« EelmineJätka »
surely strong enough, were there no other, to take away all doubt. “ If Christ justly wept over Jerusalem, he may now, on much bet
ter grounds, weep over the church, which was built to the end " that it might be an house of prayer; and yet, through the filthy
usury of some, (and I wish these were not even the pastors of “ the people,) is made a den of thieves. But I think that that “ which is written concerning the sellers of doves, doth agree to “ those who commit the churches to greedy, tyrannical, unlearned, Sc and irreligious bishops, presbyters, and deacons.* The same father elsewhere declares : “ We are such as that we sometimes in “ pride go beyond even the wickedest of the princes of the gen“ tiles; and are just at the point of procuring for ourselves splen“ did guards, as if we were kings, making it our study moreover “to be a terror to others, and giving them, especially if they be
poor, very uneasy access. We are to them, when they come and 6 seek any thing from us, more cruel than are even tyrants, or the “ cruelest princes to their supplicants. And you may see, even in “ the greater part of lawfully constituted churches, especially those " of greater cities, how the pastors of God's people, suffer none, “ though they were even the chiefest of Christ's disciples, to be “ equal with themselves.”+
Eusebius, who lived in the next century, writes in the same strain concerning the age of Cyprian. “When, through too much
liberty, we fell into sloth and negligence; when every one began " to enry and backbite another; when we waged, as it were, an " intestine war amongst ourselves, with words as with swords; “pastors rushed against pastors, and people against people, and “ strife and tumult, deceit and guile advanced to the highest pitch “ of wickedness.-Our pastors, despising the rule of religion, “strove mutually with one another, studying nothing more than “ how to outdo each other in strife, emulations, hatred, and mu“tual enmity; proudly usurping principalities, as so many “ places of tyrannical domination. Then the Lord covered the “ daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger.”I
Nay, Archbishop Whitgift, with all his episcopal partialities, was constrained to acknowledge the ambitious and aspiring temper which disgraced many bishops even as early as the time of
* In Matt. p. 441.
| Ibid. p. 420.
Cyprian. “ There was great contention,” says he, “ among the “bishops in the council of Nice, insomuch that even in the presence 56 of the Emperor, they ceased not to libel one against another. “What bitterness and cursing was there between Epiphanius and “ Chrysostom! What jarring between Jerome and Augustine !
Bishops shall not now need to live by pilling and polling, as it
seems they did in Cyprian's time; for he complaineth thereof “ in his sermon De Lapsis."*
With Whitgift agrees his contemporary Rigaltius, who was so much distinguished for his learned annotations on the works of Cyprian. Speaking of Cyprian's age, and of the deacon's office, he says, “ By little and little, and from small beginnings, a king“ dom, and a love of dominion entered into the church. In the “apostles' time there were only deacons ; Cyprian's age adınitted 6 sub-deacons ; the following age arch-deacons, and then archbishops and patriarchs.”
These extracts are produced, not to blacken the ministerial character; but to establish the fact, which Dr. Bowden denies, that clerical ambition, and clerical encroachments were familiarly known, even during that period which he pronounces the purest that was ever enjoyed by the christian church. I certainly have no interest, and can take no pleasure in depicting the foibles, the strife, and the vices, of the clergy in any age. But when assertions are made respecting them as directly contradictory to all history, as they are contrary to the course of depraved human nature; and especially when these assertions are triumphantly employed as arguments to establish other assertions equally unfounded, it is time to vindicate the truth. To do this, in the present case, is an easy task. The man who, after perusing the foregoing extracts, can dare to say, that the clergy of the first three centuries, were all too pious and disinterested to admit the suspicion, that they aspired to titles and honours, and intrigued for the attainment of episcopal chairs, must have a hardihood of incredulity, or an obliquity of perception truly extraordinary. We have seen that Hermas plainly refers to certain ecclesiastics of his time, who had “ envy and strife among themselves concerning dignity and pre-eminence.” Hegesippus goes further, and points out the case of a particular
Defence of his Answer against Cartwright, p. 472. &c.
individual, who ambitiously aspired to the office of bishop, and was exceedingly disappointed and mortified at not obtaining it. Cyprian expressly declares not only that a spirit of intrigue, of worldly gain, and of ecclesiastical domination, existed among the clergy of his day, but that such a spirit was awfully prevalent among them. Eusebius gives us similar information in still stronger terms. Archbishop Whitgift makes the same acknowledgment, more particularly with respect to the bishops of that period. And even Dr. Bowden himself, forgetting his own assertions, unwarily acknowledges, in several other parts of his work, that a number of persons, as early as the days of Cyprian, and before his time, who aspired to the office of bishop, and who used every effort and artifice to attain it, on being disappointed, distinguished themselves as heretics or schismatics, and became the pests of the church. Was there no spirit of ambition and domination among such men ? Why did they aspire to the office of bishop ? Was there nothing in that office to attract their regard, or to excite their cupidity ? Or did they act without motive ? Surely this gentleman needs to have some one at hand to refresh his memory, and to prevent him from warring against his own cause. But a man must be wary and ingenious indeed, who can be consistent when truth is against him.
Still, however, the question recurs: What, in those days of persecution and peril, before Christianity was established; when the powers of the world were leagued against it; and when every Christian pastor especially held a station of much self-denial and danger, what could induce any selfish or ambitious man to desire the pastoral office, and to intrigue for the extension of the powers and honours of that office ? When my opponents can tell me what induced Judas Iscariot to follow Christ at the risk of his life ; when they can tell me what in pelled Diotrephes to desire the pre-eminence in the church ; or what were the objects of Demas, Hynienæus, and Alexander, in their restless and ambitious conduct, while Calvary was yet smoking with the blood of their crucified Lord, and while their own lives were every moment exposed to the rage of persecution ;-when my opponents can tell me what actuated these men, I shall be equally ready to assign a reason for the early rise and progress of prelacy.
But there is no need of retreating into the obscurity of conjecture,
when causes enough to satisfy every mind may easily be assigned. If Dr. Bowden does not know that there are multitudes of men, in
the church, and out of it, who are ready to court distinction, merely sor distinction's sake, and at the evident hazard of their lives, he is less acquainted both with human nature and with history than I have been accustomed to suppose him. But this is not all. It is a notorious fact, notwithstanding all the round assertions of Dr. Bowden to the contrary, that the office of bishop, even in very early times, had much to attract the cupidity as well as the ambition of selfish and aspiring men. The revenues of the primitive church were large and alluring. It is granted that, during the first three centuries, the church held little or no real property; as the Roman laws did not allow any person to give or bequeath real estates to ecclesiastical bodies, without the consent of the senate or the Emperor. The contributions, however, which were made to the church, for the support of the clergy, the poor, &c. were immense. During the apostolic age, the proceeds of the sale of real estates were devoted to ecclesiastical and charitable purposes, and laid at the apostles' feet. We find the gentile churches contributing libérally to the relief of the churches of Judea, in Acts xi. 29. Rom. xv. 26. 1 Corinth. xvi. 1. and 2 Corinth. viii. The same liberality manifested itself in subsequent times.* So ample were the funds of the church of Rome, about the middle of the second century, that they were adequate not only to the support of her own clergy and poor members ; but also to the relief of other churches, and of a great number of Christian captives in the several provinces, and of such as were condemned to the mines.t Such was the wealth of the same church, in the third century, that it was considered as an object not unworthy of imperial rapacity.
* One cause of the liberality of the primitive Christians in their contributions to the church, was the notion which generally prevailed, that the end of the world was at hand. This notion was adopted by some of the early fathers, and propagated among the people with great diligence. Cyprian taught, in his day, with great confidence, that the dissolution of the world was but a few years distant. Epist. ad Thibart. The tendency of this opinion to diminish the self-denial of parting with temporal wealth is obvious. See Father Paul's Hist. of Benefices and Revenues. Chap. II.
Father Paul's History of Ecclesiastical Benefices and Revenues, Chap. III.
By order of the Emperor Decius, the Roman deacon Laurentius was seized, under the expectation of finding in his possession the treasures of the church, and of transferring them to the coffers of the Emperor : But the vigilant deacon, fearing the avarice of the tyrant, had distributed them, as usual, when a persecution was expected. Prudentius introduces an officer of the Emperor, thus addressing the deacon : Quod Cæsaris scis, Cæsari da, nempe justum postulo ; ni fallor, haud ullam tuus signat Deus pecuniam. i. e. Give to Cæsar what you know to be his, I ask what is just ; for if I mistake not, your God coins no money.*
Now the revenues of the churches, whether great or small were at the disposal of the bishops. The deacons executed their orders. Of course they had every opportunity of enriching themselves at the expense of the church. And that they embraced this opportunity, is attested by Cyprian, who laments the fact, and is of opinion that the persecution which took place in the reign of Decius, was intended by God to punish a guilty people, and to purge this corruption from his church.† And yet, in the face of all this testimony, Dr. Bowden has permitted himself to assert, that there was no temptation, either before or during the age of Cyprian, to induce any man to desire the office of a bishop; and especially that it was impossible for any to be moved by the love of wealth to seek that office, because no acquisitions of that kind “ resulted from it, or could result from it !" It is really amazing that gentlemen can so entirely close their eyes against the light of all authentic history. If Dr. Bowden were an ardent and incautious young man who had but lately commenced the examination of this subject, he might be pardoned on the score of ignorance; but to a gentleman of his long experience and standing in the controversy, it is difficult to suppose this apology applicable.
One of the arguments which I adduced in support of the gradual introduction of prelacy, was the fact, that metropolitans, or archbishops, though acknowledged on all hands not to have been insti
• Prudent. in Lib. de Coronis. Father Paul's History of Ecclesiastical Benefices and Revenues, Chap. III.
+ See his discourse De Lapsis, before quoted.