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hands of a priest, deacon, or layman, or by any number of either, would be devoid of every degree of validity and efficacy, in conferring spiritual office and power.” It is this lofty claim, which declares the most religious part of the country to be almost without a ministry, that makes the matter of the controversy. We, on our parts, make no objection to a clergy. man that he has been ordained by a bishop, and wears a surplice; nor would we complain much, though he should kneel at the communion, and make the sigu of the cross in baptism. But according to this writer, one to whom the instructions and ordinances of religion are dispensed by a minister, who has attained and discharges his office after a different man. ner, would as well, or better, not receive them at all. It is this arrogant pretension to a superior and exclu. sive official right that we repel, and not the claim of churchmen to possess a regularly constituted ministry. We are content that their candidates for the sacred office should be ordained by one minister, though we would rather it should be by three or four. We ask but for a similar concession.
In this sermon of Dr. Wyatt, he is seen in so amiable a light, that we sympathize with him for having published it. It will do probably no good to his cause, and certainly none to his reputation. pears in it (and except from this discourse we have no means of judging) to be a mild and conscientious man; and were it not, that we think it ought to be more considered than it is, that none but the well educated should undertake to guide the public mind on such subjects, we would not say, that we do not recollect to have seen a composition in such bad English, by an author who could affix to his name the insignia of a second degree in the arts. A sermon preached, deserves all indulgence. A controversial sermon printed, claims none.
The work of Mr. Sparks is the best which has appeared in this country, since the time of Chauncy, on
the episcopal controversy. He had the advantage over Dr. Miller in not writing in Presbyterian fetters, and in possessing a learning, possibly not so various, (for be is a much younger man.) but far better digested, more systematic, and accurate. The cause of letters owes much to this gentleman, and if it had not surrendered bim to higher claims, would yet hope much
In his removal, the University resigned a member on whose reputation and services it set a high value, and it was felt like the loss of a distinguished freeman to the literary republic of the east. Under his direction, the North American Review made great progress towards that reputation, which has enabled it at last, in conjunction with other publications to the same end,) to lower the tone of our trans-atlantic traducers, and to give itself no mean proof of the intellectual advances which it vindicates. From this flattering path to a wide reputation, and from the pursuit of favourite studies, he hesitated not to withdraw himself to the service of religion, and went with, to say the least, no elating prospects, to preach in a new field, the doctrines of uncorrupt Christianity. It is not therefore for the cause alone,-a little of personal feeling may excuseably have place,--that we are grateful for the issue of his exertions. Such has been their success, and the power and progress of just religious views, that in little more than a year since his ordination, the society is relieved from heavy pecuniary embarrassments; the odium which existed against it, has sensibly subsided; and it is now as respectable in point of numbers, as it is memotable for the stand it took in support of Christian liberty and truth. Unless we grossly miscalculate the impression which this work will produce, we shall think the exertions made to collect and establish that society, well requited by its having given rise to such a publication.
In his first letter, on the ministry of the Episcopal church, Mr. Sparks controverts the assumption, that “the Episcopal is the only true church; that its minis
try originated with the apostles, and has descended down to the present time through an unbroken and divinely protected succession; and, that ordinations, performed by any other persons than bishops, are devoid of every degree of validity and efficacy in conferring spiritual office and power.” He appeals, in the first place, to the scripture evidence, and concludes his examination with the following statement.
First, our Saviour left no instructions in regard to the nature or form of the ministry; he never spoke of three orders, or any number of orders; he gave no directions about the ceremony of ordination, nor did he assign the duty of performing it to any particular class of men. Secondly, the apostles said nothing of any number of orders in the ministry, nor have they left any rules or instructions on the subject of ordination. Thirdly, the first church at Jerusalem was governed by the apostles, elders, and brethren in concert. The apostles assumed no authority_above the elders, nor the elders above the people. Fourthly, it is no where said in the whole New Testament, that the duty of conferring ordination was confined to any particular order of the ministry; but on the contrary, several examples are on record, which go to prove, that this ceremony was performed by any officer or officers of regular standing in the church. Fifthly, Timothy and Titus are never called bishops. Timothy is expressly called an erangelist; and the duties of Titus were such, as are usually assigned to an evangelist. Sixthly, the persons who were appointed by the apostles to assist in providing for the poor, and whom you call the “seven deacons, are never designated by this name in the scriptures. Their office was wholly of a temporal nature, and therefore could make no part of the ministry. Seventhly, the word deacon seems to bave been applied at first as a general term, for a servant in the cause of the gospel, a minister, or teacher; and if it was afterwards appropriated to any particular office, no mention is made in the writings of the
apostles respecting the nature or design of such an of. fice. No instance is recorded, in which deacons, as officers of an exclusive character, are said to have taken a part in the government or concerns of any church. Lastly, the same reasons, by which you establish three orders in the ministry, would prove the existence of at least six or seven, as apostles, bishops, prophets, evangelists, elders, teachers, deacons." pp. 24-26.
One would think this were enough for a Protestant. But Mr. Sparks is too fair a disputant, and moreover defends too impregnable ground, not to be willing to allow every advantage to his adversary. He accordingly fefers to Episcopal “fondness for the ancient fathers," so far as to go into an examination of their testimony, of which he gives the following summary.
“I have thus gone through with a patient examination of the evidence, on which the episcopal church advances its singular pretensions to a divine origin and succession. In the scriptures I have found nothing, either in the commands of our Saviour, or of the apostles, which can justify any class of men in assuming to themselves the claim of being the only true Church.
"A similar result has followed from the testimony of the Fathers, and the history of the English reformation. First, it can be indisputably proved from the Fathers, that the churches in the primitive ages were not uniformly governed by three orders of minis. try; but frequently by two, and sometimes by one. Secondly, bishops were parochial clergymen, in many places at least, and nothing more. Thirdly, ordinations were performed by presbyters, especially in the case of Irenæus, and for a long time in the church at Alexandria. Fourthly, no particular account can be given of the origin of the church of Rome, or of its first seven bishops. Fifthly, the power of the English clergy is confessedly derived from the king, and
not from any church. Sixthly, the informality of ordination in the English church was such, in the
opinion of the Catholics, who are supposed to constitute the true church, as to destroy all power, that might be transmitted by the episcopal succession. Seventhly, English bishops were at an early period consecrated by presbyters, and at a nuch later period, ordination by presbyters was considered valid. Finally, the consecration of archbishop Parker, who was the beginning of the succession since his time both to English and American bishops, was declared, and is still considered by the Catholics, invalid, aud was at best of a very suspicious and doubtful character." 46.
We see not, how the arguments in this letter can fail to appear to any impartial person, decisive of the question. For our own parts, until some important error in them is pointed out,-which we apprebend cannot be,—we shall be quite content to have our ordination as regular as that of Barnabas and Paul, who were ordained by “certain prophets and teachers at Antioch.*
It seems to us, that there are not many things in church history which less admit of dispute, than the rise and establishment of episcopacy. T'he New Testament gives no hint of such a division of orders in the priesthood, that every person who assumes it must enter it either in a superior or subordinate capacity, nor does there any where appear to have been any other distinction
among the early preachers of the faith, ex
* We suggest to Mr. Sparks an argument, on which, in another edition, it might be well to enlarge. The authority to which the English church pretends, it claims to have received from the Romish. Now the power which makes, can unmake, and unless we mistake, the whole English hierarchy is yearly declared by the pope excommunicate. At any rate the consecration of archbishop Parker, to whom the English line is traced, was formally declared to be irregular and invalid. The arguments, therefore by which the English clergy seek to prove that authority in the Romish church to which they refer their own, these self-same arguments, if they have any weight, prove the English clergy to be no priests, disowned as they are by the very power by which they claim to have been created.