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word Bishop? No supposition can be more natural; and it is precisely this for which we contend.
It appears, that Dr. Bowden has not produced, and cannot produce, a single sentence, from any writer within the first two hundred years, which gives the least hint that Ordination or Confirmation was in fact confined to a particular order of Prelates, or was considered as a rite which ought to be so confined.
It appears, that Presbyters are expressly represented by early writers, and particularly by Ignatius and Irenæus, as the successors of the Apostles, and as presiding over the Church.
It appears, that in every worshipping assembly, in the primitive church, the presence of a Bishop was considered as indispensable. That it was the Bishop's peculiar duty to preach, and to bless the people;, to administer Baptism, and the Lord's Supper; to attend to the case of every poor person in his parish that needed relief; to celebrate, or give his personal consent to the celebration, of all marriages among the people of his charge ; to visit the sick; to instruct the children of his flock statedly every week; and, in short, to perform all those duties whch are now, and ever have been considered, as the proper work of a parish minister.
It appears, after all that has been said to the contrary, that the number of Bishops found, in early times, in small districts of country, precludes the idea of their having been any other than parish ministers.
It appears, that, even after a kind of Prelacy arose, the Bishops were still, for the most part, only Pastors of single congregations; and that there was little, if any other difference between them and their Presbyters, than that which now subsists between Pastors and their Assistants, in Presbyterian Churches, and Rectors and their Curates, in Episcopal Churches.
It appears that Jerome, after all the unwearied pains which have been taken by high-church-men, to set aside his testimony, does explicitly declare, that Presbyterian parity was the Apostolic and primitive form of Church government; and that this form was afterwards, and gradually exchanged for Prelacy. And it is evident, moreover, that some of the most learned and zealous Episcopal Divines have so understood him.
It appears from Jerome, that the first approach towards Prelacy was the standing moderatorship of one of the Presbyters; that this began in the Church of Alexandria very early; soon, if not im
. mediately after the days of Mark the Evangelist; and that this was the only kind of clerical imparity that existed in that Church until the middle of the third century, when it gave place to some higher encroachments of ecclesiastical ambition.
It appears from several unexceptionable testimo. nies, that Deacons in the primitive Church, were not an order of Clergy at all; that they were only entrusted with the care of the poor, and employed to assist in the administration of the Lord's Supper, as in the Presbyterian Church at present; and that their gradually coming to be considered as a third order of Clergy, was, like the claims of the Prelates, an innovation.
It appears, from the declaration of several Fa. thers, besides Jerome, that some change in the powers and prerogatives of Bishops, did actually take place, within the first three centuries ; and that several things were appropriated to Bishops in the third and fourth centuries, which those writers assert were not appropriated to them in the Apostolic
Finally, it appears, from all that has been said, that the writings of the Fathers, instead of speak
Among the Fathers mentioned in my former volume, as speaking of this change, is Hilary. I represent him as say. ing, “ And in Egypt, even at this day, the Presbyters ordain
( consignant) in the Bishop's absence.” Dr. Bowden asserts, that the word consignant has no reference to ordination. He does not, indeed, appear to be certain what it does signi. fy; but is very confident that it cannot mean ordination. I forgot to notice this in its proper place; and have now nei. ther time, nor room to make more than two remarks upon it. The first is, that several eminent Episcopal Divines, and, among others, Bishop Forbes, have understood Hilary as I do, to be speaking here of ordination. The second remark is, that whatever religious rite it is that Hilary refers to, it is something which the Bishops, in his day, generally claimed as their prerogative; but which had not been always appro. priated to them; and which even in his time, in the Bishop's absence, the Presbyters considered themselves as empowered to perform. This is sufficient for my purpose.
ing “ decisively” and “ unanimously” in favour of Prelacy, as some of our high-toned Episcopal bre. thren assert, do not produce a single testimony, within the prescribed limits, which gives the least countenance to the prelatical claim; and that we are abundantly warranted (to repeat the language of Bishop Croft, formerly cited) in pronouncing, that the proofs brought to support this claim are altogether“ weak; no Scripture; no primitive “ general Council; no general consent of primitive “ Doctors and Fathers; no, not one primitive Fa. 6 ther of note, speaking particularly and home to " the purpose," of its advocates.
Testimony of the Reformers,
In the sixth of my former Letters, I endeavoured to show that the great body of the Reformers, and other Witnesses for the Truth, in different ages and nations, were Presbyterians in principle. This allegation, and the proof by which it is supported, Dr. Bowden, according to his usual manner, confidently rejects, and pronounces a total misrepresentation. With what justice he does this, a few re, marks will enable you to determine.
I asserted that the Waldenses were substantially Presbyterians, both in principle and practice; that, among other points, in which they rejected the corruptions of the Romish Church, they held, that there ought to be no diversity of rank among the ministers of the Gospel; and that Bishops and Presbyters, according to the word of God, and primitive usage, were the same order. All this, Dr. Bowden denies; and insists that the Waldenses were uniformly Episcopal in their ecclesiastical character. The following testimonies will show on which side the truth lies.