Page images

wary usage

of them into a blind devotion towards them and whatsoever we find written by them, we both forsake our own grounds and reasons which led us at first to part from Rome, that is, to hold to the scriptures against all antiquity ; we remove our cause into our adversaries' own court, and take up there those cast principles which will soon cause us to soder up with them again, inasmuch as believing antiquity for itself in any one point, we bring an engagement upon ourselves of assenting to all that it charges upon us.

For suppose we should now, neglecting that which is clear in scripture, that a bishop and presbyter is all one both in name and office, and that what was done by Timothy and Titus, executing an extraordinary place as fellow labourers with the apostles and of a universal charge in planting christianity through divers regions, cannot be drawn into particular and daily example ; suppose that neglecting this clearness of the text, we should, by the uncertain and corrupted writings of succeeding times, determine that bishop and presbyter are different, because we dare not deny what Ignatius, or rather the Perkin Warbeck of Ignatius, says; then must we be constrained to take upon ourselves a thousand superstitions and falsities which the papists will prove us down in, from as good authorities, and as ancient, as these that set a bishop above a presbyter. And the plain truth is, that when

of our men of those that are wedded to antiquity come to dispute with a papist, and, leaving the scriptures, put themselves without appeal to the sentence of synods and councils, using in the cause of Sion the hired soldiery of revolted Israel, where they give the Romanists one buff, they receive two counterbuffs. Were it therefore but in this regard, every true bishop should be afraid to conquer in his cause by such authorities as these, which if we admit for the authori


ty's sake, we open a broad passage for a multitude of doctrines that have no ground in scripture to break in

upon us.

Lastly, I do not know, it being undeniable that there are but two ecclesiastical orders, bishops and deacons, mentioned in the gospel, how it can be less than impiety to make a demur at that, which is there so perspicuous, confronting and paralleling the sacred verity of St Paul with the offals and sweepings of antiquity, that met as accidentally and absurdly as Epicurus's atoms, to patch up a Leucippean Ignatius, inclining rather to make this phantasm an expounder, or indeed a depraver of St Paul, than St Paul an examiner and discoverer of this impostorship, nor caring how slightly they put off the verdict of holy text unsalved, that says plainly there be but two orders, so they maintain the reputation of their imaginary doctor that proclaims three. Certainly if Christ's apostle have set down but two, then according to his own words, though he himself should unsay it, and not only the angel of Smyrna, but an angel from heaven should bear us down that there be three, St Paul has doomed him twice, 'Let him be accursed ;' for Christ hath pronounced that no tittle of his word shall fall to the ground; and if one jot be alterable, it is as possible that all should perish. And this shall be our righteousness, our ample warrant and strong assurance, 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 wearisome labors and all our sustaining hopes. But if any shall strive to set up his ephod

and teraphim of antiquity against the brightness and perfection of the gospel, let him fear lest he and his Baal be turned into Bosheth. And thus much may suffice to show that the pretended episcopacy cannot be deduced from the apostolical times.






In the publishing of human laws, which for the most part aim not beyond the good of civil society, to set them barely forth to the people without reason or preface, like a physical prescript, or only with threatnings, as it were a lordly command, in the judgment of Plato was thought to be done neither generously nor wisely. His advice was, seeing that persuasion certainly is a more winning and more manlike way to keep men in obedience than fear, that to such laws as were of principal moment there should be used as an induction, some welltempered discourse, showing how good, how gainful, how happy it must needs be to live according to honesty and justice ; which being uttered with those native colors and graces of speech, as true eloquence, the daughter of virtue, can best 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 custom and awe, which most men do, but of choice and purpose, with true and constant 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 so high wisdom and worth, how could it be but we should find it in that book, within whose sacred context all wisdom is unfolded ? Moses, therefore, the only lawgiver that we can believe to have been visibly taught of God, knowing how vain it was to write laws to men whose hearts were not first seasoned with the knowledge of God and of his works, began from the book of Genesis, as a prologue to his laws, which Josephus right well hath noted, that the nation of the Jews, reading therein the universal goodness of God to all creatures in the creation and his peculiar favor to them in his election of Abraham their ancestor, from whom they could derive so many blessings upon themselves, might be moved to obey sincerely, by knowing so good a reason of their obedience. If then in the administration of civil justice, and under the obscurity of ceremonial rites, such care was had by the wisest of the heathen, and by Moses among the Jews, to instruct them at least in a general reason of that government to which their subjection was required, how much more ought the members of the church under the gospel, seek to inform their understanding in the reason of that government which the church claims to have over them ? especially for that the church hath in her immediate cure those inner parts and affections of the mind where the seat of reason is, having power to examine our spiritual knowledge, and to demand from us, in God's behalf, a service entirely reasonable.

But because about the manner and order of this government, whether it ought to be presbyterial or prelatical, such endless question or rather uproar is arisen in this land, as may be justly termed what the fever is to the physicians, the eternal reproach of our divines; whilst other profound clerks of late greatly,

« PreviousContinue »