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6 their president, so let bishops know, that they are above presbyters 6 more by the custom of the church, than by any real appointment 6 of Christ."
In his epistle to Evagrius, he speaks in the same pointed language, asserting, and proving by the same quotations from Scripture, that in the beginning, and during the apostle's days, a bishop and a presbyter were the same thing. After having done this, he proceeds thus : “ As to the fact, that afterwards, one was elected “ to preside over the rest, this was done as a remedy against schism; « lest every one drawing his proselytes to himself, should rend the “ Church of Christ. For at Alexandria, from Mark the evangelist, "to the bishops Heraclas and Dionysius, the Presbyters always chose one of their number, placed him in a superior station, and 1 gave him the title of bishop. In the same manner as if any army
should make an emperor, or the deacons should choose from “among themselves, one whom they knew to be particularly active "and should call him archdeacon."
Dr. Bowden, and his friends, do not hesitate to acknowledge, that Jerome represents some alteration of the original constitution of the church as having early taken place; but they insist that, according to him, this alteration took place during the time, and under the authority of the apostles. Is Dr. B. then prepared to adopt the opinion, that the inspired apostles at first adopted a form of government, which in a little while, they found ill judged, and insufficient to answer the purpose ; and that they then altered it for a better? Yet if there is any meaning in part of his reasoning, this is the amount of it! But besides the blasphemy of the suggestion, Jerome could not have intended to say that this alteration took place during the times of the apostles, because he quotes the apostolical epistles to prove that it had not taken place at their date; and particularly in his epistle to Evagrius, he quotes the second and third epistles of John to show that Presbyterian parity existed when they were written, which was about thirty years after the schism at Corinth, which Dr. Bowden asserts is the period assigned by Jerome for the rise of prelacy. Jerome further tells us, that the practice of setting one of the presbyters above the rest, was brought in by degrees ; which could never have been the case had it been founded on a distinct and positive order of the apostles. And, as if this were not sufficiently explicit, he adds, to take away all possibility of mistake,
66 Let the presbyters know that they are subject to him who is set
over them by the custom of the church; and let the bishops know, “ that they are greater than presbyters, rather by the custom of the 66 church, than by any real appointment of Christ.”
If I were further to take up your time, brethren, in exposing the various attempts of Dr. Bowden to set aside this plain and unequivocal testimony of Jerome, I should trespass on your patience, and insult your understandings. I have only to say, that some of the most learned and able advocates of prelacy, as well as others, have understood Jerome as we undertand him, and have confessed that he decisively maintains the apostolic origin of Presbyterian parity. To establish this fact, the most pointed quotations might be adduced, almost without number. The few following will be sufficient.
The celebrated episcopal divine, Dr. Saravia, explicitly grants that Jerome was against the divine right of episcopacy. “ Jerome's “ opinion,” says he, “ was private, and coincided with that of “ Aerius."*
The learned prelatist, Alphonso de Castro understood Jerome in the same manner. He sharply reproves a certain writer who had endeavoured to set aside the testimony commonly derived from that father in favour of presbytery, and insists that the testimony, as usually adduced, is correct. “But Thomas Waldensis," says he, “ truly is deceived; for Jerome does endeavour to prove that, “ according to divine institution, there was no difference between “ presbyter and bishop.” He afterwards adds, " Neither ought
any one to wonder that Jerome, though otherwise a most learned 66 and excellent man was mistaken.”+
Bishop Jewel understood Jerome as we do, and expressly quotes the passage which is commonly quoted by Presbyterians, to show that this father asserts the original equality and identity of bishops and presbyters. I
Bishop Morton interprets Jerome in the same manner. He expressly acknowledges that Jerome represents the difference between bishop and presbyter as brought into the church not by divine, but human authority. He further asserts, that there was no sub
* De Gradibus Minist. Evangel. Cap. 23. + Contra Heres. p, 103, 104.
Defence of his Apology for the Church of England, p. 248.
stantial difference, on the subject of episcopacy, between Jerome and Aerius. And further, that not only all the protestants, but also all the primitive doctors were of the same mind with Jerome.
The learned Episcopalian, professor Whitaker, concurred in this interpretation. "If Aerius," says he was a heretic in this point, “ he had Jerome to be his neighbour in that heresy; and not only “ him, but other fathers, both Greek and Latin, as is confessed by “ Medina. Aerius thought that presbyter did not differ from bi
shop by any divine law and authority; and the same thing was 6 contended for by Jerome, and he defended it by those very scrip“ ture testimonies that Aerius did.”+
Few men have been more distinguished for their learned and zealous labours in favour of episcopacy than Dr. William Nichols. Yet this eminent Episcopalian, speaking of Jerome, thus expresses himself. “ At last came St. Jerome, though not till above three
centuries after the apostles' times, who valuing himself upon his “ learning, which, indeed, was very great ; and being provoked by “ the insolence of some deacons, who set themselves above presby“ ters; to the end he might maintain the dignity of his order
against such arrogant persons, he advanced a notion never heard 66 of before, viz. that presbyters were not a different order from bi
shops; and that a bishop was only a more eminent presbyter, “ chosen out of the rest, and set over them, for preventing of
Luther, whom some of our episcopal brethren ignorantly claim as their own, in the articles of Smallcald, which he framed, expressly declares, that “ Jerome teaches that the distinction of de“grees between a bishop and a presbyter, or pastor, was appointed “ only by human authority.” This declaration was also formally subscribed by Melancthon. In the Confession of Wirtemberg, Jerome is interpreted in the same manner; and in the second Helvetic Confession, he is particularly quoted in support of the doctrine that in the primitive church bishop and presbyter were the same. And, in a subsequent letter, you will find a number of
• Cathol. Apolog. Lib. 1. p. 118–120.
Defence of the Doct. and Discip. of the Church of England p. 241.
other illustrious divines, of different denominations, all concurring in the interpretation which we give of the learned father.
I shall close my remarks on the testimony of Jerome, with the judgment of bishop Croft, expressed in the following words" And now I desire my reader, if he understands Latin, to view “ the epistle of St. Jerome to Evagrius, and doubtless he will 6 wonder to see men have the confidence to quote any thing out of “ it for the distinction between episcopacy and presbytery ; for 6 the whole epistle is to show the identity of them."*
I will not attempt to follow Dr. Bowden through all his tedious details of testimony from the fathers of the third, fourth, and following centuries, and his still more tedious comments on that testimony. What if Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, Hilary, Epiphanius, Augustine, and a dozen more, who lived within the same period, could be brought to attest in the most unequivocal terms that prelacy existed in their time? Does any Presbyterian deny that clerical imparity had begun to appear in the third, and was established in the fourth century? But Dr. Bowden alleges that several of these writers expressly assert the apostolic institution of prelacy. Now if it were even true that they ao make this assertion, it would weigh nothing with me, nor with any other reasonable man. In this opinion every one must concur who seriously weighs the following facts.
Within fifty years after the apostolic age, the wine in the Lord's supper was constantly mixed with water. This mixture, considered, at first, as a measure of human prudence, soon began to be urged, not only as a matter of importance, but as a divine institution. Irenæus declares it to have been both taught and practised by our Saviour himself. Lib. iv. cap. 57.-Cyprian also asserts that the same thing was enjoined by tradition from the Lord, and made a part of the original institution. Epist. 63. ad. Cæcil. But no Protestant now believes either the one or the other. Administering the Lord's supper to infants arose early in the church. It is certain that this corruption existed in the second century. Cyprian, in the third century, speaks of it, not as a new thing, but as an ordinary practice. De Lapsis. Sect. 13. Augustine
* Naked Truth, p. 45.
calls it an apostolical tradition, represents it as a general custom, and expressly founds the propriety and necessity of it on John vi. 53. Now that this practice never had the least foundation either in scripture or apostolic example, our opponents, as well as ourselves, are fully agreed. Again ; Irenæus positively asserts that Christ remained on earth until he had reached old age, that he was at least fifty years old when he was crucified; and that “ this was ascertained by the unanimous tradition, and positive
testimony of all the old men who had lived with St. John, and 6 the other apostles, from whom they all received this account, and
constantly bore witness to the truth of it.” Lib. 11. cap. 39. But no one can open the Bible, without perceiving that this pretended fact, in behalf of which the authority of inspired men is quoted, is totally false. To mention only one case more; we learn from Eusebius, that, in the days of Irenæus, there arose a very fierce dispute respecting the proper time for the celebration of Easter. The churches of Asia took one side; and the western churches, with Victor, bishop of Rome, at their head, took the other. The former asserted, that they were supported by the authority of the apostles John and Philip. The latter, with equal confidence, plead the authority of Peter and Paul in justification of their practice. Irenæus addressed a letter to Victor on the subject, in which there is found the following passage. “ This diversity did not “ begin in our time ; but long ago among our forefathers; who, as " it seems, through negligence in the management of their charge, “ handed down to their posterity a custom which through simpli“ city and ignorance had crept into the church.”* And Socrates, the ecclesiastical historian, who wrote about a century after Eusebius, speaks of such observances generally in the following language. “ Neither the ancients, nor the moderns, who have “ studiously followed the Jews, had, in my opinion, any just or rational cause for contending so
much about this festival “ (Easter.) For they considered not with themselves, that when “ the Jewish religion was changed into Christianity, those 66 accurate observances of the Mosaic law, and the types, wholly o ceased. And this carries along with it its own demonstration. “For no one of Christ's laws has permitted Christians to observe
* Euseb. Hist. Eccles. Lib. v. Cap. 24.