“Aaron’s rod budded and blossomed.”
Right Reverend Father in ,
By Divine Providence,
Lord Bishop of Exon.
. V. iv.
No Man taketh this Honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
The Success, and very Being of Religion, so much depend on the Divine Commission of those who serve at the Altar, that ’tis no Wonder, the Grand Adversary of Mankind, among other Methods to compass his End, has labour’d to propagate these Two Opinions : One, that the very Distinction between Sacred and Profane is groundless and false : The other, that the Sacred Character is to be extended beyond the Limits that God has appointed. The first of these brings a Contempt on the Ministry in general, and so cuts off all Religion at once : And the second fixes the Title of Ministers on those who are none ; which as surely, tho’ more slowly, produces the same Effect.
Now, though notwithstanding these and all other , Religion has hitherto kept up some Credit and Countenance in the World ; and we are infallibly assur’d that the Gates of Hell shall never totally prevail against it : yet ’tis too visible, that the Church of God has hereby suffer’d in its most Essential Parts ; and the Divine Ordinances have been either lightly regarded, or profanely as well as ineffectually administered. Now, to retrieve the Honour of the Christian Ministry, without which ’tis impossible Christianity itself can subsist, ’tis necessary to be satisfied in these two Points, the one plainly express’d, and the other consequentially suggested, in the Words of my Text :
- That no one ought to exercise the Office of a Minister in the Church of God, without a Divine Commission.
- Who may be truly said to have such a Commission.
I. No one ought to exercise the Office of a Minister in the Church of God, without a Divine Commission.
This I shall prove, First, from the Words of my Text and the Arguments implied therein. Secondly, from some other Considerations.
First, from the Words of my Text, and the Arguments implied therein. No man taketh this Honour to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. For the right Understanding of which Words, we are to observe, that St. Paul, who in all Probability was the Author of this Epistle, among other Arguments to demonstrate the Excellency of the Christian Religion above the Jewish, shows, that the Sacrifice and High-Priest of the Gospel, are of far greater Worth than those of the Law. The Jewish Sacrifices could never expiate the Guilt, and Punishment of Sin, because they were defective in their Nature, and often to be repeated. And then, the High-Priest was a Sinner himself, and therefore not so well qualify’d to offer for the Sins of others. Whereas, under the Gospel, as the Sacrifice is of infinite Value, so the Offerer was perfectly innocent. But notwithstanding the Dignity, and Worth of both these, there is something else requisite, to make the Offering complete, viz. The Divine Appointment. For tho’ there be infinite Value in the Sacrifice, and perfect Holiness in him who offers it, yet still it cannot be effectual, unless they are peculiarly appointed by God himself. This the Apostle shows with respect to the Sacrifice, in several Places of this Epistle ; But with respect to the Offerer, in the Beginning of this Chapter. For in the first Verse he tells us, Every High-Priest, being taken from among Men, is ordain’d for Men in Things pertaining to God ; that he may offer both Gifts and Sacrifices for Sins. And then in my Text, No Man taketh this Honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
By Commission, I all along mean an outward Call to the Ministry. For tho’ an inward Call be necessary, and no one ought to undertake so high an Office without a thorough Perswasion, and Intention, that he can, and will promote and contribute to the Honour of God, and the Salvation of Men’s Souls ; yet the outward Call is that which the Apostle here principally means ; the being externally appointed, and constituted to any Holy Office, either immediately by God himself, or mediately by those who are divinely authoriz’d to invest Men therewith : As Aaron, and his Sons, and the Levites, were consecrated and set apart by Moses, by virtue of the Commission he receiv’d from God for that end.
Now, besides the plain meaning of my Text, here are three other invincible Arguments implied, to prove the Necessity of such a Divine Commission, to qualify a Person for any Sacred Office.
1st, The Dignity of the Office itself. The Apostle here calls it an Honour ; and it will appear to be an Honour of a very high Degree, if we consider its Nature and Design. The Ministers of Religion are the Representatives of God Almighty : They are to publish his Laws, to pass his Pardons, and to preside in his Worship : God has committed to them the Keys of his Kingdom, and whose-soever Sins they duly remit, they shall be remitted, and whose-soever Sins they retain, thy shall be retain’d. They are the Stewards of the Mysteries of God, the Dispensers of his Holy Word and Sacraments : In short, they are the Messengers and Ambassadors of Heaven, and on their Ministrations the Assistances of the Holy Spirit and all the Graces of a good Life, depend. All these Characters and Powers are ascrib’d to them in Holy Scripture ; Which sufficiently demonstrate the Dignity of their Function, and are a plain Argument that None but God himself can give them their Commission.
Thus, when Corah, Dathan, and Abiram ( tho’ Levites, and consequently nearer to the Lord in Holy Matters than the rest of the Congregation ) usurped the Priest’s Office, God Almighty miraculously destroy’d both them and their Associates ; and their Censers were ordered to be beaten into broad Plates, and fix’d on the Altar, to be everlasting Monuments of their Sacrilege, and a Caution to all the Children of Israel, that none should presume to offer Incense before the Lord, but the Seed of Aaron, who alone were Commissioned to this Office. Thus Uzzah was, by the immediate Hand of God, struck dead on the Spot, for touching the Ark, tho’ he did it out of Zeal to hinder it from falling. To show, that no Pretence of doing God service can justify the Meddling in Holy Things. And King Uzziah attempting to Offer Incense before the Lord, was judicially smitten with Leprosy, and so excluded for ever after, not only from all Sacred, but even Civil Society. A plain Argument, that the Sacerdotal is not included in the Regal Office, nor derived from thence ; but is of a distinct Nature and Institution. I omit many other Instances of the like Nature.Numb. 3. 10. & 18. 7. Num. 16. 2 Sam. 6. 6. 7. 2 Chron. 26. 16, &c.
3dly, Let us consider the Example of our Saviour, who ( as the Apostle speaks, in the Verse after my Text ) glorify’d not himself to be made a High Priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to Day have I begotten thee.&tinsp; Tho’ our Saviour wanted no Gift to qualify him for this Office, as having the Divine Nature inseparably united to his Human, and giving sufficient Evidence of his Abilities, when but twelve years old ; and tho’ the Necessities of Mankind called loudly for such an Instructor, yet he would not enter upon his Office ’till he was externally Commission’d thereunto, by the Visible Descent of the Holy Ghost upon him, and by an audible Voice from Heaven, proclaiming him to be the Messiah ; and he was then about Thirty Years old. All the former part of his Life he spent in a private Capacity.
Which having thus prov’d from the Words of my Text and the Arguments implied therein, I shall now, in the Second Pace, briefly mention some few others.
First then, we may observe, that tho’ our Saviour had many Followers, yet none of them presumed to Preach or Baptize, or perform any other Sacred Office, till they were particularly Commission’d by Him. Thus St. Mark tells us, Chap. 3. v. 14. 15. That of all those who came unto him, he Ordain’d Twelve, that they might be with him ; and that he might send them forth to Preach, and to have Power to heal Sicknesses, and to cast out Devils ; and afterward, the other Seventy, which went out upon a like Errand, were especially appointed by him. So likewise, after his Resurrection, when he advanc’d the Eleven to be Apostles, he did it in a most Solemn Manner : For first, he assur’d them of his own Authority. All Power, says he, is given me, in Heaven, and in Earth. After which, he breath’d on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Then he gave them the Power of the Keys, and Authority to exercise all the Holy Offices in the Christian Church, and to convey the same Authority to others ; promising, that he would be always with them and their Successors, even to the End of the World, to ratify and confirm what was done in his Name, and agreeably to this Commission. Now from hence ’tis plain, that it was our Saviour’s express Will and Intention, that all those who are Ministers in his Church, should derive their Authority, either mediately, or immediately, from Heaven. And accordingly we may observe,Num. 16. 2. Sam. 6. 9.
Secondly, that in the Beginning of Christianity, all those who officiated in Divine Matters, received their Commission either from God himself, or from Apostolical Hands, and very commonly from both : For we have many Instances hereof in the New Testament, and the other Writings of the Three First Centuries *. The Seven Deacons were constituted by the Apostles : And St. Paul and Barnabas Ordained Elders, or Presbyters, in every Church, which they planted † : And the other Apostles used the same Method : As St. Clement ( who lived and wrote in their Time ) witnesses ; Christ † ( says he ) was sent by God, and the Apostles by Christ : And after our Saviour’s Resurrection and Ascension, the Apostles went forth in the Power and Assurance of the Holy Spirit, and preached the Kingdom of God to all Countries and Cities : And the First-Fruits, or those whom they first converted, having try’d and prov’d them by the Spirit, they constituted and ordained,
Ἐις Επισκόπους κὰι Διακόνους τῶν μελλόντῶν πιστέυειν, i.e. To be Bishops and Deacons, of those who should afterwards believe.
II. Who may be truly said to have this Divine Commission.
I proceed now to the Second Point I proposed to speak to, which was, to consider,
II. Who may be truly said to have this Divine Commission : And here I shall not doubt to affirm, that None but those who are Ordain’d by such as we now commonly call Bishops, can have any Authority to minister in the Christian Church : For, that the Power of Ordination is solely lodged in that Order, I shall prove from the Institution of our Saviour, and the constant Practice of the Apostles. That the Power of Ordination, lodged in the Apostles, was of Divine Institution, I suppose no one will question, who reads these Words of our Saviour to them after his Resurrection : As my Father sent me, so send I you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the End of the World. For from hence it is evident, First, That it was by a Divine Commission that our Saviour ordain’d, or sent his Apostles. Secondly, That by virtue of the same Commission, the Apostles were at that Time empowered to ordain, or send others. And, Thirdly, that this Commission to ordain, was always to continue in the Christian Church, and to remain in such Hands as the Apostles should convey it to : All this, I say, is evident from these Words of our Saviour, when duly considered and compared. And hence this Proposition naturally follows : Whoever has a Power to Ordain, must derive it from the Commission which our Saviour receiv’d from God, and gave to his Apostles, and was by them convey’d to their Successors. The only way then to know in whose Hands this Commission is now lodged, is to enquire, what Persons were appointed by the Apostles to succeed them in this Office. Now, ’tis plain to any one that will read the Scripture without Prejudice, that there were Three distinct Orders of Ministers in the Christian Church in the Apostles Days, and which were designed to continue to the End of the World. The lowest of these Orders was that of Deacons : These were at first, by the Direction of the Apostles, nominated and chosen by the People, but invested in their Office by the laying on of the Apostles Hands. They were ordain’d, not only to take Care of the Poor, but also to Preach and Baptize ; as is evident from the Instances of St. Stephen and St. Philip who were Two of the first Seven. Secondly, We read of a higher Order, who were also invested in their Office by the Apostles : These are commonly called Presbyters, or Elders, in Scripture ; tho’ that Name was not appropriated to them, ’till the latter End of the Apostolical Age, as will appear afterwards. These had, and still have, a Power to Preach, and to administer the Sacraments, to pronounce Absolution, and in some Cases and upon some Occasions, rule and govern the Christian Church. And then, Thirdly, we likewise read of another Order, who were Superiour to, and had Authority over, both the former : Such were, besides the Apostles, Timothy and Titus. For ’tis plain, from the Epistles St. Paul wrote to them, that they presided over the Presbyters : They had Power to enforce them to their Duty, to receive Accusations against, and judicially to pass Sentence upon them : Which abundantly proves their Superiority ; and several others were constituted by the Apostles to the same eminent Office. Such were St. James, surnamed the Just, and Epaphroditus ; who are termed Apostles, or Bishops, by all Antiquity. And such, in all probability, were those whom St. Paul calls Apostles of the Churches, and joins with Titus. Such also were those Angels of the Churches, mentioned in the Revelation.John 20. 21. Mat. 28. 20. 2 Cor. 8.23.
I know some have been pleased to tell us, That Timothy and Titus, and those Others of the highest Order, were extraordinary Officers in the Christian Church, and so of temporary Institution only ; but this is said without any Ground, or plausible Pretence. That they were sometimes sent upon extraordinary Messages, and had a Power, upon Occasion, to do extraordinary Things, such as Miracles, &c. is very true ; but then the same is to be said of the Presbyters and Deacons. Philip ( we know ) was only a Deacon ; and yet, God employ’d him in several extraordinary Matters. And the working of Miracles was so common in the Beginning of Christianity, that ordinary Christians were frequently endow’d with this Power. So that if this were an Argument for the temporary Institution of one Order, it must be so too for all the rest : Which they, who make the Objection, dare not say ; and thereby acknowledge, there is no Force in it.
But they farther urge, that Timothy was an Evangelist ; because St. Paul bids him, do the Work of an Evangelist ; But in Answer to this, Two Things may be said ; either of which fully answers the Objection. First, supposing the Office of an Evangelist to have been a distinct Office, and of temporary Institution only, yet there’s a vast difference between doing the work of an Evangelist, and being really such a One. ’Tis said of Araumah, that, as a King he gave to King David. Yet I hope, no one will from hence argue, that he was really a King. But then, Secondly, An Evangelist was no distinct Officer at any Time in the Christian Church. For the proper Notion of an Evangelist in the Acts and St. Paul’s Epistles, is, One who was eminently qualified to Preach the Gospel,and had taken very great Pains therein. And therefore, the Title of Evangelist was merely accidental, and given as an Addition, or Surname, to Persons. Thus St. Philip was call’d an Evangelist, because, by his laborious Preaching, he had converted Samaria, and propagated the Gospel in several Places : And yet his Office was no more than that of a Deacon. For tho’ he was dignified with that Title, he could only Preach and Baptize, and had not the Power of Laying on of Hands, which both Timothy and Titus had : And therefore, his Office was far inferiour to theirs. From all which, ’tis evident, that Timothy’s Power over Presbyters did not accrue to him upon the Account of his being an Evangelist, supposing he was one : And the Meaning of the advice of doing the work of an Evangelist, can be no more than this, viz. That he should diligently Preach the Gospel, not only to those who were already converted, but to Infidels also, and thereby enlarge the Bounds of Christianity. But this no more proves his Office of Ruling Presbyters, and Ordaining, to be temporary, than St. Philip’s being call’d an Evangelist proves the Office of Preaching and Baptizing to be so. So that here is nothing to object against the Permanency and Continuance of the Office Timothy and Titus were ordain’d to.2 Sam. 24. 23. * Ecclesias. Cases p. 11.
From what has been said, it plainly appears, That there were Three distinct Orders set apart to the Ministry by the Apostles. Our next Enquiry then is, To how many, or to which of these the Power of Ordination was committed. Now, that the lowest Order ( viz. that of Deacons ) had not this Power, is by all confes’d. And the highest Order ( of which Timothy and Titus were ) had it, we are assur’d by the express Testimony of St. Paul. The only Question then is, whether the second Order ( viz. that of Presbyters ) was ever invested with this Power. The Affirmative of which Question can never be prov’d from Scripture, or Antiquity. For,
1. ’Tis frivolous to argue from the Community of Names to the Sameness of Office. And therefore, tho’ the Words Bishop and Presbyter be promiscuously used, and mere Presbyters frequently called Bishops, yet this doth not prove, that therefore all the Powers, which belong to those we now call Bishops, were ever lodged in those Presbyters. At this Rate of Arguing, Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons, would all be but one Order : For the Apostles are some called
Διάκονοι, Deacons, as well as Presbyters : Nay, our Saviour himself is called by that Name : But how ridiculous and absurd would it be, to infer that Deacons have a Power to Ordain, and are Apostles, and Bishops, because those who are called Deacons in Scripture had such a Power, and were called by these Names? And yet this is the utmost, that the Arguments from the promiscuous Use of the Words Bishop and Presbyter can amount to.
The only Method to prove that the Power of Ordination belongs to Presbyters, is, to show, that whoever had a Power to Preach, and Administer the Sacrament, had also a Power to Ordain ; or, that whoever were called by the Name of Presbyters, or Bishops, were invested therewith. But this is what can never be done. On the contrary, ’tis very evident, that many who were authorized to preach and administer the Sacraments, had no Power to Ordain. St. Paul tells Titus. That for this Cause he left him in Crete, that he might Ordain Elders in every City : But this could be no Cause of leaving him there if the Presbyters, or Elders, had the Power of Ordination lodg’d in them : For that Island had been converted to Christianity long before this Epistle was written, and before Titus came thither : And, no doubt, there were many Presbyters among them, Persons to preach and administer the Sacraments to the Inhabitants of that Island. The same may be said of Timothy‘s being sent to Ephesus. To what Purpose was he sent thither, if the Presbyters there before had Power to ordain? So that tho’ Presbyters are called Bishops in Scripture, this doth not prove, the Power of Ordination was ever committed to them. Neither,Chap. 1. v. 5. * Vide Bevereg. in Can. Apost. 1. † De synod. L. 1. C. 14.
For the further Clearing of which, and to solve those Difficulties this Point has been entangled with, give me leave, as briefly as I can, to lay before you my Sentiments, concerning the Apostles Proceedings in the Settlement of Officers in the several Churches, which they planted.
The Apostles ( as I have showed ) , received from our Saviour a Divine Commission. Whatever therefore they did in Pursuance of that Commission, must be of Divine Institution. There is then no Reason in this Case to distinguish between Jus Divinum and Jus Apostolicum, as the Learned Bishop Beveridge has observ’d * : For this Commission was of Divine Authority, and they were guided by the Infallible Spirit of God in all Things relating thereunto : So that whatever they did, which was within the Limits of that Commission, is as much of Divine Right and Institution, as if God himself had immediately order’d it : Now the Power of Ordination being expressly included herein, ( as I showed before ) whatever, Offices they appointed by virtue of this Power, may truly be said to be of Divine Institution. But then as to the Settlement of Persons ordain’d to those Offices in particular Churches, the Apostles Method seems to be this :* Cod. Can. Vind. Cap. 11. § 18.
Having receiv’d the aforesaid Commission from our Saviour, and being fill’d with the Holy Ghost, first of all they establish’d a Church at Jerusalem, of which they made St. James President, or Bishop ; as is evident from his Authority at the first Council held there, and from the concurrent Testimony of Ancient Writers. To him they gave a Power of Ordaining, as well as Presiding in that Church : And he seems to have fix’d there so soon, because of the Multitude of Believers at that place. Under him were constituted some of the two Inferiour Orders before mention’d. This Church being thus settled, the Apostles dispers’d themselves into several Parts of the World. And when they had converted a considerable Number at any Place, they Ordain’d the most competent of them to the Offices of Presbyters, and Deacons. To these they committed the Care and Government of the Church in their Absence ; still reserving to themselves the Episcopal Power of Ordaining, and of Visiting those Churches, and setting in order the Things that are wanting. And when there happen’d to be occasion for more Presbyters and Deacons by reason of the Increase of Believers, they either went in Person, or sent others invested with Apostolical Power ; who sometimes were order’d to reside constantly among them, and sometimes were call’d off to attend at other Places. So that in several Churches there were at first only Presbyters and Deacons fix’d, who took care of the Affairs of the Church in the Apostles Absence. But before the Death of all the Apostles, Bishops were settled in every Church, according to the Model of that at Jerusalem.
Episcopacy therefore, as it implies a Superiority above Presbyters, and a Right to Ordain, is of Divine Appointment, included in the Commission, which our Saviour receiv’d from his Father, and deliver’d over to the Apostles : But as to Diocesan Episcopacy, or the Limiting a Bishop to a certain District, tho’ that too be of Apostolical Institution, yet it is not absolutely necessary, but seems to be a prudential Appointment of the Apostles, for the Preventing of Schisms and Divisions, which were likely to arise from an Equality of Power among the Governours. And therefore it was instituted in some Places sooner, in others later : But wherever the Gospel was spread, it was settled before the End of the first Century.
And by this Account we may answer the most Considerable Objections, that have been made against the Divine Right of Episcopacy. For,
1st, From hence we may easily account for all, those Places of Scripture, which are brought to prove the Identity of Bishops and Presbyters ; as Acts 20. where the same Persons, that are call’d Elders or Presbyters in the 17th Verse, are call’d
Επίσκοποι, Overseers or Bishops in the 28th. And Phil. 1.1. the Apostle directs his Epistle to the Saints which are at Philippi, with the Bishops, and Deacons. And in his Epistles to Timothy, and Titus, having mention’d the Qualifications of a Bishop, he proceeds to those of Deacons, without so much as naming Presbyters. This is thought by some an unanswerable Argument against the Three-fold Order in the Christian Church. But not to mention what is commonly said to this Objection, the foregoing Account will furnish us with a full Reply. For I think, we may, and should, grant, that by Bishops in all those Places are meant only such, as we now call Presbyters. Theodoret’s opinion being very probably true, viz. * That those of the Highest Order, now call’d Bishops, were at first call’d Apostles ; and the second Order, now call’d Presbyters, had then the Title also of Bishops. And perhaps where-ever the Word Bishop is found in Scripture as apply’d to an Ecclesiastical Overseer after our Saviour, the Middle Order is always meant †. For tho’ the Apostles are sometimes call’d Presbyters, and Deacons, yet they are never call’d Bishops. Their Office indeed is once call’d
Επίσκοπὴ. But in all the foremention’d Places of Scripture, by
Επίσκοποι we are to understand the Middle Order, which we now call Presbyters.
Επίσκοποςis usually rendered by Presbyter, and
Επίσκοπὴby Presbyteratus. Vid. Bevereg. in Can. Apostol. 2.
For first, in St. Paul’s Charge to the Elders of Ephesus, among all his Directions, there is nothing but what is proper to be spoken to Persons of this Order : But not a Word about Ordination. Which certainly would not have been omitted, if that Power had been lodg’d in them : Especially considering St. Paul had so fair an Occasion for it. For when he had told them, they should take heed to the Flock of Christ, over which the Holy Ghost had made them
Επίσκοποι, since after his departure grievous Wolves would enter in, and of themselves some should arise, speaking perverse Things, to draw Disciples after them, it would have been very natural to have given them some Caution about such as were to be admitted into Holy Orders, if the Power of Ordination had belong’d to them : But there is not a Syllable in all that long and affectionate Charge concerning that Matter. Which to me is a plain Argument, that ’twas none of their Province. They had indeed the Government of the Church of Ephesus, while Timothy, their Bishop, was absent ; or rather, before he was their Bishop, according to the best Chronologers : And therefore St. Paul speaks much to them concerning that Matter, but nothing that intimates their Power of Ordination : So that the Persons, to whom he there speaks, were undoubtedly of the Middle Order.
And thus likewise by Bishops in the Epistle to the Philippians, such as we now call Presbyters are meant. And therefore in that whole Epistle St. Paul gives no Direction to them concerning Ordination. For that was not the Business of those
Επίσκοποι, but belong’d to Epaphroditus ; whom, Chap.2.25. he calls his Brother, and Companion in Labour ;
ὑμᾶν δὲ Απόστολον, but your Apostle. And ’tis probable, St. Paul ordain’d him to that Office, when he sent him with this Epistle. For which Reason,at the 29 Verse of that Chapter, he charges them, to receive him in the Lord with all Gladness, and to hold such in Reputation. And he is by all Antiquity reckon’d the first Bishop of Philippi. And St. Jerome himself not only agrees to this Interpretation, but from hence proves, that the Apostles of Christ convey’d their whole Office, and Authority, to such only. His Words are very remarkable *.
Paulatim tempore procedente & alii ab his quos Dominus elegerat, ordinati sunt Apostoli : sicut ille ad Philippenses Sermo declarat, dicens, Necessarium existimavi Epaphroditum vestrum Apostolum ad vos mitere. So that the Apostolical Office was not temporary, but design’d to continue in the Church of Christ. And therefore the Apostles took care to Ordain some to succeed them, who were at first call’d by the same Name. As also Theodoret expresly tells us † : Those ( says he ) whom we now call Bishops, were at first call’d Apostles. And from the Character here given to Epaphroditus, he argues, That the
Επίσκοποι in the Beginning of the Epistle were to be subject to him ; and consequently no more than mere Presbyters.
The same Order is also meant under the Title of
Επίσκοποι in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus ; and their Office is there term’d
Επίσκοπὴ. For in the Qualifications for that Office, there is nothing to intimate, that such being Ordain’d would have a Power of Ordaining others : And therefore, says Theodoret upon the place, Here again St. Paul calls a Presbyter by the Name of Bishop. And then makes this general Remark * : Formerly the same Persons were called both Presbyters and Bishops ; and those now called Bishops, were then called Apostles : But, in process of Time, the Name of Apostle was left to those Apostles strictly so called ; and the Name of Bishops ascribed to all the rest.
Τοὺς ἀυτοὺς ἐκάλουν ποτὲ Πρεβυτέρους καὶ Επίσκόπους; τοὺς δὲ νῦν καλουμένους Επίσκόπους, Αποστόλους ὀνόμαζον; τοῦ δὲ χρόνου προιόντος τὸ μὲν τῆς Αποστολῆς ὄνομα τοῖς ἀληθῶς Αποστόλοις κατέλιπον; τὴν δὲ τῆς Επίσκοπῆς προσηγορίαν τοῖς πάλαι καλουμένοις Αποστόλοις ἐπέθσαν.Vol. 3. p. 473. Edit. Par. 1642.
So that granting mere Presbyters to be Scripture-Bishops, which some have so earnestly contended for, yet nothing can from thence be inferr’d, to prove them to have equal Powers with those we now call Bishops, who are Successors of a higher Order. For in all the Directions to and about those called Bishops in the New Testament, there is nothing said that implies a Power of Ordination lodg’d in them. But when St. Paul writes to Timothy and Titus, he then expressly mentions their Power to Ordain ; and is very large in setting down Rules to direct them, when and how to exercise it. The Reason of which Difference of Language must be this, That these latter had this Power, whereas the others had not, and consequently were of an Inferiour Order. They might Rule, and govern the Affairs of the Church, in the Apostles Absence, and when they had no fix’d Bishop among them ; but they had no Authority even at that time to Appoint and Ordain other Ministers : That was always peculiar to the Apostles, and those of the Apostolical Order. The Objection therefore of Presbyters being call’d Bishops in Scripture, is of no Force against the distinct Divine institution of Episcopacy ; for the Bishops in Scripture can never be prov’d to have a Power of Ordination *.* And I think it highly probable, that St. Clemens, who wrote in the Apostolical Age, about the Year of Christ 65 [ Dodwell. Addit. ad Pearson. Dissert. 2. de Succes. Cap. Sect. 24, 25. & eiusdem Dissert. Sing. Cap. 11. apud Pearson. Op. Posthum. ] but one Year after S. Paul’s 2d Ep. to Timothy, and before Bishops were generally fix’d, and their Titles determined, speaks in the Scripture Language. And therefore, throughout his whole Epistle, by Bishops and Presbyters, we are to understand those of the Second Order. For he nowhere ascribes to them the Power of Ordination ; but appropriates that to the Apostles, and those
Ελλόγιμοι ἄνδρες, mentioned 1 Ep. Sect. 44. Whom he there plainly intimates to be the Apostles Successors, distinct from and superiour to those he calls by the promiscuous Names of Bishops and Presbyters. * Vid. Bevereg. in Can. Apost. 2. Pearson. Vind. Ignat. apud. Patres Apostolic. Vol. 2. p. 402, &c.
3dly, The Account I have given, takes off all the Force of the Objection, which is founded on the uncertain Succession of the first Bishops in some of the most eminent Churches, such as Rome, Antioch, and others ; whereof some reckon one the first Bishop, and some another. Now, we may observe that all the Difficulty is concerning who were Bishops of those Sees in the Apostolical Age, during the first Sixty or Seventy Years after our Saviour’s Passion : For the Succession afterward is clear, and uncontroverted. But this Difficulty is easily to be accounted for, if we consider, that when the Apostles were obliged to be absent from those Churches, where only Presbyters and Deacons were at first fixed, they left, or sent, upon all Emergencies, a Person, or Persons, with Apostolical Power, who were to reside there for a Time only, and then were called off again upon the like, or some other, important Occasion. For as Diocesses were not presently settled, so at first in very few Places did any one of the Highest or Apostolical Order constantly reside : Thus Timothy, after he had been a while at Ephesus, and exercised his Episcopal Authority there, was by St. Paul ordered to come to him at Rome : Do thy Diligence, says he, 2 Tim. 4. 9. to come shortly unto me. And he tells him, that Crescens was then gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. So that neither Timothy nor Titus were at that Time fix’d Bishops ; at least, they were not oblig’d to a constant Residence, but executed their Episcopal Function in other Places besides Ephesus and Crete : And no doubt, many others of the same Authority did the like.
Now, several of these Persons coming to the same Place at different Times with an Episcopal Character, were afterwards call’d Bishops of that See : And the Writers of the following Centuries, not being able to fix the exact Time of their Residence, some call’d One the first Bishop, and some Another : Others again reckon’d none for Bishops of those Sees, besides the Apostles, ’till some One was fix’d there. And this has given Occasion to those different Accounts of the first Succession. For at Jerusalem, where there was a fix’d Bishop at the Beginning, we find no Differences in this Matter : So that the Apostles not immediately fixing Bishops in several Sees, but sometimes sending One with Episcopal Authority, and sometimes Another, is ( I verily believe ) the true Reason, why it is so difficult to know who were the first Bishops of those Places : For we meet with no such Difficulties after the Apostolical Age, when Bishops were every where settled, and the Limits of their Jurisdiction assign’d. But this can be no Objection against the Divine Right of Episcopacy ; for the Office of a Bishop implies only a Superiority of Order and Jurisdiction, to whom alone the Power of Ordination belongs : But the Relation of a Bishop to this or that particular Diocess or District, is not absolutely necessary. All that I contend for is, that the Power of Ordination, which was given by Christ to his Apostles, was by them convey’d to none but such as must be acknowledged distinct and superiour Order to that of Presbyters : And consequently, such alone are invested with that Power. For to Govern in the Church of God is not so peculiar to Bishops, but Presbyters and others may do this by their Appointment, and in Subordination to them ; as the most zealous Asserters of Episcopacy have granted.
And now, I presume, I have made it very plain, that None but such as receive Ordination from the Hands of those we now call Bishops, have any Authority to minister in Holy Things ; since the Power of Ordination is appropriated to this highest Order in the Christian Church. And to what has been said, I might, for farther Proof, add the joint Testimony of all Christendom for near Fifteen Hundred Years together ; and challenge our Adversaries, to produce one Instance of a valid Ordination by Presbyters for all that Time. The Story of the Scottish Culdees, and all others of a like Nature, have been abundantly confuted and exposed : And ( I think ) Ischyras is the only certain Instance in all Antiquity of a Person’s Officiating in Holy Things with a bare Presbyterian Ordination : But he was no sooner discovered, but he was discarded, and all that he had done declar’d null and void. * As for Aerius, tho’ he stiffly contended for an Equality between Presbyters and Bishops, yet I do not remember, that, tho’ a Presbyter himself, he ever pretended to Ordain others, or that any of his Followers officiated upon such an Ordination. But however that be, this Heresy expired quickly after its Rise ; for it began and ended in the latter part of the Fourth Century †.† Vide Bevereg. Cod. Can. Vind. C. 11. Sect. 17. * The Third Council of Alexandria, held A. D. 324. pronounce him a mere Layman ; because his Ordainer Colluthus, being only a Presbyter, had no Authority to ordain. The Synod of Sardica pass the same Sentence, and call Ischyras,
Ὁ παμπόνηρος, One full of all Wickedness. And Socrates terms this Fact, a Crime deserving a thousand deaths ; His Words are,
Ισχύρας πραγμα ὑπέδυ πολλῶν θανάτων ἄξιον. Ὀυδὲ πώποτε γὰρ Ιερωσύνης τυχὼν, τὸ τοῦ Πρεσβυτέρου ὄνομα ἑαυτῶ περιθέμενος, τὰ Ιερέως πράττειν ετόλμησε. Vid. Athanas. Apol. 2. de fuga sua. Theodoret. Vol 3. p. 592. Edit. Par. 1642. Socrat. Eccles. Hist. L. 1 C. 27.
Now, it seems very strange, if Episcopacy were not of Divine Institution, how it should prevail over all the World, and Presbyters tamely give up their Right, without any Complaint, or so much as leaving any Thing upon Record, to witness their Original Authority to After-Ages. In a Word, we have as much Reason to believe the Divine Institution of Episcopacy, and that the Power of Ordination is appropriated to that Order, as we have to believe the Divine Institution of the Lord’s Day, of Infant-Baptism, and of the Canon of Scripture : Nay, as we have to believe the necessary Continuance of any one positive Ordinance in the Gospel. If Men will exercise their Wit and Fancy, and ply the whole Force of their Understanding, they may raise plausible Objections against the plainest Truths. But this I dare say, that the Divine Authority of Episcopacy can’t be questioned without weakening the Foundations of Christianity itself : For it stands upon the same Foot with the Authority of the Holy Scriptures ; and the same Arguments that confirm the One, as effectually establish the Other.
III. Inferences from what has been said.
And now I hope, I have given some Satisfaction concerning the Two Points I propos’d to speak to. I shall therefore briefly consider their proper Inferences, and so conclude.
III. We may infer the great Reasonableness and even Necessity of a constant Communion with the Established Church. And here I earnestly desire all Persons to consider this Matter seriously, as becomes those who have any Love for their own and others Souls. They who have Episcopal Orders are lawfully commissioned to Preach, and administer the Sacraments ; as is acknowledged on all Hands : And, consequently, those who are baptiz’d by them, are undoubtedly admitted into the Christian Church, and have a Title, by virtue of the Divine Promise, to all the Benefits and Blessings of the Gospel. On the other side, those who have no such Orders, can’t prove their Authority to do any of the fore-mentioned Acts, there being no Instance in Scripture of any besides an Episcopal Ordination ; and the Christian Church, for Fifteen Hundred Years, has allowed of no other. So that, take it in the most favourable Construction, all the Ministrations of those who dissent from us are questionable ; there is no Certainty that anything they do in Holy Matters is valid : Those, therefore, who join themselves to them, and have their Children Baptiz’d by them, must run the greatest Risk, and put their own and their Children’s Happiness on a disputable Point. Now, who that has any Regard to his Eternal Interest, any Sense of the Happiness and Misery of another World, any Consideration of the Blessed state of being in Covenant with God, would thus choose an Uncertainty, and lay the whole Stress of his Christianity upon a doubtful Perhaps, when he may, if he pleases, take the sure and certain Way, and partake of the Gospel-Ordinances from unquestionable Hands ? So that a constant Communion with the Established Church is not so indifferent a Matter as some would make it, but an indispensable Duty, and which no one, who regards his Soul as much as he does his Body or Estate, would ever neglect. In temporal Cases we alway judge it reasonable, and our Duty, to take the safest Course ; And why should we be so imprudent, as not to do the same in our spiritual Concerns?
I know how tenacious most People are of those Principles and Practices they have been bred up in, and long accustom’d to : But the Natures of Things will not be chang’d by our Opinions of them. To take the safest and securest Method in order to our Happiness, is both the plainest and most reasonable Principle we can act by : Consequently, since the Ministers of the Established Church have an undoubted Commission, and all others who have not Episcopal Ordination a very uncertain one, if any at all, ’tis safest, and therefore most reasonable and necessary, constantly to communicate with this Church. And all this even upon the largest Concessions.
But then, if we’ll believe the Primitive Fathers, who were certainly Men of Learning and Judgment, as well as Honesty and Integrity, the Case of those who join themselves to Pastors that have no lawful Ordination ( and such are all those who have not receiv’d their Commission from Episcopal Hands, as is before prov’d ) is much worse. St. Ignatius, who wrote within a hundred Years after our Saviour, having reckon’d up the Three Orders of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, expressly tells us *, that without these, there can be no Church, no Congregation of Saints, no Holy Assemblies. Again, † Whoever belong to God and Jesus Christ, must be in Communion with the Bishop. Be not deceiv’d ( my Brethren ) he that joins himself to those who make Divisions cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. And farther ‡ he assures us, that no one can do any Thing that pertains to the Church without the Bishop. And, that none but the Bishop, and such as are constituted and ordain’d by him, have Authority to administer the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lords-Supper. And, that the Ministrations of all others are null and ineffectual. And those who maintain the contrary Opinion, oppose the Will of God, ( he says ) and are to be avoided by all good Christians.* Ep. ad. Trall. † Ep. ad Philadelph. ‡ Ep. ad Smyrnen. * Vid. Cyprian Ep. 69, 73, 74. Edit. Oxon. Et de unitate Eccles. Chrys. in Ephes. 4. Tom. 3. p. 822, &c. Optat. & Augustin. contra Donatist passim. Gesta Collat. Carthag. apud Du Pin. p. 255, &c.
IV. From what has been said, it is natural to infer, that the Maintaining the Divine Right of Episcopacy, is a Point of the greatest Consequence, not only to the Well-being, but even Being of the Christian Church ; since without it, all valid Ordination ceases ; and then the Promises and Blessings of the Gospel become very uncertain to us, and ( for all we know ) wholly void, and of no Effect. Unless ( says St. Chrysostom * ) , we are assured of the Validity of our Orders, all that we do signifies nothing. We ought therefore ( as he goes on ) to contend as earnestly for a valid Ordination, as we do for the Faith itself. For ( says he ) if Persons intrude into the Sacred Office, and take upon them to Ordain without a Commission, this naturally destroys Altar, Church and Priesthood. And then what will become of Christianity itself ? This Doctrine may perhaps sound harsh in some Men’s Ears, and be called Want of Charity, or by some other invidious Name ; but surely, to adhere to the Institutions of Christianity, and not to Complement away the Truths of the Gospel, can never justly be term’d a breach of that or any other Christian Virtue. For tho’ Lukewarmness may in an Age of Liberty and Licentiousness pass for Moderation, and Indifferency in Religion for a Gospel-Temper, yet transposing of Names will never alter Nature of Things. † To contend earnestly for the Faith, and to be zealously affected for a Good Cause, and to vindicate the Doctrines and Usages of our excellently reform’d church upon all proper Occasions, will never be accounted by our Saviour ( the best and most impartial Judge ) inconsistent with true Charity and Moderation, but rather great and shining Instances of both. And as for Us of the Clergy, whose Business it is to interpret the Scriptures, and truly to represent the Mind of God, what a Load of Guilt shall we heap upon ourselves, if we call Evil Good, or Good Evil ? If we handle the Word of God so deceitfully, as to soothe Men in their Errours, and prostitute our Opinions and Practices to the Humours of the Age, or to any other Temporal Consideration ? It therefore highly concerns Us, and all Others, especially those who are of Character and Figure in the World, and whose Example is of a large Influence, to be well establish’d in the Principles of Religion ; that so we may be true to the Church ourselves, and engage others to be so too ‡.* Loc. Citat. † Boni Militis est, adversus Rebelles & Hostes Imperatoris sui Castra defendere. Gloriosi Ducis est Commissa sibi Signa defendere. Vid. Cyprian. Ep. 73. Edit. Oxon. ‡ Merito in Dies singulos Schismata & Haereses surgunt, —- Dum illis Advocatione quorundam & Auctoritas praestatur & firmitas, Dum Baptisma eorum defenditur, dum Fides, dum veritas proditur, dium id quod contra Ecclesiam, foris geritur intus in ipsa Ecclesia vindicatur. Vid. Cypr. Ep. 74, p. 214.
There are several other useful Inferences, which naturally follow from the foregoing Discourse ; but I have trespassed on your Patience too much already, and therefore shall comprize them all in that extensive Inference of St. Paul, which equally concerns all Orders and Degrees of Men whatsoever ; 1 Cor. 15. 58. Wherefore, my Beloved Brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always ; abounding in the Work of the Lord ; for as much as ye know, that your Labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Now to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three Persons and one God, be ascrib’d, as is most due, all Honour, Praise, Might, Majesty, and Dominion, now and for ever.