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acknowledges that bishops, as an order superior to presbyters, are not to be found in the New Testament; that such an order had no existence till the beginning of the second century; that presbyters were the highest ecclesiastical officers left in commission by the apostles; and, of course, that the first diocesan bishops were ordained by presbyters. On the other hand, Dr. Hammond, perhaps the ablest advocate of prelacy that ever lived, warmly contends, that in the days of the apostles there were none but bishops; the second grade of ministers, now styled presbyters, not having been appointed till after the close of the canon of scripture. Now, if neither of these great men could find both bishops and presbyters, as different orders, in the New Testament; however ingeniously they endeavour to extricate themselves from the difficulty, it will amount, in the opinion of all the impartial, to a fundamental concession. In like manner you have seen, that the arguments drawn from the episcopal character of Timothy and Titus, from the model of the Jewish Priesthood, and from the Angels of the Asiatic churches, have been formally abandoned, and pronounced to be of no value, by some of the ablest champions of Episcopacy. The same might be proved with respect to all the arguments which are derived from scripture in support of the episcopal cause. But let us pass on to some more general
The papists, before as well as since the reformation, have been the warmest advocates for prelacy, that the church ever knew. Yet it would be easy to show, by a series of quotations, that many of the most learned men of that denomination, of different periods and nations, have held, and explicitly taught, that bishops and presbyters were the same in the primitive church; and that the difference between them, though deemed both useful and necessary, is only a human institution. But instead of a long list of authorities to establish this point, I shall content myself with producing four, the first two from Great Britain, and the others from the continent of Europe.
The judgment of the church of England on this subject, in the times of popery, we have in the canons of Elfrick, in the year 990, to Bishop Wolfin, in which bishops and presbyters are declared to be of the same order. To the same amount is the judgment of Anselme, archbishop of Canterbury, who died about the year 1109,
and who was perhaps the most learned man of the age in which he lived. He explicitly tells us, that, "by the apostolic institution, all presbyters are bishops." See his Commentary on Titus and Philip.
In the canon law we find the following decisive declaration "Bishop and presbyter were the same in the primitive church; "presbyter being the name of the person's age, and bishop of his "office. But there being many of these in every church, they "determined among themselves, for the preventing of schism, that "one should be elected by themselves to be set over the rest; and "the person so elected was called bishop, for distinction sake. "The rest were called presbyters; and in process of time, their "reverence for these titular bishops so increased, that they began to "obey them as children do a father." Just. Leg. Can. I. 21.
Cassander, a learned catholic divine, who flourished in the 16th century, in his book of Consultations, Art. 14. has the following passage: "Whether Episcopacy is to be accounted an ecclesiasti❝cal order, distinct from presbytery, is a question much debated "between theologues and canonists. But in this one particular, "all parties agree. That in the apostles' days there was no difference between a bishop and a presbyter; but afterwards, "for the avoiding of schism, the bishop was placed before the "presbyter, to whom the power of ordination was granted, that so "peace might be continued in the church."
It has been observed, that all the first reformers of the church of England, freely acknowledged bishops and presbyters to have been the same in the apostolic age; and only defended diocesan Episcopacy as a wise human appointment. It was asserted, on high episcopal authority, in the preceding letter, that Dr. Bancroft, then chaplain to Archbishop Whitgift, was the first protestant divine in England, who attempted to place Episcopacy on the foundation of divine right. In 1588, in a sermon delivered on a public occasion, he undertook to maintain, "that the bishops of "England were a distinct order from priests, and had superiority. "over them by divine right, and directly from God; and that the "denial of it was heresy." This sermon gave great offence to many of the clergy and laity. Among others, Sir Francis Knollys, much dissatisfied with the doctrine which it contained, wrote to Dr. Raignolds, professor of divinity in the University of Oxford,
for his opinion on the subject. That learned professor, who is said to have been the "oracle of the university in his day,"* returned an answer, which, among other things, contains the following passages.
"Of the two opinions which your honour mentions in the sermon of Dr. Bancroft, the first is that which asserts the superiori"ty which the prelates among us have over the clergy, to be a "divine institution. He does not, indeed, assert this in express
terms, but he does it by necessary consequence, in which he "affirms the opinion of those that oppose that superiority to be an "heresy; in which, in my judgment, he has committed an over"sight; and I believe he himself will acknowledge it, if duly "admonished concerning it. All that have laboured in reforming "the church, for 500 years past, have taught that all pastors, "be they entitled bishops or priests, have equal authority and power by God's Word; as first the Waldenses, next Marsilius "Petavinus, then Wickliffe and his disciples; afterwards Huss "and the Hussites; and last of all Luther, Calvin, Brentius "Bullinger, and Musculus. Among ourselves we have bishops, "the Queen's professors of divinity in our universities; and other "learned men, as Bradford,. Lambert, Jewel, Pilkington, Hum"phreys, Fulke, who all agree in this matter; and so do all divines "beyond sea that I ever read, and doubtless many more whom I "never read. But what do I speak of particular persons? It is "the common judgment of the reformed Churches of Helvetia, "Savoy, France, Scotland, Germany, Hungary, Poland, the "Low-Countries, and our own, (the church of England). Where"fore, since Dr. Bancroft will certainly never pretend that an "heresy, condemned by the consent of the whole church in its "most flourishing times, was yet accounted a sound and christian "doctrine by all these I have mentioned, I hope he will acknow"ledge that he was mistaken when he asserted the superiority
* Professor Raignolds was acknowledged by all his contemporaries to be a prodigy of learning. Bishop Hall used to say, that his memory and reading were near a miracle. He was particularly conversant with the fathers and early historians; was a critic in the languages; was celebrated for his wit; and so eminent for piety and sanctity of life, that Crakenthorp said of him, that "to name Raignolds was to commend virtue itself."
"which bishops have among us over the clergy, to be God's own "ordinance."* Archbishop Whitgift, referring to the great attention which Bancroft's sermon had excited, observed, that it "had done good;" but added, that with respect to the offensive doctrine which it contained, he " rather wished, than believed it to be true."
The same Archbishop Whitgift, in his book against Cartwright, has the following full and explicit declarations: Having distinguished between those things which are so necessary, that without them we cannot be saved; and such as are so necessary, that without them we cannot so well and conveniently be saved, he adds, "I confess, that in a church collected together in one place, " and at liberty, government is necessary with the second kind of "necessity; but that any kind of government is so necessary that "without it the church cannot be saved, or that it may not be "altered into some other kind, thought to be more expedient, I "utterly deny, and the reasons that move me so to do, be these: "the first is, because I find no one certain and perfect kind of ። government prescribed or commanded in the scriptures, to the "church of Christ; which, no doubt, should have been done, if it "had been a matter necessary to the salvation of the church. "There is no certain kind of government or discipline prescribed "to the church; but the same may be altered, as the profit of the "churches requires.-I do deny that the scriptures do set down "any one certain kind of government in the church to be perpetual "for all times, places, and persons, without alteration.—It is well "known that the manner and form of government used in the "apostles' time, and expressed in the scriptures, neither is now, 66 nor can, nor ought to be observed, either touching the persons "or the functions. We see manifestly, that, in sundry points,
See the letter at large in Boyse on Episcopacy, p. 13—19.
It has been said that Archbishop Whitgift, in this passage, merely meant to say that all the details of ecclesiastical discipline are not laid down in scripture, nor to be considered as of divine right. But he utterly precludes this construction, by declaring that he considers no form of government as of unalterable divine appointment, either with respect to persons or functions. He could scarcely have employed language to express the opinion which we ascribe to him, more perspicuously or decisively.
"the government of the church used in the apostles' time, is, and "hath been of necessity, altered; and that it neither may nor can "be revoked. Whereby it is plain, that any one kind of external "government perpetually to be observed, is no where in the "scripture prescribed to the church, but the charge thereof is left "to the magistrate, so that nothing be done contrary to the word "of God. This is the opinion of the best writers; neither do I “know any learned man of a contrary judgment.”
Dr. Willet, a distinguished divine of the church of England, in the reign of Elizabeth, in his Synopsis Papismi, a large and learned work, dedicated to that Queen, undertakes professedly to deliver the opinion of his Church on the subject before us. Out of much which might be quoted, the following passages are sufficient for our purpose: Every godly and faithful bishop is a 66 successor of the apostles. We deny it not; and so are all "faithful and godly pastors and ministers. For in respect of their "extraordinary calling, miraculous gifts, and apostleship, the "apostles have properly no successors; as Mr. Bembridge, the
martyr saith, that he believed not bishops to be the successors of "the apostles, for that they be not called as they were, nor have "that grace. That, therefore, which the apostles were especially "appointed unto, is the thing wherein the apostles were properly "succeeded; but that was the preaching of the gospel: as St. Paul "saith, he was sent to preach, not to baptize. The promise of suc❝cession, we see, is in the preaching of the word, which appertain"eth as well to other pastors and ministers as to bishops." Again; "seeing in the apostles' time episcopus and presbyter, a bishop ❝and a priest, were neither in name nor office distinguished; it "followeth, then, that either the apostles assigned no succession "while they lived, neither appointed their successors; or that "indifferently, all faithful pastors and preachers of the apostolic "faith are the apostles' successors." Controv. v. Quest. 3. p. 232. "Of the difference between bishops and priests, there are "three opinions: the first, of Aerius, who did hold that all "ministers should be equal; and that a bishop was not, neither "ought to be superior to a priest. The second opinion is the "other extreme of the papists, who would have not only a "difference, but a princely pre-eminence of their bishops over the "clergy, and that by the word of God. And they urge it to be so