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reply, by a quotation from Bishop White of Pennsylvania, who in a pamphlet published a few years since, having occasion to adduce the Irenicum as an authority against high church notions, speaks of the performance and its author in the following terms : “ As that learned prelate was afterwards dissatisfied with his work, “ (though most probably not with that part of it which would have 6 been to our purpose,) it might seem uncandid to cite the author“ity of his opinion. Bishop Burnet, his cotemporary and friend, “says, (History of his own Times, anno 1661,) To avoid the “ imputation that book brought on him, he went into the humours 6 of an high sort of people, beyond what became him, perhaps 6 beyond his own sense of things.” “ The book, however,” Bishop White adds, “ was, it seems, easier retracted than refuted; for “though offensive to many of both parties, it was managed, says " the same author,) with so much learning and skill, that none of 66 either side ever undertook to answer it."
The truth seems to be, that Dr. Stilling fleet, finding that the opinions of a number of influential men in the church were different from those which he had advanced in this work; and finding also that a fixed adherence to them might be adverse to the interests of the established church, in which he sought preferment, he made a kind of vague and feeble recantation ; and wrote in favour of the apostolic origin of Episcopacy. It is remarkable, however, that this prelate, in answer to an accusation of inconsistency between his early and his latter writings on this subject, assigned another reason besides a change of opinion, viz. that the former were written“ before the laws were established.” But in whatever degree his opinion may have been altered, his rcasonings and authorities have undergone no change. They remain in all their force, and have never been refuted, either by himself, or by others. shown himself for his learning. See the Life of Bishop Stilling ficet, p. 12—16. When a divine of acknowledged talents and learning, (whatever may be his age,) after spending several years in a composition of moderate length, deliberately commits it to the press; when, after reflecting on the subject, and hearing the remarks of his friends for three years longer, he publishes it a second time; and when, after this second publication, he is complimented for his great erudition, by one of the most able and learned dignitaries of the age, there seems little room for a charge of haste or want of digestion.
The concessions of Bishop Burnet on this subject, are numerous and unequivocal. Several have been already mentioned. Out of many more which might be presented, I select the following declaration : “I acknowledge bishop and presbyter to be one and the 66 same office, and so plead for no new office-bearer in the church. “ The first branch of their power is their authority to publish the “ Gospel, to manage the worship, and dispense the sacraments; and “this is all that is of divine right in the ministry, in which bishops “ and presbyters are equal sharers. But besides this, the church " claimeth a power of jurisdiction, of making rules for discipline, " and applying and executing the same; all which is, indeed, “ suitable to the common laws of society, and the general rules of “ Scripture, but hath no positive warrant from any Scripture pre“ cept. And all these constitutions of churches into Synods, and “the canons of discipline taking their rise from the divisions of the “ world into several provinces, and beginning in the second, and “ beginning of the third century, do clearly show, that they can be « derived from no divine original, and so were, as to their particular “ form, but of human institution.*
The opinions held by Archbishop Tillotson, on this subject, substantially agree with those of Bishop Burnet; or, if they differ from them, are even more favourable to Presbyterian church gov
He was decidedly in favour of admitting the dissenting clergy into the church of England, without re-ordaining them; and did not scruple to avow that he considered their ordination as equally valid with that which was received from episcopal bishops. And, in conformity with this opinion, he advised the episcopal clergy of Scotland to unite with the Presbyterian church in that country, and submit to its government.*
Archbishop Wake, who was a warm friend to prelacy, and whose character stands high with its advocates, it is well known kept up a constant friendly correspondence with the most eminent pastors and professors in Geneva and Holland; manifested a fraternal regard to them; declared their churches, notwithstand
* Vindication of the church and state of Scotland, p. 331.
† See Remarks upon the Life of the most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, 8vo. 1754 ; in which the author, a most violent Episcopalian, acknowledges these facts, and loads him with much abuse on account of them.
ing their difference in discipline and government from his own, to be true churches of Christ; and expressed a warm desire for their union with the church of England, at the head of which he was then placed. In a letter which he wrote to the celebrated Le Clerc, of the Genevan school, then residing in Holland, in the year 1719, there is the following passage. “I freely embrace the “reformed churches, notwithstanding they differ in some respects “ from that of England. I could wish, indeed, they had retained " that moderate episcopacy, freed from all unjust domination, which “obtains among us, and which, if I have any skill in judging on this “subject, was received in the church, from the apostolic age. “ Nor do I despair of its being restored. If I should not see it “myself, posterity will. In the mean time, I am so far from being “ so uncharitable as to believe that any of those churches, on "account of this defect, (for so I must be allowed, without invi“ diousness, to call it) ought to be cut off from our communion ;
nor can I, by any means, join with certain MAD writers among “us, in denying the validity of their sacraments, and in calling “ in question their right to the name of Christian churches.* I " could wish to bring about, at any price, a more close union “ between all the reformed churches.” The same prelate, in a letter to Professor Turretin, of Geneva, in 1718, speaking of Bishop Davenant's conciliatory opinions, declares that they perfectly coincide with his own, and that he could earnestly wish that all Christians were of the same mind. Another letter, of a more public nature, which he afterwards addressed to the pastors and professors of Geneva, abounds with similar sentiments, and expresses the most fraternal affection for those Presbyterian worthies.t Nor were these letters written by him merely as a private man, or in the spirit of temporizing politeness; but manifestly with all the
The language employed by the good archbishop to express his disapprobation of this doctrine is remarkably strong and pointed. He calls those writers who attempt to maintain it, furiosi, i. e. madmen. If he spoke in this style of such writers in England, where diocesan episcopacy was established by law, and when he was himself at the head of that establishment; what would he have said concerning writers of a similar stamp, at the present day in America, where all denominations, with respect to the state, stand on a level?
See Appendix III, to Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History.
deliberation and solemnity of a man who felt his official responsibility.
The learned Joseph Bingham, who has written largely and ably in defence of the episcopacy of the church of England, frankly acknowledges, that “ that church does by no means damn or cut “ off from her communion, those who believe bishops and presby“ ters to be the same order. Some of our best episcopal divines, 6 and true sons of the church of England, have said the same, “ distinguishing between order and jurisdiction, and made use of “ this doctrine and distinction to justify the ordinations of the “reformed churches, against the Romanists.”* French Church's Apol. p. 262.
Dr. John Edwards, a learned and respectable divine of the church of England, in a treatise on this subject, after having considered the testimonies of Clement, Ignatius, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Jerome, and others, makes the following declaration. “From all these we may gather that the scripture bishop “ was the chief of the presbyters; but he was not of a distinct "order from them. And as for the times after the apostles, none " of these writers, nor any ecclesiastical historian, tells us, that a
person of an order superior to presbyters was set over the “ presbyters. It is true one single person is recorded to have “presided over the college of presbyters, but this college had the " the same power with the single person, though not the particular “ dignity of presidentship. The short is, the bishops in these "times were presbyters ; only he that presided over the body of “presbyters was called bishop, while the rest were generally “ known by the title of presbyters; and the bishop was still but a “presbyter, as to order and function, though, for distinction sake, « he was known by the name of bishop. lle was superior to the “other presbyters as long as he executed his oflice, as a chairman “ in a committee is above the rest of the justices whilst he holds that “place. It was generally the most ancient presbyter that was “ chosen to preside over the college of presbyters, but he had no " superiority of power. All the priority or primacy he had was
* It will be distinctly remembered, that all the reformed Churches, excepting that of England, admitted and practised ordination by presbyters.
" that of order. Here is the ancient pattern. Why is it not “ followed ?* To single fathers, we may add councils, who deliver “the same sense. This, then, is the true account of the matter. “ Bishops were elders or presbyters, and therefore of the same “order ; but the bishops differed from the presbyters in this only, “ that they were chosen by the elders to preside over them at « their ecclesiastical meetings or assemblies. But in after ages, " the presbyters of some churches parted with their liberty and
right, and agreed among themselves that ecclesiastical matters “should be managed by the bishop only.” Edwards' Remains, p. 253.
Sir Peter King, lord chancellor of Englamd, about the begin. ning of the eighteenth century, published a very learned work, entitled, An Inquiry into the Constitution, Discipline, Unity, and Worship, of the Primitive Church, that flourished within the first 300 years after Christ. In this work his lordship undertakes to show," that a presbyter, in the primitive church, meant a person “ in holy orders, having thereby an inherent right to perform the " whole office of a bishop, and differing from a bishop in nothing, " but in having no parish, or pastoral charge.” He further shows, " that presbyters, in those times of primitive purity, were called by “the same titles, and were of the same specific order with bishops; " that they ruled in those churches to which they belonged ; that " they presided in church consistories with the bishop ; that they “ had the power of excommunication, and of restoring penitents ; “ that they confirmed; and that there are clearer proofs of pres" byters ordaining, than of their administering the Lord's Supper." The same learned author maintains that there were but two orders of church officers, instituted by the authority of Christ, viz. bishops and deacons : 6 and if they ordained but two,” adds he," I think " no one had ever a commission to add a third, or to split one into
Here is an explicit acknowledgment, that the episcopacy of the Church of England, and primitive episcopacy, are very different things.
† The primitive bishop, in Dr. Edwards' judgment, therefore, corresponds exactly with the moderator or president, of our presbyteries, who is a standing officer, elected at stated periods, who always presides at the meetings of the body to wbich he belongs, and until a successor is chosen.