« AnteriorContinuar »
Since therefore, antiquity itself hath turned over the controversy to that sovereign book which we had fondly ftraggled from, we shall do better not to detain this venerable apparition of Leontius any longer, but dismiss him with his list of seven and twenty, to sleep unmolested in his former obfcurity.
Now for the word opossws, it is more likely that Timothy never knew the word in that sense: it was the vanity of those next succeeding times not to content themselves with the fimplicity of scripture-phrase, but must make a new lexicon to name themselves by ; one will be called 2Tp0E5ws, or antistes, a word of precedence; another would be termed a gnostic, as Clemens; a third facerdos, or priest, and talks of altars; which was a plain sign that their doctrine began to change, for which they must change their expressions. But that place of Justin Martyr ferves rather to convince the author, than to make for him, where the name #pos5ws TWv den@wy, the prefident or pastor of the brethren (for to what end is he their prestdent, but to teach them ?) cannot be limited to signify a prelatical bishop, but rather communicates that greek appellation to every ordinary presbyter : for there he tells what the christians had wont to do in their several congregations, to read and expound, to pray and administer, all which he says the #poesas, or antistes, did. Are these the offices only of a bishop, or shall we think that every congregation where these things were done, which he attributes to this antistes, had a bishop present among them ? Unless they had as many antiftites as presbyters, which this place rather seems to imply; and so we may infer even from their own alleged authority, “that antiftes was nothing else but presbyter."
As for that nameless treatise of Timothy's martyrdom, only cited by Photius that lived almost nine hundred years after Christ, it handsomely follows in that author the martyrdom of the seven sleepers, that slept (I tell you
but what mine author says) three hundred and seventy and two years; for so long they had been shut up in a cave without meat, and were found living. This story of Timothy's ephesian bishopric, as it follows in order, so
may it for truth, if it only sublift upon its own authority, as it
doth; doth; for Photius only faith he read it, he does not aver it. That other legendary piece found among the lives of the saints, and sent us from the shop of the jesuits at Louvain, does but bear the name of Polycrates; how truly, who can tell ? and shall have some more weight with us, when Polycrates can persuade us of that which he affirms in the same place of Eusebius's fifth book, that St. John was a priest, and wore the golden breastplate: and why thould he convince us more with his traditions of Timothy's episcopacy, than he could convince Victor bishop of Rome with his traditions concerning the feast of Easter, who, not regarding his irrefragable instances of examples taken from Philip and his daughters that were prophetesses, or from Polycarpus, no nor from St. John himself, excommunicated both him, and all the asian churches, for celebrating their Easter judaically?, He may therefore go back to the seven bishops his kinsmen, and make his moan to them, that we esteem his traditional ware as lightly as Victor did.
Those of Theodoret, Felix, and John of Antioch, are authorities of later times, and therefore not to be received for their antiquity's sake to give in evidence concerning an allegation, wherein writers, so much their elders, we see so easily miscarry. What if they had told us that Peter, who, as they say, left Ignatius bishop of Antioch, went afterwards to Rome, and was bishop there, as this Ignatius, and Irenæus, and all antiquity with one mouth deliver there be nevertheless a number of learned and wise proteflants, who have written, and will maintain, that Peter's being at Rome as bishop cannot stand with concordance of scripture.
Now come the epistles of Ignatius, to show us, first, that Onefimus was bishop of Ephesus; next, to assert the difference of bishop and presbyter : wherein I wonder that men, teachers of the protestant religion, make no more difficulty of impofing upon our belief a supposititious offspring of some dozen epistles, whereof five arę rejected as fpurious, containing in them heresies and trifles; which cannot agree in chronology with Ignatius, entitling him archbishop of Antioch Theopolis, which name of Theopolis that city had not till Justinian's time, long after, as Vol. I,
Cedrenus Cedrenus mentions; which argues both the barbarous time, and the unskilful fraud of him that foifted this epistle upon Ignatius. In the epistle to those of Tarsus, he condemns them for ministers of Satan, that say, “ Christ is God above all.” To the Philippians, them that kept their Easter as the asian churches, as Polycarpus did, and them that fasted upon any Saturday or Sunday, except one, he counts as those that had slain the Lord. To those of Antioch, he salutes the subdeacons, chan. ters, porters, and exorcists, as if these had been orders of the church in his time: those other epistles less questioned, are yet so interlarded with corruptions, as may justly endue as with a wholesome suspicion of the rest. As to the Trallians, he writes, that “a bishop hath power over all beyond all government and authority whatsoever." Surely then no pope can desire more than Ignatius attributes to every bishop; but what will become then of the archbishops and primates, if every bishop in Ignatius's judgment be as supreme as a pope ? To the Ephesians, near the very place from whence they fetch their proof for episcopacy, there stands a line that cafts an ill hue upon all the epiftle; “ Let no man err;" faith he; “ unless a man be within the rays or enclosure of the altar, he is deprived of the bread of life.” I say not but this may be stretched to a figurative construction ; but yet it has an ill look, especially being fol. lowed beneath with the mention of I know not what facrifices. In the other epistle to Smyrna, wherein is written that “they should follow their bishop as Chrift did his Father, and the presbytery as the apostles;” not to speak of the insulse, and ill laid comparison, this cited place lies upon the very brim of a noted corruption, which, had they that quote this passage ventured to let us read, all men would have readily seen what grain the testimony had been of, where it is said, “ that it is not lawful without a bishop to baptize, nor to offer, nor to do facrifice.” What can our church make of thefe phrases but scandalous ? And, but a little further he plainly falls to contradict the spirit of God in Solomon, judged by the words themselves ; " My son,” saith he, "honour God and the King; but I say, honour God, and the bishop as high
priest, bearing the image of God according to his ruling, and of Christ according to his priesting, and after hiin honour the king.” Excellent Ignatius! can ye blame the prelates for making much of this epistle? Certainly if this epistle can serve you to set a bishop above a presbyter, it may serye you next to set hiin above a king. There, and other like places in abundance through all those short epistles, must either be adulterate, or else Ignatius was not Ignatius, nor a martyr, but most adulterate, and corrupt himself. In the midst, therefore, of so many forgeries, where shall we fix to dare say this is Ignatius ? As for his style, who knows it, so disfigured and interrupted as it is? except they think that where they meet with any thing sound, and orthodoxal, there they find Ignatius. And then they believe him not for his own authority, but for a truth's sake, which they derive from elsewhere : to what end then should they cite him as authentic for episcopacy, when they cannot know what is authentic in him, but by the judgment which they brought with them, and not by any judgment which they might safely learn from him ? How can they bring satisfaction from such an author, to whose very essence the reader must be fain to contribute his own understanding ? Had God ever intended that we should have sought any part of useful instruction from Ignatius, doubtless he would not have so ill provided for our knowledge, as to send him to our hands in this broken and disjointed plight; and if he intended no such thing, we do injuriously in thinking to taste better the pure evangelic manna, by seatoning our mouths with the tainted scraps and fragments of an unknown table; and searching among the verminous and polluted rags dropped overworn from the toiling shoulders of time, with these deformedly to quilt and interlace the entire, the spotless, and undecaying robe of truth, the daughter not of time, but of Heaven, only bred up here below in christian hearts, between two grave and holy nurses, the doctrine and discipline of the gospel.
Next follows Irenæus bishop of Lyons, who is cited to affirm, that Polycarpus “ was made bishop of Smyrna by the apostles;" and this, it may seem, none could better tell than he who had both feen and heard Polycarpus :
but but when did he hear him? Himself confesses to Florio nus, when he was a boy. Whether that age in Irenæus may not be liable to many mistakings; and whether a boy may be trusted to take an exact account of the manner of a church conftitution, and upon what terms, and within what limits, and with what kind of commission Polycarpus received his charge, let a man consider, ere he be credulous. It will not be denied that he might have seen Polycarpus in his youth, a man of great emia nence in the church, to whom the other presbyters might give way for his virtue, wisdom, and the reverence of his age, and so did Anicetús, bishop of Rome, even in his own city, give him a kind of priority in adminiftering the facrament, as may be read in Eusebius: but that we should hence conclude a distinct, and superior order from the young observation of Irenæus, nothing yet alleged can warrant us; unless we shall believe such as would face us down, that Calvin and, after him, Beza were bishops of Geneva, because that in the unsettled ftate of the church, while things were not fully composed, their worth and learning cast a greater share of business upon them, and directed men's eyes principally towards them: and yet these men were the diffolvers of episco. pacy. We see the fame necessity in state affairs; Brutus, that expelled the kings out of Rome, was for the time forced to be as it were a king himself, till matters were fet in order, as in a free commonwealth. He that had seen Pericles lead the Athenians which way he lifted, haply would have said he had been their prince; and yet he was but a powerful and eloquent man in a democracy, and had no more at any time than a temporary and elective sway, which was in the will of the people when to abrogate. And it is most likely that in the church, they which came after thefe apostolic men, being less in | merit, but bigger in ambition, itrove to invade those privileges by intrusion and plea of right, which Polycarpus, and others like him possessed, from the voluntary furrender of men fubdued by the excellency of their heavenly gifts; which because their successors had not, and so could neither have that authority, it was their policy to divulge that the eminence which Polycarpus and his