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A34542 The remains of the reverend and learned Mr. John Corbet, late of Chichester printed from his own manuscripts.; Selections. 1684 Corbet, John, 1620-1680. 1684 (1684) Wing C6262; ESTC R2134 198,975 272

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provinces of narrower circuits of ground And how doth it appear that an Oecumenical council rightly so named can be For suppose it be not necessary to consist of all the bishops in the world but of some as delegates in the name of all yet it must consist of so many proportionably delegated from all in the several quarters as may signifie the sence and consent of all Hereupon let it be considered whether there be a possibility of such assemblies much more whether there be a possibility of the continuation or of the succession of them in such frequency as would be requisite in case such an assembly were Head of the Church Nor doth it stand with reason that an Oecumenical council in case it were existent can possibly execute the authority that belongs to the head of the Universal Church in overseeing all in receiving appeals from all in making authoritative determinations for all either immediately by it self or mediately by subordinate councils judicatories and ministers to be superintended regulated and determined by it in their proceedings Nor is there any notice given of the said headship of a General council more than of the Popes or any other bishops universal headship in the primitive and authentick records of the Charter that Christ hath given to his Church to wit the Holy Scriptures Nor is any rule given therein for the constitution of a General council whether it shall be made up only of the Clergy or only of such bishops as are of a higher order th●● Presbyters or of all such bishops of the Catholick Church or if of some in the name of all what number there must be either definite or indefinite and proportionate to the number of those that are represented It is evident de facto that the officers of the Catholick Church as the particular bishops or pastors and the associations and conventions of them do not derive their spiritual authority from a General council Nor doth it appear that de jure they should derive their power from it any more than from the Pope § 11. The infallibility of the Catholick Church examined THE Romanists assert an insallibility about matters of faith somewhere seated within the Catholick Church as the perpetual priviledg thereof some of them place it in the Pope and others in a General council Hereupon this priviledg is to be considered whether it be and what it is The meaning of the term is a being not liable to be deceived or to deceive about those matters about which it is said to be That the catholick church is infallible in the essentials of the christian religion is a most indubitable truth for every member of the catholick church so remaining is infallible so far it involves a a contradiction that any such should err therein for it were as much as to be a christian and no christian The Query therefore is whether it be liable to errour in the integrals a●d accidentals of Religion Now the church remaining such is not necessarily or in its nature infallible so far and therefore if it be infallible it must be so from the free grant of Christ But it doth not appear in the Holy Scripture that any such grant is made to the church What was the Apostles doctrine and consequently the doctrine of the Church in their days obedient to their authority we know what the church universally held in any one age touching all the integral parts of religion much more concerning accidentals I conceive extreamly difficult if not impossible to be known But that the church hath de facto if not universally yet very generally erred in the same errour about some integrals of religion appears by the ancient general practise of some things now generally accounted erroneous as for instance the giving of the Lords Supper to infants Moreover it is evident that the whole Church in its several parts hath erred some in one point some in another and that no part thereof hath been found in which hath appeared no error in some point of Religion or other And if all the parts may variously err in several points why may not they also harmoniously err all of them in one and the same point If the Catholick Church be not infallible in all doctrines of Faith much less is any such Council infallible as was ever yet congregated or is ever like to be congregated Hereupon it follows that in all Controversies of doctrine we cannot stand finally to the decision of the Catholick Church if it were possible to be had or to the decision of any the largest Council that can possibly convene We cannot tell what the Catholick Church is nor what particular Churches or persons are sound parts thereof but by the holy Scriptures For what Criterion can be brought besides them Mens bare testimony of themselves is not to be rested on How can we know that the first Nicene Council was orthodox in its determination about the Sacred Trinity and the second Nicene Council erroneous in its determination for Image-worship but by finding that the former was consonant and the latter dissonant to the Scripture in their aforesaid determinations If it be said That of Councils called General those that consist of greater numbers of bishops must carry it against those that consist of lesser numbers let some proof either from Scripture or Reason be given for it What ground is there from either to conclude that in the time of the Arrian Heresie the major part of bishops in the Roman Empire or the major part of those that assembled in Council and for instance in the first Council at Nice might not possibly have been Arrians Moreover if the major part were to carry it in the first six Centuries why not also in the ten last That promise of Christ Mat. 28. I am with you always to the end of the world may imply That there shall be a successive continuation of Bishops or Pastors in the Catholick Church to the worlds end that shall be Orthodox in the Essentials yea and in the Integrals of Religion yet it doth not imply that they shall be the greater number of those that are called and reputed bishops or pastors within Christendom nor that the greater number of those being convened in Councils shall not err in their Conciliar determinations about matters of Faith § 12. Of the Indefectibility of the Catholick Church CHRIST hath promised the perpetuity of the Church in general in saying that he would build it on a Rock and the gates of Hell should not prevail against it and I am with you always to the end of the world but how far and in what respect this perpetuity and indefectibility is promised ought to be enquired into lest we expect or insist upon more than the promise hath ensured That which Christ hath promised cannot be less than that there be always upon earth a number of true believers or faithful Christians made visible by their external profession of Christianity successively
continued till the end of all things It is also ascertained that there shall be at least the essentials of a Church-state or Church organical as some express it consisting of a part governing and a part governed always continued somewhere upon earth For Christs promise is to be with his Apostles in the executing of their Ministry always to the end of the world and it must be understood of them not barely considered as persons but as his commissioned Officers including their successors not in the Apostolical and Temporary but in the ordinary and perpetual Authority which they had in common with Pastors Bishops or Presbyters And Eph. 4.11 shews that the Ministry is to endure till the whole Mystical body of Christ be compleated But the promise doth not import that any particular Church or any particular combination of Churches in one frame of Ecclesiastical Polity how ample or illustrious soever shall be perpetuated by an uninterrupted succession of Pastors and secured from a total defection and rejection either from a Church state or from Christianity it self If any particular church or any one larger part of the Catholick church hath been preserved from the Apostles days till now when others have been extinct it is by the good pleasure of God whose ways and counsels are wise and holy yet unsearchable and past finding out Nor doth the promise import that the true church shall be perpetually conspicuous tho it be perpetually visible for in some Ages it may be more obscure in others more apparent It is granted by that party that much insists upon the conspicuousness of their church as a city on a hill That in the time of Antichrist the church shall scarcely be discerned Now in such a state it may be said to be tho not absolutely yet comparatively invisible that is being compared with what it is when more conspicuously Visible Nor doth it import that any particular church or any most ample and illustrious part of the Catholick church shall perpetually abide in the Apostolick purity of doctrine worship and government but that it may depart from it and fall into most enormous errors and practises in the said points and yet may not lose the essentials of Christian doctrine and church-state The Scripture foretels of a great falling away and a lasting defection in the Christian church and a long continued predominancy of an Antichristian state therein Nay for ought can be cogently inferred from the aforesaid promise the said defection might have been so universal as to leave no part of the Catholick church divided from the Apostatical or Antichristian state and party by a different external church-polity but the sound and sincere part of the Church may truckle under it and be included in its external frame and keep themselves from being destroyed by it some of them discerning and shunning the bainful doctrine and practise and others that are infected with it holding the truth predominantly in their hearts and lives and so tho not speculatively yet practically prevailing against the wicked errours If in all times there have been some societies of Christians that did not fall away in the great defection nor incorporate with the antichristian state but were by themselves in a severed church-state yet Christ hath not promised that there shall be notice thereof throughout all Christendom in the times when the said societies were in being nor that histories should be written thereof for the knowledg of after ages Howbeit we have sufficient notice by credible history that there have been many ample christian churches throughout all ages that were not incorporated with the antichristian state and that did dissent from their great enormities in Doctrine Worship and Government also that many Worthies living in the midst of that great apostacy did during the whole time thereof successively bear witness for the truth against it and that for a great part of the time huge multitudes also living in the midst of the said apostacy separated from it and were embodied into churches of another constitution more conformable to the Primitive Christianity § 13. The frame of the particular Churches mentioned in Scripture AS we find in Scripture one Catholick church related as one Kingdom Family Flock Spouse and Body to Christ as its only King Master Shepherd Husband and Head so we find particular churches as so many political societies distinct from each other yet all compacted together as parts of that one ample Society the Catholick church as the church at Antioch Acts 13.1 the church at Jerusalem Acts 11.22 Acts 15.4 the church at Cesarea Acts 18.22 the church at Cenchrea Rom. 10.1 the church at Corinth 1 Cor. 1.2 the churches of Galatia Gal. 1.2 the church of the Thessalonians 1 Thes 1.1 the church at Babylon 1 Pet. 5 13. and the seven churches in Asia Apoc. 1. 2. viz. of Ephesus Smyrna Pergamos Thyatyra Sardis Thiladelphia and Laodicea We likewise find that the Christians of a city o● lesser precinct made one church as the church at Corinth the church at Cenchrea c. but the Christians of a Region or a larger circuit made many churches as the churches of Asia the churches of Galatiae We find also that each of these particular churches did consist of a part governing and a part governed and consequently were political Societies Every church had their proper Elder or Elders Acts. 4.23 which Elders were the same with Bishops Acts 20.28 Tit. 1.5 7. 1 Pet. 5.1 2. and they were constitutive parts of those churches considered as Political Societies We find also that these Elders or Bishops did personally superintend or oversee all the Flock or every member of the church over which they did preside Acts 20 28 29. 1 Thes 5.12 Heb. 13.17 This appears further by their particular work expresly mentioned in Scripture to be personally performed towards all viz. to be the ordinary Teachers of all Heb. 13 7. 1 Thes 5.12 13. to admonish all that were unruly and to rebuke them openly 1 Tim. 5.20 Tit. 1.10 to visit and pray with the sick and all the sick were to send for them to that end James 5.14 and no grant from Christ to discharge the same by Substitutes or Delegates can be found § 14. The Form of a particular Church considered FROM the premises it is evident That all particular churches mentioned in the New Testament were so constituted as that all the members thereof were capable of personal communion in worshipping God if not always at once together yet by turns at least and of living under the present personal superintendency of their proper Elder or Elders Bishop or Bishops Whether to be embodied or associated for personal communion in worship and for personal superintendency of the Pastors over all the members be the true formal or essential constitution of particular churches by divine right I leave to consideration But this is evident that all those churches that the Scripture takes notice of were so constituted and that
the Authority of the Pastors but as they are made for the present or absent Pastors who are separately of equal Office Power they are no Laws except in an equivocal sense but only Agreements Now in judging between these two ways of the subordination enquired of let it be considered first That every particular church hath power of government within it self as hath been before observed 2. That a particular church doth not derive that power from any other particular church or collective body of churches but hath it immediately from Christ 3. That yet the acts of government in every particular church have an influence into all the churches being but integral parts of one whole the Catholick church and consequently they are all of them nearly concerned in one another as members of the same body 4. Thereupon that particular churches combine in such collective bodies and associations as have been before mentioned is not arbitrary but their duty 5. That the greater collective bodies are in degrees more august and venerable than the lesser included in them and in that regard ought to have sway with the lesser and not meerly in regard of agreement For tho in the greater there be but the same power in specie with that in the lesser yet it is more amply and illustriously exerted 6. That in all Societies every part being ordered for the good of the whole and the more ample and comprehensive parts coming nearer to the nature and reason of the whole than the lesser and comprehended the more ample parts if they have not a proper governing power over the lesser have at least a preeminence over them for the ends sake and this preeminence hath the force of a proper superior power in bearing sway 7. Hence it follows that the acts of Synods if they be not directly acts of government over the particular Pastors yet they have the efficacy of government as being to be submitted to for the ends sake The general good § 22. What is and what is not of Divine Right in Ecclesiastical Polity WE must distinguish between things that belong to the church as a church or a Society divers in kind from all other Societies and those things that belong to it extrinsecally upon a reason common to it with other regular societies The former wholly rest upon Divine Right the latter are in genere requisite by the Law of Nature which requires decency and order and whatsoever is convenient in all societies and so far they rest upon Divine Right but in specie they are left to human determination according to the general Rules given of God in Nature or Scripture And it is to be noted That such is the sulness of Scripture that it contains all the general Rules of the Law of Nature What soever in matter of Church government doth go to the formal constitution of a church of Christ is of Divine Right The frame of the Church catholick as one spiritual society under Christ the head as before described wholly rests upon Divine Right and so the frame of particular churches as several spiritual Polities and integral parts of the Catholick church as before described is also of Divine Right if such Right be sufficiently signified by the Precepts and Rules given by the Apostles for the framing of them and by their practise therein Moreover the parcelling of that one great Society the Church-catholick into particular Political Societies under their proper spiritual Guides and Rulers is so necessary in nature to the good of the whole that the Law of Nature hath made it unalterable It is intrinsick to all particular stated Churches and so of Divine Right that there be publick Assemblies thereof for the solemn Worship of God that there be Bishops Elders or spiritual Pastors therein and that these as Christs Officers guide the said Assemblies in publick Worship that therein they authoritatively preach the Word and in Christs Name offer the mercies of the Gospel upon his terms and denounce the threatnings of the Gospel against those that despise the mercies thereof that they dispence the Sacraments to the meet partakers and the spiritual censures upon those that justly fall under them that the members of these Societies explicitely or implicitely consent to their relation to their Pastors and one towards another It doth also intrinsecally belong to particular churches as they are integral parts of one Catholick church of which all the particular Christians contained in them are members and consequently it appears to be of Divine Right that they hold communion one with another and that they be imbodied according to their capacities in such Associations as have been before described As for all circumstantial variation and accidental modification of the things aforesaid with respect to meer decency order and convenience according to time and occasion being extrinsick to the spiritual frame and Polity of the Church as such and belonging in common to it with all orderly Societies they are of Divine Right only in genere but in specie they are left to those to whom the conduct and government of the church is committed to be determined according to the general Rules of Gods word Much of the controversie of this Age about several forms of Church-government is about things extrinsick to the church-state and but accidental modes thereof tho the several parties in the controversie make those Forms to which they adhere to be of Divine Right and necessary to a Church-state or as some speak a Church-organical Now in the said controverted Forms of Government there may be a great difference for some may be congruous to the divine and constitutive frame of the Church and advantageous to its ends others may be incongruous to it and destructive to its ends § 23. Of a True or False Church MANY notes of a true Church are contentiously brought in by those that would darken the truth by words without knowledg But without more ado the true and real being of a Church stands in its conformity to that Law of Christ upon which his Church is founded This Law is compleatly written in the Holy Scriptures The more of the aforesaid Conformity is sound in any Church the more true and sound it is and the less of it is found in any church the more corrupt and false it is and the more it declines from truth and soundness A Church may bear so much conformity to its Rule as is sufficient to the real being or essential state of a Christian church and yet withall bear such disconformity to its Rule as renders it very enormous A church holding all the essentials of Faith Worship Ministry and Government together with the addition of such Doctrine Worship Ministry and Government as is by consequence a denial of those essentials and a subverting of the foundation is a true church as to the essentials tho very enormous and dangerous And they that are of the communion of such a church who hold the essentials of Religion
they grant a kind of Certainty as the one by usurped authority impose upon mens belief in the matter of Religion which is mans highest concernment so the other take away or lessen that security of the mind which is reasonably required in so great a matter and give too great advantage to the pretenders on the other extream The term infallible may be taken first in a passive signification and then it is that which cannot be deceived And so it may be applied either to the propounder or to the believer of a truth It may also be taken in an active signification for that which cannot deceive and so it may be applied to the propounder as also to the truth it self proposed and ●o the evidence thereof as in our English Translation Act. 1.3 by many infallible proofs that is evidence that could not deceive Infallibility as ascribed to the propounder or believer of a truth is subjective infallibility as ascribed to the truth propounded or the evidence thereof it is objective infallibility which signifies no more than that the thing cannot be false and cannot objectively deceive Now if there may be objective there may be also subjective infallibility If there be truth and an evidence of truth that cannot be false then an understanding apprehending that truth as it is cannot be deceived therein nor can deceive in propounding the same to others Besides objective infallibility is an insignificant thing in reference to an understanding uncapable of infallibility An object is denominated infallible with respect to the understanding to which it is or may be propounded as not to be deceived in it § 12. Of Infallibility which is hypothetical and limited and that which is absolute and unlimited INFALLIBILITY therefore denoting an impossibility of being deceived and of deceiving inquire we into the subject to whom it doth belong Some say an impossibility of being deceived belongs only to an infinitely perfect understanding We must distinguish between an impossibility of being deceived that is absolute and unlimited and that which is hypothetical and limited I grant that an absolute impossibility of being deceived belongs not to a finite understanding And no asserter of infallibility in the creature intended the former but the latter kind Hypothetical and limited impossibility of being deceived may belong to a finite and in particular to a humane understanding and it is that which supposeth a full revelation natural or supernatural to the subject in whom it is and is limited to the truth so revealed and this hypothetical infallibility doth not rest barely upon the perfection of the humane nature but upon this principle That God is true in his revelations both natural and supernatural and that he doth not govern the world by falshoods Now this is proper infallibility For upon this principle I am not only sure that I am not deceived but also that I cannot be deceived as to the particular truths so evident to me or to speak it plainer it cannot be that I am therein deceived for it were a contradiction Moreover that which is certain is so upon necessary grounds and therefore cannot be false And he that knows it to be certain knows it upon those necessary grounds and consequently that it cannot be false and this is to know it infallibly If we know nothing infallibly we know nothing either as necessary or as impossible whether absolutely or hypothetically § 13. Of stated or permanent Infallibility and that which is but pro tempore IT hath been shewed that an understanding that is not absolutely or by the perfection of its nature infallible may be secured from possibility of mistake and an understanding that is not universally infallible may be secured from possibility of mistakes and so be infallible in certain cases and to certain intents Now it is further to be noted That there may be a stated or permanent Infallibility and that which is but temporary The former did belong to the established Prophets of the Lord in their declarations to his people and to the Apostles of Christ in matters pertaining to their Apostolical Commission for establishing the Religion and Churches of Christ Also upon supposition of the Saints perseverance it belongs to all true Christians as to the Essentials of Christianity The temporary Infallibility belongs to such persons as receive the Visions of God or are divinely inspired not statedly but occasionally at some particular time or times as among holy men Zacharias John Baptists Father Gideon the Parents of Sampson among the unholy Balaam in his Prophesies before Balaac and Saul who sometime was found prophecying § 14. The Infallibility of a finite Vnderstanding further cleared IT is granted by the deniers of Infallibility That that which is true is not possible to be false And thence I infer If I know it to be true I know it is not possible to be false and so I infallibly know it And my assent to a truth as for instance to the Christian Faith cannot possibly be false Some that say an impossibility of being deceived belongs only to an infinitely perfect understanding do grant that an understanding liable to be deceived may not be deceived and be sure that he is not And I infer thereupon that he cannot be deceived in that particular assent I mean not that he cannot simply but in that state and circumstances wherein he is put he cannot be deceived therein and that he knows he cannot because he knows it implies a contradiction that he should be deceived in that wherein he is sure that he is not deceived For if I may be deceived in such an apprehension or assent not only simply but all circumstances being put I cannot be sure that I am not deceived therein Likewise those that say an impossibility of being deceived belongs only to an infinitely perfect understanding do grant that a man cannot be deceived in that thing with the belief whereof God inspires him and gives him such evidence thereof as cannot be false Now this is a concession of hypothetical and limited insallibility to humane understanding For it is here acknowledged that there may be such evidence of divine inspiration as cannot be false And indeed I take it for a repugnancy in nature that God should inspire the belief of a falshood Nevertheless a man divinely inspired is not simply infallible in his apprehension of divine inspiration for he may sometime be deceived in thinking he is so inspired when he is not Thus it being evident that an understanding that is not simply infallible in a matter may in the state and circumstances wherein he is put be therein infallible I think it better to explain and limit the term and notion of infallibility in the humane understanding than wholly to reject it But howsoever they that reject or dislike it do grant and contend for a sufficiently certrin evidence of truth and I will not quarrel if that will serve for infallibility And they will also grant that they who
are not immediately inspired of God have sufficiently certain evidence in reason to the discerning and chusing of infallible guides that are immediately inspired § 15. Whether Infallibility admit of degrees and in what respect EVery truth is equally impossible to be false for all things that imply a contradiction are equally because utterly impossible All are alike infallible in that wherein they are infallible and therein they cannot be more infallible because therein it is utterly impossible that they should be deceived and so it cannot be more impossible than it is already Nevertheless there are different degrees of evidence for being infallible in such or such a matter Likewise there are different degrees of clear apprehension of being infallible and so the sure knowledg of being infallible admits of degrees That knowledg that is sufficiently certain may be advanced to be abundantly certain and that which is abundant may be advanced to yet more abundant Whereupon I conclude that though infallibility in its formal reason admits of no degrees yet there are different degrees of the evidence and the clear apprehension thereof Moreover infallibility is in a more noble and perfect state in one subject than in another And so the infallibility of a superior intellect as that of Angels is in a more perfect and excellent than the hypothetical and the unlimited than the limited In the same subject infallibility may be in a more perfect state at one time than another according to the rising or falling of the evidence thereof § 16. Of the Infallibility of Sense THAT which is agreeable to sense rightly circumstantiated is impossible to be false and that which is repugnant to sence rightly circumstantiated is impossible to be true For that the one should be false and that the other should be true implies a contradiction supposing the sensitive faculty to be true And if the sensitive faculties be not true it infers that impious and absurd opinion that God cannot or will not govern the material world but by falshood The Popish opinion of Transubstantiation is no deception of the sense but of the understanding for they that have persuaded themselves to believe it do not say they see or tast or feel Christs body and blood but acknowledg what they see feel and tast to be the accidents of the bread and wine which they say remains after Transubstantion Wherefore the imposing is not upon the senses but upon the understanding which ought to judg by sense of matters that are the proper objects of sense § 17. Of Infallibility of Reason IF Sense may be the subject of Infallibility why may not the Understanding be so which is a more excellent Faculty in the kind of perception or knowledg If the Understanding be the subject of Certainty why not also of infallibility in that limited sense as hath been before explained The proper object of Certainty is not that which may or may not be but that which must be or which is known to be such An indubitable Certainty is acknowledged and from an indubitable Certainty properly so called I think a good inference is made unto an infallible Certainty To be indubitable in a matter is to be sure that I am not therein deceived And I cannot rationally be sure that I am not deceived unless I am sure that it cannot be that the thing be otherwise than I apprehend And if I am sure that it cannot be otherwise than I apprehend I am as to that particular infallible Because men in their most confident persuasions are commonly deceived by prejudice from passion interest education and the like it follows not that none can be secure from deception that is to know that it cannot be that they should be deceived in such or such a matter Certainly an impartial and unbiassed judgment may be found § 18. Logical Physical Moral and Theological Conclusisions as well as Mathematical admit of demonstrative Evidence UPON the foregoing enquiries I judg it very disadvantageous to the cause of Religion to speak as some do of a lower evidence for it than demonstration and such as the matter is capable of whereas I suppose there is not surer and clearer Evidence for any thing than for true Religion Not only Mathematical but Logical Physical Moral and Theological Conclusions admit of demonstrative evidence Whereas some say the existence of God is not Mathematically demonstrable because only Mathematical matter admits such kind of evidence if it be meant of that special evidence that is in the Mathematicks it is nothing to the purpose but if it be meant of evidence in general as demonstrative as Mathematical evidence it is false for this Truth admits the clearest and strictest demonstration This Proposition That God is is demonstrative in the strictest sense by a demonstration a posteriori viz of the necessary cause from the effect it being evident that the existence of God is absolutely necessary to the existence of the World for that we cannot attribute the being of the Phanomena or visible things in the world to any other cause than such a Being as we conceive God to be but we must offer violence to our own faculties This Proposition That every word of God shall be fulfilled according to the true and full intent of it is demonstrative in the strictest sense a priori from the veracity of God it being as evident that God is true as that he is As the Existence so the Attributes of God have demonstrative Evidence unless you had rather call them indemonstrable principles as having the greatest self-evidence From the Essence and Attributes of God and mans dependance on him and relation to him Moral and Theological Truths of demonstrative evidence are inferred as touching Gods moral law the good of conformity and the evil of inconformity thereunto and a just retribution to men according to that difference § 19. Of the infallible knowledg of the truth of the Christian Religion and Divine Authority of the Scripture UPON the grounds here laid as the Existence and Attributes of God and mans dependance on him and relation to him and his obligations thence arising may be demonstrated so also that the Christian Religion and the Holy Scriptures are of God as the Author and that the contrary would involve a contradiction And I take this to have been demonstrated by learned men and need not here be largely insisted on Only I shall set down a little of that much that hath been written by Mr. Baxter We may infallibly know the Christian Doctrine to be of God by his unimitable image or impression which is upon it supposing the truth of the historical part Likewise the truth of the historical part namely that this doctrine was delivered by Christ and his Apostles and that those things were done by him and them which the Scriptures mention we may know infallibly The Apostles and other first witnesses knew it infallibly themselves by their present sense and reason with the concomitance of
death of Mark and in other places by that example And it plainly shews as the Apostle Paul doth That the Churches were governed by the Common Council of Presbyters who were also Bishops The Testimony of Irenaeus It is clear that this Father makes the presbyters to be the same with bishops and the successors of the Apostles and with him the succession of bishops is all one with the succession of presbyters Lib. 4. c. 43. We must obey those presbyters which are in the Church who together with the succession of Episcopacy have received the gift of truth Id. l. 3. c. 2. Unto that tradition which is in the church by the succession of presbyters we challenge them that say they are wiser not only than the presbyters but the Apostles Id. l. 3. c. 3. declaring the tradition of the greatest and ancientest church and known to all even the church of Rome founded by Peter and Paul at Rome that which it hath from the Apostles and the Faith declared to men and coming to us by the succession of bishops c. Id. lib. 4. c. 4. We must forsake unjust Presbyters serving their own lusts and adhere to those who with the order of presbytery keep the doctrine of the Apostles found and their conversation without offence unto the information and correction of the rest The church nourisheth such presbyters whereof the Prophet speaks I will give thee princes in peace and thy bishops in righteousness Id. lib. 4. c. 63. The true knowledg of the doctrine of the Apostles and the ancient state in the whole world according to the succession of bishops to which they gave the church which is in every place which is come even to us From these citations it is evident that this Father doth express one and the same order of Episcopacy in all presbyters If any do use this evasion that he calls all those that were true bishops by the name of presbyters let them shew where he mentions presbyters of another order or makes two different orders of Episcopacy and Presbyterate Here I will take notice of the words of Irenaus concerning those Elders of the church mentioned Acts 20. lib. 3. c. 14. viz. In Miletum the bishops and presbyters which were from Ephesus and other the next Cities being convocated Tho it seems most reasonable by the Elders of the church there sent for by Paul to understand the elders of that particular church of Ephesus to which the Apostle then sent and indeed if they had been from other Cities also it would have said according to the Scripture way of expression the elders of the churches yet admitting what this Father saith hereof observe we that he speaks of bishops and presbyters as congregated in the meeting and he might mention two names of the same office And the Apostle speaks to all those presbyters that there convened as those whom the Holy Ghost had made bishops of the flock And suppose they were the bishops of Asia as some would have it yet it cannot be proved that they were any other than bishops of single Congregations or that they were such bishops as had subject presbyters of a lower order under them The Testimony of Clemens Alexandrinus He thus writes Stromat lib. 6. p. 667. He is really a presbyter of the church and a true Deacon of the will of God if he teach the things of the Lord not as ordained by men nor esteemed just because he is a presbyter but taken into the presbytery because he is just Here in the Church are progressions of bishops presbyters deacons imitations as I think of the Angelical glory and of the heavenly dispensation which the Scripture speaks they expect who treading in the footsteps of the Apostles have lived in the perfection of righteousness according to the Gospel These the Apostle writes being taken up into the clouds shall first be made deacons and then shall be taken into the presbytery according to the progress of glory Here this Father first mentions only two orders presbyters and deacons afterwards a progression of bishops presbyters and deacons as imitations of the heavenly dispensation but in the close applying the similitude to blessed men taken into heaven he makes the progress to be only in being first as deacons then as presbyters mentioning no higher order Hence I conceive may be inferred that he speaks of presbyters and deacons as of two different orders and of bishops but as a higher degree in the order of presbyters This also may be further confirmed Stromat lib. 7. p. 700. where distinguishing of a twofold 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 or employment in secular affairs viz. 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 and 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 he saith that presbyters hold that 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 which makes men better and the deacons that which consists in service His meaning is that as in the Civil State there are two orders the one governing and the other ministring so there are likewise in the Church the Presbyters holding the one and the deacons the other These passages of this Author I thought fit to mention and have not found in him any more relating to the distinct ministers of the church The Testimony of Jerome This Father also speaks of presbyters as the same with bishops and successors of the Apostles On the Epistle to Titus c. 1. he saith As presbyters know that they are by the custom of the church subject to him that is set over them so let the bishops know that they are greater than presbyters rather by custom than by the verity of the Lords appointment He also testifies that they did and ought to rule the church in common and that imparity came in by little and little In his Epistle to Evagrius he shews that the presbyters of Alexandria from Mark till Heraclas and Dionysius had always one chosen out of them and placed in a higher degree and named bishop as if an Army made an Emperor and Deacons chose one whom they knew industrious and called him Arch-deacon Here he mentions no other making of bishops than by presbyters And that the presbyters made the bishop is an argument brought by him to prove the identity at first and afterwards the nearness of their power And he ascribes to presbyters the making of their bishop and placing him in a higher degree and naming him bishop And he distinguisheth the ancient way of making bishops by presbyters from that way of making them which followed the times of Heraclas and Dionysius which was by Episcopal ordination This evidence is confirmed by the testimony of Eutichius Patriarch of Alexandria who out of the Records and Traditions of that Church in his Arabick Originals saith according to Seldens Translation in his Commentary p. 29 30. That the presbyters laid hands on him whom they elected till the time of Alexander Patriarch of Alexandria for he forbad the presbyters any longer to create the Patriarch and decreed that the Patriarch being deceased bishops should
convene and ordain one to the Patriarchate and that they might chuse the Patriarch out of any Region Jerome as an Historian only mentions from the testimony of Eusebius some bishops made by the Apostles But who can prove that those bishops were of a higher order than Presbyters The Testimonies of other Ancients in the same point Cyprian lib. 3. Epist 9. Erasmus his Edit to Rogatianus The Deacons must remember that the Lord chose Apostles that is bishops and Praepositi but after the ascension of the Lord the Apostles made Deacons to themselves as ministers of their Episcopacy and the church Here are but two Orders mentioned 1. bishops and Praepositi who were as the Apostles 2. Deacons who are ministers to them and the church Id. lib. 1. Epist 11. to Pomponius When all ought to maintain discipline much more the Praepositi and the Deacons From this and the other place before cited it may plainly appear that there was no middle office between that of the Praepositi and the Deacons And all the Presbyters being Praepositi must needs be of the same Order with bishops that title importing the very nature of the bishops office Chrysostome on the first to Timothy consesseth that there is little or no difference between a bishop and a presbyter That a bishop had not a different ordination from a presbyter Ambrose shews on 1 Tim. c. 3. in these words Why after the bishop doth he come to the ordination of a deacon Why but because there is one ordination of a bishop and presbyter for either of them is a priest but the bishop is