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“ shops of that province he assumed to himself the
government of it.” Now that these seven bishops were the same with those seven angels he wrote to in his Revelations is evident, because all those seven churches in which those seven angels presided lay within the circuit of the Lydian or proconsular Asia, of which Ephesus was the metropolis; and therefore who else can we so fairly suppose these seven bishops to be, by whom he governed the province of Ephesus, as the seven angels of those seven churches, which were all of them within that province ? and St. Austin expressly calls the angel of the church of Ephesus the præpositus ecclesiæ, i. e. “the go
vernor of the church,” Ep. 162. and speaking of those seven angels, he styles them episcopi sive præpositi ecclesiarum,“ the bishops or governors of “ the churches,” Comment. in Revel. So also the commentaries under the name of St. Ambrose, referring to these angels in 1 Cor. xi. expressly tells us, that by those angels he means the bishops. And that they were so is most indubitably evident of the angel of the church of Smyrna in particular, who could be no other than St. Polycarp, who was most certainly made bishop of Smyrna some years before the writing these epistles, and continued bishop of it a great many years after: for so Ignatius, who was his contemporary, in his epistle to that church styles him, “Polycarp your bishop;” and earnestly exhorts his presbyters and deacons, as well as the laity, to be subject to him: and Irenæus, who personally knew him, hath this passage concerning him: Πολύκαρπος δε ου μόνον υπό αποστόλων μαθητευθείς, &c. “Polycarpus was not only instructed by the “ apostles, and did not only converse with many of
“ those who had seen our Lord, but by the apostles “ who were in Asia was made bishop of Smyrna,” Euseb. Hist. 1. iv. c. 15. And in their encyclical epistle of his martyrdom, the whole church of Smyrna style him “ bishop of the catholic church of Smyrna,” ibid. So also Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, who was thirty-eight years old when Polycarp suffered, tells us, that "he was bishop and martyr in Smyrna,” Euseb. Hist. 1. v. c. 24. and the same is attested by Tertullian, Eusebius, and St. Jerom, and indeed by all ecclesiastic antiquity: so that it is a plain case, that one of these angels, to whom St. John writes, was bishop of the church whereof he styles him the angel; and since one was so, to be sure all were so; especially considering that very near, if not at the very time when these epistles were written, we have certain account that there were bishops actually presiding in these seven churches. So within twelve years after these epistles were written, Ignatius, in his epistle to the Ephesians, makes mention of Onesimus their bishop, whom he exhorts them all, as well presbyters and deacons, as laity, to obey. That there was also at the same time a bishop in Philadelphia is abundantly evident from Ignatius his epistle to that church, though he doth not name him; and about the same time Carpus was bishop of Thyatira, as the ancient Roman martyrology testifies, and Segasis of Laodicea, (vide Euseb. Hist. 1. iv. c. 25.) and Melito bishop of Sardis, ibid. for the church of Pergamus, Paræus, in his commentary on chap. ii. of the Revelations, proves out of Aretas Cæsariensis, that Antipas, that faithful martyr, mentioned Rev. ii. 13. was bishop of it immediately before the angel of that church to whom
St. John wrote; and that that angel was one Gaius, who, as he proves out of Clemens, immediately succeeded Antipas in the episcopal chair. Since therefore it is apparent that at the writing these epistles to these seven churches there was a bishop actually presiding in one of them, and that about the same time there were bishops presiding also in all the rest, there can be no colour of reason to doubt, but that all those churches had bishops in them when St. John wrote to them; and if so, to be sure those bishops being the governors of those churches, and having the charge of them committed to them, were those very angels whom St. John wrote to, because he all along writes to them as to those who were the overseers and governors of their respective churches; and if those angels were bishops, then in them our Saviour expressly allows and approves of the episcopal order, since he not only dignifies them with the name of angels, but calls them stars in his own right hand.
The sum of all therefore is this : If our Saviour's own institution, seconded by the practice of his apostles upon it, and succeeded by the conformity of all the primitive churches to it, and this conformity of theirs authorized by the express approbation of our Saviour, be a sufficient argument of the divine right of any form of church-government, then must the episcopal form, which hath all these things, you see, to plead for itself, be of divine right and ordination. Having thus shewn at large what that ecclesiastical or spiritual government is, which Christ hath established in his church, I proceed,
Thirdly and lastly, to shew what are the proper ministries of this government in the kingdom of Christ. And these are of two sorts : first, such as are common to the bishops or governors of the church with the inferior officers; and secondly, such as are peculiar to the bishops or governors. First, Such as are common to the bishops, together with the inferior officers of the church : and these are, 1. To teach the gospel : 2. To administer the evangelical sacraments : 3. To offer
the public prayers and intercessions of Christian assemblies.
1. To teach the gospel, which is the first ministerial act mentioned by our Saviour in the commission which he gave his apostles, Go teach all nations, Matth. xxviii. 19. and accordingly the apostles declare, Acts vi. 2, 4. that preaching the word was one of the principal employments appertaining to their office; but yet it is evident that it never was restrained to their office; for not only the apostles, but the seventy disciples also were commissioned to preach the gospel by our Saviour, Luke x. 9, 10, 11. and even in the apostles' days, not only they, but Philip also, and Stephen, and Lucius of Cyrene, who were no apostles, did yet preach the gospel to the world; and besides the apostles there were prophets, teachers, and evangelists, that preached the gospel as well as they. But yet as for the office of preaching, it is plain that none were ever admitted to it, but either by immediate commission from our Saviour, or by apostolic ordination, or by an immediate miraculous unction of the Holy Ghost, by which they were inspired with the gifts of preaching, and enabled freely and readily, and without any study of their own, to explain, and prove, and apply the doctrines of the gospel to their hearers; and that either in their own or other languages, as occasion re
quired; which gift was the same with that which is called in scripture the gift of utterance ; and it being bestowed upon them for the public benefit and edification of the church, the very bestowing it (without any other ordination) was an immediate mission from the Holy Ghost; only they who pretended to it were to be tried by such as had the gift of discerning of spirits, (vide 1 Cor. xii. 10. compared with 1 Cor. xiv. 29.) and if upon that trial their pretence was found real, they were owned and received without any more ado, as authorized preachers sent by the Holy Ghost; and it was upon this extraordinary mission, as it seems very probable, that those extraordinary offices of prophets and evangelists were founded, both which included authority to preach the gospel; and therefore, upon the cessation of this extraordinary mission, those offices ceased immediately with it, as depending wholly upon it; and from thenceforth none were ever admitted to the office of preaching, but by ordinary mission and ordination from the apostolate derived to the bishops and governors of the church. For though there are some very early instances of learned laymen, that were admitted to preach upon some emergent occasions, and upon special licence from the bishop, yet can there no one instance be produced of any that were admitted to the office of preaching, without episcopal ordination.
2. Another of the ministries common to the bishops with the inferior clergy is the administration of the evangelical sacraments; for it was to his apostles, and in them to their successors, that our Saviour gave the commission of baptizing all nations, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost :