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evidence we might expect, let us proceed to a cursory examination of that which actually presents itself. From the second century to the Reformation, the ground is uncontested'. Not a tittle of evidence is adduced by our opponents to gainsay the universal establishment of episcopacy : no council acknowledges any other polity? In all Churches, however remote, and however at variance in other points, episcopacy, with its exclusive power of conferring orders and its pre-eminence in authority, is recognized'. Even in our then unfrequented island, though it is supposed by some to have received Christianity from St. Paul himself, and certainly, from a very early period, episcopacy came with Christianity; and notwithstanding all the intervening barbarism and vicissitudes, was found flourishing at the coming of Augustine in the sixth century.
' Our learned Stillingfleet, in his “ Irenicum,” (a work of which he lived to change his opinion,) cites the case of Scotland, that it was governed only by Presbyters from A.D. 263 to the coming of Palladius, A.D. 430. It can only excite a smile when this instance is so pompously brought forward, to find it resting on the authority of John de Fordun, an historian of no general repute, much less in the dark and remote events of that age and country, and writing himself in the sixteenth century. If the case rested on good authority, it would be a solitary exception, proving the rule. The case of the Gothic Church, and more occasional interruptions of two or three episcopacies for a few years, are merely cases in which accident or violence cause a temporary suspension of the episcopal functions from necessity. But no attempt is made to adduce a case of any Church voluntarily and formally setting up any other than episcopacy as the polity of Christian community.
2 The Council of Carthage ordains that Presbyters may assist the Pope in ordaining ministers, by placing their hands near his ; but no authority can be found, in either the Church or Scripture, for a mere Presbyter ordaining.–Vide Bingham.
3 The case of Ærius, who was condemned as an heretic, and never formed a Church upon his own principles, is no exception. Jerome, who has been the great authority in contending for primitive equality in dignity of the Presbyters with the Bishop, yet asserts, in direct terms, that the Bishop had the exclusive privilege of ordaining, and implies, in other respects, his superiority of office. He admits, too, that superiority of the Bishop was established in the time of the Apostles. The utmost point to which our opponents pretend to carry his testimony is, that, during a considerable part of the time that the Apostles exercised episcopal authority over the Churches, there were no Bishops, but only Presbyters, and those, of course, equal in each Church. But those Presbyters were not thereby Bishops, nor the episcopal office and authority, because exercised by the Apostles themselves, not in existence. This would prove nothing, even though we gave up other and earlier testimonies to his, and allowed this to be the correct interpretation of his views, which we do not.–See Bilson, 221.
Eusebius, who has been truly styled the father of ecclesiastical history, speaks of episcopacy in his time as a matter on which no doubt existed, and even gives the order of the succession of many Bishops? of Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria, as Irenæus and Tertullian had done before him. Blondel, the most learned of the opponents of episcopacy, is compelled to admit that it had reared its head so early as the year of our Lord 140, only forty years after the death of St. John, and when many, who must have remembered that Apostle, if not others, and their polity, must have been living. In the primitive fathers, the three orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, are mentioned, and mentioned incidentally, not controversially, but as we should expect a subject to be mentioned which was notorious—on which no difference of opinion existed
This,” says Archbishop Potter, was the rise of episcopacy, according to Eusebius : and in the following parts of his history he has given us such exact and authentic catalogues of the Bishops who presided in all the principal cities of the Roman empire, from the Apostles down to his own time, that it is as impossible for an impartial man, who shall compare this historian with the rest of the primitive fathers, whether there was a succession of Bishops from the Apostles, as it would be to call in question the succession of Roman emperors from Julius Cæsar, or the accession of kings in any other country.”-See also Bilson, Perpet. Govt., &c., 260, 261.
It is admitted by Blondel and others, that episcopacy had established itself A.D. 140. If, therefore, any other form had been the apostolical one, there would have been probably some controversial distinctions observed in the passage in which the term ériokotoS occurs. But, if no doubt of its apostolical authority existed, then we should expect the mention of it such as we find it. Peirce, Vind. Dissent., says, 6. The writers of the second century began, I confess, to distinguish the names of Bishop and Presbyter.” Is it probable that, when this distinction was made so early, no controversy should have arisen, nor any allusion to such controversy be made, if episcopacy had only re
I am prevented from citing these passages, only by want of time, as they may be found collected in abundance in the learned polemics' of our Church. I will merely observe, that of the many fathers in which the mention of Bishops occurs, Clement of Rome is stated to have been ordained by St. Peter; Polycarp to have conversed with the Apostles; and Ignatius to have suffered martyrdom, only a few years’ after St. John's death, having been then forty years Bishop of Antioch. Finally, no record whatever can be produced of any church, governed in any other manner than that which is admitted to have universally prevailed from the second century to the Reformation; nor is any controversial writing on the subject extant, of the time at which Blondel affirms episcopacy to have risen. Now if, notwithstanding all this, we are, in the sixteenth century, to be surprised with the discovery that,
cently reared its head, and was with such rapidity swallowing up another polity, which had been practised by Apostles ? We contend that the jurisdiction was always distinguished, and that even where the name was used doubtfully, such usage would be (quanti valent) rather evidence that the distinction of the jurisdiction was notorious. Ignatius is very clear in his distinction of the three orders.— Vide Ep. to Ephes., §. iv.; Mag., §. iii. iv. xiii.; Trall., xii. xiii. The sense of these cannot be disputed; however the genuineness of the Epistles may have been denied.
See Address to the Reader, which precedes this Discourse.
According to Eusebius, A. D. CX.; to Marianus Scotus, CXII. ; to Usher, CVII. ; to Lloyd, CVXI.-See Wake. Apost. Fathers.
during the time of Christ and his Apostles, the Church knew nothing of episcopacy, and was governed under an entirely different polity, surely we are entitled to ask how, when Churches were not only fresh from the hands of the Apostles, but were daily rising under zealous men, who were themselves contemporary with the Apostles, or at least had abundant facilities of knowing the practice of the Apostles; and when these Churches were rising in regions far distant from each other; how, in such circumstances, one vast corruption was so soon and so completely to overshadow the whole of them; and how that other polity could so entirely vanish from Christendom, that not a trace of its adoption by any one early Church, nor one voice lifted up against such a daring innovation upon the polity of their Master and his Apostles, should be left on record ? The theory seems improbable, monstrous'. It behoves those who adopt
Bishop Taylor, in his Consecration Sermon, after affirming, upon the testimony of Epiphanius, that at first there were only Bishops and Deacons in the Churches, and that, as the harvest became greater, Presbyters were ordained, and that certain whom he enumerates were, by the universal testimony of the Church, Bishops, proceeds thus: “All which, if there be any faith in Christians that have given their lives for a testimony to the faith, and any truth in their stories; unless we who believe Thucydides and Plutarch, Livy and Tacitus, think that all Church story is a perpetual romance, and that all the brave men, the martyrs, and the doctors of the primitive Church, did conspire, as one man, to abuse all Christendom for ever ; I say, unless all these im