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his friends might pretend to have feen St. Peter or St. Pan do; and yet neither of thefe could perfuade either when to keep Eafter? The like frivolous contention troubled the primitive English churches, while Colmanus and Wilfride on either fide deducing their opinions, the one from the undeniable example of Saint John, and the learned bishop Anatolius, and laftly the miraculous Columba, the other from Saint Peter and the Nicene council; could gain no ground each of other, till king Ofwy, perceiving no likelihood of ending the controverfy that way, was fain to decide it himself, good king, with that fmall knowledge wherewith those times had furnished him. So when thofe pious Greek emperors began, as Cedrenus relates, to put down monks, and abolish images, the old idolaters, finding themselves blafted, and driven back by the prevailing light of the fcripture, fent out their sturdy monks called the Abramites, to allege for images the ancient fathers Dionyfius, and this our objected Irenæus: nay, they were fo highflown in their antiquity, that they undertook to bring the apoftles, and Luke the evangelift, yea Chrift himself, from certain records that were then current, to patronize their idolatry: yet for all this the worthy emperor Theophilus, even in those dark times, chofe rather to nourish himself and his people with the fincere milk of the gofpel, than to drink from the mixed confluence of fo many corrupt and poisonous waters, as tradition would have perfuaded him to, by most ancient seeming authorities. In like manner all the reformed churches abroad, unthroning epifcopacy, doubtlefs were not ignorant of these teftimonies alleged to draw it in a line from the apoftles' days: for furely the author will not think he hath brought us now any new authorities or confiderations into the world, which the reformers in other places were not advised of: and yet we fee, the interceffion of all these apoftolic fathers could not prevail with them to alter their refolved decree of reducing into order their ufurping and overprovendered epifcopants; and God hath bleffed their work this hundred years with a profperous and ftedfaft, and ftill happy fuccefs. And this may ferve to prove the infufficiency of these present epifcopal teftimonies, not only in them
felves but in the account of thofe ever that have been the followers of truth. It will next behove us to confider the inconvenience we fall into, by ufing ourselves to be guided by these kind of teftimonies. He that thinks it the part of a well-learned man to have read diligently the ancient ftories of the church, and to be no ftranger in the volumes of the fathers, fhall have all judicious men confenting with him; not hereby to control, and new fangle the fcripture, God forbid! but to mark how corruption and apoftafy crept in by degrees, and to gather up whereever we find the remaining sparks of original truth, wherewith to ftop the mouths of our adverfaries, and to bridle them with their own curb, who willingly pass by that which is orthodoxal in them, and ftudiously cull out that which is commentitious, and beft for their turns, not weighing the fathers in the balance of fcripture, but fcripture in the balance of the fathers. If we, therefore, making firft the gospel our rule and oracle, fhall take the good which we light on in the fathers, and fet it to oppose the evil which other men feek from them, in this way of skirmish we fhall easily mafter all fuperftition and falfe doctrine; but if we turn this our discreet and wary usage of them into a blind devotion towards them, and whatsoever we find written by them; we both forfake our own grounds and reafons which led us at firft to part from Rome, that is, to hold to the fcriptures against all antiquity; we remove our cause into our adverfaries' own court, and take up there those caft principles, which will foon cause us to foder up with them again; inasmuch as believing antiquity for itself in any one point, we bring an engagement upon ourselves of affenting to all that it charges upon us. For fuppofe we should now, neglecting that which is clear in fcripture, that a bishop and prefbyter is all one both in name and office, and that what was done by Timothy and Titus, executing an extraordinary place, as fellow-labourers with the apostles, and of a univerfal charge in planting christianity through divers regions, cannot be drawn into particular and daily example; fuppofe that neglecting this clearness of the text, we fhould, by the uncertain and corrupted writings of fucceeding times, determine that bishop and prefbyter are different,
because we dare not deny what Ignatius, or rather the Perkin Warbeck of Ignatius, fays; then muft we be conftrained to take upon ourselves a thousand superstitions and falfities, which the papifts will prove us down in, from as good authorities, and as ancient as thefe that set a bishop above a prefbyter. And the plain truth is, that when any of our men, of thofe that are wedded to antiquity, come to difpute with a papift, and leaving the feriptures put themselves without appeal to the fentence of fynods and councils, ufing in the caufe of Sion the hired foldiery of revolted Ifrael; where they give the Romanifts onc buff, they receive two counterbuffs. Were it therefore but in this regard, every true bishop fhould be afraid to conquer in his caufe by fuch authorities as thefe, which if we admit for the authority's fake, we open a broad paffage for a multitude of doctrines, that have no ground in scripture, to break in upon us.
Laftly, I do not know, it being undeniable that there are but two ecclefiaftical orders, bishops and deacons, mentioned in the gofpel, how it can be lefs than impiety to make a demur at that, which is there fo perfpicuous, confronting and paralleling the facred verity of St. Paul with the offals and fweepings of antiquity, that met as accidentally and abfurdly, as Epicurus's atoms, patch up a Leucippean Ignatius, inclining rather to make this phantafm an expounder, or indeed a depraver of St. Paul, than St. Paul an examiner, and difcoverer of this impoftorfhip; nor caring how flightly they put off the verdict of holy text unfalved, that fays plainly there be but two orders, fo they maintain the reputation of their imaginary doctor that proclaims three. Certainly if Chrift's apoftle have fet down but two, then according to his own words, though he himself should unfay it, and not only the angel of Smyrna, but an angel from Heaven, fhould bear us down that there be three, Saint Paul has doomed him twice, "Let him be accurfed;" for Chrift hath pronounced that no tittle of his word fhall fall to the ground; and if one jot be alterable, it is as poffible that all fhould perish: and this shall be our righteousness, our ample warrant, and ftrong affurance, both now and at the laft day, never to be ashamed of, againft all the
heaped names of angels and martyrs, councils and fathers, urged upon us, if we have given ourselves up to be taught by the pure and living precept of God's word only; which, without more additions, nay with a forbidding of them, hath within itself the promife of eternal life, the end of all our wearifome labours, and all our fuftaining hopes. But if any fhall ftrive to fet up his ephod and teraphim of antiquity against the brightness and perfection of the gofpel; let him fear left he and his Baal be turned into Bofheth. And thus much may fuffice to show, that the pretended epifcopacy cannot be deduced from the apoftolical times.
REASON OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT
IN TWO BOOKS.
IN N the publishing of human laws, which for the moft part aim not beyond the good of civil fociety, to set them barely forth to the people without reafon or preface, like a phyfical prescript, or only with threatenings, as it were a lordly command, in the judgment of Plato was thought to be done neither generoufly nor wifely. His advice was, feeing that perfuafion certainly is a more winning, and more manlike way to keep men in obedience than fear, that to fuch laws as were of principal moment, there should be ufed as an induction fome welltempered difcourfe, fhowing how good, how gainful, how happy it must needs be to live according to honefty and juftice; which being uttered with those native colours and graces of speech, as true eloquence, the daughter of virtue, can beft bestow upon her mother's praises, would fo incite, and in a manner charm, the multitude into the love of that which is really good, as to embrace it ever after, not of custom and awe, which moft men do, but of choice and purpose, with true and conftant delight. But this practice we may learn from a better and more ancient authority than any heathen