Imágenes de páginas

Luke xix. 6., the other said, 'Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof,' Matt. viii. 8. Both honoured the Lord, though in diverse, and I may say, opposite ways; both felt themselves miserable in their sins, and both obtained mercy.” Chrysostom inclined to the opinion, that as the celebration of the communion of believers with the Lord, and with one another, in the Eucharist, belonged to the essence of every ecclesiastical assembly, so all should partake of the communion, when celebrated in the Church; always, however, with the understanding, that it be done with right feelings, otherwise it becomes a matter of condemnation to him who unworthily partakes of holy things. “Many,” says he, in a sermon preached at Antioch, “partake of the Lord's Supper once a year; others twice; the hermits in the desert can often partake only once in two years. We should praise none of these in and for itself, but should decidedly concur with those only, who come to the communion with pure hearts and consciences and unblemished lives. Such persons may at all times come to the Lord's table; those, however, who are not thus minded, eat it to their condemnation, even if they partake but once." He laments that many who felt themselves unworthy to partake of the Communion on the stated days, nevertheless had no scruple in communicating once a year, after the fast, at Easter, or Epiphany; just as if they were not as guilty at one time as at another, by taking the Lord's Supper unworthily. He laments, likewise, that amongst those who, on the other days of Church assembly, remained during the whole Missa fidelium, very few partook of the Communion, to which the whole service had reference; so that here all was mere formality. “Either they belong to the unworthy, who are required to depart from the assembly, or if they remain, as belonging to those who are worthy, they must also participate in the Lord's Supper. How great a contradiction, that those who join in all the confessions and hymns, still partake not of the Lord's body!”

Where the custom of daily communion was still prevalent, but where divine service was held, and the Eucharist consecrated only once or twice a week, on Sunday and Friday, or four times, on Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, there was no way left for those who wished to have the Lord's body for their daily nourishment, but that they should take home with them a portion of the consecrated bread, (there was a superstitious dread of taking the wine, which might so easily be spilled), so that every day, before they proceeded to worldly employments, they might communicate, and purify, and strengthen themselves by communion with the Lord. Even on sea voyages, they took some of the consecrated bread, in order to communicate on the way. *



The radical principle of Presbyterian Church government, is, that all the ministers of the Church of Christ have received the same office; and however they may be distinguished by gifts, or other circumstances, are all upon an equality, as it relates to ecclesiastical power and privileges; that is, the ministerial acts which one is authorized to perform, all may perform; and in ecclesiastical meetings, whether for counsel or judicial decision, the voice of one is equal to that of any other. This is commonly called PARITY, among the presbyters to whom the government of the Church is committed. In regard to ruling elders, there is not a unanimity among Presbyterians, whether they are of divine appointment, or whether they are merely the representatives of the Church, who are delegated by the body to act in their place, just as our legislators, in the State, are the representatives of the people. The former is, no doubt, the opinion of much the larger number of Presbyterians, of different denominations; but many learned and eminent men have maintained the latter opinion. At present, we have no occasion to discuss this question; we are only concerned to ascertain, what are the essential principles of Presbyterianism? And, therefore, passing by all minor points, we assume it as a clear and radical principle, that according to this theory of ecclesiastical polity, a presbytery is essential to the complete organization and successive continuance of the Church; but no synod, or other ecclesiastical body, however it may be useful and convenient, is absolutely essential. A single congregation of believers, with their proper officers and pastor, is complete for certain purposes; for the administration of the word and sacraments, for example, and

Hieron. Ep. 48 ad Pammach, $ 16. Basil. Cæs. Ep. 93.

for the admission and exclusion of members, from the body: but a single Church, however numerous and well organized, agreeably to the congregational plan, has no power to perpetuate itself by supplying the vacancies which may occur in the pastoral office.

Such a Church does not pretend to possess the power of ordination, which is essential to the perpetual continuance of the presbyterial office. This defect has been sorely felt by the advocates of INDEPENDENCY ; and they have, in theory, proposed to remedy it in two ways; neither of which have been reduced, commonly, to practice. The first is, to constitute a presbytery within each congregation; that is, to have presbyters enough, in every Church, to form a complete presbytery, which should possess the full power of conferring the pastoral office, and excluding from it. Now, in theory, this does very well; we have no objections to a whole presbytery, within a single Church, if it is rich enough to support such a body. But whenever this is the case, the Church must be so numerous, and the members so scattered, that it will soon be found convenient, and even necessary, to meet in separate assemblies, on most occasions; and whenever this becomes expedient, it will of course be requisite, that the presbyters or pastors be distributed among the several assemblies, which compose the Church; and thus, we have the true origin of presbyteries, as they now exist. And thus it would ever be, in a rapidly progressive state of the Church.

Suppose half a dozen missionaries to gather a flourishing Church in a foreign land. At first they would all stand in the same relation to it, and would be a presbytery within a single society; but if this Church increased exceedingly, by the accession of new members, it would become inconvenient for all to convene in one place; and yet, there would be a repugnance in those united in bonds so sacred and tender, to separate entirely from each other's society:-and there would be no necessity for it. Let the missionaries distribute themselves among the several assemblies, into which the Church is divided; and let the usual routine of worship and instruction be conducted by them, respectively, in separate places: but when any business occurred, requiring the common counsel or consent of the whole body, let them come together into one place, as did the thousands of Jewish converts at Jerusalem, when they understood that Paul had returned from his successful mission among the Gentiles. Or, if the number should be too great for the commodious transaction of business in one body, let them delegate a certain number of the wisest and most experienced of the members, to be their representatives; or, if they have other officers, besides pastors, let these convene with the preaching presbyters; and whatever might be the state of things in the beginning of the planting of Churches, very soon this plan of delegating the business to representatives would be adopted, almost as a matter of course.

To illustrate our meaning more fully, we shall suppose, that at first, the converts to Christianity, in the mother Church at Jerusalem, formed one assembly, and met in one place; say, in some large room about the temple. Three thousand were added on the day of Pentecost, and soon afterwards, five thousand more; or, as the words are ambiguous, let us grant that the whole number was now five thousand; yet as the work was rapidly going on, in a short time, we may conclude, there could not be fewer than ten thousand members in the Church at Jerusalem. Now most of these would need much particular instruction, and the teachers were numerous; for all who received special Pentecostal gifts would be qualified to edify the body, in one way or another. Can it be supposed then, that all these would, or could be instructed by the voice of one man? or, that all the other teachers would remain idle, while some one with stentorian voice attempted to make himself heard by such a multitude? We have never known a man that could so speak, as to be heard distinctly, through a whole discourse, by ten thousand persons. It is said, that such was the clearness, and distinctness of Mr. Whitefield's voice, that he could be heard by a greater number, when circumstances were favourable to the easy transmission of sound. But if ten thousand disciples, or even half that number, must so hear as to understand, and be instructed, common sense would dictate to any people, that the best way would be to separate them into a number of assemblies, and appoint one or more teachers, to take charge of each. And as the Jews who constituted the first Christian Church, had been accustomed to worship and receive instruction in many synagogues, in Jerusalem, as we learn from the New Testament itself, nothing can be more probable, than that they would agree to meet for worship and instruction in different places; and that the whole body would come together, only when some matter of general concern was to be heard or proposed, and soon even affairs, which concerned the whole society, would be committed to the male members, and after a while to the seniors, or wise and experienced brethren.

Here then, from the first Church, a presbytery, with its several congregations is seen naturally to spring up. For unless these affectionate Christians had received an express command to separate entirely from the mother Church, from what we know of human nature, we may be sure, that they would not have thought of a wider dissociation, than local circumstances made necessary; and that they would still, though worshipping in different places, consider themselves as members of the original Church. And thus we have one Church, consisting of many branches, each of which is furnished with one or more teachers, and other necessary officers, and, on certain occasions, all meeting together by a grand convocation of the individuals composing the body, or by their representatives, and respective presbyters. Is not this idea of the primitive Church much more probable, than that they would, in the same city, proceed to institute different independent societies? And even when another church was formed, in Samaria, another at Joppa, a fourth at Damascus, and a fifth at Antioch; all these would possess the feeling of affiliation, and would cling to the mother Church, as children to their parents. And, whenever any difficulty occurred, they would naturally be disposed to refer for counsel to the original 90ciety, at Jerusalem. Thus we find it was, in fact; for here the most of the Apostles remained for a long time; and those who travelled abroad, often returned to this sacred spot, and reported the things which were done by them, and the success which attended their labours. Thus, when Peter went into the house of Cornelius, and preached the Gospel and administered baptism first to the Gentiles, when he came up to Jerusalem, the propriety of his conduct was then questioned and discussed. And when Paul returned from a long tour of preaching, and reported to James what he had done, and what doctrine he had preached, and what course he had pursued in regard to Jewish rites, James informs him, that the brethren, as soon as they heard of his arrival, must needs come together, and “there be,” said he, “many thousands who believe, who are all zealous for the law of Moses.” And when a difficulty, respecting circumcision and other Jewish rites arose in the Church at Antioch, they sent up Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, to consult the apostles, elders, and brethren, who were there, respecting this matter. The Church, therefore, was

« AnteriorContinuar »