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of their office) had rather the vicegerency of an apoftleship 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 gospel, 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 indigefted 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, fhells, or fhrubs, unpicked, unchofen, those are the fathers. Seeing, therefore, fome men, deeply conversant 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 diftract and ftagger 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 myfelf, fetting all diftances 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 straw, 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 lastly, the impiety of these 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 witness, and for his faithful dealing who shall 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 wif dom, 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 fcarce been thought on but for this bare teftimony? But they will fay, he was a member of the council, and that may deferve to gain him credit with us. I will not stand 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 prelatifm, 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 leaft above their time, concerning the diftinction of bifhop 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 mistaken 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 reafons, 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 fhould we attend to what Eufebius, the ancienteft writer extant of church-history, notwithstanding all the helps he had above these, confesses 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 apoftles, much more may we think it difficult to Leontius, an obfcure bifhop, fpeaking beyond his own diocefs and certainly much more hard was it for either of them to determine what kind of bifhops these were, if they had fo little means to know who they were; and much lefs reafon have we to ftand to their definitive fentence, feeing they have been fo rash to raise up fuch lofty bifhops and bishoprics out of places in fcripture merely mifunderstood. 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.
Since therefore, antiquity itself hath turned over the controversy to that fovereign book which we had fondly ftraggled from, we fhall do better not to detain this venerable apparition of Leontius any longer, but difmifs 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 must make a new lexicon to name themselves by; one will be called πposs, 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 hir, where the name προεσὼς 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 adminifter, all which he fays the poes, or antiftes, did. Are thefe the offices only of a bishop, or fhall 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 else but prefbyter."
As for that namelefs treatise 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 feventy 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 fubfift upon its own authority, as it doth;
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 should 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 feven bifhops his kinfmen, and make his moan to them, that we esteem 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 bishop 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 proteflants, 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 fhow us, firft, that Onefimus was bishop of Ephefus; next, to affert the difference of bifhop 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