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Few men have been more distinguished for their learned and zealous labours in favour of Episcopacy than Dr. William Nichols. Yet this eminent Episcopalian, speaking of ferome, thus expresses himself. " At last came St. Jerome, though not “ till above three centuries after the Apostles' “ times, who valuing himself upon his learning,
which, indeed, was very great; and being pro“ voked by the insolence of some deacons, who “ set themselves above Presbyters; to the end he “ might maintain the dignity of his order against “ such arrogant persons, he advanced a notion ne
ver heard of before, viz. that Presbyters were
not a different order from Bishops; and that a “ Bishop was only a more eminent Presbyter, cho
sen out of the rest, and set over them, for pre“ venting of schism*."
Luther, whom some of our Episcopal brethren ignorantly claim as their own, in the articles of Smalcald, which he framed, expressly declares, that " Jerome teaches that the distinction of degrees " between a Bishop and a Presbyter, or Pastor, “ was appointed only by human authority." This declaration was also formally subscribed by Melancthon. In the Confession of Wirtemberg, Jerome is interpreted in the same manner ; and in the second Helvetic Confession, he is particularly quoted in support
of the doctrine that in the primitive Church Bishop and Presbyter were the same. And, in a
• Defence of the Doct. and Discip. of the Church of ingland,
subsequent letter, you will find a number of other illustrious Divines, of different denominations, all concurring in the interpretation which we give of the learned Father.
I shall close my remarks on the testimony of Ferome, with the judgment of Bishop Croft, ex. pressed in the following words" And now I de“ sire my reader, if he understands Latin, to view “ the epistle of St. Jerome to Evagrius ; and « doubtless he will wonder to see men have the « confidence to quote any thing out of it for the 16 distinction between Episcopacy and Presbytery; “ for the whole epistle is to show the identity of " them*.”
I will not attempt to follow Dr. Bowden through all his tedious details of testimony from the Fathers of the third, fourth, and following centuries, and his still more tedious comments on that testimony. What if Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, Hilary, Epiphanius, Augustine, and a dozen more, who lived within the same period, could be brought to attest in the most unequivocal terms that prelacy existed in their time? Does any Presbyterian deny that clerical imparity had begun to appear in the third, and was established in the fourth century? But Dr. Bowden alleges that several of these writers expressly assert the Apostolical institution of Prela. су. Now if it were even true that they do make this assertion, it would weigh nothing with me,
* Naked Truth, p. 45.
ror with any other reasonable man. In this opinion every one must concur who seriously weighs the following facts.
Within fifty years after the Apostolic age, the wine in the Lord's Supper was constantly mixed with water. This mixture, considered, at first, as a measure of human prudence, soon began to be urged, not only as a matter of importance, but as a divine institution. Irenæus declares it to have been both taught and practised by our Saviour himself. Lib. iv. Cap. 57.-Cyprian also asserts that the same thing was enjoined by tradition from the Lord, and made a part of the original institution. Epist. 63. ad Cæcil. But no Protestant now believes either the one or the other.
Administering the Lord's Supper to infants arose early in the Church. It is certain that this corruption existed in the second century. Cyprian, in the third century, speaks of it, not as a new thing, but as an ordi. nary practice. De Lapsis. Sect. 13. Augustine calls it an Apostolical tradition, represents it as a general custom, and expressly founds the proprie. ty and necessity of it on John vi. 53.
John vi. 53. Now that this practice never had the least foundation either in Scripture or Apostolic example, our opponents, as well as ourselves, are fully agreed. Again; Irenæus positively asserts that Christ remained on earth until he had reached old age; that he was at least fifty years old when he was crucified ; and that “ this was ascertained by the unanimous tra“ dition, and positive testimony of all the old men
i who had lived with St. John, and the other " Apostles, from whom they all received this ac.
count, and constantly bore witness to the truth 6 of it.” Lib. 11. Cap. 39. But no one can open the Bible, without perceiving that this pretended fact, in behalf of which the authority of inspired men is quoted, is totally false. To mention only one case more; we learn from Eusebius, that, in the days of Irenæus, there arose a very fierce dispute respecting the proper time for the celebration of Easter. The Churches of Asia took one side ; and the Western Churches, with Victor, Bishop of Rome, at their head, took the other. The former asserted, that they were supported by the authority of the Apostles John and Phillip. The latter, with equal confidence, plead the authority of Peter and Paul in justification of their practice. Irencus addresed a lester to Victor on the subject, in which there is found the following passage.
" This di. “ versity did not begin in our time ; but long ago 6 among our forefathers; who, as it seems, through “ negligence in the management of their charge, " handed down to their posterity a custom which " through simplicity and ignorance had crept into " the Church*.” And Socrates, the Ecclesiastical Historian, who wrote about a century after Euse. bius, speaks of such observances generally in the following language.
" Neither the ancients, nor " the moderns, who have studiously followed the
cler. Lib. y. Cap. 24.
Jews, had, in my opinion, any just or rational
cause for contending so much about this festival " (Easter.) For they considered not with them- . “ selves, that when the Jewish religion was chan
ged into Christianity, those accurate observances “ of the Mosaic law, and the types, wholly ceased. " And this carries along with it its own demon" stration. For no one of Christ's laws has
per mitted Christians to observe the rites of the Jews. On the contrary, the Apostle has ex.
pressly forbid this, and does not only reject cir. “cumcision, but also advises against contending “ about festival days. Moreover, it is his admo“ nitions, that days, and months, and years, should u in no wise be observed. Besides, in his epistle “ to the Colossians, he loudly affirms that such observances are a shadow.
Men love festival-days " because thereon they have a cessation from 66 their labour. Neither our Saviour nor his “ Apostles have enjoined upon us by any law to “ observe such days*.” Here, then, is a large body of Churches and Bishops asserting that they have Apostolical authority for a certain practice. On the other hand there is a large body of equally respectable Churches and Bishops, who assert, with no less confidence, that they have Apostolical authority for a different practice. And, to crown all, a third class, as much entitled to respect as either, pronounce, that both the former speak falsehood ;
* Socrat. Eccles. Hist. Lib. v. Cap. 22.