The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1
"Prove all tilings: hold fast that which is good."
Credulity and instability are practical errors nearly allied to each other. We are Warned against them in God's Word:—"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God"—1 John iv. 1. "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine"—Ephesians, iv. 14. My text is to the same purpose. "Prove all things." Take nothing upon trust. Bring everything to the test of proof. By what standard? By the Word of God—"the law and the testimony." This is our authoritative rule—"The commandments of men" must be submitted to its judgment, lest they "make the Word of God of none effect." However eloquent, learned, or pious the preacher—were he St. Paul himself—the hearer is not relieved from the duty of "searching the Scriptures, to see whether those things are so," after the example of the right-minded Bereans, who thus, on conviction, "received the word with all readiness of mind." This personal examination is required, "that your faith may not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." In this alone can we find a resting place for our belief—can we be "steadfast in the faith," and he not "moved away from the hope of the Gospel." On matters of doctrine and discipline, the Christian world is greatly divided, and no man can be "grounded and settled" in his principles until he has compared them with the word of truth. The system of Popery, by denying the right of private judgment, cuts the knot at one stroke. page 4 But we, my brethren, profess a more manly, as well as a purer, faith which teaches "every man to be fully persuaded in his own mind." There are questions of belief and practice, on which Christians will continue to differ, and may "agree to differ." Each will have his conscientious views, and respect those of the other, while both unite in saying, "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." The pious Calvinist and evangelical Arminian—differing widely as they do in their speculations on abstract theological science—meet as brethren on the common ground of "Justification by faith," and its correlative doctrines. The Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, and the Congregationalist, may each bring forth his "strong reasons" for that form of Church polity which he has chosen, while neither may claim for his opinion the right of Divine authority. Each may be justified in his preference, while he gives to the other "the right hand of fellowship." But this ceases to be the case when pretensions are assumed by one, which necessarily condemn the rest. Such, I submit, is the dogma of "Apostolical Succession," This figment is maintained by some eminent Episcopalian divines. We respect their virtues, their talents, and their position; but we cannot accept their assertion in the place of proof. Divines equally numerous, and equally gifted, appear on the other side. But we ask not, "what do men say?" Our question is, "What saith the Scripture?" If the "Apostolical Succession" scheme be found in the Word of God, we must accept it with all its consequences. Does it rest on a divine origin? than, however repugnant to our feelings, we must believe that the most vicious Pope is as much a channel of divine grace as the most holy Prelate; that an imbecile, if episcopally ordained, is as true a minister as the Apostle Paul; that a libertine, if in canonicals, is a legate from the skies, while such men as Hall and Chalmers, as Binney and Angell James, as Watson and Bunting, are but unauthorized pretenders to the service of the sanctuary; that God has bound himself to the narrow limits of man's judgment, and by the caprice of human passion, in the communication of His grace; and that all ministers and churches without the pale of Episcopal regularity, including more than one-half of the Christian population of England, nearly the whole of Scotland, the Continental and other churches, are excluded from the promise of Christ's presence. Nay, more: admit the principle of Apostolical Succession, and if the chain be traced at all, it must be through the moral filth of the Church of Rome, the polluted sewer of the Popedom! While episcopal divines are unchurching others, as able, as holy, and as useful as themselves, Popish priests are unchurching them, and by a logical deduction from the principle of the succession are declaring that "there is no salvation out of their Church." In a word, brethren, the doctrine of Apostolical Succession is the foundation, or principle, on which the whole page 5 fabric of the Papal system rests. And I confess before you to-night, that if, on examination, I found this doctrine in the Bible, I should feel it my duty to seek admission into that communion. You are aware that many, misled by this belief, have done so. One candidate (at least) for the Episcopalian ministry in New Zealand, to my personal knowledge, has become a Roman Catholic priest; * and I think, on the Apostolical Succession principle, he was consistent. With consequences so momentous, we cannot regard this question as a minor or unimportant thing—it affects the very substance of Christianity. If it be true, we are to "hold fast that which is good," but we will first "prove" it. Clear, unquestionable proof must be produced in support of a claim of such magnitude It shall be "weighed in the balances" of God's Word, and if "found wanting," its falsehood should be exposed. Is it a mere assumption of priestly arrogance, a monstrous error, subverting the doctrine of Christ? Then the spell should be broken, and men should "walk in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free." To this enquiry I now address myself, and bespeak your candid and patient attention. My appeal is to the Word of God. If the claims of high churchism could be supported by tradition, that would be insufficient, unless authorized by Holy Scripture. I shall take no advantage of mere phraseology. Strictly speaking, Apostolical Succession cannot be. The Apostles were an extraordinary and temporary order; as such, they had, and could have, no successors; for it was an essential qualification that they had seen the Lord, and were "witnesses" of His resurrection. Thus St. Paul asserts his claim, "Am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" The word "apostle" signifies a messenger. In a lower sense, all ministers are apostles, for "they are the messengers of the Churches, and the glory of Christ." But in its limited and special sense, none are apostles but those extraordinary men whom our Lord personally sent forth to evangelize the world. Nor is this at all supposed in the pretended succession. It is therein maintained that an unbroken line of Bishops represents the perpetuity of the Christian ministry; that Bishops are a distinct and superior order, originating with the Apostles; and that the only valid ministry is that which is derived from the Episcopal order, so constituted and perpetuated. Our enquiry then relates to three subjects, as comprehended in the doctrine now brought under our consideration. These are, the succession, the episcopate, and the ministry.
* —The Rev. Mr. Dale, who was formerly a student in St. John's College, near Auckland.
"There is not a minister in all Christendom, who is able to trace up, with any approach to certainty, his own spiritual degree. Even in the memory of persons living, there existed a Bishop, concerning whom there was so much mystery and uncertainty prevailing as to when, where, and by whom he had been ordained, that doubts existed in the minds of many persons whether he had ever been ordained at all."
"The Scots that professed no subjection to the Church of Rome, were they that sent preachers for the conversion of the Counties (of England), and ordained Bishops to govern them."
History informs us that in the seventh century, Aidan was selected by the Presbytery of Iona, and appointed to be Bishop in England; and the same Presbytery of Iona consecrated Colman to the Archbishopric of York. With such facts, any attempt to make good the succession, which is pretended, must be fatal. But, could it be done it would not prove the early origin of modern Prelacy; Bishops of the first and second centuries were not the Bishops of the present day, for all ecclesiastical history proves that the primitive Bishops were in charge of single churches, and not of an extensive modern diocese; as, for instance, the "angels" of the seven churches of Asia, admitting the word "angel" to signify Bishop. And could even this be done—could it be shewn that the Episcopal line is unbroken from the beginning, that a Bishop of the present day is an exact type of the Bishops of the first ages, we should still demand proof for the assumption that God had confined the gift of ministerial grace to that succession. The question would still be open—"What saith the Scripture?"
* —See Appendix.
"How readest thou?" In the Antedeluvian world there was a "Preacher of righteousness" in the person of Noah and before him, "Enoch also the seventh from Adam prophesied." Probably there were others, but the Bible is silent on any distinct, or special order of ministers during that age. Unto the days of Moses the same state of things continued. Under the Levitical economy, the Aaronic Priesthood was appointed by God as a standing type of the Priesthood of Christ, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews. Here was a personal succession, by divine order, in a given family. But this succession was not without interruption, for in later days, the Roman Procurators appointed whom they would to the office of the High Priest. Yet the Church was not extinct; it did not therefore depend for its existence upon any special order of men. Between the Levitical Priesthood and the Christian Ministry there is doubtless some analogy, but not a precise parallel. That Priesthood terminated in Christ, who is "a Priest for ever." All Christians are alike Priests, and that only in a metaphorical sense, "offering spiritual sacrifices." The Jewish Synagogue, and not the Temple, afforded the model for the Christian Church. If in order to the perpetuity of the Ministry, Christ had provided by a direct succession in the way of ceremonial appointment, as under the Mosaic dispensation by natural descent, he would no doubt be as explicit. But where is there one reference to this mark of his Church? We read much about the future condition of the Church, and the qualifications of the Ministry, but not one word about their ecclesiastical succession—unless it be where Paul says to Bishop Timothy, as the successionists call him—"Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than Godly edifying," and to Titus Bishop of Crete, as some style him—"Avoid foolish questions and genealogies." On the principle of the Succession, we should rather suppose Paul to be giving directions for especial care in the transmission of their register, that no mistake might possibly occur on the subject of ministerial validity. But we "search the Scripture" in vain for any direction of this kind. Incidentally, it is true, we do find something of the spirit, if not the doctrine, of our high churchmen. I refer you to Luke IX., 49, 50. Even the catholic and loving disciple John seems to have been once tainted with this moral virus, for he said "Master we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad, him, because he followeth not us." Here surely was an opportunity for laying down the principle on which His Church was to be constructed. What saith the Master? Hear Him! "Forbid him not, for he that is not against us is for us." The Apostle Paul had some experience too of the spirit and tendency of what is called High Churchism in the per-sons of certain Jewish teachers. Paul was irregularly called into the Apostolic office, He was not of the college of the Twelve, nor did page 8 he receive any commission from man. He was one "born out of due time." No human agent came between Christ and himself in his official appointment. To say that Paul was consecrated a Bishop by Ananias, "a certain disciple at Damascus," is to say that any pious layman in this congregation, might consecrate a Bishop of the Anglican Church. The laying on of the hands of Ananias was that he "might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost." If this was consecrating a Bishop, then a multitude of Bishops were consecrated in Samaria, when Peter and John "laid their hands upon them, (the disciples) and they received the Holy Ghost," Acts VIII., 17. That Paul was thus consecrated to his office, is a discovery of the present day. It is plain that his opposers recognised no such appointment, On the ground of his exceptional position, they impugned his right to the Apostolic dignity. How did he defend his claim? Not by any reference to his ecclesiastical commission, but by an appeal to those who were his "work in the Lord," saying—"if I be not an Apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you; for the seal of mine Apostleship are ye in the Lord."
To shew the fulfilment of prophecy it was necessary to prove that Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, was of "the house and lineage of David." Therefore registers were carefully prepared, from which genealogies are supplied, that place his human pedigree beyond a question. According to the succession scheme, it is just as necessary that every Minister should produce proof as unquestionable of his ecclesiastical descent. In what archives is it to be found? It is easy to jump from "the seven Anglican Bishops of the Saxon Heptarchy to the five Bishops in New Zealand." But where is the connecting line? The principle of genealogy under the Old Testement is clear—but none is laid down in the New: such "letters of commendation" are not needed by the true Ministers of Christ. Of the twelve whom our Lord chose "Judas by transgression fell" and if Judas, a divinely appointed Apostle, could fall: if an apostolic Church could fall, so that God would spue Laodicea "out of his mouth:" where is the security that any Church, the' proving its descent even from the apostles, might not also "depart from the faith," be deserted by Christ, and have "Ichabod" written on its gate "the glory is departed?" Matthias, instead of Judas, was numbered with the eleven Apostles. Paul was evidently the thirteenth. We have seen how his ministerial validity was called in question by the prototypes of our Successionists, but not so by the Apostles themselves. They laid no stress upon the form, provided they had the substance; for St. Paul himself says, "When James, and Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was in me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right page 9 hand of fellowship." Galatians, xi. 9. * The awful fate of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram has been often held up as an example to what are called unauthorized teachers. By such, however, it is strangely forgotten that Korah, at least, as a Levite, was not an unauthorised man. His guilt consisted in an unauthorised act. If any practical lesson is to be learned from his punishment, it is plainly against the Apostolical Succession doctrine. It is not a departure from external regularity, but the violation of moral obligation, that is offensive to God. So Nadah and Abihu, sons of Aaron, perished, not for aiming at the priesthood—they were so by Divine appointment—but for offering "strange fire before the Lord." This it is that offends God. "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (that is of Christ, verse 9), receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed." 2 John, 10. "As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Galutians, i. 9.
II. The Episcopate.—Names have sometimes a magical effect upon the minds of men. Analyze their meaning, and the spell is dissolved. There is a tendency, in the human mind, to repose on the outward and visible, to "walk by sight." This tendency manifests itself in the ideal importanoe attached to the name of Bishop. It may perhaps be startling to some to be told that the word Bishop differs not from that of Presbyter—that both are significant of one and the same order. This is fatal to Apostolical Succession, and therefore it is alleged that the Bishop belongs to a distinct and higher order than the Presbytery. Bishop is an old Saxon word, and is derived from the Greek Episkopos, which is compounded of two words, signifying over, and to look, or inspect. The literal rendering of Episcopus, or Bishop, is given in Acts, xx. 28, overseers. This is the simple meaning of the term, a superintendent, an overlooker. In the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, the same word is employed. In 2 Kings, xi. 18, "And the priest appointed officers (bishops) over the house of the Lord." In Psalm cix., 8, the word occurs again. "Let his office (or bishopric) another take;" a passage applied in the New Testament to Judas. We have the same word in Isaiah, lx. 17. "I will make thine officers (bishops) peace, and thine exactors righteousness." In the New Testament the word is used as descriptive of the office of the Christian minister, and Presbyter, or elder, as expressive of its dignity. The two words are used interchangeably.
* —The only consecration of Barnabas of which we read, was by the laying on of the hands of "certain prophets and teachers."—Acts, xiii. 3.
The noun Episcopus occurs five times in the New Testament, and a brief examination of each passage will clearly shew that it is the same in meaning as the word Presbuteros, or Presbyter. We first find it in Acts, xx., 28 where St. Paul, in delivering a valedictory address to the elders, or Presbyters, of the Church of Ephesus, says "take heed therefore unto yourselves, and all the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, or Bishops." Here the Apostle declares Presbyters to be Bishops, and that the charge of a Bishop is the flock and not the Clergy. In Phillipians I, l Paul sends his salutations to the "Bishops and Deacons," Deacons are allowed, on all hands, to be an inferior order of the Ministry, but Bishops only are mentioned as distinct from Deacons in this Epistle. Consequently if Bishops and Presbyters were distinct orders, here is a flourishing Church with no Presbyters and therefore, needing no Bishops whose office, according to the modern idea, is to superintend the Presbytery; whereas there was none but the people here for them to oversee. Dr. Whitby says that "the Greek and Latin fathers do with one consent declare that the Apostle here calls their Presbyters their Bishops." The next passage is 1 Timothy iii., 1—5. "If any man desire the office of a Bishop, &c.,"—he speaks of only two orders. There is not a word about Presbyters as differing from Bishops. But the latter are here represented as filling the office of the former—a Bishop is said to take care of the Church of God—that is, the flock, and not of the Ministers. This is equally plain from Titus 1, 5. 9, wherein Titus is appointed to ordain elders or Presbyters in every City. He proceeds to lay down their qualifications; and in doing this he says, "a Bishop must be blameless &c." How unmeaning is the language of this Apostle if Presbyters and Bishops are not the same? The last place in which we find the word is in I Peter 11, 25. "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls," Here the term is applied to our adorable Redeemer, but evidently not as the Bishop of his ministers but over the souls of the people—Bishop of your souls." This clearly proves that in the New Testament the title is not given to designate an office principally distinguished, in its superiority, by its oversight over other Pastors, but to imply oversight over the flock. The same is evident from the two first verses of the fifth chapter. "The elders, or Presbyters, which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, or Presbyter, feed the flock of God which is among you taking the oversight thereof," which latter word is eqnivalent to, taking the Bishoprick thereof. From these passages it is manifest that Bishops and Presbyters implied the same office, possessed the same power and authority, required the same qualifications and received the same ordination. If this be not enough to prove their identity, it does at least page 11 prove that Bishops were not superior to Presbyters. But could as much be urged for the divine right, or the superiority, of Bishops, as tor the apparent superiority of Presbyters over Bishops, the apostolicals would feel invulnerable: For, 1. The Apostles call themselves Presbyters, but never Bishops. 2. Presbyters are mentioned as united with the Apostles in the Council at Jerusalem, but no express mention is made of Bishops. See Acts, xv 2, 4, 6, 22, 23, And to the Presbyters were the collections for the poor at Jerusalem sent without reference to Bishops. Acts, xi., 30. 3. Presbyters are the only ministers expressly mentioned as having the oversight and government of the churches planted by Paul and Barnabas. "And when they had ordained them elders (Presbyters) in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." Acts, xiv. 23. And Presbyters only are expressly said to ordain, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery," I Tim. iv. 14. In another place the Apostle says to Timothy, "Stir up the gift that is in thee, by the putting on of my hands." It is well known that the Apostles laid their hands on disciples apart from any ordination to the ministry. But in the former passage, the reference is clearly to Timothy's ministerial capacity. Bishop Taylor, a strenuous advocate for the divine right of modern Episcopacy, is greatly puzzled by this obstinate passage, and after some very tortuous attempts at explanation, is compelled to admit that here, "by the Presbytery, St. Paul meant Bishops." Timothy and Titus are called Bishops only in the inscriptions to St. Paul's letters, which inscriptions are of no authority, and they are required to ordain elders or Presbyters, but are not directed to consecrate Bishops. The ancient Syriac version of the New Testament, which translation was made in the second century of the Christian era, employs Presbyter and Bishop as convertible terms. From all this, it is conclusive that they constitute but one, and not two, orders; or if there be superiority at all, it is in favor of the term Presbyter. They only are said to ordain, and consequently Presbyterian ordination is, at least, as scriptural as Episcopalian.
It does not, however, follow from this, that Episcopacy is anti-scriptural. As an ecclesiastical arrangement, it is not only lawful, but may be the best form of Church government. No system of Ecclesiastical polity is enjoined in the New Testament. A few principles only are laid down, but "Apostolical Succession" is not one of them. These principles provide a foundation. (See Ephesians. II. 20.) The form of the superstructure is left much to circumstances, and Episcopacy, Presbyterianism, and Congregationalism, may each claim for itself scriptural authority and sanction. A modified Episcopacy seems to me the best adapted of any system of polity for the government of the Church. page 12 The Methodist Church has it in reality, though not in name; while the extensive Churches in the United States, which have been the fruits of the Wesleyan ministry, are called the Methodist Episcopal Church. It is very certain that the Episcopal form took its rise very early in the Christian era, and has therefore the sanction of high antiquity. As in the question of the Succession, our objection is not to the fact but to the mode; so in that of the Episcopate, it is not to the principle but to the Divine origin, that we enter our protest. Every Christian minister is a Scriptural Bishop, but there are those, and expediency will require them, who by way of distinction and eminence, may be called Bishops—not by a difference of order, but of degree only:—"Primi inter pares," first among equals. Modem Bishops, "that rule well," may "be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine." We will respect their office, imitate their zeal, and rejoice in their success; but we will not admit that, by virtue of an ecclesiastical talisman, they possess the key of David—"that openeth, and no man shutteth; that shutteth, and no man openeth" the door into
III. The Christian Ministry.—That the office of the Ministry in the Christian Church is instituted by the authority of Christ: that it requires peculiar gifts and graces to its efficient exercise; and that Christ has promised to perpetuate it and bless it with His presence; are points on which there is little difference of opinion. It is on the order of ministerial authority that the controversy rests:
1. We are told by the secessionists that Christ has authorized none but those who are ordained by Bishops in a direct line. The Bible tells us that it is the prerogative of the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into his harvest. As He asked not the concurrence of the Jewish Hierarchy when He chose plain fishermen and tax-gatherers, and "counted them worthy, putting them into the ministry," so still He "will send by whom He will send." He is not dependent on Universities or other seats of learning. He is not limited by Episcopacy or any other rule or system. Though every human system failed, His ordinance would stand for "he is able out of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham," and will not fail in the order of his Providence, and by the power of his grace, to bring forth faithful men to "preach the Word," although he may take them from the plough, or from the Custom-house, from the fishing-boat or from the sheep-fold, from the sons of the prophets, or from the feet of Gamaliel. He sees those who are his "chosen vessels," fit instruments for the Ministry of his word and ordinances. True ministers are His gifts and His servants. Money cannot buy them, page 13 learning cannot produce them, the whole Episcopate cannot make one. He and He alone can qualify men for the office and work of the Ministry, and cause them "to triumph, making manifest the savour of his knowledge, by them, in every place."
2. The Successionists say that ministerial grace flows only in the channel of Episcopal ordination. The Bible represents this grace as the anointing of the Holy Ghost, who is the direct gift of God proceeding from the Father and the Son. Ministerial grace consists "according to the Scriptures" not in any outward designation, but in personal conversion, soundness of doctrine, and ability to teach. God sends no man to preach without these qualifications, whoever else may give him authority to do so. Who would suppose a lawyer competent to conduct a case, or a doctor to treat a patient, merely because he had been ceremoniously designated, without regard to personal acquisitions? Even so, men must first be reconciled to God before they can receive "the ministry of reconciliation;" time would fail to name the many passages of the New Testament which declare that "the doctrine which is according to godliness" is the only subject for a faithful ministry; and ability to "preach the Gospel" must be derived, not from the imposition of hands, but from "the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven." To whomsoever God imparts these graces, He may by His providence place before them "a great door and effectual" in the successful ministry of His word. Spiritual gifts are not the donation of any man, or of any set of men. They are from above, "now there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit. But all these worketh that one and self-same Spirit, dividing to every one severally as he will" 1 Cor., xii., 4, 11.
"Men might be appointed to the sacred office by mere human authority, without having been the subjects of sanctifying grace and divine vocation, and might go to their place in the church, and like the pillars in some ancient and ruined temple, support for awhile the outward and heavy pile; hut within is desolation and the moaning of the midnight wind. The Holy Spirit is the glory of the latter house. Nothing can be more unworthy in itself, or more dishonorable to the Holy Ghost, than that theory which would limit ministerial authority to a certain line of men exclusively who can trace back, it is asserted, their regular succession from the Apostles of our Lord. Who ever has shown that there has been such an unbroken lii eage as that which is so much vaunted, especially when contending Pontiffs have at the same time been disputing each other's claim, and raising around them a storm of spiritual thunder? And if it were so, if there were such a chain, does divine influence and unction, imparting authority, confine itself to follow a succession which has so many dismal links? Man may indeed so far avail himself of his knowledge as to direct the stream of electric tire, and provide the path in which it shall run; but he cannot so control the illimitable Spirit, nor has the Spirit himself laid down any prescribed track in which he will move. No: 'the wind bloweth where it listeth,' and vain is the attempt to bind it in fetters: in passing over this desert world, it may move in a gentle breeze, or forceful gusts in a certain path, or by a universal gale; but it accomplishes the purpose of redeeming mercy, and breathes life and health through every sweep. Under its influence many shall arise from spiritual death, as in the vision of the Prophet, and shall fill the assemblies of the Church, and the ranks of the ministry; and the Holy Ghost shall be the universal authority, because he is when fully obeyed, the universal order, light and life. 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.'—2 Cor. iii. 17."