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sides, the passage distinctly asserts that these presidents were chosen to their office. They administered the sacrament and fulfilled the office of the 90εσtós of Justin Martyr. "We never take from the hand of others than presidents, praesidentium, the sacrament of the eucharist," says Tertullian.76 The president is also denominated in the same chapter, antistes, a term exactly corresponding to that of лoоɛσ16s in Justin. That this president, styled also bishop, is only the presiding and officiating presbyter, is sufficiently apparent from another passage in Tertullian. "The highest priest, who is the bishop, has the right of granting baptism; afterwards, the presbyters and deacons ; not, however, without the authority of the bishops for the honor of the church."77 The highest priest implies the existence of inferiors of the same grade. What then is the bishop, but a presbyter elevated to the office of a president or moderator? That this office implies no superiority in order or grade, appears from the fact that he was appointed to this office, not by any scriptural or apostolical ordination or appointment, but for the preservation of the honor and peace of the church.
Tertullian represents another division of the church in Africa, in which the Episcopal government was earliest developed; but even in these churches the apostolical order has not yet been fully superseded by the hierarchy. The sum of his testimony, and that of all who have gone before him is, that there is but one order of officers in the church superior to that of deacons. The government of the church was, at this time, in a transition state. Tertullian stood, as has been justly observed "on the boundary between two different epochs in the development of the church." The bishop begins to assume more prominence; but he has not yet be
76 De Corona, c. 3, p. 102.
77 Dandi baptismum quidem habet jus summus sacerdos qui est episcopus Dehinc presbyteri et diaconi; non tamen sine episcopi auctoritate propter ecclesiae honorem.-De Bapt., c. 17.
gun to be acknowledged as one of an order superior to presbyters. From the apostles downwards he has only been one among his fellow-presbyters, having merely the conventional distinction which any presiding officer may have who is appointed president of a body, all whose members are in the enjoyment of equal rights and privileges. Whatever apostolical succession there has been thus far, has been through a line of presbyters by presbyterian ordination. The lists which Irenaeus has given of primitive bishops are only catalogues of presbyters bearing this title. The usurpation of Episcopal prerogative, the assumption of divine right, and all the innovations which we are soon to witness in their general progress, are unauthorized, anti-scriptural, and consequently mere nullities; and such they must ever continue to be, notwithstanding the incredible assurance with which their canonical authority is asserted, and the ceaseless repetition of the assertion. General assertions are easily made; and, when made boldly and perpetually repeated, do sometimes by confident repetition ensure reception. But I know not how any man who knows what proof is, and what the proof is in the present case, can venture on such assumptions. What if Tertullian, Clement, Irenaeus and others, tell us of bishops? "It remains yet to be evinced out of this and the like places, which will never be, that the word bishop is otherwise taken, than in the language of St. Paul and the Acts, for an order above presbyters. We grant them bishops, we grant them worthy men, we grant them placed in several churches by the apostles, we grant that Irenaeus and Tertullian affirm this; but that they were placed in a superior order above the presbytery, show from all these words why we should grant. It is not enough to say that the apostle left this man bishop in Rome, and that other in Ephesus, but to show when they altered their own decree set down by St. Paul, and made all the presbyters underlings to one bishop."78
78 Milton's Prelatical Episcopacy, Prose Works, Vol. I, p. 85.
3. Presbyters were understood in the early ages of Christianity to possess the right to ordain, and generally to perform the functions of the Episcopal office.
The right of presbyters to ordain, and the validity of ordination administered by them, is a direct inference from what has already been said of their identity with bishops. Clement knows nothing of any distinction between bishops and presbyters. Polycarp knows nothing of bishops. Each specifies but two orders or grades of officers in the church, of whom deacons are one. Presbyters or bishops, of necessity form the other grade, and are one and the same. Justin Martyr again speaks of only two grades, of whom deacons are one. Irenaeus, still later, uses the titles, bishop and presbyter, as perfectly convertible terms; and Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian recognize no clear distinction between bishops and presbyters as different orders. If therefore there were, in the ages immediately succeeding the apostles, but two orders in the church, if bishops and presbyters are still but different names for the same office, as they were in the churches founded by the apostles, then assuredly presbyters had the right to ordain. The ordaining power was vested in them, as the highest order of ecclesiastical officers.
We have, however, direct authority in proof that presbyters, in the primitive church, did themselves ordain. This is found in the epistle of Firmilian from Asia Minor, to Cyprian in Carthage, A. D. 256. In explanation of the ecclesiastical polity of these churches, he says, "All power and grace is vested in the church, where the presbyters, majores natu, preside, who have authority to baptize, to impose hands [in the reconciling of penitents], and to ordain." 79 Firmilian wrote in the Greek language, from
79 Omnis potestas et gratia in ecclesia constituta sit; ubi praesident majores natu, qui et baptizandi, et inanum imponendi, et ordinandi, possident, potestatem.-Cyprian, Epist. 75, p. 145.
Asia; but we have a Latin translation of his epistle in the writings of Cyprian. No one who has any acquaintance with these languages, can doubt that the majores natu of the Latin is a translation of geoßvreço, in the original. Both the terms, лgeσßνrégo and majores natu, mean the same thing; and each may, with equal propriety, be rendered aged men, elders, presbyters.80 The Episcopal hierarchy was not fully established in these Eastern churches so early as in the Western. Accordingly, we find the presbyters here in the full enjoyment still of their original right to ordain. The general tenor of the letter, in connection with this passage, exhibits the popular government of the apostolical churches as yet in exercise in the churches of Asia. The highest authority is vested in. the church, who still administer their own government. No restrictions have yet been laid upon the presbyters in the administration of the ordinances. Whatever clerical grace is essential for the right administration of baptism, of consecration, and of ordination, is still retained by the presbyters.
This authority is in perfect harmony with that of Irenaeus given above, that the succession and the Episcopate had come down to his day, the latter end of the second century, through a series of presbyters, who, with the Episcopate, enjoyed the rights, and exercised the prerogatives, of bishops, ordination being of course included. "This pas
80 Reeves, the translator of Justin, a churchman, who loses no opportunity of opposing sectarians, allows in his notes on the passage, лшεστós, &c., that this weστós of Justin, the probati seniores of Tertullian, the majores natu of Firmilian, and the προεστῶτες πρεσβυτέροι, or presiding presbyters of St. Paul, 1 Tim. 4: 17, were all one and the same. Now Tertullian, Cyprian, or Firmilian, the celebrated bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and St. Paul, all mean presbyters. Their language cannot. be otherwise interpreted without violence. Presbyter, says Bishop Jew. ell, is expounded in Latin by major natu.—Smyth's Presbyt. and Prelacy, p. 367.
sage," says Goode, "appears to me decisive as to Irenæus's view of the matter." 81
To the foregoing testimonies succeeds that of the author of the Commentaries on St. Paul's Epistles, attributed to Ambrose, but with greater probability assigned to Hilary the Deacon, A. D. 384. "The apostle calls Timothy, created by him a presbyter,82 a bishop (for the first presbyters were called bishops), that when he departed, the one that came next might succeed him. Moreover, in Egypt the presbyters confirm, if a bishop is not present.83 But because the presbyters that followed began to be found unworthy to hold the primacy, the custom was altered; the Council foreseeing that not order, but merit, ought to make a bishop; and that he should be appointed by the judgment of many priests, lest an unworthy person should rashly usurp the office, and be a scandal to many.84
81 Goode's Divine Rule, Vol. II, p. 66.
82 Timothy is here said, we may observe, to have been ordained a presbyter. And I cannot but think that the passage, 1 Tim. 4: 14, is favorable to this view. For without adopting the translation which some have given of this passage, viz., "with the laying on of hands for the office of a presbyter," if we retain our own version, which appears to me more natural, who or what is "the presbytery?" Certainly not consisting altogether of the apostles, though it appears, from 2 Tim. 1: 6, that ordination was received by Timothy partly from St. Paul. But if presbyters joined in that ordination, it could not be to a higher sacerdotal grade or order than that of the presbyterhood. Nor is this inconsistent with his being called elsewhere an apostle, which name might be given him as one appointed to be a superintendent of a church.-Divine Rule, Vol. II, p. 64.
83 The author of the "Quæstiones in Vet. et Nov. Test.," which have been ascribed to Augustine, but are probably not his, says, "In Alexandria, and through the whole of Egypt, if there is no bishop, a presbyter consecrates." (In Alexandria et per totam Ægyptum si desit Episcopus consecrat presbyter.) Where, however, one MS. reads, confirms (consignat). See Aug. Op., tom. iii, App., col. 93. On this subject, the 13th canon of the Council of Ancyra (in the code of the Universal Church) is also worth notice.-Divine Rule, ibid.
84 Timotheum, presbyterum a se creatum, episcopum vocat, quia primi presbyteri episcopi appellabantur, ut recedente uno sequens ei succederet. Denique apud Ægyptum presbyteri consignant si præsens non sit episcopus. Sed quia cœperunt sequentes presbyteri indigni inveniri ad primatus