an accepted and meritorious offering, he again writes to Polycarp, “ My soul be security for those who submit to their Bishops, Elders, and Deacons" (6).

The argument for the Episcopacy has for a long time been based on the Epistles of Ignatius, which are supposed by all the Prelatists to supply an immovable foundation for the fabric of their dominion ; and truly if frequent and earnest admonitions of submission to the Episcopal authority, repeated even to tediousness, and brought in on all occasions, and often without any plausible opportunity, in these short epistles, is sufficient to prove that which the Prelatists require, it must be confessed that Ignatius has established the mitre beyond the reach of objection. But Churchgovernment is founded on the word of God, and not on Ignatius ; and as we know what the word of God has taught us on this subject, we have only now to see the doctrine of Ignatius, to understand with what confidence weak and vain man can set up his own imaginations as objects of reverence. The following are a few specimens :—“Let us take heed, brethren, that we set not ourselves against the Bishop, that we may be subject to God” (Eph. 5). " It is evident that we ought to respect the Bishop even as the Lord himself” (id. 6). “ It is your duty not to despise the youth of your Bishop, but to yield all reverence to him, according to the power of God the Father" (88). “I exhort ye that ye study to do all things in a divine concord; your Bishop presiding in the place of God, your Presbyters in place of the council of the Apostles, and your deacons, most dear to me, being entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ” (Magnes 6). "Inasmuch as ye are subject to your Bishop as to Jesus Christ, ye appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us” (Trall. 2). “Guard yourselves against such persons; and that ye will do, if ye are not puffed up, but continue inseparable from Jesus Christ our God, and from your Bishop, and from the commands of the Apostles” (id. 7). “It becometh every one of you, especially the Elders, to refresh the Bishop, to the honour of the Father,, of Jesus Christ, and of the Apostles” (id. 12). “ As many as are of God, and of Jesus Christ, are also with the Bishop” (Phil. 113). " It is good to have due regard both to God and to the Bishop. He that honours the Bishop shall be honoured of God. But he that doeth any thing without his knowledge, ministers unto the devil(Smyrn. 2). And writing to Polycarp, the Bishop of the Church at Smyrna, he takes care to remind him of his prerogative of universal overseer : “Let nothing be done without thy knowledge and consent." These sentences certainly furnish as large draughts of prelacy as the most feverish palate can desire; and, that not even the authority of inspiration might be wanting, Ignatius formally announced to the Philadelphians, that his episcopalian theory was the voice and doctrine of the Spirit. “ I cried whilst I was amongst you; I spake with a loud voice, Give ear to the Bishop and the Presbytery, and to the Deacons. And some suppose that I spake this as knowing before the separation of some; but He is my witness, for whose sake I am in bonds, that I knew nothing from any man, but the Spirit declared, or gave forth to me-70 de avevpa ekmputė uol --these words, DO YE NOTHING WITHOUT THE BISHOP : keep your flesh as the temple of God; love unity; avoid divisions; be the followers of Christ as he was of the Father.” That Ignatius believed what he here asserts, may be charitably conceded; but that he had greatly deceived himself in this matter, as well as in many others, there can be no doubt.

To secure a perfect submission to the rulers of the Churches was, in reality, the only purpose for which Ignatius wrote his letters. He saw divisions and schisms arising amongst Christians; and he was alarmed with the many heresies which threatened the faithful. He knew that the mind of many had been unsettled; and that teachers of strange doctrines were abroad, who with their subtile suggestions led away the incautious, the ignorant, and the unstable, into the most pernicious heresies ; and, therefore, to remedy these evils, he resorted to the favourite expedient of weak minds, a strong government, being persuaded that if only the authority of the elders and overseers were fully established, the sheep would be kept within their lawful enclosures. To effect this, therefore, he exerted himself with all his energies to convert the ministers of the Church into a powerful governing body, distinct from the multitude—the more perfect the obedience which should be paid to the Elders and Bishops, the safer did he imagine the Church would be; never expecting that the time would arrive, when the new clerical oligarchs would themselves, through the inherent vice of human nature fomented by the enjoyment of authority, introduce worse heresies than those which were then abroad, till the clericul body, going on from worse to worse, should at last, by their crimes and usurpations, turn professing Christendom into the darkest portion of Satan's empire. The object which Ignatius had in view is apparent in the following sentences : “ Give diligence to be established in the doctrine of our Lord and the Apostles, together with your most worthy Bishop, and the well-woven spiritual crown of your Presbytery, and your godly Deacons. Be subject to your Bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father according to the flesh; and the Apostles to Christ and to the Father, and to the Spirit ; thal so there muy be a union among you both in body and spirit (Mag. 13). Let there be nothing among you which cun cuuse a division ; but be ye united to your Bishop, and to those who preside over you—TOIS TT poka nuevoisto be your pattern and direction unto immortality” (Mag. 6). “ It is fitting that by an uniform obedience ye may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same ajudgment, und muy all speuk ulike concerning every thing, and that, being subject to the Bishop and the Presbytery, ye may be altogether sanctified” (Eph. 2).

Nevertheless, with all these vehement endeavours to aggrandise the Episcopal functions, it is apparent that Ignatius had no idea of Diocesan Prelacy: « Let no one,” says he, “ do any thing which belongs to the Church, separately from the Bishop: Let that Eucharist be looked upon as well established, which is either offered by the Bishop, or by one to whom the Bishop has given his consent. Wheresoever the Bishop shall appear, there let the people also be; as, where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful, without the Bishop, either to baptise or to celebrate the Holy Communion, or to hold a love-feast : but, whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, that so whatsoever is done may be surely and well done” (Smyrn. 8.): and so, also, to Polycarp he says,

" It becomes the men and women who are entering into wedlock, to be united with the consent of the Bishop; that so the marriage may be according to [the will of] God, and not for. lust" (5). Now it is impossible that these injunctions should have been given, except on the supposition that a Bishop was present in every Church. Ignatius knew that wherever there was a congregation of believers, there was an Overseer, and therefore he gave directions that the Overseer should be present at every baptism, every celebration of the communion, every love-feast, and every marriage, which he never could have thought of if the Bishop of his days had been the ruler of a diocese. The Ignatian Bishop corresponded to the parish Priest of our days, except that in each Church there was a plurality of Elders or Bishops. Most of the passages in which the Presbytery and the Bishop are mentioned, incidentally prove this; for though Ignatius singled out some one amongst the Elders whom he called the Bishop in every Church, yet he always contemplates their united authority; the Bishop being the president or leader of the body of Elders. “ As the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to him, neither by himself nor yet by his Apostles ; in like manner do ye nothing without the Bishop and the Elders" (Mag. 7).

As, therefore, not even the Epistles of Igratius can establish all that the clergy desire, they have recourse to deception, in order to make up the deficiencies of this renowned prelatist ; for they have not allowed his letters to pass without inserting that which is not to be found in the original, the three orders. Ignatius desires that the Philadelphians will send ambassadors to the Church at Antioch: “ If now ye be willing,” says he," it will not be impossible for you to do this for the sake of God, as also the nearest Churches have sent Bishops, and some of them have sent Elders and deacons,” but the clerical* translators have here turned “ Elders" into “ Priests,” and so have persuaded all those who have entertained no suspicion of the good faith of an ecclesiastic, that“ the three orders” were broadly stated by Ignatius.

In other respects, these Epistles contain some extraordinary passages, which have

As also the neighbouring Churches have sent them--some Bisliops, sume Priests and Deacons" (Abp. Wake). “As also the other neighbouring Churches have sent them, some Bishops, and other Priests and Deacons" (Chevalier.) Mr. Chevalier has imitated the stratagem of the Archbishop, but has, in other respects, given a wrong meaning to the pas. sage. Why did Mr. Chevalier, in this single passage, turn the Elders into Priests, though he bas uniformly, in all other places, called them Presbyters, and though in the Epistle of Polycarp (6) he fairly translates the word Elders? If Priests are to be introduced by these arts, their cause must be a very bad one.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

caused the cominentators no little trouble, either to explain or conceal. The prince of this world,” says Ignatius, “ knew not the virginity of Mary, and him who was born of her, and the death of the Lord : three mysteries loudly spoken of, but which were done by God in silence. How then was he manifested to the world? A star shone in heaven above all other stars, and its light was inexpressible, and its novelty struck terror. All the rest of the stars, together with the sun und the moon, were the chorus to this star; but it sent forth its light exceedingly above them all, and men were troubled to ascertain from whence this novelty came, so unlike all others : hence all the power of magic was dissolved,” &c. (Mag. 19.) It is quite unnecessary to pause over this nonsense: the only excuse which the learned have to offer for one, who in this matter of the Episcopacy, declares himself to be inspired, is, that many of the Fathers have imitated or enlarged on this passage, which is exactly what might have been expected by those who have studied the doctors of tradition.

Ignatius says to the Ephesians, “ Ye are stones of the temple of the Father, prepared for the building of God the Father, raised up on high by the engine of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, and using the Holy Ghost as the rope, and hauled along by faith as a pulley, and swung up from earth to heaven by charity, ye have gone the same road with the immaculate” (Eph. 9).

He informs us that our Lord, when he came, raised up the Jewish Prophets from the dead (Mag. 9); and that unless the angels believe in the blood of Christ, they shall receive condemnation (Smyrn. 6).

He makes use of language in speaking of the Lord's Supper, favourable to the superstitious views of consubstantiation, or even something beyond consubstantiation, which Clemens Romanus is supposed to have countenanced; but whether from inadvertency of language, or intentionally, is not apparent. " For the love which he bore towards us,” says Clemens, our Lord Jesus Christ gave his blood for our blood, his flesh for our flesh, his soul for our souls” (49). But Ignatius apparently thought that the bread and wine were the body and blood of our Lord, and that by mingling with our substance they imparted to us immortality; breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality, our antidote that we should not die, but live for ever in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 20). “ They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father of his goodness raised up again. They, therefore, who contradict the gift of God, die in their disputes ; but better would it be for them to participate* in the communion, that they also might rise again” (Smyrn.7). “ Endeavour to use one Eucharist: for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cupt unto a consociation or union of his blood : one altar, as there is one Bishop, with the Presbytery and the Deacons, my fellow servants” (Phil. 4).

The altar” is occasionally mentioned: “Let no man deceive himself; except a man be within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God; for if the prayer of one or two be of such avail, how much more shall that of the Bishop and the whole Church be ?” (Eph. 5). Here the altar seems to be taken in the figurative sense, of the acceptance of believers as they stand in Church fellowship, with Christ, their head, and with one another ; but in the previous instance it approaches, perhaps, more to the Judaic or Popish sense, and seems to be a preparation for the sacrifice and the priesthood. În the Epistle to the Trallians, the altar stands generally for the acceptance of believers in the Church: “ He that is within the altar is pure: but he that is without it is not pure: that is, he that doeth any thing without the Bishop, and the Presbyters, and the Deacons, is not pure” (7).

In all these instances, the altar is in the original, to Avolaornplov: once it appears to us to be in the Judaic, and twice in the figurative sense, as in Heb. xii. 10.

In the Epistle to the Trallians, it is intimated, supposing the text to be correct, that the departed Saints could benefit the Church militant;

May my

soul be your expiation, not only now, but when I shall have attained unto God” (i3). As this, however, is a disputed passage, the testimony cannot be confidently accepted.

Συνεφερεν δε αυτοις αγαπαν ινα και αναστωσιν; the obvious translation would be, " better would it be for thein to shew christian love that they might rise again:" and the preceding paragraph would also make this intelligible. The general style of the Ignatiaa language, however, makes it probable that the verb bere is to be taken in a liturgical sense, as suggested by Cotelerius, and followed by others,

* Εις την ενωσιν του αιμα ος αυτου.

One sentence of Ignatius has been much quoted by the Popish school as corroborating their favourite* heresy of virginity: “ Exhort, my Brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ to love the partners of their lives, as the Lord the Church. If any one is able to remain in chastity to the honour of the flesh of the Lord, let him remain so without boasting. If he boast he is undone ; and if he desire to be more esteemed than his Bishop, he is corrupted” (Ad Pol. 5). To us this. passage does not convey all the meaning that has been extracted from it, though it seems incidentally to intimate that either Polycarp or Ignatius," the Bishop,” had not remained in “ the state of chastity,"—that is, had committed the sin of marriage, and therefore had, according to the doctrine of virginity, placed himself in an inferior state compared with the unmarried Christians.

If, however, Ignatius meant to teach, as his admirers insist he did, that marriage is an unchaste state, he spoke as a heretic, and taught heresy. Of that there can be no question. To apply such texts as 2 Cor. vii. 13, to the holy state of matrimony, is false, wicked, and scandalous.

This being such a view of this celebrated Father as our contracted limits allow, we conclude with answering the question mysteriously proposed by some of the Popish school; Whence did Ignatius derive these peculiar opinions, which being a matter of tradition, and not to be found in Scripture, are called “catholic” ? " Who shall venture to assert,” say they, " that Ignatius, the contemporary and disciple of Apostles, and an Asiatic, was perverted, by causes unknown, to teach as Apostolic a false doctrine, and when travelling to martyrdom, to confess it repeatedly and consistently to churches, which had not lost St. John's guidance above half a dozen years ? Surely it is impossible.”

But are the causes “ unknown"? Can we not find them in the weakness, egotism, and credulity of individual character? And if all this excessive iteration of the Episcopal doctrine would be considered ridiculous in the highest degree in any Bishop of these our days; if the Ignatian style is such as no Prelatist would now venture to imitate, why are we to look with profound reverence on the absurdities and extravagancies of this ancient father, who may possibly have seen the Apostles when he was a young man ? Are the Apostles the spirit of truth ? Are the Apostles the grace and light of God? Was Peter teaching doctrine to be received with adoration, when Paul saw that certain Jews, including even Barnabas, were carried away by his dissimulation, and when in consequence Paul withstood him to the face ? (Gal. ii. 11). And if an Angel from heaven were to preach unto us another Gospel, and were for so doing to be pronounced " accursed,” why are we to bow the knee before the supposed oracle in the mouth of this injudicious Bishop of Antioch?

Supposing for argument's sake that he had been a disciple of John the Evangelist, is it a matter of astonishment that he should in time have forgotten some things which he had heard, added some traditions gathered from other quarters to the Apostolical truths, and perhaps have invented some himself? That Ignatius was determined to consolidate the Episcopal authority and make the Bishop the chief ruler and monitor of the churches is evident; we can therefore scarcely doubt that he himself was accustomed to exact that reverence and obedience from the Christians at Antioch which he supposed was due to his office. Now forty years' enjoyment of a clerical government, conducted on such principles, could scarcely fail to elicit any dogmatical tendencies of character which might secretly exist in the bosom of the Prelate, or even to create them if they did not previously exist ; and who cannot see the dogmatical spirit strongly developed in the Epistles of Ignatius ? A vein of clerical positiveness runs through all the letters to the Churches, fortified occasionally with pretensions to inspiration, as has already been noticed ; and even where this is

*Thus do the Oxford Tractators comment on the passage :- When he speaks of remaining in chastity to the honour of our Lord's flesh, if he means what the words literally imply, that chastity is å reverence paid to the holy and divinely virginal nature which Christ imparts to us from himself, the sentiment is plain and very awful; otherwise it surely would seem lo be a rude and indecorous phrase.” They mean that Ignatius teaches that the flesh and blood of the Lord is physically infused into us by participating “in the communion of his body and blood,"—that we become participants of the Lord's fresh thereby; and that, therefore, if we keep in a state of chastity, we do honor to that holy and “divinely virginal nature.”

not asserted, it seems to have been an opinion settled in the mind of Ignatius, that he knew many other things by divine teaching which he thought it expedient to withhold : “ I know many things in God; but I refrain myself, lest I should perish in my boasting” (Trall. 4).

We therefore find no difficulty in answering the question,“ Whence did Ignatius derive his Catholic opinions ?”—From the weakness of his individual character,-from that same source from which Papias derived his Catholic opinions; from that source whence all traditionary impurities and heretical pollutions have found an entrance into the Church-the superstitious and dogmatical propensity of human nature.

Of the birth-place and early life of Polycarp there is no authentic record. He is believed to have been of oriental extraction. Irenæus informs us, that when he was a youth in lower Asia he saw Polycarp. “ Well could I describe,” says he, " the very place in which the blessed Polycarp sat and taught, his going out and coming in, the whole tenour of his life, his personal appearance; the discourse which he made to the people. How would he speak of the conversations which he held with John, and with others who had seen the Lord! How did he make mention of their words, and of whatsoever he had heard from them respecting the Lord!" Polycarp is generally called a disciple of John the Evangelist; he received, however, further instructions in the Christian faith from Bucolus, a Bishop of Smyrna, of which city he himself afterwards became Bishop. Jerom and Tertullian say, that he was ordained Bishop of Smyrna by John himself. Eusebius ascribes his ordination to

apostolic men.” On the occasion of the controversy between the Eastern and Western Churches respecting the celebration of Easter, he was appointed to go to Rome. “ And when the blessed Polycarp came to Rome,” says Irenæus “ in the time of Anicetus, and there was a little controversy between them about other things, they embraced each other presently with the kiss of peace, not greatly contending about this question (i. e. the proper time for the celebration of Easter), for neither could Anicetus ever persuade Polycarp to cease this thing, because he had lived familiarly with John the disciple of our Lord, and with the other Apostles, and observed their custom continually. Neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, since Anicetus said that he retained the custom of those Elders who were before him. When matters were thus situated, they communed together, and Anicetus yielded to Polycarp, as a token of respect, the officiating at the Eucharist in the presence of the Church, and at length they departed from each other in peace, as well those who observed this custom, as those who observed it not, keeping the peace of the whole Church;” and elsewhere he says that when Polycarp came to Rome he converted“ many heretics to the Church of God, declaring that he had received from the Apostles that one and only system of truth which he delivered to the Church."*

This testimony, as bearing on the Papal question, is very important; for that Anicetus knew nothing of the Popish pretensions is evident by the record of this controversy: he received Polycarp as an Elder of the Church on a footing of perfect equality with himself, did not attempt to enforce his obedience, and allowed him to return to Asia with those opinions which he had brought to Reme, though they were not in accordance with the opinions of “the Court of Rome.” Ignatius also was evidently ignorant of the power of the Pope; for, in his Epistle to the Romans, he never once mentions their Bishop or even alludes to his existence. He writes the Church presiding in the place of the region of the Romans ;” and it is to be remarked that only in this Epistle he omits his favorite theme of the Episcopal prerogatives. “ The Bishop " is not mentioned in the Epistle to the Romans, except



* When Victor, Bishop of Rome, excommunicated the Eastern Churches for non-conformity on the question of Easter, Irenæus addressed to him a letter of expostulation, in wbich one expression is worthy of observation. “But those Elders who before Soter governed the Church over which you now preside, namely, Anicetus, Pius, Hyginus, Telesphorus and Sextus did not observe this custom, &c. The old ideas of Church government are here retained : the Popes are called Elders! In Eusebius is a curious instance of the identity of Elders and Bishops. “ In the third year of this reign also, Heraclus, dying after a presidency of sixteen years, was succeeded by Dionysius in the Episcopacy of the Church of Alexandria (vi. 35). "In addition to these, Dionysius composed another Épistle addressed to his fellow-elders, ovu peoßeutepois—at Alexandria” (vii. 20).

« ForrigeFortsett »