« AnteriorContinuar »
labours, counsels, and prayers, have been earnest for the common good of religion and their country, shall receive above the inferiour orders of the bleffed, the regal addition of principalities, legions, and thrones into their glorious titles, and in supereminence of beatific vision, progressing the datelels and irrevoluble circle of eternity, shall clasp inseparable hands with joy and bliss, in overmeasure for ever.
But they contrary, that by the impairing and diminution of the true faith, the distresses and servitude of their eountry, aspire to high dignity, rule and promotion here, after a shameful end in this life (which God grant them), shall be thrown down eternally into the darkest and deepest gulf of Hell, where, under the despiteful control, the trample and spurn of all the other damned, that in the anguish of their torture, shall have no other ease than to exercise a raving and beftial tyranny over them as their Naves and negroes, they fhall remain in that plight for ever, the basest, the lowermost, the most dejected, most underfoot, and downtrodden vafsals of perdition.
And whether it may be deduced from the apoftolical times, by virtue of
those testimonies which are alleged to that purpose in fome late treatises; one whereof goes under the name of James Archbishop of Armagh.
Episcopacy, as it is taken
OPACY, as it is taken for an order in the church above a presbyter, or as we commonly name him, the minister of a congregation, is either of divine conftitution, or of human. If only of human, we have the fame human privilege that all men have ever had fince Adam, being born free, and in the mistress island of all the British, to retain this episcopacy, or to remove it, consulting with our own occasions and conveniencies, and for the prevention of our own dangers and disquiets, in what best manner we can devise, without running at a loss, as we must needs in those stale and useless records of either uncertain or unfound antiquity ; which, if we hold fast to the grounds of the reformed church, can neither skill of us, nor we of it, so oft as it would lead us to the broken reed of tradition. If it be of divine constitution, to satisfy us fully in that, the scripture only is able, it being the only book left us of divine authority, not in any thing more divine than in the allsufficiency it hath to furnith us, as with all other spiritual knowledge, so with this in particular, setting out to us a perfect man of God, accomplished to all the good works of his charge: through all which book can be nowhere, either by plain text or folid reafoning, found any difference between a bishop and a presbyter, save that they be two names to fignify the same order. Notwithstanding this clearness, and that by all evidence of argument, Timothy and Titus (whom our prelates claim to imitate only in the controlling part
of their office) had rather the vicegerency of an apostleship committed to them, than the ordinary charge of a bishopric, as being men of an extraordinary calling ; yet to verify that which St. Paul foretold of succeeding times, when men began to have itching ears, then not contented with the plentiful and wholesome fountains of the gospel, they began after their own lusts to heap to themselves teachers, and as if the divine fcripture wanted a supplement, and were to be eked out, they cannot think any doubt resolved, and any doctrine confirmed, unless they run to that indigested heap and fry of authors, which they call antiquity. Whatsoever time, or the heedless hand of blind chance, hath drawn down from of old to this present, in her huge dragnet, whether fish or seaweed, shells, or shrubs, unpicked, unchofen, those are the fathers. Seeing, therefore, fome men, deeply conversant in books, have had so little care of late to give the world a better account of their reading, than by divulging needless tractates stuffed with specious names of Ignatius and Polycarpus ; with fragments of old martyrologies and legends, to distract and stagger the multitude of credulous readers, and mislead them from their strong guards and places of safety, under the tuition of holy writ; it came into my thoughts to persuade myself, setting all distances and nice respects aside, that I could do religion and my country no better service for the time, than doing my utmost endeavour to recall the people of God from this vain foraging after straw, and to reduce them to their firm stations under the standard of the gospel; by making appear to them, first the insufficiency, next the inconveniency, and lastly, the impiety of thefe gay testimonies, that their great doctors would bring them to dote on. And in performing this, I shall not strive to be more exact in method, than as their citations lead me: '',
First, therefore, concerning Ignatius shall be treated fully, when the author fhall come to infifti upon places in his epistles. Next, to prove a succession of twenty-seven bishops from Timothy, he cites one Leontius bishop of Magnesia, out of the 11th act of the Chalcedonian council: this is but an obfcure and single wit ness, and for his faithful dealing who shall commend him
to us, with this his catalogue of bishops ? What know we further of him, but that he might be as factious and false a bishop as Leontius of Antioch, that was a hundred years his predeceffor? For neither the praise of his wifdom, or his virtue, hath left him memorable to posterity, but only this doubtful relation, which we must take at his word : and how shall this testimony receive credit from his word, whose very name had scarce been thought on but for this bare testimony? But they will say, he was a member of the council, and that may deserve to gain him credit with us. I will not stand to argue, as yet with fair allowance I might, that we may as justly suspect there were some bad and flippery men in that council, as we know there are wont to be in our convocations: nor shall I need to plead at this time, that nothing hath been more attempted, nor with more subtlety brought about, both anciently by other heretics, and modernly by papists, than to falsify the editions of the councils, of which we have 'none, but from our adversaries hands, whence canons, acts, and whole fpurious councils are thrust upon us; and hard it would be to prove in all, which are legitimate, against the lawful rejection of an urgent and free disputer. But this "I purpose not to take advantage of; for what avails it to wrangle about the corrupt editions of councils, whenas we know that many years ere this time, which was almost five hundred years after Christ, the councils themselves were foully corrupted with ungodly prelatism, and so far plunged into worldly ambition, as that it stood them upon long ere this to uphold their now well tasted hierarchy by what fair pretext foever they could, in like manner as they had now learned to defend many other gross corruptions by as ancient, and supposed authentic tradition as episcopacy? And what hope can we have of this whole council to warrant us a matter, four hundred years at least above their time, concerning the distinction of bishop and presbyter, whenas we find them such blind judges of things before their eyes, in their decrees of precedency between bifhop and bishop, acknowledging Rome for the apoftoliç throne, and Peter, in that see, for the rock, the bafis, and the foundation of the catholic church and faith, contrary to the interpretation of more
ancient ancient fathers? And therefore from a mistaken text did they give to Leo, as Peter's successor, a kind of preeminence above the whole council, as Euagrius expreffes (for now the pope was come to that height, as to arrogate to himself by his vicars incompetible honours) and yet having thus yielded to Rome, the universal primacy for fpiritual reasons, as they thought, they conclude their sitting with a carnal and ambitious decree, to give the second place of dignity to Constantinople from reason of state, because it was New Rome; and by like consequence doubtless of earthly privileges annexed to each other city, was the bishop thereof to take his place. .
I may say again therefore, what hope can we have of · such a council, as, beginning in the spirit, ended thus in the flesh ? Much rather should we attend to what Eusea bius, the ancientest writer extant of church-history, notwithstanding all the helps he had above these, confeffes in the 4th chapter of his third book, That it was no easy matter to tell who were those that were left bishops of the churches by the apostles, more than by what a man might gather from the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles of St.Paul, in which number he reckons Timothy for bishop of Ephesus. Só as may plainly appear, that this tradition of bishoping Timothy over Ephesus was but taken for granted out of that place in St. Paul, which was only an intreating him to tarry at Ephesus, to do something left him in charge. Now, if Eusebius, a famous writer, thought it so difficult to tell who were appointed bishops by the apostles, much more may we think it difficult to Leontius, an obscure bishop, speaking beyond his own diocess : and certainly much more hard was it for either of them to determine what kind of bishops these were, if they had so little means to know who they were; and much less reason have we' to stand to their definitive sentence, seeing they have been so rash to raise up such lofty bithops and bishoprics out of places in scripture merely misunderstood. Thus while we leave the Bible to gad after the traditions of the ancients, we hear the ancients themselves, confefling, that what knowledge they had in this point was such as they had gathered from the Bible,