Secret Service Theologian





THE Epistle to the Philippians is addressed to "all the saints," "with the bishops and ministers." Upon which Dean Alford remarks, "The simple juxtaposition of the officers with the members of the Church, and indeed their being placed after those members, shows the absence of hierarchical views such as those in the Epistles of the apostolic Fathers." And again, in his comments on Acts xx. 17, 28 (which records that Paul addressed the elders of the Church in Ephesus as bishops), he refers thus to the perversion of the passage by Ireneus: "So early did interested and disingenuous interpretations begin to cloud the light which Scripture might have thrown on ecclesiastical questions." And he notices the mistranslation of verse 28 in A.V. ("overseers" in lieu of bishops), as concealing "the fact of elders and bishops having been originally and apostolically synonymous." This is obvious from Tit. i. 5, 7, which enjoins the appointment of "elders in every city . . . if any man is blameless . . . for the bishop must be blameless." And so again in Acts xiv. 23, "And when they had appointed for them elders in every church."
And in his essay on "The Christian Ministry," (Philippians, p. 97) Bishop Lightfoot of Durham writes:
"It is a fact now generally recognised by theologians of all shades of opinion, that in the language of the New Testament the same officer in the Church is called indifferently 'bishop' and 'elder' or 'presbyter.'
Some who would despise these great Protestant theologians, and who would regard a layman who discusses such subjects as being "in the gainsaying of Korah," will listen perhaps to the most learned of the Latin Fathers. In Jerome's Commentary on Titus they will find all this in the plainest words. He says, "A presbyter is the same as a bishop and. . . Churches were governed by a common council of presbyters." And again, "Therefore, as we have shown, among the ancients presbyters were the same as bishops; but by degrees, that the plants of dissension might be rooted up, all responsibility was transferred to one person."
The word deacon occurs in two passages in our English Bible, viz., Phil. i. i and 1 Tim. iii. 8-13. It there represents the Greek word, which occurs eight times in the Gospels and twenty-two times in the Pauline Epistles, and nowhere else. In the Gospels it means servant in the common sense of that word, save only in John xii. 26 ("There shall My servant be"). The Apostle uses it only in the higher sense, save in Rom. xiii. 4. But by an extraordinary vagary of Christian thought, the seven men appointed, as recorded in Acts vi., to take charge of the collections are called deacons; and the word having thus acquired the meaning of a subordinate minister, it was then, with an ecclesiastical bias, introduced into the two passages above indicated. Its use there is not translation but exegesis ; for when the New Testament was written the Greek language possessed no word corresponding to it. And "using the office of a deacon" (A.V.) or "serving as a deacon" (R.V) in verses io and 13, is a sheer mis-translation. The verb thus rendered is the kindred term used thirty-six times in the New Testament, and it ought to be rendered "to minister." The New Testament knows nothing of "the office of a deacon." Besides the apostles, there were in the Church "bishops" and" ministers." The functions of an elder or bishop were not ministry, but rule. If he ruled well he was to be doubly esteemed, and still more esteemed if (in addition to discharging the duties of his office) he "laboured in the word and in teaching" (i Tim. v. 17). The " bishop" was generally appointed by an apostle or his delegate (Tit. i. 5). But the practice of appointing "ministers" belongs to post-apostolic times. The call to the ministry was altogether of God. They who claimed to have received the call were duly tested; the command was, "Let them first be proved, and then, if they be blameless, let them minister" (i Tim. iii. io). This survives in the service for "the making of deacons," which is very ancient. (The service for "ordering of priests" belongs to a later and more corrupt era.) Before the bishop proceeds to ordain the candidate he requires him to declare that he is "truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the ministry." The call itself is neither of men nor by men.
In controversies of the kind raised by "the Oxford movement" and by the present ritualistic revival, the real question at issue is "the Church." On the one side there is the Romish view; on the other is that of the Reformers. Which is right? This question is of vital importance. No one, whatever his opinions may be, can fail to be struck by the silence of Scripture respecting that which is the paramount reality in the religion of Christendom. Prominence is given to "the Church which is His body" ; but about the Church as an organised society on earth, there is, if we except i Cor. Xii. 28 and i Tim. iii. 15, practically nothing in the New Testament, save warnings of its apostasy. Latin theology, however, maintains its position, first, by ignoring all this; secondly, by confounding the Church with the kingdom; and thirdly, by taking words spoken to the apostles in the days of the Lord's earthly ministry as applicable to "the Church" of Christendom.
John xx. 23 may seem an exception to this. But let the objector answer this question, Whether were the Lord's words addressed to the whole company of the disciples there assembled, or to the Apostles as such? If the former, there is an end of the matter from the Romish standpoint; if the latter, then let those who claim to have the powers of Apostles in the spiritual sphere, give proof that they possess such powers, in the sphere where we can test them.
Since the beginning of the "Oxford movement" to the present hour, no one has seceded to Rome who has not taken that step as the result of deciding the question, Whether is the Church of Rome or the Church of England the Church? It is like one of those catch questions which are framed so to fix the attention on a side issue that the real issue involved escapes notice. Of course we answer, with the Reformers, "Neither the one nor the other." - According to them "the Church" is "a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same" (Art. xix.). This is the creed of the Church of England. And if any bigot should set up the plea that by these concluding words the Reformers intended to limit their definition to episcopacy, he is answered by the language of the 55th Canon of the Convocation of 1603, which is as follows: "Before all sermons, lectures, and homilies, the preachers and ministers shall move the people to join with them in prayer, in this form, or to this effect, as briefly as conveniently they may; Ye shall pray for Christ's Holy Catholic Church, that is, for the whole congregation of Christian periple dispersed throughout the whole world, and especially for the Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland." Such is " the Catholic Church" for whose "good estate" prayer is made continually in our churches. In 1603 the only Episcopal Churches outside the kingdom were those which Article xix. expressly excludes; and the Church of Scotland (which is here expressly named) was Presbyterian. All that Dean Hook has here to urge is that, as othe Archbishop who presided at the Convention was (he declares) a bitter and unscrupulous bigot, it is "monstrous to suppose" the Presbyterian Church of Scotland was intended. But the fact remains that there was no Episcopal Church in Scotland. The plain truth is that the Church of England does not teach this anti-Christian figment of Apostolic Succession in an episcopacy. Article xxiii. could never have been framed by men corrupted by such an error. And Hooker-a high authority upon the doctrines of the Church-repudiates it. "Some do infer" (he says) "that no ordination can stand but such only as is made by Bishops, which have had their ordination likewise by other Bishops before them till we come to the very apostles, . . . to this we answer, that there may be sometimes very just and sufficient reason to allow ordination made without a Bishop" (Eccies. Pol. vii. i4).
If Rome has paramount claims to the position she assumes, it is as being indisputably the most distinctive and advanced embodiment of the apostasy. When the historic Church adopted the pagan rite of baptism (see ch. viii) it ceased to have any moral right to be considered the Church of God; and when in a later age it gave up the Lordship and Headship of Christ its fall was complete. For if baptismal regeneration is un-christian, apostolic succession is antichristian.
In Christianity the Church holds its true place as "a congregation of faithfulmen," and the test of faithfulness is that the Lord Jesus Christ is all in all. But in "the Christian religion" the Church is everything. Indeed there is more about "the Church" in many an evangelical sermon than in the whole of the New Testament.!
(Footnote - The expression "Church of Christ" is not found in Scripture, though "Churches of Christ" occurs (Rom. xvi. i6). The word "Church" in 'the singular occurs but fifty times in the Epistles; in the vast majority of these occurrences it is used narratively, or with reference to some local congregation. Eph. and Col. deal with the Church as the vital unity-the body of Christ; and all that the New Testament has to say of the visible or professing Church corporately, will be found in i Cor. xii. and xiv. and i Tim. iii. 15.)
In the course of official duty I have read many obscene books, but I have seldom read anything more gratuitously filthy than the standard works intended for the guidance of priests in questioning penitents. Compared with Romish treatises, those in use among the Romanisers in the Church of England seem mild. Dr. Pusey's Manual for Confessors (based on Abbé Gaume's work) entirely omits the section relating to the seventh commandment-an acknowledgment that, in his day, Englishmen would not tolerate it. But impurity is an evil plant of rapid growth, and no such reserve was used by "The Society of the Holy Cross" when, in 1866, they issued The Priest in Absolution. Part I. of this work, a tract of 90 pages, was published and sold openly, and reached a second edition in 1869. Part II., a book of 322 pages, was "privately printed for the use of the clergy." It was dedicated "to the Masters, Vicars, and Brethren of the Society of the Holy Cross," and its circulation has been chiefly among the conspirators of that Jesuitical organisation. I have been fortunate enough, however, to see a copy of it, and I have made extracts which I intended to set out here. But this purpose I have abandoned, for I have sought to exclude everything from these pages which would render them unfit for general readers. When the late Lord Redesdale brought the book before the House of Lords (June 14, 1877) the extracts he read from it were deemed too indecent even for the secular newspapers; and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Tait), who followed Lord Redesdale, declared "that it is a disgrace to the community that such a book should be circulated under the authority of clergymen of the Established Church."
The history of this shameful book, and of the controversy to which it gave rise, will be found in Chapter IV. of Mr. Walsh's Secret History of the Oxford Movement-a work which ought to be in the hands of every voter in the country. With his usual coldness he discusses them question as though these "priests" who practise this abominable system were all excellent men, whose only error is doctrinal. But suffice it to say - for the subject is a delicate one - that those who claim to be priests with authority to forgive sins need expect no quarter when they outrage morality. The scandal is still recent respecting one leading member of the Society of the Holy Cross, whose name figures in Mr. Walsh's pages; and were I to refer to others it would not betoken Protestant bigotry, but special knowledge.

If, in the face of the plain statements of the 19th, 20th, and 25th verses of the first chapter of Matthew, people can deny that the mother of our Lord became Joseph's wife, it is idle to argue the question. Jerome it was who first formulated the Virgin Mary myth in a systematic way. With reference to the verses above cited, he exposed the fallacy of holding, as Hooker expresses it, "that a thing denied with special circumstance doth import an opposite affirmative when once that circumstance is expired." Sound logic this, provided "the thing denied" be something against the doing of which there exists a presumption, on account of its being vicious or wrong. And this Jerome's argument assumes, thus begging the whole question. If we deny that a man committed some grossly immoral act on the day when a wife whom he dearly loved lay dying, we do not imply that he committed such acts on other days, but merely give a special reason for rejecting the charge that he did so on the day in question. But if we assert that a man did not eat meat during Lent we do distinctly imply that he did do so at Easter. Some who deplore Mariolatry may perhaps shrink from the thought that Mary became the wife of Joseph. But the question arises, how far that feeling may be due to the very error which God intended to correct by recording so plainly that she, whom all generations call blessed, entered into the marriage relationship. "Let marriage be had in honour among ALL", (Heb. xiii. 4, R.V.).
The Apostle Paul's words in i Cor. vii. 25-40 have been misused in support of pernicious teaching on the subject of celibacy. But as Dr. Chr. Wordsworth writes
(Church History, vol. iii. chap. vi.), he "qualifies his commendations of celibacy by grounding them on considerations of the present distress (in i Cor. vii. 26) in which the Christian Church was, in tha.t age of persecution; and he condemns in the strongest terms those who forbid to marry, even as contravening the divine truths which flow from the doctrine of the Incarnation, and as led astray by seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, and declares his will that younger women should marry and bear children. (i Tim. V. 14), and that every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband (i Cor. vii. 2), and that marriage is honourable in all (Heb. xiii. 4) and 'a great mystery,' being a figure of Christ's union with His Church (Eph. V. 23-33)."
But the Bishop overlooks the fact that the Apostle never contemplates pledged celibacy. A life pledge not to do that which God sanctions to be done is entirely beyond the scope of his words. And any suggestion of monasticism is absolutely abhorrent to his teaching. And further, not only are these words of counsel framed with special reference to the persecution then prevailing, but the Apostle prefaces them by the express warning, "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord." Such reservations are of immense importance as indicating the meaning of inspiration, and the supreme authority of inspired Scripture. "The exception proves the rule," and of the rest of the Epistle the Apostle could write, "If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord ' (i Cor. xiv. 37). Nothing can be more explicit than the distinction. In the one case it is, "I command, yet not I, but the Lord" ; in the other case it is, "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord'? (i Cor. vii. 10, 12).
The language of Heb. xiii. 2o is freely used against the truth which it is the main object of the Epistle to establish. Here is the passage: "We have an altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."
The briefest summary of the views of commentators upon the words "We have an altar," would fill many a page. And it would convey the false impression that the statement is a hopeless enigma; whereas, in fact, its meaning is simple and clear to those who understand the language in which it is written, i.e., the typology of Scripture, "now entirely neglected" (as Hengstenberg so truly says). But let us keep in view:
(i) That the passage belongs, not to the doctrinal, but to the practical teaching of the Epistle;
(2) That so far from its being the promulgation of some deep or mysterious truth, it is merely an incidental appeal to one of the plainest and best known ordinances of the law, and this, as the basis of the practical exhortation of verse 13; and
(3) That there is no emphasis on the pronouns "we" and "they": as a matter of fact they are not expressed in the original at all.
We may therefore at once rule out any explanation which makes the " we refer to Christians and the "they" to Jews; or which "involves the anachronism of a distinction between clergy and laity, which certainly then had no place" (Alford). The words are equivalent to "There is an altar." And as the words were addressed to Hebrews, and no one versed in the teaching of the law would tolerate the thought of eating the great sin-offering, we may rule out also any exposition which rests on a blunder so gross. The priests were to eat of the ordinary sin-offerings, but not of those of which the blood was carried into the holy place (Lev. vi. 30; x. i6, i8). Having regard to (3) we dismiss also of course the, exegesis, "We have an altar," namely, the Cross. Moreover, this also rests upon ignorance of the types; for under the law no victim was ever killed upon the altar, and there was no altar of sin-offering at all. The blood of the sin-offering was put upon the altar of burnt-offering, and in certain specified cases, upon the altar of incense. The use of the word " altar" in the passage is merely an instance of the familiar figure of Metonymy; as when, ex. gr., we say that a man keeps a good table, meaning thereby that he has goodfood.
To conclude: the passage may be thus amplified and explained :-We know that in the aspect of His work, which was typified by the great sin-offering, Christ stood absolutely alone and apart from His people. But the Cross does not speak to us merely of the curse of God upon sin; it expresses also the reproach of men, poured out without measure upon Him who was the Sin-bearer. We cannot share the Cross in its aspect toward God; but let us on that very account be eager to share it in its aspect toward the world-"Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."
It is the Hebrews version of Galatians vi. 14. And as the tense of the verb makes clear in the original, it is not a call to some heroic act of renunciation, but (like the "Let us draw near" of ch. x. 22) an exhortation to the habit and attitude of life and heart which become those who profess to have been saved by the Cross of Christ.
Space forbids my noticing, important though it be, either the way in which this passage brackets together Exod. xxiv. 8 and xxxiii. 7, and Lev. xvi.; or those other aspects of the great Sacrifice of Calvary in respect of which His people are "partakers of the Altar" (in the Passover, ex. gr., the people fed upon the lamb whose blood brought them redemption). In repudiating the very word "altar" the Reformers gave proof of spiritual intelligence. Just as the only Priest known to Christianity is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself,' so the only altar is in the scene of His priestly ministry - the Divine presence in heaven. An altar upon earth must be either Jewish or Pagan. The. Church of England knows nothing of it; albeit her paid servants revel in the apostasy betokened by the revival of the name, and the re-introduction of the abomination itself, in violation of the truth of God and of the law of this realm.

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