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dently made, that the doctrine of a superior order of Bishops has been maintained in the church, “ from the earliest ages,” in “ the ages immedi“ ately succeeding the apostles," and by “ all the “ fathers, from the beginning ?” What shall we say of the assertion, that the Scriptures, interpreted by the writings of the early Fathers, decidedly support the same doctrine? I will only say, that those who find themselves able to justify such assertions, must have been much more successful in discovering early authorities in aid of their cause, than the most diligent, learned, and keen-sighted of their predecessors.
Testimony of some of the Later Fathers.
In citing the Fathers, it was necessary to draw a distinct line between those who are to be admitted as credible witnesses, and those whose testimony is to be suspected. I have accordingly drawn this line at the close of the second century. About this time, as will be afterwards shown, among many other corruptions, that of clerical imparity appeared in the church; and even the Papacy, as we have before seen, had begun to urge its anti-christian claims. From the commencement of the third century, therefore, every witness on the subject of Episcopacy is to be received with caution. As it is granted, on all hands, that the mystery of iniquity had then begun to work: as great and good men are known, from this time, to have countenanced important errors ; errors acknowledged to be such by Episcopalians as well as ourselves : as uncommanded rites and forms, both of Jewish and Pagan origin, began to be introduced into Christian worship, and
to have a stress laid upon
them as unreasonable as it was unwarranted; we are compelled to examine the writers from the commencement of the third century downwards, with the jealousy which we feel towards men who stand convicted of having departed from the simplicity of the gospel ; and concerning some of whom it is perfectly well known, that many of their alleged facts are as false as their principles.
But though the Fathers from the beginning of the third century are not to be contemplated with the same respect, nor relied upon with the same confidence as their predecessors; still they deserve much attention; and in the perusal of their writings, we shall find many passages which confirm the doctrine and the statements exhibited in the foregoing pages. We shall sometimes, indeed, meet with modes of expression and occasional hints, which indicate that the love of pre-eminence, which has so much disturbed the church as well as the state, had begun to form into a system its plans and claims. Not a sentence, however, can be found until the fourth century, which gives any intimation that Bishops were considered as a different order from Presbyters; or that the former were peculiarly invested with the ordaining power. Let us then inquire in what manner some of these later Fathers speak on the subject under consideration.
Tertullian began to flourish about the year 200. His writings are voluminous, and their authenticity is generally admitted. And though he has been often quoted by our opponents in this contro
versy, as a witness favorable to their cause, yet if I mistake not, a little attention to the few hints which he drops on this subject, will show that his testimony is directly of an opposite kind. The fol. lowing passages are found in his works.
Apolog “ In our religious assemblies certain
approved Elders preside, who have obtained their “ office by merit, and not by bribes.” De Corona. " We receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper " from the hands of none but the Presidents of our a assemblies.” In the same work, cap. 3, he informs us, that the Christians among whom he dwelt, were in the habit of receiving the Lord's Supper three times in each week, viz. on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as on the Lord's days. Ibid. “ Before we go to the water to be bap“tized, we first, in the church, under the hand “ of the President, profess to renounce the de“ vil.” De Baptismo. “It remains that I re"mind you of the custom of giving and receiving “ Baptism. The right of giving this ordinance " belongs to the highest Priest, who is the Bishop; " then to Elders and Deacons ; yet not without the “ authority of the Bishop, for the sake of the honor c of the church. This being secured, peace is “ secured; otherwise, even the laity have the "right." He then goes on to observe, that although the laity have the right of baptizing in cases of necessity; yet that “they ought to be mo“ dest, and not assume to themselves the appointed " office of the Bishop." De Hæretic. “ Let them
* (the heretics) produce the original of their “ churches; let them turn over the roll of their
Bishops ; so running down in a continued suc
cession, that their first Bishop had some one of " the Apostles, or of the apostolic men (who per“severed with the Apostles) for his author and
predecessor. Thus the apostolical churches have " their rolls, as the church of Smyrna has Polycarp “ constituted there by John, and the church of “ Rome, Clement ordained by Peter. And the 6 other churches can tell who were ordained Bish.
ops over them by the Apostles, and who have " been their successors to this day.”
These quotations are the strongest that Episcopalians produce from Tertullian in support of their system. Let us examine them. This Father tells us, that in his day, Presbyters presided in their assemblies; that the Presidents of their assemblies alone, in ordinary cases, baptized; and that they received the Lord's Supper from no other hands but those of the Presidents: and at the same time he informs us, that administering baptism is the appropriate right of the highest Priest, who is the Bishop
What are we to infer from this representation, but that Presbyter, President, and Bishop, are employed by Tertullian as titles of the same import? Again; this Father, while he declares that each Bishop or President performed all the Baptisms for his flock, and that they received the Eucharist from no other hands than his, mentions that they were in the habit of attending on the Eucha