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THE

SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN REVIEW.

VOL. X.]

APRIL, MDCCCLVII,

[NO. I.

ART. 1.—THE CONSTITUTION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

The Protestant reformation proceeded from the practical developement of two propositions, the one of which embodied its formal, the other its material principle. The first is, that the Scriptures are the only rule of Christian faith and practice; and the second, that justification before God is solely through the righteousness of Christ, imputed to the believer, without the works of the law. The former of these principles inaugnrates the right of private judgment, and rescues the liberties of the church and people of God from the bondage of a usurping priesthood. The latter enunciates a theology, which, whether designated, from its unanimous reception by the divines of the reformation, by the name of “Reformed;" or from its great expounders called Calvinistic, Augustinian, or Panline, has always proved itself the alone suré basis of a stable faith; and the only reliable fountain of a pure morality.

Viewed in its practical bearings the reformation was characterized by their cardinal features, springing from these principles. These were, the preaching of a Pauline theology, instead of the Pelagianism of the papacy; the vindication of the morality of the divine law, in contrast with the licentiousness of Rome; and the establishment of a scriptural polity and order in the church, in opposition to the hierarchy of a domineering priesthood. The three elements thus indicated, that is, doctrines, morals, and polity, sustain to each other relations exceedingly intimate and almost inseparable. A pnre morality has never long survived that VOL X.-NO. 1.

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theology, which, whilst it disclaims all reliance on works for justification, yet developes, in love, the only principle which is adequate to produce the fruits of a holy obedience. On the other hand, permanent defections from sound doctrine have always been either preceded or attended by departures from scriptural principles of cburch order and government. In this respect the opposite extremes of Hierarchy and Independency have alike proved incompetent to the maintenance, either of truth in doctrine or purity in practice. Whilst error has never entered a Presbyterian church, without at once assailing the principles of its polity, and striving to arrest or neutralize their operation; it is in all its forms found in congenial and quiescent alliance with the lofty pretensions and imposing ceremonies of hierarchical systems, and the popular constitutions and irresponsible separation of Independent churches.

The distinguishing characteristic of Hierarchy is, that it attributes to the clergy the primary and sole possession of all the rights and prerogatives of ecclesiastical authority and grace; asserting that every sacred function is vested immediately in them by the Head of the church. If it be true that church power exists essentially in the clergy and not in the church at large, it follows that the divine prerogatives thus arrogated can only be vested in any by the interposition of such as are already endowed; and so at each antecedent step back to the investiture of the apostles by the Son of God. It further results that none are members of the church of Christ, or entitled to appropriate the promises of the Gospel, except such as submit themselves to the guidance of these divinely commissioned officers; and that no degree of depravity in morals, or heresy in their doctrines, would justify the people of God in withdrawing from their communion, or in the least slighting their teachings or authority. Nor do such conclusions attach exclusively to the prelatic system, although in that they find their normal organization. They cleave alike to any, and every theory which rests church power primarily in the ministry.

It must be manifest that whenever the church is required to bow to such an authority as this, claiming to act in the name of her Lord, Christ, she is imperiously bound, by the very allegiance which she joyfully owns, to demand an open display of the commission which assumes to convey

With the utmost jealousy must she exainine its terms, and inspect the seal, knowing the words of Christ, that "inany shall come in his name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many;" and giving heed to the warning of the beloved apostle,-“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John, iv: 1.) Nor in such a case will probable evidence be sufficient. The very face of the claim which is to be tested, implies that mistake may involve imminent hazard of perdition. The beloved bride of Christ is not incautiously to be entrusted to the hands of those who may prove emissaries of the Man of Sin. Interests involving the redemption of the blood-bought Church, the glory of God, and the great realities of a future state, are not to be staked on doubtful evidence. Nothing less thau deinonstration is adequate to this occasion. To effect this, two alternatives occur. The claimant of a divine commission way show miraculous evidence of his authority. This the apostles everywhere exhibited, "God bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost.” (Heb. ii : 4.) The fact of such attestation being given to them, adds emphasis to the demand for similar proof, in every similar case. Failing this, two things must be made to appear. First, the derivation of office through a lineal succession fully authenticated in every link, from such as had iniraculous attestations on their behalf. Second, that these predecessors, acting under this seal of divine authority, directed the powers exercised by them, to be thus lineally transmitted from age to age. Neither of these points may be assumed without proof; nor will the proof of either of them alone, sustain the claim which is under consideration. Both must be demonstrated, to be of any avail.

such powers.

It may be thought that these alternatives may be avoided, and the claim of hierarchy justified, by the plea of prescriptive right; that although there be irreparable defects in the evidence of succession, and it be even possible that the chain has been completely severed, and the apostolic ordination utterly lost, still the acquiescence of the Church, and the undisputed possession of its authoritative offices for ages, has fully compensated for any such defect, and given validity in its present exercise to an authority, which, in its origin, may have been irregular and invalid. If by this reference to the acquiescence of the Church, as embodied in its private members, it is meant to ackuowledge that sbe has received from the Lord Jesus Christ, power adequate to the perpetuation of the ordinances, and her own edification, even in default of a regular succession of officers; and that the ministry now possessed derives its authority from that source; it is manifest tbat such a concession in fact abandons the pretence of hierarchical authority. It is an acknowledgment that, in the last resort, ecclesiastical power abides essentially in the body of the faithful; in the Church, and not in her officers. Otherwise it must remain a mystery how the acquiescence of the Church, which, by the terms of the statement, was originally, and remains perpetually, without any share in the power of the keys, can by

the mere lapse of centuries, exercise a force so extraordinary, as to beget for the usurping officers a valid commission, and that, not from her, but from heaven; or how it can have any other effect than to implicate the acquiescent Church, in common with her officers, in the guilt of treason to her Head. If, therefore, miraculous powers be not displayed, or apostolic ordination and commission demonstrated, not approximately but absolutely, the figment of hierarchy is left without a shadow of foundation. Should either of these proofs, however, be given, it would only remain, that all must yield cheerful and unreserved submission to an anthority, which, in its dominion over doctrines, morals, and order, must, in the nature of the case, be unlimited by anything short of direct and signal interposition from heaven.

In this doctrine of clerical prerogative, is revealed the fundamental heresy of the papal system ; the pregnant germ from whence every essential feature of that apostacy results, by direct logical consequence. Necessarily involved in it is the doctrine of opus operatum, or the essential efficacy of outward forms and rites for conveying spiritual gifts and graces to the soul-a doctrine which strikes directly at the root of the cardinal principle in the Pauline system, that is, the sole and entire sufficiency of Christ's righteousness, without any difference, “anto all and upon all them that believe." Admit the hierarchical pretensions, and private judgment is impious, as assuming to sit in trial of the instructions of acknowledged oracles of God; the Bible becomes not needlees only, but a temptation and a snare, and its instructions must be received only so far and in such sense as they may be affirmed by the living teacher; rites and ceremonies appointed by these officers are to be received at once as of divine appointinent; and this power, “sitting in the temple of God, and showing itself that it is God,” may confound every distinction in morals, canonize the grossest sensuality, smile upon the most loathsome vice, and discard every principle of virtue; and yet no man may protest, or hesitate to submit his faith and his senses alike to the atrocious dicta. A refusal to acquiesce involves the guilt of rebellion against God, and apostacy from the fold and the salvation of Christ. The fact that many wbo adopt the premises sbrink with horror from these conclusions, does credit to their hearts at the expense of their understandings. Admit the primary position, and the conclusions are as inevitable as the demonstration that follows a theory of Euclid.

It is not necessary here to enter into detail in illustration of the essential connexion that subsists between the hierarchical theory, and the prelatic organization of the Church. The one is in fact

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