Richard Hooker

Richard Hooker: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Vol. 3: Books VI-VIII

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pg 119The fore-alleged Arguments answered.

13. What things have necessary use in the Church, they of all others are the most unfit to judge, who bend themselves purposely against whatsoever the Church uses, except it please themselves to give it the grace and countenance of their favourable approbation, which they willingly do not yield to any part of Church Polity, in the forehead whereof there is not the mark of that new devised stamp. But howsoever men like or dislike, whether they judge things necessary or needless in the house of God, a Conscience they should have touching that which they boldly affirm or deny. | 1. In the primitive Church no Bishops, no Pastors having power over other Pastors, but all equals, every man supreme Commander and Ruler within the Kingdom of his own Congregation or Parish? The Bishops that are spoken of in the time of the Primitive Church, all such as Parsons or Rectors of Parishes are with us? If thus it have been in the prime of the Church, the question is, how far they will have that prime to extend? and where the latter spring of this new supposed disorder to begin? That primitive Church wherein they hold that among the Fathers, all which had pastoral charge were equal, they must of necessity so far enlarge, as to contain some hundred of years, because for proof hereof they allege boldly and confidently S. Cyprian, who suffered Martyrdom about two hundred and threescore years after our blessed Lord's Incarnation. qA Bishop they say, such as Cyprian does speak of had only a Church or Congregation, such as the Ministers and Pastors with us, which are appointed to several Towns. Every Bishop in Cyprian's time was Pastor of one only Congregation, assembled in one place, to be taught of one man. A thing impertinent, although it were true. For the question is about personal inequality among Governors of the Church. Now to show there was no such thing in the Church at such time as Cyprian lived, what bring they forth? forsooth, that Bishops had then but a small circuit of place for the exercise of their Authority. Be it supposed, that no one Bishop had more than one only Town to govern, one only Congregation to rule: Does it by Cyprian appear, that in any such Town or Congregation, being under the cure and charge of some one Bishop, there were not besides that one Bishop, others also Ministers of the Word and Sacraments, yet subject to the power of the same Bishop? If this appear not, how can Cyprian be alleged for a witness, that in those times there were no Bishops which did differ from other Ministers, as being above them in degree of Ecclesiastical power? But a gross and a palpable untruth it is, That Bishops with Cyprian, were as Ministers are with us in Parish Churches; and that each of them did guide some Parish without any other Pastors under him. S. Cyprian's own Person may serve for pg 120a manifest disproof hereof. Pontius being Deacon under Cyprian notes, that his admirable virtues caused him to be Bishop with the soonest, which advancement therefore himself endeavoured for a while to avoid. It seemed in his own eyes too soon for him to take the title of so great Honour, in regard whereof a Bishop is termed Pontifex, Sacerdos, Antistes Dei [Pontiff, Priest, High Priest of God]. Yet such was his quality, that whereas others did hardly perform that duty, whereto the Discipline of their Order, together with the Religion of the Oath they took at their entrance into the Office even constrained them, him the Chair did not make, but receive such a one, as behoved that a Bishop should be. But soon after followed that proscription, whereby being driven into exile, and continuing in that estate for the space of some two years, he ceased not by Letters to deal with his Clergy, and to direct them about the public affairs of the Church. They to whom those Epistles were written, he commonly rentitles the Presbyters and Deacons of that Church. If any man doubt, whether those Presbyters of Carthage were Ministers of the Word and Sacraments or no, let him consider but that one only place of Cyprian, where he gives them his careful advice, how to deal with circumspection in the perilous times of the Church, that neither they which were for the truth's sake imprisoned, might want those Ghostly comforts which they ought to have, nor the Church by ministering the same to them, incur unnecessary danger and peril. In which Epistle it does expressly appear, that the Presbyters of whom he speaks, did offer, that is to say, administer the Eucharist, and that many there were of them in the Church of Carthage, so as they might have every day change for performance of that duty. Nor will any man of sound judgement I think deny, that Cyprian was in Authority and Power above the Clergy of that Church, above those Presbyters to whom he gave direction. It is apparently therefore untrue, that in Cyprian's time Ministers of the Word and Sacraments were all equal, and that no one of them had either title more excellent than the rest, or Authority and Government over the rest. Cyprian being Bishop of Carthage, was clearly Superior to all other Ministers there: Yea, Cyprian was, by reason of the Dignity of his See an Archbishop, and so consequently Superior to Bishops. | Bishops we say there have been always, even as long as the Church of Christ itself has been. The Apostles who planted it, did themselves rule as Bishops over it, neither could they so well have kept things in order during their own times, but that Episcopal Authority was given them from above, to exercise far and wide over all other Guides and Pastors of God's Church. The Church indeed for a time continued without Bishops by restraint, everywhere established in Christian Cities. But shall we thereby conclude, that the Church has no use of them, that without them it may stand and flourish? No, the cause wherefore they were so soon universally appointed was, for that it plainly appeared, that without them the Church could not have pg 121continued long. It was by the special Providence of God no doubt so disposed, that the evil whereof this did serve for remedy, might first be felt, and so the reverend Authority of Bishops be made by so much the more effectual, when our general experience had taught men what it was for Churches to want them. Good Laws are never esteemed so good, nor acknowledged so necessary, as when precedent crimes are as seeds out of which they grow. Episcopal Authority was even in a manner sanctified to the Church of Christ, by that little better experience which it first had of the pestilent evil of Schisms. Again, when this very thing was proposed as a remedy, yet a more suspicious and fearful acceptance it must needs have found, if the selfsame provident Wisdom of Almighty God, had not also given beforehand sufficient trial thereof in the Regiment of Jerusalem, a Mother Church, which having received the same order even at the first, was by it most peaceably governed, when other Churches without it had trouble. So that by all means, the necessary use of Episcopal Government is confirmed, yea strengthened it is and ratified, even by the not establishment thereof in all Churches everywhere at the first. | 2. When they further dispute, That if any such thing were needful, Christ would in Scripture have set down particular Statutes and Laws, appointing that Bishops should be made, and prescribing in what order, even as the Law does for all kind of Officers which were needful in the Jewish Regiment; might not a man that would bend his wit to maintain the fury of the Petrobrusian Heretics, in pulling down Oratories, use the selfsame argument, with as much countenance of reason? If it were needful that we should assemble ourselves in Churches, would that God which taught the Jews so exactly the frame of their sumptuous Temple, leave us no particular instructions in writing, no not so much as which way to lay any one stone? Surely such kind of Argumentation does not so strengthen the sinews of their cause, as weaken the credit of their judgement which are led therewith. | 3. And whereas thirdly, in disproof of that use which Episcopal Authority has in judgement of spiritual causes, they bring forth the verdict of Cyprian, who says, sThat equity requires every man's cause to be heard, where the fault he was charged with was committed, forasmuch as there they may have both accusers and witnesses in the cause: This Argument grounding itself on principles no less true in Civil, than in Ecclesiastical causes, unless it be qualified with some exceptions or limitations, overturns the highest Tribunal Seats both in Church and Commonwealth, it takes utterly away all appeals, it secretly tcondemns even the blessed Apostle himself, as having transgressed the Law of Equity, by his appeal from the Court of Judea, to those higher which were in Rome. The generality of such kind of axioms deceives, unless it be construed with such cautions as the matter whereto they are applicable does require. An usual and ordinary transportation of causes out of Africa into Italy, out of one Kingdom into another, as discontented pg 122persons list, which was the thing that Cyprian disallows, may be unequal and unmeet, and yet not therefore a thing unnecessary to have the Courts erected in higher places, and judgement committed to greater persons, to whom the meaner may bring their causes either by way of appeal, or otherwise, to be determined according to the order of Justice; which has been always observed everywhere in Civil States, and is no less requisite also for the State of the Church of God. The Reasons which teach it to be expedient for the one, will show it to be for the other, at leastwise not unnecessary. Inequality of Pastors is an Ordinance both Divine and profitable: Their exceptions against it in these two respects we have shown to be altogether causeless, unreasonable, and unjust.

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Editor’s Note
q T.C., Bk 1, pp. 99 and 100. The Bishop which Cyprian speaks of, is nothing else but such as we call Pastor, or as the common name with us is, Parson, and his Church whereof he is Bishop is neither Diocese nor Province, but a Congregation which met together in one place, and to be taught of one man.
Editor’s Note
r Cyprian, Epist. 5 [CSEL 3.2:479; ACW 43:62; ANF 5:282].
Editor’s Note
s Cyprian, Bk 1, Epist. 3 [CSEL 3.2:683; ACW 46:82; ANF 5:344].
Editor’s Note
t Acts 25.
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