The Validity Of Congregational Ordination -- By: William Elliot Griffis

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 050:200 (Oct 1893)
Article: The Validity Of Congregational Ordination
Author: William Elliot Griffis

The Validity Of Congregational Ordination

Rev. WM. Elliot Griffis

THE grandfather of the founder of this lectureship was Thomas Dudley, one of the founders of Massachusetts. He was a Puritan who lived in the three homes of English-speaking Puritans, England, Holland, and America. He served as a soldier in that Dutch war for independence against Spain which was fought for the benefit of religious freedom everywhere. In his day the intercommunion of all the Reformed churches was the common fact and custom of Europe, not excepting the little island of Great Britain. Reformed and Lutheran ministers from the Continent, where Protestant, diocesan, or political episcopacy was unknown, were settled over English parish churches, or congregations of foreign refugees included in the English church settlement. English bishops presided over Presbyterian clergymen in Scotland, and sat, without claiming or receiving precedence, on equal terms with the Dutch and other pastors and professors of divinity, in the ecumenical council of the Reformed churches of Europe, at Dordrecht, in 1619. In that day there was no practical, no recognized distinction in non-Romish churches between episcopal and presbyterial ordination. Outside the Greek and Roman Catholic bodies, the mediaeval notion of the so-called apostolical succession was little more than heard of beyond a British party. It was the boast also of the Church of England, that she was a true

Reformed church. Her ambition was to be equal in scriptural character to the Reformed churches of the Continent, whose scholars and scholarship, learning and writings, she so freely borrowed, that, in the Book of Common Prayer, probably two-thirds of what is not of Catholic origin, or from the Bible, is Lutheran or Calvinistic.

Towards the end of the one hundred years between the birth of Thomas Dudley and his grandson Paul, the situation changed. The sacerdotal tendencies, so persistently and successfully resisted everywhere else in Europe beyond the papal organization, prevailed in the one state church of England. Men holding a particular ecclesiastical theory, invented in times subsequent to the apostles, gained the seat of power, with the return of the Stuarts to the British throne. Henceforth, the sword, the prison, and the treasury supplied the basis for the dogma of the apostolical succession, which the Scriptures had failed to furnish. The close union of Anglican politics and religion had, as in so many instances since the time of Constantine, triumphed over the simple truth, and made a show of it openly. A dangerous innovation in Reformed doctrine was forcibly made orthodoxy and legal polity in the state church of England. It was decreed that only episcopal ordination was valid, th...

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