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causes as these incessantly at work, who can fail to consider as the most probable of all events, that which Dr. B. represents as altogether impossible ?
But Dr. Bowden thinks it utterly incredible that the clergy in the second or third centuries should have been guilty of usurping power, or of struggling for pre-eminence. If we may believe him they were too pious, disinterested and humble, to admit the suspicion of selfishness or ambition having any place among them. Surely,” says he, 46
men of such distinguished virtue and piety as the
Bishops of that period are universally acknow“ ledged to have been, could not have entertained " a thought so inconsistent with a pure conscience, “ with peace of mind, and with the hope of future "happiness. Could men who displayed all the “ meekness and humility of Christians, have at
tempted a plan of domination so completely at “ variance with these virtues? Could men who ene “ dured every thing for the sake of Christ, violate « his sacred institution ? Could men, who, to sare " themselves from the most excruciating torments, " would not offer incense at the idol altars, delibe" rately associate for the purpose of acquiring a “ trilling authority over their brethren ? What ! “ conscientious in every thing relating to Christian purity, to Christian manners, and yet profligate
as to the constitution of the Christian church! “ Gross inconsistency! Palpable contradiction ! Again—"What was the motive that influenced a “ few of the Presbyters to attempt an assumption
“ of superiority over their brethren ? Was it a de“sire of temporal power? That was entirely out 6 of the question, without the aid of civil authori. “ ty. And every one knows that kind of authority
was exerted for the destruction of the church. 66 Was it the love of wealth? None resulted from “the acquisition, or could result from it. The “people were generally poor, and the Bishops, as “ well as the Presbyters and Deacons, were main. “ tained out of the offerings at the altar; and 6 scanty was the fare that proceeded from that
Was it the love of ease and security ? “ That could not be; for Episcopal superiority
greatly increased the labours of the Bishops, and exposed them to almost certain destruction. If, then, neither dominion, nor wealth, nor ease, nor
security, could possibly be the motives for so “ daring an attempt, as to deprive the Presbyters “ of their most sacred rights, those ambitious spi“ rits, as you deem them, must have acted without
any motive, which is evidently inconsistent with 46 the very nature and constitution of the human mind.”
It is really putting one's patience to a very se. vere test to find an opponent so frequently allud. ing to his own superior “ scholarship” and reading, and at the same time permitting himself to write in this manner. What! no clerical ambie tion? No strife about pre-eminence ? No ecclesiastical usurpation in those early ages ? It would have been just as reasonable, and just as true, if he
had said that the gospel was preached in those days by none but angels.But let us attend to a few facts.
Passing by several cases in point which occurred during the lives, and under the immediate eye of the Apostles, when, as St. Paul himself assures us, the mystery of iniquity had already begun to work, let me ask, Was there no spirit of domination ma. nifested in the fierce dispute between Victor, Bishop of Rome, and Polycrates, of Ephesus, which took place in the second century, as related by Eusebius? Was no love of pre-eminence displayed by Cerinthus and Basilides, whose burning desire was " accounted great apostles ?” Did Montanus, in the same century, exhibit no ambition in broaching his celebrated heresy? Was Samosatenus, in the third, wholly free from the same charge? Did Demetrius of Alexandria, discover nothing of an aspiring temper, when he sickened with envy at the fame and the success of Origen? Are there no accounts of Novatus having sought, ambitiously and fraudently, to obtain the Bishopric of Rome? Did not his contemporary, Felicissimus, make a vigorous attempt to supplant Cyprian, as Bishop of Carthage? Was not Cyprian brought in to be Bishop in that city, by the influence of the people, in opposition to the majority of the Presbyters, some of whom were anxious to obtain the place for themselves ? And did there not hence arise fre. quent collisions between him and them, and at length an open rupture? I ask, are any of these
things related in the early history of the Church ? And can any man, with such records before him, lay his hand on his heart, and assert that there were no symptoms of a spirit of ambition and domination in those times ?
But I will not content myself with this general reference to the early conflicts of selfishness and ambition. The following specific quotations will be more than sufficient, if I do not mistake, to co. ver Dr. Bowden with confusion.
Hermas, one of the earliest Fathers whose writings are extant, says, in his Pastor, “ As for those “ who had their rods green, but yet cleft; they
as were always faithful and good ; but “ they had some envy and strife among themselves, “ concerning dignity and pre-eminence
. Now all " such are vain and without understanding, as con“ tend with one another about these things. Ne“ vertheless, seeing they are otherwise good, if, “ when they shall hear these commands, they a shall amend themselves, and shall, at my persua“ sion, suddenly repent; they shall, at last, dwell " in the tower, as they who have truly and worthily
repented. But if any one shall again return to « his dissentions, he shall be shut out of the tower,
and lose his life. For the life of those < who keep the commandments of the Lord, con" sists in doing what they are commanded ; not “ in principality, or in any other dignity*.”
* Simil. 8. $ 7.
Hegisippus, who lived in the second century, and who was the first Father who undertook to com. pose a regular ecclesiastical history, writes thus. “ When James, the just, had been martyred for “ the same doctrine which our Lord preached, “Simon, the son of Cleophas, was constituted Bi. “ shop with universal preference, because he was " the Lord's near kinsman. Wherefore they cal“ led that Church a pure virgin, because it was “ not defiled with corrupt doctrine. But Thebuli, " because he was not made Bishop, endeavoured to
corrupt the Church ; being one of the seven “ heretics among the people, whereof was Simon, " of whom the Simonians*.”
Dr. Bowden represents the age of Cyprian as among the very purest periods of the christian Church, and quotes that Father with a frequency and a confidence which evince the highest respect for his authority. The following passages will show how far the illustrious Pastor of Carthage considered the Bishops of his day as beyond the reach of selfishness and ambition.
“ A long continuance of peace and security « had relaxed the rigour of that holy discipline 16 which was delivered to us from above. All were
upon an immeasurable increase of gain; and, forgetting how the first converts to our religion
* See fragments of this writer preserved in Eusebius, Lib. iv. Cap. 22.
† They had been free from persecution only about thirtyeight years.