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the universal prevalence of Episcopacy within a few years after the times of the Apostles. Narrow then, indeed, are the
limits thus allowed for the exercise of their hypothetical ingenuity, and large beyond example are the demands which they make on the credulity of the simple. We are required, in short, to believe, that, although the Apostles themselves governed the Church on the episcopal plan, and invested some others with similar authority, (for this is undeniably clear from Scripture,) they were, after all, the mere temporary guardians of Presbyterian equality; that scarcely had they been all removed from the scene of their labours, before their gracious intentions in favour of the liberties of mankind were unhappily misunderstood, or, what is worse, that the whole world unanimously conspired to establish a government of their own devising, to the utter subversion of the institutions of inspired Apostles, and the
■ See Chillingworth's Apostolical Institution of Episcopacy Demonstrated; Works, ninth edit. p. 299.
will of their Lord and Saviour;-that not one Presbyter was urged by the feelings of our common nature to remonstrate against a manifest usurpation;—that the meek and unassuming spirit of the Gospel of peace could not move one conscientious Bishop to disclaim his unauthorized dominion, or refuse his countenance to his arrogant brethren ;-that neither the pen of the historian, nor voice of tradition, could be prevailed on to rescue from oblivion a change so fundamental, a revolution so extraordinary; but that, on the contrary, the pious Fathers of the primitive Church combined with unholy fraud to fabricate and record episcopal successions which had no existence, and impose on mankind, as apostolical and indispensable, the inventions of mere priestcraft and ambition ° !
o "The persecutions that then lay so heavy on the "Church made it no desirable thing for a man to be "exposed to their first fury, which was always the Bi"shop's portion; and that in a course of many centu"ries in which there was nothing but poverty and la"bour to be got by the employment; there being no
princes to set it on as an engine of government, "and no synods of clergymen gathered to assume that "authority to themselves, by joint designs and endea
"When I shall see," says the ingenious Chillingworth, "all the democracies and " aristocracies in the world lie down and
sleep, and awake into monarchies, then "will I begin to believe that presbyterial "government, having continued in the "Church during the Apostles' times, should
presently after (against the Apostles' doc"trine and the will of Christ) be whirled "about like a scene in a masque, and "transformed into Episcopacy"." If all this is absolutely incredible, or rather, to human apprehension, impossible, but one conclusion can present itself. "If the
And can it be imagined, that in all that glo"rious cloud of witnesses to the truth of the Christian "religion, who as they planted it with their labours, so "watered it with their blood, there should not so much. "as one single person be found, on whom either a love "of truth, or an envy at the advancement of others, pre"vailed so far, as to declare against such an early and "universal corruption, (if it is to be esteemed one.) "When all this is complicated together, it is really of "so great authority, that I love not to give the proper "name to that temper that can withstand so plain a "demonstration." Bishop Burnet's Preface to the Life of William Beddel, Bishop of Kilmore.
P Chillingworth's Apostolical Institution of Episcopacy Demonstrated; Works, 9th edit. p. 300.
"Churches had erred," as Tertullian justly argued, "they would have varied; but "what is the same among all, is not from "error, but from tradition." Apostolical appointment, therefore, is the only intelligible origin of the episcopal office. But if the Apostles acted under the guidance and inspiration of Heaven;-if, to say the least, they cannot be conceived to have adopted one measure, or enforced one practice of material concern to their Master's kingdom, without either his previous instruction, or the subsequent direction of the Spirit of truth, then Episcopacy by apostolical appointment, and Episcopacy by divine institution, are one and the
q "Had episcopal government been an aberration "from (or a corruption of) the government left in the "Churches by the Apostles, it had been very strange "that it should have been received in any one Church "so suddenly, or that it should have prevailed in all for "many ages after. Variasse debuerat, error Ecclesiarum; "quod autem apud omnes unum est, non est erratum sed "traditum. Thus Tertullian argues." Ibid. p. 299.
"That government, whose ground being laid by our "Saviour himself, was afterwards raised by the hands of
But "what need we," says the judicious Hooker, "to seek far for proofs that the Apostles who began this order of regi"ment by Bishops, did it not but by divine "instinct, when without such direction "things of far less weight and moment they attempted not?......Wherefore let "us not fear to be herein bold and peremp"tory, that if any thing in the Church's government, surely the first institution of Bishops was from heaven, was even of "God; the Holy Ghost was the author "of it s."
But the consideration of the arguments which lead us to conclude that Episco
"his Apostles, cannot be denied to be of divine institu❝tion. A proposition so clear, that it were an injury "to go about to prove it.......The carefullest ambassa"dor may perhaps swerve from his message ;—these 66 (which was one of the privileges of the Apostles) were "through the guidance of God's Spirit, in the acts of "their function, inerrable. So then, if the foundation "were laid by Christ, and the walls built up by his "Apostles, the fabric can be no less than Divine." Bishop Hall, Episcopacy by Divine Right, book i. chap. 7. See also Bishop Smalridge, Sermon xi.
s Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, book vii. 8vo. edit. p. 135, 136.