« PreviousContinue »
doctrine, yet was it only of God's appointment, as being the most adequate measure of the church and her children, which is here the office of a great evangelist, and the reed given him from heaven. But that part of the temple which is not thus measured, so far is it from being in God's tuition or delight, that in the following verse he rejects it; however in shew and visibility it may seem a part of his church, vet inasmuch as it lies thus unmeasured, he leaves it to be trampled by the Gentiles, that is to be polluted with idolatrous and gentilish rites and ceremonies. And that the principal reformation here foretold is already come to pass, as well in discipline as in doctrine, the state of our neighbour churches afford us to behold. Thus, through all the periods and changes of the church, it hath been proved, that God hath still reserved to himself the right of enacting church government.
CHAPTER III. That it is dangerous and unworthy the Gospel, to hold that Church Government is to be patterned by the Law, as Bishop Andrews and the Primate of Armagh maintain. We may return now from this interposing difficulty thus removed, to affirm, that since church government is so strictly commanded in God's word, the first and greatest reason why we should submit thereto is, because God hath so. commanded. But whether of these two, prelaty or presbytery, can prove itself to be supported by this first, and greatest reason, must be the next dispute; wherein this position is to be first laid down, as granted, that I may not follow a chase rather than an argument, that one of these two, and none other, is of God's ordaining; and if it be, that ordinance must be evident in the gospel. For the imperfect and obscure institution of the law, which the apostles themselves doubt not ofttimes to vilify, cannot give rules to the com. plete and glorious ministration of the gospel, which looks ont the law as on a child, not as on a tutor. And that the prelates have no sure foundation in the gospel, their own guiltiness doth manifest; they would not else run questing up as high as Adam to fetch their original, as it is said one of VOL. II.
them lately did in public. To which assertion, had I heard it, because I see they are so insatiable of antiquity, I should have gladly assented, and confessed them yet more ancient: for Lucifer, before Adam, was the first prelate angel; and both he, as is cominonly thought, and our forefather Adam, as we all know, for aspiring above their orders, were miserably degraded. But others, better advised, are content to receive their beginning from Aaron and his sons, among whom bishop Andrews of late years, and in these times the primate of Armagh, for their learning are reputed the best able to say what may be said in this opinion. The primate, in his discourse about the original of episcopacy newly revised, begins thus : “The ground of episcopacy is fetched partly from the pattern prescribed by God in the Old Testament, and partly from the imitation thereof brought in by the apostles.” Herein I must entreat to be excused of the desire I have to be satisfied, how for example the ground of episcopacy is fetched partly from the example of the Old Testament, by whom next, and by whose authority. Secondly, how the church government under the gospel can be rightly called an imitation of that in the Old Testament; for that the gospel is the end and fulfilling of the law, our liberty also from the bondage of the law, I plainly read. How then the ripe age of the gospel should be put to school again, and learn to govern herself from the infancy of the law, the stronger to imitate the weaker, the freeman to follow the captive, the learned to be lessoned by the rude, will be a hard undertaking to evince from any of those principles which either art or inspiration hath written. If anything done by the apostles may be drawn howsoever to a likeness of some thing Mosaical, if it cannot be proved that it was done of pur. pose in imitation, as having the right thereof grounded in nature, and not in ceremony or type, it will little avail the matter. The whole Judaic law is either political (and to take pattern by that, no Christian nation ever thought itself obliged in conscience) or moral, which contains in it the observation of whatsoever is substantially and perpetually true and good, either in religion or course of life. That which is thus moral, besides what we fetch from those unwritten laws and ideas which nature hath engraven in us, the gospel, as stands with her dignity most, lectures to her from her own authentic handwriting and command, not copies out from the borrowed manuscript of a subservient scroll, by way of imitating: as well might she be said in her sacrament of water, to imitate the baptism of John. What though she retain excommunication used in the synagogue, retain the morality of the sabbath? She does not therefore imitate the law, her underling, but perfect her. All that was morally delivered from the law to the gospel, in the office of the priests and Levites, was, that there should be a ministry set apart to teach and discipline the church; both which duties the apostles thought good to commit to the presbyters. And if any distinction of honour were to be made among them, they directed it should be to those not that only rule well, but especially to those that labour in the word and doctrine. By which we are told that laborious teaching is the most honourable prelaty that one minister can have above another in the gospel; if, therefore, the superiority of bishopship be grounded on the priesthood as a part of the moral law, it cannot be said to be an imitation; for it were ridiculous that morality should imitate morality, which ever was the same thing. This very word of patterning or imitating excludes episcopacy from the solid and grave ethical law, and betrays it to be a mere child of ceremony, or likelier some misbegotten thing, that having plucked the gay feathers of her obsolete bravery, to hide her own deformed barrenness, now vaunts and glories in her stolen plumes. In the mean while, what danger there is against the very life of the gospel, to make in anything the typical law her pattern, and how impossible in that which touches the priestly government, I shall use such light as I have received, to lay open. It cannot be unknown by what expressions the holy apostle St. Paul spares not to explain to us the nature and condition of the law, calling those ordinances which were the chief and essential offices of the priests, the elements and rudiments of the world, both weak and beggarly. Now to breed, and bring up the children of the promise, the heirs of liberty and grace, under such a kind of government as is professed to be but an imitation of that ministry which engendered to bondage the sons of Agar; how can this be but a foul injury and derogation, if not a cancelling of that birthright and immunity, which Christ hath purchased for us with his blood ? For the ministration of the law, consisting of carnal things, drew to it such a ministry as consisted of carnal respects, dignity, precedence, and the like. And such a ministry established in the gospel, as is founded upon the points and terms of superiority, and nests itself in worldly honours, will draw to it, and we see it doth, such a religion as runs back again to the old pomp and glory of the flesh: for doubtless there is a certain attraction and magnetic force betwixt the religion and the ministerial form thereof. If the religion be pure, spiritual, simple, and lowly, as the gospel most truly is, such must the face of the ministry be. And in like manner, if the form of the ministry be grounded in the worldly degrees of authority, honour, temporal jurisdiction, we see with our eyes it will turn the inward power and purity of the gospel into the outward carnality of the -law ; evaporating and exhaling the internal worship into
empty conformities, and gay shews. And what remains then, but that we should run into as dangerous and deadly apostacy as our lamentable neighbours the papists, who, by this very snare and pitfall of imitating the ceremonial law, fell into that irrecoverable superstition, as must needs make void the covenant of salvation to them that persist in this blindness ?
- CHAPTER IV.
That it is impossible to make the Priesthood of Aaron a Pattern
.. whereon to ground Episcopacy. . That which was promised next is, to declare the impossibility of grounding evangelic government in the imitation of the Jewish priesthood; which will be done by considering both the quality of the persons, and the office itself. Aaron and his sons were the princes of their tribe, before they were sanctified to the priesthood : that personal eminence, which they held above the other Levites, they received not only from their office, but partly brought it into their office; and so from that time forward the priests were not chosen out of the whole number of the Levites, as our bishops, but were born inheritors of the dignity. Therefore, unless we shall choose our prelates only out of the nobility, and let them run in a blood, there can be no possible imitation of lording over their brethren in regard of their persons altogether, unlike. As for the office, which was a representation of Christ's own person more immediately in the high-priest, and of his whole priestly office in all the other, to the performance of which ihe Levites were but as servitors and deacons, it was necessary there should be a distinction of dignity between two functions of so great odds. But there being no such difference among our ministers, unless it be in reference to the deacons, it is impossible to found a prelaty upon the imitation of this priesthood: for wherein, or in what work, is the office of a prelate excellent above that of a pastor? In ordination, you will say; but flatly against scripture: for there we know Timothy received ordination by the hands of the presbytery, notwithstanding all the vain delusions that are used to evade that testimony, and maintain an unwarrantable usurpation. But wherefore should ordination be a cause of setting up a superior degree in the church? Is not that whereby Christ became our Saviour a higher and greater work, than that whereby he did ordain messengers to preach and publish him our Saviour? Every minister sustains the person of Christ in his highest work of communicating to us the mysteries of our salvation, and hath the power of binding and absolving; how should he need a higher dignity, to represent or execute that which is an inferior work in Christ? Why should the performance of ordination, which is a lower office, exalt a prelate, and not the seldom discharge of a higher and more noble office, which is preaching and administering, much rather depress him? Verily, neither the nature nor the example of ordination doth any way require an imparity betwcen the ordainer and the ordained; for what more natural than every like to produce his like, man to beget man, fire to propagate fire? "And in examples of highest opinion the ordainer is inferior to the ordained; for the pope is not made by the precedent pope, but by cardinals, who ordain and consecrate to a higher and greater office than their own.