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much as concerning the character and condition of those who are to be governed, and for whose good the government is to be devised; so that that may be esteemed the best form of government for them, which in itself and absolutely is not the best, although very necessary and very salutary for the particular nation, or time or place in question.
Hence God has never given to any particular nation any fixed and perpetual form of civil government, such that it should not be lawful to alter as time or place might require. But the regimen of which I have to treat is different from this: for since it has proceeded immediately from God, men may not alter it at their will, neither can it be necessary so to do. For Divine wisdom has so tempered it, that it is itself adverse to no form of civil government. So soon, however, as any entire State has become a Church, the government of that State receives some modifications, although not such as to change its essence.
When a State has so become a Church, the rulers of the Church and those
of the State, who till then had been alien from each other, holding nothing in common, forthwith become bound to reciprocal duties. Whatever others may think, when Church and State are well ordered in unison, the Christian Magistrate will not be viewed by the Church as a private individual, nor will the Ministers of Churches be thought such by the State.
From not duly seeing this, have arisen confusion and discord concerning Ecclesiastical discipline and polity. For my part, I consider Bishops indispensably necessary to the Church ; and I hold that form of Church discipline and government to be the best, and to be of divine origin, which is conducted by the hands of holy Bishops and Presbyters, truly so called, according to the rules of the word of God, and of the old Councils. When, however, I reflect on the iniquity of the times, and the condition of some places in which it has pleased God to gather together His scattered sheep from Babylonish captivity by the hands of pious and learned men, I do not see how true Bishops could have been restored in them.
I have held the office of Pastor in the Churches of Flanders and Holland: but I can scarcely describe the hindrances to such a restoration which I there met with. Still, granting this, an irregularity; which has occurred inevitably in some few places and in only one age, cannot establish a law which shall bind the whole world, Our present dissensions on this subject would never have existed, had not the tyranny of some Bishops given rise to an opinion opposed to the consent of all antiquity, which makes men look with suspicion on all Bishops alike. But it is remarked, that a similar prejudice is even now gaining ground against the consistories we have invented, whether right or wrong I do not now say: wherefore I conclude, that the facts of the case should be calmly examined by whoever would come to the truth of the matter.
In the six and twenty years last past, I have over and over again declared my opinion con
cerning the Episcopate in familiar discourse with my friends, although not every where, nor to all. What would be thought of me, I gathered from the case of others, who had freely declared to their brethren their sentiments on the same subject. For, a discussion having arisen between some Ministers of the word of God concerning Bishops, Peter Villiers (whom I mention by way of respect) asserted, that they ought not to be rejected so rashly as had been donie: whereupon some taking great offence complained of him to me, who had not been present at the discussion, charging him with ambitious views: fearing lest he should, some time or other, destroy in the French Churches that equality which, said they, ought to subsist between the Ministers of the Gospel. What was I to do? although I agreed with him, I did not dare defend him, lest I should incur the same charge of ambitious views. The result was, that, from that time forth, I set about more diligently examining the subject, and I doubt not but the same thing will happen to many
of my brethren, who see and feel that this authority of Bishops is a desideratum in our Churches. Some indeed there are who can endure neither equals nor superiors; but I thank God that, for my own part, I can both submit without grudging or envy to some of my brethren as my superiors, and carry myself without pride towards my equals, or contempt towards my inferiors.
Now, however, that I am here in England, a foreigner, no one can suspect me of aiming at the Episcopacy, and seeking supreinacy above my brethren. I venture therefore to declare my sentiments more boldly than I did when living among my brethren and equals in authority and rank. Still there is another apprehension, which makes me reluctant to do as I have done, namely, the fear lest I should seem to flatter and pay court to those who are Bishops. But if any one will consider the temper of our times, he will find that their favour is certain exposure to the hatred and envy of the multitude, and that a cautious man, studious of his own