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The latter acknowledge as true churches and exemplary Christians, many whose communion they notwithstanding reject. But the former saw that such a concession overturns the very
foundation upon which a separate communion is reared. They, therefore, carried their principles through; and, in order to justify their schism, maintained that all but their own had ceased to be true churches. On this head, the palm of consistency, at least, must be awarded to the Donatists!
3d. Varieties of opinion and practice, with respect to the modifications of her external order, were not considered by the primitive church as inconsistent with her unity.
That there were such varieties; that the government of the church gradually altered from the apostolic form ; and sooner in some places than in others; so that there were in actual existence at the same moment different forms of government in different parts of the church, all dissentients from the hierarchy agree. If, from the very days of the apostles downwards for more than fifteen hundred years, her order was uninterruptedly episcopal, as many advocates of episcopacy maintain ; although even such an argument could not be admitted against scriptural proof, yet it would be extremely embarrassing to their opponents. The difficulty of explaining
so strange a phenomenon, would create in conscientious men a fear that there must be some mistake in such a construction of holy writ as should be thwarted by it; and incline their minds to an interpretation with which it should be found to accord. The difficulty, however, does not exist. Stubborn facts in the history of the church refute the episcopal plea; and prove that her prelatical constitution was the result of changes which it required ages to effect.
It would be foreign from our purpose to investigate this proposition at large. Only a few facts shall be adduced to show that it has not been lightly advanced.
In the fourth century, JEROME, “who, in the judgment of Erasmus, was, without controversy,. by far the most learned and most eloquent of all * the Christians, and the prince of Christian divines, "* taught the same thing. His testimony, and the substance of the reasoning upon it, are extracted from the second volume of the Christian's Magazine.
“ Thus he lays down both doctrine and fact relative to the government of the church, in his commentary on Titus, i. 5.
“ That thou shouldest ordain Presbyters in every
* Carx, His. Litt. Script. Eecles. p. 171. Ed. 1720.
city, as I had appointed thee.* 'What sort of Presbyters ought to be ordained he shows after
*" Qui qualis Presbyter debeat ordinari, in consequentibus disserens hoc ait : Si quis est sine crimine, unius uxoris vir,” et cætera : postea intulit, “ Oportet n. Episcopum sine crimine esse, tanquam Dei dispensatorem.” Idem est ergo Presbyter , qui et Episcopus : et antequam, diaboli instinctu, studia in religione fierent, et diceretur in populis: “Ego sum Pauli, ego Apollo, ego autem Cephæ :'communi Pres. byterorum consilio ecclesiæ gubernabantur. Postquam vero unusquisque eos, quos baptizaverat, suos putabat esse, non Christi : in toto orbe decretum est, ut unus de Presbyteris electus superponeretur cæteris, ad quem omnis ecclesiæ cura pertineret, et schismatum semina tollerentur. Putet aliquis non scripturarum, sed nostram, esse sententiam Episcopum et Presbyterum unum esse; et aliud ætatis, aliud esse nomen officii: relegat Apostoli ad Philippenses verba dicentis : Paulus et Timotheus servi Jesu Christi, omnibus sanctis in Christo Jesu, qui sunt Phillippis, cum episcopis et Diaconis, gratia vobis et pax, et reliqua. Phillippi una est urbs Macedoniæ : et certe in una civitate plures ut nuncupantur Episcopi esse non poterant. Sed quia eosdem Episcopos ille tempore quos et Presbyteros appellabant, propterea indifferenter de Episcopis quasi de Presbyteris est locutos. Adhuc hoc alicui videatur ambiguum, nisi altero testimonio comprobetur. In Actibus Apostolorum scriptum est, quod cum venisset Apostolus Miletum, miserit Ephesum, et vocaverit Presbyteros ecclesiæ ejusden, quibus postea inter cætera sit locutus : attendite vobis, et omni gregi in quo vos Spiritus sanctus posuit Episcopos, pascere ecclesiam Domini quam acquisivit per sanguinem suum. Et hoc diligentius observate, quo modo unius civitafis Ephesi Presbyteros vocans, postea eosdem Episcopos dixerit-Hæc propterea, ut ostenderemus apud veteres eosdem fuisse Presbyteros quos et Episcopos. Paulatim vero, ut dissensionum plantaria evellerentur, ad unum omnem solicitudinem esse delatam.--Sicut ergo Presbyteri sciunt se ex ecclesice consuetudine ei, qui sibi propositus fuerit, esse subjectos, ita Episcopi noverint se magis consuetudine quam dispositionis dominicæ veritate, Presbyteris esse majores.
HIERONYMI Com. in Tit. I. 1. Opp. Tom. VI.
p. 168. cd. Victorii, Paris, 1623. Fol.
wards--- If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, &c. and then adds, for a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God, &c. A Presbyter, therefore, is the same as a bishop : and before there were, by the instigation of the devil, parties in religion ; and it was said among different people, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, the churches were governed by the joint counsel of the Presbyters. But afterwards, when every one accounted those whom he baptized as belonging to himself and not to Christ, it was decreed throughout the whole world, that one, chosen from among the Presbyters, should be put over the rest, and that the whole care of the church should be committed to him, and the seeds of schisms taken away.
Should any one think that this is my private opinion, and not the doctrine of the Scriptures, let him read the words of the apostle in his epistle to the Philippians ; 'Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons,' &c. Philippi is a single city of Macedonia; and certainly in one city there could not be several bishops, as they are now styled; but as they, at that time, called the very same persons bishops whom they called Preshyters, the Apos
tle has spoken without distinction of bishops az Presbyters.
'Should this matter yet appear doubtful to any one, unless it be proved by an additional testimony; it is written in the acts of the Apostles, that when Paul had come to Miletum, he sent to Ephesus and called the Presbyters of that church, and among other things said to them, take heed to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops.? Take particular notice, that calling the PRESBYTERS of the single city of Ephesus, he afterwards names the same persons Bishops. After further quotations from the epistle to the Hebrews, and from Peter, he proceeds: 'Our intention in these remarks is to show that among the ancients, Presbyters and Bishops were THE VERY SAME. But that by LITTLE AND LITTLE, that the plants of dissentions might be plucked up, the whole concern was devolved upon an individual. As the Presbyters, therefore, know that they are subjected, BY THE CUSTOM OF THE CHURCH, to him who is set over them ; so let the Bishops know, that they are greater than Presbyters MORE BY CUSTOM than by ANY REAL APPOINTMENT OF CHRIST.'
“He pursues the same argument with great point, in his famous epistle to Evagrius, asserting and proving from the Scriptures, that in the be