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against manifest error, so that it may some time or other come to amend what their fathers shall appear to have done amiss.
Your most affectionate,
London, March 29, 1590.
TO THE READER.
WHOEVER thou art, kind Reader, into whose hands this book may fall, I would not have you imagine, from the discussion it contains, that any fundamental doctrine of faith, on which salvation depends, is called in question, by my asserting that Episcopacy ought to be restored in those reformed Churches which at present have it not ; asserting it, as I do, against the opinion of some writers of great eminence, whom God has employed in this our age for the edification of His Church. Did I thus act solely on my own opinion, and unsupported by the authority of Scripture, and the consent of the old Fathers and the whole Church, I own
that every one might blame me. What, then, it may
be asked, were those eminent men of whom you speak wholly wrong? Did they perceive nothing of what you maintain ? Far from it. On the contrary, I assert, that they saw things as I see them ; but it happened to them as it happens to people who set about repairing an old house, who, seeing much on all sides decayed and spoilt, although there remain many goodly apartments, and necessary portions which they would wish to preserve, yet, because these are connected with what is rotten and unsafe, think the latter cannot be removed and then restored, unless the whole edifice be utterly demolished. Even so, the men of whom I speak imagined they could not extirpate Papistical superstition and tyranny, unless they also uprooted with them many ornaments of the Church, which were thought to be either contaminated by that superstition, or inseparably connected with it: whence it came to pass, that, together with idolatry and superstition, those things were in many places abolished which may be
serviceable to the Church, as well for the maintenance of good morals, as for upholding the dignity of the Ministry in its relation to the State. For although in things gross and material, that which I have mentioned may often happen by inevitable necessity, yet in moral subjects it is not so: for in them it is possible for the good to be retained and restored, whilst the bad and hurtful is removed.
The question, then, which I discuss, is not one involving salvation, but a question concerning the best guides and masters by whom we may be led in the way to eternal salvation. Some men imagine, that the censorship of morals should be entrusted entirely to the civil Magistrate, and ascribe to the Ministry of the Gospel the mere and simple preaching of the Word and administration of the Sacraments: a notion, which I wonder how theologians ever could adopt, seeing that it cannot be established either from the word of God, or from any usage of our forefathers. Others ascribe all power of Ecclesiastical
censure to the Bishops, and those who are really as well as in name Presbyters, both possessing that authority which God gave to the Apostles, and the Bishops their successors. A third class consists of those who, rejecting the Episcopate, associate with their Pastors temporary Elders, to whom they commit the entire regimen of the Churches and all Ecclesiastical discipline; which form of government they call divine, pronouncing the government by Bishops to be human.
The controversy resembles that which is raised among philosophers concerning the best form of civil government. Some imagining the government of one man to be the best, as, in fact, it is; others preferring the government of the chief men; others again a democracy; whilst a fourth class approve of a mixed form, combining the three just mentioned in nicely-balanced proportions : which, they assert, must be the best of all. Be that however as it may, the question, in the case of civil government, is not concerning the kind of government itself, so