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SACRED ORDER AND OFFICES
DIVINE INSTITUTION, APOSTOLICAL TRADITION, AND
SACRED ORDER AND OFFICES
In all those accursed machinations, which the device and artifice of hell hath invented for the supplanting of the church,“inimicus homo,” that old superseminator of heresies and crude mischiefs, hath endeavoured to be curiously compendious, and, with Tarquin's device,“ putare summa papaverum.” And, therefore, in the three ages of martyrs, it was a ruled case in that Burgundian forge, Qui prior erat dignitate, prior trahebatur ad martyrium.” The priests, but, to be sure, the bishops must pay for all, “ Tolle impios, Polycarpus requiratur.” Away with these peddling persecutions ; αξίνης προς την ρίζαν: « lay the axe at the root of the tree.” Insomuch that in Rome, from St. Peter and St. Paul to St. Sylvester, thirty-three bishops of Rome, in immediate succession, suffered an honourable and glorious martyrdom, unless Meltiadesa be perhaps excepted, whom Eusebius and Optatus report to have lived all the time of the third consulship of Constantine and Lucinius. “Conteret caput ejus,” was the glorious promise, Christ should“ break the devil's head;" and though the devil's active part of the duel was far less, yet he would venture at that too, even to strike at the heads of the church, “ capita vicaria,” for “ the head of all? was past his striking now; and this, I say, he offered to do by martyrdom, but that, instead of breaking, crowned them.
His next onset was by Julian, and “ occidere presbyterium," that was his province. To shut up public schools, to force Christians to ignorance, to impoverish and disgrace the
1 « Maximini jussu martyrio coronatur,” saith Platina; but that is wholly uncertain.
clergy, to make them vile and dishonourable, these are his arts; and he did the devil more service in this fineness of undermining, than all the open battery of the ten great rams of persecution. But this would not take. For, “ that which is without, cannot defile a man.” So it is in the church too. “ Cedunt in bonum" all violencies “ ab extra.”
But, therefore, besides these, he attempted, by heresies, to rend the church's bowels all in pieces; but the good bishops gathered up the scattered pieces, and re-united them at Nice, at Constantinople, at Ephesus, at Chalcedon, at Carthage, at Rome, and in every famous place of Christendom; and, by God's goodness, and the bishops' industry, catholic religion was conserved in unity and integrity. Well; however it is, antichrist must come at last, and the great apostasy foretold must be, and this not without means proportionable to the production of so great declensions of Christianity. “When ye hear of wars, and rumours of wars, 'be not afraid,” said our blessed Saviour, “the end is not yet." It is not war that will do this great work of destruction,' for then it might have been done long ere now. What then will do it? We shall know when we see it. In the mean time, when we shall find a new device, of which indeed the platform was laid, in Aerius and the Acephali, brought to a good possibility of completing a thing, that whosoever shall hear, his ears shall tingle, "an abomination of desolation' standing where it ought not, ‘in sacris,' in holy persons, and places, and offices,-it is too probable that this is the preparatory for the antichrist, and grand apostasy.
For if antichrist shall exalt himself above all that is called God, and in Scripture none but kings and priests are such, “ dii vocati, dii facti,” I think we have great reason to be sụspicious, that he that divests both of their power (and they are, if the king be Christian, in very near conjunction), does the work of antichrist for him; especially if the men, whom it most concerns, will but call to mind, that the discipline or government which Christ hath instituted, is that kingdom by which he governs all Christendom (so themselves have taught us); so that, in case it be proved that episcopacy is that government, then they (to use their own expressions) throw Christ out of his kingdom; and then, either they leave the church without a head, or else put antichrist in substitution.
We all wish, that our fears in this and all things else may be vain, that what we fear may not come upon us ;
yet that the abolition of episcopacy is the forerunner, and preparatory to the great apostasy, I have these reasons to show at least the probability. First: because here is a concourse of times; for now, after that these times have been called the last times for 1600 years together, our expectation of the great revelation is very near accomplishing; and what a grand innovation of ecclesiastical government, contrary to the faith and practice of Christendom, may portend now in these times, when we all expect antichrist to be revealed, is worthy of a jealous man's inquiry. Secondly: episcopacy, if we consider the final cause, was instituted as an obstructive to the diffusion of schism and heresy. So St. Jerome”, “In toto orbe decretum est, ut unus de presbyteris electus superponeretur cæteris, ut schismatum semina tollerentur.” And therefore, if unity and division be destructive of each other, then episcopacy is the best deletery in the world for schism: and so much the rather because they are “ in eâdem materiâ :" for schism is a division for things either personal or accidental, which are matters most properly the subject of government, and there to be tried, there to receive their first and last breath, except where they are starved to death by a desuetude ; and episcopacy is an unity of person-governing, and ordering persons and things, accidental and substantial: and, therefore, a direct confronting of schism, not only in the intention of the author of it, but in the nature of the institution. Now then, although schisms always will be, and this by Divine prediction (which clearly shows the necessity of perpetual episcopacy, and the intention of its perpetuity, either by Christ himself ordaining it, who made the prophecy, or by the apostles and apostolic men at least, who knew the prophecy :) yet, to be sure, these divisions and dangers shall be greater about, and at the time of the great apostasy; for then, were not the hours turned into minutes, an universal ruin should seize all Christendom: “ No flesh should be saved, if those days were not shortened.” Is it not next to an evidence of fact, that this multiplication of schisms must be removendo prohibens ? and, therefore, that must be by
b In 1. ad Titam.