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integrity in your General Assembly, and our General Convention, it can never be supposed, without folly, that so weak and wicked an attempt would be made by them. In like manner, it can never be supposed, without folly, that the pious and sensible writers of the third century, many of whom shed their blood for their SAVIOUR, would attempt what we, who have neither more sense nor more piety than they had, would deem folly and wickedness. Nor is there any other possible light, according to my apprehension, in which this point can be viewed. If the writers of the third century made a mistake in this particular, they could not have been men of common sense; if they intended to impose upon the world, they could not have been men of common honesty. It will not do to say, they might have been innocently deceived as to the origin of episcopacy. Then they wanted common sense; and consequently their testimony to the canon of Scripture, or to any fact whatever, is not worth a straw; and to say that they wanted honesty, would be a very strong proof with me of a want of honesty in the person who made the assertion.
2. I should be glad to know how it happens, that Presbyterians, in the present day, are better able to determine what the original constitution of the Church was, than the writers of the third century. If it be true that Presbyterians at this time are better able, there certainly must be some reason for it. What is it? Is it that Presbyterians possess more zeal than martyrs and confessors; or more light, more learning, more piety, more probity? Do you, Sir, and Dr. Mason, and Dr. M'Leod, and a hundred other Doctors, possess greater advantages for knowing what was the government of the Church in the apostolic age, than Cornelius, and Fabius, and Origen, and Dionysius, and Firmilian, and St. Cyprian, and many others? If you say you do, you certainly are not overstocked with modesty; and if you say you do not, then solely on the ground of better information, their testimonies are beyond all comparison superior to yours. What is it then that gives Presbyterians such an advantage over the ancients? It is beyond my conception; and if they will not tell us, we must conclude that they have no advantage whatever.
3. The fact is, that the ancients had much greater advantages for determining this, and every other important matter of fact relating to the Church, than we can possibly have. They had not only all the writings that we have, but great many more. "They had a great number of Epistles written by Synods to Synods, by Bishops to Bishops, by Churches to Churches, about all things that happened, in which either the government or the discipline of the Church was interested. By all which monuments and records, they might have as fully learned what was the government instituted by the Apostles, and whether substantial innovations had been made in it, as we can learn by the records of the fifth and sixth centuries, what the form of government was in those centuries."
Besides these advantages, “in the records of those times, we have frequent instances of persons who might have handed down the tradition with the greatest security. Thus, for example, it is uncontroverted that Irenæus was so much contemporary with Polycarp, and with Pothinus (his own immediate predecessor) in the episcopal chair of Lyons, that he not only might, but did actually learn from them what form of government the Apostles settled in the Churches. Both, of their own proper knowledge, were capable to have taught him. According to the most accurate accounts, Polycarp, aged 89, died anno 147. By consequence, he was born anno 61, that is, he was aged thirty-nine years before St. John's death; nay, it is as certain as history can make it, that he was consecrated Bishop of Smyrna by that Apostle. Pothinus was aged 90 when he was raised to the glory of martyrdom, anno 167. He was then born anno 77, and aged 23 when St. John died. Irenæus, aged 50 before the death of Polycarp, and 70 before the death of Pothinus, lived at least till the year 190. And what could have hindered a third to have received the accounts from him, which he received from Polycarp and Pothinus, and to have lived till St. Cyprian was made Bishop of Carthage ?"
Again: "Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem, (who did not die before the year 250,) according to the common reckoning, was chosen assistant to Narcissus, Bishop of that see, about the year 212. And if he was then capable of administering the episcopal office, I hope he was capable of comprehending such accounts as Narcissus was able to give him. Narcissus was aged then about 116, as Alexander tells us in his epistle, of which we have a fragment in Eusebius. By consequence, he was contemporary with thousands who were contemporary with St. John, and might have been contemporary with hundreds who were St. Peter and St. Paul's contemporaries." History will furnish many other such instances.
But notwithstanding all these reasons, you still persist in the opinion, that the writers of the third century ought not to be regarded by any reasonable man. But this opinion, so contrary to the established rules of historical evidence, and to the common sense of mankind, you yourself fly from, when you think you can gain some advantage by it. You quote a number of writers in the third and fourth ages, and even later, after explicitly declaring that the testimonies of those ages deserve no regard. What do you call this?
Not contented with involving yourself in absurdity and inconsistency, you have recourse to one of the most palpable, gross fallacies, that I have ever seen from the pen of a writer. You say, 'it is not true that any one of the fathers within the first four centuries does assert the apostolical institution of Prelacy.' And after bringing to our view again several of my quotations,
d SAGE's Cyprianie Age Vindicated, p. 19, 20, 21, 22.
which are express to the purpose, you proceed: 'Now is it possible that Dr. B., after devoting the best powers of his mind for thirty years, to this controversy, has yet to learn that all these quotations, and ten thousand more like them, are nothing to his purpose? Have not I, who am a Presbyterian, repeatedly said, in the foregoing sheets, that Bishops were, by divine appointment, set over the Church? Do not Presbyterians perpetually speak of the office of Bishop in their Church, as a sacred office ? Now here lies the fallacy. I had previously proved by evidence so overwhelming, that you have not ventured to meddle with it, that Bishops, in the third century, were diocesan; that they were raised from the presbyterate to the episcopate by a new ordination; that they possessed the supreme power of the keys; that they were the sole ordainers; that they alone confirmed; that all orders in the Church were subordinate to them; and that Bishops of this kind were instituted by CHRIST. After I had done all this, you very coolly tell me, that you and all Presbyterians believe in Bishops by divine appointment. Palpable evasion! What sort of Bishops do you mean? Not mine, surely; for that would be giving up the point. No; but congregational Bishops. I have proved to a demonstration, that episcopacy was diocesan in the third century, and that the writers of that age believed it to be of divine appointment. You believe that congregational episcopacy is of divine origin; therefore, diocesan episcopacy was not the government of the Church in the third century. What contemptible reasoning is this! It is a gross fallacy, a mere begging of the question. Your business was to show that I had failed in my evidence for diocesan episcopacy; and then of course, congregational episcopacy was that to which the writers of the third century ascribed a divine origin. But instead of doing this, you fly from the question; you do not attempt to meet it; you dare not meet it. Sophistry is your refuge; a play upon the word 'Bishop' is your retreat. This is too bad from one who professes to reason; too bad for one who professes to give a luminous view of the nature and constitution of the Christian Church. Does it not then deserve contempt?
I think it must now be evident, that Prelacy prevailed in every part of the third century, and, consequently, if any change took place, it must have been in the second century; and then it must have been effected so invisibly, that it was not possible for human eyes to perceive it. Can you, Sir, believe this?
In ascending from the time of Origen, I took notice of the testimonies of Tertullian, Clemens Alexandrinus, Irenæus, and St. Ignatius. With respect to the two former, as they lived both in the second and third centuries, they are good witnesses for both those periods. And as it is incontestibly proved that diocesan episcopacy was the government of the Church in the time of Origen,
and as Tertullian and Clemens were his contemporaries, I have an undoubted right, whenever I meet in their writings with an enumeration of the offices of the Church, to consider them as bearing testimony to three distinct grades or orders. For it is utterly inconsistent with reason, and with every rule by which the judgment ought to be governed, to suppose that Bishops (when it is once settled by incontrovertible evidence, that they were raised to the "top of the priesthood,” by a distinct ordination from that of a Presbyter) were not superior in power and dignity: for that would be to give them nothing which they did not possess before.
In my first volume, I quoted Tertullian saying, "The chief Priest, who is the Bishop, has the right of giving baptism, and after him, the Presbyters and Deacons, but not without the Bishop's authority." Here the three orders are enumerated, and therefore, according to the principles of the third century, which have been proved to be prelatical in the full sense of the word, Bishops were an order superior to Presbyters and Deacons. Tertullian also calls the Bishop the chief priest; consequently, the Presbyters or Priests were inferior to him, unless it can be proved that chief means the same thing as equal. And he further says, that the power to administer baptism, and consequently the other sacrament, is derived from him. Here then it is evident, that the right of ministering in holy things, is entirely owing to authority derived from the Bishop; or, in other words, that no ordination could be performed but by him. Thus the Bishop's authority is affirmed by Tertullian, in perfect conformity with Cyprian and his contemporary Bishops.
In answer to this testimony from Tertullian, you observed, 'The highest priest might have been the standing Moderator of the presbytery. To this I replied,might have been! Is this reasoning? Especially after I had proved to a certainty, that in the age of Tertullian, diocesan episcopacy was universally the government of the Church, and that Bishops were raised to the "top of the priesthood" by a new ordination. I further asked-"Has a Moderator among you the supreme power of the keys? Do the members of your presbytery derive the power of administering the sacraments from him? Can they not administer them but in subordination to him? How preposterous it is to suppose that your Moderator, even if he were to hold his office for life, would answer to Tertullian's 'High Priest' or Bishop? All the essential traits of character in the latter, are totally wanting in the former."
Tertullian also traces these Bishops, or 'high Priests,' up to the Apostles. "In this manner,' says he, "the apostolic Churches bring down their registers; as the Church of Smyrna from Polycarp, placed there by John; the Church of Rome from Clement, ordained by Peter; and so do the rest prove their apostolic origin by exhibiting those who were constituted their
f Page 142. [Vol. I. p. 69.]
Bishops by the Apostles." Here Tertullian's High Priests, who authorized Presbyters to administer the sacraments, and who were, therefore, necessarily their superiors, are declared by him to be of apostolic origin; and yet you deny that any father ascribes prelacy to apostolic institution. Pray, Sir, was not the 'high Priest' a Prelate? Is not, for the same reason, the High Priest of the Catholic Church a Prelate? Does not Tertullian ascribe to him powers superior to those of a Presbyter? Have I not fully proved from Cyprian and others, that, in their time, this High Priest had a distinct ordination; that he alone had the right of confirmation and ordination; that he was supreme in the government of the Church; and that such Bishops or High Priests formed a distinct college, and had definitive voices in all councils? And can any marks of prelacy be stronger than these? Where can you find a Prelate, if one endowed with these powers is not entitled to the character? Is Tertullian to be considered as not knowing any thing of the government of the Church in his own time? Or did this full grown prelacy spring up eight or ten years after Tertullian's death? If so, what shameless wretches were Cyprian and all the Bishops of his time, to assert that this high-toned prelacy was of apostolic institution? And what idiots were the thousands under their government to believe them, when for years they had seen a totally different regimen? Is it possible for any man of common sense to adopt this?
You indeed object that this notion of a single succession is not to be depended upon, because there are some difficulties in the catalogues. But this is not true with respect to the catalogues of Jerusalem and Alexandria. It is only with respect to those of Rome and Antioch that there is a difficulty, but which Dr. Hammond has, I think, fairly settled. But let it be otherwise, if you please. Then I ask, are there not also difficulties in the catalogues of the Jewish High Priests? But who ever, on that account, supposed that there was an interruption of that office in the Jewish Church? Are there not difficulties likewise in the catalogues of the Archontes of the Athenians? Yet nobody ever doubted that there was a succession of Archontes from Creon.
The answer of Charles I. to this objection would, I think, to an unprejudiced mind, prove completely satisfactory. human histories," says he, "are subject to such frailties. There are differences in historiographers in reciting the succession of the Babylonian, Persian, and Macedonian Kings, and of the Saxon Kings in England. And we find more inextricable difficulties in the Fasti Consulares, (the catalogues of the Roman Consuls,) notwithstanding their great care in keeping the public records, and the exactness of the Roman histories, than are to be found in the episcopal catalogues, &c. Yet all men believe
g Letters, Vol. I. p. 145. [Vol. I. p. 70, 71,]