Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

nent.

The putting thefe Queftions in this manner is as pofitive an Affertion of them as can be defired. And is also a Teftimony that it was in that Age the received Opinion of the Church, that Bishops, and confequently the Epifcopal Commiffion, were neceffary to the valid Adminiftration of the Sacraments, fince if it had not been fo, Dracontius might eafily have anfwered him, that if all Should be of his and his Counsellors Mind, the Church ·would receive no great Damage, fince the Sacraments might be miniftred, and the Church fubfift very well without Bishops And Athanafius would only have expofed himself by ufing fo weak an Argument. Or if there had been any in that Age who had made the leaft queftion of the Neceffity of Epifcopacy, I cannot think but Athanafins would have hinted at it on this Occafion, and have told Dracontius that he and his Advifers feemed to be of that Opinion. But there is not the leaft Ground to fufpect, either before that Age, or in that Age, or for many Ages after, any one had fuch a Thought, except Aerius, fome Time after, who was immediately condemned as an Heretick for it.

§ XLVI. It is not the want of more Autho rities to justify and fupport this Propofition, that hinders me from producing more at this time (as any one may be convinced that fhall confult what the Author of Lay Baptifm invalid and I have written on that Subject, in Answer to Mr. Bingham's Two Scholaftical Hiftories) but because I conceive thefe may be fufficient to fatisfy any unprejudiced Perfon of the Opinion of the truly Primitive Church with regard to the Neceffity of Epifcopacy, and of an Epifcopal Commiffion, to the valid Adminiftration of the Sacraments, I fhall not trouble my felf or my Reader with any more Citations

I 4

tations to this Purpofe. I fhall only make one Obfervation with regard to the Difcipline of the Primitive Church in the Cafe of the lapfed, which were those who in the Time of Perfecution being frighted with the Racks and Tortures wherewith the Heathen Magiftrates tormented fuch good Chriftians as they could lay hold of, had been induced to deny their Religion, and to offer Sacrifice or Incenfe to the Heathen Gods. These Men having renounced Christ only thro' Fear, and being ftill Chriftians in their Heart, preffed mightily to be re-admitted into the Chriftian Affemblies for Divine Worfhip, and to be allowed to be Partakers of the holy Eucharift or Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. They declared themfelves heartily forry for what they had done, they protefted that tho' they had been induced thro' Fear to deny their Religion withtheir Mouths, and to eat of the Heathen Sacrifices, and caft Incense upon the Altars, yet their Hearts were always right, and that they ftill believed, and would profefs the Faith of Christ, and no other; and therefore intreated that they might not be dealt with as Aliens to the Church of God, but might with other Chriftians participate of the holy Myfteriés. They got Letters from the Martyrs and Confeffors (who had endured the Torments, and ftood firm to their Religion, and were ftill in Prifon on that Account) to teftify that they believed their Repentance to be fincere, and to intreat that they might not be excluded from the Communion of the Church. But then all this Application was made to the Bishops and their Presbyters, as the only Perfons that could admit them to this Communion. But all thefe Proteftations, Entreaties and Letters, would not move the Bishops to admit them, till they had gone thro' fuch a Courfe of Penance as they

thought

thought fit to prescribe them on this Occafion : And when fome Presbyters, in the Abfence of the Bishop, had too haftily admitted any of thefe lapJed to Communion, the Bishop not only reproved. thofe Presbyters, but alfo ordered thofe Persons fhould ftill be kept out of the Church, till they were duly and regularly reftored by himself, or with his Confent and Approbation. All this is evident from a great many Letters written by St. Cyprian and his Fellow Bishops upon this Occafion, ftill extant in St. Cyprian's Works, which are too many to be here particularly cited. But now if the Bishops Authority or Commiffion had not at that time been thought abfolutely neceffary to the valid Adminiftration of the Sacraments, can we think that thefe Men, who were fo earnestly defirous to participate of them, and who not only in their own Opinion, but in the Opinion alfo of the Martyrs and Confeffors, had given due Teftimonies of the Sincerity of their Repentance, would have fuffered themselves to have been fo long barred from the holy Eucharift, and have undergone a long Penance of feveral Years, in order to have that Sacrament miniftred to them by the Bishop, or fuch as were commiffioned by him, if they had conceived that any other Perfon could have validly adminiftred it to them? They were in great Hafte to be admitted, and St. Cyprian complains of their Violence and Threatnings towards himself, becaufe he did not think it proper to admit them till he had made a further Trial of the Sincerity of their Repentance, and had advifed with his Collegues on that Occafion. Whereas if another Perfon could validly have adminiftred the holy Eucharift to them, they neither needed nor would have given themfelves fo much Trouble about the Matter, and the Confeffors,

who

who defired they fhould be admitted, could as eafily have adminiftred the Sacrament to them themselves, as to have wrote to the Bishop to defire him to do it. At leaft they might, and no doubt would have done it, when the Bifhop refufed it, if they had thought that they could have done it. 'Tis true, when they found they could not be admitted by St. Cyprian, fome of them got Fortunatus, one of his Presbyters, to bẹ confecrated a Bishop, that he might receive them, and he did fo. And fo they made a Schifm in the Church of Carthage. But this is ftill a further Argument that they thought a Bishop and an Epifcopal Commiffion neceffary for this Purpefe, in that they did not think Fortunatus, whilft a Presbyter, could receive them to Communion, in Oppofition to his Bishop, who had forbidden it: But having gotten him to be ordained a Bishop, they fuppofed there could be no Doubt of the Validity of his Acts. Not confidering that there could not be another lawful Bifhop of Carthage during the Life of St. Cyprian. However, it is ftill a Proof that all that called themselves Chriftians in thofe early Ages of the Church, whether they were Catholicks or Schifmaticks, were unanimously of Opinion that an Epifcopal Commiffion was neceffary to the valid Adminiftration of the Sacraments. And we have all the reafon in the World to believe that it ever was the Opinion of the Church, till the Schoolmen and Canonifts, one to advance the Pope's Authority, and the other the Power of the Priesthood in the miraculous Transformation of Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, when the Doctrine of Tranfubftantiation was invented, advanced the Power of Presbyters fo high, and depreffed that of Bishops fo low, that they began to be taken for one and the fame Order,

(

Order, and that the Bishop was only fuperior to the Presbyter in Dignity, as if there was no other Difference between them, than betwixt a dignified Clergyman and a Parish Priest. But this Opinion was broached in the later and moft corrupt Ages of the Church. However this went no further than Opinion, and tho' Gratian put thefe Opinions into his Collection of Canons, which were confirmed by the Pope, yet they produced no great Effects, but the Bishops ftill maintained their Prerogative and Jurifdi&ion over their Presbyters and People, except where the Papal, which was alfo an Epifcopal Power, interpofed.

§ XLVII. From this Opinion, ftarted in the corrupt Ages of the Church, Luther when he had caft off the Pope's Authority, took upon him to maintain that Bishops and Presbyters were the fame, and that nothing could be done by a Bishop, but what might also be done by a Presbyter. And the Lutherans in the Smalcaldick Articles, from the Authority of St. Jerome (as they pretended) declared Bishops and Presbyters to be of the fame Order, and to have the fame Power; and for a Bifhop to be in any thing fuperior to a Presbyter, was only a Matter of Human Inftitution. But because I have been accused of mifreprefenting the Lutherans in this Particular, I will give their Opinion in their own Words, as they ftand in the Smalcaldick Articles, wherein they explained more particularly what had been only generally afferted in the Confeffion of Augsburgh; and as they were publifhed by Lucas Ofiander a zealous Lutheran, and printed at Tubinge in Germany, which were alfo fubfcribed by thofe very Divines who fubfcribed the Confeffion of Augsburgh, and the Apology of that Confeffion drawn up by Philip Ma

lanethon.

« PoprzedniaDalej »