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To my utter astonishment, you bring to view again the silly tale of Bishop Patrick's planting congregational episcopacy in Ireland." To show how ridiculous this is, I observed, ' according to this story, we have St. Patrick, who lived in the fifth century, when all our adversaries acknowledge diocesan episcopacy was universal, and who was also made a Bishop of that kind by Pope Cœlestine, converting the Irish, and planting among them presbyterian parity.' You appear to me, by your answer, to feel the absurdity of this, and to be much embarrassed. You ask, 'Did I any where assert that Patrick established presbyterian parity? Was it not my object to prove that the primitive extent of a Bishop's charge was a single flock, and that that plan continued to be realized in some parts of the Christian world, even after prelacy had been firmly and generally established?' I believe nothing from the pen of a reasoner ever surpassed this. You did not mean to say that presbyterian parity was established in Ireland by Bishop Patrick, but that congregational was. Pray, what is the difference between them? Are not the Congregationalists parity men as well as the Presbyterians? They surely are. Then what is the difference between parity in the one, and parity in the other? And how would Patrick's planting congregational or presbyterian parity in Ireland, in the fifth century, prove that the primitive government was the same? I should rather think that the universality of diocesan episcopacy at that time, would be a much stronger proof of original imparity, than the solitary instance in question, of original parity. Notwithstanding all this inconsistence, and the broad absurdity stamped upon the face of the story, you did not hesitate to assert in your first volume, that 'this single fact, so well authenticated, is little short of demonstration that primitive episcopacy was parochial, and not diocesan.' Primitive episcopacy! An Archbishop presiding over three hundred and sixtyfive presbyterian Bishops and three thousand Elders, some preaching and some ruling Elders, is primitive! And this Metropolitical government is little short of demonstration that parochial episcopacy, that is at utter variance with it, was primitive! And Archbishop Patrick's establishing this regimen under the direction of the Roman Pontif, makes nothing against the authenticity of the story! Mercy on us! to what lengths will not men go when the spirit of controversy possesses them! Common sense is set at defiance, and all the established grounds of credibility are totally disregarded.
The story of the council of Ephesus containing six thousand Bishops, it seems you are willing to give up, as you find it be a mistake; but you have got one that will answer your purpose still better. It is, 'the fact of one Metropolitan having within his district six thousand Bishops.' This is not a bad story, if it can be authenticated. How are we to come at the truth of it?
[Dropped in the 2d ed.]
You have the story from Baxter, he had it from Binius, but from whom Binius received it, we are not told. It may be taken from some monkish legend for any thing that appears to the contrary. And although, after what you have said, I believe the story to be in Baxter, (whose book alluded to I have not seen) yet I am very far from being sure that it is to be found in Binius, if what Dr. Maurice says be correct. He points out a number of strange errors and blunders in Baxter, and says, "the main part of the councils he (Baxter) owns to be taken out of Binius, of an old incorrect edition of the year 1606; but it must be noted, that where Mr. Baxter did not understand Binius, he is pleased to give something of his own."
Whenever, Sir, you exhibit this wonderful tale in an unquestionable shape, I shall certainly pay it due attention."
Your next fact is, that, "in early times, it was customary for the flock of which the Bishop was to have the charge, to meet together for the purpose of electing him; and that he was always ordained in their presence." This fact you say I deny. What fact, I pray? Is it that the Bishop was ordained in the presence of the people? So far from denying it, I expressly maintain it. I must have been out of my senses to deny it. All ordinations are public in our Church, and, I believe, in every other. But from this you would infer, that in the third century the Bishop presided over no more than a single congregation. But this inference is by no means legitimate; besides, it contradicts indubitable fact. I had previously proved, by numerous, clear, and decisive testimonies, that episcopacy in the third century was diocesan. Your inference, then, either upon logical ground, or on the ground of fact, is utterly nugatory. The expression, ( in the presence of the people,' is very easily understood. The Bishop had his own particular church in which he officiated, commonly called the Cathedral, from the Bishop's chair being placed there, (ex cathedra.) In that church he was ordained, and to that, of course, the people resorted from every part of his diocese on such an occasion. The expression, then, 'in the presence of the people,' is strictly proper, and your inference is merely imaginary.
To show still further (for I always choose to do more than is necessary, especially since I have been charged with 'rushing' to my conclusion,) I will take the case of Cornelius, Bishop of Rome, who had forty-six Presbyters under him, and many thousands of Christians. Now, can any man in his senses believe, that when he was consecrated to that office, those many thousands got into the Bishop's Church, and formed but a single congregation? It is utterly impossible; and yet he was ordained in the presence of the people.
▾ Vindication, Preface.
w [It is dropped in the 2d ed.]
Continuation, p. 202. [p. 342, 2d ed.]
y This is another instance of the facility with which Dr. M. misrepresents me,
No, Sir, this is not what I denied; it was to the election by the people that I refused my assent; yet, at the same time, I observed, that the nature of episcopacy could never be determined by a circumstance of this kind, were it even a fact. My words are 'But whether your premise be true or not, the inference has no necessary connexion with it. A Bishop may be chosen by the people, and yet he may preside over a hundred congregations. I shall not, therefore, enter into the dispute about the mode of electing a Bishop, but refer you to the Vindication of the Principles of the Cyprianic Age, in which you will find a complete refutation of the notion, that in that age a Bishop was elected by the people. The author demonstrates, that the people had no other concern in the business than to bear testimony to the character of the Bishop elect, and that the election was made by the Bishops of the province, without any thing like a polling on the part of the people.'z It is now evident, that I do not consider the election by the people, if it could even be proved, any argument in favour of congregational episcopacy. There are several ways in which the people might elect, without having recourse to the notion of a single congregation, to which we cannot have recourse, without flying in the face of as complete evidence as was ever given to any matter of fact whatever.
This point of the controversy is well stated by Bishop Stillingfleet.
“First; The main ground of the people's interest was founded upon the Apostles' canon, that a Bishop must be blameless and of good report: and, therefore, the people's share and concern in elections, even in Cyprian's time, was not to give their votes, but only their testimony concerning the good or ill behaviour of the person. Secondly, That yet upon this the people assumed the power of elections, and thereby caused great disturbances and disorders in the Church. Thirdly, That to prevent these, many Bishops were appointed without their choice, and canons made for the better regulating of them. Fourthly, That when there were Christian magistrates, they interposed as they thought fit, notwithstanding the popular claim in a matter of so great consequence to Church and state."a
This, I believe, is as correct an opinion as any man, from the lights we have, can form upon the subject; and it is precisely the opinion I maintained in my second volume. I there showed that there is not a single instance in the whole New Testament of the people's electing their Bishops; and I challenge you to give me one. I also showed that there is not the least shadow of evidence for it in the second century. This irrefragably proves, that there was no apostolic precept or example for any particular mode of electing; and, consequently, that it was left entirely to the discretion of the Church.
z Letter V. Vol. I. [Vol. I. p. 59.]
a Unreasonableness of Separation, p. 312, 316, 317.
I have now sufficiently examined your facts; and it appears clearly from what has been said, that you have not one inch of ground upon which you can rest your foot.
I shall, in my next, make a few observations on what you say with respect to the Apostolical Canons, and the few additional testimonies you give us from writers of the fourth century.
FIRST, with respect to the Apostolical Canons. I told you, Sir, that I did not quote the Apostolical Canons because I stood in need of them, but merely to show that you were incautious in pronouncing them spurious.
I observed that Bishop Beveridge had most ably defended those Canons; not as the work of the Apostles, for that, neither he nor any other Protestant writer pretends to maintain, at least that I am acquainted with. But he defends them as a collection of rules and practices, which prevailed in the Church in the second and third centuries. And even Blondel admits that they were compiled in the third century.
But you still think, that, notwithstanding the evidence exhibited by Beveridge, they are not to be depended upon. But ought you not to have shown that the Bishop has not proved his point before you iterated your sentence of condemnation? If we admit suspicions to regulate our judgment, with respect to the genuineness and authenticity of ancient writings, I fear that a great part of them will come under this sweeping kind of proscription. Be this as it may, you should, as a fair disputant, have noticed the few arguments I produced out of Beveridge in favour of their credibility. But instead of that, you shelter yourself under Bishop Taylor, who, from the quotation you give, seems to think that they have been corrupted. If Taylor really thought so, he is certainly very inconsistent, for he quotes them as freely as any man, in his Tract on Episcopacy, and without uttering the least expression of disapprobation. If then you can quote him as condemning them in his Liberty of Prophesying, I can quote him as approving them in his Tract on Episcopacy; and thus his testimony either way becomes perfectly nugatory.
Besides, this mode of determining the genuineness of writings, is never admitted by sound critics. Every thing of this kind must be determined by its own proper evidence, both internal and external. Suppose, Sir, I should take it into my head to deny that there ever was such a siege as that of Troy, and should offer, as the ground of my disbelief, that the very learned
Bryant has written a book to confute the vulgar notion with respect to that event; I suspect that you would laugh at me. But why, in this case, you should laugh at me, and I not at you in the other case, I cannot possibly conceive.
There is, Sir, one canon of criticism admitted by all men of learning, with respect to the sincerity of ancient writings. It is this. When their style, their phraseology, and the principles and practices which they record, correspond with the other writings of the age, then they are deemed genuine and authentic; and nothing less than positive proof that they are the work of a subsequent age, can destroy this internal evidence. Now the Apostolical Canons, at least the first fifty, agree remarkably in these respects with the other writings of the third century; and no positive external proof can be given that they were written at a later period. Nay, Beveridge has given positive proof that they were not written at a later period; and it was for that age I quoted them, without pretending to determine which of them were compiled in the second century, and which in the third. For any thing, then, that I can see to the contrary, these canons must stand against you.
I have now nothing more to do before I close the evidence from the fathers, but to notice a few testimonies produced by you from the writings of the fourth and fifth centuries.
It is an observation that will naturally present itself to the mind of an attentive reader, that you are very ready, on every occasion which you deem favourable to your cause, to quote from authors who wrote in the third and fourth centuries, after you had declared their testimonies suspicious, and therefore not to be depended upon. But if they are suspicious in our case, they certainly must be so in yours. What advantage then can you derive from quoting them, even if they speak what you think they do? What right have you to the testimony of Hilary and Jerome, if we have none to the numerous testimonies from Cyprian and others? Does parity make a testimony good that is in itself incompetent? Or does imparity vitiate what is sound and correct? The weight and force of testimony can be pretty accurately estimated, and therefore neither your judgment nor mine will be valued one tittle more than we can support it by solid proof. If the writers of the third and fourth century declare episcopacy to be the government of the Church when they wrote, there can be no doubt that it was so; and the person who does not admit it, does not deserve to be reasoned with: And if they say it was instituted by the Apostles, their testimony has great weight, although not quite so great as in the former case. What then can induce you to disparage the testimonies of those ages, I cannot see, unless it be that, upon the whole, they do not answer your purpose. Your great standard writers admit, that it is a lost case if they go into the third century, and that episcopacy had an origin very near the times of the Apos tles. Yet your superior sagacity discovers evidence where they