What Evangelical Religion is not

According to J. C. Ryle, Bishop of Liverpool 1880–1900

Erring Bishops ruined the Church of England in the days of Charles the First,—almost ruined it again in 1662, when they cast out the Puritans,—and nearly ruined it once more in the last century, when they shut out the Methodists

“Evangelical Religion does not undervalue Episcopacy. It is not true to say that we do. We give to our Bishops as much honour and respect as any section of the Church of England does, and in reality a great deal more. We thoroughly believe that Episcopal government, rightly administered, is the best form of Church government that can be had in this evil world.

“But we steadily refuse to believe that Bishops are infallible, or that their words are to be believed when they are not in harmony with the Scriptures, —or that Episcopacy is the first test of a Church being a true Church,—or that Presbyterian orders are not valid orders, or that non-Episcopal Christians are to be handed over to the uncovenanted mercies of God. We hold as firmly as any that ‘from the beginning there have been bishops, priests, and deacons.’ But we refuse to join in the bigoted cry, ‘No bishop, no Church.’

“I repeat that in due respect to the Episcopal office we yield to none. But we never will admit that the acts and doings and deliverances of any Bishops, however numerous, and by whatever name they are called, whether a Pan-Anglican Synod or not, are to be received as infallible, and not to be submitted to free criticism. We cannot forget that erring Bishops ruined the Church of England in the days of Charles the First,—almost ruined it again in 1662, when they cast out the Puritans,—and nearly ruined it once more in the last century, when they shut out the Methodists. No! we have read history, and we have not forgotten that while we have had a Cranmer and a Parker, we have also had a Sheldon and a Laud; and that while we have had stars in our ecclesiastical firmament like Hooper, Ridley, and Jewell, we have also had men who were a disgrace to their office, like the semi-papists, Cheyney and Montague, and the subtle politician, Atterbury.”

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