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another to presbyters, and another to bishops, which is the greatest of all, and exacted by the Saviour of the whole Church, who will severely punish the non-payment of it."
We have the testimony of Cyprian, at this time bishop of Car. thage, who thus speaks of the lowest order in the ministry, and of its subjection to his own; “ The deacons ought no more to attempt any thing against bishops, by whom deacons are made, than deacons should do against God who makes bishops.” He also reproves his presbyters for having, during his absence, readmitted to Church membership, some that had been before excluded by him, saying, “What a dreadful prospect we must have of the divine vengeance, when some of the presbyters, neither mindful of the gospel, nor of their own station; neither regarding the future judgment of God, nor the bishop that now presides over them, dare arrogate entirely to themselves, what was never attempted under any of my predecessors."
We have the testimony of Jerome, a presbyter of the fourth century, who contends for the analogy existing between the Jewish and Christian Churches, in these words, “ What Aaron, his sons the priests, and the Levites were in the temple, the same are bishops, presbyters, and deacons in the Church." And again, “without the bishop's license neither presbyter nor deacon has a right to baptize."
Yes, Brethren, we have the testimony of these distinguished divines and primitive fathers, and they constitute a cloud of unexceptionable witnesses, all acknowledging the divine origin of our three orders in the ministry; all giving the first rank and dignity to bishops, the second to presbyters, and the third to deacons; all maintaining that bishops alone were the successors of the Apostles in their pre-eminent office and ministry. Let therefore the caviller be silent, let the enthusiastick seceder pause, as they review a body of evidence, so adverse to their pretensions, and that might easily be enlarged to the bulk of volumes. We have the voice of antiquity on our side. They can only oppose it with the dictum of the three last centuries, pronounced by a very small minority of the Christian world.
From what I have previously urged in relation to Timothy and Titus, particularly the first, you may however desire some additional evidence from the same source, that they were considered
Apostles of bishops, superiour to presbyters, and alone possessing the power of ordination at Ephesus and Crete. Among many others, Polycrates, a bishop of Ephesus near the close of the second century, says, that “Timothy was ordained bishop of Ephesus by the great Paul.” Jerome employs nearly the same words, “Timothy was ordained bishop of the Ephesians by the blessed Paul.” Epiphanius, bishop of "Salamis in the fourth century, still more explicitly recognises his supremacy over mere presbyters, “The Apostle, speaking to Timothy, being then a BISHOP, advises him thus,~Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father.” While Chrysostom of the same age, whose praise is in all the Churches, is even more precise and decided in one of his homilies saying, “Paul directs Timothy to fulfil his ministry, being then a bishop: for that he was a bishop appears from Paul's writing thus to him, Lay hands suddenly on no man.” And then 'as to Titus, if any person is disposed to question his episcopal character and superiority over elders, let him peruse these few, out of numerous authorities. In his account of ecclesiastical writers, Jerome enumerates among others; “Titus, the bishop of Crete;" and in his comment upon this declaration of Paal, “ For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:" nothing can be more to the purpose, than the construction he gives to it; " Let bishops who have the power of ordaining presbyters attend to this." Theodoret, bishop of Cyprus at the beginning of the fifth century, and esteemed one of the most learned fathers of the Church, also informs us, that “ Titus, a famous disciple of St. Paul, was by him ordained bishop of Crete; being a place of great extent; with a commission also to ordain bishops under him." Take these authorities then, with the universal opinion and practice of the Church, wherein for the first fifteen centuries, there is no record of a single ordination performed by presbyters, which was considered valid; and but very few that were even attempted, the act being almost unanimously denounced as a usurpation of power, and the persons promoted being immediately degraded, as it happened to Ischiras ordained by the presbyter Colluthus, in the fourth century: Take these authorities, with this opinion and practice, and there can be no room for doubt, but that bishops, in virtue of their Apostolick rank, alone possessed the power of ordination, and that their sole right was never seriously ques
tioned, until the age of Calvin, who in the sixteenth century established a new Church, in which for the first time presbyters successfully usurped the authority of their superiours. Under what pretence, and with what advantage to the unity and prosperity of the Church, I shall hereafter have occasion to examine.
One circumstance however I have as yet forborne to explain, to which I must particularly request your attention. It is a favourite argument with the opponents of episcopacy, and I believe the more a favourite from its being extremely plausible, and calculated to satisfy a superficial inquirer, that bishops have no more authority in the Church than presbyters or elders, because these titles are indiscriminately applied to the same office in the inspired volume. The fact we admit. We agree that, throughout the Acts and epistles, bishops and presbyters are frequently spoken of, as holding the same rank in the ministry. And what is our answer to this objection, always regarded by us, as alike insidious and unfair?
In the first place, that we attach no importance whatever to mere names; that it is the office and the duties appertaining to that office about which we are alone solicitous. At the very time then, when according to the scriptures, bishop and presbyter were convertible terms, and designated the same individual minister, there existed the lower order of deacons, and the higher order of Apostles; and it is for this threefold ministry, that we contend, and not for the names by which it was at any time distinguished. If it could be shown, that Apostles were not superiour to the then second order of bishops or presbyters, there would indeed be some foundation for the argument, but their superiority being universally acknowledged, it falls to the ground, being only calculated to gratify the subtle disputant on the one hand, and to secure the credulous proselyte on the other.
For, in the second place, while we accede to this interchangeable use of the words, bishop and presbyter in the scriptures, we fearlessly and confidently assert, that it ended with the Apostolick age, and was not afterwards employed by the primitive Christians. The celebrated Theodoret before mentioned, has furnished us with the following just solution of this merely apparent difficulty. 6 Epaphroditus was called the Apostle of the Philippians, because he was entrusted with the episcopal government, as being their bishop. For those now called bishops, were anciently called Apos
iles; but in process of time, the name of Apostle was left to those who were truly Apostles, and the name of bishop was restrained to those who were anciently called Apostles: Thus, Epaphroditus was the Apostle of the Philippians, Titus of the Cretans, and Timothy of the Asiaticks."
A more triumphant vindication of episcopacy cannot be imagined. They, who succeeded to the Apostolick office, out of reverence to such of their predecessors, as were immediately called by Christ, appear to have relinquished to them the more dignified title of Apostle, and to have appropriated to themselves the humbler name of bishop, originally bestowed upon the second order of the ministry in common with that of presbyter; but thenceforward exclusively attached to the first, and never afterwards resumed by the second. The change was only in name, the two offices or orders remained as separate and distinct as they were before. Bishops were what the Apostles had been, and presbyters, ceasing to call themselves bishops, looked up to these, as their superiours, as they had formerly looked up to the Apostles, separated to that office, by their Lord and Master in person. It was precisely, as if by the common consent of the American people, springing from gratitude for the services, and veneration for the memory of Washington, it should be determined for the future, to appropriate to him alone, the title of President, and to all his successors in the presidential office created by the constitution, what is now regarded as the less dignified name of Governour. It would not abstract one iota from the constitutional privileges and powers attached to the office itself. Its incumbent would still superintend and govern, as he now superintends and governs; and he would be considered the merest trifler, who should have the folly to assert, that a change of names had produced a material change in official rank and authority. The title, Imperator, was conferred upon the victorious generals of Rome, during the period of the commonwealth. Was the Imperator, Augustus, no more than a general? Reply is needless. You know the distinction, you perceive its application; and thus I dismiss a most evasive subterfuge, as utterly unworthy of Christian candour and Christian truth.
On the whole, Brethren, although I may have fatigued you by a recourse to so many authentick records, I cannot but think, that you must concur with me in the opinion, that the clear, decided, and
unanimous testimony of all antiquity is to be found arrayed on the side of our venerable Church, and her truly Apostolick ministry. In adverting to the principles, with which the discourse was commenced, will you then abide by this testimony? Or, will you prefer to coincide in sentiment with our opponents, as far better qualified to expound the scriptures, and determine matters of fact than they, who were either brought up at the Apostles' feet, or, were soon after eyewitnesses of the institutions, which universally prevailed, and that were universally considered to have had their origin from men, who spake and acted as they were moved by the Holy Ghost? I will not for a moment permit myself to doubt, but that your decision will be on the side, where scripture and antiquity are known to harmonize, where they combine to erect upon the towers and buļwarks of the Church, the ensigns of sacred truth, and of legitimate power and glory.
It is indeed strange to me, that well informed Christians should ever arrive at a different conclusion. It necessarily involves them in this plain and palpable contradiction. They readily receive the brief testimony of the fathers upon some subjects, and they reject it upon one, where they are far more voluminous and explicit. For does the baptist deny, that the scriptures allow of sprinkling or of infant baptism? After having exhausted to no convincing effect, the various passages of the bible, which bear upon the controversy, they can confidently appeal to these very fathers, and claim the victory in virtue of evidence derived from them. Do persons contend, that there has been no change of the sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week or the Lord's day? They do not scruple to repair to the same witnesses, nor upon their authority do they hesitate to proclaim a similar triumph.
These however are comparatively minor points. There is one of vastly greater moment, and they who persist in discrediting the records of antiquity, in relation to the Christian ministry, put in the hands of the infidel the most powerful weapon, which he can possibly wield against the volume of inspiration. For when he Fontests its authenticity; when he asserts, that the present canon of scripture, including the gospels, the acts, the epistles, and the book of revelations, is spurious, and no more entitled to our confidence, than the many false gospels, acts, and epistles, which have also descended to our age; how will these persons be able to meet