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I SHALL now examine whether the Fathers of the Reformation in England were Presbyterians in principle, as you assert.*
-Your first proof that they were, is taken from the book entitled, The Institution of a Christian Man. This book was published, as you correctly observe, in the year 1537, in the reign of Henry the eighth. It was called the Bishop's book, because it was composed by Archbishop Cranmer, and several other prelates. You assert, that it is expressly said in. this book, that "although the Fathers of the succeeding church after the Apostles instituted certain inferior degrees of ministry; yet the truth is,
that in the New Testament there is no mention made of any other degree or distinction in orders, but only of Deacons or Ministers, and of Presbyters or Bishops."
I doubt, Sir, whether you are not as unfortunate in this quotation, as you have been in several others. The book you quote from is so rare, that I am pretty well satisfied, there is not a man in this country who has seen it. Nearly a hundred years ago, Collier, who has given an abstract of it, said it was a very rare book. When he wrote his Ecclesiastical History, he had it before him, and in the abstract he has given us, there is not a syllable of what you have quoted; but much to the contrary. In relation to the authority of Bishops and Priests, he says, "They [the compilers of the Institution] proceed to a more particular explanation of the authority of the clergy, and divide it into two branches ;-Potestas ordinis et potestas jurisdictionis. Concerning the first, not being contested, they say nothing: the latter, touching jurisdiction committed to the hierarchy, they throw into three subdivisions. By the first, they are empowered to reprove immorality and misbelief, and excommunicate the obstinate and ungovernable.By the second branch of jurisdiction, Bishops are authorized by our Saviour to continue the succession, and perpetuate the hierarchy. They are
* Eccles. Hist. vol. ii. p. 140.
the judges of the qualifications for priesthood, and may admit or refuse as they think fit."
They further observe, that "a third branch of jurisdiction, belonging to Bishops and Priests, comprehends the power of making canons for the discipline and service of the church." Under this head, "they lay it down for a certain truth, that * neither the scripture, nor any Father of the Apos• tolical age, mentions our Saviour's making any distinction or disparity in the Apostolical or Episcopal character; but that all the Apostles and Bishops were settled upon a foot of equality, with respect to jurisdiction and authority."
Now, Sir, it is evident from Collier's abstract of the Institution, that you have been led into an error by some prejudiced writer, from whom, most probably, you have taken your quotation. You assert, after your author, that the Institution maintains an equality among all the ministers of the gospel. This is not the truth. It maintains an equality among all the Apostles and Bishops, in opposition to the Pope's supremacy; but does not give the least hint of an equality among all the ministers of the gospel. This, Sir, shows how cautious we ought to be not to deliver ourselves up to the statements and opinions of others.
You proceed" About six years after the publication of this book, another appeared, which was designed to promote the same laudable purposes. This was entitled, The necessary Erudition of a
Christian Man. It was drawn up by a committee. of Bishops and other divines; was afterwards read and approved by the Lords spiritual and temporal, and the lower house of Parliament, was prefaced by the King, and published by his command. This · book certainly proves that those who drew it up, had obtained much more just and clear views of several important doctrines, than they possessed at the date of the former publication. But with regard to ministerial parity, their sentiments remained unchanged. They still asserted the same doctrine. They say, St. Paul consecrated and ordained Bishops by the imposition of hands; but that there is no certain rule prescribed in scripture for the nomination, election, or presentation of them, [that is true] but that this is left to the positive laws of every community. [Undoubtedly!] The office of the said ministers is, to preach the word, to minister the sacraments, to bind and loose, to excommunicate those that will not be reformed, and to pray for the universal church. Having afterwards mentioned the order of Deacons, they go on to say, "Of these two orders only, that is to say, Priests and Deacons, scripture maketh express mention; and how they were conferred of the Apostles by prayer and imposition of hands."
Still I must have recourse to Collier. I have never seen the Erudition, nor do I believe that you Sir, ever have. Like the Institution, it is an exceedingly rare book. Collier gives us an abstract of it.