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viz. that as early as the second and third centuries there was quite enough clerical ambition in the church to account for the rise of prelacy; that the acknowledged rise of metropolitans, during that period, is a proof, at once, that there was a disposition among many of the clergy to aspire after pre-eminence, and that it was by no means an impossible thing so far to hoodwink and cajole others, as to obtain it; and that the beginning, progress, and establishment of the papal power, is quite as difficult to be accounted for on episcopal principles, as the introduction of prelacy by human authority. But, if it be fact, that there were materials enough in the clergy of that age, and circumstances enough in the times, to generate irregular ambition, and if other facts demonstrate that they did cherish this ambition; that they did thus aspire and encroach; then we are surely warranted in inferring that the human invention and introduction of prelacy, was not only a possible, but a very probable event.
Among the numerous facts which prove that diocesan episcopacy is an innovation on the apostolic model, and that it was gradually introduced, I mentioned in my former letters, that ministerial parity continued longest in those parts of the church which were at the greatest distance from the capital cities. As an instance, to illustrate this remark, I observed, that the churches in Scotland “ remained Presbyterian in their government, from the introduc“tion of Christianity into that country, in the second century, until “ the fifth century, when Palladius succeeded in introducing dio
cesan bishops." This fact Dr. Bowden entirely denies. Let us see on what evidence it rests. That the gospel was introduced into North Britain before the fifth century, is evident from Tertullian, who says, “ The places of Britain to which the Romans “ could not have access, are notwithstanding subject to Christ."* Fordon, a Scotch historian, who wrote in the fourteenth century, and who was no Presbyterian, on the one hand declares, (as Dr. B. acknowledges that the Scots received the Christian faith in the year of our Lord 203 ; and on the other asserts, (what Dr. B. has not acknowledged, that “ Before the coming of Palladius, the “ Scots, following the custom of the primitive church, had teachers
* Contra. Jud. Cap. vil.
" of the faith, and dispensers of the sacraments, who were only 6 presbyters or monks.”* This statement is confirmed by Major, another Scottish historian, who wrote about the beginning of the sixteenth century, and who lived and died a friend of prelacy. He declares, " The Scots were instructed in the faith, by priests and “ monks, without bishops.”+ Boethius, a third historian of Scotland, who was contemporary with Major, and also a prelatist, still more explicitly says, “ Palladius was the first who exercised any “ hierarchial power among the Scots, being ordained their bishop " by the pope, whereas, before, their priests were, by the suffrages “ of the people, chosen out of the monks and culdees.” Prosper Aquitanæus, in his Chronicle, has these words—“ Palladius “ is ordained by Pope Cælestine, for the Scots, who had already “ believed in Christ, and is sent to them to be their first bishop.” Palladius, according to this writer, did not introduce the gospel among the Scots ; they believed in Christ before he was sent to them; but he was the first bishop, or prelate, that they ever had, The same fact is attested by Cardinal Baronius, who says, “ All men agree
that this nation, (the Scots,) had Palladius their first bishop from Pope Cælestine.”'S
Dr. Bowden has no other method of evading the force of this evidence, but by insinuating, (as others, who were perplexed by the argument, had done before him,) that by the Scots these writers meant the Irish ! This evasion is too ridiculous to be seriously refuted. It contradicts the most authentic history.l! And if Dr. B. will take the trouble to consult his own episcopal historians Skinner and Goodall, he will be satisfied, that in adopting this notion, he has been led astray by blind guides. But, suppose that it were even so; what advantage to Dr. Bowden's cause would result from this discovery? Would it not be a fact equally against him, if it were found that the churches of Ireland instead of Scot
• Hist. Lib, iii. Cap.8.
| Cardinal Baronius expressly distinguishes between the visits of Palladius to Scotland, and Ireland. His visit to the former country, he mentions in the manner cited above: that to the latter, he speaks of in a subsequent paragraph.
1 Skinner's Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, Letter 1. Goodall's Introduction to the History and Antiquities of Scotland, Chapters 2.7, and 16.
land, were under the government of presbyters, without prelates, for more than 200 years after their being first planted ?
Dr. Bowden, in attempting to show the improbability that prelacy was introduced after the apostolic age, as a measure of human expediency, still insists that, if it were introduced at all, it must have been very suddenly. To corroborate this assertion, he represents some of the ablest Presbyterian divines who have written on the subject, as acknowledging that prelacy had been brought in as early as the middle of the second century. He assures us, more than once, that, among others, the learned Blondel concedes the existence of prelacy as early as the year of our Lord 140, which was within fifty years of the death of the last apostle. This is a misrepresentation ; and a misrepresentation so extraordinary, that I know not how to account for it but by supposing that Dr. Bowden never saw Blondel's far-famed work. Whatever Dr. B. may say to the contrary, Blondel does not make such a concession as he imputes to him. The passage to which Dr. B. no doubt, refers, is found in the preface to the Apology; and its import is, that about the year 140, according to the best light the author had been able to attain, one of the steps toward the establishment of prelacy was taken, which consisted in choosing standing moderators. If by bishops be understood, not what the scriptures and the Presbyterian church mean by that title, but what Dr. Bowden and his friends mean, an order of clergy, who were alone invested with the power of ordination; then it is perfectly manifest to all who ever perused Blondel's work, that its grand scope is to show the direct contrary of that which Dr. Bowden ascribes to him ; and that for this purpose, he quotes Cyprian, Tertullian, Origen, and still later fathers, who lived long after the year 140, to show that, in their day episcopacy, in the prelatical sense of the word, was not introduced. In short, Blondel's whole book is written to prove that prelacy was not an apostolic institution; that it was brought into the church gradually ; and that it was several hundred years in gaining an establishment. Considering the frequency and positiveness with which Dr. Bowden undertakes to state the testimony of Blondel, he certainly ought to have understood it better.
Dr. B. also asserts that Salmasius, an acute and learned advocate of ministerial parity, makes a concession of the same kind with that which he ascribes to Blondel. I have never seen the
Walo Messalinus of the celebrated Presbyterian; and cannot undertake with confidence to say that Dr. B. has misrepresented him also; but I strongly suspect this to be the case, and shall certainly require, after all that I have seen, better evidence of the contrary than his assertion. The learned Chamier and Du Moulin are also quoted by Dr. B. as making still more pointed and important concessions. But as he has not chosen to inform us where these concessions are to be found, I consider myself as liberated from all further obligation to notice them.* I am verily persuaded, however, that he has been deceived by the representation of others, and that he entirely mistakes the opinions of those writers.
After carefully reviewing all that Dr. Bowden has said on the rise and progress of prelacy, I only think it necessary to offer and illustrate a single additional remark. It is this. That the indiscriminate application of the titles bishop and presbyter, during the first and second, and occasionally, as Dr. B. himself acknowledges, in the third century, furnishes, in my view, a most powerful argument in support of ministerial parity, and that in a point of light which I have not hitherto stated. The use of terms is to express di stinct ideas. The use of official titles is to express in single terms official rank and powers. Now it is conceded by Dr. Bowden, and by Episcopalians generally, that the titles bishop and presbyter were applied indiscriminately, in the days of the apostles, to designate the same order of clergy; and that both are most frequently applied, in the New Testament, to what they call the second order, or the pastors of single churches. They contend that the apostles themselves were, strictly speaking, the prelates of the apostolic church; and that the title of bishop was, in fact, then applied precisely as the Presbyterians now apply it, to every minister of the gospel who had a pastoral charge. This they all explicitly grant. But they insist that, in process of time, as the apostles died, the title of apostle was laid aside, and that of bishop began to take its place, and to be restricted to an order of clergy superior to pastors, and succeeding to the apostolic pre-eminence.
It is really not a little extraordinary that Dr. Bowden, after all his promises to the contrary, should so frequently be guilty of this conduct.
But does not all this carry improbability on the very face of it? Is it likely that the inspired apostles, or men immediately taught by them, when the churches, for more than half a century, had been accustomed to employ a certain title to designate a particular class of ecclesiastical officers, would have adopted that very title to designate a totally different class, and that when all the riches of language were open to their selection ? Can it be supposed, above all, that this would have been done in a case in which, if we believe our episcopal brethren, the distinction of orders has always been essential to the very being of the church? It cannot be supposed. Had their object been to produce confusion of ideas, and perpetual inconvenience in the expression of them, they could scarcely have adopted a more direct method to attain their end.
But, on the other hand, supposing prelacy not to have been an apostolic institution, but to have been brought in by human ambition, and that in a gradual and almost insensible manner, as we contend; then nothing is more natural than this indiscriminate use of official titles in early times. The most effectual way to disguise a new ofice, and to prevent the mass of the people from suspecting it of either encroachment or innovation, was to give it an old name. When, therefore, one of the pastors, in a city or district, began to assume pre-eminent honours and powers over his colleagues, instead of taking some new and high sounding title, it was an obvious dictate of policy to content himself with a title which was common to his brethren. This policy was accordingly adopted. The plain title of bishop, which was before given to all pastors, and to which the people had been long accustomed, was still the only one which the aspiring individual ventured to employ. But it obviously would not have served the purpose either of convenience or ambition to continue this community of title when a new order had arisen in the church. Some alteration of ecclesiastical language was necessary for the sake of being understood; and it was equally necessary that the alteration should be such as not to alarm or offend. The consequence was, that the ordinary pastors gradually dropped the title of bishop, leaving it to be the appropriate title of those who had succeeded in raising themselves above the rest, and consenting to be called presbyters or elders only.
When, therefore, our episcopal brethren grant, as they all do, that the titles of bishop and presbyter, in the days of the apostles,