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man.' (N. B.) You then give your reason for this chimerical opinion, which I shall consider presently.
Here, you deny that the above named fathers assert the apostolic institution of prelacy, and elsewhere, you positively affirm that they do not. After this, were you alone concerned, I should think it as useless to dispute with you, as with a man who looks at the blazing sun, and says it does not shine.
If any man can read the numerous, express, positive proofs that I have given, that a Bishop in the third century was raised to the "top of the Priesthood" by a new ordination, his ordination to the Presbyterate being insufficient-that he held the supreme power of the keys, and was the governor of all orders in the Church; and then will read the following testimonies given in my first volume, and yet assert that Cyprian and his contemporaries did not maintain the divine right of episcopacy, I must really think that he has a strange obliquity of thinking, and that he is proof against every degree of evidence from testimony.
Let it be remembered what sort of Bishop Cyprian is proved to have been, and then read as follows. At the opening of the council of Carthage he says, "Our LORD JESUS CHRIST, and he alone, has the power of setting Bishops over the Church, to govern it." He says to Cornelius, that, "If the courage of Bishops be shaken, and they shall yield to the temerity of wicked schismatics, there will then be an end of the episcopal authority, and the sublime and divine power of governing the Church." And in the same epistle, he says, that "CHRIST constitutes, as well as protects Bishops." In his epistle to Florentius Pupianus, he says that, "It is God who makes Bishops ;" and that "it is by the divine appointment a Bishop is set over the Church."d
I also proved, by a number of other testimonies, that it was the general belief of that age, that diocesan episcopacy is of divine origin.
Now, how do you free yourself from the embarrassment, in which these testimonies necessarily involve you? Not by showing that there are no such testimonies-not by showing that they do not imply what I have ascribed to them—not by evincing that congregational episcopacy was the government of the Church in that age, which would effectually render nugatory all that I have said; not by any of these means, but by boldly declaring that you do not value the testimonies of the fathers, nor ought they to be valued by any reasonable man.
You put me in mind, Sir, of what Goldsmith used to say of Dr. Johnson. "If in reasoning, you pin him up in a corner, so that you would think he could not possibly make his escape, he is sure to jump over your head, and run off." You have indeed got out of your straitened situation, but it is by running away from the question. You have got rid of a difficulty, but it is by
d See my fifth letter,
adopting an absurdity. You have deprived the fathers of common sense, but it is at the expense of your own. You have, in short, taken them from us as witnesses to the canon of the Scripture, to the LORD's day, and to any fact which took place before their own time. And what is your reason for all this? It is, it seems, because they were mistaken as to three facts, and therefore they are not to be depended upon for the government of the Church, one or two centuries before their own time. I fear this will deprive us of all history whatsoever.
With those facts I shall begin my next letter.
THE first fact which you mention, as tending to invalidate the testimony of the fathers of the third and fourth centuries, is, that 'within fifty years after the apostolic age, the wine in the LORD's Supper was constantly mixed with water. This mixture, considered at first as a measure of human prudence, soon began to be urged, not only as a matter of importance, but as a divine institution. Irenæus declares it to have been both taught and practised by our SAVIOUR himself. Lib. iv. cap. 57. Čyprian also asserts that the same thing was enjoined by tradition from the LORD, and made a part of the original institution.' You might likewise have added Justin Martyr, who mentions it as the custom of the Church in his time; that is, about thirty years after the death of St. John.a Clemens Alexandrinus also mentions it.b "But no Protestant now believes one or the other!!" Here you most grossly err. The Episcopal Church in Scotland believe it to have been practised by the Apostles, and by the whole primitive Church, and accordingly, invariably used the mixed cup. And the Church of England practised it till the second review of the Liturgy in the reign of Edward VI. at which time, by the influence of some foreign Presbyterians, they laid it aside, to the great regret of many learned and pious divines. And were you, Sir, to examine the evidence for this usage, I do not think you would find it an easy matter to show its insufficiency. As to myself, I can say, that after having considered the question with no small degree of attention, I am perfectly satisfied, that the Paschal cup, which the most learned in Jewish customs say was always mixed with water, was the cup used by our SAVIOUR; and that it was the universal practice in the days of the Apostles, and for ages after. The testimony of Justin Martyr at Rome, of Irenæus at Lyons, of Clemens at Alex
a Apol. II. p. 162.
LIGHTFOOT, Hora Hebraica in i Cor, xi. 25. et Matt, p. 298.
andria, of Cyprian at Carthage, and of numerous other subsequent writers, cannot be disregarded without serious consequences. But if it could, you must prove the practice not to have been founded on apostolic tradition, before you can infer any thing favourable to your purpose.
In my first volume, I gave you the rule of Vincentius Lirinensis for determining what are apostolic usages. It is, that such doctrines as we find to have been believed in all places, at all times, and by all the faithful, are derived from apostolic authority. Now try the use of the mixed cup by this rule. The practice was common in the early part of the second century; therefore, it has both antiquity and universality. The Paschal
cup was used by our SAVIOUR, as appears from the Scripture, and that cup was mixed with water, as appears from Jewish documents; therefore, the subsequent practice was grounded on the SAVIOUR'S example; and thus we are at the source. If indeed the Church of the following ages had not used the mixed cup, we might consider it, like some other usages, as not designed to be continued. But when we find that it was universally used after our SAVIOUR'S example, however unimportant or insignificant, we may consider the circumstance; the usage comes within the rule of Vincentius, and therefore deserves belief. This case then will be of no manner of use to you.
Your second instance, viz. of giving communion to infants in the third century, has not one of the marks of Vincentius' rule. It was not a general practice in that century; but was confined to some Churches in Africa; therefore it wants universality. It cannot be traced to the apostolic age; and therefore it wants antiquity: and consequently it must be rejected from the list of apostolic usages.
But you say, 'Augustine calls it an apostolical tradition.' So he does, for the very reason which you mention-his misconception of John vi. 53. But who ever supposed that Augustine, or any other father, was an infallible interpreter of Scripture? You confound two distinct things, the opinions of the fathers, with their testimony to facts. A man may be erroneous in his opinions, and yet very correct in his statement of facts. Augustine does not say that the Church, in all ages and in all places, administered the communion to infants; but supposing it to be a Scripture doctrine, he considered it as obligatory. But he must have known very well, that even in his own time, (the fourth century) numbers differed from him, and that many Churches did not pay any regard to that African custom. misconception, therefore, of a text of Scripture has nothing to do with the question we are discussing, viz. what weight has the opinion of the whole Christian Church in the third century, that episcopacy had a divine origin? I say it has great weight. You say it has none at all; and to prove it, you quote a partial usage in the third and fourth centuries, founded on a misconception. Then the argument stands thus: A few Churches in
those centuries founded, on a mistaken text of Scripture, a very simple, harmless, innocent rite; therefore all the Christian world in the third century are to be disregarded, when they found episcopacy on divine authority. Is there any logic in this? Is there any parallel between the origin of a rite, confined to a few, and this form of a government diffused over the whole earth? None, in any point of view whatever.
Your two next cases are worse than the preceding. Irenæus, it seems, thought our Saviour was fifty years of age when he was crucified; and this opinion he grounds on the question of the Jews, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham ?" And on the "testimony of all the old men who had lived with St. John, and the other Apostles." They must have been very old men indeed, who, in the time of Irenæus, had lived with the other Apostles; many years above a hundred. Irenæus himself did but just recollect St. John, whom, in his youth, he had seen. But he does not say that St. John had told him so; or that Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, had told him So. He heard it from some old men, who quoted that Apostle as the author of the report. Now, this carries weakness on the very face of it, and amounts to this-Irenæus suffered himself to be imposed upon. But does it follow, that he could not tell whether the system of ecclesiastical government had undergone a radical change between his time and the apostolic age? If it had undergone a change, he must have known it from thousands of witnesses; nay, he must have known it himself, for it must have happened in his own time. This, therefore, is too ridiculous to be mentioned.
Your next fact is the dispute about the time of keeping Easter. The Eastern Church plead the authority of St. John and St.: Philip for their time of keeping the festival; the Church of Rome, the authority of St. Paul and St. Peter for their time of keeping it. Neither of them could possibly have been ignorant of the tradition with respect to this point. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, knew very well the mind of the Apostle in this respect; and Anicetus, Bishop of Rome, knew very well what had been the practice of his own Church. Both parties had therefore the best authority for what they did. Now, what is the fair inference from this statement? Certainly, that the Apostles acted in this matter from their own private judgment, and not from a divine direction. It is universally acknowledged, that several apostolic usages are not binding, because the Apostles, in such cases, did not act on the ground of divine authority. The office of Deaconesses was not considered by the primitive Church as a permanent institution, and therefore, when it was abused it was laid aside. In like manner, the love feasts were dropped, because they also had been abused. Some other apostolic usages were likewise given up; but these need not be named, as those mentioned are sufficient. We must judge of the obligatory power of apostolical practices from their
nature, and the circumstances of the times. What became useless from a change of circumstances, or what could not be carried into effect with propriety and decency, was wisely laid aside by the primitive Church. Festivals are entirely of this nature. Different Churches acted in respect to them as they thought proper hence arose a variety of practices, which were perfectly consistent with keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
From this short, and I believe correct view of the subject, the disputants on this question were both right as to apostolic sanction; but it does not appear that either party plead a divine sanction. Accordingly, Polycarp and Anicetus communed together in Christian charity, and agreed to continue their respective practice. This therefore is a case that cannot in any respect answer your purpose; nay, it directly makes against you. For here the source of the practice was clearly ascertained; but the circumstance of the time, and even the festival itself, not being divinely appointed, there was room for a difference of usage.
And now, it may be proper before I proceed, just to observe, what a strong argument this case affords against the supposition that the constitution of the Christian Church underwent in the early ages a material change, when those who must have been concerned in it were so extremely tenacious of apostolic usages, even when they were not of a binding nature. A change of this kind is so improbable, so unreasonable, and so directly contrary to principle, and to the influence which attachment has over the human mind, that nothing short of direct and positive evidence can induce the mind to acquiesce in it.
And now, Sir, I will give you reasons why the testimonies of the third century, in favour of the apostolic origin of episcopacy, should be deemed conclusive.
1. A century, or a little more, is but a short time to trace back any government, whether civil or ecclesiastical. It does not appear to me that any reasonable man can deny this. Neither you nor I can be at the least loss to determine, beyond all contradiction, what was the government of our respective Churches two hundred years ago. If we have records by which we can do it, so had the fathers. If no material change could have taken place in that time in our Churches without our knowing it, surely the same may be said of them. If your General Assembly could not possibly convince the world, that episcopacy was not the government of the Church of England a century or two ago ; or if our General Convention could not possibly convince the world, that presbytery was not the government of the Church of Geneva at either of those periods, certainly the writers of the third century could never have convinced the Christians of that age, that episcopacy was an apostolic institution, if it really was not so, or if it had been disbelieved in the second century. And as there are many men of sense and