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Alexander Campbell
The Christian Baptist (1889)


NO. 3.] OCT. 3, 1825.  

A Narrative of the Origin and Formation of the
Westminster or Presbyterian Confession of Faith.
No. V.

      IT would be tedious, though, perhaps, very profitable to go into the detail of the acts and deeds of the Westminster Assembly, and those proceedings of the long parliament connected [185] with the call and session of those creed makers. An assembly which sat five years six months and twenty two days, in which they had one thousand one hundred and sixty three sessions, must have done a great deal of ecclesiastical business, right or wrong. Their deeds will appear to posterity either good or evil, according to the medium through which they are viewed. If viewed through the medium of the popular and fashionable systems of this age, a majority of their acts will appear good and commendable to those who are their children; but if viewed through the medium of the twelve apostles, by those who venerate their character and authority, their deeds will appear every way out of character, and worthy of the severest reprobation. It is a very slim commendation of them to allow that they declared many truths in their confession; for so did the council of Trent and the council of Nice.

      After they had spent the above term of five years six months and twenty two days, in creed and discipline manufacturing, those who yet kept their seats were converted into examining committees. After making the laws of conscience and conduct, they became examinators of such ministers as presented themselves for ordination or induction into livings. In the form of examining committees they might have sat till their last breath, had not Oliver Cromwell, on the morning of March 25, 1652, turned the long parliament out of doors, and thus being deprived of their patron, preserver, proprietor, benefactor, and guide, they broke up without any formal dissolution. Sic transit gloria mundi--and so may all the enemies of civil and religious liberty, all usurpers of the thrones and authority of the Lord and the apostles, whether intentionally or unintentionally such--so let them be dispersed! Let their language be confounded, and "confusion on their banners wait!"

      They did not like their own establishment when they had it built. There was not enough of the dungeon and the sword in it. This will appear in the sequel.

      That our remarks may appear just, if they do not already from the facts exhibited, we shall, in this number, give an extract or two from the history of their contest about the keys. Those who would wish to have a full statement of their proceedings would do well to consult Rushworth's, and Whitlocke's Memoirs, or Neal's History of the Puritans, vol. 3. The following hints will be found in Neal's History, vol. 3 page 392-5.

      "But the fiercest contention between the assembly and parliament arose upon the power of the keys, which the former had voted to be in the eldership or presbytery, in these words: "The keys of the kingdom of heaven were committed to the officers of the church, by virtue whereof they have power respectively to retain and remit sins, to shut the kingdom of heaven against the impenitent both by the word and censures, and to open it to the penitent by absolution; and to prevent the profanation of the holy sacrament by notorious and obstinate offenders, the said officers are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's supper for a season, and by excommunication from the church, according to the nature of the crime and demerit of the person;" all which power they claimed, not by the laws of the land, but jure divino, or by divine appointment.

      The Independents claimed the like power for the brotherhood of every particular congregation, but without any civil sanctions or penalties annexed; the Erastians were for laying the communion open, and referring all crimes to the civil magistrate. When the question therefore came under consideration, in the house of commons, the learned Mr. Selden delivered his opinion against all suspensions and excommunications, to this effect, "that for four thousand years there was no law to suspend persons from the religious exercises. Strangers, indeed, were kept from the passover, but they were pagans, and not of the Jewish religion. The question is not now for keeping away Pagans in times of christianity, but Protestants from Protestant worship. No divine can show, that there is any such command as this to suspend from the sacrament. No man is kept from the sacrament, eo nomine, because he is guilty of any sin, by the constitution of the reformed churches, or because he has not made satisfaction. Every man is a sinner, the difference is only that one is in private, and the other in public. Dic ecclesiæ in St. Matthew were the courts of law which then sat at Jerusalem. No man can show any excommunication till the popes Victor and Zephorinus (two hundred years after Christ) first began to use them upon private quarrels, whereby it appears that excommunication is a human invention, taken from the heathens."

      Mr. Whitlocke spake on the same side of the question, and said, "The assembly of divines have petitioned and advised this house, that in every presbytery, or Presbyterian congregation, the pastors and ruling elders may have the power of excommunication, and of suspending such as they shall judge ignorant or scandalous. By pastors, I suppose they mean themselves, and others who are or may be preachers, and would be bishops or overseers of their congregations. By ruling elders they mean a select number of such in every congregation as shall be chosen for the execution of government and discipline therein. A pastor is one who is to feed his sheep; and if so, how improper must it be for such to desire to excommunicate any, or keep them from food; to forbid any to eat, or whomsoever they shall judge unworthy, when Christ has said, Take, eat and drink, you all of it, though Judas was one of them. But some have said, it is the duty of a shepherd, when he sees a sheep feeding upon that which will do him hurt, to chase him away from that pasture; and they apply this to suspending of those from the sacrament who they fear, by eating and drinking unworthily, may eat and drink their own damnation. But it ought to be observed, that it is not receiving the sacrament, but the unworthiness of the receiver, that brings destruction; and this cannot be within the reach of any but the person himself who alone can examine his own heart; nor can any one produce a commission for to be judge thereof. But it is said, that ruling elders are to be joined with the pastors; now in some country villages and congregations, perhaps they may not be very learned, and yet the authority given them is very great; the word elders, amongst the Hebrews, signified men of the greatest power and dignity; so it was amongst the Romans, whose senate was so called, from senes, elders. The highest title amongst the French, Spaniards, and Italians, seigneur and seigniori, is but a corruption of the latin word senior, elder. The same may be observed in our English corporations, where the best and most substantial persons are called aldermen or eldermen. Thus the title of elders may be given to the chief men of every presbytery; but if the power of excommunication [186] be given them, they may challenge the title of elders in the highest signification.

      "Power is desired to be given to suspend from the sacrament two sorts of persons, the ignorant and scandalous; now it is possible, that they who are judged to be competent in one place may be deemed ignorant in another; however, to keep them from the ordinances is no way to improve their knowledge. Scandalous persons are likewise to be suspended, and this is to be left to the discretion of the pastors and ruling elders; but where have they such a commission? Scandalous sinners should be admonished to forsake their evil ways, and amend their lives; and how can this be done better, than by allowing them to hear good sermons, and partake of the holy ordinances? A man may be a good physician, though he never cuts off a member from his patient; and a church may be a good church, though no member of it has ever been cut off. I have heard many complaints of the jurisdiction of the prelates, who were but few; now in this ordinance there will be a great multiplication of spiritual men in the government, but I am of opinion, that where the temporal sword is sufficient for punishing of offences, there will be no need of this new discipline."

      Though the parliament did not deem it prudent wholly to reject the ordinance for excommunication, because it had been the popular complaint in the late times, that pastors of churches had not power to keep unworthy communicants from the Lord's table; yet the speeches of these learned gentlemen made such an impression, that they resolved to render it ineffectual to all the purposes of church tyranny; accordingly they sent to the assembly to specify, in writing, what degree of knowledge in the Christian religion were necessary to qualify a person for the communion? and what sort of scandal deserved suspension or excommunication? Which, after much controversy, they presented to the houses, who inserted them in the body of their ordinance for suspension from the Lord's supper, dated October 20, 1645, together with certain provisos of their own, which stripped the presbyteries of that power of the keys which they were reaching at:--

      "Provided always, that if any person find himself aggrieved with the proceedings of the presbytery to which he belongs, he may appeal to the ecclesiastical eldership; from them to the provincial assembly; from them to the national; and from them to the parliament."

      "It is further provided, that the cognizance and examination of all capital offences shall be reserved entire to the magistrate appointed by the laws of the kingdom, who, upon his committing the party to prison, shall make a certificate to the eldership of the congregation to which they belonged, who may thereupon suspend them from the sacrament."

      By these provisos it is evident the parliament were determined not to part with the spiritual sword, or subject their civil properties to the power of the church, which gave great offence to the Scots commissioners, and to most of the English Presbyterians, who declaimed against the ordinance, as built upon Erastian principles, and depriving the church of that which it claimed by a divine institution. The parliament observing their ambition of making the church independent of the state, girt the laws closer about them, and subjected their determinations more immediately to the civil magistrate, by an ordinance dated March 14th, 1645-6.

      This ordinance of suspension from the sacrament was extorted from the two houses before the time, by the importunate solicitations of the city clergy; for as yet there were no classes or Presbyteries in any part of England, which ought to have been erected before they had determined their powers. The houses had voted that there should be a choice of lay elders throughout England and Wales, and had laid down some rules for this purpose, August 19, 1645; but it was the 14th of March following before it passed into a law.

      It was then ordained, "1. That there be forthwith a choice of [ruling] elders throughout the kingdom of England, and dominion of Wales.

      "2. That public notice be given of such election in every parish, by the minister of the parish, a fortnight before; and that on the Lords day on which the choice is to be made, a sermon be preached suitable to the occasion.

      "3. Elections shall be made by the congregation, or the major part of them then assembled, being heads of families, and such as have taken the covenant."

      The parliament apprehended they had now established the plan of the Presbyterian discipline, though it proved not to the satisfaction of any one party of Christians; so hard is it to make a good settlement when men dig up all at once old foundations. The Presbyterian hierarchy was as narrow as the prelatical; and as it did not allow a liberty of conscience, claiming a civil as well as ecclesiastical authority over men's persons and properties, it was equally, if not more insufferable. Bishop Kennet observes that the settling presbytery was supported by the fear and love of the Scots army, and that when they were gone home it was better managed by the English army, who were for independency and a principle of toleration; but as things stood nobody was pleased; the Episcopalians and Independents were excluded; and because the parliament would not give the several presbyteries an absolute power over their communicants, but reserved the last appeal to themselves, neither the Scots nor English Presbyterians would accept it.

      The English Presbyterians, having resolved to stand and fall with the Scots, refused peremptorily to comply with the ordinance, relying upon the assistance and support of that nation.

      It was a sanguine and daring attempt of these divines, who were called together only for their advice, to examine and censure the ordinances of parliament, and dispute in this manner with their superiors; the commons, alarmed at this petition, appointed a committee to take into consideration the matter and manner of it; who, after some time, reported it as their opinion, that the assembly of divines, in their petition, had broken the privileges of parliament, and were guilty of a præmunire; and whereas they insisted so peremptorily on the jus divinum of the Presbyterian government, the committee had drawn up certain queries, which they desired the assembly might resolve for their satisfaction. The house agreed to the report of the committee and on the 30th of April, sent Sir John Evelin, Mr. Nathaniel Fiennes, and Mr. Browne, to the assembly, to acquaint them with their resolutions. These gentlemen set before them their rash and imprudent conduct, and in several speeches, showed wherein they had exceeded their province, which was to advise the houses in such points as they should lay before them, but not to dictate to those to whom they owed their being an assembly.

EDITOR. [187]      

A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things.

On the Breaking of Bread.--No III.

      WE have proposed to make still farther apparent that the primary intention of the meeting of the disciples on the first day of the week, was to break bread. We concluded our last essay on this topic with a notice of Acts xx. 7. "And on the first day of the week when the disciples assembled to break bread." The design of this meeting, it is evident, was to break bread. But that this was the design of all their meetings for worship and edification, or that it was the primary object of the meetings of the disciples, is rendered very certain from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter xi. The apostle applauds and censures the church at Corinth with respect to their observance of the order he instituted among them. In the second verse he praises them for retaining the ordinances he delivered them, and in the conclusion of this chapter he censures them in strong terms for not keeping the ordinance of breaking bread as he delivered it to them. They retained in their meetings the ordinance, but did abuse it. He specifies their abuses of it, and denounces their practice as worthy of chastisement. But in doing this, he incidentally informs us that it was for the purpose of breaking bread they assembled in one place. And the manner to which he does this is equivalent to an express command to assemble for the purpose. Indeed there is no form of speech more determinate in its meaning or more energetic in its force than that which he uses, verse 20. It is precisely the same as the two following examples. A man assembles laborers in his vineyard to cultivate it. He goes out and finds them either idle or destroying his vines. He reproves and commands them to business by addressing them thus--"Men, ye did not assemble to cultivate my vineyard." By the use of this negative he makes his command more imperative and their guilt more apparent. A teacher assembles his pupils to learn--he comes in and finds them idle or quarrelling. He addresses them thus--"Boys, ye did not assemble to learn." In this forcible style, he declares the object of their meeting was to learn, and thus commands and reproves them in the same words. So Paul addresses the disciples in Corinth--"When ye assemble, it is not to eat the Lord's supper;" or (Macknight,) "But your coming together into one place, is not to eat the Lord's supper," plainly and forcibly intimating that this was the design of their meeting or assembling in one place, commanding them to order, and reproving them for disorder. Now it must be admitted that Paul's style in this passage is exactly similar to the two examples given, and that the examples given mean what we have said of their import; consequently, by the same rule, Paul reminds the Corinthians, and informs all who ever read the epistle, that when the disciples assembled, or came together into one place, it was primarily for the purpose of breaking bread, and in effect most positively commands the practice. To this it has been objected that the 26th verse allows the liberty of dispensing with this ordinance as often as we please. In the improved translation of Macknight it reads thus: "Wherefore, as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you openly publish the death of the Lord till the time he come?' Either these words, or those in the preceding verse, ("This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me,") are said to give us the liberty of determining when we may break bread. If so, then the Lord's supper is an anomaly in revelation. It is an ordinance which maybe kept once in seven months, or seven years, just as we please, for, reader, remember, "where there is no law there is no transgression." But this application of the words is absurd, and perfectly similar to the papists' inference from these words; for they infer hence that "the cup may sometimes be omitted, and under this pretence have refused it altogether to the laity." And certainly if the phrase, "as often as you drink it," means that it may be omitted when any one pleases, it is good logic for the papists to argue that it may be omitted altogether by the laity, provided the priests please to drink it.

      But neither the design of the apostle nor his words in this passage have respect to the frequency, but to the manner of observing the institution. If this is evident, that interpretation falls to the ground; and that it is evident, requires only to ask the question, What was the apostle's design in these words? Most certainly it was to reprove the Corinthians, not for the frequency nor unfrequency of their attending to it, but for the manner in which they did it. Now as this was the design, and as every writer's or speaker's words are to be interpreted according to his design, we are constrained to admit that the apostle meant no more than that christians should always, in observing this institution, observe it in the manner and for the reasons he assigns.

      And last of all, on this passage, let it be remembered, that if the phrase, "as oft as," gives us liberty to observe it seldom, it also gives us liberty to observe it every day if we please.--And if it be a privilege, we are not straitened in the Lord, but in ourselves.

      But, say some, "it will become too common and lose its solemnity." Well, then, the seldomer the better. If we observe it only once in twenty years, it will be the more uncommon and solemn. And, on the same principle, the seldomer we pray the better. We shall pray with more solemnity if we pray once in twenty years!

      But "It is too expensive." How? Wherein? Is not the "earth the Lord's and the fulness thereof?" It costs us nothing. It is the Lord's property. He gives us his goods that we may enjoy ourselves. We never saw or read of a church so poor that could not, without a sacrifice, furnish the Lord's table. To make one "sacrament," requires more than to furnish the Lord's table three months. I hate this objection most cordially.--It is antichristian--it is mean--it is base.

      "It is unfashionable." So it is to speak truth, and fulfil contracts. So it is to obey God rather than man. And if you love the fashion, be consistent--don't associate with the Nazarenes--hold up the skirts of the high priest, and go to the temple. But all objections are as light as straws and as volatile as a feather.

      To recapitulate the items adduced in favor of the ancient order of breaking bread, it was shewn, as we apprehend--

      1. That there is a divinely instituted order of christian worship, in christian assemblies.

      2. That this order of worship is uniformly the same.

      3. That the nature and design of the breaking of bread are such as to make it an essential part of christian worship in christian assemblies.

      4. That the first church set in order in Jerusalem, continued as stedfastly in breaking of bread, as in any other act of social worship or edification.

      5. That the disciples statedly met on the first [188] day of the week, primarily and emphatically for this purpose.

      6. That the apostle declared it was the design or the primary object of the church to assemble in one place for this purpose, and so commanded it to the churches he had set in order.

      7. That there is no law, rule, reason, or authority for the present manner of observing this institute quarterly, semi-annually, or at any other time than weekly.

      8. We have considered some of the more prominent objections against the ancient practice, and are ready to hear any new ones that can be offered. Upon the whole, it may be said that we have express precedent and an express command to assemble in one place on the first day of the week to break bread. We shall reserve other evidences and considerations until some objections are offered by any correspondent who complies with our conditions.


Christian Union.--No. III.

      NOTHING can reconcile the different sects in religion to relinquish their sectarian names and creeds for the name of christian and the word of God, but a clear proof that their names and creeds are not only unscriptural, but are subversive of the christian character, and in their consequences prevent the world believing in Jesus Christ. In my two former numbers I have shown, in some degree, the truth of these things, and feel sure that every tender-hearted christian cannot fail to feel much affected by the considerations there exhibited.

      I promised, in my last number, to give a short account of the origin of creeds as distinguished from the word of God in the gospel. This I do, the more effectually, to evince the deception that is practised upon the world and the delusion under which it labors on this subject.

      The first creed of which we are informed, as distinguished from "the faith which was once delivered to the saints," is presented to us under the imposing but false title of "The Apostles Creed," which is so often repeated by the Roman Catholics and the Episcopalians as of divine origin. Dupin, in his Ecclesiastical History of the first century, than whom a more correct and impartial historian has not lived, though of Catholic profession, makes it abundantly evident that this creed was not composed by the apostles. Saint Jerome says that the faith of the creed was an apostolic tradition, and was not written on paper by the apostles. "The fathers of the three first ages," Dupin observes, "disputing with heretics, do not pretend to say that the creed was composed by the apostles, but that the doctrine comprised in the creed is that of the apostles." "We find," he farther remarks, "in the second and third ages of the church as many creeds as authors, and the same author sets the creed down after a different manner in several places of his works, which plainly shows that there was not then any creed that was reputed to be the apostles, nor even any reputed or established form of faith except that which was written in the word of God. St. Jerome exhibits two different creeds, and Tertullian made use of three different creeds in three several places; all of which creeds are different from the Vulgate." So much for the origin of the first creed, which is rung upon all the changes so often every Sabbath by Catholics and Episcopalians as apostolic.

      The next one which we shall notice, and which is the most distinguished instance of creed making in history, is the Nicene Creed, which was made by and under the authority of Constantine the Great, in the year 325, and was established as the constitution and test of the true Catholic church, and the divine measure of all orthodoxy.

      The history of this creed is the following. There were to the church of Alexandria, in Egypt, two pastors, one named Alexander, and the other Arius. Alexander, on a certain occasion, affirmed in reference to the Trinity, that there was "an unity in Trinity, and particularly that the Son was co-eternal, and co-substantial, and of the same dignity with the Father." Arius objected to the language, and urged that "If the Father begat the Son, he who was begotten must have a beginning of his existence as Son; and from hence, said he, it is manifest that there was a time when the Son was not," &c. This difference in speculation between these two men, neither of whom seems to have attended to the scriptural statements on the subject, involved all christendom in a flame and set bishops against bishops, who set the people together by the ears, and gave occasion, as Louates in his church history observes, to the heathen to ridicule the christian religion upon their public theatres. Julian, the nephew of Constantine, who, by reason of these disputes, renounced christianity and returned to Paganism, used to call into his presence the boxers on each side of the controversy, to abuse each other for his amusement.

      The dispute between Alexander and Arius occasioned Constantine to call his Œcumenical Council--the council of the whole world, as it was called, to settle the orthodoxy on the subject, who decreed as follows:--"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things, visible and invisible; and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten, begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father." &c. This was the established creed, or the iron bedstead by which every man was to be measured, and to be lopped or stretched as he might be too long or too short, according to its dimensions. With its erection was forged "the infernal instruments of torture and death for effecting uniformity in religion,' which were put into the hands of the clergy by civil authority. This occurred in A. D. 325, and was the first regular establishment of christianity by civil authority, and has been perpetuated down to the present time in the old world. At that time Constantine, though unbaptized, assumed the title of Universal Bishop. With this creed, and the power of punishing heretics, was exhibited the full revelation of the Man of Sin, and with it was established the kingdom of the clergy. See Jones' History of the Church, vol. 1. It was at this time, as Dupin remarks, that "bishops met together with liberty, being supported by the authority of princes, and made abundance of rules concerning the ordinances of the church. Previous to this the discipline was plain and simple, and the church had no other splendor to recommend it but what the holiness of the manners of the lives of the christians gave it."

      Had the poor worms of the dust, Alexander and Arius and Athanasius, been let alone to enjoy their speculations, with a moderate attention to the word of God, their differences of opinion would either have done no harm, would have been healed, or would have died with them.

      Jones, in his history, remarks, that "the effects of this general council were to lay the foundation [189] of a system of persecution of a complexion altogether new, professing Christians tyrannizing over the consciences of each other, and inflicting tortures and cruelties far greater than they had sustained from their heathen persecutors." Each side of the Arian controversy, when in power, persecuted the other with the most ruthless sanguinary violence. True Christianity had nothing to do in this dark business. This was the revelation of the Man of Sin which had been previously let or hindered by pagan emperors.

      The difference between Alexander and Arius arose from the neglect or disregard of the doctrinal statements and facts as revealed in the word of God on the subject of the nature and character of Christ, and by indulging in metaphysical speculations, aided by Clement's natural religion, without regard to the word.

      It is impossible for those who entertain a reverential regard for the great God not to be struck with the presumption of sinful, ignorant, erring mortals, who would dare to investigate a subject of such awful import as the modus of the divine existence, or who would presume to go further in the discovery of God than he has revealed himself.

      It would now seem, that, according to the most enlightened scripture views of the subject, both sides of the Arian controversy in the fourth century were wrong, and yet both in some degree were right: for, as has been observed by a distinguished orthodox writer of Europe of the present day, and which agrees pretty much with the principles of the Andover school in Massachusetts, "Divine revelation never leads us to conceive of the Son of God abstractly from the incarnation of the Word. The Word that was God was made flesh. The Holy Ghost overshadowed the Virgin Mary;--this was the reason, not only of her conceiving that holy thing, but also of its being called the Son of God. Although the sonship of Christ always supposes and includes his godhead, in which the eternal original and essential dignity of his person consists; yet it does not appear from scripture that he is called the Son of God, merely as God, or to teach us the origin and manner of his existence in the godhead; it seems applicable to him as Emanuel, God with us." Human knowledge of Jehovah can go no further than the terms to which the divine nature as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are revealed. The cherubim veil the rest with their wings.

      In the western states a very unprofitable controversy has existed on this subject. If men could be content with the scripture statements of the nature and character of Christ, and could realize the fact that he was worshipped as God by inspired apostles and Christians, for which they suffered death, and which was indeed the first cause of their persecution, it would end all controversy, and we would soon see a union of sentiment. Without the agreement that Christ is really an object of worship, and is of course Divine, there can never be Christian union between them.

      These disputes have originated a technical phraseology on both sides, which has greatly narrowed the vocabulary in religion, and has rendered some modes of expression almost obsolete, which were indulged in without scruple by the sacred writers. They have occasioned, on the Arian side of the question, in many instances, the relinquishment of the latitude with which the scriptures express themselves on the nature and glory of Christ, and have produced a scrupulous and systematic cast of diction which is altogether inconsistent with the noble freedom displayed by the inspired penmen. Many expressions are employed, without hesitation, to scripture, which are rarely found even in the direct form of quotation in their writings, and are never heard in their public addresses but with a view of subjecting them to explanations and speculations, which so mutilate and mar the character of Christ as to render him altogether an object unfit for the worship of Christians; and who, if thus seen, had never been worshipped by Stephen and Paul and the apostolic Christians. Paul wrote his first epistle to "the church of God which is at Corinth," and "to all that in every place call upon, or invoke, the name of, or worship, Jesus Christ our Lord, both their and our Lord."

      The next instance of creed-making was in the reign of Henry VIII. and his immediate successors. This is said to have formed the dawn of the Reformation, which has eventuated in the formation of the Episcopal church in England and in these United States, with which also the Methodist Episcopal church is identified.

      After having been married to Catharine of Arragon for a number of years, Henry VIII. became attached to Anne Boleyn, and petitioned the Pope to divorce him from Catharine that he might marry Anne, which the Pope refused or delayed. He then obtained a sentence annulling his marriage from Bishop Cranmer. The Pope rescinded Cranmer's sentence and excommunicated the king. This induced Henry and his parliament to pass an act abolishing the Pope's power in England, and by another act they declared the king supreme head of the church, and all the authority of which the Pope was deprived in England was vested in, and assumed by, Henry.

      Henry was a devoted Roman Catholic in heart, and becoming jealous of Ann Boleyn's attachment to the Protestants, had her beheaded, and the next day married Jane Seymer, who dying, he married Anne of Cleves, and in a short time put her away and married Catharine Par.

      Edward VI. the son of Jane Seymer, succeeded his father, Henry VIII. to the throne, when nine years old. He was a good little boy, and friendly to the Protestants. He and his bishops did something towards forming and improving the church of England. Mary, daughter of Catharine of Arragon, succeeded him, restored the supremacy of the Pope of Rome, and beheaded Cranmer and others. After Mary, came to the throne Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn, who restored the ecclesiastical order appointed by her father, and was the first female Pope of England; for she "arrogated to herself that ecclesiastical supremacy over the faith and worship of her subjects which before was supposed exclusively to belong to the court of Rome." The bishops and clergy were so far from having any hand in forming the present established church of England or in ordaining its rites and articles of faith, that it was done not only without them, but in actual opposition to them. The parliament and the queen alone established her supremacy and the common prayer-book, in spite of all opposition from the bishops in the House of Lords; and the convocation then sitting was so far from having any thing to do, in those church articles for reformation, that it presented to Parliament several propositions in behalf of the tenets of popery, directly contrary to the proceedings of parliament.

      Such is the pure spiritual origin, if I may speak ironically, of the Episcopal church of England and of these United States. Are there not many of the marks of the Beast upon it? In the [190] church of Christ he is the sole head, founder and lawgiver; all authority and jurisdiction are in him and flow from him; but in the church of England the king or queen is "supreme head, possessing all power to exercise all manner of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and archbishops, bishops, and archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical persons have no manner of jurisdiction ecclesiastical, but by and under the king's majesty, who has full power and authority to hear all manner of causes ecclesiastical, and to reform and correct all vice, sin, errors, heresies and abuses whatever." 29th Henry viii. ch. 1, 37th Henry viii. ch. 17, 1st Eliz. ch. 1. The bishops for these United States, after the Revolution, could not be ordained in England without the consent of his ecclesiastical supremacy, George III. and it was with difficulty that the succession could be obtained on that account.

      In consequence of this supremacy, the king or queen has power to excommunicate from, or re-admit into the church, independent of, yea, in direct opposition to, all its bishops and clergy. They revoke, if they please, any spiritual censure; suspend or excommunicate any bishop or other clergy; and by proclamation, without repentance, can restore the vilest offenders to the bosom of the church. They have power to forbid all preaching for a time, as did Henry VIII. Edward VI. queens Mary and Elizabeth; to limit, instruct, and prescribe to the clergy what they shall and what they shall not preach, as did Elizabeth, James I. Charles, and king William. Such is the channel of legitimacy through which Episcopalians allege that the apostolic succession has been handed down to them, who, with the Roman Catholics, assume the exclusive right to preach the word of God and to administer the ordinances of the New Testament by virtue of this pure spiritual legitimacy, and this, too, in these United States! Can that be the church of Christ, with such a head to it, which exalts itself above all that is called God!

      He who reads Jones' History of the Church of Christ, the history of that society of christians which we see described in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Apostolic Epistles, which has been persecuted since Constantine by such secular ecclesiastical establishments as that of the English episcopacy, will readily perceive that the church of Christ is quite a different thing from such hierarchies, and that their creeds and confessions have no claim to divine authority, but are reprobated by it. It will be seen that that which has been described by Mosheim and Milner as the church of Christ has been the beastly persecutor of his church.

      The Methodist Society and system was first formed in 1729 by the association of John and Charles Wesley and some other persons, for religious exercises and their own improvement in reading the scriptures. Their regularity and seriousness procured for them the name of Methodists. Mr. Wesley gives us the following account of Methodism:--"The first rise of Methodism (so called) was in November, 1729, when four of us met together at Oxford; the second was at Savannah, in April, 1736, twenty or thirty persons met at my house; the last was at London on this day, (viz. May 1, 1738,) when forty or fifty of us agreed to meet together every Wednesday evening, in order to a free conversation, begun and ended with prayer." From 1760 to 1790, several persons of Mr. Wesley's society emigrated from England and Ireland and settled to various parts of America. During the war between England and America all communication between the two societies was cut off. This was very much felt by the American Methodists. Mr. Asbury, the senior minister, was importuned to take proper measures that the societies might enjoy the privileges of other churches, by the ordination of ministers. This he refused because of his attachment to the church of England. On this, a majority of the preachers separated from him and chose out of themselves three senior brethren, who ordained others by the imposition of hands. Mr. Asbury prevailed on them to return, and by a vote at one of their conferences, the ordination was declared void. After the war Mr. Wesley drew up a plan of church government, &c. for the American Methodists, and ordained Dr. Coke a joint superintendent with Mr. Asbury over the Methodist connexion in North America. The reason Mr. Wesley assigned for this measure was the following, which he gave in answer to a question put to him by William Jones, a chaplain of lord bishop Horn, in the following words: "Whether it was true that he (Wesley) had invested two gentlemen with the episcopal character, and had sent them in that character to America?" "As soon," said Mr. Wesley in answer, "as we had made peace with America, and allowed them their independence, all religious connexion between this country and the independent colonies was at an end; in consequence of which the sectaries fell to work to increase their several parties--and the Anabaptists, in particular, were carrying all before them.--Something was therefore to be done, without loss of time, for this poor people (as he called them) in America; and he had therefore taken the step in question with a hope of preventing further disorders." Thus Mr. Wesley, who was only a presbyter, consecrated two bishops, which was complained of by bishop Horn in his charge to the clergy of Norwich. See Jones' Life of Horn in Horn's works, vol. i. p. 161. and vol. iv. p. 52.

      I frankly confess that Mr. Wesley had as much of a divine right to ordain bishops, to form a creed, to make a book of discipline, and to ordain and establish rites and ceremonies in the church, as the pope of Rome and all his cardinals had; or as had Henry VIII. and pope Elizabeth with their parliaments and bishops; or as had parliament with the Westminster Assembly, who made the Presbyterian Confession of Faith; or as had the seven Baptist churches of London, or the one hundred churches who composed the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. In behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the one lawgiver, and head of the church, however, I aver that all these powers have been exercised without right, and in opposition to his authority; and any man who submits to them as authoritative in religion, worships the image of the Beast and bears his name.

      The Westminster Confession of Faith was formed by the Westminster Assembly, which was convened as an ecclesiastical council of parliament in 1643. The ordinance which convened them stated that they were "to be consulted with by parliament for settling the government and liturgy of the Church of England." Its professed design was to reform Episcopacy to the standard of former times. But the interests of parliament, in opposition to king Charles I. became so reduced that they were obliged to call in the aid of the Scots. Their aid was offered on condition that the Parliament and the Westminster Assembly would abandon Episcopacy, and attempt the establishment of [191] Presbyterianism, which at length they advanced into jus divinum, or a divine institution, derived expressly from Christ and the apostles. On the 17th of August, 1643, the Solemn League and Covenant, embracing these objects, was delivered into the assembly by Dr. Henderson. It was adopted by parliament and sent over the three kingdoms to be sworn to and signed. The objects stated in the covenant were to promote the extirpation of popery, prelacy, heresy, schism, scepticism, and idolatry, and endeavor a union between the kingdoms in one confession of faith, one form of church government, and one directory of worship. They took an oath to be orthodox in doctrine agreeably to the word of God; and in discipline to do what they should conceive would be most to the glory of God and the good and peace of the church?' The Westminster Confession of Faith was the result of this holy alliance. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian church in these United States say, in their minutes of 1824, in reference to the Westminster Assembly, that "its members were full of the Holy Ghost" when they produced that Confession.

      The Baptist Confession of Faith was published in London in 1643, not under the name of a Baptist confession, but "of seven congregations in London." "The name of Baptist," as is observed by Adams in his History of the Religious World, "is only of modern date and of local application." Anabaptists and anti-paido-baptists had been the usual epithets by which christians who believed that the immersion of believers was baptism, had been called by their opposers. They professedly published the confession of faith for the information and satisfaction of those that did not understand what their principles were or had entertained prejudices against them, and persecuted them, on account of sentiments which they did not entertain.

      In their confession they say, "We confess that we know but in part; to show us from the word of God, that which we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and to them. But if any man shall impose upon us any thing that we see not to be commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ, we should, in his strength, rather embrace all reproaches and tortures of men, and if it were possible, to die a thousand deaths, rather than do any thing against the truth of God, or against the light of our own consciences." They did not assume or bear the name of baptists, but professed themselves to be baptized congregations.

      Thus I have given a short but just sketch of the origin of the sects and creeds of our country. In my next number I design to address the preachers of all denominations on the subject of


General Smyth and C. Schultze.

      A MR. SCHULTZE, of Virginia, has given a bold challenge to all the clergy in general, and to Bishop Hobart, of New York, in particular, to stand to their arms; for if not, he will publish to the world a treatise "on the doubtful origin of all our miracles, and also all religions, except ancient Theism." This ancient Theism of his is supposed to be the invention of somebody before Moses, whom he represents as a most wicked knave and impostor. We cannot but admire the intrepidity of this strong-minded layman, as he represents himself, who, after forty years' study and twenty years' praying, discovered how Aaron's rod budded and blossomed, and that was by soaking it in warm water or oxygenated muriatic acid, mingled with water, &c. We have no room at present to publish any strictures on a piece of his composition which has appeared in a late Philadelphia paper. But as Mr. Schultze appears a very conscientious Deist, and really a very devout one too, and as he declares his belief to be established in the unity of God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and has very respectfully challenged the clergy--we, though not included in his general challenge, would promise, if the clergy fail to convince him that he is mistaken, to show that his creed is stolen from the bible; for, according to right reason and common sense, the unity of God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments, are not knowable by our five senses, the sole avenues to the human understanding. And we will engage to show, if Mr. Schultze pleases to favor us with his manuscript, (without a penal bond for five thousand dollars for its return, though we will pledge our word to return it if possible,) that he must, on his own principles, renounce his own creed too, and become a downright Atheist, instead of a Theist. And, indeed, there is no man who can stop on this side of pure Atheism who rejects the Christian religion. And this is equivalent to saying that no man can reasonably be a disbeliever of the Christian religion.



[TCB 185-192]

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Alexander Campbell
The Christian Baptist (1889)