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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 priesthood 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 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.
* “Magnoperè curandum eft, ut id teneamus quod ubique, quod femper, quod ab omnibus, creditum est. Hoc eft enim vere propriequè Catholicum. Annunciare ergo Christianis. Catholicis, præter id quod acceperunt, nunquam licuit, nunquam licet, nunquam licebit," -Vincent. Lirin. ady. Hæres. cap. 5-14.
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 reasoning should correspond with their practice. Hence it has happened, in defiance of the undeniable pofition, that what was once truth on this head must be truth still, that Episcopacy, has in these
later days become a subject of less established repu- . tation than it heretofore was. “ The Reformation (as an able Divine of our Church long since rea marked) gave such a turn to weak heads, that had pot 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 alpired 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 fay 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 Episcopacy 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; confidering 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 an. cient 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 assert 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.” Amstel. 1646. “When (says he) the government and revenues of the Church were sacrilegiously 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 rheir 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 Differtations, entitled “ Dissertationes Quatuor, quibus Epifcopatus Jura ex S. Scripturis et primævâ
an tiquitate adstruuntur, contra sententiam D. Blondelli," &c.
being suited to the object the assembly had in view, was, in consequence of very pressing remonstances against it, kept back; though, in justice to truth, it ought to stand on record, as it here does, *
But when this new form of Church government, which in its origin pleaded necessity for its introduction, and was confidered, by the introducers of it, as supplying the place of what was then acknowledged to be a better thing, became so rampant as to bear with no opposition; those Presbyters whom Calvin declared ought to be anathematized, who would not reverence such an hierarchy as the Church of England possessed, trampled that very hierarchy under foot, as an anti-Christian, iniquitous, and tyrannical usurpation.t-When, at a subsequent period, Epifcopacy was restored with the Monarchy of this country, the Church of England returned to her ori
* This important piece of information is given at full length in a letter from Dr. P. du Moulin to Dr. Durell, and published in the Appendix to his “ View of the Government and Public Worship of God in the Reformed Churches beyond the Seas.” P. 339, 340.
† “ Talem fi nobis hierarchium exhibeant, in quâ fic emineant Episcopi, ut Chrifto iubelle non recusent, et ab illo tanquam unico capite pendeant, et ad ipsum referantur; in quâ fic inter se fraternam focietatem colant, ut non alio modo quam ejus veritate fint colligati, tum vero nullo non anathemate dignos fatear, si qui erunt, qui non cam revereantur, summaque obedientia observent.”--Calvin de Necefl. Eccles. Reform.
Beza's language on this subject was equally strong. Speaking of the Episcopacy of the Church of England, he says, “ Fruatur fanè ista fingulari Dei beneficentia, quæ utinam fit illi perpetua.”Tract. de Minist. Eccl. Grad, cap. i. and xviii.