From Eusebius Pamphilus : His Ten Books of Ecclesiastical History, Faithfully Translated and Abridg’d from the Original, by Samuel Parker, Gent.; London : Printed for George Sawbridge at the Three Flower de-Luces in Little Britain, 1703; pp. 1-18.
Use and Authority
[by Rev. Charles Lesley, (or Leslie)]
I AM very glad you have employ’d those good Talents, God has given you, to the Study of History, especially the Ecclesiastical, which will serve best to the Ends you propose, of promoting the Interests of God’s Church, in an Age where She is so far lost, as to be almost Forgotten : And though we keep her Name, She is yet unknown to most, what she truly is, or what it is that belongs to her. To retrieve which, the best Method will be, to shew her in her Primitive Face; and then Men will see how she has Improv’d or Degenerated. A Picture allures more than Description; ii And Matter of Fact beyond many Arguments : Discourses Tell us of things, but History Shews them to us.
But of all History, the Ecclesiastical is the most Beneficial, as much more as the Concerns of the Church are beyond that of the State; our Souls above that of our Bodies; and our Eternal State more than the Moment we have to stay in this World.
Secular History may make us States-men and Politicians : But the Ecclesiastical will make us Wise unto Salvation.
There we see the Rise and Growth of Heresies and Schisms. And how these Tares were Sown, while the Husband-men slept. How soon they were Beat down while the Watch men were Vigilant and Zealous. But when they put on a sort of Moderation, and would Compound, how the Weeds, in a moment, over-spread the Face of the Vine-yard. That it requir’d even Miracles sometimes to retrieve it!
There we see the Beginning and Encroachments of Erastianism, more fatal to the Church than Persecution : when Court-Bishops gave up the Sacred Depositum committed to their Charge, into the Hands of Kings and States, for Worldly Considerations.
And there, and there only, I may say, is the Dicision of all controverted Points in Divinity, either as to Doctrine or Discipline. For every one of them must be determin’d by Matter of Fact. It is not Refining, and Criticisms, and iii our Nations of things, but what that Faith was which, at the first, was Deliver’d to the Saints. This is Matter of Fact, and must be determin’d by Evidence. And where any Text of the New Testament is disputed, the best Evidence is from those Fathers of the Church who liv’d in the Apostolical Age, and learn’d the Faith from the Mouths of the Apostles themselves, such as St. Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, &c. These must know best the Sense and Meaning of the Words deliver’d by the Apostles. And next to them, they to whom they did Deliver the same, and so on through the several Ages of the Church, to this Day.
And those Doctrines, and that Government of the Church which has this Evidence, must be the Truth.
And they who refuse to be determin’d by this Rule, are justly to be suspected; nay, they give Witness against themselves, that they are departed from the Truth.
Thus the Church of Rome will not be concluded by the Evidence, but by what they call the Authority of the Church. Then they make this Authority the same in all Ages. And so settle all upon the Authority of the Present Church. Then they vainly supposing themselves to be the whole World, or the Catholick Church, and the Pope the Head of it; and consequently none to be true Members of it, who own not his Universal Supremacy (who always were, and are at this Day more than Ten Parts to One against those Churches which did, or do own it). iv They take upon them to impose New Articles of Faith, as at Trent; and Assume the Authority of the whole Apostolical College to themselves.
But, as the Famous Archbishop of Spalato, Marc. Anton. de Dom, said, The farther he Travell’d upwards in Antiquity, he still found more of the Episcopal, and less of the Papal Authority, which he complain’d had, in his time, quite Swallow’d up the Episcopal at Rome, and gives this as the Reason, in his Consilium Prefectionis, for his quitting his Archbishoprick, and other Preferments in the Church of Rome, and his coming over to the Church of England, in the Reign of our King James I. to seek for a more Pure and Primitive Episcopacy. And this he did, as he tells himself, before he had ever Read a Protestant-Book, or Convers’d with any Protestants; but merely by his Searching into Antiquity.
The same Method would Baffle and Silence our vile Sectaries, of several sorts. For Example, Who can Read the History which you have Epitomis’d, and doubt that Episcopacy, was the Government of the Church, at that time, and before, all over the Christian World? And as to that Childish Rattle, which the Presbyterians play with of going to the Etymology of the Words, Ἐπίσκοπος, Πρεσβύτερος, and Διάκονος, it can have no more weight with any Man of Sense that Reads Eusebius, than the Word Imperator being us’d sometimes for the General of any Army, could persuade any that Read v the Roman History, to believe that there never was an Emperor in Rome.
But as none can undertake this Method except Men of Learning, so where they have manag’d the Controversial Points of Divinity in this manner, such Works have always been best receiv’d in the World, and have proved most Effectual and Unanswerable, as the Celebrated Forbess of Corse, his Instructiones Historico-Theologicæ; the Learned Cosin, Bishop of Durham, his Scholastical History of the Canon of the Holy Scripture, and his History of Transubstantiation, which none of our Adversaries of the Church of Rome have attempted to Answer. For plain Matter of Fact will not Bend, or suffer us to Dodge and Fence with it, as we may do for ever about poor Criticisms of Words, and Speculations of our own Inventing.
They who Read not Ecclesiastical History, and the Primitive Fathers, must take their Knowledge at Second Hand upon Trust from others. Which some think to supply with reading Modern Systems and Courses of Divinity, whereby they may have all at once, and be thereby likewise better enabl’d to understand the Controversies of our own Age.
But as these are grafted upon the Ages foregoing; so the best Method of seeing clearly into them, is to Examine Upwards and Read Downwards from the Beginning. There we shall find many of those seemingly Exalted and New Notions, set up by the various Sects amongst us, to have been Old Exploded Heresies Condemn’d vi by the Catholick Church, and only New Vamp’d by subtile Enemies crept in among us, to Divide and Distract the Ignorant and Unstable.
It is a thing much to be lamented, that so many of our Clergy, (though generally the most Learned of any in any Nation upon the Earth) some out of Poverty, having no Money to Buy Books, no, nor to provide bare Necessities, since the Scandalous and Sacrilegious Impropriations made of their Tythes; first by the Pope and then worse Diverted by those who should have Restor’d them; and others out of Laziness and Avocations to Secular Affairs, content themselves with two or three Dutch or German Systems of Divinity, and some Modern Books upon the Contests now a-foot; whereby they can bear up something of Discourse, upon General Topicks, but know nothing to the Bottom.
This Disease had crept much even into the Universities, not only while they were Oppress’d and Purg’d during the Usurpation of Forty One, by those who hated Learning, because it made against them : But before that time, the Modern Polemicks then Bandy’d in Holland and here, of Calvinists, Arminians, Remonstrants, Anti-Remonstrants, &c. had taken up most of the Studies of the Young Genious’s at the Universities, to fit themselves for that War : Whereby the Learning of Antiquity of the early Fathers, and of Ecclesiastical History was, in a great measure, laid aside, and much impair’d.vii
Which having been observ’d by that Great Archbishop Laud, he, when Chancellor of the University of Oxford, apply’d the proper Remedy, and order’d the Heads of the Houses to Direct the Young Students to the Reading of Antiquity, beginning at the first Ages of the Church, and so downwards. Which has exceedingly rais’d the Glory of that University, as of the other of Cambridge, who follow’d the same Example; whence so many Learned Works have been produc’d, in our Kingdoms, of the true and solid Antiquity, as have in a manner Reviv’d the first Ages of the Church, and given us Noble Editions of some of the Greatest of the Fathers; with Hopes to see the same Method gone through with the rest. The Emulation of this has likewise gone into other Countries, and improv’d Learning every where.
Nay, even among the Fanaticks themselves, who, though they are fill’d with Indignation to see this Method pursu’d, and have wrote spiteful Books against the Fathers, to destroy their Authority, yet are forc’d to come into them, and have taken Pains to gather Scraps out of them, which they Wrest to favour their New Opinions. Fain would they have Antiquity on their side, if they could get it. And when it will not do, they Rail at it, and Run down Fathers, Councils, and Ecclesiastical Histories, all in a Lump. And would have us take their Light within for the only true Interpreter of Scripture! While, at the same time, they give us Histories of their vile Sects, their Beginnings, viii Progress, Success, Models, Discipline, Doctrine, &c. to preserve their Memories to Future Ages, and to be a Pattern for them. Yet they will not allow this to the Apostolical, and next succeeding Ages; or that we can know them by the Histories and Writings of those Times.
In which we find nothing of the Papal Supremacy, or Presbyterian Parity; but flagrant Episcopacy every were in all Churches. Yet with this Difference, That whereas our Dissenters have this Plea only left, to Bawl and Wrangle, as if our Bishops took more upon them, and assum’d greater Authority than those Primitive Bishops did pretend to over their Presbyters and People : The Case is so far otherwise, That if our Bishops should speak now in the Language us’d by, and of those early Apostolical Bishops, that Rout would be ready to Stone them, and cry out Blasphemy! If they were told, That the Bishop does immediately Represent the Person of Christ : That therefore as the Apostles and Disciples were Obedient to Christ, so ought the Presbyters, Deacons, and Laity, to be Obedient to their Bishop : That who kept not Outward Communion with his Bishop, did forfeit the Inward Communion with Christ the Head : That even Prayers and Sacraments out of the Communion of the Bishop, were like the Offerings of Korah, Rebellion against the Lord : But my Soul for theirs who keep Communion with their Bishop; for that he is the Principle of Unity in his Church, and who is not in Communion with ix Him, is out of the Unity of the Catholick Church. This would be call’d High-flying with a Witness! Yet this was the Language of the Holy Ignatius, and those Primitive, and even Apostolical Times.
How far short of this is the Stile and the Pretensions of our Present Bishops! Yet we hear these Sons of Korah, in his very Words (which they still Retain, as well as his Arguments) telling their Bishops, Ye take too much upon you. And the Reason, seeing all the Congregation are Holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then lift ye up your selves above the Congregation of the Lord? They set up their own Holiness (Humble Men of Heart!) against those Governors set over them by Christ : and call their Authority, a Lording it over the Heritage of the Lord. Their Authority! which is dwindled almost to a Shadow, from that which was left by the Apostles to the Bishops whom they Ordain’d; and Exercis’d by them with the Joy and Content of all good Christians, for many Ages. And all this upon the Pretence that our Bishops have enlarg’d their Authority above that of the first Bishops!
But all this is Cur’d by consulting the Original Records and Histories of the Church, by which it will appear how Groundless and Contemptible the Pretensions are of both Pope and Presbyter, who are joyn’d like Samson’s Foxes, with Fire-Brands, though they look several ways, to Ruin and Depress the Primitive Episcopacy. The one would have no Bishop but himself; the other x would have none at all. Let either of them see what footsteps they can find of either of these Schemes, in your Eusebius, or in any Writer before his time.
The Frame of the Church was then in the full Authority of every Bishop over his own Flock, as well Presbyters as People, as he who must give an Account to Christ, the Chief Shepherd : And in the mutual Agreement and Correspondence of the Bishops among themselves, for the Joynt Regiment of the whole Body, according to such Canons and Rules of Ecclesiastical Discipline, as they settled among themselves. Which is exactly Parallel to the Government in which God has dispos’d the World, the Full and Independent Authority of each particular Government in the several Nations of the Earth, over their own Subjects : And what we call the Law of Nations, as a Rule among the several Kings and States, for the Preservation of the whole. And as God, in his infinite Wisdom, has not thought it best for the World to set one Universal Monarch over it all; but has consulted better for the Peace and Security of Mankind, in many Independent Kings, who may Ballance one another and be Garrantees in the Treaties of Peace among themselves : So, as St. Cyprian has observ’d, Christ did therefore make the College of Bishops numerous, that if one should prove Heretical, or seek to Devour the Flock, the rest might mercifully Interpose for the saving of it. But if this Power were Lodg’d in any one Universal Bishop, then, as Gregory the Great wisely Argues, If that Universal xi Bishop should Fall, the whole Universal Church may fall with him.
On the other hand, if every Government were not Intire and Absolute within it self, they could not Rule their own Subjects; and so could not contribute towards the General Peace of the World. So that the Presbyterian Parity would Unhinge all Particular Governments, and render the Governments of the World a mere Chaos and a Mobb.
Now the State and History of the Primitive Church shews this by a stronger Argument, that is, of Fact, what was the Government of the Church, as Establish’d and Left by the Apostles. For that is it which must, after all our Reasonings, determine us. It is not what Schemes and Contrivances we may Fancy, but what that Government was, which, de Facto, the Apostles left in the Church. And that must continue, till a Greater, at least as Great an Authority shall alter it.
But some think, That the Apostles left no Standing Government in the Church, but what might be alter’d by the Church in after Ages, according to Occasions and Emergencies. And so Episcopacy, Presbytery, or any thing else may come in ——— These make no great Matter of the Government of the Church, so as (they cry) the Doctrine be secur’d. But they consider not, That the Government was Ordain’d to Secure the Doctrine. And no Instance can be given from Jeroboam downward, where the Change of the Government did not bring along with it xii a Change of Doctrine, as the Apostle argues, Heb. vii. 12. For the Priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the Law. And as in Temporal Kingdoms, there cannot be a Change of Government, without a Change also of the Law; so is it in the Kingdom of God upon Earth, which is the Church. Every small Corporation is Jealous of their Government, and look upon any Infraction upon that to be an Invasion of their Rights and Liberties. The Church alone, with us, is render’d Precarious, and her Government of no Consequence! What stress God laid upon it, may be seen in the business of Korah. And how near to Heart it was laid in the Primitive Church, we see when the first Invasions were made upon the Episcopal Authority. How was all the Church in a Flame, and the Bishops every where concern’d themselves upon Novatus thrusting himself into the See of Cornelius, as being an Infraction upon the Rules and Rights of the Episcopal College! How did the Great St. Cyprian cry out, upon this Occasion, That whoever Invaded the See of another Bishop, was not Secundus, sed Nullus! No Second Bishop, while the First was Alive, and not Synodically Depos’d, by the Episcopal College, for Heresy, or other Crimes deserving of it. For the Right of every Bishop in the Earth is herein concern’d, and consequently of the Whole Church, of her Whole Constitution, as a Society, that is, as a Church. And it was not then thought a matter of so little Moment, to suffer the Pillar and Ground of the Truth to be Shaken, xiii For if the Church goes, the Truth, which she Supports, goes with her, is Impar’d or Improv’d with her, for Christ has Founded it upon her, has Built the Faith upon the Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, himself the chief Corner-Stone. And has promis’d to be with the Apostles and their Successors, to the End of the World. Is it then a matter so indifferent who are their Successors? Who should be the Center of Unity in every Church? Who should Represent the Person of Christ to us, and Sign and Seal his Covenants with us, in his Name, and by his Commission? Can any Invested with such an Authority be put in and out at Pleasure, at every Bodies pleasure, of Kings, of States, nay, of the Mobb, be Voted up and down by them?
While the Church retain’d her Primitive Discipline, and preserv’d the Bounds of the Sanctuary free from Popular and all Lay-Usurpations, how was the Faith made Glorious, and the Christian Zeal shone far and wide, to the Disarming, and Conversion of her Adversaries!
But in after times, when her Authority was lessen’d, swallow’d up by the Pope, and put all into his Hands; Prey’d upon by the Secular Powers; Divided and Torn asunder by Rebellious and Ambitious Presbyters; and lastly, Trod under Foot by the Beasts of the People; how were the Flood-gates open’d of all vile Errors and Heresies, which over-spread the Face of the Church!
Let me name two Examples known to every body. The first is, When Episcopacy was totally xiv subdu’d among us, in the former successful Revolution of Forty One, what a prodigious Swarm of New-broach’d Heresies and Sects rose up all of a sudden! And over-spread the Face of the Land! You will find the names of most of them in Heresiography and Gangrena, wrote in those times; they were about the number of those reckon’d by Ephiphanius, that is, Sixty. No Nation upon the Earth, since Christianity, ever saw so dismal a Sight at any one time!
But how soon Episcopacy was Restor’d, with the Banish’d King, Anno 1660, these all (except three or four of chief Name) instantly disappear’d, as Mists before the Sun.
The Second Instance I shall give, is, the State of the Church since the last Revolution in 1688, wherein Episcopacy was Abolish’d in Scotland ——— in ordine ad ——— And though the time was not come for going so far in England, (by a seasonable Interposition of Providence) yet all Preparations were made for it : The Power and Management both in Church and State, were put into the Hands of the Enemies of Episopacy : Its Divine Rights, or any Right at all, above the Reach of an Act of Parliament, was taken away, and effectually Disown’d, by the Act for Lay-Deprivations : Hence a Schism arose in the Church of England, (the first since the Reformation) and Bishops and Anti-Bishops were set up.
Since which time, the Flood-gates of Heresy have been again set open. The Socinians, otherwise call’d Unitarians, so Rampant, that besides the xv the Liberty of the Press, and free owning of themselves, even in Coffee-Houses, without the least Restraint, they proceeded so far, as to lay the Scheme for the Open and Publick Profession of their Religion, to Build and Endow Churches themselves, &c. as we are told in the Life of Thomas Firmin, their indefatigable Agent.
Sir Robert Howard, a Member of the Privy-Council, and of great Post in the Government, own’d in Print what he call’d his History of Religion; which is a Rank Satyr against all Priesthood and Churches whatsoever, and ridicules Religion it self.
The Books and Pamphlets of those times, upon these Subjects, are very Voluminous. And from the Countenance they receiv’d (I wish I could not say, even from some then in High Station in the Church) they have fill’d this Land, especially the Young Gentry, with Principles of Irreligion, of Deism, (which is now the most Prevalent, as it is the most Cursed of Sects) and even of downright Atheism.
And for the Poorer and more Ignorant sort of People, they feeling the Foundations thus shaken, have run over, in Shoals, (taking Advantage of the Plenitude of the Toleration) to the Remainder of the Sects left amongst us since the former Revolution (like so many of the Canaanites, to teach us the use of War) besides New Ones, this Rank Soil has produc’d, as the Philadelphians, Bourignonists, Davisits, Masonians (since extinguish’d) and others; the Sweet-Singers, Anti-nomians, and others of the old ones Reviv’d. xvi As those much Ancienter, which we find in your Eusebius, l. 3. c. 26. That the Bodies of the Faithful shall not Die. And, l. 6. c. 37. That the Soul does Die with the Body. The former set up lately by Asgil, the latter by Dr. Coward, and several others, who have wrote on the same Side. And these old Exploded Heresies, are now the Chat of Coffee-Houses and Taverns, as New and Ingenious Discoveries, and Take with too many, in an Age prepar’d for such Delusions. And many more went over to Popery in the last, than in the former Reign.
From all this, that dreadful Loose has proceeded of Prophaness, and open Im-moralities, which we now see before our Eyes, in an Excess, would have been thought Scandalous, even in Licentious times.
For what Restraint can there be, where there is no Sense of Religion? And what Sense of an Instituted and Reveal’d Religion, where its Institutions are Despis’d, and their Authority with whom Christ has left the Administration of them, and Government of his Church, is render’d Precarious, and Volatile with every Turn of State? Nay, Subject to the Caprice of those who have Itching Ears, and heap up Teachers to themselves? When Tender Conscience and Moderation is pleaded on their behalf, who Tear the Body of Christ in Pieces by various Sects and Schisms? When the Spirit of Zeal, the very Life and Soul of Christianity, the Παῤῥησία of the Gospel, is not only laid aside, but call’d Violence and High-flying? xvii And, in the room thereof, such a Laodicean and Latitudinarian Principle is set up, as knows not where it will stop, nor can indeed, till it has given up all Reveal’d Religion, which is inconsistent with it. Towards which, what Pains have we seen taken, by some whom it least Became, to Advance, in Opposition to it, what they call Natural Religion, (which will allow them Latitude enough) even to prefer a Mother’s Obligation to Suckle her own Child, as being a Natural Duty, before any Positive Precept of Reveal’d Religion which includes the Belief of a Christ, or any Faith in Him; for that is nothing else but a Positive Precept of Reveal’d Religion. And then we cannot suppose, That any of his Institutions, Prayers, Sacraments, or any thing else should be much stood upon; especially such as concern the Regiment of his Church, as a Society, distinct from, and Independent of any other upon Earth. These must be easily dispens’d with, when the Author of what I have nam’d above, makes the Command of an Husband, (who, by the way, is no Natural Relation, but of Positive Institution) sufficient to discharge his Wife from that Natural Duty of giving Suck to her Child, which he makes of more Necessary and Indispensible Obligation, (these are his words) than any Positive Precept of Reveal’d Religion. And directs Parents and Masters to take care, not to bring up their Children and Servants in what he calls the Jargon, that is, the distinguishing Principles of any Party. For these must give place, at all times, to Politicks, to xviii keep up Peace and Quietness, though in the most manifest Injustice : Which any sort of Principles, being stood to, might some time or other happen to Disturb. And the Quiet Possession, though of Wickedness, he makes preferable to any Religion whatsoever; the Consequences of which he extends not beyond this World (for he has publickly Preach’d and Printed the utter Uncertainty (at least) in his Opinion, whether they be any Hell) therefore says, And for God’s, Sake, what is Religion good for, but to Reform the Manners and Dispositions of Men, to Restrain Humane Nature from Violence and Cruelty, from Falsehood and Treachery, from Sedition and Rebellion? Better it were, there were no Reveal’d Religion,(that is, no CHRIST) and that Humane Nature were left to the conduct of its own Principles and Inclinations, which are much more Mild and Merciful, much more for the Peace and Happiness of Humane Society, than to be acted by a Religion that is continually Supplanting Government, and Undermining the Welfare of Mankind, &c.
There is much more in the same Author of the like sort. And I mention it here, to let our Latitudinarians see whither their Principles do tend. This Author being much Admir’d by them, and the very Top of them.
And I name this Sect of the Latitudinarians, the last that I shall know speak of, as including all the rest, and all that indeed can be : At least so far as to give way to them, and Live well with them, for Peace sake, though Korahites or Mahumetans!xix
And I have pitch’d upon this Remarkable Person for an Instance, he being the most concern’d of any Man in England, in the late Lay-Deprivations, and Breaches upon the Episcopal Authority.
And to make good what I have observ’d before, that Infractions upon the Government of the Church, have always been attended with Corruptions, even in her Doctrine.
And thence to infer, how necessary it is, to preserve the Government of the Church, as Christ and the Apostles left it.
Which what it is, and how zealously contended for, in the Primitive Ages, the History you have Abridg’d does evidently shew.
I might add a third Instance, that of Holland, which, because it would not have Episcopacy, is render’d the Sink and Asylum of all vile Errors and Heresies; from whence most of ours were sent to us, in the former as well as last Revolution, which I have shew’d elsewhere. And thus it has been, is, and will be in all Places, more or less, as Erastianism Prevails, and Episcopacy is Depress’d.
I have now but one word more, concerning the Method of Abridgments of History. They are of use to those who have Read the Histories at large, and to those who have not. To the former they serve as Indexes, and Revive them in their Memories with little Pains : And they Encourage the latter to Peruse the Histories themselves; and to those who have not Leisure or Application to go through Great Works, they xx afford that Knowledge which they would otherwise totally want.
As to your Performance, your Modesty prevents my saying any thing of it to your self. And it will Recommend it self to others, nothing the more for an Epistolary Friend.
Instead of all which, I joyn heartily with you, in beseeching God Almighty to give his Blessing to it. To Direct and Prosper this and all your other Labours, for his Glory, and the Good of his Afflicted Church. And to send more Labourers into his Harvest in this Time of need. That he may not yet Remove our Candle-stick, for all that we have done. But to Heal the Breaches of our Sion, and to Hasten his Kingdom. Amen.
The Conversion of
St. Paul, 170 2/3.