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WC de Curi Tuu.
The Office of a Minister Liley)
** Patronage (Mills)
of Unitarians) who cannot find ancestors in heterodoxy among the promoters of the English Reformation.
The judgment, then, of the Reformers is only so far valuable as it is the judgment of the Anglican Church, and expressed in her authoritative declarations. Now if it was the case in matters of doctrine, which all allowed to be important, much more was it likely to be so with regard to discipline, on which there were three opinions-one, that forms of Church government were matters of very secondary importance; another, that the greater difference from those of Rome, the better; and lastly, that the primitive Church was the only lawful model. All, however, held to what was and is called the apostolical succession—the one party, however, maintaining that an episcopal succession was essential ; the other, that a presbyterian succession is sufficient.
It may be worth while to enquire under what circumstances this latter opinion prevailed; for it is quite certain that in the days of Ignatius no such idea existed, and it is equally certain that it did not prevail immediately prior to the Reformation. It is evident that an episcopal succession was maintained among the Albigenses and Valdenses, or was supposed to be maintained; for the true cause of the fierce war which has been from time to time carried on among reformed divines concerning these Churches, has been the opinion, on the one side, that the succession was valid, and on the other, that it was not.
Had there been no question among our own clergy on this point, we should never have heard one word about the heresy of the Albigenses, or the modernness of the Valdenses; but the truth was, that each party saw, or thought they saw, that a great principle was at stake--the one imagined that if the Piedmontese religionists were allowed to be true Churches, the episcopal succession must be given up; and consequently every argument and every testimony that could be pressed into the service, principally those of Bossuet, were adduced to prove that the Albigenses were Manichæans, and the Valdenses a mere modern sect; and therefore the perpetuity of the Church must be sought in the Roman communion : the other party, believing that the corruptions, as well in doctrine as in discipline, of the Roman Church had disfranchised and unchurched her, considered that the perpetuity of the Church could only be maintained by admitting and defending the apostolicity of the Piedmontese Churches. Hence arose the controversy.
We may be permitted to say, that, taking the principles developed into consideration, the truth appears to lie partly on each side ; for we are perfectly satisfied with the arguments adduced, by Mr. Faber and others, as to the apostolicity of the Albigenses and the Valdenses; and, on the other hand, we believe that the Churches, both of Rome and of the Greeks, are, though awfully corrupted, branches of the one Catholic and Apostolic Church, and as such, therefore, offer to their communicants the means of salvation. We allude here to the controversy only to show that it was supposed, and we think rightly supposed, by these Christians, that they had preserved the episcopal succession : and they still do so in office, though not in name. We must, then, look to the Lutheran Reformation for the establishment of a presbyterian discipline; and we shall find various sentiments obtaining among the continental Reformers, according as they thought it practicable or impracticable to introduce the episcopate. Calvin admitted, in the earlier part of his career, that he thought it most apostolical where it might be obtained ; but, despairing of founding National Churches, he and his brethren seem to have been careless as to episcopacy: for it is undoubtedly true, that when he proposed to Elizabeth, among other persons, a synod to establish an uniformity of discipline and worship, he and others might have obtained consecration at the hands of the Reformed Anglican bishops, who would have been but too happy to confer on their continental fellow-labourers the advantages they enjoyed, and of the importance of which they were fully sensible. The reply of Elizabeth to this notable proposition was, that “ the Church of England would retain her episcopacy”—a reply, from which we learn, at least, the opinions of the Queen and her advisers, that Calvin intended to establish, or rather wished to establish, an universal presbyterianism among the Reformed Churches. There are those to whom the fable of the fox who had lost his tail would be suggested, by the appearance of this transaction; but it would be
well to investigate the affair a little further, before coming to a decision. We have here only the implied opinion of Elizabeth and her ministers; but the proposed conference was dropped. Now what we may fairly infer from this last fact, is one of two things—either that Calvin and his colleagues did not desire consecration, and therefore thought the episcopal succession a non-essential thing; or, if they did desire it, they did not esteem it very important: for the only assignable cause why no further overtures were made from Geneva is, that the Reformers of that city thought it derogatory to their own dignity to seek a conference in which the other party had already predetermined the question at issue, and could only offer a participation in the advantages of their communion. In either case, the dictum of Geneva was, that the presbyterian succession was sufficient to constitute apostolical discipline.
From this consideration we must turn to the actual state of the Genevan polity at the time, and we shall see that Calvin would have greatly extended his own power and influence by making presbyterianism universal among the Reformed Churches. He, together with Beza and others, had made Geneva a sort of Protestant Rome; it was to be the nursing mother of all Presbyterian Churches, the model from which such Churches were to frame their discipline, and the authority from which they were to take their doctrines. It cannot be doubted that the gigantic abilities of Calvin, aided by such men as Beza and the others who concurred with him in his project, were well capable of carrying it into execution; and, moreover, it is not to be forgotten that, over this Protestant Rome, Calvin, by creating and accepting the office of perpetual president, had constituted himself the Protestant Pope. The more, therefore, his scheme of Church government extended, the greater would his own power and personal influence become; and we see this exemplified by the hold which his doctrines and personal opinions maintained in so remote a country as Scotland. On the other hand, by overthrowing the Papal supremacy, the Church of England established the principle that all bishops were equal, save as to priority; precedence might be yielded, but superiority could not be claimed : and hence, by acceding to the episcopal discipline,