« PreviousContinue »
selves. He begins with Irenæus ; for thus (says he) that is, in the Sense which I have given you of a Primitive Church, Ireneus mentions that Church which is in any Place ( ea quæ est in quoque loco Ecclesia, or rather, in quoquo loco, as I find it in Iren. 1. 2. c. 56:) Now this, I must confess, is a very dark Authority to me, to prove what kind of Church that holy Father meant by it: If there be any Consequence in it, to the Purpose it is here brought for, it must needs lie in these two plain Words ( quoquo loco ) in any Place; and from them, as far as I am able to imagine, it can no otherwise be inferr'd, than one of these two ways; either first, That there was no other particular Church at that Time to be in any Place whatsoever, but just such an one as this learned Author here quotes this Place to prove for him, which would be such a fine gular Fallacy in Reasoning (if he thould anply it in that Sense ) as I can't suppose our ingenious Enquirer can be guilty of: 'Or else, secondly, it must be, that the Word Place has such a scanty Notion necessarily tyed to it, that it would have been no Sense in that learned Father to have meant a larger Circuit by it, than that of an ordinary Meeting• House in our modern Phrase : For, if Place be such an Affection of Bodies, así conforms itself to every Dimension of the Thing that is apply'd to it, ( as I think both Naturalists and Logicians will warrant us to say ) then to be said to be in any Place, unless the particular Measure of that Place were exprest too, adds nothing in the
least to prove of what Extent that Thing is. So that Irenæus's Church in any Place, was such a fort of Church, to be sure, as they then understood a Christian Church to be ; but whether Parochial, Diocesan, Provincial, or any other kind whatsoever, as to the Extent or Circuit of it, is not one jot the clearer to me, by his calling it a Church in any Place, tho' our more-discerning Enquirer (it seems ) saw his own Scheme fo visibly lie in it.
His Second Instance of such a Primitive Church, as he has defin’d for us, is taken from an Expression of Dionysius Alexandrinus, when he was banish'd to Cephro in Lybia, I'll give it in his own Translation, * There came so many Christians to him (says he ) that even there he had a Church. Here was a Christian Church, it seems, and that in a streight Place of Banishment too; tho had it been translated a Christian Assembly only, I am sure no Wrong had been done to the Original Word ; but I sha’n’t insist on that. It is concluded, (by applying it in this place ) that it needs must be such a Church as could meet together for religious Worship in one place only, and no otherwise. I confess, it may be fo ; and that will prove but little, that this Ancient Father had no other Notion of a particular Christian Church, than such an one as this ; or, even that he meant it so, in this very Quotation ito self; for, by looking a little farther on in
* Dionyf. Alex, apud Eufeb. 1. 7. C. II. p. 259. 1104λή σωωεπιδήμησεν Εκκλησία,
this continued Relation of his, I think it will evidently appear, that he makes his own particular Church a quite different Thing from it. This I shall consider by and by ; only let me first leave one short Remark or two upon this little Church at Cephro.
Dionyfius himself calls it ( in our Author's own Quotation) monasi 'Exxanoid, that is, in true English, I think, a pretty numerous Church at leaft: Valefius, in his Translation, calls it, magna multitudo Fidelium, A great Multitude of Believers. Dionysius farther says, it consisted of a threefold Concourse of Christians ; ift, of all the Brethren that came from Alexandria to bim; 2dly, of others that came out of Egypt thither ; and, 3dly, which I think is worth considering, he tells us, that before he left the Place, és érigos @v, not a few of the Heathens left their Idols, and came over to his Church. Not a fer, indeed, we have reason to believe, since the humble Confeffor himself ventures to speak, as the holy Apostle did upon the like Occasion, that God had opend a Door to him there to propagate the Gospel amongst them, and he thought he had sent him thither for that very Purpose to convert them. All this amounts not (I own) to an unquestionable Certainty of more than a single Congregation at Cephro, and I have no Occafion to desire it should; but I think it bids so fair for it, that it looks like little Choice of Authorities in the Cafe, when we search for such an one as this, to prove that a particular Church in that Age consisted of no more.
But the Truth is, (and I desire it may be noted all along in this Discourse ) that the Point in question does not lie here ; Whether there was a Church in that Place (or, indeed, in any other ) that de facto had but One Congregation to denominate it so; for who doubts but at the first conversion of the Heathen World, the Number of Believers in some particular Places, might not for some time amount to more than that; and Records of many particular Churches afterwards might be wanting (as our learned Enquirer argues upon a like Occasion in the 148 Page of this Treatise ) to set forth the entire State and Condition of such Primitive Churches to us? But the true Question is, Whether if more Congregations than One, had been actually gather'd or converted in any Place whatsoever, and exercised their Offices of Divine Worship in distinct and separate Places from one another, so that their first, proper, and chief Paftor could not be able personally to attend the Service of them all ; whether the Property, I say, must in such case be alter'd, and they could no longer be One Church, or be subject to one and the same supreme Ecclesiastical Governor, (call him what we please ) but must of necesity be formed then into more particular independent Churches, and a supreme Pastor, unaccountable to the other, (or to any else) must have presided over each of them, and denominated them as many particular Churches, as there were single Assemblies that met together to celebrate the Ordinances of the Christian Church. This, I humbly conceive, our learned Enquirer faould have proved from this, or any
other Authorities he produces hereafter in defence of his own Opinion, if he meant effectually to support his fundamental Scheme by them. And since it no where does appear from one end of his elaborate Enquiry to the other, that he has done fo, I must needs say this is such a fundamental Defect, as renders the whole Performance of very little use to that pious Design he professes in it, of reconciling Differences about the Constitution of the Primitive Church.
But 'tis time I make my Promise good, and shew that Dionyfius himself meant no such Church, even in this very Narrative of his, as he is here quoted for : And this will require that a short Account be first given of the present Condition that holy Confessor was then in. The Case was thus; the persecuting Governor of the Province, breathing out greater Threatnings still against the banilh'd Christians, order'd them all to be removed into the inhospitable Region of Marcotis, and particularly assign'd the Quarters of Dionysius himself at a Place called Colluthio ; the Holy Bishop was troubled at the Thoughts of this Change ; for tho’ he knew that Region better than he did the other, yet they talk'd of it as if there were small Hopes of many Christian Brethren, or indeed of any sort of good Men to be found there. But some of the Faithful about me ( says he ) comforted me in this Distress: And what were the Arguments of Comfort that they offer'd to him? Why, they put me in mind ( says he ) of this, that Collua thio was a Place nearer to the City ( of Alexan. dria ) still, and tho' I had such Concourse of Brethren at Cepl.ro (says he ) that I could do