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this I shall very briefly say two things, which will quickly clear our way through this bush of thorns.
1. That the word 'presbyter'is but an honourable appellative used amongst the Jews, as alderman’ amongst us; but it signifies no order at all, nor was ever used in Scripture to signify any distinct company or order of clergy: and this appears not only by an induction in all the enumerations of the offices ministerial in the New Testament, where to be a presbyter is never reckoned either as a distinct office, or a distinct order; but by its being indifferently communicated to all the superior clergy, and all the princes of the people.
2. The second thing I intended to say, is this: that although all the superior clergy had not only one, but divers common appellatives, all being called πρεσβύτεροι and διάκονοι, even the apostolate itself being called a deaconship’; yet it is evident, that before the common appellatives were fixed into names of propriety, they were as evidently distinguished in their offices and powers, as they are at this day in their names and titles.
To this purpose St. Paul gave to Titus, the bishop of Crete, a special commission, command, and power, to make ordinations; and in him, and in the person of Timothy, he did erect a court of judicature even over some of the clergy, who yet were called presbyters : “ Against a presbyter receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses 8:” there is the measure and the warranty of the audientia episcopalis,' 'the bishops' audience-court;' and when the accused were found guilty, he gives in charge to proceed to censures; έλεγχε αποτόμως, and δει επιστομίζειν « You must rebuke them sharply, and you must silence them, stop their mouths"," that is St. Paul's word ; that they may no more scatter their venom in the ears and hearts of the people. These bishops were commanded" to set in order things that were wanting in the churches, the same with that power of St. Paul ;“ Other things will I set in order, when I come,” said he to the Corinthian churches; in which there were many who were called presbyters, who nevertheless, for all that name, had
1 Cor. xii. 28.
e Rom. xii. 6. Eph. iv. 11. 5 1 Tim. y. 19.
r Acts, i. 23.
not that power. To the same purpose it is plain in Scripture, that some would have been apostles that were not; such were those whom the Spirit of God notes in the Revelation'; and some did love pre-eminence' that had it not, for so did Diotrephes; and some were judges of questions, and all were not, for therefore they appealed to the apostles at Jerusalem; and St. Philip, though he was an evangelist, yet he could not give confirmation to the Samaritans whom he had baptized, but the apostles were sent for; for that was part of the power reserved to the episcopal or apostolic order.
Now from these premises, the conclusion is plain and easy. 1. Christ left a government in his church, and founded it in the persons of the apostles. 2. The apostles received this power for the perpetual use and benefit, for the comfort and edification of the church for ever. 3. The apostles had this government; but all that were taken into the ministry, and all that were called presbyters, had it not. If, therefore, this government, in which there is so much disparity in the very nature, and exercise, and first original of it, must abide for ever; then so must that disparity. If the apostolate, in the first stabiliment, was this eminency of power, then it must be so; that is, it must be the same in the succession, that it was in the foundation. For, after the church is founded upon its governors, we are to expect no change of government. If Christ was the author of it, then, as Christ left it, so it must abide for ever: for ever there must be the governing and the governed, the superior and the subordinate, the ordainer and the ordained, the confirmer and the confirmed.
'Thus far the way is straight, and the path is plain. The apostles were the stewards and the ordinary rulers of Christ's family, by virtue of the order and office apostolical; and although this be succeeded to for ever, yet no man, for his now or at any time being called a presbyter or elder, can pretend to it; for, besides his being a presbyter, he must be an apostle too; else, though he be called 'in partem sollicitudinis,' and may do the office of assistance and under-stewardship, yet the xûpos, 'the government;' and rule of the family, belongs not to him.
But then τίς άρα και σήμερον, “who are these stewards and
rulers over the household now ?' To this the answer is also certain and easy. Christ hath made the same governors today as heretofore ; ‘apostles still.' For though the twelve apostles are dead, yet the apostolical order is not: it is tážis γεννητική, , a generative order, and begets more apostles. Now who these “minores apostoli’ are, the successors of the apostles in that office apostolical and supreme regiment of souls, we are sufficiently taught in holy Scriptures; which when I have clearly shown to you, I shall pass on to some more practical considerations.
1. Therefore, certain and known it is, that Christ appointed two sorts of ecclesiastic persons,—twelve apostles, and the seventy-two disciples ; to these he gave a limited commission; to those a fulness of power; to these a temporary employment; to those a perpetual and everlasting : from these two societies, founded by Christ, the whole church of God derives the two superior orders in the sacred hierarchy; and, as bishops do not claim a Divine right but by succession from the apostles, so the presbyters cannot pretend to have been instituted by Christ, but by claiming a succession to the seventy-two. And then consider the difference, compare the tables, and all the world will see the advantages of argument we have; for, since the seventy-two had nothing but a mission on a temporary errand; and more than that, we hear nothing of them in Scripture; but upon the apostles Christ poured all the ecclesiastical power, and made them the ordinary ministers of that Spirit, which was to abide with the church for ever: the Divine institution of bishops, that is, of successors to the apostles, is much more clear than that Christ appointed presbyters, or successors of the seventy-two. And yet, if from hence they do not derive it, they can never prove their order to be of Divine institution at all, much less to be so alone.
But we may see the very thing itself—the very matter of fact. St. James, the bishop of Jerusalem, is by St. Paul called an apostle: “Other apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord's brotherk.” For there were some whom the Scriptures call “the apostles of our Lord;' that is, such which Christ made by his word immediately, or by his Spirit extra
Gal. i. 19.
ordinarily; and even into this number and title, Matthias, and St. Paul, and Barnabas, were accounted! But the church also made apostlesm; and these were called by St. Paul, åwóotoROL ÉunAnglõv,apostles of the churches;' and particularly Epaphroditus was the apostle of the Philippians;'-'properly so,' saith Primasius; and 'what is this else but the bishop, saith Theodoret; for τους νυν καλουμένους επισκόπους ώνόμαζον απόstónous," those who are now called bishops, were then called apostles," saith the same father. The sense and full meaning of which argument is a perfect commentary upon that famous prophecy of the church, “ Instead of thy fathers, thou shalt have children, whom thou mayest make princes in all lands";" that is, not only the twelve apostles, our fathers in Christ, who first begat us, were to rule Christ's family, but when they were gone, their children and successors should arise in their stead : ' Et nati natorum, et qui nascentur ab illis :' their direct successors to all generations shall be principes populi,' that is, 'rulers and governors of the whole catholic church.'-" De prole enim ecclesiæ crevit eadem paternitas, id est, episcopi quos illa genuit, et patres appellat, et constituit in sedibus patrum,” saith St. Austin : “ The children of the church become fathers of the faithful; that is, the church begets bishops, and places them in the seat of fathers, the first apostles.”
After these plain and evident testimonies of Scripture, it will not be amiss to say, that this great affair, relying not only upon the words of institution, but on matter of fact, passed forth into a demonstration and greatest notoriety by the doctrine and practice of the whole Catholic church : for so St. Irenæus, who was one of the most ancient fathers of the church, and might easily make good his affirmative : “ We can,” says he,“ reckon the men, who by the apostles were appointed bishops in churches, to be their successors unto us; leaving to them the same power and authority which they had.” — Thus St. Polycarp was by the apostles made bishop of Smyrna; St. Clement, bishop of Rome, by St. Peter; “ and divers others by the apostles," saith Tertullian; saying also, that the Asian bishops were consecrated by St. John. And to be short, that bishops are the suc
11 Cor. viii. 23.
m Philip. ii. 25.
n Psalm xlv. 16.
cessors of the apostles in the stewardship and rule of the church, is expressly taught by St. Cyprian', and St. Jerome P, St. Ambrose and St. Austin, by Euthymius and Pacianus, by St. Gregory and St. John Damascenus, by Clarius à Muscula and St. Sixtus, by Anacletus and St. Isidore; by the Roman council under St. Sylvester, and the council of Carthage; and the dadoxn, or succession' of bishops from the apostles' hands in all the churches apostolical, was as certainly known as in our chronicles we find the succession of our English kings, and one can no more be denied than the other. The conclusion from these premises I give you in the words of St. Cyprian: “ Cogitent diaconi, quòd apostolos, id est, episcopos, Dominus ipse elegerit :” “ Let the ministers know, that apostles, that is, the bishops, were chosen by our blessed Lord himself":” and this was so evident, and so believed, that St. Austin affirms it with a • Nemo ignorat,' “No man is so ignorant' but he knows this, that our blessed Saviour appointed bishops over churches."
Indeed the Gnostics spake evil of this order; for they are noted by three apostles, St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Jude, to be 'despisers of government, and to speak evil of dignities;' and what government it was they did so despise, we may understand by the words of St. Jude; they were εν τη αντιλογία του Κορέ in the contradiction or gainsaying of Corah,' who with his company rose up against Aaron the high priest; and excepting these, who were the vilest of men, no man, within the first three hundred years after Christ, opposed episcopacy. But when Constantine received the church into his arms, he found it universally governed by bishops; and, therefore, no wise or good man professing to be a Christian, that is, to believe the holy catholic church, can be content to quit the apostolical government (that by which the whole family of God was fed, and taught, and ruled), and beget to himself new fathers and new apostles, who, by wanting succession from the apostles of our Lord, have no ecclesiastical and derivative communion with these fountains of our Saviour.
• In 1 Cor. xii.
p In Psm. xliv. 9 Epist. 1. Simpronianum. • Quæst. V. et N. T. q. 197.