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2 Tim. iv. 1, 2.
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ,
who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom ;-Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
This charge I affirm to have been addressed to Timothy, as Bishop of Ephesus. It enforces, in few and emphatic words, some very important duties of the episcopal office; it is couched in language expressive of an earnestness and affection correspondent to the responsibility of his situation, and to the circumstances under which the injunctions are uttered by St. Paul—when he was under a strong conviction, if not a special assurance, that the “ time of his departure was at hand'," and that Timothy must shortly be deprived of his counsels.
1 Verses 6, 7.
The course which I propose to pursue in preaching from this text may be indicated under the two following heads :
I. I shall endeavour to give a general sketch of the foundations of our episcopal polity; and also specially notice some passages in the Epistles to Timothy, confirming my assertion that the text was addressed to him as a Bishop.
II. I shall take occasion to offer a few observations with reference to the solemnity which we are assembled to witness.
My position is defensive, not aggressive. I am not solicitous to put forward the negation which it may include ; but the principle cannot be compromised, whatsoever inferences may be drawn from it. The episcopal polity of our Church is founded on the ordinance of Christ, and the practice of the Apostles, and the testimony of the Church (universal for one thousand five hundred years), and thence continued, though controverted, to this day.
The proofs of these foundations of episcopacy may be contemplated in two different points of view. We
We may either take the direct testimony of Scriptures, and then compare it with the subsequent records and practice of the Church; or we may survey the records and practice of the Church in various ages, and then see how far the inferences drawn from that survey harmonize with the direct
testimony of Scripture. I have preferred the latter course, because it appears to be equally convenient for general purposes, and to possess this particular advantage--that it places in a clearer light the comparative strength of the positions of the advocates and of the opponents of episcopacy, and also the nature of that testimony which our position (antecedently to the Scriptural evidences we can adduce) entitles us to challenge on their part before we can be shaken.
So sensible of our decided advantage, with respect to the testimony of the Church, are those who would decry our apostolical polity', that they have endeavoured to diminish its force by a taunt. They tell us, that in laying great stress upon this testimony, we give a sanction to the Romanist, and fall into his error of setting the testimony of the Church above Scripture, and making tradition the rule of faith. But the language of our Articles, and of our standard writers ?, is too explicit and guarded to be confounded by a mere taunt. We maintain, clearly and undeniably, the paramount authority of God's word, and that no testimony of
Archdeacon Balguy, Disc. VI. VII., has some very sensible remarks on the absurdity of confining the evidence of this question to the Scriptures only, and rejecting entirely the evidence of the Church.
? Jer. Taylor, in his dedication to his “ Episcopacy Asserted," has pointed out the distinctions in this case with his usual felicity.
the Church could establish any doctrine or practice contrary to the letter or the spirit of Scripture'. And because the Romanist has attached an undue and excessive authority to the testimony of the Church, we are not therefore to rush into the opposite extreme, and ascribe to it no weight at all. The Church, though not infallible, is a most valuable and a most venerable witness. practice, and the writings of the early fathers, we have been enabled to confirm our faith in many points of great importance—such, for example, as the canon of Scripture, the observance of the Lord's day, and the practice of infant baptism. The present case is one of which the very circumstances would lead us to anticipate the usefulness, not to say necessity, of our looking for illustration of Scripture principles in subsequent practice. Even in faith and morals, the Gospel generally lays down only principles, with few and incidental illustrations of their application to the innumerable and ever-changing combinations and contingencies of human life. Have we not even greater reason to expect this peculiarity to prevail with respect to the principles of Church polity? We can, at first, look for nothing more than the model and principles to be laid down. Their application to the various positions in which the Churches may be placed by external circumstances could be only partially developed, because the positions themselves could be only partially encountered. In both the above cases, but especially in that of discipline and polity, the voice of the universal Church is entitled to great weight. But, in the primitive Church, the notices of the details are less precise, and the recognition of the general principle often, indeed usually, only incidental.
1 Art. VI. XX. XXXIV.
General exhortations to faith and holiness, seldom adverting to the form of Church government, and then referring only to universally-acknowledged principles rather than controversial distinctions or the details of official practice, characterize the writings of the early fathers, and are such as we should look for in addresses of an infant and progressive Church. This may be illustrated by the analogous case of the different creeds of the Church, in which the increasing precision of the Church's testimony may be traced from the few words and first principles addressed to the early converts by St. Peter'-the larger form of that creed called the Apostles'—the increasing distinctions of the Nicene-to the elaborate definitions of the Athanasian—each retaining the fundamental doctrines, but developing their application to particular points, as occasion arose, and innovations were attempted.
From these observations on the nature of the