Page images

Only a few cities, which did not so easily yield, preserved their ancient right; of which there is an example recorded by him in the case of Milan. Perhaps the metropolitan cities were the only ones that retained their privilege. For almost all the provincial bishops used to assemble in the metropolitan city to consecrate their archbishop. The ceremony was imposition of hands. For I read of no other ceremony practised, except that in the public assembly the bishops had some dress to distinguish them from the rest of the presbyters. Presbyters and deacons also were ordained solely by imposition of hands. But every bishop ordained his own presbyters, in conjunction with the assembly of the other presbyters of his diocese. Now though they all united in the same act, yet because the bishop took the lead, and the ceremony was performed under his direction, therefore, it was called his ordination. Wherefore it is often remarked by the ancient writers, that a presbyter differs from a bishop in no other respect, than that he does not possess the power of ordination.


The ancient Form of Government entirely subverted by the

Papal Tyranny. Now it is proper to exhibit the system of ecclesiastical government at present maintained by the see of Rome, and all its dependencies, with a full view of that hierarchy which is perpetually in their mouths, and to compare it with the description we have given of the primitive and ancient Church. This comparison will shew what kind of a Church there is among those who arrogate this exclusive title, and try to oppress, or rather to overwhelm us, with their fury. Now it is best to begin with the vocation, that we may see who and what kind of men are called to the ministry, and how they are introduced to it. We shall then consider how faithfully they discharge their duty. We shall give the first place to the bishops; who I wish could have the honour of retaining the first rank in this disquisition. But the subject itself will not permit me to touch on this argument ever so slightly, without involving their deepest disgrace. I shall remember, however, the nature of the work in which I am now engaged, and shall not suffer my discourse, which ought to be confined to simple doctrine, to exceed its proper bounds. But let some one of those who have not lost all shame, answer me; What kind of bishops are now generally chosen? To examine into their learning, is too obsolete; and if any regard be paid to it, they choose some lawyer, who understands pleading in a court better than preaching in a Church. It is evident, that for a hundred years, scarcely one in a hundred that has been chosen, had any knowledge of the Holy Scripture. I say nothing of the preceding ages; not that they were much better, but because our business is only with the present Church. If we inquire into their morals, we shall find that there have been few or none, who would not have been judged unworthy by the ancient canons. He who has not been a drunkard, has been a fornicator; and he who has been free from both these vices, has been either a gambler or a hunter, or dissolute in some part of his life. For the old canons exclude a man from the episcopal office, for smaller vices than these. But the greatest absurdity of all is, that even boys, scarcely ten years of age, have by the permission of the Pope been made bishops. And to such lengths of impudence and stupidity have they proceeded, as not to be afraid of that extreme and monstrous enormity, which is altogether repugnant to the common sense of nature. Hence it appears how solemn and conscientious must have been their elections, which were marked with such extreme negligence.

II. All the right of the people to choose has been entirely taken away. Their suffrages, assent, subscriptions, and every thing of this kind, have disappeared. All the power is transferred to the canons. They confer the bishopric on whom they please, and then produce him before the people, but to be adored, not to be examined. Leo, on the contrary, exclaims that no reason permits this, and pronounces it to be a violent imposition. When Cyprian declares it to be of divine right, that an election should not be made without the consent of the people, he shews that a different method is repugnant to the word of God. The decrees of various councils most severely prohibit it to be done in any other way, and if it be done, command it to be void. If these things be true, there is now no canonical election remaining in all the Papacy, either according to divine or ecclesiastical right. Now though there were no other evil, how will they be able to excuse themselves for having thus deprived the Church of her right? But they say, the corruption of the times required, that as the people and magistrates, in the choice of bishops, were rather carried away by antipathies and partialities than governed by an honest and correct judgment, the decision of this business should be entrusted to a few. Let it be admitted that this was an extreme remedy for a disease under desperate circumstances. Yet as the medicine has been found more injurious than the disease itself, why is there no remedy provided against this new malady? They reply, the canons themselves have particularly directed what course they ought to pursue in an election.But do we doubt, that the people formerly understood themselves to be bound by the most sacred laws, when they saw the word of God proposed as their rule, whenever they assembled for the election of a bishop? For that one declaration of God, in which he describes the true character of a bishop, ought to have more weight than millions of canons. Yet corrupted by a most sinful disposition, they paid no regard to law or equity. So in the present day, though there are the best written laws, yet they remain buried in paper. At the same time, it has been the general practice, and as if it were founded in reason, has obtained the general approbation, that drunkards, fornicators, and gamblers, have been promoted to this honour. I do not say enough. Bishoprics are the rewards of adulterers and panders. For when they are given to hunters and fowlers, the business must be considered as well managed. To attempt any excuse of such flagitious proceedings is abominable. The people, I say, had a most excellent canon, in the direction of the word of


God, that "a bishop must be blameless, apt to teach, no striker,” &c. (i) Why then was the right of election transferred from the people to the canons? They reply, because the word of God was not attended to, amidst the tumults and factions of the people. And why should it not now be again transferred from them, who not only violate all laws, but casting off all shame, mingle and confound heaven and earth together, by their lust, avarice, and ambition?

III. But it is a false pretence when they say, that the present practice was introduced as a remedy. We read that in the early times, cities were frequently thrown into confusion at the election of their bishops; yet no one ever dared to think of depriving the citizens of their right. For they had other ways, either of guarding against these evils, or of correcting them when they occurred. But I will state the real truth of the case. When the people began to be negligent about choosing, and considering this care as less suitable to themselves, left it to the presbyters, the latter abused this occasion to usurp a tyrannical power which they afterwards confirmed to themselves by new canons. Their form of ordi. nation is no other than a mere mockery. For the appearance of examination which they display in it, is so frivolous and jejune, that it is even destitute of all plausibility. The power of nominating bishops, therefore, which some princes have obtained by stipulation with the Roman Pontiff, has caused no new injury to the Church, because the election has only been taken from the canons, who had seized or rather stolen it without any just claim. It is certainly a most disgraceful example, that courtiers are made bishops, and sent from the court to seize upon the Churches; and it ought to be the concern of all pious princes, to refrain from such an abuse. For it is an impious robbery of the Church, whenever a bishop is imposed upon any people, who have not desired, or at least freely approved of him. But the disorderly custom which has long prevailed in the Churches, has given occasion to princes to assume the presentation of bishops to themselves. For they would rather have this at their own

[blocks in formation]

disposal, than in the hands of those who had no more right to it, and by whom it was not less abused.

IV. This is the goodly calling, in consequence of which bishops boast of being successors of the apostles. The power of creating presbyters, they say, belongs exclusively to them. But this is a gross corruption of the ancient institution; for by their ordination they create, not presbyters to rule and feed the people, but priests to offer sacrifice. So when they consecrate deacons, they have nothing to do with their true and proper office, but only ordain them to certain ceremonies about the chalice and patine. In the council of Chalcedon, on the contrary, it was decreed, that there should be no absolute ordinations, that is, without some place being at the same time assigned to the persons ordained where they were to exercise their office. This decree was highly useful for two reasons: first, that the Churches might not be burdened with an unnecessary charge, and the money which ought to be distributed to the poor, consumed upon idle men: secondly, that the persons ordained might consider themselves not as promoted to an honour, but as instructed with an office to the discharge of which they were bound by a solemn engagement. But the Romish doctors, who think their belly ought to be all their care, even in matters of religion, first explain the requisite title to consist in an income sufficient for their support, whether arising from their own patrimony or from a benefice. Therefore when they ordain a deacon or a presbyter, without giving themselves any concern where he is to officiate, they readily admit him, if he be only rich enough to maintain himself. But who can admit this, that the title which the decree of the council requires is a competent annual income? And because the more recent canons condemned the bishops to maintain those whom they had ordained without a sufficient title, in order to prevent their too great facility in the admission of candidates, they have even contrived a way to evade this penalty. For the person ordained mentions any title whatever, and promises that he will be content with it. By this engagement they are debarred from an action for maintenance. I say nothing of a thousand frauds practised in this business; as when some

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »