« VorigeDoorgaan »
calculated to expose the weakness than to exhibit the strength of the cause in which it is adduced. Besides; Tertullian informs us that this bishop, or highest priest, was alone invested with the right of baptizing and administering the Lord's Supper; that the bishop might, when he thought proper, empower elders and deacons to baptize; and that even private Christians, who bore no office in the church, might also baptize in cases of necessity. But still he declares that administering baptism was "the appointed office of the bishop," and that they received the Lord's Supper from no other hands than his. Either, then, Tertullian writes in a very confused and contradictory manner, or else both the bishop and elders mentioned by him are officers of a very different character from those who are distinguished by the same titles in modern Episcopal churches. His highest priest was evidently no other than the pastor of a single congregation; the president of the assembly, and of the presbytery or eldership, which belonged, like himself, to a particular church.
With respect to the passage quoted above, in which this father speaks of " the roll of bishops," and of the line of bishops running down in a continual succession, it is nothing to the purpose of those who adduce it to support diocesan Episcopacy. What kind of bishops were those of whom Tertullian here speaks? were they parochial or diocesan? If we consider them, as other passages in his writings compel us to consider them, as the pastors of single congregations, then the obvious construction of the passage is perfectly agreeable to Presbyterian principles. But, what establishes this construction is, that Irenæus, who was nearly contemporary with Tertullian, in a passage quoted in a preceding page, in a similar appeal to the heretics, speaks of the list or roll of presbyters, and represents the apostolical succession as flowing through the line of presbyters; an incontestible proof that the words bishop and presbyter were used by both these fathers, as convertible titles for the same office.
Cyprian, the venerable bishop of Carthage, who flourished and wrote about the year 250, is often quoted by Episcopal writers as a strong witness in their favour. The following quotations will show in what light his testimony ought to be viewed. Epist. 73. "Whence we understand, that it is lawful for none but the presi"dents of the church to baptize and grant remission of sins."
And again, Epist. 67. "The people should not flatter themselves "that they are free from fault, when they communicate with a "sinful priest, and give their consent to the presidency of a wicked "bishop. Wherefore a flock that is obedient to God's commands, "and fears him, ought to separate from a wicked bishop, and not "to join in the sacrifices of a sacrilegious priest; since the flock "or people has the chief power of choosing worthy priests and "refusing unworthy ones, which we see comes down to us from "divine authority, that the priest should be chosen in the presence "of the flock, and in the sight of all, that he may be approved as "worthy and fit, by the judgment and testimony of all. This is "observed, according to divine authority, in the Acts of the Apos "tles, when Peter, speaking to the people concerning the ordination a bishop in the place of Judas; it is said Peter rose up in the "midst of the disciples, the whole multitude being met together. "And we may take notice that the apostles observed this, not only "in the ordination of bishops and priests, but also of deacons, "concerning whom it is writen in the Acts, that the twelve gathered "together the whole multitude of the disciples, and said unto "them, &c. which was, therefore, so diligently and carefully "transacted before all the people, lest any unworthy person should, "by secret arts, creep into the ministry of the altar, or the sacer"dotal station. This, therefore, is to be observed and held as "founded on divine tradition and apostolic practice; which is also kept up with us, and almost in all the provinces, that in order to "the right performance of ordination, the neighbouring bishops of "the same province meet with that flock to which the bishop is "ordained, and that the bishop be chosen in presence of the people, "who know every one's life, and are acquainted with their whole "conversation. Which we see was done by you in the ordination "of Sabinus, our colleague, that the Episcopacy was conferred on "him by the suffrage of the whole brotherhood, and of the bishops "who were met there, and wrote to you concerning him."
Epist. 32. "Through all the vicissitudes of time, the ordination "of bishops, and the constitution of the church, are so handed "down, that the church is built on the bishops, and every act of "the church is ordered and managed by them. Seeing, therefore, "this is founded on the law of God, I wonder that some should be 66 so rash and insolent as to write to me in the name of the church,
"seeing a church consists of a bishop, clergy, and all that stand "faithful.”
Tract. De Unitat. Eccles. "Our Lord speaks to Peter, I say unto thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my "church, &c. Upon one he builds his church; and though he "gave an equal power to all his apostles, yet that he might "manifest unity, he ordered the beginning of that unity to proceed "from one person. The rest of the apostles were the same that “Peter was, being endued with the same fellowship both of honour "and power. But the beginning proceeds from unity, that the "church may be shown to be one."
Epist. 3. "The deacons ought to remember, that the Lord hath "chosen apostles, that is, bishops and presidents; but the apostles "constituted deacons, as the ministers of their Episcopacy and of "the church."
These extracts are remarkable. Though they are precisely those which Episcopalians generally adduce from Cyprian in support of their cause; yet the discerning reader will perceive that all their force lies against that cause. It is evident from these extracts, that bishop and president are used by this father as words of the same import; that the officer thus denominated was the only one who had the power of administering baptism; that the bishop in Cyprian's days was chosen by the people of his charge, was ordained over a particular flock, and received his ordination in the presence of that flock. All these circumstances agree perfectly with the Presbyterian doctrine, that the bishop is the pastor of a single congregation; but wear a most unnatural and improbable aspect when applied to a diocesan bishop, having a number of flocks or congregations with their pastors, under his care.
It is readily granted, that Cyprian speaks of the church of Carthage as having several presbyters or elders as well as deacons, and that he distinguishes between presbyters of that church and himself their bishop. But how many of these were ruling elders, and how many were empowered to teach and administer sacraments, as well as to rule; and in what respects he differed from the other presbyters, whether only as a standing chairman or president among them, as seems to be intimated by his calling them repeatedly his colleagues or co-presbyters, we are no where informed. All we know is, that writing to them in his exile, he
requests them, during his absence, to perform his duties as well as their own; which looks as if Cyprian considered the presbyters of his church as clothed with full power to perform all those acts which were incumbent on him as bishop, and consequently as of the same order with himself.
Again; when Cyprian speaks of the church as "being built on the bishops," and of all the acts of the church as being managed by by them, Episcopalians hastily triumph, as. if this were decided testimony in their favour. But their triumph is premature. Does Cyprian, in these passages, refer to diocesan or parochial bishops? To prelates, who had the government of a diocese, containing a number of congregations and their ministers; or to pastors of single flocks? The latter, from the whole strain of his epistles, is evidently his meaning. He no where gives the least hint of having more than one congregation under his own care. He represents his whole church as ordinarily joining together in the celebration of the eucharist. He declares his resolution to do nothing without the council of his elders, and the consent of his flock. He affirms that every church, when properly organized, consists of a bishop, clergy, and the brotherhood. All these representations apply only to parochial, and by no means to diocesan Episcopacy. For if such officers belong to every church, or organized religious society, then we must conclude that by the clergy of each church, as distinguished from the bishop, is meant those elders who assisted the pastor in the discharge of parochial duty. It is well known that Cyprian applies the term clergy to all sorts of church officers. In his epistles, not only the presbyters, or elders, but also the deacons, sub-deacons, readers and acolyths are all spoken of as belonging to the clergy. The ordination of such persons, (for it seems in his time they were all formally ordained) he calls ordinationes clericæ; and the letters which he transmitted by them, he styles literæ clericæ. The same fact may be clearly established from the writings of Ambrose, Hilary and Epiphanius, and also from the canons of the council of Nice. When Cyprian, then, speaks of a church, when properly organized, as consisting of a bishop, clergy, and brotherhood, he not only speaks a language which is strictly reconcilable with Presbyterian church government; but which can scarcely be reconciled with any thing else. For it is alone descriptive of a pastor or overseer of a single
church, with his elders and deacons to assist in their appropriate functions. But there is one passage in the above cited extracts, which completely establishes the position, that Cyprian considered bishops and preaching presbyters as of the same order. He recognizes the same kind of pre-eminence in bishops over presbyters, as Peter had over the other apostles. But of what nature was this superiority? He shall speak for himself. "The rest of "the apostles," says he, "were the same that Peter was, being "endued with the same fellowship, both of honour and power; "but the beginning proceeds from unity, that the church may be "shown to be one." In other words, every bishop is of the same order with those presbyters who labour in the word and doctrine: and only holds, in consequence of his being vested with a pastoral charge, the distinction of president or chairman among them. That I do not mistake Cyprian's meaning, you will readily be persuaded, when I inform you that Mr. Dodwell, that learned and able advocate for Episcopacy, expressly acknowledges, that Cyprian makes Peter the type of every bishop, and the rest of the apostles the type of every presbyter.
Firmilian, bishop of Cesarea, who was contemporary with Cyprian, in an epistle addressed to the latter, has the following passage. Cyprian. Epist. 75. "But the other heretics also, if "they separate from the church, can have no power or grace, "since all power and grace are placed in the church, where "Presbyters preside, in whom is vested the power of baptizing "and imposition of hands, and ordination." This passage needs no comment. It not only represents the right to baptize and the right to ordain as going together; but it also expressly ascribes both to the elders who preside in the churches.
The testimony of Jerome on this subject is remarkably explicit and decisive. This distinguished father, who flourished about the year 380, and who was acknowledged by the whole Christian world to be one of the most pious and learned men of his day,* does not merely convey his opinion in indirect terms and occasional hints, as most of the preceding fathers had done, but in the
The celebrated Erasmus declared concerning Jerome, that "he was, "without controversy, the most learned of all Christians, the prince of 66 divines, and for eloquence that he excelled Cicero."