ence in the bounds and limits of the ancient dioceses, but not the least difference about the forms or species of episcopal government for all that, in any part of the primitive Church. And therefore, if ever it shall please God to dispose the hearts of our brethren, in the Churches of the Reformation, to receive again the primitive form of episcopacy, which is much to be wished, and there seems in some of them to be a good inclination and tendency toward it, there needs be no difficulty from this objection to hinder so useful and peaceable a design; because every Church is at liberty to contract her own dioceses, and limit them with such bounds, as she judges most expedient for the edification and benefit of the whole community; there being no certain geometrical rule prescribed us about this, either in the writings of the Apostles, or in the laws and practice of the primitive Church, any further than that every city, or place of civil jurisdiction, should be the seat of an ecclesiastical magistracy, a bishop with his presbytery, to order the spiritual concerns of men, as the other does the temporal. That this was the general rule observed in the primitive Church, I think, I have made it appear beyond all dispute; and that upon this ground there was so great a difference in the extent of dioceses, sometimes in the same countries, as in Palestine, Asia Minor, and Italy especially, because the cities differed so much in the extent of their territories, and the bounds and limits of their jurisdiction.

Now it is not very material in itself, whether of these models be followed, since they are both primitive and allowed in ancient practice. The Church of England has usually followed the larger model, and had very great and extensive dioceses; for at first she had but seven bishoprics in the whole nation, and those commensurate in a manner to the seven Saxon kingdoms. Since that time she has thought it a point of wisdom to contract her dioceses, and multiply them into above twenty: and if she should think fit to add forty or an hundred more, she would not be without precedent in the practice of the primitive Church. Archbishop Cranmer was very well apprised of this, and therefore he advised King Henry VIII. to erect several new bishoprics, as a great means among other things for reforming the Church. In pursuance of which advice the king himself drew up a list of near twenty new bishoprics

which he intended to make, and a bill was passed in Parliament, anno 1539, to empower the king to do this by his letters. patent. The whole transaction and the names of the intended sees may be read at large in Bishop Burnet's History of the Reformation 10. The thing indeed miscarried afterward, and by some accident was never effected; but notwithstanding it shows us the sense of the leading men in the Reformation. What therefore has been and still is allowable in this Church, is allowable in others; that is to multiply dioceses as necessity requires, and divide the great care and burden of the episcopal function into more hands for the greater benefit and advantage of the Church. Whenever therefore any of the foreign Churches of the Protestant Communion shall think fit to reassume again the ancient episcopal form of government among them, they may both with honour and ease frame to themselves such a model of small dioceses, as will not much exceed the extent of one of their classes, nor much alter its form, and yet be agreeable to the model of the lesser sort of dioceses in the primitive Church.

A temporary moderator, or a superintendent of a small district, such as are our rural deaneries, will easily be made a bishop, by giving him a solemn ordination to the perpetual office of governing the churches of such a district, as chief pastor, under whom all other inferior pastors of the same district must act in subordination to him, deriving their authority from his

[blocks in formation]

imposition of hands, and doing nothing without his consent and approbation. As this will secure the just authority and vene-. ration of episcopal superintendency, whilst, according to the rule of Ignatius 11, nothing is done without the bishop in the Church; so will it be agreeable to the model of the ancient Church, which had many small dioceses as well as large ones, particularly in Italy, where many episcopal sees were not above five or six miles from one another, and their dioceses not above ten or twelve miles in extent, such as Narnia, and Interamnia, Fidenæ, Fulginum, Hispellum, Forum Flaminii, and many others that have been particularly spoken of in the foregoing Book. There are now a great many such dioceses in Italy in the realm of Naples, where the whole number is an hundred and forty-seven, twenty of which are archbishoprics: and some of them so small as not to have any diocese beyond the walls of the city, as is particularly noted by Dr. Maurice 12 and others of Campana and Vesta, out of Ughellus's Italia Sacra, whence it is observed also, that Cava in the same kingdom had but five hundred communicants belonging to it. And there are some dioceses at present in the southern parts of France, which I am told do not very much exceed that proportion. The bishopric of the Isle of Man has now but seventeen parishes, and in Bede's time 13 the whole island had but the measure of three or four hundred families, according to what was then the English way of computation, though the Isle of Anglesey had thrice that number. So that, though dioceses in the Protestant Churches should be thus contracted, yet no other Church, where episcopacy is already settled, can have any just reason to complain of such an episcopacy as this, so long as it appears to be agreeable to the original state, and exactly conformable to ancient practice. Nor can any Churches, then, have ground for dispute with one another about external polity and government, though the dioceses of one Church happen to be larger or smaller than those of another;

11 See b. 2. ch. 1. s. 2. V. I. p. 48.

n. 34.

12 Defence of Diocesan Episcopacy. (p. 132.) Campana, a small town, &c.

13 Hist. 1. 2. c. 9. (p. 87.30.) Quin et Mevanias Insulas, ...imperio

subjugavit Anglorum. Quarum prior, quæ ad austrum est, et situ amplior et frugum proventu atque ubertate felicior, nongentarum sexaginta familiarum mensuram juxta æstimationem Anglorum; secunda, trecentarum et ultra, spatium tenet.

so long as they have each their precedents in the ancient Church, they may treat one another with the same Catholic charity as the ancient Churches did, among whom we never find the least footstep of a dispute upon this foundation.

Nor is there now any dispute between the two sister Churches of England and Ireland upon this head, though the one has enlarged, and the other contracted her dioceses since the Reformation. For in Ireland there are not now above half the number of dioceses that there were before, and consequently they must needs be larger by uniting them together. In England there are more in number than formerly, some new ones being erected out of the old ones, and at present the whole number augmented to three times as many as they were for some ages after the first conversion. Beside that we have another way of contracting dioceses in effect here in England appointed by law, which law was never yet repealed, which is by devolving part of the bishop's care upon the chorepiscopi, or suffragan bishops, as the law calls them;-a method commonly practised in the ancient Church in such large dioceses as those of St. Basil and Theodoret, one of which had no less than fifty chorepiscopi under him, if Nazianzen 14 rightly informs us; and it is a practice that was continued here all the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and even to the end of King James; and is what may be revived again whenever any bishop thinks his diocese too large 15, or his burden too great to be sustained by himself alone. From hence I conclude, that the multiplying bishops, and contracting of dioceses in the Protestant Churches, can give no just offence to any other episcopal Churches, since it was ever practised in the ancient Church, and is now practised in some of the Churches of the Reformation, where still the dioceses remain so great, as to be capable of being divided each into ten, without altering the species of episcopacy, or infringing any rule of the Catholic Church.

14 See ch. 3. 8. 2. p. 304. n. 47. 15 [The principle thus advocated has been fully recognised of late years, not only by the union of sundry dioceses in the sister island, and the reduction of the number of the Irish bishops to twelve; but also by the addition of Ripon and Manches

ter to the English episcopate, and the creation of twenty-six colonial sees. It would surely promote the well-being of the Anglican Church, were the number of her chief pastors to be very considerably augmented, perhaps trebled, or nearly quadrupled. ED.]

If this consideration may contribute any thing toward the settlement of a primitive episcopacy in such Churches of the Reformation as are still without it, (which may be done by ordaining a supreme pastor in every great town, where there is a civil magistracy with lesser towns and villages in its dependance, which was the ancient notion of a city, when episcopacy was first settled by the Apostles,) I shall then think my pains and labour which have not been small, in discovering the extent and measure of so many ancient dioceses, to be still so much the more useful, not only as opening a way to a clear understanding of the state of the ancient Church, but as promoting the unity and firmer settlement of the present Church, whose general interest, and not that of any particular Church or party interfering with it, I have proposed to myself in this whole Work to prosecute and serve. The God of peace and truth prosper the endeavours of all those who have no other design!

« ForrigeFortsett »