There are many persons at the present day, who, from not having turned their minds to the subject, think they are Churchmen in the sense in which the early Christians were, merely because they are Episcopalians. The extent of their Churchmanship is, to consider that Episcopacy is the best form of Ecclesiastical Polity; and again, that it originated with the Apostles. I am far from implying, that to go thus far is nothing; or is not an evidence (for it is,) of a reverent and sober temper of mind; still the view is defective. It is defective, because the expediency of a system, though a very cogent, is not the highest line of argument that may be taken it its defence: and because an opponent may deny the Apostolicity of Episcopacy, and so involve its maintainer in an argument. Doubtless the more clear and simple principle for a Churchman to hold, is that of a Ministerial Succession; which is undeniable as a fact, while it is most reasonable as a doctrine, and sufficiently countenanced in Scripture for its practical reception. Of this, Episcopacy, i. e. Superintendence, is but an accident; though, for the sake of conciseness, it is often spoken of by us as synonymous with it. It shall be the object of the following Tract to insist upon this higher characteristic of our Church.
My position then is this;-that the Apostles appointed successors to their ministerial office, and the latter in turn appointed others, and so on to the present day;-and further, that the Apostles and their Successors have in every age committed portions of their power and authority to others, who thus become their delegates, and in a measure their representatives, and are called Priests and Deacons. The result is an Episcopal system, because of the practice of delegation; but we may conceive their keeping their powers altogether to themselves, and in the same proportion in which this was done would the Church polity cease to be Episcopalian. Continue Reading