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from all misapprehension and encroachment. This was done as to the Levitical Priesthood, though belonging to a far inferior dispensation. But if we find the sacred writers speak of Bishops and Presbyters AS IDENTICAL, marking no distinctions, leaving no laws for the regulation of such distinctions, we may CERTAINLY CONCLUDE that the Sacred writers had no such views on this point as our High Churchmen hold, but that Bishops and Presbyters are, by Divine right, identical,—that they are one and the same order and office.
Let us now turn directly to the New Testament. Here, and here only, is the Divine rule, as to the qualifications, ordination, duties and powers of Gospel Ministers. Beyond this all is human, mere matter of opinion, and prudential arrangement. And, whilst nothing is done contrary to the letter or the spirit of the New Testament, nor any human arrangement urged as a matter of faith, every Church is at liberty to make such prudential arrangements as they may deem most calculated for the glory of God, the conversion of sinners, and the edification of the Church.
We will begin with the Epistle to Titus. “ For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain Elders (PRESBYTERS) in every city, as I had appointed thee : If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly, For a Bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God : not self willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre :" chap. i. 5—7. Here nothing can be clearer than that Presbyters and Bishops are spoken of as identical. To say ordain Elders, for a Bishop must be blameless; is like saying, crown the Sovereign, for the King must be crowned. In 1 Tim. iii. 1, 2, &c. the same subject is treated, nearly in the same words. In Timothy, the term Bishop only is used, it being indifferent which was employed, whether Bishop or Presbyter, as they both meant the same. Again, in Acts, xx, 17 and 28: " And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the Elders (PRESBYTERS) of the Church. And when THEY were come unto him, he said unto THEM,—Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made YOU overseers (Bishops); to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” The identity is so clear, that to add any remarks would be to insult the reader's understanding. These three passages, with the following observations, will be decisive to every unbiassed mind.
1. The word Bishop, ET1O XOTOS, is never used in the * New Testament
* The noun ET1O XOTOS, Episcopus, signifying Bishop or Overseer, is used only five times in the New Testament. In Acts, xx. 28, it is disticntly said, that the Holy Ghost made them “Overseers over the flock." Again, in Phil. i. 1 : “ Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the Saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the Bishops and Deacons.” Now here are only
ch. v. 2,
to signify the office of oversight over MINISTERS, but only over the Flock of Christ. So Acts, xx. 28, as already quoted. And so in Peter's Epistle, the verb ETIOXOTEW, to act the Bishop : “ Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the foresight thereof, ETIOLOMOUITES, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." 1 Peter,
3. 2. Bishops and Presbyters have the SAME QUALIFICATIONS : Titus, i. 5–7; 1 Tim. iii. 1, 2, &c.; Acts, xx. 17 and 28.
3. Bishops and Presbyters have the samE ORDINATION : Acts, xx. 17 and 28; Titus, i. 5—7.
4. Bishops and Presbyters have the SAME DUTIES: proofs as before.
5. Bishops and Presbyters have the same power and authority. In the above passages no distinction is made; neither is there any in the New Testament, at least in favour of Bishops.
6. Presbyters and Bishops have the names promiscuously, as implying the same office. Our High Churchmen do not deny that the names are used promiscuously. These things are surely enough to prove their identity, or at least that Bishops were not superior to Presbyters.
“ Bishops and Deacons" mentioned. We have no mention of Deacons in the New Testament as Pastors; and the question is only about Bishops and Presbyters. Here are not any but the people to oversee. Dr. Whitby says, that “the Greek and Latin Fathers do with one consent declare that the Apostle here calls their PRESBYTERS their Bishops.” Of course if they all say that Presbyters are here meant by Bishops, the High Church advocates of Modern Bishops will not wish to make it out that the oversight exercised by these Presbyters was over Pastors, because then it perhaps might follow that these Presbyter-Bishops had the oversight over some that were simply Bishops. The next passage is, 1 Tim. iii. I—5: “ This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a Bishop, he desireth a good work. A Bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity ; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God ?)” Now here is not a word about the oversight over Pastors, but about “ taking care of the Church of God.” When Ministers and people are spoken of in this manner, the Church of God distinctly means the people, “the Flock.” So, “ Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you Overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts, XX. 28. And it is evident the Apostle means the same thing in 1 Tim. iii. 1–5, for he compares care of the Church of God" to a man's “Ruling well his own house, having his in subjection.” Pastors are always stewards or householders, but never the children when the relation between the members of God's household is thus represented. The word ETIOXOTOS occurs again in Titus, i. 7: “For a Bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre.” This passage is the same in substance, as the former, and must have the same interpretation. The last place in the New Testament where the word occurs, is, 1 Pet. ii. 25 : “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." Here it is applied to our adorable Redeemer; but it is distinctly explained as referring to him, not in the character of Chief Pastor, as Superintending other Pastors, but as to his oversight over the souls of the People" Bishop of your Souls." What can be a clearer proof, that the title of Bishop, in the New Testament, was not given to designate an office PRINCIPALLY DISTINGUISHED in its superiority by its oversight over other Pastors, than this, that the word is never so used in the New Testament; but always and only to imply overSIGHT OVER THE FLOCK?
7. Presbyters ONLY are expressly said to ordain, “ Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery.” 1 Tim. iv 14.
8. The Apostles sometimes call themselves Presbyters, but never Bishops.
9. Presbyters are mentioned as joining the Apostles in the COUNCIL at Jerusalem, but no express mention is made of Bishops: Acts, xv. 2, 4, 6, 22, 23.
10. The collections for the poor at Jerusalem are to be sent to the Presbyters, and no mention of Bishops : Acts, xi. 30.
11. It is well known that each Church, containing the congregation of a city and its suburbs, was, in the Apostles' time, the whole Diocese. It was never called Diocese by the earliest Christian writers; the term parish was the usual appellation. Now Presbyters are the only Ministers expressly mentioned as having the oversight and government of the Churches planted by Paul and Barnabas : Acts xiv. 23: “ And when they had ordained them Elders (Presbyters) in every Church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
If half so much could be said for the Divine right of the superiority of Bishops, as is found in Nos. 7-11, for the apparent superiority of Presbyters over Bishops, we should be accounted profane to doubt their eminence, dignity, powers, and authority. Here the Presbyters are the only persons expressly mentioned as having the right and authority to lay on hands in Ordination; what sacrilege then, it would be said, to violate this Divine order! The Apostles are called Presbyters; therefore Presbyters are Apostles, and the only Successors to their power and authority. This is triumphantly proved, it would be argued in the same style, by the Presbyters being the only Ministers acting with the Apostles in Sacred Council at Jerusalem. They only were entrusted with the collections sent by other Churches to Jerusalem ; therefore all the goods of the Church are by Divine right under their government. They were the only persons expressly said to be placed in each Diocese by the Apostles themselves; who then can doubt that, whatever other Ministers might be added afterwards, they must be inferior to these Apostolically succeeding Presbyters ?
Any man who knows Church history, and the history of Bishops, Councils, and Successions, will know that not a hundredth part of their proceedings have half so much apparent Divine right as is shewn in the above particulars for the superiority of Presbyters over Bishops. And yet we do not seriously maintain that any essential difference existed between them. However, all the difference certainly appears in favor of the Divine right of the superiority of Presbyters over Bishops. They were all Bishops; but a Presbyter-Bishop was superior in gravity, and wisdom, and in the authority which these qualities gave to him over one who was simply a Bishop.
Let the reader peruse again the statements of the Succession Divines, Section 1, and consider whether he finds a single point of that system established by Scriptural evidence. Not a word in the New Testament about Bishops as a superior order to Presbyters; about the sole power of ordaining Ministers belonging to them; and about no Ministry nor Ordinances being valid but such as emanate from these Spiritual Princes and Vicegerents of God and of Christ ;—not a word will he find clearly in proof of these strange pretences.
The pretence, then, for Bishops as an order superior to Presbyters, has no ground in the New Testament; the contrary is plainly made out in this section. Presbyters have, therefore, by DIVINE RIGHT, equally as much power to ORDAIN Ministers, and to GOVERN the Church, as Bishops ; nay they have certainly more, for there is plain Scriptural authority for their doing these things, but there is none expressly for Bishops. All the other Protestant Churches in Europe, besides the Church of England, have Ordination by Presbyters. Their Ministers, therefore, and Ordinances, are equally valid with those of the Church of England ; and more conformable to express Scripture. “Whatsoever,” says Bishop Taylor, as the champion of High Church Episcopacy, “was the regiment of the Church in the Apostles' times that must be perpetuall, (not so as to have all that which was personall, and temporary, but so as to have no OTHER), for that, and that only, is of Divine institution which Christ committed to the Apostles, and if the Church be not now governed as THEN, We can shew NO DIVINE AUTHORITY for our government, which we must contend to doe, and DOE IT TOO, or be CALL'D USURPERS.” Bishop Taylor's Epis. Ass. p. 41.
THE SAME ARGUMENT CONTINUED-PRESBYTERS AND BISHOPS THE SAME
FROM THE PUREST CHRISTIAN ANTIQUITY.
We are now coming upon ground of NO ESSENTIAL importance to our
DIVINE Right can only be proved by DIVINE AUTHORITY; the FATHERS are mere human authority : they never expected to be received in any other light. Indeed, no Church, not even the Church of Rome, ever confined itself to the authority of the Fathers any farther than they found that authority favour their schemes and designs. Let any man read even Bishop Taylor's Liberty of Prophesying, Section 5—8, and he will be abundantly satisfied on this point. A short extract or two from him may suffice. “No CHURCH at this day admits the ONE-HALF of those things, which certainly by the Fathers were called TRADITIONS APOSTOLICAL," Sec. 5. “And, therefore, it is not honest for either side to PRESS the AUTHORITY of the FATHERS, as a CONCLUDING argument in matters of dispute, unless themselves will be content to submit on all things to the testimony of an equal number of them, which I am certain neither side will do.” Sec. 8. One of the greatest of the Fathers, St. Augustin, shall state this point, of the authority of Fathers, Councils, &c. To the Donatists, he says, “ You are accustomed to object against us the Letters of Cyprian, the judgment of Cyprian, the Council held under Cyprian. Now who knows not that the Holy and Canonical Scripture is confined solely to the Old and New Testament; and in this it is distinguished from the writings of all succeeding Bishops, that no doubt nor dispute whatever is to be had about the Sacred Scriptures, as to the truth and right of any thing contained in the same: but the Letters of Bishops, written after the confirmation of the Sacred canon, may be reprehended or corrected, if in any thing they deviate from the truth, by the wiser writings of ANY ONE having in this matter more knowledge than they, or by the weightier authority and deeper prudence of other Bishops or Councils. And even Councils themselves, held in particular regions or provinces, yield, without question, to the authority of fuller Councils, collected from the whole Christian world; and these fuller Councils are often corrected by succeeding ones, when experience hath brought something to the light which was before hid, and something which escaped has become known; and all this may, and ought to be done, without any sacrilegious presumption, any inflated arrogance, and with Christian charity." Contra Donatistas, Lib. 2, c. 3. p. 32, 33, vol 7. fol. ed. Lugduni, 1664. This is worthy of St. Augustin. The Scriptures are alone Divine authority; all