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« the rites of the Jews. On the contrary, the apostle has express“ ly forbid this, and does not only reject circumcision, but also 16 advises against contending about festival days. . Moreover, it is “ his admonition, that days, and months, and years, should in no 5 wise be observed. Besides, in his epistle to the Colossians, he « loudly affirms that such observances are a shadow. Men love “ festival days because thereon they have a cessation from their la« bour. Neither our Saviour nor his apostles have enjoined upon us " by any law to observe such days."* Here, then, is a large body of churches and bishops asserting that they bave apostolical authority for a certain practice. On the other hand there is a large body of equally respectable churches and bishops, who assert, with no less confidence, that they have apostolical authority for a different practice. And, to crown all, a third class, as much entitled to respect as either, pronounce, that both the former speak falsehood; and that the plea of apostolical authority advanced by each, is equally and totally without foundation! Who, after such notorious instances of either credulity or dishonesty, would give the least credit to a claim of apostolical institution, resting on no other ground than the assertion of the fathers? Could we find in them, therefore, the most direct and decisive claim of this kind, in behalf of diocesan episcopacy, it would be unworthy of confidence.
But it is not true that any one of the fathers, within the first four centuries, does assert the apostolical institution of prelacy. Dr. Bowden produces Cyprian as saying, that " Jesus Christ, and he
alone, has the power of setting bishops over the church to govern “ it;" that “ Christ constitutes as well as protects bishops ; " and that it is by divine appointment a bishop is set over the church." He produces Origen, as saying, “ Shall I not be subject to the bi6 shop who is of God ordained to be my father ? Shall not I be 6 subject to the presbyter, who is, by divine vouchsafement, set
over me?" He quotes Hilary as declaring, “ The bishop is the 6 chief; though every bishop is a presbyter, yet every presbyter is “ not a bishop.” And also as asserting, that James, and Timothy and Titus, and the angels of the Asiatic churches were bishops, He cites Athanasius as remonstrating with one who declined a bishopric, in the following terms: “ If you think there is no reward
• Socrat. Eccles. Hist. Lib. v.cap. 22.
" allotted to the office of a bishop, you despise the Saviour who 66 instituted that office.” He represents Chrysostom, as commenting on 1 Tim. iv. 4. in these words—Paul does not speak of s presbyters, but of bishops, for presbyters did not ordain Timothy "a bishop.” And finally he produces the fathers of the council of Antioch, in the year 265, as declaring, that "the office of a bi" shop is sacred and exemplary, both to the clergy and to the peo“ple.” Now, is it possible that Dr. Bowden, after devoting the best powers of his mind, for thirty years, to this controversy, has yet to learn, that all these quotations, and ten thousand more like them, are nothing to his purpose ? It is truly amazing! Have not I, who am a Presbyterian, repeatedly said, in the foregoing sheets, that " bishops were, by divine appointment, set over the church ?” Do not Presbyterians perpetually speak of the office of bishop in their church as a “ sacred office ?” And would any Presbyterian on earth scruple to say, that bishops were, and are ordained of God to be set over the church; and also that every member of their flock, and even assistant preachers, within their parish, if not invested with a share in the pastoral charge, are bound to be < subject to them?” But no one, surely, could construe these expressions, on our part, as implying that we believed in the divine institution of such bishops as our episcopal brethren contend for. The truth is, these quotations, so pompously made, only prove two points; first, that the fathers in question believed that there were bishops in the apostolic church ; which no man, in his senses, ever doubted: and secondly, that at the time when they wrote, bishops were considered as having some kind of superiority over common presbyters; which is as little doubted as the former. In short, Dr. Bowden is deceived by the bare occurrence of the word bishop. Whenever he finds this word in the writings of the fathers, his imagination is instantly filled with prelates, and with all the peculiarities of the episcopal system. But before the smallest touch of inquiry this hallucination vanishes. Though bishops in the third and fourth centuries, had appropriated to themselves powers, which before had been enjoyed by others in common with them; yet their office itself was of divine appointment. Dr. Bowden, indeed, says, and endeavours to persuade his readers, that the writers whom he quotes, declare the bishops which existed in the days of the
apostles to have been just such bishops, as existed several centuries afterwards, in their own times-bishops in the prelatical sense of the word. But the doctor, with all his confidence, must pardon me for saying, this is not true. He has produced no passage which makes any such declaration, or which legitimately implies it; nor is he able to produce such a passage, from all the stores of antiquity, within the specified limits.
Besides the direct quotations from the fathers, which prove that the primitive bishop was the pastor of a single congregation, I mentioned, in my former letters, some facts, incidentally stated by early writers, which serve remarkably to confirm the same truth. Dr. Bowden treats these alleged facts with great contempt, and endeavours to show that they are all either unfounded, or nothing to the purpose. I do not think it necessary to go over this part of the ground again. Of the five facts mentioned by me and assailed by Dr. B. there are only two of which it appears proper to take any further notice.
The first of these is, the GREAT NUMBER of bishops which ecclesiastical historians inform us were found, in early periods of the church, within small districts of country. Suppose a man in Europe were to be told, that there are, at this time, within the State of New York TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY bishops. What would be his conclusion? Why, certainly, that these could not be such bishops as are found in any church in which diocesan episcopacy is established. And if he were immediately afterwards informed that, within the whole State, there are only about two hundred and fifty organized congregations, he would confidently infer that there must be a bishop in every congregation, and, therefore, that the title bishop was considered as synonymous with that of pastor of a single church. This is precisely my argumeut in the present case. When we find in provincial synods, in early times, several hundred bishops convened; when we find, upon inquiry, that these bishops and their bishoprics were all embraced in districts of country not much, if at all, more extensive than the State of New York; and when we have reason further to conclude that many parts, even of these districts, were not subjected to the empire of Christianity; what must be our conclusion ? Unquestionably, that which has been just mentioned. These bishops could have been no other than parish rectors, or
pastors; and the fact goes far toward corroborating the doctrine in support of which it was produced, viz. that primitive episcopacy was parochial, and not diocesan,
Dr. Bowden does not deny that, in the council of Antioch in the third century, there were upwards of six hundred bishops. He does not deny that there were present at a provincial synod, in Africa, in the time of Augustine, between five and six hnndred Bishops. Neither does he deny, that about the same time, according to Victor Uticensis, from that part of Africa in which the Vandalic persecution raged, six hundred and sixty bishops fled, besides the great number that were murdered and imprisoned, and many more wlio were tolerated. Now when it is recollected that this persecution extended only to a small portion of Africa, and that it was carried on by one denomination of presessing Christians against another, we are necessarily led to conclude that there must have been in that section of Africa alone, at least two thousand bishops. Could thiese have been prelates, each with a number of congregations and pastors under his care ? It is incredible. They could not have been more than the ordinary pastors of single congregations. It is not likely that organized churches were more thickly strewed in Africa, at that time, than at present in our own country; nor can tve, by any means, suppose that the persecution in question prevailed through a district larger than the United States ; yet I am persuaded we have not in the United States many more than two thousand regular clergymen of all denominations.
All that Dr. Bowden has to offer in opposition to this reasoning, is, that the “ learned Bingham, in his Antiquities of the Church, has given a geographical description of the ancient bishoprics, as first made toward the close of the ninth century ;" and that, according to his representation, there is no difficulty in accounting for the number of bishops found in the early councils.—To this testimony of Bingham I might offer many objections. The work which contains it, though apparently much respected by Dr. Bowden, is a work of great partiality, and little credit. The sources from which the author derived his information, are by no means such as ought to inspire the confidence of any reasonable man. And, how any mortal can with confidence determine, from arrangements made in the ninth century, what were those of the
third and fourth, Dr. Bowden may be able to explain ; I am not. But after all, what is the amount of Bingham's testimony ? It is that, even in the ninth century, many of the bishops' dioceses were of very small extent, little, if any, larger than many of our modern parishes. And is not this precisely the position for which I contend, and on which this whole argument is founded ? Besides, if bishoprics were thus small in the ninth century, have we not abundant proof that they were smaller still, in the third and fourth centuries, when it is certain that bishops were more numerous than they were several hundred years afterwards ? but this is not the only instance in which Dr. Bowden unwittingly betrays his own cause, and supports the Presbyterian doctrine.
But, with respect to the African bishoprics, Dr. Bowden, following his suspicious guide, Bingham, takes a ground somewhat different. He asserts, that“ in the whole extent of that country, “ from the borders of Egypt to the western part of the peninsula,
comprehending a length of 2360 miles, and a breadth in some “ places of 200, in others of 500 miles, there were but 466 dioce“ses; as appears, he adds, from the Collation of Carthage, the “ abstract of St. Austin, and the Notitia of the African church, “ made about fifty years after Austin's death, and published by 66 Sirmondus.” On this statement I shall make no remark; but shall leave it, to be treated as it deserves, by those who recollect the account given by Victor Uticensis of the number of bishops banished, murdered, &c. during the Vandalic persecution ;. and also the numbers of bishops actually convened in provincial synods, about the same time.
The next fact which I think it my duty further to notice, is, that in early times, it was customary for the flock of which the bishop was to have the charge, to meet together for the purpose of electing him; and that he was always ordained in their presence. This was mentioned as another consideration which evinces that primitive episcopacy was parochial, and not diocesan. Dr. Bowden denies the fact, He declares that there are no traces of the popular election of bishops during the first two hundred years after Christ; and that so far as this practice ever prevailed, it arose in the third century, but was soon laid aside. In reply to these bold assertions, I shall only present the following quotation from Cyprian, Doctor Bowden's favourite authority. Epist. 67. “ Wherefore a people