图书图片
PDF
ePub

We quote these passages, not to make them our own, but to show that Episcopal writers of the highest reputation, entertain opinions very different from those of Potter and Cyprian, as to the evidence which the apocalyptic angels give in favour of their hierarchy:

“It is absolute demonstration,” says Cyprian. “It is a harsh conceit,” says Dr. H. J.More.

“The titles of angels and stars are never applied,” says Cyprian after Potter, “to a society or number of men.” They signify “ them that are the faithful messengers of God's word ;” answers Dr. Fulk—They “are put for the nations over which they were thought to preside,” adds the venerable JMede—More follows again, with a declaration, “ That no man versed in the apocalyptical style, can any wise doubt that by “angels” all the agents under their presidency are represented.” And Stillingfleet, their own Stillingfleet, calls the argument of the hierarchists from these symbolical titles, a “miserable” one ; thus avenging the Presbyterian upon them, by dealing out to them in their own way, “measure for measure.”— To which side the scale inclines, it is not difficult to discern. That the epistles in question are addressed to the persons designated by “stars” and “angels,” in such a manner as to imply that these persons were invested with authority over the churches, is freely conceded. It is also conceded that “angel” and “star” are titles of office which belong exclusively to the ministry. Unless we greatly mistake, “stars,” in the symbolical language, signify, throughout the whole Bible, “ministers of religion.” But we contend that they signify ministers of religion with regard to their general office, and not with regard to their relative dignity. Jesus Christ is a “star,” the twelve apostles are “stars"—and so are the apostate clergy, figured by the “ third part of the stars,” which the dragon cast down with his tail to the earth. Who does not see, that the only point in which the symbol agrees to the subject in all these cases, is the common character of the religious ministry; distinction of rank being utterly disregarded ? On this principle, the “stars” must mean the ministers of the churches without discrimination; every one being a “star.” It is, therefore, impossible to discover under this emblem, any order of ministers to the exclusion of any other. In this general reasoning, the hierarchy might, perhaps, concur without much prejudice to her cause. She might insist, that a symbol, common, in its own nature, to all ministers of religion, is restricted, by the conditions of the text, to a single individual, who, from the functions ascribed to him, must be a superiour officer, and not one of a college, concessus, or presbytery, having equal authority. There is internal evidence in the passage itself, that this construction, thoughingenious and acute, cannot be true. For as the “candlesticks” are emblematical of the churches, and as there is but one star to give light to each candlestick, it would follow that there was but a single minister in each of the churches; and thus the Episcopalian would overthrow himself: for without inferiour, there can be no superiour, clergy. Surely he will not say,

private opinion. “Old men are not always wise;” nor do green years detract from the force of argument. Facts and reasonings having no dependence upon a writer's name, stand or fall in their own strength. It is one thing to recant, and quite another to refute. The learned, but unhappy Whitby, who, in his commentary on the New Testament, had zealously defended the divinity and atonement of our Lord and Saviour, left a work behind him entitled “Yarepat opovrićes, or After Thoughts, in which he denied both. Yet his proofs of his previous belief remain unanswered by himself, and unanswerable by any other man. We see that it is very possible for great and learned men to change for the worse. Therefore, although Stillingfleet, whether of his own accord, or by yielding to the teazings and menaces of others, did retract the doctrines of his Irenicum, it does not follow that all his facts and reasonings are false, or that he himself drew nearer to the truth. He renounced the Irenicum, the prelatists cry—Good. Did he answer it ! we ask. Howbeit, since Dr. Hobart has represented himself and his brother-writers, as young men, and even “striplings;” who knows, but, upon their arriving at maturity, when they shall have sown their intellectual “wild oats,” their opinion may change in a direction contrary to that of the bishop of Worcester, and that they may yet ripen into excellent Presbyterians ?

that the bishop alone did all the preaching, gave Wol. III. 19

all the instruction, and set all the example: i. e. emitted all the light on account of which ministers are called “ stars.” The other clergy had some share in these useful functions. They too “preached the word;” they too, taught “ from house to house;” they too, “let their light shine before others.” Now, one “star” being appropriated to one “church,” as one candle is to one “candlestick;” it follows, from the nature of the comparison, that as one candle is the full complement of light for one candlestick; so one star is the full complement of light for one church. But the light which shone in these churches did not emanate from any individual; it emanated from a number of individuals; from the collective body of the ministers of religion. Therefore, the “star” which expresses the whole light in one of these churches, is a symbol, not of a single minister, but of her ministry collectively. It would be a darksome diocese, indeed, which should enjoy no rays of light but those which proceed from the bishop. Let us now advert to the other symbol, viz. “Angel.” This too, the hierarchists, whom we oppose, say, is “ constantly applied in the book of Revelation to a single man, and never to a society or number of men.” It looks somewhat uncivil to contradict so positive an assertion; but we must contradict it; for it is not true. And if, in proving it to be false, we prove its authors either to be ignorant of the scriptures, or wilfully to misrepresent them, we cannot help it. One passage from the book of Revelation itself, overturns the very foundation upon which Cyprian and his associates have reared their “absolute demonstration.” I saw, says the prophet, another ANGEL fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to EveRY NATION, and KINDRED, and Tongue, and PeoPLE. (Rev. xiv. 6.) “Heaven,” in this book, is the ascertained symbol of the Christian church, from which issue forth the “ministers of grace” to the nations. As the gospel is preached only by men, this “angel” who has it to preach to “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,” must be the symbol of a human ministry. And as it is perfectly evident that no single man can thus preach it, but that there must be a great company of preachers to carry it to “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,” the angel mentioned in the text is, and of necessity must be, the symbol of that great company. We might produce other examples; but this is decisive. It shows the proposition of Potter, Cyprian, &c. to be one of the most rash and unfounded assertions into which the ardour of party ever betrayed a disputant. Assuming it now as proved, that the term “angel” is applied in this book to a collective body, or

« 上一页继续 »