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though at the time of writing the epistle, the said city contained Christians, "whose faith was spoken of throughout the world."* Had such a claim been set up by the Church of Jerusalem; she might have found a more specious plea for it, in the saying of St. Paul to the Corinthians-"What, went the gospel out from you, or came it to you?" But both this title, and the other of mistress of all other Churches, are assumptions absolutely unknown to antiquity.
As to the necessity lying on every Church, to be in communion with the Church of Rome; however high the fathers upheld the importance of Christian communion, they considered the obligation as resting on the Churches in common; without referring to any one Church, as being a standard for all the others. Doubtless, wherever there is a severance in this matter, between any two Churches possessing the essentials of such bodies; there must be a defect of charity, or else some errour or some practice, in one or each of them, not to be consented to with a good conscience. It is here thought sufficient to demonstrate the novelty of the Roman claim, to read what the ancient writers say, on the subject of Church Communion: for they refute it, not by express denial, but by their being evidently uninformed, that any such claim existed. The position shall be illustrated by reference to a single writer-Vincent of Lerins, who wrote in the beginning of the fifth century, and ranks as a saint in the Roman Martyrology. Certainly this sensible author could not have known any thing of a test of orthodoxy, in an agreement with the Church of Rome in particular; since, in opposition to hereticks, he insists all along on another test-that of agreement with the Church in general, in what has been held always and every where. His silence as to the other speaks more decisively against it,
• Rom. i. 8.
1 Cor. xiv. 36,
than any thing he could have written: For this would at least have implied, that the contrary opinion was in circulation. It is here supposed, that no well informed member of the Church of England, or of this Church, would object to Vincent's test of Catholicism; it being understood, that there are to be excluded all doctrines, which, however generally acknowledged at any periods since his time, can show no evidence of their having been acknowledged within the limits of the time to which he referred. To go no further than the doctrine contradicted in this dissertation-that of the Church of Rome's being the mother and the mistress of all other Churches: it is a palpable breach of Vincent's rule of Catholicism; there being no documents to show, that such titles were assumed, or the prerogatives implied in them exercised, in or before the time of Vincent.
The author is aware, that in opposition to what has been now affirmed, a passage has been alleged from a translation in barbarous Latin, of a Greek work not extant; but composed by a pious and learned father of the Church-St. Irenæus, who wrote in the end of the second century. Although a native of the east, he resided in Lyons, in the western part of the Roman empire. There sprung up at Rome, and extended itself far and wide, the heresie of the Valentinians; who, among other blasphemies, denied that the world was created by a wise and good being. The father, in refuting their errours, opposed to them the authority of scripture. But further, as they made light of scripture, and confronted it by tradition; he called their attention from pretended tradition of their own, to that of the Church of Rome; founded by apostles, and more likely to be a faithful witness of the truth, than a modern sect which had started up within her bosom. The argument rests on obvious principles of moral evidence.
This is the connexion, and this is supposed to be
the sense of the passage in Irenæus: which, so far as the wretched translation will afford light, is as follows-" To this Church, there is a necessity that every Church round about should resort, because of its more powerful principality, in which the apostolical tradition hath been always preserved."*
Whatever may be held concerning the possibility, that any body of men in succession may gradually swerve from the opinions and the practices of their predecessors; there can be no doubt, that in the age of Irenæus, the ancient faith was more likely to be found in a Church so conspicuous as that of Rome, than among an upstart sect. It cannot however but be perceived, that the present civil use of the word "Principality" may lead to a wrong idea. The word "Chiefty," if the use of it were permitted, would better convey the sense to an English, or an Anglo-American ear: and the Latin word rendered "more powerful" will as well bear the translation-" more influential," or "of greater strength and authority."
Some Roman Catholick authors have taken the liberty to change "round about," into "every where:" and this, with the varying of the translation of another Latin word from "resort" to "agree,"‡ has shifted the aspect of the whole passage. But other authors of the same communion, have not condescended to this expedient. The candid Dupin, in giving an abstract of the work of Irenæus, takes no notice of the passage in question: which shows, how far that historian was from considering it to the purpose, for which it has been so often quoted. Fleury notices the passage; but not with impartiality: for he omits the restrictive word "round about;" which would have shown, that the father, in speaking of the sanction of the Church of Rome, challenged a weight to it not with all the
Lib. iii. cap. 6. † Undique, ubique. Convenire.
Churches of Christendom, but with those in the west, which had a more immediate connexion with that Church. He might consistently have challenged the same weight, in favour of the Church of Antioch, or of that of Alexandria, in their respective vicinities.*
It is worthy of remark that Irenæus, whose authority, through the medium of a translation, has been brought to establish the faith of a particular Church as the standard of Christendom, is the bishop who, so much to his honour, reproved the bishop of the same Church, for his arbitrary and violent conduct towards the Asiatick Churches, on the question of the time of celebrating Easter. In the reproof, there is nothing that bespeaks the consciousness of addressing the bishop of a dominant Church.
The present subject has been purposely discussed, without a reference to the asserted supremacy of the bishop of Rome; which will come more properly under notice, in a dissertation attached to another lecture. That the Church of Rome will continue pure, although her bishop should swerve from the faith, must of course be maintained by all those Roman Catholicks, who acknowledge the temporary apostacy of pope Liberius in the middle of the fourth century. Fleury and Dupin are explicit to this point.
Great stress is laid on the other side, on the supposed difficulty among Protestants, to establish on their principles the oneness of the Church of Christ. But no such difficulty is found. On this side it is conceded, that the Churches are spoken of as one in some places of the New Testament, as Eph. i. 22., iii. 10., v. 24, 25. 27, &c. On the other hand, it
* In quoting Fleury and Dupin, the editions referred to are, of the former, the quarto edition of 1727; and of the latter, the folio of 1723: both of them being translations from the French; but never charged with unfaithfulness, so far as is here known.
is conceded, that the body, thus one in a certain respect, is plural in another: as in Acts, ix. 31. xv. 41., xvi. 5, &c. Now that unity, as it regards the essentials of the faith and the Sacraments, may subsist with plurality of discipline, each having a government within itself; is evident from the consideration, that after the withdrawing of the apostolick government by death, the different Churches retained their independency on any centre of unity vested in a particular Church, during some centuries. Or if this should be denied-although acknowledged by some writers of the Roman Catholick communion and evident on the face of history-the sentiment may be illustrated by a reference to the Jewish Church, which, although at present in a state of rejection, are not finally cut off from being the people of God. Now that this body, extended as they are over the earth, and acting in its various countries in a state of independence on one another, in respect to any common discipline, are yet contemplated as one both by the New Testament and by preceding prophecy, may be seen in St. Paul's reasoning concerning their fall and their recovery, in the ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. In like manner, the Church throughout the world is one, in agreement as to what essentially constitutes its members Christian: but it is diverse, according to the sites of its various component Churches; which owe to one another the exercise of charity, and a common Catholick communion; except so far as the latter may be prevented on the part of any Church, by any other's engrafting of grievous errour on their common stalk of Christianity.
But this view of the unity of the Church will not come up to the conceptions of those, who think, that it must have needs been designed by the Divine Author of our religion, to make the provision of a living and infallible judge in matters of faith, to continue through all times to come. It would carry