Images de page

services. The whole city was, to all intents and purposes, one parish, and the Rector its ecclesiastical head.

That an arrangement substantially of this kind was frequent in the second and third centuries, is not merely a supposition of mine ; but is asserted by a number of the best informed and most able advocates of Prelacy. The learned Mede, a zealous Episcopal divine, in his Discourse on Churches, p. 48. says, Nay, more than this, it should

seem that in those first times, before dioceses were divided into those lesser and subordinate Churches, which we now call parishes, and Pres

byters assigned to them, they had only one Altar “ to a Church, taking Church for the company or “ corporation of the faithful, united under one Bi

shop or Pastor; and that was in the city or

place where the Bishop had his see and re. “ sidence. Unless this were so, whence came it o else, that a schismatical Bishop was said, consti

tuere or collocare aliud altare ? And that a Bishop and an Altar are made correlatives?"

The same fact is asserted by Bishop Stilling fleet, in his Sermon against Separation. Though, “ when the Churches increased," says he, “ the “ occasional meetings were frequent in several “ places; yet still there was but one Church ; and “ one Altar, and one Baptistery, and one Bishop, “ with many Presbyters assisting him. Which, “ is so plain, in antiquity, as to the Churches “ planted by the Apostles themselves, that none

16 them.

“ but a great stranger to the history of the Church

can call it in question. 'Tis true, after some “ time, in the greater cities, they had distinct “ places allotted, and Presbyters fixed among

And such allotments were called Tituli at Rome, and Lauræ at Alexandria, and Parishes « in other places. But these were never thought, " then, to be new Churches, or to have any

inde“ pendent government in themselves, but were “ all in subjection to the Bishop and his college of .Presbyters; of which multitudes of examples “ might be brought from the most authentic testi“ monies of antiquity, if a thing so evident need“ ed any proof at all. And yet this distribution * into distinct Tituli even in cities, was looked

on as so uncommon in those elder times, that Epiphanius takes notice of it as an extraordinary thing at Alexandria; and, therefore, it is " probably supposed that there was no such thing 66 in all the cities of Crete in his time.”

Accordingly Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Phi. ladelphians, declares, “ There is, to every Church,

one Altar, and one Bishop." And he elsewhere represents it as a characteristic of the unity of a Church, that there is one Altar, and one Bishop in each. Cyprian, in like manner, repeatedly speaks of setting up a new Altar, or Communion table within the parish or diocese of a Pastor, without his leave, as irregular and schismatical. These facts perfectly agree with the declaration made by several of the Fathers, that administering the ordi


nance of Baptism was considered as the appropriate work of the Bishop within the bounds of his Church; and also that the members of each church received the Lord's Supper from no other hands than those of their Bishop. Accordingly Dr. Hammond, a zealous friend of Prelacy, expressly affirms, that in the days of Tertullian, all Christians received the Eucharist from no other than the Bishop's hands*; and Dr. Heylin, an Episcopalian of still higher tone, distinctly acknowledges the same factt. To suppose that these representations are consistent with the Episcopal arrangement, in which a number of distinct and independent congregations, each supplied with a Pastor or Rector, are all under the government of a Prelate, in the habit of visiting each congregation once or twice every year, is manifestly absurd. They can only be reconciled with a system in which, as in the Presbyterian Church, the Pastor or Bishop is made overseer of a single Flock or Church; is ordinarily the sole dispenser of the word and ordinances in that Church ; and must be consulted, and his leave directly or indirectly obtained, when others attempt to dispense them within his parish.

We are now prepared to determine what kind of Bishop Ignatius was, and in what sense the other contemporary Pastors were addressed by that Father under this title. If we suppose that in each.

* Dissertat. iii. Cap. vii. $ 5.

History of Episcopacy, Part ii. p. 96, 97

of the cities of Antioch, Smyrna, &c. there was only a single congregation of Christians, then the case is plain. Those venerable ministers were only Pas. tors or Bishops of single flocks, in perfect conformity with the Presbyterian model. But let us suppose that there were several large worshipping assemblies of Christians in each of those cities. It is true, the epistles of Ignatius do not give the least hint that this was the case; and we only infer it, from probable evidence, derived from other sources, without being able, on either side, to establish or to disprove the fact. Let it be admitted, however, that there were several worshipping assemblies in each of these cities; still this fact proves nothing in favor of prelacy. Their Pastors might each have had several congregations under their care, and several clergymen to assist them, without being Prelates, any more than the Rector of Trinity. Church thirty years ago was a Prelate. But we may go even further. Suppose it abundantly proved, that in the days of Ignatius, there were established in each of the cities of Antioch, Smyrna, &c. a number of separate and distinctly organized congregations, and that each was under the care of a Pastor. And suppose it further proved that, notwithstanding this Ignatius was, by way of eminence, styled Bishop of Antioch, and Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna ; still the fact, even if established, would be perfectly consistent with Presbyterian parity. We have only to suppose these men were Moderators of the respective Presbyteries of those

cities, and all is natural, intelligible, and probable. In this case, we may consider all the instructions concerning Bishops and their flocks, which the epistles in question contain, as merely conveyed through the medium of the senior or presiding Pastor, to his colleagues, and as intended equally for all. Thus it appears that the epistles of Ignatius do not, on any supposition, contain a sentence which can be legitimately construed in favour of Prelacy; and that all the confidence of my opponents in asserting the contrary, is groundless and futile.

Dr. Bowden is equally positive, that I have misrepresented the testimony of Irenæus. Here again I beg of you impartially to review the extracts which I gave from the writings of that Father, and my comments upon them, together with all that Dr. B. has said on the subject; and then to decide between us. It is plain, and Dr. B. does not deny, , that Irenæus speaks of certain persons, by name, as Presbyters, and represents them as successors of the Apostles. It is equally plain, that he speaks of the same persons, in another place, as Bishops, and, under that title also, represents them as having the succession from the Apostles. He does this, not once merely, but several times, and with as much point, and apparent care, as if his grand object had been to show that Presbyters and Bishops were then the same. The argument arising from this language is obviously in our favour. Dr. Bowden, indeed, thinks otherwise, and makes an attempt to answer it; but his embarrassment, and inability to

« PrécédentContinuer »