My Obedience to the Commands of the Right Honourable the Lords Justices, and the most Reverend and Learned Primate, and to the desires of my Reverend Brethren, put it past my inquiry, whether I ought to Publish this following Sermon. I will not therefore excuse it, and say it might have advantages in the Delivery, which it would want in the Reading; and the eare would be kind to the Piety of it, which was apparent in the design, when the eye would be severe in its censure of those arguments, which as they could not be longer in that measure of time; so would have appeared more firm, if they could have had liberty to have been pursued to their utmost issue. But reason lies in a little room, and Obedience in less. And although what I have here said, may not stop the mouths of Men resolved to keep up a faction, yet I have said enough to the sober and pious, to them who love Order, and hearken to the voice of the Spouse of Christ, to the Loving and to the Obedient: And for those that are not so, I have no argument fit to be used, but Prayer, and readiness to give them a reason, when they shall modestly demand it. In the mean time I shall only desire them to make use of those truths which the more learned of their party have by the evidence of fact been forced to confess. Rivet affirms that it descended ex veteris aevi reliquiis, that Presbyters should be assistants or conjoyned to the Bishops, (who is by this confessed to be the principal) in the imposition of hands for Ordination. Walo Messalinus acknowledges it to be rem antiquissimam, a most ancient thing that these two Orders, (viz) of Bishops and Presbyters, should be distinct, even in the middle, or in the beginning of the next age after Christ. Dd. Blondell places it to be 35 years after the death of S. John. Now then Episcopacy is confessed to be of about 1600 years continuance: and if before this they can shew any Ordination by mere Presbyters, by any but an Apostle, or an Apostolical man; and if there were not visibly a distinction of powers and persons relatively in the Ecclesiastical Government: or if they can give a rational account why they who are forced to confess the Honour and distinct Order of Episcopacy for about 16 ages, should in the dark interval of 35 years (in which they can pretend to no Monument or Record to the contrary) yet make unlearned scruples of things they cannot colourably prove; if (I say) they can reasonably account for these things, I for my part will be ready to confess that they are not guilty of the greatest, the most unreasonable and inexcusable schism in the world. But else, they have no colour to palliate the unlearned crime. For will not all wise men in the world conclude, that the Church of God, which was then Holy not in title only and designe, but practically and materially; and persecuted, and not immerged in secular temptations, could not all in one instant joyn together to alter that form of Church Government, which Christ and his Apostles had so recently established, and without a Divine warrant destroy a Divine institution, not only to the confusion of the Hierarchy, but to the ruine of their own Souls. It were strange that so great a change should be, and no good man oppose it. In toto orbe decretum est: so St. Hierom. All the world consented in the advancement of the Episcopal Order. And therefore if we had no more to say for it, yet in prudence and piety we cannot say they would innovate in so great a matter.
But I shall enter no further upon this enquirie: only I remember that it is not very many Months since the Bigots of the Popish party cryed out against us vehemently, and inquired, Where is your Church of England since you have no Unity? for your Ecclesiastick head of Unity, your Bishops, are gone. And if we should be desirous to verify their argument, so as indeed to destroy Episcopacy, We should too much advantage Popery, and do the most imprudent and most impious thing in the world. But blessed be God, who hath restored that Government, for which Our late King of glorious memory gave his blood. And that (me thinks) should very much weigh with all the Kings true hearted Subjects, who should make it Religion not to rob that glorious Prince of the greatest honour of such a Martyrdom. For my part, I think it fit to rest in those words of another Martyr St. Cyprian, Si quis cum Episcopo non sit, in Ecclesia non esse: He that is not with the Bishop, is not in the Church: that is, he that goes away from him, and willingly separates, departs from Gods Church; and whether he can then be with God, is a very material consideration, and fit to be thought on by all that think heaven a more eligible good then the interests of a faction, and the importune desire of rule can countervail.
However, I have in the following papers spoken a few things, which I hope may be fit to perswade them that are not infinitely prejudic'd: and although two or three good arguments are as good as two or three hundred, yet my purpose here was to prove the dignity and necessity of the Office and Order Episcopal, only that it might be as an Oeconomy to convey notice, and remembrances of the great duty incumbent upon all them that undertake this great charge. The Dignity and the Duty take one another by the hand, and are born together: only every Sheep of the Flock must take care to make the Bishops duty as easy as it can by humility and love, by Prayer and by Obedience. It is at the best very difficult, but they who oppose themselves to Government, make it harder and uncomfortable. But take heed; if thy Bishop hath cause to complain to God of thee for thy perversness and uncharitable walking, thou wilt be the looser. And for Vs, We can only say in the words of the Prophet, We will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people: But Our comfort is in God: for we can do nothing without him, but in him we can do all things. And therefore We will pray, Domine, dabis pacem nobis, omnia enim opera nostra operatus es in nobis: God hath wrought all Our works within Us: and therefore he will give Us Peace, and give Us his Spirit.
Finally, Brethren, pray for Us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorifyed, even as it is with you; and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for all men have not Faith.
42. And the Lord said, who then is that faithful and wise Steward, whom his Lord shall make Ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season.
43. Blessed is that Servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
These words are not properly a question though they seem so, and the particle tiV is not interrogative, but hypothetical; and extends who to whosoever; plainly meaning that whoever is a Steward over Christs houshold, of him God requires a great care, because he hath trusted him with a great imployment. Every Steward on kaqesthken o KurioV, so it is in St. Matthew on katasthsei o KurioV, so it is in my text; Every Steward whom the Lord hath or shall appoint over the Family to rule it and to feed it, now and in all generations of men, as long as this Family shall abide on earth, that is, the Apostles, and they who were to succeed the Apostles in the Stewardship, were to be furnished with the same power, and to undertake the same charge, and to give the same strict and severe accounts.
In these words here is something insinuated, and much expressed.
1. That which is insinuated only is, who these Stewards are, whom Christ had, whom Christ would appoint over his Family the Church: they are not here nam'd, but we shall find them out by their proper direction, and indigitation by and by.
2. But that which is expressed, is the Office it self, in a double capacity. 1. In the dignity of it, It is a Rule and a Government [whom the Lord shall make Ruler over his houshold.] 2. In the care and duty of it, which determines the government to be paternal and profitable; it is a Rule, but such a rule as Shepheards have over their flocks, to lead them to good pastures, and to keep them within their appointed walks, and within their folds: didonai sitometrion: that's the work, to give them a measure and proportion of nourishment: trofhn en kairw so St. Matthew calls it: meat in the season; that which is fit for them, and when it is fit; meat enough, and meat convenient; and both together mean that which the Greek Poets call armalihn emmhnon, the strong wholsom dyet.
3. Lastly: Here is the reward of the faithful and wise dispensation. The Steward that does so, and continues to do so, till his Lord find him so doing, this man shall be blessed in his deed. [Blessed is the Servant whom his Lord when he commeth shall find so doing.] Of these in order.
1. Who are these Rulers of Christs Family? for though Christ knew it, and therefore needed not to ask; yet we have disputed it so much, and obeyed so little, that we have chang'd the plain hypothesis into an intangled question. The Answer yet is easie as to some part of the inquiry. The Apostles are the first meaning of the text: for they were our Fathers in Christ: They begat Sons and Daughters unto God: and where a spiritual paternity is evident, we need look no further for spiritual Government, because in the paternal rule all power is founded: They begat the Family by the power of the word and the life of the spirit, and they fed this family and rul'd it by the word of their proper Ministery. They had the keyes of this house, the Stewards ensign; and they had the Rulers place; for they sat on twelve thrones and judged the twelve tribes of Israel. But of this there is no question.
And as little of another proposition: that this Stewardship was to last for ever; for the powers of Ministring in this Office, and the Office it self were to be perpetual. For the issues and powers of Government are more necessary for the perpetuating the Church, then for the first planting: and if it was necessary that the Apostles should have a rod and a staff at first, it would be more necessary afterwards when the Family was more numerous, and their first zeal abated, and their native simplicity perverted into arts of hypocrisy and formes of godliness, when Heresies should arise, and the love of many should wax cold. The Apostles had also a power of Ordination; and that the very power it self does denote, for it makes perpetuity, that could not expire in the dayes of the Apostles, for by it, they themselves propagated a succession. And Christ having promis'd his spirit to abide with his Church for ever, and made his Apostles the channels, the Ministers and conveyances of it, that it might descend as the inheritance and eternal portion of the Family; it cannot be imagined that when the first Ministers were gone, there should not others rise up in the same places, some like to the first, in the same Office and Ministery of the spirit. But the thing is plain and evident in the matter of fact also. Quod in Ecclesiâ nunc geritur, hoc olim fecerunt Apostoli, said St. Cyprian; What the Apostles did at first, that the Church does to this day, and shall do so for ever. For when St. Paul had given to the Bp. of Ephesus rules of Government in this Family; he commands, that they should be observed till the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: and therefore these authorities and charges are given to him and to his Successors; it is the observation of St. Ambrose upon the warranty of that text, and is obvious and undeniable.
Well then. The Apostles were the first Stewards; and this Office dies not with them, but must for ever be succeeded in; and now begins the enquiry, who are the Successors of the Apostles: for they are, they must evidently be the Stewards to feed and to rule this Family. There are some that say, that all who have any portion of work in the Family, all the Ministers of the Gospel are these Stewards, and so all will be Rulers. The Presbyters surely; for say they, Presbyter and Bishop is the same thing, and have the same name in Scripture, and therefore the Office cannot be distinguished. To this I shall very briefly say two things, which will quickly clear our way through this bush of thornes.
I. That the word Presbyter is but an honourable appellative used amongst the Jews, as Alderman amongst us; but it signifies no order at all, nor was ever used in Scripture to signify any distinct company or order of Clergy. And this appears not only by an Induction in all the enumerations of the Offices Ministerial in the New Testament: where to be a Presbyter is never reckoned either as a distinct Office, or a distinct order; but indifferently communicated to all the Superior Clergy, and all the Princes of the people.
II. The second thing I intended to say is this; that although all the superior Clergy had not only one, but divers common appellatives; all being called presbuteroi, and diakonoi, even the Apostolate it self being called a Deaconship; yet it is evident that before the common appellations were fixt into names of propriety, they were as evidently distinguished in their offices and powers, as they are at this day, in their Names and Titles.
To this purpose St. Paul gave to Titus the Bp. of Crete a special commission, command and power to make Ordinations: and in him, and in the person of Timothy he did erect a Court of Judicature even over some of the Clergy, who yet were called Presbyters: against a Presbyter receive not an accusation but before two or three witnesses: there is the measure and the warranty of the Audientia Episcopalis, the Bps. Audience Court: and when the accused were found guilty he gives in charge to proceed to censures: You must rebuke them sharply; and you must silence them; stop their mouths, that's St. Pauls word; that they may no more scatter their venom in the ears and hearts of the people. These Bishops were commanded, to set in order things that were wanting in the Churches, the same with that power of St. Paul; [other things will I set in order when I come,] said he to the Corinthian Churches; in which there were many who were called Presbyters: who nevertheless for all that name, had not that power. To the same purpose it is plain in Scripture, that some would have been Apostles that were not; such were those whom the spirit of God notes in the Revelation: and some did love preeminence that had it not: for so did Diotrephes: and some were Judges of questions, and all were not; for therefore they appealed to the Apostles at Jerusalem: and St. Philip though he was an Evangelist, yet he could not give confirmation to the Samaritans whom he had baptiz'd, but the Apostles were sent for: for that was part of the power reserv'd to the Episcopal or Apostolical order.
Now from these premises the conclusion is plain and easy. 1. Christ left a Government in his Church, and founded it in the persons of the Apostles. 2. The Apostles received this power for the perpetual use and benefit, for the comfort and edification of the Church for ever. 3. The Apostles had this Government, but all that were taken into the Ministery, and all that were called Presbyters had it not. If therefore this Government in which there is so much disparity in the very nature and exercise and first original of it, must abide for ever; then so must that disparity: If the Apostolate in the first stabiliment was this eminency of power; then it must be so, that is, it must be the same in the succession that it was in the foundation. For after the Church is founded upon its Governours, we are to expect no change of government. If Christ was the Author of it, then as Christ left it, so it must abide for ever: for ever there must be the Governing and the Governed, the Superior and the Subordinate, the Ordainer and the Ordained, the confirmer and the confirmed.
Thus far the way is straight, and the path is plain. The Apostles were the Stewards and the ordinary Rulers of Christs Family by virtue of the order and office Apostolical; and although this must be succeeded to for ever; yet no man for his now, or at any time being called a Presbyter or Elder can pretend to it: for besides his being a Presbyter, he must be an Apostle too; else, though he be called 'in partem sollicitudinis,' and may do the offices of assistance and understewardship; yet the kuroV, the Government and Rule of the Family belongs not to him.
But then tiV ara kai shmeron; who are these Stewards and Rulers over the houshold now? To this the answer is also certain and easy. Christ hath made the same Governours to day as heretofore; Apostles still. For though the twelve Apostles are dead; Yet the Apostolical order is not: it is taxiV gennkikh, a generative order, and begets more Apostles: now who these minores Apostoli are, the successors of the Apostles in that office Apostolical and supreme regiment of Souls, we are sufficiently taught in Holy Scriptures; which when I have clearly shewn to you, I shall pass on to some more practical considerations.
1. Therefore, certain and known it is, that Christ appointed two sorts of Ecclesiastick persons; the XII Apostles, and the LXXII Disciples: to these he gave a limited commission, to those a fulness of power: to these a temporary imployment, to those a perpetual and everlasting; from these two societies founded by Christ, the whole Church of God derives the two superiour orders in the sacred Hierarchy; and as Bishops do not claim a Divine right but by succession from the Apostles; so the Presbyters cannot pretend to have been instituted by Christ, but by claiming a succession to the LXXII: and then consider the difference, compare the Tables, and all the world will see the advantages of argument we have: for since the LXXII. had nothing but a mission on a temporary errand, and more then that we hear nothing of them in Scripture; but upon the Apostles Christ powred all the Ecclesiastical power, and made them the ordinary Ministers of that Spirit which was to abide with the Church for ever; the Divine institution of Bishops, that is, of Successors to the Apostles, is much more clear then that Christ appointed Presbyters, or Successors of the LXXII: and yet if from hence they do not derive it, they can never prove their order to be of Divine institution at all, much less to be so alone.
But we may see the very thing it self: the very matter of fact. St. James the Bp. of Jerusalem, is by St. Paul called an Apostle: Other Apostles saw I none, save James the Lords Brother. For there were some whom the Scriptures call the Apostles of our Lord; that is, such which Christ made by his word immediately, or by his Spirit extraordinarily: and even into this number and title, Matthias, and St. Paul, and Barnabas were accounted. But the Church also made Apostles; and these were called by St. Paul apostoloi ekklhsiwn, Apostles of the Churches, and particularly Epaphroditus was the Apostle of the Philippians: properly so (saith Primasius,) and what is this else but the Bp. saith Theodoret; for touV nun kaloumenouV episkopouV wnomazon apostolouV, those who are now called Bps. were then called Apostles, saith the same Father: the sence and full meaning of which argument is a perfect commentary upon that famous prophecy of the Church, [In stead of thy Fathers thou shalt have childen whom thou mayest make Princes in all Lands,] [that is,] not only the twelve Apostles our Fathers in Christ, who first begat us, were to rule Christs Family, but when they were gone, their Children & Successors should arise in their stead, Et nati natorum, & quinascentur ab illis, their direct Successors to all generations shall be principes populi, that is, Rulers and Governours of the whole Catholick Church. De prole enim Ecclesiae crevit eidem paternitas, id est, Episcopi quos illa genuit, & patres appellat, & constituit in sedibus Patrum; saith St. Austin; the Children of the Church become Fathers of the faithful; that is, the Church begets Bps.: and places them in the seat of Fathers, the first Apostles.
After these plain and evident testimonies of Scripture, it will not be amiss to say, that this great affair relying not only upon the words of institution, but on matter of fact; pas'd forth into a demonstration and greatest notoreity by the Doctrine and Practise of the whole Catholick Church. For so St Irenaeus who was one of the most Ancient Fathers of the Church, and might easily make good his affirmative: We can (says he) reckon the men who by the Apostles were appointed Bishops in the Churches, to be their Successors unto Us; leaving to them the same power and authority which they had. Thus St. Polycarp was by the Apostles made Bp. of Smyrna; St. Clement Bp. of Rome by St. Peter, and divers others by the Apostles, saith Tertullian, saying also that the Asian Bps. were consecrated by St. John; and to be short, that Bps. are the Successours of the Apostles in the Stewardship and Rule of the Church, is expresly taught by St. Cyprian, and St. Hieron, St. Ambrose, and St. Austin, by Euthymius, and Pasianus, by St. Gregory, and St. John Damascen, by Clarus à Muscula, and St. Sixtus, by Anacletus, and St. Isidore; by the Roman Councel under St. Sylvester, and the Councel of Carthage; and the diadoch, or succession of Bps. from the Apostles hands in all the Churches Apostolical was as certainly known as in our Chronicles we find the succession of our English Kings, and one can no more be denyed then the other. The conclusion from these premises I give you in the words of St. Cyprian, Cogitent Diaconi quòd Apostolos, id est, Episcopos Dominus ipse elegerit. Let the Ministers know that, Apostles, that is, the Bps. were chosen by our blessed Lord himself; and this was so evident, and so believed, that St. Austin affirms it with a nemo ignorat, No man is so ignorant, but he knows this, that our blessed Saviour appointed Bps. over Churches.
Indeed the Gnostics spake evil of this order; for they are noted by three Apostles, St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Jude, to be despisers of Government, and to speak evil of dignities; and what Government it was they did so despise, we may understand by the words of St. Jude: they were en th antilogia tou Kore, in the contradiction or gainsaying of Corah, who with his company rose up against Aaron the high Priest: and excepting these who were the vilest of Men, no man within the first 300 years after Christ, oppos'd Episcopacy. But when Constantine receiv'd the Church into his armes, he found it universally governed by Bps. and therefore no wise or good man professing to be a Christian, that is, to believe the holy Catholick Church, can be content to quit the Apostolical Government; (that by which the whole Family of God was fed, and taught and rul'd,) and beget to himself new Fathers and new Apostles, who by wanting Succession from the Apostles of our Lord, have no Ecclesiastical and Derivative communion with the fountains of our Saviour.
If ever Vincentius Lirinensis's rule could be us'd in any question, it is in this: quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus; That Bishops are the Successors of the Apostles in this Stewardship; and that they did always rule the Family, was taught and acknowledged always, and every where, and by all men that were of the Church of God: and if these evidences be not sufficient to convince modest and sober persons in this question, We shall find our faith to fail in many other articles, of which we yet are very confident. For the observation of the Lords day, the Consecration of the Holy Eucharist by Priests, the Baptizing Infants, the communicating of Women, and the very Canon of the Scripture it self rely but upon the same probation: and therefore the denying of Articles thus proved, is a way (I do not say) to bring in all Sects and Heresies, (that's but little,) but a plain path and inlet to Atheism and Irreligion: for by this means, it will not only be impossible to agree concerning the meaning of Scripture, but the Scripture it self, and all the Records of Religion will become useless, and of no efficacy or persuasion.
I am entered into a Sea of matter, but I will break it off abruptly, and sum up this enquirie with the words of the Councel of Chalcedon, which is one of the four Generals, by our Laws made the measures of judging Heresies: "It is Sacriledge to bring back a Bishop to the degree and order of a Presbyter." It is indeed a rifling the order, and intangling the gifts, and confounding the method of the Holy Ghost: it is a dishonouring them whom God would honour, and a robbing them of those spiritual eminencies with which the spirit of God does anoint the consecrated heads of Bishops. And I shall say one thing more, which indeed is a great truth, that the diminution of Episcopacy was first introduced by Popery, and the Popes of Rome by communicating to Abbots, and other mere Priests special graces to exercise some essential Offices of Episcopacie, hath made this sacred order to be cheap, and apt to be invaded.
But then adde this; If Simon Magus was in so damnable a condition for offering to buy the guifts and powers of the Apostolical order, what shall we think of them that snatch them away, and pretend to wear them whether the Apostles & their Successors will or no? This is to bely the Holy-Ghost; that is the least of it: it is rapine and sacriledge, besides the heresie and the schism, and the spiritual lie. For the government Episcopal, as it was exemplified in the Synagogue, and practised by the same measures in the Temple, so it was transcribed by the eternal son of God, who translated it into a Gospel Ordinance: it was sanctifyed by the Holy Spirit, who named some of the persons, and gave to them all power and graces from above. It was subjected in the Apostles first, and by them transmitted to a distinct Order of Ecclesiasticks: it was received into all Churches, consigned in the Records of the Holy Scriptures, preached by the universal voice of all the Christian World, delivered by notorious and uninterrupted practise, and deriv'd to further and unquestionable issue by perpetual succession.
I have done with the hardest part of the Text, by finding out the persons intrusted, the Stewards of Christs Family: which though Christ only intimated in this place, yet he plainly enough manifested in others: The Apostles and their Successors the Bishops, are the men intrusted with this great charge: God grant they may all discharge it well. And so I pass from the Officers, to a consideration of the Office it self, in the next words: Whom the Lord shall make Ruler over his Houshold, to give them their meat in due season.
2. The Office it self is the Stewardship, that is, Episcopacy, the Office of the Bishop. The name signifies an Office of the Ruler indefinitely, but the word was chosen, and by the Church appropriated to those whom it now signifies, both because the word it self is a monition of duty, and also because the faithful were used to it in the days of Moses and the Prophets. The word is in the prophecy of the Church, [I will give to thee Princes in peace, kai episkopouV en dikaiosunh and Bishops in righteousness,] upon which place St. Hierom says, Principes Ecclesiae vocat futuros Episcopos: [The spirit of God calls them who were to be Christian Bps, principes, or chief Rulers,] and this was no new thing: For the chief of the Priests who were set over the rest, are called Bishops by all the Hellenist Jews. Thus Joel is called episkopoV ep autouV, the Bishop over the Priests, and the son of Bani, episkopoV Leuitwn, the Bishop and Visitor over the Levites, and we find at the purging of the Land from idolatry, the High-Priest plac'd episkopouV eiV oikon Kuriou, Bishops over the House of God. Nay, it was the appellative of the High-Priest himself: episkopoV Eleazar, Bishop Eleazar, the Son of Aaron the Priest, to whom is committed the care of the Lamps, and the daily Sacrifice, and the holy unction.
Now this word the Church retain'd, choosing the same Name to her superiour Ministers, because of the likeness of the Ecclesiastical Government between the Old and New-Testament.
For Christ made no change but what was necessary. Baptism was a rite among the Jews, and the Lords-Supper was but the post-coenium of the Hebrews chang'd into a mystery, from a type to a more real exhibition; and the Lords Prayer was a collection of the most eminent devotions of the Prophets and Holy men before Christ, who prayed by the same spirit: and the censures Ecclesiastical were but an imitation of the proceedings of the Judaical tribunals: and the whole Religion was but the Law of Moses drawn out of its vail into clarity and manifestation: and to conclude, in order to the present affair, the Government which Christ left was the same as he found it: for what Aaron and his Sons, and the Levites were in the Temple, that Bishops, Priests, and Deacons are in the Church: it is affirmed by St. Hierom more then once; and the use he makes of it is this, Esto subjectus pontifici tuo, & quasi animae parentem suscipe: Obey your Bishop, and receive him as the nursing Father of your Soul. But above all; this appellation is made honourable by being taken by our Blessed Lord himself. For he is called in Scripture, the great Shepheard and Bishop of our Souls.
But our inquitie is not after the Name, but the Office, and the dignity and duty of it: Ecclesiae gubernandae sublimis ac divina potestas (so St. Cyprian calls it) a High and a Divine power from God of Governing the Church: rem magnam & preciosam in conspectu Domini (so St. Cyril) "a great and a pretious thing in the sight of God:" by Isidor Pelusiot; the utmost limit of what is desireable amongst men. But the account upon which it is so desireable, is the same also that makes it formidable. They who have tryed it, and did it conscientiously, have found the burden so great, as to make them stoop with care and labour; And they who do it ignorantly or carelesly, will find it will break their bones. For the Bishops Office is all that duty which can be signified by those excellent words of St. Cyprian; He is a Bishop or Overseer of the Brotherhood, the Ruler of the people, the Shepheard of the Flock, the Governour of the Church, the Minister of Christ, and the Priest of God. These are great titles, and yet less then what is said of them in Scripture; which calls them Salt of the Earth, Lights upon a candlestick; Stars and Angels, Fathers of our Faith, Embassadors of God, Dispensors of the Mysteries of God, the Apostles of the Churches, and the Glory of Christ: but then they are great burdens too: for the Bishop is intrusted with the Lords people; that's a great charge; but there is a worse matter that follows; the Bishop is he of whom God will require an account for all their souls: they are the words of St. Paul, and transcribed into the 40th Canon of the Apostles, and the 24th Canon of the Councel of Antioch.
And now I hope the envy is taken off: for the honour does not pay for the burden: and we can no sooner consider Episcopacy in its dignity, as it is a Rule; but the very nature of that Rule does imply so severe a duty, that as the load of it is almost unsufferable, so the event of it is very formidable if we take not great care. For this Stewardship is kuriothV kai diakonia, a Principality and a Ministery. So it was in Christ: he is Lord of all, and yet he was the Servant of all: so it was in the Apostles, it was klhroV diakoniaV kai apostolhV, their lot was to be Apostles, and yet to serve and minister: and it is remarkable that in Isaiah the LXX use the word episkopoV or Bishop; but there they use it for the Hebrew word 'nechosheth,' which the Greeks usually render by ergodiwkthV, forologoV, praktwr, and the interlineary translation by Exactores. Bishops are only Gods Ministers and tribute gatherers, requiring and over seeing them that they do their duty; and therefore here the case is so, and the burden so great, and the dignity so allayed, that the envious man hath no reason to be troubled that his brother hath so great a load; nor the proud man vainly to be delighted with so honourable a danger. It is indeed a Rule; but it is paternal; it is a Government, but it must be neither anagkastikon, nor aiscrokerdeV, it is neither a power to constrain, nor a commission to get wealth: for it must be without necessity, and not for filthy lucre sake; but it is a Rule, wV diakonountoV, so St. Luke, as of him that ministers; oV pantwn doulou, so St. Mark: as of him that is Servant of all: wV podaV niptontoV, so St. John; such a principality as he hath that washes the feet of the weary traveller: or if you please, take it in the words of our Blessed Lord himself, that [He that will be chief among you let him be your Minister,] meaning that if under Christs Kingdom you desire rule, possibly you may have it; but all that Rule under him are Servants to them that are rul'd, and therefore you get nothing by it, but a great labour, and a busy imployment, a careful life, and a necessity of making severe accounts. But all this is nothing but the general measures, I cannot be useful or understood, unless I be more particular. The particulars we shall best enumerate by recounting those great conjugations of worthy offices and actions by which Christian Bishops have blessed and built up Christendom, for because we must be followers of them, as they were of Christ, the recounting what they did worthily in their generations, will not only demonstrate how useful, how profitable, how necessary Episcopacy is to the Christian Church, but it will at the same time teach us our duty, by what services we are to benefit the Church, in what works we are to be imployed, and how to give an account of our Stewardship with joy.
1. The Christian Church was founded by Bps: not only because the Apostles, who were Bishops, were the first Preachers of the Gospel, and Planters of Churches, but because the Apostolical men, whom the Apostles used in planting and disseminating Religion, were by all Antiquity affirm'd to have been Diocesan Bishops; insomuch that as St. Epiphanius witnesses there were at the first disseminations of the faith of Christ, many Churches who had in them no other Clergy, but a Bishop and his Deacons, and the Presbyters were brought in afterwards as the harvest grew greater. But the Bishops names are known, they are recorded in the book of Life, and their praise is in the Gospel: such were Timothy and Titus, Clemens and Linus, Marcus and Dyonisius, Onesimus and Cains, Epaphroditas and St. James our Lords Brother, Evodius and Simeon: all which, if there be any faith in Christians that gave their lives for a testimony to the faith, and any truth in their Stories; and unless we who believe Thucydides and Plutarch, Livy and Tacitus, think that all Church story is a perpetual Romance, and that all the brave men, the Martyrs and the Doctors of the Primitive Church, did conspire as one man to abuse all Christendom for ever; I say unless all these impossible suppositions be admitted, all these whom I have now reckoned were Bishops fixed in several Churches, and had Dioceses for their Charges.
The consequent of this consideration is this. If Bishops were those upon whose Ministery Christ founded and built his Church, let us consider what great wisdom is required of them that seem to be Pillars: The Stewards of Christs Family must be wise: that Christ requires, and if the order be necessary to the Church, wisdom cannot but be necessary to the Order. For it is a shame if they who by their Office are Fathers in Christ, shall by their unskilfulness skilfulness be but Babes themselves; understanding not the secrets of Religion, the mysteries of Godliness, the perfections of the Evangelical Law, all the advantages and disadvantages in the Spiritual life. A Bishop must be exercis'd in Godliness, a man of great experience in the secret conduct of Souls, not satisfyed with an ordinary skill in making homilies to the people, and speaking common exhortations in ordinary cases; but ready to answer in all secret inquiries, and able to convince the gainsayers, and to speak wisdom amongst them that are perfect.
If the first Bishops laid the foundation, their Successours must not only preserve whatsoever is fundamental, but build up the Church in a most holy Faith, taking care that no Heresie sap the foundation, and that no hay or rotten wood be built upon it: and above all things, that a most Holy life be superstructed upon a holy and unreproveable Faith. So the Apostles laid the foundation, and built the walls of the Church, and their Successors must raise up the roof as high as Heaven. For let us talk and dispute eternally, we shall never compose the controversies in Religion, and establish truth upon unalterable foundations, as long as Men handle the word of God deceiptfully, that is, wit designes and little artifices, and saecular partialities, and they will for ever do so, as long as they are proud or covetous. It is not the difficulty of our questions, or the subtilty of our adversaries that makes disputes interminable; but We shall never cure the itch of disputing, or establish Unity, unless we apply our selves to humility, and contempt of riches. If we will be contending, let us contend like the Olive and the Vine, who shall produce best, and most fruit: not like the Aspine and the Elm which shall make most noyse in a wind. All other methods are a beginning at a wrong end. And as for the people; the way to make them conformable to the wise and holy rules of faith and government, is by reducing them to live good lives. When the Children of Israel gave themselves to gluttony and drunkenness, and filthy lusts, they quickly fell into abominable idolatries; and St. Paul says that men make shipwrack of their faith by putting away a good conscience: for the mystery of faith is best preserv'd in a pure conscience, saith the same Apostle: secure but that, and we shall quickly end our disputes, and have an obedient and conformable people: but else never.
2. As Bishops were the first Fathers of Churches, and gave them being: so they preserve them in being. For without Sacraments there is no Church; or it will be starv'd and die: and without Bishops there can be no Priests, and consequently no Sacraments: and that must needs be a supream order from whence ordination it self proceeds. For it is evident and notorious that in Scripture there is no record of ordination, but an Apostolical hand was in it: one of the andreV hgoumenoi, one of the chief, one of the superiour and Ruling Clergy: and it is as certain in the descending ages of the Church, the Bishop always had that power, it was never denyed to him, and it was never imputed to Presbyters: and St. Hierom himself when out of his anger against John Bp. of Jerusalem endeavoured to equal the Presbyter with the Bishop, though in very many places he spake otherwise, yet even then also, and in that heat, he excepted ordination, acknowledging that to be the Bps. peculiar. And therefore they who go about to extinguish Episcopacy, do as Julian did; they destroy the Presbytery, and starve the Flock, and take away their Shepheards, and dispark their pastures, and tempt Gods providence to extraordinaries, and put the people to hard shifts, and turn the channels of Salvation quite another way, and leave the Church to a perpetual uncertainty, whether she be alive or dead, and the people destitute of the life of their Souls, and their daily bread, and their spiritual comforts, and holy blessings.
The consequent of this is: If Sacraments depend upon Bishops, then let us take care that we convey to the people holy and pure materials, sanctifyed with a holy ministery, and ministred by holy persons. For although it be true, that the efficacy of the Sacraments does not depend wholly upon the worthiness of him that ministers; yet it is as true, that it does not wholly rely upon the worthiness of the Receiver: but both together relying upon the goodness of God produce all those blessings which are designed. The Minister hath an influence into the effect, and does very much towards it; and if there be a failer there, it is a defect in one of the concurring causes; and therefore an unholy Bishop is a great diminution to the peoples blessing. St. Hierom presses this severely: Impiè faciunt &c. They do wickedly who affirm that the Holy Eucharist is consecrated by the words [alone] and solemn prayer of the consecrator, and not [also] by his life and holiness, and therefore St. Cyprian affirms, that none but holy and upright men are to be chosen, who offering their Sacrifices worthily to God may be heard in their prayers for the Lords people: but for others; Sacrificia eorum panis luctus (saith the Prophet Hosea,) their Sacrifices are like the bread of sorrow, who ever eats thereof shall be defiled.
This discourse is not mine but St. Cyprians: and although his words are not to be understood dogmatically, but in the case of duty and caution, yet we may lay our hands upon our hearts, and consider how we shall give an account of our Stewardship, if we shall offer to the people the bread of God with impure hands: it is of it self a pure nourishment, but if it passes through an unclean vessel, it looses much of its excellency.
3. The like also is to be said concerning prayer. For the Episcopal Order is appointed by God to be the great Ministers of Christs Priesthood, that is, to stand between Christ and the people in the entercourse of prayer and blessing. We will give our selves continually to prayer: said the Apostles: that was the one half of their imployment: and indeed a Bishop should spend very much of his time in holy prayer, and in diverting Gods judgments, and procuring blessings to the people; for in all times, the chief of the Religion was ever the chief Minister of blessing. Thus Abraham blessed Abimelech, and Melchisedek blessed Abraham, and Aaron blessed the people; and without all controversy (saith the Apostle,) the less is blessed of the Greater. But then we know that God heareth not sinners; and it must be the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous Man that shall prevail.
And therefore we may easily consider that a vitious Prelate is a great calamity to that Flock, which he is appointed to bless and pray for. How shall he reconcile the penitents, who is himself at enmity with God? How shall the Holy Spirit of God descend upon the Symbols at his prayer who does perpetually grieve him, and quench his holy fires, and drive him quite away? How shall he that hath not tasted of the spirit by contemplation, stir up others to earnest desires of Celestial things? Or what good shall the people receive, when the Bp. lays upon their head a covetous or a cruel, an unjust or an impure hand? But therefore that I may use the words of St. Hierom. Cum ab Episcopo gratia in populum transfundatur, & mundi totius & Ecclesiae totius condimentum sit Episcopus &c. since it is intended that from the Bp. grace should be diffus'd amongst all the people, there is not in the world a greater indecency then a holy office ministred by an unholy person, and no greater injury to the people, then that of the blessings which God sends to them by the Ministeries Evangelical they should be cheated and defrauded by a wicked Steward. And therefore it was an excellent prayer which to this very purpose was by the son of Sirach made in behalf of the High Priests the sons of Aaron [God give you wisdom in your heart to judge his people in righteousness, that their good things be not abolished, and that their glory may endure for ever.]
4. All the offices Ecclesiastical always were, and ought to be conducted by the Episcopal order, as is evident in the universal doctrine and practise of the primitive Church. It is the 40th Canon of the Apostles, Let the Presbyters and Deacons do nothing without leave of the Bishop. But that case is known.
The consequent of this consideration is no other then the admonition in my text. We are Stewards of the manifold Grace of God, and dispensers of the mysteries of the Kingdom; and it is required of Stewards that they be found faithful; that we preach the word of God in season and out of season, that we rebuke and exhort, admonish and correct; for these, God calls Pastores secundùm cor meum, Pastors according to his own heart, which feed the people with knowledge and understanding; but they must also comfort the afflicted and bind up the broken heart; minister the Sacraments with great diligence, and righteous measures, and abundant charity, alwayes having in mind those passionate words of Christ to St. Peter; If thou lovest me, feed my sheep; If thou hast any love to me, feed my lambs.
And let us remember this also, that nothing can enforce the people to obey their Bishops as they ought, but our doing that duty and charity to them which God requires. There is reason in these words of St. Chrysostom, [It is necessary that the Church should adhere to their Bishop as the body to the head, as plants to their roots, as rivers to their springs, as children to their Fathers, as Disciples to their Masters.] These similitudes express not only the relation and dependency, but they tell us the reason of the duty. The head gives light and reason to conduct the body, the roots give nourishment to the plants, and the springs, perpetual emanation of waters to the channels. Fathers teach and feed their children, and Disciples receive wise instruction from their Masters: and if we be all this to the people, they will be all that to us; and wisdom will compel them to submit, and our humility will teach them obedience, and our charity will invite their compliance. Our good example will provoke them to good works, and our meekness will melt them into softness and flexibility. For all the Lords people are populus voluntarius, a free and willing people; and we who cannot compel their bodies, must thus constrain their souls; by inviting their wills, by convincing their understandings, by the beauty of fair example, the efficacy and holiness and the demonstrations of the spirit.
This is experimentum ejus qui in nobis loquitur Christus. The experiment of Christ that speaketh in us. For to this purpose those are excellent words which St. Paul spake. [Remember them who have the rule over you, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.] There lyes the demonstration: and those Prelates who teach good life, whose Sermons are the measures of Christ, and whose life is a copy of their Sermons; these must be followed; and surely these will: for these are burning and shining lights: but if we hold forth false fires, and by the amusement of evil examples call the vessels that sail upon a dangerous Sea to come upon a rock, or an iron shore instead of a safe harbour, we cause them to make shipwrack of their precious faith, and to perish in the deceiptful and unstable waters. Vox operum fortiùs sonat quàm verborum. A good life is the strongest argument that your faith is good, and a gentle voice will be sooner entertained then a voice of thunder: but the greatest eloquence in the world, is a meek Spirit, and a liberal hand: these are the two pastoral staves the Prophet speaks of nognam & hovelim, beauty and bands: he that hath the staff of the beauty of holiness, the ornament of fair example, he hath also the staff of bands, atque in funiculis Adam trahet eos, in vinculis charitatis; as the Prophet Hosea's expression is; he shall draw the people after him by the cords of a man, by the bands of a holy charity. But if against all these demonstrations any man will be refractary; We have in stead of a staff, an Apostolical rod; which is the last and latest remedy, and either brings to repentance, or consignes to ruin and reprobation.
If there were any time remaining; I could reckon that the Episcopal order is the principle of Unity in the Church; and we see it is so, by the innumerable Sects that sprang up when Episcopacy was persecuted. I could adde, how that Bishops were the cause that St. John wrote his Gospel; that the Christian Faith was for 300 years together bravely defended by the sufferings, the prisons and the flames, the life and the death of Bishops, as the principal Combatants. That the Fathers of the Church whose writings are held in so great veneration in all the Christian World, were almost all of them Bishops. I could adde, that the Reformation of Religion in England was principally by the Preachings and the disputings, the writings and the Martyrdom of Bishops. That Bishops have ever since been the greatest defensatives against Popery. That England and Ireland were Governed by Bishops ever since they were Christian, and under their conduct have for so many ages enjoyed all the blessings of the Gospel. I could adde also, that Episcopacy is the great stabiliment of Monarchy; but of this we are convinc'd by a sad and too dear bought experience. I could therefore in stead of it, say, that Episcopacy is the great ornament of Religion, the Gentry being little better then Servants, while they live under the Presbytery. That as it rescues the Clergy from contempt; so it is the greatest preservative of the peoples liberty from Ecclesiastick Tyranny on one hand, and Anarchy and licentiousness on the other. That it endears obedience. And is subject to the Laws of Princes. And is wholly ordained for the good of mankind, and the benefit of Souls. But I cannot stay to number all the blessings which have entered into the world at this door: I only remark these because they describe unto us the Bishops imployment, which is, to be busy in the service of Souls, to do good in all capacities, to serve every mans need, to promote all publick benefits, to cement Governments, to establish peace, to propagate the Kingdom of Christ, to do hurt to no man, to do good to every man; that is, so to minister, that Religion and Charity, publick peace, and private blessings may be in their exaltation.
As long as it was thus done by the Primitive Bishops, the Princes and the People gave them all honour. Insomuch that by a decree of Constantine the great, the Bp. had power given him to retract the sentences made by the Presidents of Provinces, and we find in the acts of St. Nicholas, that he rescued some innocent persons from death when the executioner was ready to strike the fatal blow: which thing even when it fell into inconvenience; was indeed forbidden by Arcadius and Honorlus; but the confidence and honour was only chang'd, it was not taken away for the condemned criminal had leave to appeal to the Audientia Episcopalis, to the Bps Court. This was not any right which the Bishops could challenge, but a reward of their piety; and so long as the Holy Office was holily administred, the World found so much comfort and security, so much justice and mercy, so many temporal and spiritual blessings consequent to the ministeries of that order, that as the Galatians to St. Paul, men have plucked out their eyes to do them service, and to do them honour. For then Episcopacy did that good that God intended by it: it was a spiritual Government, by spiritual persons, for spiritual ends. Then the Princes and the People gave them honours because they deserv'd and sought them not: then they gave them wealth, because they would dispend it wisely, frugally and charitably: Then they gave them power; because it was sure to be us'd for defence of the innocent, for relief of the oppressed, for the punishment of evil doers, and the reward of the virtuous. Then they desir'd to be judg'd by them because their audiences or Courts did hsucazein to barbarikon, they appeas'd all furious sentences, and taught gentle principles, and gave merciful measures and in their Courts were all equity and piety, and Christian determinations.
But afterwards, when they did fall eiV dunasteian into saecular methods, and made their Counsels vain by pride, and durtyed their sentences with money, then they became like other men; and so it will be, unless the Bps. be more holy then other men; but when our sanctity and severity shall be as eminent as the calling is, then we shall be called to Councels, and sit in publick meetings, and bring comfort to private Families, and rule in the hearts of men by a jus relationis, such as was between the Roman Emperors and the Senate; they courted one another into power, and in giving honour striv'd to out do each other: for from an humble wise man, no man will snatch an imployment that is honourable; but from the proud and from the covetous every man endeavours to wrest it, and thinks it lawful prize.
My time is now done, and therefore I cannot speak to the third part of my text, the reward of the good Steward and of the bad: I shall only mention it to you in a short exhortation; and so conclude. In the Primitive Church a Bishop was never admitted to publick penance; not only because in them every crime is ten, and he that could discern a publick shame, could not discern a publick honor, nor yet only because every such punishment was scandalous, and did more evil by the example of the crime, then it could do good by the example of the punishment: but also because no spiritual power is higher then the Episcopal, and therefore they were to be referred to the Divine judgment, which was likely to fall on them very heavily. dicotoumhsei acrhston o KurioV: the Lord will cut the evil Stewards asunder: he will suffer Schisms and Divisions to enter in upon us, and that will sadly cut us asunder, but the evil also shall fall upon their persons; like the punishment of quartering Traitors, ina kai de diameleisti, punishment with the circumstances of detestation and exemplarity. Consider therefore what is your great duty. Consider what is your great danger. The lines of duty I have already describ'd; only remember how dear and pretious Souls are to God, since for their salvation Christ gave his bloud, and therefore will not easily loose them, whom though they had sin'd against him, yet he so highly valued; remember that You are Christs deputies in the care of Souls, and that You succeed in the place of the Apostles. Non est facile stare loco Pauli; & tenere gradum Petri; You have undertaken the work of St. Paul, and the office of St. Peter, and what think you upon this account will be required of us: St. Hierom expresses it thus. The wisdom and skill of a Bishop ought to be so great; that his countenance, his gesture, his motion, every thing should be vocal, ut quicquid agit, quicquid loquitur, doctrina sit Apostolorum: that whatever he does or speaks be doctrine Apostolical. The Ancient Fathers had a pious opinion, that besides the Angel guardian which is appointed to the guard of every man; there is to every Bishop a second Angel appointed to him at the Consecration: and to this Origen alludes, saying that every Bishoprick hath two Angels, the one visible and the other invisible. This is a great matter and shews what a precious thing that order and those persons are in the eyes of God; but then this also means, that we should live Angelick lives, which the Church rarely well expresses by saying, that Episcopal dignity is the Ecclesiastick state of perfection, and supposes the persons to be so far advanc'd in holiness as to be in the state of confirmation in grace. But I shall say nothing of these things; because it may be they press too hard, but the use I shall make of it upon occasion of the reward of the good and bad Steward; is to remind you of your great danger. For if it be required of Bishops to be so wise and so holy, so industrious and so careful, so busy and so good up to the height of best examples, if they be anointed of the Lord, and are the Husbands of the Churches, if they be the Shepheards of the flock, and Stewards of the houshould; it is very fit they consider their danger, that they may be careful to do their duty. St. Bernard considers it well in his epistle to Henry Archbishop of Sens; If I lying in my Cell, and smoaking under a Bushel, not shining, yet cannot avoid the breath of the winds but that my light is almost blown out; what will become of my Candle if it were plac'd on a candlestick and set upon a hill? I am to look to my self alone, and provide for my own salvation; and yet I offend my self, I am weary of my self, I am my own scandal and my own danger: my own eye, and my own belly, and my own appetite find me work enough; and therefore God help them who besides themselves are answerable for many others. Jacob kept the Sheep of Laban; and We keep the Sheep of Christ: and Jacob was to answer for every Sheep that was stoln, and every lamb that was torn by the wild beast; and so shall We too; if by our fault one of Christs Sheep perish; and yet it may be there are 100000 Souls committed to the care and conduct of some one Shepheard, who yet will find his own Soul work enough for all his care and watchfulness. If any man should desire me to carry a Frigat into the Indies in which a 100 men were imbarqued; I were a mad man to undertake the charge, without proportionable skill; and therefore when there is more danger, and more Souls, and rougher Seas, and more secret Rocks, and horrible Storms, and the Shipwrack is an eternal loss, the matter will then require great consideration in the undertaking, and greatest care in the conduct.
Upon this account we find many brave persons in the first and in the middle ages of the Church with great resolution refusing Episcopacy. I will not speak of those who for fear of Martyrdom declin'd it: but those who for fear of damnation did refuse. St. Bernard was by three rich Citties severally called to be their Bp: and by two to be their Arch-Bp. and he refus'd them; St. Dominicus refus'd four successively; St. Thomas Aquinas refus'd the Archbishoprick of Naples, and Vincentius Ferrerius would not accept of Valentia, or Ilerda, and Bernardinus Senensis refus'd the Bishopricks of Sens, Urbin and Ferrara. They had reason; and yet if they had done amiss in that office which they declin'd, it had been something more excusable; but if they that seek it be as careless in the office as they are greedy of the honour, that will be found intolerable. Electus Episcopus ambulat in disco, recusans volvitur in arcâ, said the Hermit in St. Hierom. The Bp. walks upon round and trundling stones, but he that refuses it, stands upon a floor. But I shall say no more of it; because I suppose you have read it and considered it in St. Chrysostoms six books de sacerdotio, in the Apologetie of St. Greg. Naz. in the pastoral of St. Greg. of Rome, in St. Dionysius's 8th epistle to Demophilus, in the Letters of Epiphanius to St. Hierom, in St. Austins Epistle to Bp. Valerius, in St. Bernards life of St. Malachy, in St. Hieroms 138th Epistle to Fabiola; These things I am sure you could not read without trembling; and certainly, if it can belong to any Christian, then [work out your Salvation with fear and trembling] that's the Bishops burden. For the Bishop is like a man that is surety for his friend; he is bound for many, and for great sums; what's to be done in this case? Solomons answer is the way: Do this now, my Son, deliver thy self, make sure thy friend, give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eye lids: that is, be sedulous to discharge thy trust, to perform thy charge; be zealous for Souls, and careless of money; and remember this, that even in Christs Family there was one sad example of an Apostate Apostle; and he fell into that fearful estate merely by the desire and greediness of money. Be warm in zeal, and indifferent in thy temporalities. For he that is zealous in temporals, and cold in the spiritual: he that doth the accessories of his calling by himself, and the principal by his Deputies: he that is present at the feast of Sheep shearing, and puts others to feed the flock, hath no signe at all upon him of a good Shepheard. It is not fit for us to leave the word of God, and to serve tables. said the Apostles. And if it be a less worthy office to serve the tables even of the poor, to the diminution of our care in the dispensation of Gods word; it must needs be an unworthy imployment to leave the word of God, and to attend the rich and superfluous furniture of our own Tables. Remember the quality of your charges. Civitas est, Vigilate ad custodiam & concordiam: sponsa est, studete amari: oves sunt, intendite pastui. The Church is a Spouse; The Universal Church is Christs Spouse; but your own Diocess is yours; behave your selves so, that ye be beloved. Your people are as sheep, and they must be fed and guided and preserved, and healed, and brought home. The Church is a City, and you are the watch man, Take care that the City be kept at Unity in it self: be sure to make peace amongst your people, suffer no hatreds, no quarrels, no suits at Law amongst the Citizens, which you can avoid: make peace in your Diocesses by all the ways of prudence, piety and authority that you can, and let not your own corrections of criminals be to any purpose, but for their amendment, for the cure of offenders, as long as there is hope, and for the security of those who are sound and whole. Preach often, and pray continually; let your discipline be with charity, and your censures slow: let not Excommunications pass for trifles; and drive not away the fly from your brothers forehead with a hatchet: give counsel frequently, and dispensations seldom, but never without necessity or great charity. Let every place in your Diocess say, Invenerunt me vigiles, the Watch men have found me out, hassovevim. They that walk the City round, have sought me out and found me. Let every one of us, (as St. Paul's expression is,) shew himself a workman, that shall not be ashamed: operarium inconfusibilem, mark that, such a labourer as shall not be put to shame for his illness, or his unskilfulness, his falseness and unfaithfulness in that day when the great Bishop of Souls shall make his last and dreadful visitation. For be sure, there is not a carkase nor a skin, not a lock of wool, nor a drop of milk of the whole flock, but God shall for it call the Idol Shepheard to a severe account. And how, think you, will his anger burn, when he shall see so many Goats standing at his left hand, and so few Sheep at his right? and upon inquiry shall find, that his ministering Shepheards, were Wolves in Sheeps cloathing; and that by their ill example, or pernitious doctrines, their care of money, and carelesness of their flocks, so many Souls perish: who if they had been carefully and tenderly, wisely and conscientiously handled, might have shin'd as bright as Angels. And it is a sad consideration to remember how many Souls are pittifully handled in this world, and carelesly dismissed out of this world: they are left to live at their own rate, and when they are sick they are bidden to be of good comfort, and then all is well: who when they are dead, find themselves cheated of their pretious and invaluable eternity. Oh, how will those Souls in their eternal prisons for ever curse those evil and false guides! and how will those evil guides themselves abide in judgment, when the Angels of wrath snatch their abused people into everlasting torments! For will God bless them or pardon them, by whom so many Souls perish? shall they reign with Christ, who evacuate the death of Christ, and make it useless to dear Souls? Shall they partake of Christs glories, by whom it comes to pass that there is less joy in Heaven it self, even because sinners are not converted, and God is not glorifyed, and the people is not instructed, and the Kingdom of God is not filled? Oh no! the curses of a false Prophet will fall upon them, and the reward of the evil Steward will be their portion, and they who destroyed the Sheep, or neglected them, shall have their portion with Goats for ever and ever in everlasting burnings, in which it is impossible for a man to dwell.
Can any thing be beyond this? beyond damnation? Surely a man would think, not. And yet I remember a severe saying of St. Gregory; Scire debent Praelati, quod tot mortibus digni sunt, quot perditionis exempla ad subditos extenderunt. One damnation is not enough for an evil Shepheard: but for every Soul who dies by his evil example or pernitious carelesness, he deserves a new death, a new damnation. Let us therefore be wise and faithful, walk warily, and watch carefully, and rule diligently, and pray assiduously. For God is more propense to rewards, then to punishments: and the good Steward that is wise and faithful in his dispensation, shall be greatly blessed. But how? He shall be made ruler over the houshold. What is that? for he is so already. True: but he shall be much more: Ex dispensatore faciet procuratorem, God will treat him as Joseph was treated by his Master; he was first a Steward, and then a Procurator, one that rul'd his goods without account, and without restraint. Our ministry shall pass into Empire, our labour into rest, our watchfulness into fruition, and our Bishoprick to a Kingdom. In the mean time our Bishopricks are a great and weighty care, and in a spiritual sense, our dominion is founded in grace, and our rule is in the hearts of the people, and our strengths are the powers of the Holy Ghost, and the weapons of our warfare are spiritual: and the eye of God watches over us curiously, to see if we watch over our Flocks by day and by night. And though the Primitive Church (as the Ecclesiastick Histories observe,) when they depos'd a Bishop from his office, ever conceal'd his crime, and made no record of it: yet remember this, that God does, and will call us to a strict and severe account. Take heed that you may never hear that fearful sentence, I was hungry and ye gave me no meat. If you suffer Christs little ones to starve, it will be required severely at your hands; And know this, that the time will quickly come, in which God shall say unto thee in the words of the Prophet, Where is the Flock that was given thee, thy beautiful Flock? what wilt thou say when he shall visit thee?
God of his mercy grant unto us all to be so faithful and so wise, as to convert Souls, and to be so blessed and so assisted, that we may give an account of our charges with joy, to the glory of God, to the edification and security of our Flocks, and the salvation of our own Souls, in that day when the great Shepheard and Bishop of our Souls shall come to judgment, even our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all Honour and Glory, Love and Obedience, now and for evermore, Amen.