Thomas Bilson: Perpetual Government of Christ’s Church (1593)
During the latter years of Queen Elizabeth, certain schismatic individuals taught that the English episcopacy was obstructive to the work of the Gospel, and had no apostolic origin, merit or justification, apart from the traditions of men. This they believed they could replace with vain and invented traditions of their own. Against them, four successive Archbishops of Canterbury (Parker, Grindal, Whitgift, Bancroft) fought with might and main, assembling a whole phalanx of theologians and scholars who had taught episcopacy from Scripture, the institutions of the Apostles, and the pattern of the undivided church. Among these rank highly the writings of Matthew Sutcliffe and Adrian Saravia, Thomas Bilson, Archbishop Whitgift himself, the famous Richard Hooker, as well as Richard Bancroft (whose 1588 sermon is published on this site). The sum of all these efforts would culminate in the year 1606, when the religious assembly by the whole Convocation of Bishops would write, and subscribe to, the magisterial Government of the Catholic Church (1606), also on this site.
Among the works of that era, unquestionably one of the most incredible products in the Elizabethan reign, is Thomas Bilson’s colossal The Perpetual Government of Christ’s Church (1593). This magisterial work engages closely with the anti-episcopal polemic, most especially from Theodore Beza and his English followers who taught that preserving episcopacy was unimportant to the work of the Gospel. The aim of Bilson’s work was nothing less than one comprehensive colossal theology of the Church as God had once established it for all time, from Creation to Redemption. He traced its triple division of ministers, in modern times called bishops, priests, and deacons, back into the Old Testament and beyond, showing it as a single God’s plan for man’s redemption.
Due to the gargantuan size of this work only a portion of it has yet been brought online. The chapters published deal with Apostolic times and specifics, relevant to Bilson’s own time and day. However as our hope and goal is the publication of the whole work, we are continually soliciting help on typing the remaining unpublished chapters. For volunteer support please send us an email at mail ~at.~ anglican.net.
Furthermore, even the published subset of this work constitutes the largest single body of text we have yet brought online to date (as of April, 2016). You may need to use a fast and powerful device to be able to load and view it. Otherwise, enjoy!