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there were Kings in those countries, and Consuls in Rome in those times. So that the discrediting of the catalogues of Bishops, in respect of some uncertainty and differences, which yet may be fairly reconciled, tendeth rather to the confirmation of the thing itself."h
There is no possible way for you to get rid of the testimony of Tertullian, Cyprian, and all the writers of their age, but by showing that it does not necessarily follow that the Bishop, from the circumstances mentioned, is superior in dignity and power to the Presbyter. But as that would be a palpable absurdity, you will not, I think, very readily undertake it. You must, therefore, for any thing I can see, remain contented to have these testimonies placed against you.
Thus, Sir, by feeling every inch of my way, I 'rush' to the conclusion, that in every part of the third century, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, were distinct orders in the Christian Church. And if so, then the distinction of orders, if it did not take place in the apostolic age, must have taken place in the second century. Let us try this point.
And here, to shorten the business, I will pass over all the testimonies I adduced between the close of the second age and the time of Ignatius, referring my readers to the first volume of my work for what I have quoted during that period.
You persist, in your last publication, to maintain that the epistles of Ignatius do not favour our, but your side of the question. I prefaced my quotations from Ignatius with the following observations-'It is, Sir, to me very unaccountable, that Blondel, Salmasius, and Daille, should have laboured so hard to invalidate these epistles, when they are, if you are right, so clearly on their side of the question. To them they must have appeared in a very different point of light from what they do to you. If they had not been convinced that they were too Episcopal for them to manage, they would have admitted them, and reasoned from them in favour of presbytery. This would have been argumentum ad hominem, which would effectually have shut the mouth of every Episcopalian. But no; they did not choose to try that experiment.'
With this opinion the learned Grotius concurs. I quoted him saying "The Epistles of Ignatius, which your son brought out of Italy, pure from all those things which the learned have hitherto suspected [in the larger epistles,] Blondel will not admit, because they afford a clear testimony to the antiquity of episcopacy." And the learned Mosheim acknowledges, although at the expense of consistency, that there would have been no dispute about those epistles, had they been silent on the point of episcopacy.'k
This, I acknowledge, is not a logical proof that you are wrong,
h Final Answer, &c.
See his Works, p. 641.
and that they are right; but it certainly affords a strong presumption against you. Had these men been Episcopalians, the case would be different: but when they were labouring hard against episcopacy, and yet acknowledge that Ignatius is no friend to parity, it must, I think, be admitted, that it presents a difficulty not very favourable to your judgment. But let us cut the matter short, and appeal to the epistles themselves.
You admit that Ignatius invariably speaks of three sorts of officers in the Christian Church in his time, Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons. The very enumeration of these officers affords evidence that there was a difference of some sort or other; for if there was no difference, it is impossible to give a reason why they should be distinctly enumerated. All the difference you make, is, that the Bishop was the Rector, or Pastor, and the Presbyters his curates, or assistants. Your words are, 'We have satisfactory proof that there were in the primitive Church, clergymen in full orders, that is, empowered to preach and administer sacraments, who yet had no pastoral charge, but acted the part of assistants or curates to the Pastor, Rector, or Bishop. Now, in what manner could such be distinguished from those who were invested with a pastoral charge, but by calling the one class Bishops, and the other Presbyters? In the Presbyterian Church, we distinguish them in this manner; and in the Church of England, they distinguish them by calling the former Rectors, and the latter Curates. And with just as much reason might some person five hundred years hence, assert that Pastors and assistant Presbyters, or Rectors and Curates, were different orders of clergy in the eighteenth century, as Dr. B. can now insist that Bishops and Presbyters were different orders in the primitive Church. The argument is totally delusive; nor could it have been so often and so gravely repeated, had there not been, on the part of those who have urged it, a miserable deficiency of sounder proof."
Well, Sir! now we know where to find you. Only adhere to this, and the dispute will soon be brought to an end.
Here we have it from under your own hand, that in the time of Ignatius, that is, in the beginning of the second century, a Church consisted of a Bishop, or Pastor, or Rector, with a plurality of assistants or curates; and consequently of a plurality of congregations; and that the title of Bishop was conferred upon the proper pastor to distinguish him from his Presbyters or
To this I answer, first, Let it be kept in mind that Ignatius says, "without a Bishop, Presbyters, and Deacons, there is no Church named;" and consequently, it was the universal gov
And is it really so, that among Presbyterians there can be no Church named, which has not the above plurality of officers?
Į Continuation, p. 153, 154. [p. 314, 2d ed.]
Is that the case with the Church whose pastor you are? Perhaps 'you will say, Yes; we have Ruling Elders. But Ignatius does not say a word about Ruling Elders, and therefore you have no right to foist them in among his Presbyters. Besides, I will show directly that they were Presbyters who administered the But were I even to admit that some of the Presbyters did not minister in holy things, still it would be of no service to you, for I have proved from Scripture alone, that there must have been numerous congregations at Antioch, and consequently numerous preaching Presbyters in that city. Making then every allowance, the plan of government in the church of which you are the pastor, is very different from that of Ignatius.
Further; you have entirely precluded yourself from the benefit of Ruling Elders in the above quotation; for you say that the Presbyters were the assistants of the Bishop, or what is equivalent in the Church of England, Curates to the Rector. But who ever heard of Curates being Ruling Elders?
But perhaps three or four associated churches will come nearer to the Ignatian pattern. For instance, your two churches, which have been lately separated. Before that period, who was the Bishop? Dr. Rodgers, or Dr. M'Knight, or Dr. Miller? Did you, or any body else, ever consider the venerable and pious Dr. Rodgers the Bishop, and yourself and Dr. M'Knight merely his assistants or Curates? Or did the good old gentleman in your church-sessions always take the Moderator's chair ex-officio, as a matter of right? Was he, in short, the standing Moderator? If you cannot answer these questions in the affirmative, and I am persuaded you cannot, then a Presbyterian Bishop, and the Bishop of Ignatius, were very different things.
It seems then that, whether we consider you as the Bishop of a single congregation with or without an assistant, you are not an Ignatian Bishop, who had numerous congregations, and numerous Presbyters under him; or whether we consider you as a minister associated with two or three others, you are not a Bishop of the primitive stamp; for we find that kind of Bishop was the standing Moderator of the Presbytery, to whom all ranks were to be subject in spiritual matters; who was the principal of unity to a hundred Presbyters and a hundred congregations, if there were so many under him.
Take we another instance—the Church of Jerusalem, the first Christian Church that was formed, and let us see whether presbyterian Church government is consistent with that. I proved from the holy Scriptures that there were many myriads of Christians in that Church. Mr. M'Leod says fifty thousand, and I believe he is not out of the way, unless it be in under-rating; for the expression many myriads fully justifies his calculation. Then there must have been at the very lowest a hundred congregations; for they had no large buildings at that time to meet in. Now all antiquity says that St. James was the Bishop of
Jerusalem, and according to your plan, because he was the proper Pastor of these numerous congregations and numerous Presbyters. Is this presbyterian government, or any thing like it? Or was St. James with a multiplicity of congregations and Presbyters, like a Rector of the Church of England with his Curate?
Let us next consider the Church of Ephesus, where St. Paul laboured for the space of three years, and where he tells us "a great door and effectual was opened" to him. No one can doubt that there were several congregations, both of converted Jews and Gentiles, in that city; and we read of a plurality of Elders, who are also called Bishops. By this application of the title you are effectually precluded from mixing any Ruling Elders among them, for all that are called Bishops most certainly preached and administered the sacraments, and you must necessarily admit it upon your own principles. Now, Sir, if the plan of Church government which you laid down in the above quotation for the purest and best ages, places a flock consisting of a plurality of congregations under a Bishop or Rector, with his assistants or curates, who, I ask, was the Bishop of Ephesus? For all the Presbyters are called Bishops. How then was the Pastor or Rector distinguished from his assistants or Curates? The word Bishop would not answer the purpose, for the title belonged to all. You must then either admit that there was no Pastor over that numerous flock, when at the same time there were several Presbyters or Bishops, which would be a strange thing indeed, and if not strange, inconsistent with your plan, which requires a Bishop or Rector to preside over several assistants or Curates; or else you must admit the independent system, which would both contravene your purpose and historieal fact; it being universally admitted, that there were at that time no tituli, or appropriations of a particular Presbyter to a particular congregation. I really do not see how you can extricate yourself; for I take it for granted that you will not call in Timothy to help you, although he would settle the matter with the utmost facility.
It being then evident, that your scheme of Church government does not accord with the three great instances of the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Ephesus, we had better let Ignatius speak for himself.
WE are now to let Ignatius speak for himself. 1st. To show that he thought himself possessed of the apostolic pre-eminence, he salutes the Church of the Trallians in the fulness of the Apostolical character, and then says, "Be subject to your Bishop as to the LORD, and to the Presbyters as to the Apostles of CHRIST; likewise the Deacons also, being ministers of the mysteries of CHRIST, ought to please in all things. Without these there can be no Church of the elect," or of Christians. Here is a great and manifest difference between the Bishop and his Presbyters. Ignatius supposed the Bishop to be the proper representative of CHRIST, while the Presbyters who did not represent him were in an inferior degree, and therefore to be reverenced only as the Apostles. And this surely proves a great inferiority of the one to the other. It is observable, that when Ignatius speaks of the Bishop's being the vicegerent of GOD, or of CHRIST, in order to preserve some kind of analogy and proportion, he speaks of the Presbyters holding the second grade, as the Apostles did under CHRIST; but not with any design to intimate that Presbyters succeeded to the plenitude of the Apostolical character; for that he always attributes to the Bishop, when he does not mean to illustrate analogically the different degrees or orders of the Christian ministry.
2d. In his epistle to the Magnesians, he says, "You ought not to despise your Bishop for his youth, but to pay him all manner of reverence, according to the commandment of GOD THE FATHER, as I know your holy Presbyters do. Therefore as CHRIST did nothing without the FATHER, so neither do ye (whether Presbyter, Deacon, or Layman,) without the Bishop," in the spiritual concerns of the Church, no doubt. Here obedience to the Bishop is enjoined upon all orders in the Church; he must therefore be the chief, the head, the ruler, the prelate.
3. "I exhort you to do all things in the same mind of GOD; the Bishop presiding in the place of GOD" (analogical language again,) "and the Presbyters in the room of the college of the Apostles, and the Deacons, most dear to me, who are intrusted with the ministry of JESUS CHRIST." Here is a most striking disproportion between the Presbyter and Bishop, and consequently they must be officers of very different degrees or orders.
4th. In his epistle to the Trallians, he asks, “ For what is the Bishop but the person who possesses the chief authority and power beyond all others? But what is the Presbytery but a sacred company who are counsellors and assessors to the Bishop?" A man must have an admirable knack at extracting what he pleases from authors, who can make this quadrate with presbyterian parity. Blondel, Salmasius, and Daille were too wise to attempt it.