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meant to assert the superiority of Bishops over Presbyters at that time; and it also completely proves that, your notion of 'a kind of imparity' stealing into the Church in the third century, is a mere whim. There is another circumstance which deserves notice. It is, that this superior dignity of the Bishops is spoken of by all the writers of that age as a divine institution; and this is precisely the same thing as if they had said in so many words -No change has taken place in the essential orders of the Church since their first institution by the Apostles; and, consequently, this is a decisive condemnation of presbyterian parity.
Further: So far was I from 'rushing' to my conclusion, that I viewed this part of the controversy in every possible point of light, being perfectly aware of the shifts that might be used, had I left it in a vague, undetermined state. Nay, although the circumstance of a Bishop's receiving a new ordination is perfectly decisive, yet I did not rest the point of superiority even here. I demonstrated that no spiritual authority could be exercised in the Church but in subordination to the Bishop-that he had the supreme power of the keys-and that the validity of all acts of discipline depended upon him—that he was Chief, Head, Master, Governor of both Clergy and Laity; and, lastly, that he was the ordainer to the sacred ministry. All these points I have proved even to supererogation; and yet, with your story, I am for ever confounding two distinct things, viz. the distinct enumeration of the ministers of religion, with a distinetion of orders, or grades of superiority. This is as far from the fact, as that you are an Episcopalian, or that I am a Presbyterian.
I mentioned in my first volume, that Bishops were called colleagues with one another, but not with Presbyters; and that they formed a distinct college; which, indeed, necessarily results from their being of a superior order. But this is utterly inconsistent with presbyterian parity. No Presbyterian Moderator can have, as a Bishop had, the supreme power of preserving the faith and unity of the Church-of admitting into, and excluding from the Church-of suspending, excommunicating, absolving, ordaining, degrading, deposing. Could any one possessed of such powers have been no more than a Moderator? Does not such a trust-does not being clothed with such eminence-prove a Bishop to have been more, greater, higher, than a Presbyter? This is the way, Sir, I 'rushed' to my conclusion; and I am not at all surprised that you should have lavished hard names upon it; for in truth, it was all that you had in your power to do.
So glaring, Sir, was the pre-eminence of the Bishops, in every age of the Church, that even the Heathen took notice of it. St. Cyprian, in his 55th Epistle, tells Antoninus, that the Emperor Decius had such a spite against the Christian Bishops, that "he could have heard with greater patience that another prince had
set himself up as his rival in the empire, than that a Bishop should have been settled in the city of Rome." And Eusebius informs us, that "upwards of twenty years before the martyrdom of Cyprian, Maximin ordered that the Archontes, or chief rulers only, should be put to death." And by consulting Eusebius, we find that this was the case up to the time of the Apostles. So manifest, so striking, was the superiority of Bishops over Presbyters.
Another of your masterly shifts to extricate yourself from this mass of evidence, is, that the age was corrupt, the clergy ambitious, and the people depraved. But admitting that they were, in a tenfold greater degree than you represent them, how does this help you? Still the facts were as I have stated them; still the testimony of Cyprian and many other Bishops proves imparity, great and striking, to have existed at that time in the Church; still the people and inferior clergy could see that they had a superior order of men ruling over them; still there were thousands of holy martyrs, and among them many Bishops, who shed their blood rather than deny their Master; still the Church was adorned with much piety and virtue; still, in short, there was common sense enough among Christians to know, that men clothed with such high powers, derived from thence superiority and pre-eminence, and that parity, however it was annihilated, did not exist in the Church in their day. Of what service then to you is the corruption of the age, were it even a fact?
Had you, Sir, considered with an impartial mind the accumulated evidence of the third century, it would seem impossible that you should entertain a doubt, whether episcopacy prevailed at that time. And you certainly would not have said in your last volume, with so much confidence, that 'the advocates for diocesan episcopacy, if they would derive any support to their cause from the writings of the fathers, must do what they have never yet done.' You go on in the same strange and unaccountable manner--They must produce from those venerable remains of antiquity, passages, which prove either by direct assertion, or fair inference, that the Bishops of the primitive Church were a distinct order of clergy from those Presbyters who were authorized to preach and administer the sacraments, and superior to them—that these Bishops, when they were advanced to this superior office, had a new and distinct ordination—that each Bishop had under him a number of congregations, with their Presbyters, whom he governed--that these Bishops were exclusively invested with the right of ordaining and administering the rite of Confirmation; and that this kind of episcopacy was considered by the whole primitive Church as an institution of JESUS CHRIST. When any one of these facts is fairly proved from early antiquity, the friends of presbyterian Church government will feel as if they had something like solid argument to combat with; but not till then.'
W EUSEB. Eecles. Hist. lib. vii. c. 13. x Continuation, p.151. [p. 313, 2d ed.]
Now, Sir, not only one of these facts has been proved, but every one of them, for the age we are at present concerned with. What purpose, what fair purpose, then, will these confident assertions answer! They will undoubtedly answer your purpose with your own people. You must very well know, that but few of them have read my work, or ever will read it. What, then, will the greater part of them say? Exactly this:- Dr. Miller asserts, that the main points of the controversy have never been proved; no, not one point of it; and surely he is a wise and learned man; therefore he must know; and as he is a man of veracity, he certainly would not say what he knows to be false; therefore, I will entirely rely upon him.' This will be the impression made on Presbyterians by your totally groundless, and unwarrantably bold assertions.
The fact being thus as fully proved as any matter of fact ever was, that Bishops, in the third century, were an order superior to Presbyters, I shall take an earlier period in that century, and show, by reviewing the testimonies of Origen, that Bishops were a superior order from the very beginning of the century.
Of this celebrated man, I observed, in my fifth letter, that he was born in the year 186-that his father Leonidas was a convert to Christianity in the early part of the second century, and that he died a martyr to his religion; and, consequently, from these circumstances, was well qualified to instruct his son in the nature and constitution of the Christian Church; his own personal knowledge extending back almost to the apostolic age, and being, no doubt, acquainted with some who had lived in that age. I also observed that Origen was a man of the most extensive learning, and, therefore, well qualified to determine the question, whether episcopacy was an apostolic institution. I then gave two quotations from Origen. The first is that well known passage in his twentieth homily on St. Luke. The words are, "If JESUS CHRIST, the SON OF GOD, is subject to Joseph and Mary, shall not I be subject to the Bishop who is by GOD ordained to be my father? Shall not I be subject to the Presbyter, who, by the divine vouchsafement, is set over me?" Now, let it be remembered, that when Origen wrote this, he was a layman, and that he wrote it some time in the third century, probably about the year 220. And let it also be remembered, that it has been fully proved, that in the middle of this century diocesan episcopacy was the general government of the Church, and that Cyprian, and his contemporary Bishops, believed it to be of divine institution. Let it further be remembered, that the most learned Presbyterian writers have frankly conceded, that a full grown episcopacy prevailed in the third century, and some time before. Let these things be considered, and there cannot be the least doubt that Origen spoke and meant as all the writers of that age did speak and mean.
This quotation, then, proves the Bishop's superiority; and it also proves that Origen believed that superiority to be of divine
ordination; as we have shown St. Cyprian, and all his contemporaries, believed it to be.
Now, Sir, will your 'Moderator' answer the character of Origen's Bishop? The question, I confess, has much the appearance of an insult offered to your understanding; but your impartiality will, I trust, lay the blame where it ought to be laid; that is, upon yourself. You, no doubt, remember the explanation you give of Tertullian's High Priest. 'He might have been the standing Moderator,' you say. Then Origen's Bishop, and Cyprian's Bishop, ' might have been the standing Moderators.' Then Origen owned subjection to a character, with which, as sach, he had not the least connexion; as a Moderator, he and the layman Origen bore not the slightest relation to one another; and yet he was to be subject to this Moderator, and that too by divine ordination. If the absurdity of this does not strike you, I do not know what absurdity will.
Another quotation from Origen which I gave you, is the following. "Besides these (the debts mentioned in the LORD'S prayer) there is a debt peculiar to such as are widows maintained by the Church. And there is a debt peculiar to the Deacons; and another peculiar to Presbyters; but of all these peculiar debts, that which is due by the Bishop is the greatest. It is exacted by the SAVIOUR of the whole Church; and the Bishop must suffer severely for it, if it be not paid."
Here again, we have a distinct enumeration of officers in the Church in the time of Origen; and, consequently, according to the language and practice of that age, distinct grades, or orders of ministers. Allowing Origen to speak, as every man of sense does, according to the ideas annexed to words in his own time, it necessarily follows, that the Bishop was the superior officer. For it has been abundantly proved, that episcopacy was diocesan in that century; therefore, Origen's Bishop was a diocesan; and being so, he possessed all the superior powers of such a Bishop.
The very gradation of duties also proves a gradation of offices. For I ask, why was the duty of a Deacon less than that of a Presbyter? Surely, it was for no other reason than that he was an inferior officer, And for the very same reason, the duty of a Presbyter was less than that of a Bishop. The Deacon was less responsible than the Presbyter, and the Presbyter less responsible than the Bishop; consequently, the Bishop was the first officer in the Christian Church.
This is in perfect consistence with the language and practice of the third century. But your notion of a Moderator' is at utter variance with that language and practice; and when compared with the above quotation, absolutely ridiculous. Need I point it out again? Surely, I need not. The weakest understanding will readily perceive it.
Let it be remembered also, that the Church of Alexandria, to which Origen belonged, was diocesan, as I have fully proved in
my first volume; and then it will be evident that his language was that of a member of a diocesan Church.
These were the only quotations I gave you, referring you to Bishop Pearson's Vindicia for more. I will now add another out of several that I can produce.
Origen, in his Commentary on St. Matthew, says, that the Church was governed by Bishops, not only in his time, but that it had been governed by them for generations; which must reach the times, or nearly the times, of the Apostles. There is a necessity," says he, "that we should depress the opinion of those who esteem themselves highly, because brought up under parents (poyovos) or progenitors, who had attained to that dignity in the Church as to sit on the Bishop's throne, or to have the honour of Presbyters or Deacons (to minister) to God's people." Here are distinct offices again; the Deacons subordinate to the Presbyter, the Presbyter to the Bishop, and the Bishop invested with the highest authority, expressed by presiding on the
Will your congregational Bishop, or your Moderator, comport with this description? You may try it if you please; but I shall not give myself the trouble of writing a sentence to evince their inconsistence.
But it seems, that all the proofs which can be given for the establishment of diocesan episcopacy in the third century, you are determined to consider as of no manner of consequence, You say, 'What if Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, Hilary, Epiphanius, Augustine, and a dozen more, who lived within the same period, could be brought to attest in the most unequivocal terms that prelacy existed in their time? Does any Presbyterian deny that clerical imparity had begun to appear in the third, and was established in the fourth century ? Yes, Sir, I know one who has denied a part of this question, and that gentleman is yourself. You say in your eighth letter, 'The whole of that reasoning which confidently deduces the apostolic origin of prelacy, from its acknowledged and general, but by no means universal prevalence in the fourth century, is mere empty declamation."
Here you give prelacy but a partial establishment even in the fourth century; and you have, in effect, denied imparity at all in the third century, by endeavouring to make it appear that St. Cyprian was a congregational Bishop. But let this pass; it is of no great consequence to point out your inconsistencies.
You go on to say-' But Dr. B. alledges that several of these writers expressly assert the apostolical institution of prelacy. Now if it were even true that they do make this assertion, it would weigh nothing with me, nor with any other reasonable
a Continuation, p. 189. [p. 336, 2d ed.] b Letters, p. 335. [p. 213, 2d ed.] e Letters, p. 174 et sequent. [p. 116, 117, 2d ed.]