Images de page


To establish the first point Dr. B. quotes a short passage from Dr. Cave, a divine of the eighteenth century, who gives it as his opinion, that Metropolitans were introduced "not long after the 66 apostolic age, when sects and schisms broke in apace, and when controversies were multiplied "between particular Bishops." But was Cave a primitive Father? What authority had he to decide such a question? And what did he mean by the expression " not long after the apostolic age?" Did he mean two, three, or four centuries? All is vague and conjectural. Besides, from this passage it leaks out, after all Dr. Bowden's care to conceal it, or rather his explicit denial of the fact, that there were sects, and schisms, and jarrings among the Bishops, " not long after the apostolic age." In support of the same assertion, Dr. Bowden quotes a longer passage from Bingham, another divine of the eighteenth century, who, after expressing his agreement with Cave, adds, “ Per"haps the office of Metropolitan took its rise from "that common respect and deference, which was "usually paid by the rest of the Bishops to the "Bishops of the civil metropolis in every pro"vince." He then produces, what Dr. B. calls "sufficient evidence," that this office existed in the second century; that there are traces of its commencement as early as the time of Irenæus; that it advanced gradually; and that it was not until about the time of the Council of Nice that the term Metropolitan came into frequent use. Now,

though Dr. Bowden contents himself with very slender proof; and though his confident conclusion, that" there is not the least difficulty in determining when Primates or Metropolitans took their rise in the christian Church," is, in the connection in which it stands, truly ludicrous; yet, allowing it to be correct, does not every discerning reader perceive that he is unwittingly confirming my argu ment? He concedes, that Metropolitans were not instituted by the Apostles; and he also concedes, that they were brought in, by human contrivance, soon after the Apostolic age; but that they were not spoken of familiarly, under this title, until near the middle of the fourth century. But how they were introduced; by what means; whether with or without opposition, neither he nor the divines whom he quotes as his authorities, have any thing more than conjecture to offer. And is not this exactly the ground on which I assert the fact to stand? With whom is this gentleman contending?

But Dr. Bowden goes further, and contends, in the second place, that," even if it were impossible to determine the time when Metropolitans first ap peared in the church, there would be no parallel between this difficulty, and the one relating to Episcopacy." But why no parallel? The office of Metropolitan was a grade of ecclesiastical pre-eminence, as well as that of ordinary Bishop. Now, if it be granted, that the former office was introduced by human contrivance; that it was gradual

ly brought in; that it was introduced without any known opposition and noise; why might not the same facts have occurred with respect to Prelacy? Dr. Borden, indeed, asserts, that the office of Metropolitan was, in the beginning, a mere presidency, introduced for the sake of convenience and order; that, in this stage of its rise, there was no material encroachment on the rights of others; and, of course, nothing that had a tendency to excite alarm, resentment, or opposition. And is not this exactly what we say concerning the rise of Prelacy? In all these respects, indeed, Dr. B. would persuade us, that the rise of Metropolitanism was wholly unlike that of Prelacy. But for this we have only his word. He does not produce even a shadow of proof. On the contrary we maintain, that Prelacy arose, with very little variation, in the same manner in which he represents metropolitanism as having been brought in. And the acknowledged fact, that the latter was early introduced, without excit ing, so far as we know, any extensive opposition or noise, we consider as conclusive evidence that the former might have arisen in the same manner. We suppose, that the first steps, in both cases, were small, and studiously ordered so as to excite as little attention as possible; that the introduction of new names was, for a considerable time, carefully avoided; and that the object was, in fact, fully gained, before the mask was thrown off, and the purpose avowed.

Dr. B. insists that the rise of Metropolitans was

not as likely to excite alarm and opposition as that of Bishops. But why not? Were not Prelates as likely to perceive and take the alarm, when some of their own number assumed a superiority over the rest, as Presbyters were, when some of their number gradually gained a pre-eminence among their brethren? Were Prelates less discerning, less awake to encroachments, or less conscientious in guarding against them, than Presbyters? But, says Dr. Bowden, in the case of Metropolitans, there was no usurpation of any particular rite or power; whereas, in the rise of Prelacy, according to the ideas of Presbyterians, there was a direct usurpation of the ordaining and confirming power, which before belonged to all Presbyters in common. The latter, therefore, in his opinion, was much less likely to gain undisputed admittance than the former. But in this reasoning Dr. Bowden betrays a total misunderstanding of what Presbyterians believe. They do not suppose, or admit, that the usurpation of the ordaining power was the first step, or even among the first steps in the rise of Prelacy. They suppose that an occasional and then a stated presidency were the first steps; and that the power of ordaining was not taken entirely out of the hands of Presbyters, until several centuries after the claims of Prelacy commenced.

The cases, then, after all that Dr. Bowden has said to the contrary, are strictly parallel. The time and manner of the rise of Metropolitans, are left as completely undefined in early history, as are

the time and manner of the rise of Prelates. In both cases, by a careful comparison of testimony, we can come, with certainty, near the truth, but nothing more. In both cases, the rise was evidently gradual. In both cases, the first steps were small, and dictated, as those concerned were made to believe, by convenience, expediency, and even necessity, rather than by ambition. And, in both cases, it was not until several hundred years, when long habit and prescription had reconciled every mind to the usurpation, that its claims were openly and unreservedly urged.

It is of some importance to advert to two or three other facts. Although Metropolitans, when first introduced, appear to have been, as Dr. B. supposes, nothing more than mere Presidents or Moderators; yet it is manifest that they very soon became something more. I know not when those writings, called the Apostolical Canons, were composed. Dr. B. thinks in the second and third centuries. But one thing I know, that, whenever they were composed, the 34th Canon decrees," that "the Bishops of every nation ought to know him "who is first among them, and acknowledge him "for their head, and do nothing of moment with66 out his consent, and he nothing without their's." Here is a power greatly exceeding that of a mere presiding equal. How was this power acquired? How could it be acquired so soon, and when, if we may believe Dr. B. no such thing as clerical am

« PrécédentContinuer »