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Notes on the episcopal polity of the Holy Catholic Church : with some account of the development of the modern religious systems online

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church, chose him for their minister, and two other
men for deacons." Having advanced thus far, the
founders of this "church" appear to have got into
a difficulty; and the way by which they escaped
from what certainly threatened to be a fatal embar-
rassment to their infant community is worthy of
notice. " None of them," continues their histo-
rian, "had ever been immersed. So the deacons
baptised Williams, and ordained him, and then he
baptised the deacons and the others. He after-
wards formed other churches, and ordained minis-
ters ; that order has descended down, and branched
out into a variety of denominations ; and" (the
writer adds) "the ministers have as much right
now to ordain or administer ordinances as the first
two deacons had before they were baptised, or as
any unbaptised persons have at this day." 1 That
such a history should be true might seem abso-
lutely impossible to persons unacquainted with the
nature of the modern religions; yet such was in-
deed the origin of a community of Christians now
numbering nearly four millions !

The " Episcopal Methodists," the next sect to
be noticed, are said to include about two millions.
Their origin is thus described : " About fifty years
ago, Coke persuaded Wesley, then past eighty
years old, to constitute him superintendent of the
Methodists in America. In a private chamber of a

1 Quoted in the Church Advocate, vol. i. no. 7. p. 28 (Lexing-
ton, Kentucky).


public-house at Bristol in England, with but a few
individuals present, he laid his hands upon Coke,
and invoked a blessing upon him, as he was in
the habit of doing with his preachers. Coke came
to this country, called himself a Bishop, ordained
others, and spread the order extensively in our
land. After he had done this, Mr. Wesley wrote
him a letter of severe reproof, told him that he
never pretended to be a Bishop himself, nor in-
tended to make him a Bishop, and charged him
with pride and presumption in assuming the title.
Coke appears to have been so moved by this letter,
and by his own sense of propriety, as to propose
that he and his brother bishops would come and
be ordained by our Bishops. But our Bishops re-
quired that, in that case, all their clergy should be
ordained again ; this they would not promise ; and
so the negotiation ended." 1 And now, says an
American writer, "the Methodists are numerous
in all parts of the country. They have more than
three thousand travelling preachers, who are under
the superintendence of six bishops," 2 and "their

1 Church Advocate, ubi supra.

* " It turns out, that the Episcopal principle is the pervading
and ruling element of our whole religious public at this moment
the announcement of which, no doubt, will take many by surprise.
But a single glance at facts will shew that it is indeed so .... we
find the entire religious population, including every denomination of
importance, associated and organised into systematic bodies, super-
vised and controlled by a few individuals, and all based on the Epis-
copal principle, and that in most cases in the most absolute and
energetic form." Colton's Thoughts on the Religious State of the
Country, chap. iii. p. 98 ; New York, 1830.


numbers are increasing." Such is the statement of
one of the most trustworthy writers of their own
land ; l and thus this vast body of religionists traces
its origin to a pseudo-bishop, severely rebuked for
his pride and folly by the very man from whom
alone he professed to derive his orders, admonished
by that person that he himself neither possessed
nor pretended to communicate any such authority,
and a witness against his own sin in having sjjgd at
the hands of others for that very office, to which
he thus acknowledged himself to have no claim.
And yet the members of this ridiculous sect, who
are living under a system as palpably of human
invention as any one of the purely secular schemes
of human policy, live and die in the belief that they
have been grafted into the Body of Christ, the One
Holy Catholic Church of the Apostles' Creed !

Of the origin of Presbyterianism and Congrega-

- - 9 n " _

tionalism, both systems being mainly referrible to

the old Puritans, it is not necessary to speak parti-
cularly. We may proceed, therefore, at once, to
give some account of the working of these sects, as
well as of the other two just noticed.

(2.) And in describing the working of Presby-
terianism in America, I gladly avail myself of the
testimony of a writer to whose qualifications as a
witness no exception can be made ; who has been,
in the course of his 'ministry,' both a Congrega-

1 See Caswall's America and the American Church, chap, xviii.
p. 317.


tionalist and a Presbyterian, and who, speaking of
his intimate knowledge of " the practical operation
of Presbyterianism in all its parts," says, " I had
seen it in all its forms in a pastoral life of ten years
.... I was intimately concerned in the revision of
the statutes of the Presbyterian Church, as a mem-
ber of the General Assembly for two years while
that business was in hand ; and I have sat as
Moderator of different courts employed in public
investigations and trials under these laws, in all,
many weeks, not to say months, and in some in-
stances several days in succession." 1 The evidence
of such a person must be accepted, then, by both

Now I have said that one of the effects of such
a system as, by hypothesis, that of Calvin is repre-
sented to be, ought to be fixedness and uniformity
of doctrinal teaching. A special revelation would
hardly be made only to teach different creeds. Let
us, therefore, hear our author first on this point.

" The great diversity" he says, " and not un-
frequent extravagance of creeds, introduced into
the Presbyterian and Congregational connexions,
is a sad and, for any thing I can see, an irremedi-
able evil. I mean the creeds of every several com-
monwealth or church. I am aware that the prin-
ciple of the Presbyterian Church of the United
States is, that all its separate organisations or con-
gregations shall adopt and subscribe to the creed

1 Colton, chap. i. p. 28.


of the Directory, as determined and ordered by the
General Assembly ; but such is not the fact ; and
the congregations have too much independence to
conform to that rule, where they have not done
it from the beginning. All the Congregational
churches of New England are associated under
such articles of faith as were drawn up for them by
the clergyman who originally organised them into a
body, except, as in some instances, they have been
remodelled. The same is the fact extensively
through the bounds of the Presbyterian denomi-
nation. The diversity cannot, I think, be less than
some hundreds ; and each one is shaped, with mi-
nute exactness, according to the theological model
of the head that formed it, as a Hopkinsian, as a
New-light, as a moderate or high Calvinist, as an
Old or a New-school man, with all the grades be-
tween these extremes, from the time of Jonathan
Edwards down to this present ; and some of them
far higher and far lower than either of these. From
the known scrupulosity of divines of these two
great denominations in all such matters, it cannot
be a subject of surprise, that this great variety of
creeds should be guarded and defended on cer-
tain points, most dear to the authors, in a manner
somewhat extravagant and impressive. Such, in a
great diversity of instances, have I found them to
be. At one time I have been pleased, at another
amused, at another astonished, at another morti-
fied. One can hardly go from one town to another,


although he is in the same denomination, without
finding a different creed ; unless he may happen to
fall into the track of a minister or missionary who
organised several churches, and of course gave to
each the same ; though I have actually found them
varying even in such a case, on former missionary
ground in the western parts of New York. I have
myself organised some ten to fifteen churches,
giving them creeds drawn up by my own hand,
which varied from each other, according as, by
more thinking on the subject, I supposed 1 could
improve their forms." 1 After more of this kind,
the writer pointedly adds, " How different this from
the practice of a Church which has the same creed
throughout the land, and that creed in every man's,
in every woman's, and in every child's hand!" 2

Such being the working of Presbyterianism in
this momentous particular, we may inquire next
into its tendencies to maintain unity of another
sort the external bond, namely, of peace and
good order. Of "the present state of the Pres-
byterian church" in this respect, the same author
says, " Churches are divided ; Presbyteries are di-
vided ; Synods are divided ; the General Assembly
is divided ; and the whole denomination, composed
of more than 2000 ministers, nearly 3000 churches,

1 Kal ov iravTa\ov 8oy/i<m' rouro, iraXivrpoTros yap (art TTJV irioriv
KOI 7ro\vpop<f>os. S. Eulogii Alexandr. Orat. ap. Photii Biblioth.
no. 230.

1 Colton, chap. ii. pp. 03-05.



more than 250,000 communicants, having allied to
them a population falling probably not much short
of 2,000,000, is in violent agitation and conflict
with itself party against party all originating
from two great and leading facts, totally unlike,
uncongenial, and meeting, as extremes frequently
do, not in this instance for coincidence, but for
collision. It is extreme looseness in doctrine and
practice on the one hand, and a violent attempt to
coerce it into orthodoxy and order on the other.
The first seems to me to be the natural result of
such an organisation, when the body gets to be
large ; and the last an impracticable theory, ap-
plied to remedy the evil, but doomed apparently to
produce only concussion and dissolution. ... It
seems to be apparent that the Presbyterian organi-
sation has in it the germ of perpetual strife . . . the
essential elements of collision ; and the uniform
result, as actually developed, is no disappointment,
but a fulfilment of its tendencies." 1

Elsewhere the writer says, "Just at this mo-
ment, another grand explosion seems ready to
burst upon us, and the Presbyterian church of
the United States is in all probability to be rent
in twain, if not broken into several fragments." 2
Without pursuing more minutely the important
statements of this author as to the true character of
the system with which he was so well acquainted, 3
1 p. 66. 2 p. 204.

3 And of which he gives a description, which, in spite of certain


we may proceed to notice the fulfilment of his
prediction as to the destinies of American Presby-
terianism. " They have just been afflicted," says

peculiarities of American sentiment and language, is worthy of the
most attentive perusal. Nothing can be more convincing than the
temperate account of this author, as to the total failure of the Pres-
byterian system to effect any of the purposes for which the Church
alone, in the strength of her divine commission, has ever been ade-
quate. For (1) that system is shewn to have no power to check
error, however extravagant. " A woman," Mr. Colton says, speak-
ing of what has actually occurred, " could disturb a church, and a
man could overthrow it ; a bad and viciously disposed minister could
bid defiance to his brethren, and lay waste religious societies, for
want of authority to arrest his career;" p. 175. (2) It is a system
in which the teachers are slaves to the taught. " They are literally
the victims of a spiritual tyranny, that has started up and burst
upon the world in a new form at least with an extent of sway that
has never been known. It is an influence which comes up from the
lowest conditions of life, which is vested in the most ignorant minds,
and therefore the more unbending and uncontrollable ;" p. 138.
(3) Professing to discard forms, it is in fact a system of " common-
place, crude, undigested forms. The Presbyterian, the Congrega-
tionalist, the Methodist, the Baptist, all have their forms, their set

forms It is form from beginning to end in the order and in

the matter except, perhaps, as recently, and to a wide extent, bold
attempts have been made to break down all order and all form
by the habitual introduction and rapid succession of startling and
shocking novelties." So that now the only question is, as expe-
rience has proved, whether men shall have forms " carefully and
prudently" (he should have said " divinely") " provided, and
collected from such sources as the purest and best devotional writ-
ings and manuals, produced by Apostles, Saints, and Martyrs, from
the day of Pentecost to this time ; or shall be doomed to the far
more defective, the much more exceptionable, and the sometimes
offensive, startling, and shocking forms, entailed upon us by loose
unauthorised customs, and doled out in such measure and parts as
may be convenient to the memory, or as may suit the feelings and
taste of the minister for the time being;" pp. 117-20. (4) Lastly,
Presbyterianism in America has been fruitful at once of schisms and
intolerance, beyond the example, perhaps, of any other sect in any
part of the world. " It has made our land," Mr. Colton says, and


another writer, speaking of this body only two
years later, " with another schism, the most exten-
sive which they have experienced. In May 1838,
the General Assembly divided into two sects of
almost equal strength, containing about 1200 mi-
nisters respectively. The schism arose from the
old controversy between the adherents of the old
and new schools ; and there are now two represen-
tative bodies, each of which declares itself to be
the General Assembly!" 1

The New-school Presbyterians are now thought
to be the most numerous of these sects ; " and
they," as I am informed by an eminent American
clergyman, writing in the year 1841, "together
with the Congregationalists of New England, deny
the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son
of God." The development of Presbyterianism
in New England appears indeed to have reached
a climax. " The more intelligent class of New-
Englanders," says another American writer, "have
become tired and disgusted with the shadows and
metaphysics of religion" (alluding to the theolo-

he regards this as one of its characteristic properties, " literally to
swarm with religious sects. No part of Christendom has been so
prolific in this product as our country. It might almost be said to
be our religious staple. This land of freedom has in this particular
proved most intolerant ; and intolerance has multiplied schisms like

the locusts of Egypt It is a singular fact, that these two

extremes, viz., a boast of religious freedom, and a persevering effort
to strangle it, should have characterised the religious history of this
country ;" pp. 204, 5.

1 Caswall, chap, xviii. p. 318.


gical systems of the various sectarian teachers) ;
"they have seen their practical tendency to run
into Unitarianism, Universalism, or what is per-
haps still more common, into infidelity." He adds,
that " infidelity has made rapid strides in that part
of the country during the last twenty years ; and
that, at present, not one half of the adult popula-
tion are in the habit of attending any religious
worship, or even belong to any Christian sect. I
am able to state this from statistical facts, gathered
by clergymen (of all denominations) from different
parts of the New-England states. In conversation
lately with a physician from a county in Connec-
ticut, whose practice extends through nearly the
whole county, and whose acquaintance with the
people is not surpassed by that of any man in the
state, he remarked, ' I am surprised to find how
prevalent infidel opinions are among the farmers of
Connecticut. It is very common to find the works
of Paine, and other infidel writings, making up
nearly the whole of their libraries, and with many
the French Philosophical Dictionary is a sort of
vade-mecum. The metaphysics of divinity, and
the fanaticism of the New-school revivalists, have
latterly tended to the rapid spread of sceptical no-
tions ; and if things go on for the next fifty years
as they have done for the last twenty, Connecticut
will be as noted for infidelity as she has been, infor-
mer days, for puritanical strictness'" The writer
proceeds thus : " I was not at all surprised to hear


this testimony, as it coincided with ray own obser-
vation. In Massachusetts, the tendency of the
popular mind has been more towards Unitarianism
than infidelity, owing to the influence of a few
powerful minds exerted in support of its doctrines ;
but in other states, for the want of a half-way
house, they have gone the whole distance, from
unintelligible metaphysics to open infidelity." 1

The Baptist sects, although by far the most
numerous of all, are said to have but little influ-
ence on the mass of society, " on account of their
divisions and their uneducated ministry." They
are divided into numerous parties, including the
old Calvinistic Baptists, the Free-will, the Seventh-
day, the Six-principle, the Christian, who altoge-
ther deny the proper divinity of our Lord, and the
Campbellite Baptists. The latter sect was founded
some years ago by a preacher named Campbell,
who began to introduce among them the Socinian
heresy. To aid in its dissemination, he recom-
mended an improved version of the New Testa-
ment. 2 He has been eminently successful in draw-

1 Quoted in the New York Churchman, vol. ix. 110. 25.

8 The Baptists having, as it seems, already one of their own.
The Canadian Methodist before quoted says, " I cannot shut my
eyes to the fact, that we have not from them (the dissenters), and
cannot have, any security that the sacred volume will not be cor-
rupted under the pretence of more correct translations, &c. : already
we have had to lament over a whole host of attacks on the authorised
version, evidently manifesting, that were it not for those Christian
enactments which in Britain prevent the ready publishing of spu-
rious editions, we should have been overrun with them ; as it is, we
have had the garbled ' New Version ' of the Unitarians, and, in the


ing away whole congregations from the old Bap-
tists, and it is thought that " the Campbellites " are
now the more numerous of the two in the Western
States. 1 The most prominent Campbellite preacher
in the southern country was formerly a Presby-
terian Elder. The latest improvement upon the
Baptist heresy is Mormonism. 2

A schism took place in the Methodist denomi-
nation in the year 1830 ; the separating body, who
style themselves Protestant Methodists, going out
upon the principle that the laity ought to be ad-
mitted to share in the government of ecclesiastical
affairs. It is a curious fact, that the spurious
Episcopacy of this American sect claims and exer-
cises a more extensive and unquestioned authority
over an immense body of members than perhaps
any ecclesiastical rulers hitherto recognised among

United States, the translation by the Baptists, purposely designed
to support their peculiar views ; besides many others oi'a like nature.
Of the same stamp was the Liverpool Liturgy, published by the
Presbyterians in 1692; of which Mr. Orton says, ' It is scarcely a
Christian Liturgy; in the Collects the name of Christ is hardly
mentioned, and the Spirit is quite banished from it.'" Ten Letters
on the Church and Church Establishments, Letter vii. p. 45 ; Toronto,

1 " The Socinians have now spread extensively through nearly
all the northern, southern, eastern, and western states, and are at
this day (1823) the most numerous of all the General Baptists."
Letter x. p. 72.

z It is unnecessary to do more here, with respect to this extra-
ordinary imposture, than to mention Mr. Caswall's History of Mor-
monism. That gentleman refers its success, in some measure, to a
reaction from the prevailing low sentiments on the doctrine of Bap-
tism. Bishop Kemper said, as late as Jan. 7, 1841, " Morraonism
continues to increase."


professing Christians. 1 I am informed, upon the
highest American authority, that " the great body
of Methodists, following Dr. A. Clarke, have de-
parted from the true doctrine of the Trinity."
Their method of keeping up the religious excite-
ment which belongs to their system deserves no-
tice. " Their camp-meetings," says Mr. Caswall,
"often present the most extraordinary spectacles
of enthusiasm. Sermons and exhortations succeed
each other in quick succession ; the most lively
hymns are sung, perhaps for an hour together.
The people become powerfully excited ; they shout
'Glory' and 'Amen;' they scream, jump, roar,
and clap their hands, and even fall into swoons,
convulsions, and death-like trances. 2 And all this
is supposed by many to be the immediate work of
the divine Spirit!" 3

It is to these monstrous extravagances, among
other causes, that the spread of infidel opinions is
often ascribed even by American writers. 4 Their

1 " Presbyterian and Congregational ministers must, will, and
do have their leaders self-appointed heads ; heads who do every
thing by the rule of their own heads. ' God sends us Bishops,
whether we will have them or not ;' and the mischief is, when we
refuse them, that they force themselves upon us under a system
which often originates in their own whims; at best, a system of
their own devising, and which changes with every new comer."
Colton, Thoughts on the Religious State of the Country, chap. iii.
pp. 85, 86.

2 IlopvT) yap e<TTiv f] atpea-is, rais ^ycwT^/iei/aty f/Sovals yor)Tevov<ra.
S. Greg. Nyssen. In suam Ordinationem Orat. torn. ii. p. 43.

3 America and the American Church, fh. xviii. p. 317. Mr. Cas-
wall seems to hope that they are " changing for the better."

4 One of them observes, that the dreadful effect of the ' Re-


effects appear to be of a very fearful character ; and
we can only hope that we ourselves are looking on
at a safe distance from the wild revels of which
this republic of sectaries is the theatre.

The sect of Quakers has progressed according
to the same law which marks the course of all the
rest. " The Quaker Societies in the United States,"
we are told, " are 462, among whom there has
been a schism, one party being called orthodox,
and the other Socinians :" this writer makes them
equal in number, and puts the Socinian preachers
of the sect at 23 1. 1 I am informed that they are,
at the present day, as three to one.

(3.) It is time now to speak of the spread of
Socinianism in general ; and first, of the state-
ments of its own advocates. The "Executive
Committee of the American Unitarian Association "
published in 1827 the following " Report :" " The
Committee have been gratified by the sympathy
expressed for them in the prosecution of their

ligious revivals' " may be styled the maladie du pays, for it is
literally and unfortunately such." American Criticisms on Mrs,
Trollope's l Manners of the Americans? p. 14. See also Burder's
Religious Ceremonies, where an account of them still more shocking
and ludicrous is given.

1 Vide Church and State in America, by G. C. Colton, p. 8
(1834). Mosheim says, " the European Quakers dare not so far
presume upon the indulgence of the civil and ecclesiastical powers
as to deny openly the reality of the history of the life, mediation,
and sufferings of Christ ; but in America, where they have nothing
to fear, they are said to express themselves without ambiguity upon
this subject, and to maintain publicly, that Christ never existed but
in the hearts of the faithful." Ecclesiastical History, vol. v. p. 470.


duties by Unitarians near and at a distance. They
have been favoured with letters from Maine, New
Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island,
from all sections in this state, from the city of New
York, and from the western part of the state of
New York, from Philadelphia, Harrisburg, North-
umberland, Pittsburg, and Meadville in Pennsyl-
vania ; from Maryland, from the district of Colum-
bia, from South Carolina, from Kentucky, and from

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