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labours, counfels, and prayers, have been earneft for the common good of religion and their country, fhall receive above the inferiour orders of the bleffed, the regal addition of principalities, legions, and thrones into their glorious titles, and in fupereminence of beatific vifion, progreffing the dateless and irrevoluble circle of eternity, fhall clafp infeparable hands with joy and blifs, in overmeafure for ever.
But they contrary, that by the impairing and diminution of the true faith, the diftreffes and fervitude of their country, afpire to high dignity, rule and promotion here, after a fhameful end in this life (which God grant them), fhall be thrown down eternally into the darkeft and deepest gulf of Hell, where, under the defpiteful control, the trample and spurn of all the other damned, that in the anguish of their torture, fhall have no other ease than to exercise a raving and beftial tyranny over them as their flaves and negroes, they fhall remain in that plight for ever, the bafeft, the lowermoft, the moft dejected, most underfoot, and downtrodden vaffals of perdition.
And whether it may be deduced from the apoftolical times, by virtue of thofe teftimonies which are alleged to that purpose in fome late treatifes, one whereof goes under the name of James Archbishop of Armagh.
EPISCOPACY, as it is taken for an order in the church above a prefbyter, or as we commonly name him, the minifter of a congregation, is either of divine conftitution, or of human. If only of human, we have the fame human privilege that all men have ever had fince Adam, being born free, and in the mistress island of all the British, to retain this epifcopacy, or to remove it, confulting with our own occafions and conveniencies, and for the prevention of our own dangers and difquiets, in what best manner we can devife, without running at a loss, as we must needs in those ftale and ufelefs records of either uncertain or unfound antiquity; which, if we hold fast to the grounds of the reformed church, can neither skill of us, nor we of it, fo oft as it would lead us to the broken reed of tradition. If it be of divine conftitution, to fatisfy us fully in that, the fcripture only is able, it being. the only book left us of divine authority, not in any thing more divine than in the allfufficiency it hath to furnish us, as with all other fpiritual knowledge, fo with this in particular, fetting out to us a perfect man of God, accomplished to all the good works of his charge: through all which book can be nowhere, either by plain text or folid reasoning, found any difference between a bifhop and a prefbyter, fave that they be two names to fignify the fame order. Notwithstanding this clearnefs, and that by all evidence of argument, Timothy and Titus (whom our prelates claim to imitate only in the controlling part
of their office) had rather the vicegerency of an apofilefhip committed to them, than the ordinary charge of a bishopric, as being men of an extraordinary calling; yet to verify that which St. Paul foretold of fucceeding times, when men began to have itching ears, then not contented with the plentiful and wholefome fountains of the goipel, they began after their own lufts to heap to themselves teachers, and as if the divine fcripture wanted a fupplement, and were to be eked out, they cannot think any doubt refolved, and any doctrine confirmed, unless they run to that indigested heap and fry of authors, which they call antiquity. Whatfoever time, or the heedlefs hand of blind chance, hath drawn down from of old to this prefent, in her huge dragnet, whether fish or feaweed, shells, or fhrubs, unpicked, unchofen, those are the fathers. Seeing, therefore, fome men, deeply converfant in books, have had fo little care of late to give the world a better account of their reading, than by divulging needless tractates ftuffed with fpecious names of Ignatius and Polycarpus; with fragments of old martyrologies and legends, to distract and stagger the multitude of credulous readers, and mislead them from their ftrong guards and places of fafety, under the tuition of holy writ; it came into my thoughts to perfuade myself, fetting all distances and nice refpects afide, that I could do religion and my country no better service for the time, than doing my utmost endeavour to recall the people of God from this vain foraging after ftraw, and to reduce them to their firm ftations under the ftandard of the gofpel; by making appear to them, firft the infufficiency, next the inconveniency, and laftly, the impiety of thefe gay teftimonies, that their great doctors would bring them to dote on. And in performing this, I fhall not ftrive to be more exact in method, than as their citations lead me.
First, therefore, concerning Ignatius fhall be treated fully, when the author fhall come to infift upon fome places in his epiftles. Next, to prove a fucceffion of twenty-feven bishops from Timothy, he cites one Leontius bishop of Magnefia, out of the 11th act of the Chalcedonian council: this is but an obfcure and fingle witnefs, and for his faithful dealing who fhall commend him
to us, with this his catalogue of bishops? What know we further of him, but that he might be as factious and false a bishop as Leontius of Antioch, that was a hundred years his predeceffor? For neither the praise of his wifdom, or his virtue, hath left him memorable to posterity, but only this doubtful relation, which we must take at his word and how fhall this teftimony receive credit from his word, whofe very name had scarce been thought on but for this bare teftimony? But they will fay, he was a member of the council, and that may deserve to gain him credit with us. I will not ftand to argue, as yet with fair allowance I might, that we may as juftly fufpect there were fome bad and flippery men in that council, as we know there are wont to be in our convocations: nor fhall I need to plead at this time, that nothing hath been more attempted, nor with more fubtlety brought about, both anciently by other heretics, and modernly by papifts, than to falfify the editions of the councils, of which we have none, but from our adverfaries hands, whence canons, acts, and whole fpurious councils are thruft upon us; and hard it would be to prove in all, which are legitimate, against the lawful rejection of an urgent and free difputer. But this I purpose not to take advantage of; for what avails it to wrangle about the corrupt editions of councils, whenas we know that many years ere this time, which was almoft five hundred years after Chrift, the councils themselves were foully corrupted with ungodly prelatism, and fo far plunged into worldly ambition, as that it stood them upon long ere this to uphold their now well tafted hierarchy by what fair pretext foever they could, in like manner as they had now learned to defend many other grofs corruptions by as ancient, and fuppofed authentic tradition as epifcopacy? And what hope can we have of this whole council to warrant us a matter, four hundred years at least above their time, concerning the diftinction of bishop and prefbyter, whenas we find them fuch blind judges of things before their eyes, in their decrees of precedency between bishop and bishop, acknowledging Rome for the apoftolic throne, and Peter, in that fee, for the rock, the bafis, and the foundation of the catholic church and faith, contrary to the interpretation of more
ancient fathers? And therefore from a miftaken text did they give to Leo, as Peter's fucceffor, a kind of preeminence above the whole council, as Euagrius expreffes (for now the pope was come to that height, as to arrogate to himself by his vicars incompetible honours) and yet having thus yielded to Rome, the univerfal primacy for fpiritual reasons, as they thought, they conclude their fitting with a carnal and ambitious decree, to give the fecond place of dignity to Conftantinople from reason of state, because it was New Rome; and by like confequence doubtlefs of earthly privileges annexed to each other city, was the bishop thereof to take his place.
I may fay again therefore, what hope can we have of fuch a council, as, beginning in the spirit, ended thus in the flesh? Much rather should we attend to what Eufebius, the ancienteft writer extant of church-history, notwithstanding all the helps he had above these, confeffes in the 4th chapter of his third book, That it was no eafy matter to tell who were thofe that were left bishops of the churches by the apoftles, more than by what a man. might gather from the Acts of the Apoftles, and the Epiftles of St.Paul, in which number he reckons Timothy for bishop of Ephefus. So as may plainly appear, that this tradition of bifhoping Timothy over Ephefus was but taken for granted out of that place in St. Paul, which was only an intreating him to tarry at Ephefus, to do fomething left him in charge. Now, if Eufebius, a famous writer, thought it fo difficult to tell who were appointed bishops by the apostles, much more may we think it difficult to Leontius, an obfcure bishop, fpeaking beyond his own. diocess and certainly much more hard was it for either of them to determine what kind of bishops these were, if they had fo little means to know who they were; and much less reafon have we to ftand to their definitive fentence, seeing they have been fo rafh to raise up fuch lofty bishops and bishoprics out of places in feripture merely misunderstood. Thus while we leave the Bible to gad after the traditions of the ancients, we hear the ancients themselves confeffing, that what knowledge they had in this point was fuch as they had gathered from the Bible.