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or fall. Happy will it be for us, if we can appeal to the great Searcher of hearts, that we have not followed the traditions and inventions of men, but the sure word of prophecy, which is given us to be a light.to our feet, and a lamp to our path, to guide us in the ruay of peace!
Testimony of Scripure.
In the second Letter of my former series, I endeavoured to establish the principle, that the only testimony by which the controversy in question ever ought to be, or can be decided, is that of Scripture. The word of God is the only perfect and infallible rule of faith and practice. The moment we quit this ground, we are plunged into all the uncertainty of tradition, and into all the confusion of contradictory testimony. The moment we quit this ground, the defence of Protestantism against the Papists is impossible. In this general principle, our Episcopal brethren concur. They acknowledge that the question before us is a mat. ter of fact, to be ascertained by a sound interpretation of Scripture. And yet, for the most part, , they have no sooner made the acknowledgment, than they contradict themselves, by setting human authority above the inspired volume.
In this inconsistent course Dr. Bowden has sig. nalized himself. He has, indeed, pursued it with a degree of boldness which is truly rare. He does not think it necessary even to save appearan
Instead of assigning to Scripture the first and highest place; instead of beginning with it, and permitting it to stand on its own proper eminence, he begins with the Fathers ! Nor is this
As if afraid of examining and exhibiting the testimony of the Fathers in their natural or. der, from the apostolic age downwards, he begins with the Fathers of the fourth century; reasons backward; assumes the corrupt principles and language of that age as genuine, and then employs them to interpret the primitive writers; and thus endeavours to make his readers believe that the order of the Church was the same in the fourth, that it had been in the first century; and that the words bishop, elder, deacon, meant exactly the same thing in the days of Eusebius, Basil, and few rome, that they had done in the days of the Apostles. I thank Dr. Bowden for the important concessions which this course of reasoning tacitly discloses. I thank him for the manifest unwillingness which he discovers to encounter either the testimony of Scripture alone, or the testimony of the early Fathers alone. His very arrangement of evidence speaks more than volumes. Of the fairness of this arrangement, I say nothing. No reader of the smallest discernment needs a single remark to aid him in judging of this point. But I could scarcely have asked for a more humiliating confession of the weakness of his cause, and of his distressing consciousness that neither Scripture nor early antiquity will bear him out in his claims,
than is to be found in this management, which he, no doubt, considered as a master stroke of policy. But this gentleman goes a step further. After conducting his readers through a catalogue of quotations, placed in retrograde order, from the fourth century upward to the apostles ;-after presenting to them a corresponding series of pictures in an inverted, and therefore deceptive light ;-and after bringing them, wearied and perplexed, to the dividing line between the Fathers and the canon of Scripture, he expresses himself in the following terms" As Episcopacy appears from a cloud of “ witnesses to be the government of the church
at the close of the apostolic age, it can never “ be admitted that any thing in the New Testament “ militates against this fact.” Letters, I. p. 240. The plain English of this declaration is, “ The
controversy is to be decided by the Fathers. “ In approaching the inspired volume, we are
previously to take for granted that it does not, 6 and cannot contain any thing contrary to their
testimony. And even if it appears to contain “ facts or principles inconsistent with their wri. “ tings, we are to draw our conclusions from the “ latter rather than the former. Were the scrip
tures to teach otherwise than the Fathers, wè « could not believe them.”-I do not say that this doctrine is, in so many words, avowed by the reverend Professor; nor even that he distinctly recognizes such a monstrous position in his own mind : but I will say, that such is the spirit of the
principle which he lays down, and that I verily believe him to have been governed by it in all his reasonings.
But although my opponents discover so much reluctance to be judged by the law and the testimo. ny, I hope, my brethren, we shall never so far forget our character as Christians and Protestants, as to suffer our faith or practice to be tried by any other test. I will, therefore, request your serious and impartial attention to some further remarks on the scriptural evidence relative to the subject before us.—You will not expect me, however, again to go over the whole ground of the scriptural argument. I shall only advert to a few points on which either the most plausible or the most exceptionable strictures have been made on our principles, as formerly advanced and defended.
I again assert, then, that there is not to be found in the whole New Testament a single doctrine or fact, which yields the least solid support to the cause of prelacy; but that, on the contrary, the whole strain of the evangelical records is favour. able to the doctrine of ministerial parity.
Dr. Bowden still insists that the Angels of the seven Asiatic churches, spoken of in Rev. ii. and iii. were no other than diocesan bishops. ally he does little more than assert and re-assert this, without producing any proof that deserves to be considered even as plausible. I had asked, " Is it certain that by these Angels are meant in