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&c. he might empower some one to perform them as his substitute ; just as, among Presbyterians, the administration of sealing ordinances is considered as the appropriate duty of each pastor within his parish; though at the same time, if he have an assistant, or if any other ordained minister happen to be present, the pastor may, without transgressing any ecclesiastical law, request him to officiate in his room: it being always remembered, however, that for every such act, a new request, and a new permission, on the part of the pastor, are necessary. But does this bear any resemblance to the episcopal system, in which baptism and the Lord's supper are in no degree the appropriated duty of a prelate ; but according to which every presbyter, whether he have the charge of a congregation or not, is considered as possessing, in virtue of his general commission, a right to administer both the sacraments, at all times, and in all places, without consulting his bishop ? I am astonished that Dr. Bowden could so far impose on himself as to imagine that there is any resemblance between the two cases.
After all, then, that Dr. Bowden has urged against my exhibition of the testimony of the fathers, it appears that he has not succeeded in setting aside a single material fact, or in refuting a single important argument, which I had deduced from the works of those early writers.
It appears, that the titles, bishop and presbyter, were promiscuously applied to the same persons, not only in the apostolic age, but also till the close of the second century. This Dr. Bowden himself acknowledges ; though he asserts, at the same time, that in the second century, it was seldom so applied. Now if the interchangeable application of these terms was continued until that time, and afterwards does not occur, must we not conclude, that about, or immediately after that time, some change took place in the arrangement of ecclesiastical dignities, which led to a more restricted use of the word bishop ? No supposition can be more natural ; and it is precisely this for which we contend.
It appears, that Dr. Bowden has not produced, and cannot produce, a single sentence, from any writer within the first two hundred years, which gives the least hint that ordination or confirmation was in fact confined to a particular order of prelates, or was considered as a right which ought to be so confined.
It appears, that presbyters are expressly represented by early writers, and particularly by Ignatius and Irenæus, as the successors of the apostles, and as presiding over the church.
It appears, that in every worshipping assembly, in the primitive church, the presence of a bishop was considered as indispensable. That it was the bishop's peculiar duty to preach, and to bless the people; to administer baptism, and the Lord's supper ; to attend to the case of every poor person in his parish that needed relief; to celebrate, or give his personal consent to the celebration, of all marriages among the people of his charge; to visit the sick; to instruct the children of his flock statedly every week; and, in short, to perform all those duties which are now, and ever have been considered, as the proper work of a parish minister.
It appears, after all that has been said to the contrary, that the number of bishops found, in early times, in small districts of country, precludes the idea of their having been any other than parish ministers,
It appears, that, even after a kind of prelacy arose, the bishops were still, for the most part, only pastors of single congregations ; and that there was little, if any other difference between them and their presbyters, than that which now subsists between pastors and their assistants, in Presbyterian churches, and rectors and their curates, in episcopal churches.
It appears that Jerome, after all the unwearied pains which have been taken by high-churchmen, to set aside his testimony, does explicitly declare, that Presbyterian parity was the apostolic and primitive form of church government; and that this form was afterwards, and gradually, exchanged for prelacy. And it is evident, moreover, that some of the most learned and zealous episcopal divines have so understood him.
It appears from Jerome, that the first approach towards prelacy was the standing moderatorship of one of the presbyters; that this began in the church of Alexandria very early; soon, if not immediately after the days of Mark the evangelist; and that this was the only kind of clerical imparity that existed in that church until the middle of the third century, when it gave place to some higher encroachments of ecclesiastical ambition.
It appears from several unexceptionable testimonies, that deacons in the primitive church, were not an order of clergy at all;
that they were only entrusted with the care of the poor, and employed to assist in the administration of the Lord's supper, as in the Presbyterian church at present; and that their gradually coming to be considered as a third order of clergy, was, like the claims of the prelates, an innovation.
It appears, from the declaration of several fathers, besides Jerome, that some change in the powers and prerogatives of bishops, did actually take place, within the first three centuries; and that several things were appropriated to bishops in the third and fourth centuries, which those writers assert were not appropriated to them in the apostolic age.*
Finally, it appears, from all that has been said, that the writings of the fathers, instead of speaking decisively” and“ unanimously" in favour of prelacy, as some of our high-toned episcopal brethren assert, do not produce a single testimony, within the prescribed limits, which gives the least countenance to the prelatical claim; and that we are abundantly warranted (to repeat the language of Bishop Croft, formerly cited) in pronouncing, that the proofs brought to support this claim are altogether" weak; no scripture; “ no primitive general council; no general consent of primitive « doctors and fathers; no, not one primitive father of note, speak“ing particularly and home to the purpose of its advocates.
• Among the fathers mentioned in my former volume, as speaking of this change, is Hilary. I represent him as saying, “ And in Egypt, even "at this day, the presbyters ordain (consignant) in the bishop's absence." Dr. Bowden asserts, that the word consignant has no reference to ordination. He does not, indeed, appear to be certain what it does signify; but is
very confident that it cannot mean ordination. I forgot to notice this in its proper place; and have now neither time, nor room to make more than two remarks upon it. The first is, that several eminent episcopal divines, and, among others, Bishop Forbes, have understood Hilary as I do, to be speaking here of ordination. The second remark is, that whatever religious rite it is that Hilary refers to, it is something which the bishops, in his day, generally claimed as their prerogative; but which had not been always appropriated to them; and which even in his time, in the bishop's absence, the presbyters considered themselves as empower. ed to perform. This is sufficient for my purpose.
TESTIMONY OF THE REFORMERS.
In the sixth of my former letters, I endeavoured to show that the great body of the Reformers, and other witnesses for the truth, in different ages and nations, were Presbyterians in principle. This allegation, and the proof by which it is supported, Dr, Bowden, according to his usual manner, confidently rejects, and pronounces a total misrepresentation. With what justice he does this, a few remarks will enable you to determine.
I asserted that the Waldenses were substantially Presbyterians, both in principle and practice; that among other points, in which they rejected the corruptions of the Romish church, they held, that there ought to be no diversity of rank among the ministers of the gospel; and that bishops and presbyters, according to the word of God, and primitive usage, were the same order. All this, Dr. Bowden denies; and insists that the Waldenses were uniformly Episcopal in their ecclesiastical character. The following testimonies will show on which side the truth lies.
John Paul Perrin, who was himself a pastor among them, in his history of that people, delivers at length, the discipline under “ which the Waldenses and Albigenses lived; extracted out of “ divers authentic manuscripts, written in their own language,
SEVERAL HUNDREDS OF YEARS BEFORE LUTHER OR Calvin.” From this work, the following extracts are made. Art. 2.“ Of “ pastors.” “ All they that are to be received as pastors amongst
us, whilst they are yet with their own people, are to entreat “ours, that they would be pleased to receive them to the ministry; " and to pray to God that they may be made worthy of so great “ an office. We also appoint them their lectures, and set them 6 their task, causing them to learn by memory all the chapters of « St. Matthew and St. John, and all the epistles that are canonical, " and a good part of the writings of Solomon, David, and the “ prophets. Afterwards, having produced good testimonials, and “ being well approved for their sufficiency, they are received with “ imposition of hands into the office of teachers. He that is ad“ mitted in the last place, shall not do any thing without the leave 66 or allowance of him that was admitted before him. As also he " that was admitted first, shall do nothing without the leave of his “ associates, to the end that all things, with us, may be done in 5 order. Diet and apparel are given unto us freely, and by way “ of alms, and that with sufficiency, by those good people whom we « teach. Amongst other powers and abilities which God hath “ given to his servants, he hath given authority to choose leaders, < to rule the people, and to ordain elders in their charges." When any of us, the aforesaid pastors, falls into any gross sins, " he is both excommunicated, and probibited to preach.” Art. 4. « Our Pastors do call assemblies once every year, to determine of u all affairs in a general Synod.”*
In another Confession of Faith, drawn up about the year 1220, they declare that the functions of ministers consist in “preaching the word and administering sacraments,” and that “all other ministerial things may be reduced to the aforesaid.” Speaking of the rite of confirmation, and of the Popish claims that it must be administered by a bishop, they assert, that“ it has no ground at all « in Scripture ; that it was introduced by the Devil's instigation, “ to seduce the people; that by such means they might be induced " the more to believe the ceremonies, and the necessity of the
In the same work, (chap. 4.) it is expressly and repeatedly asserted, that the Synods of the Waldenses were composed of
* PERRIN's History of the Old Waldenses, Part 11. Book v. Chap. 7.