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Since therefore, antiquity itself hath turned over the controversy to that fovereign book which we had fondly ftraggled from, we shall do better not to detain this venerable apparition of Leontius any longer, but dismiss him with his lift of feven and twenty, to fleep unmolested in his former obfcurity.
Now for the word posses, it is more likely that Timothy never knew the word in that fense: it was the vanity of those next fucceeding times not to content themselves with the fimplicity of fcripture-phrafe, but muft make a new lexicon to name themselves by; one will be called poss, or antiftes, a word of precedence; another would be termed a gnoftic, as Clemens; a third facerdos, or prieft, and talks of altars; which was a plain fign that their doctrine began to change, for which they muft change their expreffions. But that place of Juftin Martyr ferves rather to convince the author, than to make for him, where the name προεςως τῶν ἀδελφῶν, the prefident or paftor of the brethren (for to what end is he their preftdent, but to teach them?) cannot be limited to fignify a prelatical bishop, but rather communicates that greek appellation to every ordinary prefbyter: for there he tells what the chriftians had wont to do in their feveral congregations, to read and expound, to pray and administer, all which he says the poses, or antiftes, did. Are these the offices only of a bishop, or shall we think that every congregation where these things were done, which he attributes to this antiftes, had a bishop prefent among them? Unless they had as many antiftites as prefbyters, which this place rather feems to imply; and fo we may infer even from their own alleged authority, "that antiftes was nothing elfe but prefbyter."
As for that namelefs treatife of Timothy's martyrdom, only cited by Photius that lived almoft nine hundred years after Chrift, it handfomely follows in that author the martyrdom of the feven fleepers, that flept (I tell you but what mine author fays) three hundred and seventy and two years; for fo long they had been fhut up in a cave without meat, and were found living. This ftory of Timothy's ephefian bishopric, as it follows in order, fo may it for truth, if it only subsist upon its own authority, as it
doth; for Photius only faith he read it, he does not aver it. That other legendary piece found among the lives of the faints, and fent us from the fhop of the jefuits at Louvain, does but bear the name of Polycrates; how truly, who can tell? and fhall have some more weight with us, when Polycrates can perfuade us of that which he affirms in the fame place of Eufebius's fifth book, that St. John was a priest, and wore the golden breastplate: and why fhould he convince us more with his traditions of Timothy's epifcopacy, than he could convince Victor bishop of Rome with his traditions concerning the feast of Eafter, who, not regarding his irrefragable inftances of examples taken from Philip and his daughters that were propheteffes, or from Polycarpus, no nor from St. John himself, excommunicated both him, and all the afian churches, for celebrating their Eafter judaically? He may therefore go back to the seven bishops his kinfmen, and make his moan to them, that we efteem his traditional ware as lightly as Victor did.
Thofe of Theodoret, Felix, and John of Antioch, are authorities of later times, and therefore not to be received for their antiquity's fake to give in evidence concerning an allegation, wherein writers, fo much their elders, we fee fo eafily miscarry. What if they had told us that Peter, who, as they fay, left Ignatius bifhop of Antioch, went afterwards to Rome, and was bifhop there, as this Ignatius, and Irenæus, and all antiquity with one mouth deliver there be nevertheless a number of learned and wife protefiants, who have written, and will maintain, that Peter's being at Rome as bishop cannot stand with concordance of fcripture.
Now come the epiftles of Ignatius to show us, first, that Onefimus was bifhop of Ephefus; next, to affert the difference of bishop and prefbyter : wherein I wonder that men, teachers of the proteftant religion, make no more difficulty of impofing upon our belief a fuppofititious offspring of fome dozen epiftles, whereof five are rejected as fpurious, containing in them herefies and trifles; which cannot agree in chronology with Ignatius, entitling him archbishop of Antioch Theopolis, which name of Theopolis that city had not till Juftinian's time, long after, as VOL. I. Cedrenus
Cedrenus mentions; which argues both the barbarous time, and the unfkilful fraud of him that foifted this epiftle upon Ignatius. In the epiftle to thofe of Tarfus, he condemns them for minifters of Satan, that fay, "Chrift is God above all." To the Philippians, them that kept their Eafter as the afian churches, as Polycarpus did, and them that fafted upon any Saturday or Sunday, except one, he counts as those that had flain the Lord. To thofe of Antioch, he falutes the fubdeacons, chanters, porters, and exorcifts, as if these had been orders of the church in his time: thofe other epiftles lefs queftioned, are yet fo interlarded with corruptions, as may justly endue as with a wholefome fufpicion of the reft. As to the Trallians, he writes, that "a bishop hath power over all beyond all government and authority whatsoever." Surely then no pope can defire more than Ignatius attributes to every bishop; but what will become then of the archbishops and primates, if every bishop in Ignatius's judgment be as fupreme as a pope? To the Ephefians, near the very place from whence they fetch their proof for epifcopacy, there ftands a line that cafts an ill hue upon all the epiftle; "Let no man err;" faith he; " unless a man be within the rays or enclosure of the altar, he is deprived of the bread of life.” I fay not but this may be ftretched to a figurative conftruction; but yet it has an ill look, especially being followed beneath with the mention of I know not what -facrifices. In the other epiftle to Smyrna, wherein is written that "they fhould follow their bishop as Christ did his Father, and the prefbytery as the apoftles;" not to speak of the infulse, and ill laid comparison, this cited place lies upon the very brim of a noted corruption, which, had they that quote this paffage ventured to let us read, all men would have readily feen what grain the testimony had been of, where it is faid, "that it is not lawful without a bifhop to baptize, nor to offer, nor to do facrifice." What can our church make of these phrases but fcandalous? And but a little further he plainly falls to contradict the fpirit of God in Solomon, judged by the words themselves; " My fon," faith he, "honour God and the King; but I fay, honour God, and the bishop as high
prieft, bearing the image of of God according to his ruling, and of Chrift according to his priefting, and after him honour the king." Excellent Ignatius! can ye blame the prelates for making much of this epiftle? Certainly if this epiftle can serve you to fet a bishop above a prefbyter, it may ferve you next to fet him above a king. Thefe, and other like places in abundance through all those short epiftles, muft either be adulterate, or elfe Ignatius was not Ignatius, nor a martyr, but moft adulterate, and corrupt himself. In the midft, therefore, of fo many forgeries, where fhall we fix to dare fay this is Ignatius? As for his ftyle, who knows it, fo disfigured and interrupted as it is except they think that where they meet with any thing found, and orthodoxal, there they find Ignatius. And then they believe him not for his own authority, but for a truth's fake, which they derive from elsewhere: to what end then fhould they cite him as authentie for epifcopacy, when they cannot know what is authentic in him, but by the judgment which they brought with them, and not by any judgment which they might fafely learn from him? How can they bring fatisfaction from fuch an author, to whofe very effence the reader must be fain to contribute his own understanding? Had God ever intended that we should have fought any part of useful inftruction from Ignatius, doubtlefs he would not have fo ill provided for our knowledge, as to fend him to our hands in this broken and disjointed plight; and if he intended no fuch thing, we do injuriously in thinking to taste better the pure evangelic manna, by seasoning our mouths with the tainted fcraps and fragments of an unknown table; and fearching among the verminous and polluted rags dropped overworn from the toiling fhoulders of time, with thefe deformedly to quilt and interlace the entire, the spotlefs, and undecaying robe of truth, the daughter not of time, but of Heaven, only bred up here below in chriftian hearts, between two grave and holy nurses, the doctrine and difcipline of the gofpel.
Next follows Irenæus bishop of Lyons, who is cited to affirm, that Polycarpus "was made bishop of Smyrna by the apostles;" and this, it may feem, none could better tell than he who had both feen and heard Polycarpus : F 2
but when did he hear him? Himself confeffes to Florinus, when he was a boy. Whether that age in Irenæus, may not be liable to many mistakings; and whether a boy may be trufted to take an exact account of the manner of a church conftitution, and upon what terms, and within what limits, and with what kind of commiffion Polycarpus received his charge, let a man confider, ere he be credulous. It will not be denied that he might have feen Polycarpus in his youth, a man of great eminence in the church, to whom the other prefbyters might give way for his virtue, wisdom, and the reverence of his age; and fo did Anicetus, bishop of Rome, even in his own city, give him a kind of priority in adminiftering the facrament, as may be read in Eufebius: but that we should hence conclude a diftinct, and fuperior order from the young obfervation of Irenæus, nothing yet alleged can warrant us; unless we fhall believe fuch as would face us down, that Calvin and, after him, Beza were bishops of Geneva, because that in the unfettled tate of the church, while things were not fully compofed, their worth and learning caft a greater fhare of business upon them, and directed men's eyes principally towards them and yet these men were the diffolvers of epifcopacy. We fee the fame neceffity in ftate affairs; Brutus, that expelled the kings out of Rome, was for the time forced to be as it were a king himself, till matters were fet in order, as in a free commonwealth. He that had feen Pericles lead the Athenians which way he lifted, haply would have faid he had been their prince; and yet he was but a powerful and eloquent man in a democracy, and had no more at any time than a temporary and elective fway, which was in the will of the people when to abrogate. And it is most likely that in the church, they which came after thefe apoftolic men, being lefs in merit, but bigger in ambition, firove to invade thofe privileges by intrufion and plea of right, which Polycarpus, and others like him poffeffed, from the voluntary furrender of men fubdued by the excellency of their heavenly gifts; which because their fucceffors had not, and fo could neither have that authority, it was their policy to divulge that the eminence which Polycarpus and his