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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 divolved 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 beginning and during the Apostles' days, a Bishop and a Presbyter were the same thing. He then goes on: “As to the fact, that AFTERw ARDs, one was ELECTEd to preside over the rest, this was done as a remedy against schism; lest every one drawing his proselytes to himself, should rend the church of Christ. For even at Alexandria, from the Evangelist Mark to the Bishops Heraclas and Dionysius, the Presbyters always chose one of their number, placed him in a superior station, and gave him the title of Bishop : in the same manner as if an army should MAKE an emperor; or the deacons should choose from among themselves, one whom they knew to be particularly active, and should call him ARCH-DEAcon. For, excepting ordination, what is done by a Bishop, which may not be done by a Presbyter? Nor is it to be supposed, that the church should be one thing at Rome, and another in all the world besides. Both France and Britain, and Africa, and Persia, and the East, and India, and all the barbarous nations worship one Christ, observe one rule of truth. If you demand authority, the globe is greater than a city. Wherever a Bishop shall be found, whether at Rome, or Eugubium, or Constantinople, or Rhegium, or Alexandria, or Tanis, he has the same pretensions, the same priesthood.”
* Quod autem postea unus electus est, qui casteris praepomeretur, in schismatis remedium factum est: me unusquisque ad setrahens Christi Ecclesiam rumperet. Nam et Alexandriae a Marco Evangelista usque ad Heraclam & Dionysium Episcopos, presbyteri semper unum er se electum, in excelsiori gradu collocatum, Episcopum nominabant : quomodo si exercitus imperatorem faciat; aut diaconi eligant de se, quem industrium noverint, & archidiaconum vocent. Quid enim facit, excepta ordinatione, Episcopus, quod presbyter non facial 2 Nec altera Romanæ urbis Ecclesia, altera totius orbis existimanda est. Et Gallia, & Brittaniae, & Africa, & Persis, & Oriens, & India, & omnes barbara nationes unum Christum adorant, unam observant regulam veritatis. Si auctoritas quaeritur, orbis major est urbe. Ubicumque fuerit Episcopus, sive Roma, sive Eugubii, sive Constantinopoli, sive Rhegii, sive Alexandriae, sive Tanis; ejusdem meriti, ejusdem & sacerdotii. Hieron. Opp. T. II. p. 624.
Here is an account of the origin and progress of Episcopacy, by a Father whom the Episcopalians themselves admit to have been the most able and learned man of his age; and how contradictory it is to their own account, the reader will be at no loss to perceive, when he shall have followed us through an analysis of its several parts.
1. JEROME expressly denies the superiority of Bishops to Presbyters, by divine right. To prove his assertion on this head, he goes directly to the scriptures; and argues, as the advocates of parity do, from the interchangeable titles of Bishop and Presbyter; from the directions given to them without the least intimation of difference in their authority; and from the powers of Presbyters, undisputed in his day. It is very true, that the reasoning from names, is said, by those whom it troubles, to be “miserable sophistry,” and “good for nothing:” But as Jerome advances it with the utmost confi- . dence, they might have forborne such a compliment to the “prince of divines” in the fourth century; especially as none of his cotemporaries, so far as we recollect, ever attempted to answer
it. It is a little strange that laymen, and clergymen, deacons, priests, and bishops, should all be silenced by a page of “miserable sophistry !” 2. JEROME states it, as a historical fact, that, in the original constitution of the church, before the devil had as much influence as he acquired afterwards, the churches were governed by the joint counsels of the Presbyters. 3. JEROME states it as a historical fact, that this government of the churches, by Presbyters alone, continued until, for the avoiding of scandalous quarrels and schisms, it was thought expedient to alter it. “..Afterwards,” says he, “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.” 4. JEROME states it as a historical fact, that this change in the government of the church—this creation of a superiour order of ministers, took place, not at once, but by degrees—“Paulatim,” says he, “by little and little.” The precise date on which this innovation upon primitive order commenced, he does not mention; but he says positively, that it did not take place till the factious spirit of the Corinthians had spread itself in different countries, to an alarming extent. “In populis,” is his expression. Assuredly, this was
not the work of a day. It had not been accomplished when the apostolic epistles were written, because Jerome appeals to these for proof that the churches were then governed by the joint counsels of Presbyters; and it is incredible that such ruinous dissensions, had they existed, should not have been noticed in letters to others beside the Corinthians. The disease indeed, was of a nature to spread rapidly; but still it must have time to travel. With all the zeal of Satan himself, and of a parcel of wicked or foolish clergymen to help him, it could not march from people to people, and clime to clime, but in a course of years. If Episcopacy was the apostolic cure for schism, the contagion must have smitten the nations like a flash of lightning. This would have been quite as extraordinary as an instantaneous change of government; and would have afforded full as much scope for pretty declamation, as the dream of such a change, which Cyprian and the Layman insist we shall dream whether we will or not. No : The progress of the mischief was gradual, and so, according to Jerome, was the progress of the remedy which the wisdom of the times devised.*
* Our opponents, who contend that nothing can be concluded from the promiscuous use of the scriptural titles of office, are yet compelled to acknowledge that Bishop and Presbyter were afterwards separated and restricted, the former to the superiour, and the latter to the inferiour order of ministers. We would ask them when and why this was done If it was not necessary to distinguish these officers by specific titles in the apostles' day, what necessity