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they were called primates or patriarchs. The exact date of the first three patriarchates is not known, but it was certainly prior to the council of Nice, and probably much earlier. The see of Constantinople was not raised into a patriarchate till the first council of Constantinople, A. D. 381. It was at the same time decreed, that the patriarch of Constantinople should rank immediately after the patriarch of Rome, who had precedence of the other patriarchs (s); and this distinction was confirmed by the council of Chalcedon, and the second council of Constantinople, and by several imperial edicts; and, therefore, at the end of the fourth century, and for some time afterwards, the whole of Christendom may be considered as divided into four parts, two of which were in the east, and were subject to the patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch; the south was under the patriarch of Alexandria; and the west under the patriarch of Rome. The patriarchs had the power of assembling the archbishops and bishops within their jurisdictions, of consecrating archbishops, and of hearing appeals from them.
And (s) This precedence was given, probably on account of the superior civil importance of the city, and the extent of the jurisdiction of the bishop; for no claim, respecting the superiority derived from St. Peter, was urged till a much later period.
And thus the church continued to be governed till the bishop of Rome obtained a complete ascendancy over the whole, by means of a civil power, in direct opposition to the words of Scripture: “Ye shall not lord it (or tyrannize) over one another--one is your Master, which is Christ, and all ye are brethren:” that is, Ye shall not attempt to give laws, as the Gentiles do, according to your own will and pleasure; ye are all equally subject to the law of the Gospel, and must pretend to no authority of your own, like temporal rulers, but only consider yourselves as chosen servants of Christ, and minister by his directions for the edification of the church, ac, cording to the different stations in which ye are placed.
In every considerable number of men, who are connected together, by being engaged in the same common work, and where that work requires (as indeed every work does) a distribution of its parts, a certain plan of acting, the observance of certain rules, occasional consultations, and changes of that plan, or of those rules, as fresh circumstances arise, some sort of subordination is indispensable. It is scarcely. possible that such a work should proceed with regularity and success, unless there be a distinction of ranks among those who are employed in it,
We therefore consider the difference of orders among the clergy, not only as derived from the practice of the primitive church, to which all Christians will allow that great respect and deference are undoubtedly due, but as founded in the nature of things, as absolutely necessary to the well-being of a religious society. If the duties of the Mosaic dispensation, established in the land of Canaan, which were to be performed in the temple at Jerusalem only, could not be properly arranged and executed without the three orders of High-priest, Priests, and Levites, whose designation to their sacred office was determined by their descent from Aaron and Levi, surely some distinction must be required among the Christian ministers of a populous kingdom, whose profession on the one hand does not depend upon their birth, nor, on the other, are they to be self-appointed.
It is sometimes urged, that bishops, priests, and deacons, are now, in their office and authority, very different from what they formerly were; but this is no more than a necessary consequence of a change of times and circumstances. It is scarcely possible that the functions of ministers should be the same when Christianity was first preached, while it was unprotected by the civil magistrate, and was embraced by only a part of
the inhabitants of the distant cities of an im. mense empire, holding but little intercourse with each other, and afterwards, when it became the established and universally professed religion of a whole, compact, and connected kingdom. It is not contended that the bishops, priests, and deacons of England, are at present precisely the same that bishops, presbyters, and deacons were in Asia Minor, seventeen hundred years ago. We only maintain that there have always been bishops, priests and deacons, in the Christian church since the days of the Apostles, with different powers and functions, it is allowed, in different countries and at different periods; but the general principles and duties which have respectively characterized these clerical orders have been essentially the same at all times, and in all places; and the variations which they have undergone, have only been such as have ever belonged to all persons in public situations, whether civil or ecclesiastical, and which are, indeed, inseparable from every thing in which mankind are concerned in this transitory and fluctuating world.
I have thought it right to take this general view of the ministerial office, and to make these observations upon the clerical orders subsisting in this kingdom, for the purpose of pointing out
the foundation and principles of Church Authority, and of showing that our ecclesiastical establishment is as nearly conformable, as change of circumstances will permit
, to the practice of the primitive church. But though I flatter myself that I have proved episcopacy to be an apostolical institution, yet I readily acknowledge that there is no precept in the New Testament which commands that every church should be governed by bishops. No church can exist without some government; but though there must be rules and orders for the proper discharge of the officers of public worship; though there must be fixed regulations concerning the appointment of ministers ; and though a subordination
among them is expedient in the highest degree, yet it does not follow that all these things must be precisely the same in every Christian country; they may vary with the other varying circumstances of human society, with the extent of a country, the manners of its inhabitants, the nature of its civil government, and many other peculiarities which might be specified. As it has not pleased our Almighty Father to prescribe any particular form of civil government for the security of temporal comforts to his rational creatures, so neither has he prescribed any particular