobart meant to give up any part of the ground taken, tho caso would be different. But this we presume, no one will say.

*“I do believe the church of Rome,” says archbishop Laud, “ to be a true church. Were she not a truo church, it were hard with the church of England, since from her the English bishops derive their apostolic succession." ** It is obvious from our acknowledging as valid the orders of its (the Roman Catho. lic church,) apostate clergy, that we have a still stronger affinity towards that

And so great is the importance attached to these sentiments, that candidates for holy orders as well in this country as in England, have actually been held back from ordination, for venturing to espress the contrary opinion.

Far be it from us to intimate, however, that such are universally the sentiments of Episcopalians. The church of England, our readers are aware, has witnessed a gradual revival of religion, within the last thirty years. Among the most active promoters of this "revival, were the two Milners, Dr. Scott, Mr. Wilberforce, Mrs. H. Moore, Mr. Gisborne, Mr. Leigh Richmond, and the great body of writers, who were associated in support of the Christian Observer. To these persons, under God, the English church is indebted for nearly all the spiritual religion, which now exists within her ample boundaries; and for the share she has taken in those noble efforts of christian benevolence, the abolition of the slave trade, the establishment of bible, missionary, and tract societies, which are the glory of the present age. Actuated by such a spirit, it was impossible for them to lay any stress on outward rites and ordinances, as constituting an important part in a title to eternal life. They were, indeed, strongly attached, to their own modes of worship; many of them believed the Episcopal form of government to have prevailed in the primitive churches; and all were naturally desirous, that spiritual religion should be revived, not by the progress of dissent, but by restoring a decayed establishment to its earlier and better principles. With these views, while they labored to promote the cause of evangelical religion in their own church, they extended the hand of christian fellowship and affection to the pious of every communion. Mr. Gisborne for example, totally disclaims the jure divino principle; affirming that the apostles “left no command which rendered episcopacy universally indispensable in future ages." In like manner, the Christian Observer, (speaking undoubtedly for those of its own sentiments,) says, “ Episcopalians found not the merits of their cause on any express injunction or delineation of church government in the scriptures, for there is none." vol. iï.

Many there are in this country of the same principles, and with such we have no contention. It is nat

page 155.*

church, than to other bodies of professing christians, who hold a doctrine near. ly as pure as our own; thus making the form rather than the faith, the constituent and vital principle of a church,” Such is admitted by Grant to be the high church sentiment. Vol. II. p. 7.

* One of the principal conductors of the Christian Observer remarked, not many years since, to one of the conductors of this work, “ I have not for ten years seen the man who was so utterly foolish, as to claim any exclusive divine right for our ordination or ordinances, or who hesitated to acknowledge other communions as churches of Christ.” The remark only shows perhaps how little tho evangelical of that church, mingle with their opponents in their own church.

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