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And Goode also, who has written from Cambridge, with great ability against the Tractarians, says: "I admit that for the latter point [ordination by bishops alone, as successors of the apostles], there is not any Scripture proof; but we shall find here, as in other cases, that as the proof is not to be found in Scripture, so antiquity also is divided with respect to it; and moreover, that though it is the doctrine of our church, yet that it is held by her with an allowance for those who may differ from her on the point, and not as if the observance of it was requisite by divine command, and essential to the validity of all ordinations; though, for the preservation of the full ecclesiastical regularity of her own orders, she has made it essential to the ministers of her own communion."101 In support of this opinion he proceeds to enumerate many of the authorities of the fathers given above.
Finally, we add the following extract, not again an “irreverent dissenter," in the flippant cant of one of the Tractarians, but a devoted son of their own church, a distinguished layman of England, who has written with great ability and good effect, against the doctrines of Puseyism and High Church.
"It is no part of my plan to trace the origin or course of departure from the system of church government in the apostolical times, as it lies before us in all its simplicity. I admit-indeed, as the lawyers say, it is a part of my case—that some change was unavoidable; and I see nothing in the present constitution of the church of England that is inconsistent with the principle of the apostles. But to say that they are identical, is a mere abuse of words. Still less is it to be heard say without some impatience, that there is safety in her communion only as she has descended from the apostles, through all the changes and abominations that have intervened.” 102
101 Divine Rule, Vol. II, pp. 57, 58. 102 Bowdler's Letters, pp. 32, 33.
After going through with a sketch of the historicalargument in defence of his sentiments and citing many of the authorities given above, he proceeds:—“I am aware that in St. Jerome's time there existed generally, though by no means universally, this difference between the bishop and the presbyters, viz., that to the former was then confided the power of ordination. The transition from perfect equality to absolute superiority was not suddenly effected: it was the growth of time; not of years, but of centuries; the distinction of authority or office preceding that of order or degree in the church, and being introductory to it. With the former I have no concern, it being sufficient to show, that as a distinct and superior order in the church, Episcopacy, in the modern acceptation of the term, did not exist in the time of the apostles; and that, however expedient and desirable such an institution might be, it cannot plead the sanction of apostolic appointment or example. It may be difficult to fix the period exactly when the Episcopate was first recognized as a distinct order in the church, and when the consecration of bishops, as such, came to be in general use. Clearly not, I think, when St. Jerome wrote. Thus much at least is certain, viz., that the government of each church, including the ordination of ministers, was at first in the hands of the presbytery: that when one of that body was raised to the office of president, and on whom the title of bishop was conferred, it was simply by the election (co-optatio) of the other presbyters, whose appointment was final, requiring no confirmation or consecration at the hands of any other prelates; and that each church was essentially independent of every other.
"If then all this be so, there seems to be an end to the question; for under whatever circumstances the privilege of ordaining was afterwards committed to the bishop, he could of necessity receive no more than it was in their power to bestow, from whom he received it, who were co
ordinate presbyters, not superiors. At whatever period, therefore, it was adopted, and with whatever uniformity it might be continued, and whatever of value or even authority it might hence acquire; still as an apostolical institution it has none: there is a gap which can never be filled; or rather, the link by which the whole must be suspended is wanting, and can never be supplied. There can be no apostolical succession of that which had no apostolical existence; whereas the averment to be of any avail must be, not only that it existed in the time of the apostles, but was so appointed by them as that there can be no true church without it."103
The right of presbyters, then, to ordain, is admitted by moderate Episcopalians even at the present time.104 It was maintained by the reformers generally, both in England, and on the continent, and was their undoubted prerogative in the early ages of the Christian church.
To sum up all that has been said—if presbyters and bishops are known by the same names-if they are required to possess the same qualifications, and if they do. actually discharge the same duties, then what higher evidence can we expect or desire of their equality and identity? This course of argumentation is precisely similar to that by which orthodoxy asserts and defends the supreme divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his equality with the Father. And none perhaps more readily admit the validity of this mode of argumentation, on this cardinal principle in the Christian system, than the members of the Episcopal communion. What is the argument for this oneness of Christ with the Father? Simply that he is called by the names, that he possesses the attributes, that he receives the honors and performs the works of the Father; and, there
103 Bowdler's Letters, pp. 48-50.
104 Comp. Whateley's Kingdom of Christ, pp. 151, 212.
fore, is one with Him. If, then, this course of reasoning commands our assent in these profound mysteries, why not much more in the case under consideration? We confidently rest, therefore, in the conclusion of the learned Dr. Wilson, that "whatever misconstructions of the presbyterial office may have obtained, it is and always will be, the highest ordinary office in the Christian church; and no presbyter, who is officially such, can be less than a bishop, and authorized to instruct, govern, and administer, and ordain, at least in conjunction with his co-presbyters of the same presbytery and council."
4. Bishops themselves, in their ministerial character, exercised only the jurisdiction, and performed merely the offices, of presbyters in the primitive church.
For the sake of argument, let us admit "that this office of bishop is disclosed to us in the Christian church in the very earliest records of history. Within ten years after the death of St. John, we find that the three orders of ministers were actually denominated bishop, priest and deacon; and to each was assigned the same office, together with nearly the same power and duty as appertain to them at the present day. Hear how Ignatius speaks to the Philadelphians; "Attend to the bishop, and to the presbytery, and to the deacons." 105 Such is the evident exultation with which Episcopalians appeal to Ignatius. It is clear beyond a doubt, that this writer does speak of bishops, presbyters and deacons; and that, in strains almost of profane adulation, he seeks to exalt the authority both of bishops and presbyters. But the learned need hardly to be reminded that suspicion rests upon all these epistles of Ignatius. Many, both in this country and in Europe, who are most competent to decide upon their merits, have pronounced them undoubted forgeries. No confidence can
105 Bishop De Lancey's Faithful Bishop. Boston, 1843, p. 17.
be placed upon them as historical authority. Whether they really belong to the second, third or fourth century, is altogether uncertain. They have been often and carefully canvassed by eminent scholars, both in America and in Europe. Professor Norton declares them to be undoubted forgeries. Rothe has written with surpassing ability a defence of them. But the most probable conjecture, and the one most generally received, is, that they are filled with interpolations from various hands, and of different dates. Such is Dr. Neander's opinion, as stated to the writer in conversation upon them.
The great Milton, after exposing the absurdities, corruptions and anachronisms of these epistles, proceeds to say, "These, and other like passages, 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