« السابقةمتابعة »
conviction. But surely never does the human mind so much expose its weakness, as when it deserts the public road of long-established knowledge, and ventures to strike out new paths for its devious move.
ments; entangling itself with briars and thorns, and xanli ftumbling over stones, and stumps of trees, till it at 'w last loses itself in an impervious wilderness. It being,
however, our object to point out the beaten path of truth, rather than to trace the wandering course of error; to the objections that cavillers are continually bringing forward on this controverted subject, relative to the platform of Church Government not being found totidem verbis laid down in the sacred writings; and the order of Bishops not being to be clearly traced up to the Apostles; it is enough to say, that to us sufficient information appears to have been communicated in them to determine both those points. But were the information conveyed in the Apostolic writings on these subjects more scanty than it really is, this deficiency has been abundantly made up by the unequivocal testimony borne to these points by subsequent writers; some of whom were contemporaries with the Apostles, and fupreme administrators of that government of which they speak. Proofs on this head will be found in their proper place. Suffice it for our present purpose to observe, with Bishop Taylor, that either Christ hath left no government for his Church, and in such case the Apostles must have greatly misunderstood an essential part of [ix] their high office; or most certainly the Church hath retained that government, whatsoever it is: because it is unreasonable to suppose, that the original Founder of the Church would be wanting to the preservation of his own institution.
Admitting, then, that Clemens, Ignatius, Irenæus, and Cyprian, were honest men, and no fools, their testimony on this subject ought to be completely fatisfactory to every reasonable man. And if to their testimony be added the concurrent uniform practice of fifteen centuries, the conclusion from such premises will follow, in the words of an ancient author;* that we must take care above all things to adhere to that which has been believed in all places, at all times, and by all persons; for this is truly and properly Catholic; and consequently, that“ it never was, nor is, nor ever shall be, lawful to teach Christian people any other thing, than that which has been received,'' from a primitive fountain.
In a word, the strength of the argument, in defence of the Apostolic Government of the Church, lies in this undoubted truth, that the Christian prielthood toho is a divine institution; which, as it could have no beginning but from God, fo neither could it be continued, but in the way appointed by God for
Magnoperê curandum est, ut id teneamus quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus, creditum est. Hoc est enim verè propriequè Catholicum. Annunciare ergo Christianis Catholicis, præter id quod acceperunt, nunquam licuit, nunquam licet, nunquam licebit.” -Vincent. Lirin. adv. Hæres, cap. 5–14.
that purpose. What that way was, the Apostolic practice has plainly shewn. For Christ was in all that the Apostles did; and “God was in CHRIST, reconciling the world to himself.”. The ministry of this reconciliation was committed by CHRIST to his Apostles; and that ministry was confessedly branched out by them into three distinct orders, distinguished from each other by the appropriate titles of Bishop, Presbyter, and Deacon. From whence it follows, in answer to the objections above referred to, that from what our Lord said to his Apostles, and from what they did in consequence of his directions, fufficient information was conveyed, to enable the governors of the primitive Church perfectly to understand the plan, and continue the form of polity which the Apostles had begun; which form, the uniform history of the Church for fifteen centuries has demonstrably proved to be, what that of the Church of England now is, in the true sense of the word, Episcopal.
This argument, three centuries ago, would have been considered unanswerable: But since men thought proper to depart from the government of the primitive Church, and to erect a new platform of Church discipline, it has become necessary that their reason, ing fhould correspond with their practice. Hence it has happened, in defiance of the undeniable position, that what was once truth on this head must be truth ftill, that Episcopacy has in these
later days become a subject of less established reputation than it heretofore was.
66 The Reformation (as an able Divine of our Church long since remarked) gave such a turn to weak heads, that had not weight enough to poize themselves between the extremes of Popery and fanaticism, that every thing older than yesterday was looked upon to be Popish and anti-Christian. The meanest of the people af, pired to the priesthood, and were readier to fraine new laws for the Church, than obey the old.”— SHERLOCK
The progress of error, however, in this case, as in most others, has been gradual, Those foreign reformers who were the first establishers of a new.form of government in the Church, pleaded necessity for their conduct. It is not our business to examine the justice of that plea, but in candour to admit it. We therefore say for them, what on this occasion they faid for themselves, that they considered it to be a most unjust aspersion of their character to say, they were anti-Episcopalians, or that they condemned or threw off Epifcopacy as such; on the contrary, they lamented their unhappy circumstances, that they were not in a situation to partake of that advantage, which England so eminently enjoyed in this respect; considering their want of Episcopacy to be more their misfortune than their fault. Such was at one time the declared language of Calvin and Beza. And long after their day, when the assembly of divines at Westminster, under the influence of the Scotch Covenanters, applied to the learned Blondel to bring forward what could be said in favour of the Presbyterian form, with the view of giving countenance to the plan then in agitation for overturning the ancient Apostolical Church government in England, he concluded his apology * for the opinion of Jerom with words to the following purpose:
“ By all that we have said to affert the rights of Presbytery, we do not intend to invalidate the ancient and Apostolical constitution of Episcopal pre-eminence; but we believe, that wheresoever it is established conformably to the ancient Canons, it must be carefully preserved; and wherefoever, by some heat of contention, or. otherwise, it has been put down or violated, it ought to be reverently restored.” This conclusion, not
* Dr. Munro, in his Enquiry into the new Opinions, &c. makes" the following just observation on this work of Blondel, entitled, “ Apologia pro fententiâ Hieronymi.” Amftel. 1646. “When (says he) the government and revenues of the Church were facrile. giously invaded by atheists and enthusiasts, under Oliver Cromwell, the learned Blondel employed all his skill to make the ancients contradict themselves, and all contemporary records; and though every line that he had written, with the least colour of argument, had been frequently answered and exposed, it was still thought enough for the enemies of Episcopacy to say, that Blondel had written a book of 549 pages to shew that Jerom was of their opinion, and had sufficiently proved, that this ancient monk was a: Presbyterian.”-Would my reader wish to form a particular judg. ment respecting the validity of Blondel's sentiments on the subject of Episcopacy, he will be qualified for the purpose by an appeal to Dr. Hammond's learned Dissertations, entitled “ Dissertationes Quatuor, quibus Epifcopatûs Jura ex S. Scripturis et primæyâ an. tiquitate adftruuntur, contra sentencem D. Blondelli," &c.