« PreviousContinue »
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 fuperftitions and falfities, which the papifts will prove us down in, from as good authorities, and as ancient as these that fet a bishop above a prefbyter. And the plain truth is, that when any of our men, of those that are wedded to antiquity, come to dispute with a papift, and leaving the fcriptures put themselves without appeal to the fentence of fynods and councils, ufing in the cause of Sion the hired foldiery of revolted Ifrael; where they give the Romanists one 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 fcripture, 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 less 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 discoverer 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 apostle 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 Christ 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 should perifh: and this fhall be our righteousness, our ample warrant, and ftrong affurance, both now and at the last day, never to be ashamed of, against 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 promise 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
PRELA T Y.
IN TWO BOOKS.
N the publishing of human laws, which for the most part aim not beyond the good of civil fociety, to fet them barely forth to the people without reafon or preface, like a phyfical prefcript, or only with threatenings, as it were a lordly command, in the judgment of Plato was thought to be done neither generously 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 discourse, showing how good, how gainful, how happy it muft 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 so 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 cuftom 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 writer hath to give us; and indeed being a point. of fo high wisdom and worth, how could it be but we fhould find it in that book, within whofe facred context all wisdom is unfolded? Mofes, therefore, the only lawgiver that we can believe to have been vifibly taught of God, knowing how vain it was to write laws to men whofe hearts were not first seasoned with the knowledge of God and of his works, began from the book of Genefis, as a prologue to his laws; which Jofephus right well hath noted: that the nation of the Jews, reading therein the univerfal goodness of God to all creatures in the creation, and his peculiar favour to them in his election of Abraham their anceftor from whom they could derive fo many bleffings upon themselves, might be moved to obey fincerely, by knowing fo good a reason of their obedience. If then, in the administration of civil juftice, and under the obfcurity of ceremonial rites, fuch care was had by the wifeft of the heathen, and by Mofes among the Jews, to inftruct them at leaft in a general reafon of that government to which their fubjection was required; how much more ought the members of the church, under the Gofpel, feek to inform their understanding in the reafon of that government, which the church claims to have over them? Efpecially for that church hath in her immediate cure thofe inner parts and affections of the mind, where the feat of reafon is having power to examine our fpiritual knowledge, and to demand from us, in God's behalf, a fervice entirely reasonable. But because about the manner and order of this government, whether it ought to be prefbyterial or prelatical, fuch endlefs queftion, or rather uproar, is arifen in this land, as may be jufily termed what the fever is to the physicians, the eternal reproach of our divines, whilft other profound clerks of late greatly, as they conceive, to the advancement of prelaty, are fo earnestly meting out the Lydian proconfular Afia, to make good the prime metropolis of Ephefus, as if fome of our prelates in all hafte meant to change their foil, and become neighbours to the English bithop of Chalcedon; and whilst good Breerwood as bufily beftirs himfelf in our vulgar tongue, to divide precifely the three patriarchates of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch; and whether to any of
thefe England doth belong: I fhall in the mean while not cease to hope, through the mercy and grace of Chrift, the head and husband of his church, that England shortly is to belong, neither to fee patriarchal, nor fee prelatical, but to the faithful feeding and difciplining of that minifterial order, which the bleffed apostles conftituted throughout the churches; and this I fhall affay to prove, can be no other than that of prefbyters and deacons. And if any man incline to think I undertake a task too difficult for my years, I truft, through the fupreme enlightening affiftance far otherwife; formy years; be they few or many, what imports it? So they bring reafon, let that be looked on: and for the tafk, from hence that the queftion in hand is so needful to be known at this time, chiefly by every meaner capacity, and contains in it the explication of many admirable and heavenly privileges reached out to us by the gofpel, I conclude the task must be eafy: God having to this end ordained his gospel to be the revelation of his power and wisdom in Chrift Jefus. And this is one depth of his wifdom, that he could fo plainly reveal so great a measure of it to the grofs diftorted apprehenfion of decayed mankind. Let others, therefore, dread and fhun the fcriptures for their darkness; I fhall wish I may deserve to be reckoned among those who admire and dwell upon them for their clearness. And this feems to be the cause why in those places of holy writ, wherein is treated of church-government, the reasons thereof are not formally and profeffedly fet down, becaufe to him that heeds attentively the drift and scope of chriftian profeffion, they eafily imply themfelves; which thing further to explain, having now prefaced enough, I fhall no longer defer.
That church-government is prefcribed in the gospel, and that to say otherwife is unfound.
THE firft and greateft reafon of church-government we may securely, with the affent of many on the adverfe part, affirm to be, because we find it fo ordained and fet out to us by the appointment of God in the fcriptures; but whe