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Again he says, in a letter addressed to the church, "When the Lord shall have restored peace unto us all, and we shall all have returned to the church again, we shall then examine all these things, you also being present and judging of them." In the conclusion of the same epistle he adds, "I desire then that they would patiently hear our counsel and wait for our return, that then, when many of us, bishops, shall have met together; we may examine the certificates and desires of the blessed martyrs, according to the discipline of the Lord, in the presence of the confessors, and according to your will.” 22
Again, in his epistle to his people at Carthage, in which he bewails the schism of Felicissimus, he assures them that, on his return, he with his colleagues, will dispose of the case agreeably to the will of his people, and the mutual council of both clergy and people.23 The two offending subdeacons and acolyths, he declares, shall be tried, not only in the presence of his colleagues, but before the whole people.24 The above and other similar passages are often cited in evidence of the agency which the people still continued, in the middle of the third century, to exert in the administration of ecclesiastical censure.25 Will one presume to say, that in refusing to decide upon any case, or to exercise any authority, he only condescends kindly
22 Cum, pace nobis omnibus a Domino prius data, ad ecclesiam regredi coeperimus, tunc examinabuntur singula, praesentibus et judicantibus vobis. -Audiant quaeso, patientur consilium nostrum, expectent regressionem nostram; ut cum ad vos, per Dei misericordiam venerimus, convocati episcopi plures secundum Domini disciplinam, et confessorum, praesentiam et vestram quoque sententiam martyrum litteras et desideria examinare possimus.-Ep. 12, al. 11.
23 Cum collegis meis, quibus praesentibus, secundum arbitrium quoque vestrum et omnium nostrum commune consilium, sicut semel placuit ea quae agenda sunt, disponere pariter et limare poterimus.-Ep. 40.
24 Non tantum cum collegis meis, sed cum plebe ipsa universa.-Ep. 34. Crimina-publice a nobis et plebe cognoscerentur.-Ep. 44.
25 Comp. Daillé, Right Use of the Fathers, B. 2, c. 6, pp. 328-330..
to regard the will of the people, without acknowledging their right? we ask in reply, Is this the language and spirit of prelacy? Could a modern diocesan so speak, and perform all his duties with such scrupulous regard to the will of his people in every thing, without exciting in their minds the idea of that religious liberty, which, from the beginning, the church was accustomed to enjoy, and which they were so much encouraged to exercise? Under such instructions, they must have been but poor proficients in the doctrine of passive obedience.
Enough has been said to illustrate, at least, the usage of the church at Carthage. Between this church and that at Rome, under Cornelius, there was, at this time, the greatest harmony of sentiment in relation to the discipline of the church. And, from the correspondence between the churches, which is recorded in the works of Cyprian, there is conclusive evidence that the polity of that church was the same as that of Carthage. This is so clearly asserted by Du Pin, that I shall dismiss this point by citing his authority. After making the extract from Tertullian, which has been given above, and others from Cyprian, similar to those which have already been cited, he adds, "From whence it is plain, that both in Rome and at Carthage, no one could be expelled from the church, or restored again, except with the consent of the people." This, according to the same author, was in conformity with apostolical precedent in the case of the incestuous person at Corinth.26
Origen, again, of Caesarea in Palestine, speaks of the conviction of an offender before the whole church, лi náσñs Ts xxlnoías, as the customary mode of trial.27 With that
26 De Antiqua Disciplina, Diss. 3, pp. 248, 249.
21 Πρὸς δὲ τὸ δοκοῦν σκληρὸν πρὸς τοὺς τὰ ἐλαττονα ήμαρτηκότας, ἐίποι τις ἄν ὅτι δυκ ἔξεστι δὶς ἑξῆς μὴ ἀκούσαντα, τὸ τρίτον άκουσαι ὡς διὰ τοῦτο μηκέτι εἶναι ὡς ἐθικὸν καὶ τελώνην, ἢ μηκέτι δεηθῆναι του ἐπὶ πάσῆς τῆς ἐκκλησίας.—Comment.in Matt., Tom. 13, p. 612. Com. p. 613.
of Origen we may join the authority of Chrysostom at Constantinople. In commenting upon 1 Cor. 5: 3—5, he represents the complaint of the apostle to be that the Corinthians had not put away that wicked person from among them; " showing that this ought to be done without their teacher," 28 and that the apostle associates them with him, "that his own authority might not seem to be too great" in the transaction. Theodoret also expresses much the same sentiments upon the passage under consideration.29
These authorities are derived both from the Eastern and the Western church. As ancient expositions of the apostolical rule, and as examples of the usage of the churches in the ages immediately succeeding that of the apostles, they indicate that throughout this period ecclesiastical discipline was administered in accordance with the will of the people, and by their decision. The bishops and clergy, instead of holding in their own grasp the keys of the kingdom of heaven, co-operated with the church in their deliberations; and acted as the official organ of the assembly in executing its decisions. Neither were the bans of the church wielded in terror, as often they have been since, by an arbitrary priesthood, to accomplish their own sinister ends.
The penitent was restored, also, in the spirit of kindness and Christian forgiveness, by the joint consent of the same body which had originally excluded him from their communion.
This point deserves distinct consideration, as another indication of the religious liberty enjoyed by the church. Paul submitted to the church at Corinth the restoration of the offender whom they had excluded from his communion.
Δεικνὺς ὅτι δὲ χωρὶς του διδασκάλου το γενέσθαι ἔδει
Hom. 15, ad 1 Cor., Tom. 10, p. 126. 29 Theodoret, Comment. ad locum, Opera, Tom. 3, p 141. Comp. Blondell, De jure plebis in regimine eeclesiastico, where many other authorities are given.
Tertullian makes it the duty of the penitent to cast himself at the feet of the clergy, and kneeling at the altar of God, to seek the pardon and intercessions of all the brethren.30 Cyprian, in the passage cited above, declares, that the lapsed, who had been excluded from the church, must make their defence before all the people, apud plebem universam. "It was ordained by an African synod, in the third century, that, except in danger of death, or of a sudden persecution, none should be received unto the peace of the church, without the knowledge and consent of the people."31 Natalis, at Rome, in the first part of the third century, threw himself at the feet of the clergy and laity, and so bewailed his faults, that the church was moved with compassion for him, and with much difficulty he was received. into their communion.32 The same is related of one of the bishops, who was restored to the church at Rome, under Cornelius, to lay communion, "through the mediation of all the people then present." 33 Serapion, at Antioch, again, was refused admission to that church, nobody giving attention to him.34 At Rome, then, in Africa, in Asia, and universally, the penitent was restored to Christian communion, by the authority of the church from which he had been expelled.
If it were necessary to adduce further evidence in vindication of the right of the people to administer the discipline of the church, it might be drawn from the acknowledged fact, that the people, down to the third or fourth century, retained, and not unfrequently exercised, the right even of deposing one from the ministry. The controversy of the people of Corinth with their pastors, as indicated in the epistle of
30 Presbyteris advolvi, et caris Dei adgeniculari omnibus fratribus legationes deprecationis suae injungere.-De Poenitentia, c. 9.
31 Cyprian, Epist. 59. The same fact is also asserted by Du Pin, in the passage quoted above. 32 Euseb., Eccl. Hist., Lib. 5, c. 28. 33 Euseb., Eccl. Hist., Lib. 6, c. 43. 34 Euseb., Eccl. Hist., Lib. 6, c. 44.
Clement, has been already mentioned; and the case of Valens deposed from the ministry by the church at Philippi. To these may be added the instances of Martialis and Basilides, bishops of Leon and Astorga in Spain, who were deposed by their people for idolatry. From this sentence of the people they appealed to several bishops in Africa. These, after hearing the case in common council, A. D. 258, affirmed the act of the people. The result of their deliberations was communicated by Cyprian, from which decision the extract below is taken, in which he fully accords to the people the right both to choose the worthy and to depose the unworthy. Eligendi dignos sacerdotes et indignos recusandi. "Many other such like passages," says King, "are found in that synodical epistle, which flatly asserts the people's power to depose a wicked and scandalous bishop," 35 and with him Bingham substantially agrees.36 And again, by Dr. Barrow, of the Episcopal church. “In reason, the nature of any spiritual office consisting in instruction in truth, and guidance in virtue toward the attainment of salvation, if any man doth lead into pernicious error or impiety, he thereby ceaseth to be capable of such office; as a blind man, by being so, doth cease to be a guide. No man can be bound to follow any one into the ditch, or to obey any one in prejudice to his own salvation. If any pastor should teach bad doctrine, or prescribe bad practice, his people may reject and disobey him."37
35 Prim. Chris., P. 1, c. 6. The following passage is an example of such an assertion. Inde per temporum et successionum vices episcoporum ordinatio et ecclesiae ratio decurrit ut ecclesia super episcopos constituatur et omnis actus ecclesiae per eosdem praepositos gubernetur. Cum hoc itaque lege divina fundatum sit, miror quosdam, audaci temeritate, sic mihi scribere voluisse ut ecclesiae nomine literas facerent, quando ecclesia in episcopo et clero et in omnibus stantibus [i. e., who had apostatized] sit constituta.-Ep. 33, al. 27.
36 Book 16, c 1. Comp. Neander's Allgem. Kirch. Gesch., 11, p. 341. 37 Barrow's Works, Vol. I, p. 744. Comp., also, Pertsch, Kirch. Hist., I, p. 370. Mosheim, Can. Recht, p. 60.