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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 thefe 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 wholesome suspicion 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 stretched 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 infulfe, 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 bishop to baptize, nor to offer, nor to do facri fice." 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 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 serve 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 else Ignatius was not Ignatius, nor a martyr, but most 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 style, 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 sake, 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 fhould 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 injurioufly in thinking to tafte 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 these 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 discipline of the gospel.
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 : but
but when did he hear him? Himfelf 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 distinct, and fuperior order from the young observation of Irenæus, nothing yet alleged can warrant us; unless we shall believe fuch as would face us down, that Calvin and, after him, Beza were bishops of Geneva, because that in the unfettled ftate 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 state 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 sway, which was in the will of the people when to abrogate. And it is most likely that in the church, they which came after these apoftolic men, being less in merit, but bigger in ambition, ftrove 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
equals enjoyed, was by right of conftitution, not by free will of condescending. And yet thus far Irenæus makes against them, as in that very place to call Polycarpus an apoftolical prefbyter. But what fidelity his relations had in general, we cannot fooner learn than by Eufebius, who, near the end of his third book, speaking of Papias, a very ancient writer, one that had heard St. John, and was known to many that had feen and been acquainted with others of the apoftles, but being of a fhallow wit, and not understanding thofe traditions which he received, filled his writings with many new doctrines, and fabulous conceits he tells us there, that "divers ecclefiaftical men, and Irenæus among the reft, while they looked at his antiquity, became infected with his errours." Now, if Irenæus was fo rafh as to take unexamined opinions from an author of so small capacity, when he was a man, we should be more rash ourselves to rely upon thofe obfervations which he made when he was a boy. And this may be a fufficient reason to us why we need no longer mufe at the fpreading of many idle traditions fo foon after the apoftles, while fuch as this Papias had the throwing them about, and the inconfiderate zeal of the next age, that heeded more the perfon than the doctrine, had the gathering them up, Wherever a man, who had been any way converfant with the apoftles, was to be found, thither flew all the inqui fitive ears, although the exercise of right instructing was changed into the curiofity of impertinent fabling: where the mind was to be edified with folid doctrine, there the fancy was foothed with folemn ftories: with lefs fervency was ftudied what St. Paul or St. John had written, than was liftened to one that could say, Here he taught, here he ftood, this was his ftature; and thus he went habited; and, O happy this house that harboured him, and that cold ftone whereon he rested, this village wherein he wrought such a miracle, and that pavement bedewed with the warm effufion of his laft blood, that fprouted up into eternal rofes to crown his martyrdom. Thus, while all their thoughts were poured out upon circumftances, and the gazing after fuch men as had fat at table with the apoftles (many of which Christ hath profeffed, yea, though they had caft out devils in his name, he will not know at the laft
day), by this means they loft their time, and truanted in the fundamental grounds of faving knowledge, as was feen fhortly by their writings. Laftly, for Irenæus, we have cause to think him lefs judicious in his reports from hand to hand of what the apoftles did, when we find him so negligent in keeping the faith which they wrote, as to fay in his third book against herefies, that "the obedience of Mary was the cause of falvation to herself and all mankind;" and in his fifth book, that " as Eve was feduced to fly God, fo the virgin Mary was perfuaded to obey God, that the virgin Mary might be made the advocate of the virgin Eve." Thus if Irenæus, for his nearness to the apostles, must be the patron of episcopacy to us, it is no marvel though he be the patron of idolatry to the papist, for the fame caufe. To the epiftle of those brethren of Smyrna, that write the martyrdom of Polycarpus, and ftyle him an apoftolical and prophetical doctor, and bifhop of the church of Smyrna, I could be content to give fome credit for the great honour and affection which I see those brethren bear him; and not undeservedly, if it be true, which they there say, that he was a prophet, and had a voice from Heaven to comfort him at his death, which they could hear, but the reft could not for the noise and tumult that was in the place; and befides, if his body were fo precious to the chriftians, that he was never wont to pull off his fhces for one or other that still ftrove to have the office, that they might come in to touch his feet; yet a light fcruple or two I would gladly be refolved in if Polycarpus (who, as they fay, was a prophet that never failed in what he foretold) had declared to his friends, that he knew, by vifion, he fhould die no other death than burning, how it came to pass that the fire, when it came to proof, would not do his work, but starting off like a full fail from the maft, did but reflect a golden light upon his unviolated limbs, exhaling fuch a fweet odour, as if all the incense of Arabia had been burning; infomuch that when the billmen faw that the fire was overawed, and could not do the deed, one of them steps to him and stabs him with a sword, at which wound fuch abundance of blood gufhed forth as quenched the fire. By all this relation it appears not how the fire was