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In an early stage of this review, we joined issue with our Episcopal brethren upon a proposition of the Layman, viz. “ The question of Episcopacy is a question of fact, to be determined by a sound interpretation of the sacred volume.” We not only consented, but insisted, that the question should be decided by the scripture alone.* We closed the scriptural argument in our last number, and therefore, have closed the argument upon the merits of the case. God's own word must contain the law of his own house. The idea cannot be admitted for a single moment, that those masterprinciples, without which there could be no Christian order, nor any system of instituted worship, are left unsettled in the rule of faith. Whatever is to govern our consciences must have its foundation here, and a foundation deep and strong. We think we have demonstrated that the Episcopal claim has no such foundation. Who set up the hierarchy, is a question not worth the expense of a thought, seeing God has not appointed it in his word. When we follow its advocates to the ground of ecclesiastical history, we yield them a courtesy which they have no right to expect. The instant we eross the line of inspiration, we are out of the territory where the only rightful tribunal is erected, and where alone we shall permit ourselves to be tried.
However, as the argument which prelacy de
* See page
rives from the testimony of the fathers, is in truth her best argument; let us pay it the compliment of an examination. Thus she states it from the mouth of a bishop :
** Is it not reasonable to suppose that the primitive Fathers of the church must have been well acquainted with the mode of ecclesiastical government established by Christ and his apostles ? Now, their testimony is universally in our favour. What course, then, have the enemies of Episcopacy for the most part pursued? Why, they have endeavoured by every art of misrepresentation to invalidate this testimony of the Fathers. Ignatius was born before the death of St. John. Seven of his Epistles have been proved by Bishop Pearson to be genuine, to the satisfaction of the whole learned world. In these Epistles he repeatedly mentions the three orders of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons, and speaks of the order of Bishops as necessary in the constitution of every Christian church. All this has been done; and still, the Presbyterian teachers mislead the people, by artfully insinuating that none of the writings are genuine which go under the name of Ignatius. Another artful method pursued by our opponents is to collect all the errors into which the Fathers have fallen, with respect to particular points of doctrine; to paint these errors in the blackest colours; and when they have thus prejudiced the minds of the people against them, boldly to go on to the preposterous conclusion, that the testimony of these Fathers is not to be regarded when they stand forth as witnesses to a matter of fact. But is this fair dealing? May not a man of sincerity and truth be liable to errors, as to matters of opinion; and still be a true witness, as to things which he has seen and heard ?
Pursuing the usual mode of artful misrepresentation, our Miscellanist has endeavoured to represent Jerome as favouring the Presbyterian scheme of church government; and with the Vol. III.
same spirit, he abuses the church of England as too nearly bordering on Popery. After seeing what has been published on these subjects, if your opponent has any spark of modesty remaining in his bosom, he will never produce the testimony of Jerome in support of his cause."*
Thus, from the mouth of a priest :
“Here let me appeal to the common sense of every unprejudiced reader, to bear witness to the truth of the following proposition.
“ If we had only obscure hints given us in scripture of the institution of this form of government by the Apostles, and if at a very early period—as soon as any distinct mention is at all made of the subject, this appears to be the only form of government existing in the church, have we not the strongest possible presumption, have we not absolute demonstration, that it was of Apostolic original ? Who were so likely to be acquainted with the intentions, with the practices, with the institutions of the Apostles, as their immediate successors ? If, then, we should admit for a moment, (and really it is almost too great an outrage against sound reasoning, to be admitted even for a moment ;) I say, if we should admit, for the sake of argument, that “ the Classical or Presbyterial form of church government was instituted by Christ and his Apostles," at what period was the Episcopal introduced? When did this monstous innovation upon primitive order find its way into the church of Christ? At what period did the Bishops make the bold and successful attempt of exalting themselves into “ lords in God's heritage.” These are questions which the advocates of parity have never yet been able to answer, which they never will be able to answer. They tell us, indeed, of a change that must have taken place at an early period, that Episcopacy is a corrupt innovation ; but they can produce no proof on which to ground these bold assertions. They are countenanced, in these as
# CORNELIUS, Collec. p. 135.
sertions, by none of the records of these times that have been transmitted to us. It is a mere conjecture, a creature of the imagination. It is conjectured that this change took place immediately after the Apostolic age. It must be that this change took place, or Presbyterian principles cannot be maintained. Thus a mere conjecture on their part is to overbalance the most solid and substantial proofs on ours. In order to follow these ærial adventurers in their excursions, we are to desert the broad and solid bottom of facts, and launch into the regions of hypothesis and uncertainty.
“ We say, then, and I hope it will be well remembered, that from the earliest information which is given us concerning the institutions and usages of the Christian church, it undeniably appears, that there existed in it the three distinct orders of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons. We say, that this circumstance amounts to demonstrative evidence, that these three orders were of divine institution—were of Apostolic appointment.”—“But we do not stop here. We maintain that to suppose the form of government in the church of Christ to have been so fundamentally altered at this time, is the wildest imagination that ever entered into the head of man. contemplate the circumstances of this case.
“ It is supposed that Christ and his Apostles instituted originally but one order of ministers in his church, equal in dignity and authority. It is imagined, that immediately after their death, a number of aspiring individuals abolished this primitive arrangement, elevated themselves to supreme authority in the church of Christ. Concerning the time at which this innovation was effected, the advocates of Presbyterianism are by no means agreed. The most learned among them, however, admit that it must have taken place before the middle of the second century, about forty or fifty years after the times of the Apostles. BLONDEL allows that Episcopacy was the established government of the church within forty years after the Apostolic age. BOCHART assigns as the period of its
origin, the age that immediately succeeded the Apostles. He says it arose, paulo post Apostolos. SALMASIUS even allows that this government prevailed in the church before the death of the last of the Apostles. And, in fact, this is the only period at which it can be supposed to have originated with any degree of plausibility. It shall be my task to show that it is altogether improbable, that it is almost impossible, that any innovation upon primitive order and discipline could have been effectuated at this early period.
“ Within forty years after the times of the Apostles, we are told, that the Bishops, by a bold and successful effort, trampled upon the rights and privileges of the Clergy, and elevated themselves to the chair of supreme authority! What! Those who were the immediate successors of the Apostles—those who had received from these miraculous men the words of eternal truth, the institutions of God's own appointment--so soon forget the reverence and duty which they owed them so soon, with a rash and impious hand, strike away the foundation of those venerable structures which they had erected! Would they not permit the Apostles to be cold in their graves before they began to undermine and demolish their sacred establishments? Would such iniquitous proceedings have been possible with men who exhibited, on all occasions, the warmest attachment to their Saviour, and to all his institutions ? Will it be imagined that the good IGNATIUS, the venerable Bishop of Antioch, he who triumphantly avowed that he disregarded the pains of martyrdom, so that he could but attain to the presence of Jesus Christ—will it be imagined that he entered into a conspiracy to overthrow that government which his Saviour had established in his church? Would the illustrious POLYCARP, the pride and ornament of the churches of Asia, have engaged in the execution of so foul an enterprisehe, who, when commanded to blaspheme Christ, exclaimed, “ Four-score and six years have I served him, and he never did me any harm ; how, then, shall I blaspheme my-King