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ment in defence of this general proposition are two-fold, -Scripture and History.
I. The scriptural argument for the equality and identity of bishops and presbyters. This may be comprised in the following heads;
1. The appellations and titles of a presbyter are used indiscriminately and interchangeably with those of a bishop. 2. A presbyter is required to possess the same qualifications as a bishop.
3. The official duties of a presbyter are the same as those of a bishop.
4. There was, in the apostolical churches, no ordinary and permanent grade or class of ministers superior to that of presbyters.
1. The appellations and titles of a presbyter are used interchangeably with those of a bishop.
One of the most unequivocal proof-texts in the Scriptures is found in Acts 20: 17, compared with verse 28. Paul, on his journey to Jerusalem, sent from Miletus and called the presbyters, ëó̟ɛσßντéçoνç, elders, of Ephesus. And to these same presbyters, when they had come, he says, in his affectionate counsel to them, "Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops, éлioxóлovs, to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood." Both terms are here used in the same sentence with reference to the same
We have another instance, equally clear, of the indiscriminate use of the terms, in the first chapter of Paul's epistle to Titus. For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain presbyters, пgeσßντégoυs, in every city, as I had appointed thee." Then follows an enumeration of the
qualifications which are requisite in these presbyters, one of which is given in these words: "A bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God."
Again, it is worthy of particular attention, that the apostle, in his instructions to Timothy, 1 Tim. 3: 1–7, respecting the qualifications of a bishop, proceeds immediately to specify those of deacons, the second class of officers in the church, without making the least allusion to presbyters, though confessedly giving instructions for the appointment of the appropriate officers of the church. This omission was not a mere oversight in the writer, who subsequently alludes to the presbytery, 4: 14, and commends those that rule well, 5: 17. In these passages the apostle evidently has in mind the same offices, and uses the terms, bishop and presbyter, as identical in meaning.
To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, again, the apostle addresses his salutation,-to the saints, with the bishops and deacons, that is, to the church and the officers of the church. Here, again, as in all the New Testament, these officers are distributed into two classes. For, had there been at Philippi a third order of ministers, superior to the deacons, it is incredible that the apostle could have omitted all allusion to them, in a salutation so specific. In truth, we must either charge the apostle with neglecting an important and superior class of officers in the church at Philippi,-a neglect totally inconsistent with the character of the apostle,-or we must admit that the presbyters are addressed in the salutation of the bishops as one and the same with them.
The supposition, again, that these were bishops of the Episcopal order, involves the absurdity of a plurality of bishops over the same church; a supposition at variance with the first principles of diocesan Episcopacy, which
admits of but one in a city. This difficulty appears to have forcibly impressed the mind of Chrysostom. "How is this?" exclaims the eloquent patriarch. "Were there many bishops in the same city? By no means; but he calls the presbyters by this name [bishops]; for at that time this was the common appellation of both."3
Finally, we appeal to 1 Pet. 5: 2, 3, where the apostle, as a fellow-presbyter, exhorts the presbyters to feed the flock of God, taking the oversight of them, лiozorõvνtes, acting the bishop, performing the duties of a bishop over them, requiring of them the same duties which the apostle Paul enjoins upon the presbyter-bishops of Ephesus. As at Ephesus, where Paul gave his charge to those presbyters, so here, again, it is evident that there could have been no bishop over those whom Peter commits to the oversight of these presbyters. But who are the flock in this instance? Plainly, any body of those Christians scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, to whom he addresses his epistle. These Christians, throughout this vast extent of country, are committed to the care of their presbyters, who are severally to act as the pastors and bishops of their respective charges.
Thus it appears that the appellations and titles of a presbyter are used indiscriminately and interchangeably with those of a bishop. In the same sentence, even, and generally throughout the writings of the apostles, these are perfectly convertible terms, as different names of the same
2 Epiphanius tells us, that Peter and Paul were both bishops of Rome at once by which it is plain he took the title of bishop in another sense than now it is used; for now, and so for a long time upward, two bishops can no more possess one see, than two hedge-sparrows dwell in one bush. St. Peter's time was a little too early for bishops to rise.-Hales' Works, Vol. I, p. 110.
3 Σὺν επισκόποις καὶ διακόνοις. Τι τουτο; μῖας πόλεως πολλοὶ ἐπίσκοποι ησαν; Οὐδαμῶς, ἀλλὰ τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους ὅντως ἐκάλεσε· τότε γὰρ τέως ἐκοινωνουν τοῖς ὀνόμασι.-In Phil. 1: 1, p. 199, seq., Tom. 11.
thing. This fact is very forcibly exhibited in the following summary from the Rev. Dr. Mason. "That the terms bishop and presbyter, in their application to the first class of officers, are perfectly convertible, the one pointing out the very same class of rulers with the other, is as evident as the sun shining in his strength.' Timothy was instructed by the apostle Paul in the qualities which were to be required in those who desired the office of a BISHOP. * Paul and Barnabas ordained PRESBYTERS in every churcht which they had founded. Titus is directed to ordain in every city PRESBYTERS who are to be blameless, the husband of one wife. And the reason of so strict a scrutiny into character is thus rendered, for a BISHOP must be blameless.‡ If this does not identify the bishop with the presbyter, in the name of common sense, what can do it? Suppose a law, pointing out the qualifications of a sheriff, were to say, a sheriff must be a man of pure character, of great activity, and resolute spirit; for it is highly necessary that a governor be of unspotted reputation, &c., the bench and bar would be rather puzzled for a construction, and would be compelled to conclude, either that something had been left out in transcribing the law, or that governor and sheriff meant the same sort of officer; or that their honors of the legislature had taken leave of their wits. The case is not a whit stronger than the case of presbyter and bishop in the epistle to Titus. Again: Paul, when on his last journey to Jerusalem, sends for the PRESBYTERS of Ephesus to meet him at Miletum, and there enjoins these PRESBYTERS to feed the church of God over which the Holy Ghost had made them BISHOPS. It appears, then, that the bishops to whom Paul refers in his instructions to Timothy, were neither more nor less than plain presbyters. To a man who has no turn to serve, no interest in perverting the obvious meaning of words, one would think that a matheTit. 1: 5. § Acts 20: 17, 28.
* 1 Tim. 3: 1. † Acts 14: 23.
matical demonstration could not carry more satisfactory evidence." 4
These terms, as the reader must have noticed, are also distinct and definite, descriptive of a peculiar office, which he is in no danger of mistaking for any other in the apostolic church. The name of apostle is not in a single instance exchanged for that of bishop, presbyter, or deacon, neither are the terms, bishop and presbyter, confounded with any other title, and for the very obvious reason, that they are descriptive of an office distinct from all others. Why, then, are these particular terms mutually interchanged one with the other, save that they are equally descriptive of the same office? Indeed, the identity of bishops and presbyters in name, is now conceded by Episcopalians themselves. "That presbyters were called bishops I readily grant; that this proves that the officer who was then called a bishop, and consequently the office, was the same." 995 "The Episcopalian cannot be found who denies the interchangeable employment of the terms bishop and presbyter in the New Testament." 6 Bishop Burnet admits that they "are used promiscuously by the writers of the first two centuries."
The scriptural title of the office under consideration is usually that of presbyter or elder. It had long been in use in the synagogue. It denoted an office familiar to every Jew. It conveyed precise ideas of a ruler whose powers were well defined and perfectly understood. When adopted into the Christian church, its meaning must have been easily settled, for it was essentially the same in the church as previously in the synagogue. Accordingly, it constantly occurs in the writings of the apostle, to denote an officer
4 Mason's Works, Vol. III, pp. 41-43. Comp. King, Prim. Christ., pp. 67, 68.
5 Bowden, Works on Episcop., Vol. I, p. 161.
6 Chapman, cited in Smyth's Pres. and Prelacy,