Page images

“ who would obey the rules of the gospel should separate themselves

from a sinful bishop, and should not partake with a profane priest 6 in his sacrifices; especially since the Chief Power of choosing “ worthy priests, and of rejecting unworthy ones, is lodged with them : which rule we see proceeded originally from God's authority, that a bishop should be chosen in the presence of the “ people, in the most public manner, and be approved as worthy “ by the common suffrage of the whole body. God directs his “ priest to be made so before all the congregation; and thereby " shows us, that he would not have the ordinations of his bishops “ performed, but in the presence, and with the privity of the peo

ple. This rule, thus appointed by God, we find afterwards 6 observed in the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter spoke to the “ people, upon the point of substituting some one to be an apostle, 6 in the room of Judas. Nor do we find the apostles observing “ this rule in the case of bishops and priests only, but even in the “ ordination of deacons ; concerning which it is recorded in Acts, " vi. 2. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples 6 unto them, and said, Look ye out seven men of honest report " full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom ; and the saying pleased of the whole multitude ; and they chose Stephen, &c. whom they set " before the apostles, &c. Wherefore the rule which we have "handed down to us from God himself, and from the practice of his apostles, should be observed with all exactness, as it is, “indeed, already amongst us, and generally amonst the provinces “ here; viz. that in celebrating our ordinations, the neighbouring of bishops of the province, where a bishop is to be ordained for any “ people,* should meet upon the place, and choose a bishop in the

presence of the people. This rule we find you observed in the " ordination of our colleague, Sabinus, who was unanimously cho“sen by the votes of all the people, and the approbation of the « bishops who were there assembled.”

Here Cyprian, who flourished about the middle of the third

• How remarkably does Cyprian speak in the Presbyterian style ! To ordain a bishop for, or over, a people, or flock, is scarcely intelligible on episcopal principles. The episcopal bishop of New York, as such, is equally related to all the congregations belonging to that communion in the State. In our churcb, a bishop is ordained over a particular flock or people.

century, declares that the election of bishops by the votes of all the people, was a regulation established by God himself, and sanctioned by the practice of the apostles. And, lest the nature of this “ election should be mistaken, he asserts that the chief power of choice lies with the people, by divine right. Nay, to render the point still more unequivocal, he represents the election in question as of the same nature with that of the deacons, in Acts vi. 2, 3, &c. in which it is expressly asserted, that the whole multitude, or the body of the people, made the choice.* If this is not testimony that the method of popular election was practised in the days of Cyprian, and that that father considered it as of divine appointment, and as having been received in the church from the days of the apostles, then I know not how to understand or interpret his language. Dr. Bowden gives only a part of the above extract from Cyprian, and endeavours to prove from it that an actual election by the people is not at all intended. I trust, however, that of this gloss, on further consideration, he will be ashamed.

Having thus, with all possible brevity, replied to such of Dr. Bowden's strictures as appeared worthy of notice, I shell select a few additional testimonies from the fathers, and request you to give them your serious attention.

Hilary, in his commentary on 1 Timothy iii. affirms 6 The or- dination of bishop and presbyter is one and the same." Could he possibly have said this, if they had been different orders, and had received a different ordination ?

The following passage from Basil, bishop of Cesarea, who was contemporary with Jerome, is also worthy of notice.—“ Christ

says, Lovest thou me, Peter, more than these ? Feed my sheep. “ And from thence he gave to all pastors and doctors equal power ; " whereof this is a token, that all of them, as Peter did, bind and « loose.”+

In the 4th Council of Carthage, the following canon was passed :

It ought to be recollected, that the epistle from which the above extract is taken, was written to some people in Spain, who wished advice in a case in which the right of the people to choose their own bishop was immediately concerned ; and that it was written not in the name of Cyprian only, but in that of the African synod.

+ Constitut. Monastic. Cap. 22. p. 718.

[ocr errors]

“Let the bishop, when he is in the church, and sitting in the “ presbytery, be placed in a higher seat; but when he is in the “ house, let him know that he is the colleague of the presbyters.” Can. 35. By the same council, it was enacted,“ that every bishop es should reside in a small house near the church in which he offi« ciated” —that he should have “ plain and even coarse household 4 furniture"--and that he should give himself perpetually to “ reading, praying, and preaching." Can. 14, 15. 20.

In the Apostolical Constitutions the following passages are found, which Dr. Bowden is bound, on his own principles, to respect and admit. Lib. 11. Cap. 27. “It behoves you, brethren, to bring

your sacrifices and oblations to the bishop, as to the high priest, " and offer them, either by yourselves, or by the deacons. Offer " the bishop also your first fruits and tythes, and your voluntary “ gifts; for he knows the poor, and gives to every one what is 6 convenient; lest one receive twice or oftener the same day, or “ the same week, and another receive not so much as once." Cap. 31. “ The deacon must give nothing to any poor man without the “ bishop's knowledge and consent." Cap. 44. “ The deacon must 66 be the bishop's eye, and ear, and mouth, nay, his heart and soul, 66 that the bishop may be only taken up with the weightier affairs 6 of his flock." Here it is evident that the business of the deacons was to take care of the poor. This is exactly the doctrine of the Presbyterians, and, what is much more important, of the New Testament. Here it is evident, also, that no poor man was to be relieved without the knowledge and approbation of the bishop ; who, it is expressly said, is presumed to know all the poor, and to be able to give to every one what is convenient. Could this officer have been any other than the pastor of a single flock ?

Again; the same Apostolical Constitutions thus describe the ordinary solemnities of public worship. Lib. 11. Cap. 57. “ When

thou, O bishop, hast called together the church of God, like the 66 master of a ship, require them to assemble often, with all “ prudence and regularity of discipline. Command the deacons,

as so many mariners, that they appoint convenient places for all “ the brethren, as for so many passengers, with all care and de

cency. And first let the house of worship be oblong, turned “ toward the east, having seats (or pews) on both sides, towards “ the east, and like a ship. In the middle place let the bishop's

's seat be; and on both sides of him let the presbyters sit. But let « the deacons stand ready for service, lightly clothed, for they are “ like the mariners, and those that order the sides of the ship. By " their care, let the laymen sit quietly and orderly in one part of “ the church : and the women also by themselves, abstaining from " talking. Let the reader, standing in the middle, in some high " place, read the books of Moses, &c. The reading being finished, “ let another sing the hymns of David. Then let our Acts (i.e. “ the Acts of the Apostles) and the epistles, be recited. After " these things let the presbyters exhort the people, and last of « all the bishop, who is like the master of the ship. Let the door-keepers stand at the church doors, where the men enter; 6 and the deaconesses where the women enter. If any be found " sitting out of his own place, let the deacon reprove him, and let « him be conducted to a proper place. Let the deacons take 6 care that none whisper, sleep, laugh, nod, &c. After the cate6 chumens and penitents have retired, let the deacons prepare for " the celebration of the Eucharist, fc."

No one can read these rules without perceiving that they relate to the ordinary worship of Christian assemblies, when convened on the sabbath. To doubt this, is to fly in the face of common sense. Yet we find the presence of the bishop, in every public service, spoken of as indispensable. Is it not manifest, then, that this bishop could only have been the pastor of a single flock?

The sixth general council of Constantinople, which was held about the year 692, acknowledged the scripture deacons to be no other than overseers of the poor ; and that this was the opinion of the ancient fathers.” Can. 16. Here is another explicit acknowledgment, that the apostolic constitution of the church, as to her officers, was notoriously changed, prior to the year 692.

The council of Aix la Chapelle, held about the year 816, in the most unequivocal terms owned the original identity of bishops and presbyters, and expressly declared, that “the ordination of “the clergy was reserved to the high-priest only for the main“tenance of his dignity.Can. 8. Could this form of expression have been thought correct if presbyters were, by divine right, destitute of the power of ordaining ? Certainly not.

Some other facts, which are ascertained from the writings of the fathers, and which were mentioned in my former letters, deserve

further consideration. We are informed, by several early writers, that the bishops, during the first three centuries, were alone considered as authorized to administer baptism and the Lord's supper. From Ignatius, Tertullian, and Cyprian, we learn that Christians, in those days, received the eucharist from no hands but those of the bishop; and that baptism was considered as his appropriate work, and never to be administered by any other hands, unless in cases of necessity. Again, in the 30th canon of the council of Agatha, it is said It shall not be lawful for a presbyter in the church to

pronounce the benediction on the people, or to bless a penitent.” Now, when it is notorious, that, in those days, the Lord's supper was administered every sabbath, and in some churches oftener; when cases of baptism doubtless continually occurred; and when pronouncing the benediction on the people made, then, as well as now, a part of every public service; it is plain that the presence of a bishop was considered as indispensable, every Lord's day, in every worshipping assembly. Is it not evident, when this was the case, that the bishop could have been nothing less or more than the pastor of a single church?

Dr. Bowden does not attempt to deny the facts here alleged. They are, indeed, so abundantly confirmed by the voice of antiquity, that he cannot possibly call them in question. But he endeavours to evade their force by saying, that these writers only mean in general to represent the bishop as the fountain of all ecclesiastical power; and to assert that none have a right to administer the ordinances of religion, excepting those who are empowered by him. And, in like manner, and on the same principle, he intimates, that the presbyters in the episcopal church, baptize and administer the eucharist in virtue of permission given them by the bishop for that purpose. This is an evasion unworthy of Dr. B's understanding and gravity. The writers above quoted, undoubtedly convey the idea, that administering baptism and the sacrament of the Lord's supper was the appropriated and peculiar work of the bishop as such ; that in cases of necessity only they might commit these ordinances to other hands; but that for every such dispensation there must be a distinct expression of the bishop's will, and his leave expressly obtained. In short, the idea evidently meant to be conveyed is, that certain acts could be done regularly by the bishop only ; but that in cases of sickness, necessary absence,

« EelmineJätka »