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with which we shall now compare Episcopal and Congregational church government.
Let us take, for example, the Protestant Episcopal Church of Pennsylvania. It is ONE Church, whose members convene for public worship in several Christian synagogues, or churches. It has one chief Elder, the Rev. Wm. White, D. D., who has, by the choice of the whole Church, undertaken the pastoral office over the whole. He is the Teaching as well as Ruling Elder, the Pastor, the chief Bishop, and the Angel of this one church. All those assistant overseers, teachers, and rulers in the Church, who are styled Presbyters or Priests, and Deacons, are really Elders of this one church, having been ordained by the chief Elder of this church, as Titus ordained elders in every city of Crete; or else by a Presbytery, consisting of Dr. White and those presbyters who presented the candidates, publicly declared that they had examined them, and united with him in the laying on of hands in ordination. Hence, the ordination of a Protestant Episcopal Bishop by the concurrence of three Bishops; and of a Priest, or Presbyter, or Deacon, by one Bishop with the concurrence of at least one Presbyter, who commonly imposes hands with his chief Elder, is strictly, and scripturally, a presbyterian ordination. Bishop White now is, and on his death, or resignation, any one of his fellow Elders may be, if elected, the minister of the church, without any additional ordination.
The great error of the Episcopal form of government we think is this, that the chief Elder does not, by a single ordination of a man, clothe him with authority to perform the whole work of an Elder, whenever and where. ever the providence of God may call him, either to rule, preach, ordain, or dispense the sacraments. This should be done when a man is first ordained, and improperly called a Deacon. This same man needs no second ordi. nation, when he is called in providence to be a teaching Presbyter in a particular section of the church, and no third imposition of hands when he is elected to the office of chief Ruler in the whole Christian Synagogue.
When an Elder or Presbyter is chosen to exercise the chief pastoral office over a church, he may with propriety Vol. I.
be installed, but re-ordained he should not be; for if he has been properly ordained, he has already authority to perform all the duties of the chief Bishop, or Minister.
The Presbyterians often commit an error equally great, in ordaining a person to the office of a Ruling Elder, and then subsequently ordaining him again, to clothe him with ministerial power.
The Bishop of the Episcopal church has just the same power in the whole of his diocese, that a Presbyterian Bishop has in his, which ordinarily consists of only one congregation, but sometimes of two or three.
How large a Alock may be, over which an Elder may have the chief episcopacy, the Bible has not informed us. That it ought not to be so large that he cannot act as the overseer of it, is a dictate of common sense; but he may have the oversight of many particular congregations, so far as to teach and rule them by the assistance of his copresbyters.
The Episcopal church resembles a large collegiate presbyterian church of many congregations, that have all chosen one man for their Pastor, and several assistant Elders, to labour under his direction. Certainly, then, the difference between us is not so great, that our form of government and ordination should exclude us from the Lord's table in an Episcopal church; and as for ourselves we are ready to receive any sound Episcopal Christian.
True, our dioceses are ordinarily smaller than those of our brother Bishops of the Episcopal connexion; but they will not pretend that a diocese must contain any definite number of square miles. It may contain five, or five hundred; or a greater or less number than either. As for the line by which our ordination has descended, it is quite as honourable as theirs. Both of us have derived it from the apostles, through the same Roman Bishops and Popes. If the dignitaries of Great Britain who ordained our American Episcopal Bishops, were themselves ordained by other Bishops, so that their origin could be traced to the primitive bishops; we have the same to offer in favour of Luther, Calvin and others, through whom our official immunities have been transmitted to us.
Many of the Congregational churches in New England
approximate very near to Presbyterianism, for they are consociated so far as to have a sort of standing presbytery, consisting of all the Pastors and one unordained delegate from each church, within certain limits, which is called a Consociation. Many of the churches in Connecticut are thus consociated. Were the delegates from the churches, ordained Elders, instead of laymen, their consociations would be larger presbyteries.
Of the Congregationalists in England and America generally, we may remark, that they have but one Elder to each particular congregation, who both feeds and rules the flock. He may ordain another elder, if he deems it expedient, without any assistance from another; but it is customary in England for two or three, or more of these Elders, voluntarily, or by request, to assemble, examine a candidate, ordain him, and give him a certificate of the fact. These Elders convened for this purpose, are such a Presbytery as was constituted by Paul and Barnabas, in different places, when they thought it their duty to set apart men to the Eldership. Acts xiv. 23.
It is customary in New-England for two or more of these Elders, with unordained Delegates sent from the particular congregations, to which they belong, to convene by request, constitute what they call a Council, and ordain a pastor elect. The laymen in the council vote upon the subject, but never lay on hands, in ordination. These lay men should be ordained Elders, and then they might with propriety belong to such an ordaining council. When a minister without a particular charge is to be ordained, in New England, he is commonly ordained by a voluntary collection of Pastors, called an Association, which is really a larger presbytery; but which the congregational churches have not consented to receive in the plenitude of presbyterial powers. They will admit, however, that they may ordain Elders, and exercise advisory appellate jurisdiction.
The want of a plurality of Elders is often felt in these churches, and hence they sometimes appoint a Messen. ger, and in other instances a sort of Committee of discipline, to aid the pastor; or else the Deacons officiate as Ruling Elders.
The Deacons of the Protestant Episcopal and Lutheran Churches should be ordained, and styled Elders. A scriptural deacon is a person who has charge of the poor, and of the pecuniary concerns of a congregation. The Congregationalists, and some of the Presbyterians, bave real Deacons; and all churches ought to have them, in place of those civil officers, which are denominated Trustees.
The Baptists are generally Congregationalists, so that we need offer no remarks distinctly respecting them. Indeed, all the protestant churches have adopted either the Episcopal, or the Presbyterian, or the Congregational form of government; and if we mistake not, we have, shown in the preceding pages, that with a few concessions, emendations, and improvements in all of them, they may be reduced to one harmonious, scriptural scheme of Presbyterianism. At any rate, we hope some Presbyterians and Episcopalians will see, that they are not so much divided as they have been in the habit of thinking themselves; and so will be ready to receive each other as brethren in the Lord, at his table.
We shall be told, that we are not Presbyterians, because our system, in some points, goes beyond the forms recorded in the Presbyterian Confession of Faith. We think the Presbyterian mode of government, as at present subsisting in the United States, comes the nearest to the divinely authorized model, of any in actual operation; but the Bible is our Law.book; and if the Presby. terianism delineated in this article is scriptural,—the Presbyterians may improve their Directory and Book of Discipline.
A more formidable objection is presented in a letter, dated July 31, 1818, which appears to have been written by some trembling old man; but whether he is a Hopkinsian or a Covenanter, we are unable to determine. We give it as we received it.
“To the Rev. E. S. Ely, D. D. REV. SIR, I cannot write, but must in friendship tell you, your communion plan, if it should take place, will make a complete atone
ment for the mischief done by your Contrast.-Admit Hopkinsians to communion, they will carry the day.-Admission to communion, according to the very general opinion, is much the same as approbating the doctrines and practice of those who are admitted. I heard an Hopkinsian say, that if Mr. Ely lived to much purpose, he would call in his Contrast; and now it is thought you are indirectly doing it, by your plan of communion.
Dear Sir, think; though your principle of communion be right, there are many things according to the word of God to be considered in the true application of it, as matters stand in the world. All things lawful are not expedient. The cry is,Ely himself has in fact turned against the bigoted admirers of the Contrast.-A word to the wise is said to be sufficient. I have hinted in a scrawling way at what merits your attention,and though my name is not worth being known, yet I am your 'real friend, and wish you may find mercy of the Lord to be guided into all truth, and to support all truth. Farewell.”
To this friend, and many others, who will adopt his objections, we reply, that The Contrast could not be “called in,” unless we could say to the United States, to England, and to India, “give up the copies you pos. sess:"—that we have never heard of any mischief done by it, unless it be this, that many have made it the occasion of slandering and insulting its author:--that we should be glad to destroy the bigotry of friends and foes:—that communion with a professor no more approbates his doctrines and practice, in ordinary circumstances, than preaching to him, or praying with him does:--that many very general opinions are erroneous:—and that the best, and only effectual way, of preventing the propagation of Hopkinsianism in the Presbyterian churches, is to exhi. bit the errors of that system with clearness, candour and spirit, and to keep our pulpits and judicatorics free from Hopkinsian Teachers and Rulers. If we can prevent the introduction of Ministers and Elders among us, who hold an erroneous scheme of doctrine, we need not fear that the new theology will overwhelm our churches.
Besides, it should be remembered, that we have hitherto contended for nothing more than the occasional communion of Calvinists and Hopkinsians, who like the Episcopalians and Baptists, may retain their distinct ecclesiastical denominations, until the day of Millennial