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LETTER XIV.

REV. SIR:

HAVING given what I deem a sufficient reply to every thing of the least consequence in your first eight letters, and there being nothing material in the ninth, I proceed to try the strength of your tenth Letter.

I find you still maintain that episcopacy was gradually introduced after the apostolic age; aud you suppose the causes were, 'the facility, the indolence, and the consideration of some; the ambition of others; the precedency of standing moderators; the veneration paid to senior ministers, and such as were of superior talents and influence; the respect attached to those who resided in large cities, and other considerations of a similar kind.'

Next, you present your readers with a long quotation from my eighteenth Letter, and you represent me as saying that there was not a single instance of clerical ambition, or of strife about pre-eminence, or of ecclesiastical usurpation in those early ages. This is one of the grossest of your many perversions of my meaning, when not a shadow of ambiguity attends it. Do you suppose that I am an idiot, or that I am totally ignorant of human nature, or that I have never read the New Testament, or any ecclesiastical historian ? No strife about pre-eminence! Had I not mentioned the strife of the Apostles, and the case of Diotrephes, and of Thebuthis, in the first century? Nay, did I not mention the very instances which you have named for the purpose of covering me' with confusion?' Did I not give a long list of heresies, schisms, and corruptions in the first three centuries? Sir, you either did, or did not, know what I had said. If you did know, you have acted contrary to your own conviction; if you did not know, you ought to be ashamed to answer an opponent when you were ignorant of what he had said. Can you excuse yourself by saying that my expressions are obscure? They are as clear as the light of heaven. No mortal besides yourself would suppose, that I meant to convey any other ideas, but that the Church for the first three centuries was in a comparatively pure state; that her Bishops and other Clergy were generally virtuous and pious; that every thing was calculated to make them so, if a scanty support, cruel persecutions, dreadful deaths, constant labours, and rigid disci pline, have that tendency. Now, how contemptible must that reasoning be, which attempts to invalidate those notorious facts, by producing a few instances of strife and affectation of preeminence, and several of these too among profligate heretics, who were renounced and execrated by the Catholic Church? Several of the very instances you have adduced are the strongest proofs you could possibly have given of the purity of the

Church. Were Simon, and Cerinthus, and Basilides, and Valentinus, and some others, considered as Christians? You know they were not. Why then, in the name of candour and fair dealing, do you quote such instances of corruption, when those men and their followers did not belong to the Church? You might just as well have told us that the priests of Jupiter, and of the other Heathen gods, were corrupt, and thence have inferred the corruption of the Christian Church; and to give force and decision to the argument, it should be concluded with, this is more than sufficient, if I do not mistake, to cover Dr. B. with confusion.'

I really do not know any man whose writings afford so many examples, in so short a compass, of the justness of those canons of criticism, which are annexed to White's Defence of his Letters to a Dissenting Gentleman. The second canon runs thus-"Consider what end you write for. If it be the discovery and manifestation of truth, and the conviction of those who oppose it, use fair and clear reasoning; but if it be only to keep your party in countenance, your business will be to decline reasoning as much as you well can, and to make use of declamation and harangue in the room of it."

To prove that there was some strife for pre-eminence in the Church at an early period, you quote a passage from Hermas. Why you have quoted him I cannot conceive, unless it be to fill your book, and give your opponents trouble. You might have produced instances enough from the New Testament. But the beauty of your quotation from Hermas is, that it does you no good. Whether he lived in the first, or in the second century, is a matter of dispute among both ancients and moderns. It is, however, of no consequence. What he says is this-"Those who had their rods green, but yet cleft, are such as were always faithful and good; but they had some envy and strife among themselves concerning dignity and pre-eminence." Again: "For the life of those who keep the commandments of the LORD consists in doing what they are commanded; not in principality, or in any other dignity." It seems then, in the time of Hermas, whenever that was, there were some good men who affected pre-eminence. No doubt of it; for there never was a moment, from the fall of man to the present day, that the same may not be said. And this, according to Hermas, and according to common sense, is consistent with piety and goodness. If it be not, GOD be merciful to Dr. Miller, and a thousand other Doctors of Divinity! But who were those that affected dignity? Hermas does not say whether they were laymen who affected clerical distinction, or Deacons who affected an equality with, or a superiority over Presbyters, as in the time of Jerome, or Presbyters who strove to be Bishops. If the last, then there was such a pre-eminent station in the Church as that of Bishop; or it was the first attempt that was made to establish that office; and as the attempt failed, (which you must admit on your own hypoth esis) it proves the Church to have been in great purity.

Further: How could Hermas say, that those were good men who endeavoured to subvert the government of the Church, which, you say, was left by the Apostles on the ground of parity? Good men may desire dignities already established; but to destroy the constitution of either Church or State, for the purpose of aggrandizing one's self, is utterly inconsistent with goodness, nay, argues a monstrous degree of depravity.

Another curiosity is, your quoting the case of Thebuthis, who strove to be Bishop of Jerusalem, after the death of St. James, but was rejected by that pure and faithful Church. Then, it seems, St. James was Bishop of Jerusalem, where there were numerous congregations, and numerous Presbyters. 'Oh yes -he was Moderator of the Presbytery.' For life, or by rotation? If the latter, how came he to be styled Bishop of Jerusalem more than any other Moderator? If the former, in what did his superiority consist? What is the superiority of a chairman to induce any man to struggle for it? What dignity is there in collecting votes, and keeping order? In short, it would be a total waste of time to notice such things, were it not to show that your own evidence strongly militates against you.

You still go on labouring to prove, not that the government of the Church was, in fact, changed from presbyterian to episcopal, but that the corruption in the third century was so great as very well to admit of a change. Here is another instance of evasion, in perfect conformity with the sixth of those canons already referred to. It runs thus-" If you cannot defend the true point in question, change it, and slip in another, which you can better defend in the room of it." This you have done completely. My reasoning was founded, not on the state of the Church in the third and fourth centuries, but in the second century. I had previously quoted a number of your ablest writers, as conceding that episcopacy originated about the middle of the second century, and had also quoted the whole assembly of your own Westminster divines, approving of Blondel's opinion, that the proper date was about the year 140. Here I took my stand, and showed with a force of reasoning, to my mind, scarce resistible, that so great a revolution was utterly inconsistent with the universally acknowledged fact that the Church, at that time, was in a state of great purity. This you yourself acknowledge to be the case; and, therefore, I must think, that, feeling the force of the reasoning, you found it necessary to shift your ground. This most of your readers will not perceive; and consequently, you will have the appearance of a victory, when you are, in fact, defeated,

Your quotations, then, from three or four authors in the third and fourth centuries, are of no manner of service to you. Let the Church be as corrupt as you would have it in the third century, surely it requires very little intellect to perceive, that this has nothing to do with the point in question. The question was, whether a change could have taken place in the second century, when your greatest writers and yourself acknowledge, that the

Church was in a state of purity. This, I think, was fully proved to be a weak question.

But, Sir, I will take you on your own ground. You shall have your humour. The Church was corrupt in the third century. The inference, then, is, 'a change took place from presbyterian to episcopal government.' But here a long string of difficulties attend you.

1. Every author of that age asserts, that episcopacy was an apostolic institution. This has been proved by overwhelming

evidence.

2. Not one author of that age has given the most distant hint that a change took place. You have not produced a single syllable to that purpose. How came you then by the knowledge of it?

3. Almost every Bishop, at that time, was a man of great piety, and many of them were martyrs to the religion of CHRIST. They, therefore, could not have been the authors of so wicked a change.

4. The third century was an age of much ecclesiastical business. Several points of discipline were warmly discussed; but not the least question about episcopacy. There certainly must have been a few honest men to bear testimony against such an anti-christian usurpation. No; all were silent as the grave.

5. If the generality of the clergy were corrupt, corruption would have produced a conflict of a very serious nature. The corrupt many would have overwhelmed the corrupt few, as these had not the secular arm to support them. What stirred up the Bishops to struggle for pre-eminence would have stirred up the Presbyters also, who were much more numerous. You are supposing corruption all on one side, and yet you tell us that it was pretty general among all ranks. What an absurdity! Dr. Campbell saw this, and therefore ascribes episcopacy to superior piety. Risum, amici, teneatis? [Friends, can you forbear laughing?]

6. Where did the conflict begin? Or did it break out all at once throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa? And how happened it that not a single Church was preserved from the contagion? It must have spread with greater velocity than a tempest, tearing up parity by the roots, and leaving nothing behind it but sterile episcopacy.

7. You confound two distinct things-a struggle for the episcopate after it had been long established, and a struggle whether it should be established, and parity destroyed. The former occurred in a few instances, the love of pre-eminence getting the better of every other consideration. This was very natural, and can be accounted for on well known principles; but the latter counteracts every principle of human nature; and from the well known circumstances of the age, could not have succeeded had the attempt been made. Let some of your ambitious men make the attempt now, and see whether they could succeed. The

virtue and piety of your Ministers and people, are not greater than the virtue and piety of the primitive Christians. The most extensive charity must allow, that there is corruption enough among you to stir up strife for pre-eminence, if there was the least possibility of succeeding. But with what contempt would such an effort be treated! It would excite nothing but ridicule or indignation; no serious exertion of strength would be thought of; but the scheme, by its own folly, would terminate in the failure and disgrace of the projectors. Nor would it pass away without notice in the history of the Church. Whenever the Presbyterian denomination was the subject, this foul blot on its purity would be strikingly visible. These observations apply with much greater force to the Christians of the third century. Living so near the fountain head, they could be at no loss for the source of parity, if that prevailed. The stream was too wide to admit of the least difficulty in tracing it back one hundred and fifty years. Convinced that parity was of divine institution, both clergy and people would have suffered for it rather than have renounced it; or if they had become so profligate as to care nothing about the doctrine and government of the Church, the clergy, in particular, would at least have cared for their own degraded situation. Pride would have struggled hard, had even piety been extinguished; and some notice of the struggle would have reached our time most assuredly.

It is a well known fact, that great corruptions in Church or State produce great changes. There is no need of proving this; history is full of it. But who can substantiate a charge of general corruption in the third century? And if it could be done, how happened it that all Churches stumbled on episcopacy? Where there is such a variety of modes of government, it would be a miracle to produce the same result in every Church. Some would prefer a democracy in the Church, some an aristocracy; some one species of monarchy, and some another; many would run into a mixture of every kind, and many, weary with contention, would re-settle in the old simple parity. This would be the natural and unavoidable course of things; but as we see nothing like it in the third century, we may be sure the change which your fancy delights to dwell on never took place.

Corruption, then, were it tenfold greater than you wish to make it, will not answer your purpose, but rather increases the difficulties attending your hypothesis. It is, if there be any choice between them, worse than Dr. Campbell's conjecture. With him I have nothing to do; but as you take directly opposite ground, it is worth while to notice it, as it shows the sad embarrassment of the advocates of your beloved parity.

But although my argument is safe enough without maintaining the purity of the Church in the third century, yet, as truth is worth contending for, I shall endeavour to show that you are grossly mistaken in your ideas on this subject.

You first quote St. Cyprian deploring the mal-conduct of

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