In our Confession and Apology, we have stated in general what is necessary to be said in reference to ecclesiastical power. For the Gospel commands those who should regulate the church, to preach the Gospel, to remit sins, and to administer the sacraments; and it, moreover, gives them the authority to excommunicate those who live in the open commission of sin, and to absolve those who desire to amend their lives.

Now, every one, even our adversaries, must confess that all who preside over the church, have this command alike, whether they be called pastors, or presbyters, or bishops. Therefore Jerome declares in distinct terms, that bishops and presbyters are not different, but that all clergymen are alike bishops and priests; and he produces the declaration of Paul to Titus, 1, 5, 6, in which he says: "For this cause left I thee at Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city;" and afterwards he calls these bishops: "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife," 1 Tim. 3, 2. So Peter and John call themselves presbyters or priests.

Afterwards Jerome further declares: "The practice of choosing one who should be placed over the others, was introduced that schisms might be prevented, that one might not draw a church to himself here, and another there, and thus separate the church. For at Alexandria," says he, "from Mark the Evangelist, to Heraclas and Dionysius, the presbyters have always elected one from among themselves, esteemed him more highly, and called him Episcopus (bishop), precisely as the military elect a captain; and as the deacons elected one from among themselves, who was qualified for the duties, whom they called Archdeacon. For, tell me, what more does a bishop perform, than a presbyter, except to ordain others to ecclesiastical office," &c.

Jerome here teaches, that this difference between bishops and pastors originated from human regulations alone, as we actually observe in practice. For the office and the authority are entirely the same; but in subsequent time, the mode of ordination alone made the distinction between bishops and pastors. For it was afterwards thus determined, that a bishop should ordain persons to the duties of the ministry in other churches also.

But as, according to divine authority, there is no difference between bishops and pastors, or ministers, there is no doubt that, if a pastor ordain qualified persons in his church to church-offices, such ordination is valid and right, according to divine authority.

For this reason, while the bishops generally still violate the Gospel, and refuse to ordain qualified persons, every church has in this case legal authority to ordain ministers for itself.

For wherever the church is, there indeed is the command to preach the Gospel. Therefore, the churches undoubtedly retain the authority to call, to elect, and ordain ministers. And this authority is a privilege which God has given especially to the church, and it cannot be taken away from the church, by any human power, as Paul testifies, Eph. 4, 8, 11, 12, where he says: "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." And among these gifts, which belong to the church, he enumerates pastors and teachers, and adds that these were given for the edifying of the body of Christ. Wherefore, it follows that wherever there is a true church, there is also the power to elect and ordain ministers. In case of necessity a mere layman may absolve another, and become his pastor; as St. Augustine relates that two Christians were in a ship together, the one baptized the other, and afterwards was absolved by him.

To this point the declarations of Christ pertain, which show that the keys are given to the whole church, and not merely to some particular persons; as the text says: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," Matt. 18, 20.

Finally, this is also confirmed by the declaration of Peter, where he says: "Ye are a royal priesthood," 1 Pet. 2, 9. These words relate specifically to the true church, which, because it alone possesses a priesthood, must also have power to choose and ordain ministers.

The common usages of the church likewise prove this: for in former times the people elected clergymen and bishops; then the bishop, living in or near the same place, came and confirmed those elected, by the laying on of hands; and, at that time, ordination was nothing else than this approbation.

Afterwards other ceremonies were added. Dionysius relates some of them; but this book of Dionysius is a modern fiction under a false title, like the book of Clement, which also has a false title, and was written long after the time of Clement by a wicked impostor.

And finally it was also added, that the bishop said to those whom he consecrated: "I give you power to sacrifice for the living and the dead;" but this also does not occur in Dionysius.

Hence we see that the church has power to choose and ordain ministers. Therefore, if the bishops are either heretics, or will not ordain qualified persons, the churches are under obligation in the sight of God, according to the divine law, to ordain for themselves pastors and other church-officers.

And if any one call this disorder or separation, he should know that the impious doctrine and tyranny of the bishops, are in fault of it; for Paul commands that all bishops, who either teach incorrectly themselves, or defend incorrect doctrines and false worship, should be deemed offenders.

Hitherto we have been speaking concerning ordination, which alone has made a difference between bishops and priests, as Jerome says. It is, therefore, unnecessary to dispute much about the other episcopal offices, unless we should wish to speak concerning unction, the baptizing of bells, and other similar impositions, which are almost the only things that the bishops exclusively practice; but it is necessary to treat of jurisdiction.

This is certain, that clergymen generally should have the right to excommunicate those who live in open immorality, and that the bishops as tyrants have arrogated it to themselves, and exercised it for their own profit. For these men have carried on intolerable abuses with it, and either through avarice or wantonness, persecuted and excommunicated people without any legal investigation. What a tyranny is this! a bishop to have power, according to his own caprice, without the forms of justice, thus to agitate and afflict the people with excommunications, &c.!

But they have employed this penalty in diverse offences, and have not only protected the real offenders from it, against whom excommunication should have been pronounced, but have inflicted punishment on other small offences,–such as not fasting and observing holidays correctly. They have, indeed, sometimes punished adultery, but they have also frequently disgraced and defamed innocent persons. For as such an accusation is very serious, no one should be condemned without trial in legal and due form.

Now, since the bishops have arrogated this jurisdiction to themselves, and most shamefully abused it, these are good reasons why we should refuse them obedience. And it is right to take away from them this usurped jurisdiction, and restore it to the pastors to whom it belongs according to the command of Christ, and to have it exercised legitimately for the improvement of morals, the amendment of life, and the increase of God's glory.

There is, moreover, a jurisdiction in such matters as, according to Papal institutions, pertain to the ecclesiastical court; especially affairs concerning matrimony. This jurisdiction the bishops have also arrogated to themselves by human authority alone, which however is not very ancient, as may be perceived from the Code and Novels of Justinian, that matters relating to marriage were at that time transacted entirely by civil government; and civil government is under obligation to determine these matters, especially if the bishops decide unjustly, or become negligent, as the canons also show.

Wherefore, we are under no obligation to render obedience to the bishops in reference to this jurisdiction. And since they have instituted several unjust ordinances concerning matrimonial affairs, and enforce them in the courts over which they preside, the civil magistrate is, for this reason also, bound to reform these courts.

For, the prohibition of marriage between sponsors is unjust; and it is also unjust, when, if two persons are divorced, the innocent party is not allowed to marry again. Moreover, it is an unjust law, which in general approves all marriages that take place secretly and deceitfully, without the previous knowledge and consent of the parents. And the prohibition of the marriage of priests, is also unjust.

Besides these, there are other points in their ordinances, by which men's consciences have been confused and burthened, and which it is unnecessary to relate here; it is sufficient to say, that many unjust and improper things have been commanded by the Pope, on account of which the civil authority has sufficient cause to constitute a different jurisdiction in these matters.

Now, since the bishops, who are devoted to the Pope, violently defend impious doctrines and a false worship, and will not ordain pious preachers, but assist the Pope in murdering them, and have, moreover, divested the pastors of their jurisdiction, and have exercised it as tyrants, for their own emolument alone; and finally, since they have also treated affairs relative to matrimony so unjustly, the churches have great and sufficient reasons for not acknowledging them as bishops. But bishops should consider that their property and income are furnished as alms, that they might serve the churches, and the better execute their office, as the rule says: "The benefice is bestowed for the rendering of service." Therefore, they cannot with clear conscience use such alms otherwise, and thus rob the churches which need such goods for the support of their ministers, for rearing learned persons, for the maintenance of the poor, and especially for the constitution of a matrimonial judiciary; for cases peculiar frequently occur, for which it is necessary to have a peculiar judiciary. But this cannot be sustained without the help of these goods. St. Peter predicted that false bishops would use the possessions and alms of the church to gratify their own sensuality, and forsake the proper duties of their office, 2 Pet. 2, 13. And since the Holy Ghoost threatens them thus severely, the bishops should know that they must render an account unto God for such robbery.


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