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guilty of his death, and then how can his prophecy be fulfilled? Next, how the ftanders-by could be fo foon weary of fuch a glorious fight, and fuch a fragrant fmell, as to haften the executioner to put out the fire with the martyr's blood; unless perhaps they thought, as in all perfumes, that the smoak would be more odorous than the flame: yet these good brethren fay he was bishop of Smyrna. No man questions it, if bifhop and prefbyter were anciently all one, and how does it appear by any thing in this testimony that they were not? If among his other high titles of prophetical, apoftolical, and moft admired of those times, he be alfo ftyled bishop of the church of Smyrna in a kind of speech, which the rhetoricians call xarx, for his excellence fake, as being the most famous of all the Smyrnian prefbyters; it cannot be proved neither from this nor that other place of Irenæus, that he was therefore in diftinct and monarchical order above the other prefbyters; it is more probable, that if the whole prefbytery had been as renowned as he, they would have termed every one of them feverally bishop of Smyrna. Hence it is, that we read fometimes of two bishops in one place; and had all the prefbyters there been of like worth, we might perhaps have read of twenty.
Tertullian accofts us next, (for Polycrates hath had his answer) whofe teftimony, ftate but the queftion right, is of no more force to deduce episcopacy, than the two former. He says, that the church of Smyrna had Polycarpus placed there by John, and the church of Rome, Clement ordained by Peter; and fo the rest of the churches did show what bishops they had received by the appointment of the apoftles. None of this will be contradicted, for we have it out of the scripture that bishops or prefbyters, which were the fame, were left by the apoftles in every church, and they might perhaps give fome special charge to Clement, or Polycarpus, or Linus, and put fome fpecial truft in them for the experience they had of their faith and conftancy; it remains yet to be evinced out of this and the like places, which will never be, that the word bishop is otherwise taken, than in the language of St. Paul and The Acts, for an order above prefbyters.
We grant them bishops, we grant them worthy men, we grant them placed in feveral churches by the apoftles; we' grant that Irenæus and Tertullian affirm this, but that they were placed in a fuperior order above the prefbytery, fhow from all thefe words why we should grant. It is not enough to fay the apoftle left this man bishop in Rome, and that other in Ephefus, but to fhow when they altered their own decree fet down by St. Paul, and made all the prefbyters underlings to one bishop. But suppose Tertullian had made an imparity where none was originally, fhould he move us, that goes about to prove an imparity between God the Father, and God the Son, as these words import in his book against Praxeas?" The Father is the whole fubftance, but the Son a derivation, and portion of the whole, as he himself profeffes, because the Father is greater than me." Believe him now for a faithful relater of tradition, whom you fee fuch an unfaithful expounder of the fcripture: befides, in his time, all allowable tradition was now loft. For this fame author, whom you bring to teftify the ordination of Clement to the bishopric of Rome by Peter, teftifies also, in the beginning of his treatise concerning chastity, that the bishop of Rome did then use to fend forth his edicts by the name of Pontifex Maximus, and Epifcopus Epifcoporum, chief priest, and bishop of bifhops: for fhame then do not urge that authority to keep up a bishop, that will neceffarily engage you to set up a pope. As little can your advan tage be from Hegefippus, an hiftorian of the fame time, not extant, but cited by Eufebius: his words are, that "in every city all things fo ftood in his time as the law, and the prophets, and our Lord, did preach." If they flood fo, then flood not bishops above prefbyters; for what our Lord and his difciples taught, God be thanked, we have no need to go learn of him: and you may as well hope to perfuade us out of the fame author, that James the brother of our Lord was a Nazarite, and that to him only it was lawful to enter into the holy of holies; that his food was not upon any thing that had life, fish or flesh; that he used no woollen garments, but only linen, and fo as he trifles on.
If therefore the tradition of the church were now grown
fo ridiculous, and difconfenting from the doctrine of the apofiles, even in those points which were of least moment to men's particular ends, how well may we be affured it was much more degenerated in point of episcopacy and precedency, things which could afford fuch plaufible pretences, fuch commodious traverses for ambition and ava→ rice to lurk behind?
As for those Britain bishops which you cite, take heed what you do; for our Britain bishops, less ancient than thefe, were remarkable for nothing more than their poverty, as Sulpitius Severus and Beda can remember you of examples good store.
Laftly, (for the fabulous Metaphraftes is not worth an answer,) that authority of Clemens Alexandrinus is not to be found in all his works; and wherever it be extant, it is in controversy, whether it be Clement's or no; or if it were, it fays only that Saint John in fome places conftituted bishops: queftionless he did, but where does Clemens fay he fet them above prefbyters? No man will gainfay the conftitution of bishops: but the raifing them to a fuperior and diftinct order above prefbyters, feeing the gospel makes them one and the fame thing, a thousand fuch allegations as these will not give prelatical epifcopacy one chapel of ease above a parish church. And thus much for this cloud I cannot fay rather than petty fog of witneffes, with which epifcopal men would caft a mift before us, to deduce their exalted epifcopacy from apoftolic times. Now, although, as all men well know, it be the wonted shift of errour, and fond opinion, when they find themselves outlawed by the Bible, and forsaken of found reason, to betake them with all speed to their old startinghole of tradition, and that wild and overgrown covert of antiquity, thinking to farm there at large room, and fine good ftabling, yet thus much their own deified antiquity betrays them to inform us, that tradition hath had very feldom or never the gift of perfuafion; as that which church hiftories report of those east and western pafchalifts, formerly fpoken of, will declare. Who would have thought that Polycarpus on the one fide could have erred in what he faw St. John do, or Anicetus bishop of Rome on the other fide, in what he or some of
his friends might pretend to have seen St. Peter or St. Paul do; and yet neither of these could perfuade either when to keep Eafter? The like frivolous contention troubled the primitive English churches, while Colmanus and Wilfride on either fide deducing their opinions, the one from the undeniable example of Saint John, and the learned bishop Anatolius, and laftly the miraculous Columba, the other from Saint Peter and the Nicene council; could gain no ground each of other, till king Ofwy, perceiving no likelihood of ending the controversy that way, was fain to decide it himself, good king, with that fmall knowledge wherewith those times had furnished him. So when those pious Greek emperors began, as Cedrenus relates, to put down monks, and abolish images, the old idolaters, finding themselves blafted, and driven back by the prevailing light of the fcripture, fent out their sturdy monks called the Abramites, to allege for images the ancient fathers Dionyfius, and this our objected Irenæus: nay, they were fo highflown in their antiquity, that they undertook to bring the apoftles, and Luke the evangelift, yea Chrift himself, from certain records that were then current, to patronize their idolatry: yet for all this the worthy emperor Theophilus, even in those dark times, chofe rather to nourish himself and his people with the fincere milk of the gospel, than to drink from the mixed confluence of fo many corrupt and poisonous waters, as tradition would have perfuaded him to, by moft ancient seeming authorities. In like manner all the reformed churches abroad, unthroning epifcopacy, doubtlefs were not ignorant of thefe teftimonies alleged to draw it in a line from the apoftles' days: for furely the author will not think he hath brought us now any new authorities or confiderations into the world, which the reformers in other places were not advised of: and yet we fee, the interceffion of all these apoftolic fathers could not prevail with them to alter their refolved decree of reducing into order their ufurping and overprovendered epifcopants; and God hath bleffed their work this hundred years with a profperous and ftedfast, and still happy fuccefs. And this may ferve to prove the infufficiency of these present episcopal teftimonies, not only in them
felves but in the account of thofe ever that have been the followers of truth. It will next behove us to confider the inconvenience we fall into, by ufing ourselves to be guided by these kind of teftimonies. He that thinks it the part of a well learned man to have read diligently the ancient ftories of the church, and to be no ftranger in the volumes of the fathers, fhall have all judicious men confenting with him; not hereby to control, and new fangle the fcripture, God forbid! but to mark how corruption and apoftafy crept in by degrees, and to gather up whereever we find the remaining sparks of original truth, wherewith to ftop the mouths of our adversaries, and to bridle them with their own curb, who willingly pafs by that which is orthodoxal in them, and ftudioufly cull out that which is commentitious, and beft for their turns, not weighing the fathers in the balance of fcripture, but fcripture in the balance of the fathers. If we, therefore, making first the gospel our rule and oracle, fhall take the good which we light on in the fathers, and fet it to oppofe the evil which other men seek from them, in this way of fkirmish we shall eafily mafter all fuperftition and falfe doctrine; but if we turn this our difcreet and wary ufage of them into a blind devotion towards them, and whatsoever we find written by them; we both forsake our own grounds and reafons which led us at firft to part from Rome, that is, to hold to the fcriptures against all antiquity; we remove our cause into our adverfaries' own court, and take up there those caft principles, which will foon cause us to foder up with them again; inasmuch as believing antiquity for itself in any one point, we bring an engagement upon ourselves of affenting to all that it charges upon us. For suppose we should now, neglecting that which is clear in fcripture, that a bishop and prefbyter 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 apoftles, and of a univerfal charge in planting chriftianity through divers regions, cannot be drawn into particular and daily example; fuppofe that neglecting this clearness of the text, we should, by the uncertain and corrupted writings of fucceeding times, determine that bishop and prefbyter are different,