Слике страница
PDF
ePub

6

portance of piety in that class of men, especially at the present time, when our institutions, civil and religious, are jeoparded by political rancor, and the fagitiousness of many who sustain the inore responsible offices of civil life. But we have only time to say, that the honored and honorable life of the subject of this memoir, bis peaceful death, the sanctification of his intellectual powers; all that in bim which combined the dignity of the christian, the purity of the patriot, the faithful public servant, the amiable eitizen and neighbor, the exemplary head of a family, the venerafed husband, father, and friend, may well be held up as a light to those who are now on the stage, and to coming generations in our land.

His virtues and services have been appropriately consecrated in the following lines, by Mrs. Sigourney :

Hig! requiem for the hoary head

With years and honors crowned, -
High requiem for the sainted dead

Within yon hallowed ground.
A patriarch of the ancient time,

A statesman fiee from stain,
A christian, strong in faith sublime,

Doth join the voiccless train.
Life to its latest remnant worn,

In wisdom and in love;
And all times burdens nobly borne,

He sought the rest above.
But’mid the throng of sacred dead,

From earthly passions free,
Why inuse we on a mortal's fame,
Though dear that fame

may

be!
High praise to bim who gave the power,

Here in this vale of strife,
To foil temptation's darkest hour,

And choose eternal life.'

ART. III.-HOPKINS' PrimITIVE CHURCH.

The Primitive Church compared with the Protestant Episcopal Church of the present

day: being an examination of the ordinary objections against the church, in doctrine, woi ship, and government, designed for popular use; with a disertation on sundry points of theology ant practice, connected with the subject of episcopacy. By John Henry Hopkins, D. D., Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal church in the diocese of Vermont. “Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is llie good way, and walk therein." Jer. vi. 16. Burlington : Smith & Harrington : 1835. pp. 380.

Although this book reminds us of arch-bishop Laud, we have certainly no intention to make an unjust comparison between the author and that eminent martyr, as he is styled by high-churchmen. But so far as setting up a claim for the "unquestionably divine institution of episcopacy," in all the minutiæ of its forms, is

Vol. VIII.

29

concerned, the bishop of the diocese of Vermont evidently has some affinity of views with that misguided prelate. He has attempted nothing less than to deduce a scriptural warrant for the sum total of Episcopacy, as held by the church which he represents, in doctrine, worship, and government, not excepting the “ministerial garments.” Whether such demands upon our credulity result from election to a diocese which may require the assumption of so high ground, or whether these are the bishop's former views, now for the first time distinctly expressed, we presume not to judge. But had there been less boasting,-a more evident concern for the power, and less regard for the form of godliness, and had the strictures on revivals, and the temperance reformation been omitted, the claim to apostolical descent would, in our judgment, have been better supported. We shall test the validity of this claim in the proper place; but may observe here in passing, that the first reformers in the church of England, abandoned as untenable the high ground assumed by our author. We know also, that no small portion of the Episcopal church at the present day will dissent from his exclusive views. Attached as they are to their form of worship, they are evangelical in doctrine and practice, and pretend to no scripture warrant for any precise external form of the church, or jure divino mode of its government. It is due to truth and candor to say, that we have no controversy with such brethren. They will accord with us in the opinion of Baxter, that “the faith and holiness of the apostles, is the only title to descent worth contending for." We misjudge if there are not many in the new diocese of Vermont, who will recollect a different kind of teaching from that set forth in the primitive church.” From the Vermont Episcopal Register, edited as we are informed, by bishop Smithi of Kentucky, we select the following appropriate extract.

• By some, a degree of importance is attached to the externals of christianity not much less fatal to genuine spiritual piety, than the systematized formalism of the Romish church. The effects of baptism are so magnified, the value of confirmation so extolled, and the efficacy of the Lord's supper so exaggerated, that some parents seem to imagine that the graces of christianity can as easily be put on their children at suitable ages, as the fashion of their clothes can be changed; and the deluded children perhaps at length imagine, that by these steps in religion they are as effectually prepared to come out christians in due time, as to appear accomplished and acknowledged ladies or gentlemen. Periodical solemn acts of religion can easily be magnified into the whole of it. And do not they who exalt the importance of these acts, at the same time they say little of deep, experimental, personal piety, contribute most fatally to the substitution of forms for real godliness?

For some years past the Episcopal controversy has turned chiefly upon the three fold order of the ministry,--the exclusive validy of the sacraments as administered by this order,--and the imporance of seeking salvation by a visible union with the apostolical church. In the volume before us, in addition, we are summoned o examine the traditionary and scriptural authority for god-fathers, iturgies, responses, vestments, and high titles. We see no end o this matter. The whole ground of controversy, from the resornation downward, has been gone over thousands of times, and yet the patience and talents expended have conducted us no nearer to a final issue. We are heartily tired of the same thread-bare citations from the fathers, who, through corruption and the mist of time, furnish to both parties in the case, nearly the same amount of testiinony. We are no less tired of appeals to the scriptures for the decision of a subject which originated years after the sacred volume was closed, and of which it knows no more than it does of the origin of distilled spirits. The self-same arguments have been unblushingly reiterated, and as often consuted to little purpose. For ourselves, we would never meddle again with this inierminable controversy, were it not for the direct bearing it is made to assume upon the vital interests of christianity.

“ The primitive church,” contains ten lectures, devoted (one on the temperance society excepted) to the doctrine, worship, and government of THE CHURCH; and a dissertation on sundry points of theology and practice, connected with the subject of Episcopacy.

The author's views of doctrine we hesitate not to pronounce anti-apostolical and unscriptural. His introductory lecture from 1 Thess. v. 21, “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good,” treats of the following topics: “The command to come to Christ obedience rendered to it by uniting with bis apostles—the church established by them still exists—and the necessity for uniting with it is still the same-bow is this to be done in our day, when the church is so much divided—all sects cannot be equally near the apostolic system-christians are bound to examine and select that church which is the most scriptural and primitive, etc.

In this discourse, the bishop assumes what he is so confident of proving, to wit: that “our own branch of the universal church is the nearest to the apostolic pattern ; and although we may not condemn our christian brethren, since God is the judge,” yet, “it is nevertheless absurd to say that error is equally safe with truth.” This last self-evident position be illustrates by reference to "the society of Friends, the Swedenborgians, the Roman Catholics," and by inference to the whole body of dissenters, who may not be regarded as equally sase with the members of his own communion. "Since God is the judge,” we are not greatly disturbed by this classification of ourselves with such errorists, which is more broadly hinted at in other parts of the volume ; but let us look at the exposition of the coinmand to come to Christ.

• Come unto me all ye that are weary and slabor and are] heavy laden, and I will give you rest, is the gracious command and sure promise of the Redeemer. And the mode which we are to obey the command so as to obtain the fulfilment of the promise, was set forth by the apostle Peter, on the day of pentecost, when he said to the conscience-stricken multitude, repent and be baptized every one of you, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost." or those who heard this exhortation, three thousand converts yielded their hearts to Christ Jesus without delay, acknowledging him as the Lord of life and glory. They were baptized forthwith, and taken into communion with the apostles ; and thus was formed the church of God under the gospel dispensation, to which we are told, “the Lord added daily such as should be saved.'

The church, my brethren, still exists, to attest the truth and power of its divine Master. Compared, in the beginning, to a grain of mustard seed, it has become a great tree with many branches. And still, those who would be saved, must be added unto it, must profess the same repentance and faith, and receive the same ordinances, and hold communion with its ministry, for there is no other mode revealed whereby we may enter the kingdom of heaven.' p. 1.

We admit spiritual union with the church of Christ to be essential to salvation ; but we dare not affirm as much of a visible union. This would give to ordinances, an importance unauthorized either by the letter or spirit of the gospel, and consign over to perdition many of the pious, who from conscientious scruples delay the profession of their faith, and in the mean time are prevented by sudden death. Every sinner who cordially submits to Christ, finds immediately the promised rest, that is, pardon and acceptance; and moreover, so far from duty is it, to seek this rest by uniting with the church, that a gracious state is a necessary pre-requisite to visible union with any branch of Christ's kingdom. The command of the Saviour therefore, (Matt. 11. 23.) is manifestly and grossly perverted, by adding, as essential to obedience to it, the necessity of church-union. It will appear from other extracts, that we do not misunderstand the author's exposition. He does make "entering the communion of the saints' essential to salvation.

• If we had lived during the ministry of the Savior upon earth, and desired to come unto him that we might have life, it is plain that we should have approached him in person, and have left all, that we might follow him, as did his other disciples. Before he ascended into heaven, be constituted the apostles his representatives, saying expressly, • Bebold I give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted to them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.'

my

Father hath sent me, even so send I you.' Who so receiveth you, receiveth me,' etc.

Of course,

As

P. 349.

had we lived in the days of the apostles, our only mode of coming to Christ would have been to come to them, bis appointed representatives, professing our penitence and faith, receiving baptism, and uniting ourselves to their visible communion or fellowship.' p. 4.

• But is it not worthy of serious consideration, whether the promising men salvation without the church, has not the strongest tendency to persuade the world that the privileges of this ark of God are of no importance ? Is it not wiser, to extend the definition of the church universal to the utmost limits, than to indulge men with the expectation, that out of its sacred enclosure, they may be saved ?” Dissertation

• While therefore, I should maintain that the substance of the sacraments may be had without a regular ministry, and that under precisely similar circumstances, the case of the Corinthians might be a very proper model, yet I cannot but believe, that a wanton or a needless departure from the apostolic order of sacramental ministration involves a sin of the nature of sacrilege, of which no conscientious and enlightened mind would ever risk the commission. Diss. p. 346.

This might suffice, but to “make assurance doubly sure,” we turn to “The Primitive Creed, examined and explained," a work of the same author.

In vain then, to the sinner, is the belief in God, the belief in Christ, or even the belief in the Holy Spirit, without the adoption into the church, the entering the communion of the saints, and in this appointed, visible, and necessary channel, the obtaining forgiveness of sins. We speak not here of those who are cast in the wilderness, or amongst the heathen, and who CANNOT come in the appointed way. The Lord asks not for impossibilities. But we speak of those and to those who are in a land of christian light and knowledge ; we speak to some among yourselves, my brethren,-to you who, if the forgiveness of your sins be worth your seeking, have no excuse for neglecting to seek it in the only regular and sure channel, by uniting yourselves in heart and in an open profession to the visible body of believers. Seek then, the blessings of salvation, the grace of forgiveness, the pardon of your sins from the atoning sacrifice of Christ, in the communion of the saints, in the holy Catholic or universal church, and through the Holy Spirit who presides in the assemblies of his people.' p. 196.

We are amazed at the promulgation, by "a master in Israel," of such a doctrine as is disclosed in these extracts. How far is it from the popish tenet : extra ecclesiam Romanam salus non potest! Associated as it is with frequent allusions to the “admirable liturgy,” the “venerable apostolical church,” and the importance attached to forms of worship, it cannot fail to have a pernicious tendency. It must depreciate the value of that “godly sincerity," that holiness of heart and life which constitute the sum and substance of “pure religion and undefiled," as inculcated in the scriptures. Paul says to Timothy, (i. 1, 4.) “Neither give heed to

« ПретходнаНастави »