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My obedience to the commands of the Right Honourable the Lord Justices, and the most Reverend and Learned Primate, and to the desires of rend Brethren, put it past my inquiry, whether I ought to publish this following Sermon. I will not, therefore, excuse it, and say it might have advantages in the delivery, which it would want in the reading; and the ear would be kind to the piety of it, which was apparent in the design, when the
eye would be severe in its censure of those arguments, which, as they could not be longer in that measure of time, so would have appeared more firm, if they could have had liberty to have been pursued to their utmost issue: but reason lies in a little room, and obedience in less; and although what I have here said, may not stop the mouths of men resolved to keep up a faction, yet I have said enough to the sober and pious, to them who love order, and hearken to the voice of the spouse of Christ, to the loving and to the obedient: and for those that are not so, I have no argument fit to be used, but prayer,
and readiness to give them a reason, when they shall modestly demand it. In the meantime, I shall only desire them to make use of those truths which the more learned of their party have, by the evidence of fact, been forced to confess. Rivet affirms, that it descended • ex veteris ævi reliquiis,' that presbyters should be assistants or conjoined to the bishops (who is by this confessed to be the principal), in the imposition of hands for ordination. Walo Messalinus acknowledges it to be ‘rem antiquissimam,''a most ancient thing,' that these two orders, viz., of bishops and presbyters, should be distinct, even in the middle, or in the beginning of the next age after Christ. David Blondel places it to be thirty-five years after the death of St. John. Now, then, episcopacy is confessed to be of about one thousand six hundred years' continuance; and if, before this, they can show any ordination by mere presbyters, by any but an apostle, or an apostolical man; and if there were not visibly a distinction of powers
and persons relatively in the ecclesiastical government; or if they can give a rational account why they, who are forced to confess the honour and distinct order of episcopacy, for about sixteen ages, should, in the dark interval of thirty-five years, in which they can pretend to no monument or record to the contrary, yet make unlearned scruples of things they cannot
colourably prove ; if, I say, they can reasonably account for these things, I, for my part, will be ready to confess, that they are not guilty of the greatest, the most unreasonable and inexcusable schism in the world ; but else they have no colour to palliate the unlearned crime: for will not all wise men in the world conclude, that the church of God, which was then holy, not in title only and design, but practically and materially, and persecuted, and not immerged in secular temptations, could not, all in one instant, join together to alter that form of churchgovernment, which Christ and his apostles had so recently established, and, without a Divine warrant, destroy a Divine institution, not only to the confusion of the hierarchy, but to the ruin of their own souls ? It were strange that so great a change should be, and no good man oppose it: “In toto orbe decretum est;" so St. Jerome : “ All the world consented” in the advancement of the episcopal order; and, therefore, if we had no more to say for it, yet in prudence and piety we cannot say they would innovate in so great a matter.
But I shall enter no further upon this inquiry : only I remember that it is not very many months since the bigots of the popish party cried out against us vehemently, and inquired, “Where is of England, since you have no unity? for your
ecclesiastic head of unity, your bishops, are gone: and if we should be desirous to verify their argument, so as indeed to destroy episcopacy, we should too much advantage popery, and do the most imprudent and most impious thing in the world. But blessed be God, who hath restored that government, for which our late King, of glorious memory, gave his blood; and that, methinks, should very much weigh with all the King's true-hearted subjects, who should make it religion not to rob that glorious prince of the greatest honour of such a martyrdom. For my part, I think it fit to rest in these words of another martyr, St. Cyprian: “ Si quis cum episcopo non sit, in ecclesia non esse:” “ He that is not with the bishop, is not in the church *:” that is, he that goes away from him, and willingly separates, departs from God's church; and whether he can then be with God, is a very material consideration, and fit to be thought on by all that think heaven a more eligible good than the interests of a faction and the importune desire of rule can countervail.
However, I have, in the following papers, spoken a few things, which, I hope, may be fit to persuade them, that are not infinitely prejudiced; and although two or three good arguments are as good as