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whilst OTHER BISHOPS OVER THEM had the sole honor and office of Bishops in those Dioceses? This is absurd. It remains, therefore, that they spake of Presbyters. These Presbyters, their language shews, both possessed and exercised the power of ORDAINING Presbyters and Deacons; though at that time they direct that Bishops should ordain Bishops.
The tenacity of the high church Episcopalians to their exclusive and intolerant scheme must be my apology to the reader for the length of this Section. We will now state the result of the enquiry :
1. No clear evidence appears that any of the Fathers of the first three centuries, nor any council, ever maintained this high church doctrine of the divine right of Bishops ALONE to be Successors of the Apostles, and to ORDAIN, and GOVERN pastors as well as people.
2. NO DISTINCTION appears between the office of Presbyter and Bishop in the Epistle of Clemens Romanus, the most ancient and genuine piece we have in the first century.
3. In the second and following centuries, a CUSTOM GRADUALLY becomes established for one Presbyter to be placed over the others; and the term Bishop, or Superintendent, becomes appropriated to him alone.
4. The ancients assign, as the reason for this arrangement, the HONOR of the church,—the peace of the church,—the prevention of schisms or divisions,—and the unity of the whole. So Tertullian, Cyprian, Hilary or Ambrose, Augustin and Jerome.
5. PRESBYTERS PRESIDED over the church; in some places, it would seem chiefly; but even where a Superintendency had taken place, they appear with the Bishop, as sitting to rule in common with him; and without them he could not do any thing of importance in the church. So Ignatius, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Origen, Cyprian, Cornelius, Firmilian, Jerome.
6. PRESBYTERS ORDAINED; this is, as to the FACT, proved by FIRMILIAN, the celebrated Bishop of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia; by the custom of the church of Alexandria for the first 200 years after Christ; by the testimony of Jerome and Eutychius; and by the Council of Ancyra and the Council of Nice.—The right or power also necessarily follows from their being the same order as Bishops.
7. Presbyters are the SUCCESSORS of the Apostles; this is distinctly stated by Ignatius, Irenæus, and Jerome. We have not yet given a most striking passage of Jerome on this point. Hear him then. proach to the CLERGY ?—God forbid, I should speak disparagingly of the CLERGY: they are successors to the DEGREE OF APOSTLES,-qui Apostolico gradui succedentes." And after mentioning the difficulties and dangers of their station, he says, " Non est facile stare loco Pauli; tenere gradum Petri.”
“ It is no easy matter to stand in the place of Paul, nor in the degree of Peter." (c) 8. The only true and indispensable succession to the Apostles is the
(c) Epis. ad Heliodorum de Vita Eremeticâ.
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SUCCESSION OF FAITH, and not of Persons : Irenæus, and Tertullian, and Ambrose. This last Bishop says, “ They have not the Succession of Peter, who have not the Faith of Peter.” (d.)
The conclusion is, then, that, in the purest Christian Antiquity, Bishops and Presbyters were, BY DIVINE RIGHT, THE SAME; “ all the difference which existed in fact between them was almost nothing;” and was merely by custom, or the use of the church, as a prudential measure, to promote order, peace, and unity. ORDINATION BY PRESBYTERS, and all other acts of Presbyters, are, by DIVINE RIGHT, EQUALLY VALID with those of Bishops : the succESSION of FAITH is the only true succession. Ministers and churches who do not hold this; who ADULTERATE it ; ARE TO BE FORSAKEN ;
and those ALONE received as TRULY APOSTOLICAL successors, Ministers, Ordinances, and Churches, where this Faith is preached AS THE APOSTLES PREACHED IT, and as they left it to us in the SACRED SCRIPTURES as their last will and Testament, sealed as with their oath, and their blood. Let the semi-popish Divines, allowed improperly in the Church of England, and the thorough-going Papists of our country, look about them. THEIR SUCCESSION is NOT THE SUCCESSION of the APOSTLES, NOR of the EARLIEST FATHERS; but a fabrication of their own,
upon false assumptions, and built up by bigotry and intolerance, out of human traditions, forged authorities, and abominable idolatries : see Section 10th of this Essay.
(d) De Penitentiâ,
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND AT THE REFORMATION AGAINST THESE CLAIMS.
I know it would be in vain for me to attempt to persuade many church people that I am not writing against the church of England. They mean the church as necessarily implying a divine order of Bishops, 8c. I mean the church, according to the principles of the REFORMERS. They mean the church with all its state importance, its wealth, its emoluments, &c., The question of Church and State, in the abstract, is a matter of indifference to me; and I think it is indifferent also in the eye of the Scriptures. At the utmost, however, the connexion of a church with the state is only a circumstance: it is not essential to the existence of the church. The church is spiritual. The church is constituted by its doctrines, discipline, and ordinances; by the faith and the piety of its members. In this light I view the church of England. Taking the church of England in this view on the question before us, as constituted at the reformation, I write not a sentence to oppose it, but daily pray for the blessing of God upon it, and upon all other christian churches. Taking the words as frequently used by bigoted churchmen, I utterly deny the truth and scriptural character of their claims and pretensions; and believe them to be semipopery, and necessarily leading to bigotry, intolerance, and persecution. Believing, as I do, that this is the nature and tendency of these claims, I think myself bound in conscience to put away all flattering titles as to any men or order of men, and to speak as plainly and powerfully as I can to the overthrow of this system from its foundation. Amicus Socrates, Amicus Plato, sed magis Amicus veritas. Socrates is my friend, Plato is my friend, but Truth is my friend above all friends.
Having come through the Scriptural view, and the view of the Fathers, on the identity of Bishops and Presbyters, we proceed to shew that the ENGLISH REFORMERS maintained that Bishops and Presbyters are by divine right the same ORDER; if this be proved, the whole system of high church succession men falls to the ground. For if Presbyters be, by divine right the same order as Bishops, then their spiritual power and authority are the same; all their ordinations are equal to Episcopal ordinations; the ministry and ordinances of all the other Protestant churches in Great Britain, and on the Continent, as being administered by Presbyters, are equally Scriptural with those of any modern Episcopal church: consequently all these EXCLUSIVE and arrogant high church claims for Episcopal ordinations, &c., will vanish before the light and power of truth. Bigotry will lose its
support, and intolerance its plea for persecution. Christian truth and Christian liberty will extend their hallowing influences over the whole land. Then shall the heathen and the infidel exclaim, “ See how these Christians love one another!”
WICKLIFFE, who is called the morning star of the Reformation, says, I boldly assert one thing, viz: that in the primitive church, or in the time of St. Paul, two orders of the clergy were sufficient, that is, a Priest and a Deacon. In like manner I affirm, that in the time of Paul, the Presbyter and the Bishop, were names of the samE OFFICE. from the third chapter of the first Epistle to Timothy, and in the first chapter of the Epistle to Titus. And the same is testified by that profound Theologian Jerome.” (e)
But to come to thos who actually formed the les, the Book of ORDERS, and the plan of the GOVERNMENT of the CHURCH OF ENGLAND. We shall give every reader the opportunity of seeing, with his own eyes, the truth of the matter, by extracts from original documents, as published by Bishop Burnet in his History of the Reformation. They are the determinations of a Convocation of Archbishops, Bishops, and Divines; for Cromwell the King's Vicar General signs first, as Presiding over the Convocation. As these writers use the expressions “Deacons or Ministers; Priests or Bishops," it is hardly necessary to say to the most cursory reader, that they mean the same office by each of the terms in the separate clauses, “Deacon or Minister; Priests or Bishops.” Bishop Burnet observes, “Another thing is that both in this writing, and in the Necessary Erudition of a Christian man, Bishops and Priests are spoken of AS ONE and THE SAME OFFICE. Priest by these Reformers every where means Presbyter.
Bishop Burnet's remarks, on the nature and value of these Documents, shall now introduce them. He
“ After some of the sheets of this History were wrought off, I met with manuscripts of GREAT AUTHORITY, out of which I have collected several particulars, that give a CLEAR LIGHT to the proceedings in those times.--I shall here add them.”
“In this writing Bishops and Priests are spoken of as one and the SAME OFFICE. It had been the common style of that age,” says he, "to reckon Bishops and Priests as the same office.”
Here follow extracts from the Document called “A Declaration made of the Functions and DIVINE INSTITUTION of BISHOPS AND PRIESTS. An Original.”
“ As touching the Sacraments of the Holy ORDERS, we will that all Bishops and preachers shall instruct and teach our people committed by us unto their Spiritual charge,”
(e) Wickliffe's Trialogus, as quoted by Vaughan in his excellent Life of Wickliffe, Vol. 2, p. 309,
First, How that Christ and his Apostles did institute and ordained in the New Testament certain Ministers or officers, which should have SPIRITUAL Power, authority, and commission under Christ, to preach, &c. -and to ORDER and consecrate OTHERS in the same room, order and office, whereunto they be called and admitted themselves : and finally to feed Christ's people like good pastors and rectors, &c.
Item; That this office, this Ministration, this Power and Authority, is no tyrannical Power, having no certain Laws or Limits within the which it ought to be contained, nor yet none absolute Power, but it is a moderate Power, subject, determined, and restrained unto those certain LIMITS and ENDS for the which the same was appointed by God's Ordinance ;-It appeareth that the same was a limited power and office, ordained especially and only for the causes and purposes before rehearsed.”
Item, That THIS OFFICE, THIS POWER and AUTHORITY, was COMMITTED and given by Christ and his APOSTLES unto certain persons only, that is to say, unto PRIESTS OR BISHOPs, whom they did elect, call, and admit thereunto by their Prayer and Imposition of their hands.”
“ The invisible gift or grace conferred in this Sacrament is nothing else but the Power, the Offices and the Authority before mentioned : the visible and outward sign is the Prayer and Imposition of the Bishop's hands, upon the person which receiveth the said gift or grace. And to the intent the Church of Christ should never be destitute of such Ministers as should have and execute the said power of the keys, it was also ordained and commanded by the Apostles, that the same Sacrament should be applyed and ministered by the Bishop from time to time, unto such other persons as had the qualities, which the Apostles very diligently descryve (describe); as it appeareth evidently in the third Chap. of the First Epistle of St. Paul to Tim. and his Epistle unto Titus. And surely this is the whole vertue and efficacy, and the cause also of the institution of this Sacrament, as it is found in the New Testament; for albeit the Holy Fathers of the Church which succeeded the Apostles, minding to beautifie and ornate the Church of Christ with all those things which were commendable in the Temple of the Jews, did devise not only certain other ceremonies than be before rehearsed, as Tonsures, Rasures, Unctions, and such other observances to be used in the administration of the said Sacraments, but did also institute certain inferiour orders or degrees, Janitors, Lectors, Exorcists, Acolits and Subdeacons, and deputed to every one of those certain Offices to execute in the Church, wherein they followed undoubtedly the example and rites used in the Old Testament; YET THE TRUTH is, that in the New TESTAMENT there is no mention made of any DEGREES or DISTINCTions in ORDERS, but only of Deacons or Ministers, and of PRIESTS OR BISHOPS : nor is there
other ceremony used in the conferring of this Sacrament, but only of Prayer, and the imposition of the Bishop's hands.”