« PreviousContinue »
of ordination; and if the essential parts are observed, this can form no element of invalidity. The Church of Scotland for eighteen years did not practice imposition of hands, yet Presbyterians have never believed that their ministry was less valid on that account.
The reader will be pleased to see Dr. Miller's letter on this subject, which we give below. It is in answer to a letter from the Rev. Mr. Gillmer, of Ithaca, N. Y., respecting the case of ordination in the Congregational Church:
"To the Rev. Mr. David R. Gillmer.
"Princeton, N. J., Jan. 7, 1836. "MY DEAR SIR,-Your letter bearing the postmark of December 30th reached me two days ago, and I seize the earliest leisure moment to answer it. I have not the least doubt that the ordination of which you speak ought to be deemed regular and valid. By regular I do not mean exactly conformed to our rule, or rather habit, but still sufficiently conformed to all the essential principles which ought to govern in the business of ordination. I do not suppose that the laying on of hands AT ALL is essential to a valid ordination. In the first book of discipline adopted by the Church of Scotland, by J. Knox and others, no imposition of hands in ordination was prescribed. On this book that church acted for eighteen years. In the second book it was enjoined. But my impression is, that if a plurality of regular presbyters, having a right to ordain, and properly assembled for the purpose, should solemnly vote to ordain a man, and, gathering around him, set him apart, by prayer alone, to the sacred office, without laying on hands at all, it would be a valid ordination. The laying on of hands, I take it, is a mere ceremony-becoming, indeed significant, and worthy of being retained, but by no means essential. If this be so, it follows, of course, that the number of hands laid on cannot be essential. Accordingly whoever reads the formula of ordination adopted by the Dutch Church in the United States will perceive that the laying on of the hand or hands of a single minister is deemed sufficient. And in accordance with this, the learned Voetius, in his 'Politica Ecclesiastica,' (a stanch Presbyterian work,) delivers the opinion, that if the ordaining act be otherwise conducted regularly, it is a matter of perfect indifference whether the hands of several ministers or only one be laid on the candidate. On the whole, then, I come to the conclusion, which I expressed on the foregoing page, that if the ordination to which you refer were otherwise regular, that is, if the five or six men who formed the association were themselves duly authorized ministers; if they voted to ordain the candidates; and if the ordaining prayer, &c., were meant to be a general act, applying to all the candidates,-the ordination ought by no means to be called in question.
"I am with much respect your friend and brother,
"Prof. Ecc. Hist. and Ch. Gov., Princeton Theol. Sem."
Though the ceremony was used in the ancient church in appointing ministers, nevertheless they did not ascribe to it such value as some of modern times. This will be manifest from the following
quotations from Theophylact and Chrysostom. The former, on 2 Tim. i, 6, instead of St. Paul's imposition of hands, has, 'Ote σe εχειροτονουν επισκόπου, When I appointed thee bishop. Chrysostom on these words, (Acts vi, 1,) "having prayed, they laid hands on them,” saith, Εχειροτονήθησαν δια προσευχες, τούτο γαρ ή χειροτονία, They were ordained or appointed by prayer, for this is ordination. He makes prayer the principal rite in ordination. But the reader would be surprised to learn that the purest portions of the ancient church were not the friends of certain ceremonies which their admirers affirm most positively they received from the primitive Christians.
[To be continued.]
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
ARTICLE II.-TRIALS BY ORDEAL AND SINGLE COMBAT.
AN HISTORICAL AND MORAL ESSAY.
BY REV. J. H. YOUNG, OF THE BALTIMORE CONFERENCE.
VARIOUS methods of trial to ascertain the guilt or innocence of accused individuals have been practiced among men in different ages of the world. The principal mode of legal investigation at present in use in France, England, and the United States, is the trial by jury. The learned are not agreed when or by whom this species of judicial process was invented; but one thing is certain, that while several nations are desirous of enjoying the honor of having given it birth, its existence may be traced to a very remote antiquity. Sir William Jones, who is no inconsiderable authority on such a subject, states that it was used by the ancient Athenians. Other writers contend that the trial by jury had its origin with the Britons, who were the first inhabitants of the British island, and who were conquered by the Romans in the first century of the Christian era. On the decline of the imperial government, the Saxons overran the Roman provinces of South Britain, and juries were certainly a part of their civil and criminal jurisprudence. Indeed, some writers have asserted that the Saxons maintained the institution of these trials by Woden himself; who was their lawgiver, general, and god of war, and from whom we have received the name of the fourth day of the week.
Traces of this practice may also be discovered in the laws of Germany, Italy, and all those countries which had been brought under the jurisdiction of that form of government commonly denominated the feudal system.
In the laws of Ethelred, fifth king of England, in the Anglo-Saxon line, who died in A. D. 871, trial by jury is referred to as having previously existed, although it is generally ascribed by historians to Alfred the Great, who closed his life in A. D. 901, and to whom nearly every thing of importance in the English constitution is attributed by some persons. He was "great" when the age in which he lived is considered; but were he now on the British throne, with
all his qualifications and achievements, he would be viewed as quite an ordinary prince. This grand bulwark of his liberties, as Blackstone justly calls it, was secured to every Englishman by the great charter in the ninth parliament of Henry III.
According to the eminent jurist whose name has just been mentioned, (Commentaries, b. iii, chap. 22,) there are seven species of trial in civil cases recognized by the laws of England. These are, by inspection, by record, by certificate, by witness, by jury, by wager of law, and by wager of battle. But the last method was entirely abolished by 59 George III., p. 46, in 1817-18.
Leaving those modes of trial which are consistent with reason, and beneficial to a nation, it will be the design of this essay to examine those only which are founded upon superstition, and are properly called ordeals, that the barbarous origin and immoral character of modern dueling may fully appear.
The ensuing remarks will be confined principally to the ordeals by water, fire, the cross, and battle; for the single combat, among the inhabitants of Europe, was for many years considered as an ordeal likewise. And the only difference between the duels of the present day and those of former ages, besides the solemn ceremonies which no longer accompany them, is this: the superstitious savages and ignorant Christians of the past, when they resorted to this summary method of obtaining justice by the sword or other weapon, were influenced by the opinion that God would always manifest himself in favor of the innocent; but it is engaged in now merely to vindicate a fancied point of honor: and this not by appealing to the supernatural interposition of Heaven, but by relying on the greater strength of a good right arm, or on a superior adroitness in the art of killing.
These trials by ordeal and battle, though they were anciently very extensively practiced, are not easily traced to their origin. It is usually supposed, however, that the numerous hordes of the north who rushed down over Europe, in the fourth and fifth centuries, like a mountain torrent, brought this peculiar custom of settling difficulties with them, and instituted it, as a part of their legal science, in the newly formed colonies of the conquered countries. This may be correct; but the question still arises, How did these ordeals originate with them? They must have had a beginning at some time, and those barbarous tribes of a less genial climate than ours must have adopted them for some reason. This reason will be found, if the writer is not very much mistaken, in an erroneous interpretation of the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
Trial by the waters of jealousy was an ordeal instituted in the laws of Moses; and in the case of David and Goliah we have an example of single combat. Or, if this was not the origin of these singular criteria of guilt or innocence, they must have proceeded from the opinion which so universally obtained among heathen nations, that the gods occasionally interposed in behalf of their worshipers; and this opinion was evidently formed from the frequent manifestations of the Supreme Being recorded in the sacred books of the Jews.
That the principal contents of the Jewish Scriptures were known by many persons far beyond the limits of the chosen nation, is
plainly deducible from the fact, that most of the important events which are written therein are also found either in the ancient fables or in the poets and historians of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and other nations of antiquity.
The cosmogonies of the Phenicians, Chaldeans, Chinese, Hindoos, and a few more, resemble, in several particulars, the Mosaic account of the creation, especially in this, that they ascribe the production of the earth out of pre-existent chaotic matter to a supreme Intelligence. The creation of man in the moral image of God; his fall and the consequent introduction of sin into the world; the form assumed by Satan in the first temptation; the translation of Enoch; the longevity of the antediluvian patriarchs; the lawless exploits of men of giant stature; a universal deluge; the attempt made to build the tower of Babel; the fearful destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; the existence of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses; the departure of the Israelites from Egypt; the miraculous passage of the Red Sea; and many more things of equal prominence in the Bible, are all to be traced in the traditions and records of other nations.
This knowledge, in part, might have been gained through Noah and his family, who must have been acquainted with the chief transactions of the antediluvian world. The Jews also had at different times, and for many years, almost unlimited intercourse with the inhabitants of other countries, to whom they very probably communicated the great features of their history, and of their civil and religious polity. Add to this, that the five books of Moses, and, some time after, the remaining parts of the Old Testament, were translated into the Greek language, nearly three hundred years before the birth of Christ. Is it not therefore reasonable to conclude that the different trials by ordeal were copied from the trial by the waters of jealousy, and that the judicial duels originated in the single combat of David and Goliah?
Heathens might think that as the Jews in extremely doubtful cases were authorized to appeal for justice to their God, by the bitter waters of the law, they themselves were justified in appealing for the same thing, and in their own way, to the god whom they worshiped. As the favor of the gods was much desired, and their anger dreaded, and as they always supposed them to be greatly superior to men, philosophers and lawgivers could not more successfully enforce their instructions, nor more powerfully sanction their laws, than by pretending to have had intercourse with some particular deity. If the mass of the people could but be persuaded that the opinion of the gods had been obtained, they were perfectly satisfied. This disposition to credit something from a supposed supernatural source more readily than if it had been declared by a merely human being, existed also among the more polished and intelligent heathen. And their great men and legislators very seldom enacted a code of new laws, or taught a novel doctrine, but they asserted the good pleasure and assistance of their idols. Numa, the philosopher and king of Rome, pretended to have had an interview with Egeria, the Arician nymph; Solon, one of the seven wise men of Greece, with Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and war; Lycurgus, the celebrated Spartan lawgiver, with Apollo; Minos, a king of Crete, with Jupi
ter himself; Charondas, in Carthage, with Saturn; Osiris, the Egyptian, with Mercury; and Zamolxis, a disciple of Pythagoras, with Vesta, the patroness of the vestal virgins. And it was this unfounded pretension, perhaps, more than any thing else, that made their sentiments on philosophy and divinity, and their laws, so popular.
Nearly similar to this credulous spirit of refined pagans were the superstitious notions of our European ancestors on the subject of judicial ordeals. They believed that through the agency of a divine invisible being the innocent would always escape, and the guilty be punished. The only difference between them was, that the former expected to become acquainted with the mind of God mediately, through their teachers, in the formation of their laws; while the latter looked for the same interference, without a medium, in the execution of their laws.
Before I proceed to notice the four kinds of ordeal, by water, fire, the cross, and the combat, which were most frequently resorted to in cases of doubtful guilt, several others, less commonly practiced, but which were also used occasionally, and some of which are still observed by heathen nations, may be briefly stated.
The term "ordeal" itself has been differently derived and defined by different etymologists and lexicographers, but with no important variation of meaning. According to some, it comes from the German urtheil, or the Dutch ordeel, which signifies simply judgment, sentence, or verdict. Others derive it from ordalium, a term used only by an inferior class of Latin writers, the common acceptation of which is, a mode of examination, or a method of trying a criminal. Dr. Clarke, who has a very learned, though brief, general account of the trial by ordeal, at the close of his notes on the fifth chapter of Numbers, and to whom the writer is indebted for several items of information on this subject, favors his readers with three or four derivations of this word.
Verstigan, a writer on English antiquities and the etymology of old English words, who flourished in the latter part of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century, derives it from the Saxon ordel and ordal; and according to the Rev. George Hickes, a British antiquary and critic, of great learning, in his "Linguarum Septentrionalium Thesaurus," or Treasure of Northern Languages, it comes from or, great, and deal, judgment- the great judgment. Hence it was generally termed judicium Dei, the judgment of God, because a direct appeal was made, by the parties in this trial, to God, that he might detect the guilty, and justify the innocent. Dr. Clarke observes that "Lye derives the term from or, which is often in Anglo-Saxon a privative particle, and dael, distinction or difference; and hence was applied to that kind of judgment in which there was no respect of persons, but every one had absolute justice done him, as the decision of the business was supposed to belong to God alone." See, on the word "ordeal," an Anglo-Saxon and Gothic Dictionary, by the Rev. Edward Lye, author of the "Gothic Gospels ;" an edition of the "Etymologicon Anglicanum," by Junius, with additions; and an Anglo-Saxon Grammar and other works.
But this definition of the term, as will appear from the following essay, is not correct, and does not fully agree with the facts in the case. The priests, indeed, wished to impress the superstitious minds VOL. X.-Jan., 1839.