« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
his friends might pretend to have seen St. Peter or St. Paul do; and yet neither of these could persuade either when to keep Easter? The like frivolous contention troubled the primitive English churches, while Colmanus and Wilfride on either fide deducing their opinions, the one from the undeniable example of Saint John, and the learned bishop Anatolius, and lastly the miraculous Columba, the other from Saint Peter and the Nicene council; could gain no ground each of other, till king Ofwy, perceiving no likelihood of ending the controverly that way, was fain to decide it himself, good king, with that small knowledge wherewith those times had furnished him. So when thofe pious Greek emperors began, as Cedrcnus relates, to put down monks, and abolish images, the old idolaters; finding themselves blafted, and driven back by the prevailing light of the scripture, sent out their sturdy monks called the Abramites, to allege for images the ancient fathers Dionysius, and this our objected Irenæus: nay, they were fo highflown in their antiquity, that they undertook to bring the apostles, and Luke the evangelift, yea Christ himself, from certain records that were then current, to patronize their idolatry: yet for all this the worthy emperor Theophilus, even in those dark times, chose rather to nourish himself and his people with the fincere milk of the gospel, than to drink from the mixed confluence of fo many corrupt and poisonous waters, as tradition would have persuaded him to, by most ancient seeming authorities. In like manner all the reforined churches abroad, unthroning episcopacy, doubtlefs were not ignorant of these testimonies alleged to draw it in a line from the apostles' days: for surely the author will not think he hath brought us now any new authorities or considerations into the world, which the reformers in other places were not advised of: and yet we see, the intercession of all these apostolic fathers could not prevail with them to alter their resolved decree of reducing into order their usurping and overprovendered episcopants; and God hath blessed their work this hundred years with a prosperous and stedfast, and still happy success. And this may serve to prove the insufficiency of these present episcopal testimonies, not only in them
felves but in the account of those ever that have been the followers of truth. It will next behove us to consider the inconvenience we fall into, by using ourselves to be guided by these kind of testimonies. He that thinks it the part of a well-learned man to have read diligently the ancient stories of the church, and to be no ftranger in the volumes of the fathers, shall have all judicious men consenting with him ; not hereby to control, and new fangle the scripture, God forbid ! but to mark how corruption and apostasy crept in by degrees, and to gather up whereever we find the remaining sparks of original truth, wherewith to stop the mouths of our adversaries, and to bridle them with their own curb, who willingly pass by that which is orthodoxal in them, and studiously cull out that which is commentitious, and best for their turns, not weighing the fathers in the balance of scripture, but scripture in the balance of the fathers. If we, therefore, making first the gospel our rule and oracle, shall take the good which we light on in the fathers, and set it to oppose the evil which other men seek from them, in this way of skirmish we shall easily master all superstition and false doctrine; but if we turn this our discreet and wary usage of them into a blind devotion towards them, and whatsoever we find written by them; we both forsake our own grounds and reasons which led us at first to part from Rome, that is, to hold to the scriptures against all antiquity; we remove our cause into our adversaries' own court, and take up there those cast principles, which will soon cause us to foder up with them again ; inasmuch as believing antiquity for itself in any one point, we bring an engagement upon ourselves of afsenting to all that it charges upon us. For suppose we should now, neglecting that which is clear in scripture, that a bishop and presbyter is all one both in name and office, and that what was done by Timothy and Titus, executing an extraordinary place, as fellow-labourers with the apostles, and of a universal charge in planting christianity through divers regions, cannot be drawn into particular and daily example ; fuppose that neglecting this clearness of the text, we should, by the uncertain and corrupted writings of succeeding times, determine that bishop and presbyter are different,
because we dare not deny what Ignatius, or rather tho Perkin Warbeck of Ignatius, says; then must we be conftrained to take upon ourselves a thousand superstitions and falfities, which the papists will prove us down in, from as good authorities, and as ancient as these that set a bishop above a presbyter. And the plain truth is, that when any of our men, of those that are wedded to antiquity, come to dispute with a papist, and leaving the scriptures put themselves without appeal to the sentence of synods and councils, using in the cause of Sion the hired soldiery of revolted Ifrael; where they give the Romanists one, buff, they receive two counterbuffs. Were it therefore but in this regard, every true bishop should be afraid to conquer in his cause by such authorities as these, which if we admit for the authority's fake, we open a broad passage for a multitude of doctrines, that have no ground in Scripture, to break in upon us.
Lastly, I do not know, it being undeniable that there are but two ecclefiaftical orders, bishops and deacons, mentioned in the gospel, how it can be less than impiety to make a demur at that, which is there fo perfpicuous, confronting and paralleling the sacred verity of St. Paul with the offals and sweepings of antiquity, that met as accidentally and absurdly, as Epicurus's atoms, to patch up a Leucippean Ignatius, inclining rather to make this phantasm an expounder, or indeed a depraver of St, Paul, than St. Paul an examiner, and discoverer of this impostorship; nor caring how slightly they put off the verdict of holy text unfalved, that says plainly there be but two orders, so they maintain the reputation of their imaginary doctor that proclaims three. Certainly if Christ's apostle have set down but two, then according to his own words, though he himself should unsay it, and not only the angel of Smyrna, but an angel from Heaven, should bear us down that there be three, Saint Paul has doomed him twice, “Let him be accursed ;" for Christ hath pronounced that no tittle of his word shall fall to the ground; and if one jot be alterable, it is as possible that all should perish: and this shall be our righteousness, our ample warrant, and strong assurance, both now and at the last day, never to be alhamed of, against all the
heaped heaped names of angels and martyrs, councils and fathers, urged 'upon us, if we have given ourselves up to be taught by the pure and living precept of God's word only; which, without more additions, nay with a forbidding of them, hath within itself the promise of eternal life, the end of all our wearisome labours, and all our sustaining hopes. But if any shall strive to set up his ephod and teraphim of antiquity against the brightness and perfection of the gospel ; let him fear left he and his Baal be turned into Bosheth. And thus much may suffice to show, that the pretended episcopacy cannot be deduced from the apostolical times.
In the publishing of human laws, which for the most part aim not beyond the good of civil society, to set them barely forth to the people without reason or preface, like a physical prefcript, or only with threatenings, as it were a lordly command, in the judgment of Plato was thought to be done neither generously nor wisely. His advice was, seeing that persuasion certainly is a more winning, and more manlike way to keep men in obedience than fear, that to such laws as were of principal moment, there should be used as an induction some welltempered discourse, showing how good, how gainful, how happy it must needs be to live
according to honesty and justice; which being uttered with those native colours and graces of speech, as true eloquence, the daughter of virtue, can best bestow upon her mother's praises, would so incite, and in a manner charm, the multitude into the love of that which is really good, as to embrace it ever after, not of custom and awe, which most men do, but of choice and purpose, with true and constant delight. But this practice we may learn from a better and more ancient authority than any