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THE GREATEST DIVINES OF ALL AGES SHEWN TO BE AGAINST THESE EXCLUSIVE
CLAIMS FOR THE DIVINE RIGHT OF BISHOPS.
Of course this point has been anticipated in the preceding sections; for whilst it has been shewn that no church ever affirmed this order of Bishops by divine right, but that all churches have substantially negatived it, the doctrine of these churches proves the opinion of the greatest Divines of all ages to have been against the tenet of Bishops being by divine right an order distinct from, and superior to Presbyters; having government over Ministers as well as over people; and the sole power and authority of ordaining other Ministers in the church of God. But besides their testimony in the voice of their different churches, many of them have spoken so expressly upon the subject that it may be worth while to hear them deliver their own decisions.
First, The CHRISTIAN FATHERS.—We have treated this subject in a former section. We shall give the learned Stillingfleet's opinion in connexion with this point. “I believe" says he, “upon the strictest enquiry, Medina's judgement will prove true, that Hieron, Austin, Ambrose, Sedulius, Primasius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, were all of Aerius's judgement, as to the identity of both name and order of Bishops and Presbyters, in the primitive church, but here lay the difference, Aerius from thence proceeded to separation from the Bishops and their churches because they were Bishops." (e) WICKLIFFE.
—“I boldly assert one thing, viz: that in the primitive church, or in the time of 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 Bishop were names of the same office. pears 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." (f)
ERASMUS.—“ Anciently none were called Priests but Bishops and Presbyters who were the same, but afterward Presbyters were distinguished from the Priest.” (g) By Priest here he seems to mean Bishop.
CRANMER.—" The Bishops and Priests (Presbyters) were at one time, and were no two things, but BOTH ONE in the beginning of Christ's Religion.” (h)
(e) Irenicum, p. 276, 2 ed. 1662. (f) Vaughan's Life of Wickliffe, p. 109, voi. II.
(8) Scholia in Epist. Hieron, ad Nepot. folio 6, vol. I, ed. 1516.
(h) Burnet's History of the Reformation.
CALVIN.-" The reason why I have used the terms Bishops, and Pres. byters, and Pastors, and Ministers promiscuously, is, because the Scriptures do the same; for they give the title of Bishops to all persons whatsoever who were Ministers of the gospel.” (i)
BEZA.—“The authority of all Pastors is equal amongst themselves, so also their office is one and the same." (k) Beza, speaking of the Angel of the church, mentioned Rev. ii. 1, calls him the President, “who," he says, “ought in the first place to be admonished about these matters, and then by him his other colleagues, and so the whole church. But from this to try to prove the establishment of that order of Episcopacy which was afterwards introduced into the church of God by human arrangements, is what neither can nor ought to be done : it will not even follow from this place that the office of President should necessarily be perpetual ; even as it is now at length clear by that tyrannical oligarchy" (i. e. the Bishops) “whose head or apex is Antichrist, and who arose from this scheme with the most pernicious effect upon the whole church, and upon the world.”
MELANCHTHON.-" They who taught in the church, and baptized, and administered the Lord's Supper, were called Bishops or Presbyters; and those were called Deacons who distributed Alms in the church. But these offices were not so separated as to make it sinful for a Deacon to teach, or to baptize, or to administer the Eucharist. Indeed all these things are lawful to all Christians; for the Keys are given to all. Matt. 18.” (1)
M. FLACCIUS ILLYRICUS.— Treating of the time of the Apostles, he says, “A Presbyter was then the same as a Bishop."-Speaking of the Primitive church, he says, “the Bishop was the first Presbyter among the Presbyters of each church, and this was done for the sake of order.” And after quoting Jerome's statement, that, in the Apostles' time, Bishop and Presbyters were not distinguished one from the other, but that this distinction of one to Preside over the rest was made afterwards, as a remedy against schism, Flaccius himself remarks, “ Hence it is evident that, about this time, in the end of the first or the beginning of the second century, this alteration took place, so that Episcopacy is not so much by divine appointment as by human authority.” (m)
BLONDELL AND DALLEUS.—“Episcopacy as now distinguished from Presbyters, according to the custom of the church from the third century, is not of Apostolical appointment, but merely of human institution.” (n)
CLAUDE.—“ As to those who were ordained by mere Priests (Presbyters) can the Author of the Prejudices be ignorant that the distinction of a Bishop and a Priest, or Minister, as if they had two different offices, is not only a thing that they cannot prove out of the Scriptures, but that even
(i) Instit. Lib. 4, c. 8, 88. (k) De Eccles. cap 29. (1) Loc. Com. 12mo. Basil. 1521.
(m) Catalog, Test. Veritat. vol. I, p. 84.
contradicts the express words of the Scripture, where Bishops and Priests are the names of one and the same office, from whence it follows that the Priests have, by their first institution, a right to confer ordination, that cannot be taken from them by mere human rules." (0) BOCHART."
“ If the question be as to the antiquity, I am plainly of opinion, with Jerome, that in the Apostles' age, there was no difference between Bishops and Presbyters, and that the churches were governed by the common council of the Presbyters. Therefore Presbyters are more ancient than Bishops. In the mean time I grant that Episcopal government is very ancient, and that a little after the Apostles' times, it became universal and greatly useful.” See his Letter to Morley, Chaplain to King Charles I., and afterwards Bishop of Worcester. Upon this Letter the Rev. James Owen remarks, “ Of late years some Arts have been us'd to procure letters from some eminent Foreign Divines, to condemn the Nonconformists here, without hearing both Sides. This is evident, by Dr. Morley's Letter to the famous Bochart.” (p)
GROTIUS.—“ETIXOTN, or the office of a Bishop, signifies Inspection or Oversight of any kind. The INSPECTORS, or THOSE who PRESIDE over the church, ARE PRESBYTERS. The chief of these Presbyters, AFTERWARDS, by way of excellence, BEGAN to be called Bishop, as is evident from those canons which are termed Apostolical Canons, in the Epistles of Ignatius, in Tertullian, and others." (9)
Here, perhaps, is a proper place to point out a mistake into which some Church of England Divines have fallen. They have found that Calvin, Beza, and other illustrious foreigners, praised the Ecclesiastical Order in the Church of England, and have immediately jumped to the conclusion, that those Divines and great Scholars were in favor of Episcopacy by divine right. Now the whole conduct of Calvin and Beza, for instance, in the government of their churches, as well as their declaration the above quotations, distinctly shews the contrary. But they had no objection to Episcopacy as an ecclesiastical arrangement of a Superintendency of one Minister over other Ministers, for the sake of order and good government in the church; provided it could be guarded against a tendency to ecclesiastical tyranny. Very right. The Wesleyan Methodists adopt the same opinion, and practice it under a very extended Superintendency. It is so guarded amongst them, as to prevent the possibility of supposing one Minister su
(0) Defence of the Reformation, Part 4, p. 95.
(p) Abridgement of Mr. James Owen's Plea, p. 39. " When the French Churches were earnestly solicited, (particnlarly by Bishop Moreton) to neceive a Clergy ordained by English Bishops, they absolutely refused that Motion: Peter Moulin, a famous French Protestant Minister, in his Letter to the Bishop of Winchester, excusing himself for not making the difference between Bishops and Presbyters to be of Divine Appointment, he pleads,--that if he had laid the difference on that Foundation, the French Churches would have silenced him." Ibid. p. 37.-38.
(9) Annot, in 1 Tim. iii. 1.
perior by divine right to another. The truth of the case is, then, that those great Divines and Scholars, in their approbation of the Ecclesiastical arrangements in the Church of England, really believed Episcopacy, there, NOT to be of Divine right, but of human authority, and hoped it was well constituted for good government. Whether or not they were mistaken, is not my present business to inquire.
VITRINGA." All the Rulers or Governors of the Church of Ephesus were equally, and without the least difference, called Bishops, Presbyters, and Pastors. (Acts xx. 17, &c.) Yea, indeed, were we to collect all those places in the Historical Books, and Epistles of the New Testament, in which the
persons Presiding over the church are mentioned, under different circumstances, we should meet with them every where equal both in name and in office, no difference at all ever being made between them.”—“Bishops, Presbyters and Pastors, according to the style of the Sacred Scriptures, are names designating one and the same order of men; they are neither disguished in the kind of their order, nor their office. This position will stand, I am persuaded, as long as the Acts of the Apostles and their Epistles shall be read without prejudice." (r)
MOSHIEM.- :-“ The Rulers of the Church were called either Presbyters or Bishops, which two titles are, in the New Testament, undoubtedly applied to the same order of men.” (s)
SUICER.—“At the first, therefore, all Presbyters were equally over the flock, and had none over themselves; for they were called Bishops, and had Episcopal power, and acknowledged none above themselves, seeing they all came by order to the PRIMACY, WHICH PRIMACY was only a matter of order by Sitting in the FIRST CHAIR, and conferred no superior power. And this was the constitution of the church under the Government of the APOSTLES. Afterwards, when Bishops were made above Presbyters, both being the same in name and reality, then the Bishops presided over the Presbyters of each city, all Bishops being accounted equal. This state of things continued till the Council of Nice, A.D.325, or a little after. From that time Metropolitans were placed over the Bishops of a province, and had the right of ordaining the Bishops of that province.” (t)
SCHLEUSNER.”—"For at length, AFTER the Apostles' age, that difference was introduced between the Bishops and Presbyters, that the Bishops should have the greater dignity, as Suicerus rightly states in his Thesaurus Ecclesiasticus.” (u)
ARCHBISHOP USHER.-"I asked him (Abp. Usher) also his judgement about the validity of Presbyters' Ordination ; which he asserted, and told me that the King (Charles I.) asked him, at the Isle of Wight, wherever (r) De Synagog. Vet. Lib. 2, cap. 2, pp. 447. and 485. (s) Eccles. Hist. vol. I, p. 101.
(t) Thesaur. Eccles. Tom. I, col. 1180.
he found in Antiquity, that Presbyters alone ordained any ? and that he answered, I can shew your Majesty more, even where Presbyters alone successively ordained Bishops; and instanced in Hierome's words, Epist. ad Evagrium, of the Presbyters of Alexandria chusing and making their own Bishops from the days of Mark till Heraclas and Dionysius." (v)
Now here is a host of men, whose qualifications for giving their judgment in this matter were never surpassed, all determining, with one voice, that, BY DIVINE RIGHT, ALL MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL ARE EQUAL; and that the order of Bishops, as now existing, is only a HUMAN arrangement.
Here, then, this all-deciding point is placed on the basis of a CATHOLIC or UNIVERSAL Doctrine of the Christian Church. The celebrated rule of Vincentius Lirinensis, is, that a doctrine truly Catholic, is one“ believed in all places, at all times, and by all the Faithful.–And we are thus Catholick, when we follow Universality, Antiquity, and Consent : but we follow Universality, when we profess that only to be the true Faith, which is professed by the church all the world over. In like manner, we are followers of Antiquity, when we religiously adhere to that sense of Scripture which manifestly obtained amongst the Holy Fathers, our Predecessors. And, lastly, we follow Consent, when we embrace the definitions and opinions of almost all, if not all, the Bishops and Teachers in the ancient church.” Reeves's Translation, chap. 3. Vincentius himself shews no case in which this Rule more fully applied, than it applies to the position that all Gospel Ministers are, by divine right, equal in power and authority, in the Christian Church.
The main pillar of this semipopish Succession scheme was the assumption of the DIVINE RIGHT of Episcopacy. But we have now shewn that Presbyters and Bishops are one and the same, by the supreme authority of the Sacred Scriptures most expressly; by the Consent of the Fathers ; and by the Consent of all Christian Churches.
All the acts, therefore, of Presbyters, are, by divine right, of equal authority with the acts of any Bishops or Archbishops whatever.
Ordination by Presbyters has equal divine authority with Ordination by Bishops.
Presbyters are equally SUCCESSORs of the Apostles, in all the rights and authority remaining to the Ministers of Christ, as the Bishops are.
Whatever evidence, moreover, there is in any Episcopal church for an uninterrupted line of Bishops from Peter, or any other Apostle, there is the same evidence for an uninterrupted line of Presbyters from that very Apostle to the present day in every other Protestant church in the world. For even according to the principles of our high churchmen and Papists, no man can properly or scripturally be a Bishop except he be first a Presbyter. Therefore, wherever there is an uninterrupted series of true Bishops, there is
(v) Life of Baxter, by Sylvester, fol. Lib. 1, part 2, $ 63, p. 206.