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were more congregations than could have been accommodated in one house; at the time when St. Paul and St. Barnabas were received in that city, “ by the Church”* and when it was said.“ Tid. ings of these things came unto the ears of the Church which were in Jerusalem.”+ Under this head of unity, there occurs another consideration. On the ground of congregational Episcopacy and of ministerial parity, it is difficult to know in what way the presbyters in any city, with their focks, constituted one Churchi for as to any organized presbytery, no such matter appears.
In regard to the other congregational schemethe Episcopacy of one minister in office, and the presbytery of other ministers equal to him in grade —as in the case of a rector and assistant ministers, to which it has been sometimes compared while the present writer does not allow himself to speak with disrespect of opinions professed by grave and learned men; he knows of no sentiment on the present subject, which, proceeding from such a source, has so little to support it. In the evidences offered, there is always implied--for it is essential to the scheme-that during the whole of the first three centuries, there were in no city more Christians, than could assemble in one house, and communicate at one table. Let it here suffice to state a few facts, utterly irreconcileable with the position.
When we read of the many thousands who be. lieved in the city of Jerusalem, and this in the infancy of the propagation of the gospel; we cannot surely believe, that they were comprehended in a congregation, and not they merely, but the Christians of that city in succession, for ages afterwards.
We read concerning another great city-Ephe. sus—of St. Paul's continuing there “ two whole years, so that all they which dwelt in Asia, heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jewsand Greeks."* After mention of miraculous works performed and the effects of them, it is added—“ So mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed.” A congregational flock is not answerable to the zeal and the exertion committed to this record.
* Acts, xy, 4.
+ xj. 22.
| Acts, xxi, 20.
It may be presumed, that there was no small body of converts in the great city of Antioch, when there was first bestowed on them the name of Christians; and when the difficulty occurred concerning circumcision. After the settlement of the succeeding controversy, Paul and Barnabas continued with them—"teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.”+ On the contrary hypothesis, the fruit of their labours must have been very small.
In the case of this Church it is alleged, that about sixty years after, there are evidences in the epistles of Ignatius, of the existence of one congregation only, under his Episcopacy. This is thought to be testified by his exhorting of his people, to adhere to one altar. It is overlooked, that not the word " Altar, ” but the word “ Table,” denoted the place of the Eucharistick sacrifice. Accordingly, the former word must have been applied by him figuratively; to accord with the unity of spirit and of worship which he inculcates, in contrariety to schismatical assemblies. The same Ignatius has used a phrase, which has been mistranslated for him to signify assembling in one place. Ample authorities, how. ever, are produced to prove a very different signification of the terms: so as to justify the anti-episcopal translator Beza, in interpreting them where they occur in Acts, ii. 42, as signifying" the common assembling of the Church, with their mutual agreement in the same doctrine, and the great union of their hearts."
Another form of expression of the same father,
* Acts, xix, 10.
† Acts, xv. 35.
+ Επι το αυτο.
has been pressed into the opposite service. It is his exhorting of the people to “one prayer and one supplication;* the meaning of which is fully explained by his object in writing. This was unity of prayer, suited to the unity of the Church: that is, according to the faith, and not defiled by heretical pravity. A more strict sense would bring
it to a form of prayer; which might be the same in different congregations.
It seems useless to dwell on the scanty remains of those times, when the position extends to a period so much later. Accordingly, in descending about a century lower, there is found a very striking testimony in the Apology of Tertullian,t in which the following appeal is made, as to an indubitable fact—“Your cities, your islands, your forts, towns and assemblies, and your very camps, wards, companies, palace, senate, forum, all swarm with Christians; your temples, indeed, we leave to yourselves, and they are the only places you can name, without Christians.
If we go about half a century lower; it is impossible to read the letters of St. Cyprian, on the subject of the lapse during the persecution; and not perceive, that of those who fell during the crisis—and independently on the greater part, who stood firm—the num. ber was very considerable. At about this time, there occurs a fact in ecclesiastical history, which exposes in a very glaring light the fallacy of the scheme. Cornelius, bishop of Rome, in an epistle preserved by Eusebius, giving an account of the novatian schism, found it incidentally to his purpose to mention, that there were in the said city forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, seven sub-deacons, and other officers; who, with widows and impotent persons dependent on the Church, made up about one thousand and fifty souls. It must have been a vast mass of worshippers, which subsisted all these; and at a time when the Church had no possessions, and was occasionally under persecu. tion.
* Μια προσευχή
pula denois. + Cap. 37. Lib. vi. cap. 43.
Attached to the above fact, there is another, alike overbearing in its consequences. The leader in the said novatian schism despaired of accomplishing his design, without his being ordained a bishop. Accord. ingly he contrived this, by ensnaring to the act three simple bishops of Italy. Why, being a presbyter of Rome, should he have taken that step; when, according to the scheme, he was already, in grade, on a level with the person whom he aspired to supplant in office.
Many consenting facts might be mentioned; and all far within the period, to which congregational Episcopacy is seriously affirmed to have extended.
The dissertation would end here; were it not, that much has been made on the other side, of some expressions of an author, who lived about a century after Eusebius; and whose supposed testimony against original Episcopacy has been often thrown into the balance, against the host of testimonies of authors who were nearer to the times, and better judges of the facts. The subject was slightly noticed in the lecture.
The author referred to, is St. Jerome: and there are two passages produced from his numerous works. In one place he says, that in the Church of Alexandria, from the time of St. Mark (its first bishop] to the times of Heraclas and Dionysius, who lived within memory, it had been the custom of the presbyters of that Church, on the demise of the bishop, to chuse his successour from among themselves; as if an army should chuse an emperour, or the deacons an archdeacon. In each of the two supposed cases, the choice created the character, without any sanction of persons coordinate with the emperour, or with the archdeacon elect. Accordingly it has been inferred, that the new bishop became such with no other ordination, than that which had formerly made him a presbyter.
Anti-episcopalians do not seem aware, how much they concede by resting on this passage of Jerome. For if any siress is to be laid on it, the result must be, that in Alexandria, from the time of St. Mark, to the time within the memory of the learned father, there was no regimen of presbytery; and that the only point in which the said Church differed from other Churches, was in the dispensing with an appropriate ordination.
But it is here believed, that Jerome had no such mat. ter in his mind, and that his sense is otherwise interpreted by the connexion. In the Church of Rome, of the concerns of which he was writing, it had been customary to put some of its wealthy members into the deaconship. In consequence of this, the seven deacons of that Church considered themselves as superiour to the presbyters. It was to the purpose, in stating the evidences of the superiority of grade of the latter, to introduce a known fact concerning one of the four principal Churches—its so far differing in custom from Churches in general, that whereas in these, the whole Church
their voices in the election of a bishop, who was also sometimes made such from a deacon, and sometimes from a lay-man; in the said Church of Alexandria, the presbyters only chose, and always from their own body; which would have been to the last degree absurd, if the excluded deacons had been their superiours. As to the comparison with the cases of an emperour and an archdeacon; it is to be considered, that the question of episcopal ordination made no part of the argument. No question had been raised concerning episcopal prerogative, or the manner in which it should be conferred. The single fact, that the deacons had no share in the choice, and that none of them could be chosen, was sufficient to establish their inferiority; so far as the sense of the eminent Church of Alexandria, known to and not censured by other Churches, was concerned.
Another passage brought from the same author, is where he affirms--what Episcopalians generally admit --that“ bishop” and “presbyter” were originally descriptive of the same character: proceeding to state, that when parties in religion arose, so that they said “I am of Paul,” and “ I of Apollos,” and “ I of Cephas,” it was determined throughout the world, that