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one of the most learned men of that age, copies with approbation the authority of Jerome given above, as an expression of his own sentiments. He may accordingly be regarded as expressing the sentiments of the Western church at this time.
The views of the church at Alexandria, in the tenth century, have already been expressed in the extract from Eutychius given above.
Bernaldus Constantiensis, about A. D. 1088, a learned monk, and a zealous defender of Gregory VII, after citing Jerome, continues: "Inasmuch, therefore, as bishops and presbyters were anciently the same, without doubt they had power to loose and to bind, and to do other acts which are now the special prerogatives of the bishop. But after the presbyters began to be restricted by Episcopal preeminence, what was formerly lawful for them became unlawful. Ecclesiastical authority having delegated such prerogatives to the prelates alone." 146
Even pope Urban II, 1091, says,-"We regard deacons and presbyters as belonging to the sacred order, since these are the only orders which the primitive church is said to have had. For these only have we apostolical authority."147
Gratian again, a benedictine, eminent for his learning and talents, a century later, adopts all the passages cited above from Jerome, ad Tit. 1.148
Nicholas Tudeschus, archbishop of Panorma, about A.
146 Quum igitur presbyteri et episcopi untiquitus, idem fuisse legantur etiam eandem ligandi atque solvendi potestatem, et alia nunc episcopis specialia, habuisse non dubitantur. Postquam antem presbyteri ab episcopali excellentia cohibiti sunt, coepit eis non licere quod licuit, videlicit quod ecclesiastica auctoritas solis pontificibus exequendum delegavit.— De Presbyterorum officio tract, in Monmentorum res Allemannorum illustrant. S. Blas, 1792, 4to. Tom. 2, 384 seq.
147 Sacros autem ordines ducimus diaconatum et presbyteratum. Hos siquidem solos primitiva legitur ecclesia habuisse; super his solum preceptum habemus apostoli.—Conc. Benerent, an. 1090, can. 1.
148 (Dist. XCV., c. 5.) Epist. ad Evangel., (Dist. XCIII., c. 24.) and Isidori Hist., (Dist. XXI., c. 1 )
D. 1428, says: "Formerly presbyters governed the church in common, and ordained the clergy.149
It is perhaps still more remarkable that even the papal canonist, Jo. Paul Launcelot, A. D. 1570, introduces the passage of Jerome without any attempt to refute it.150
Thus through all the middle ages during the proudest ascendency of prelatical power, the doctrine of the original equality of bishops and presbyters, remained an acknowledged sentiment in the Roman Catholic church, attested by a succession of the most learned of her clergy.
Gieseler remarks, "That the distinction between the divine and the ecclesiastical appointment, institutio, was of less importance in the middle ages than in the modern catholic church, and this view of the original identity of bishops and presbyters, was of no practical importance. It was not till after the Reformation that it was attacked. Michael de Medina, about A. D. 1570, does not hesitate to assert that those fathers were essentially heretics; but adds, that out of respect for these fathers, this heresy in them is not to be condemned. Bellarmine declares this a Thenceforth all Catholics,
' very inconsiderate sentiment.' as well as English Episcopalians, maintain an original difference between bishop and presbyter."151
149 Super prima parte Primi, cap. 5, ed. Lugdun, 1543, fol. 1126. Olim presbyteri in commune regebant ecclesiam et ordinabant sacerdotes.
150 Institutt. juris Canon., Lib. 1, Tit. 21, § 3.
151 Comp. especially Petavii de ecclesiastica hierarchia Lib. 5, and dissertatt. theologic. Lib. 1, in his theolog. dogmat. Tom. 4, p. 164. On the other side, Walonis Messalini (Claud. Salmasii) diss. de episcopis et presbyteris. Lugd. Bat. 1641, 8vo. Dav. Blondelli apologia pro sententia Hieronymi de episcopis et presbyteris. Amstelod. 1616, 4to. Against these Henr. Hammondus dissertatt. IV., quibus episcopatus jura ex sacra scriptura et prima antiquitate adstruunter. Lond. 1651. The controversy was long continued. On the side of the Episcopalians, Jo. Pearson, Guil. Beveridge, Henr. Dodwell, Jos. Bingham, Jac. Usserius. On that of the Presbyterians, Jo. Dallaeus, Camp. Vitringa; also the Lutherans, Joach. Hildebrand, Just. Henn. Boehmer, Jo. Franc, Buddeus, Christ. Math. Pfaff, etc., comp. Jo. Phil. Gabler de episcopis primae ecclesiae Christ. eorumque origine diss. Jenae, 1805, 4to.
In view of the whole course of the argument, then, have we not good and sufficient reasons, for refusing the Episcopal claim of an original distinction between bishops and presbyters, as a groundless assumption? It has been disowned by prelates, bishops, and learned controversialists, and commentators, both in the Eastern and Western churches, of every age down to the sixteenth century. It was unknown to those early fathers, who lived nearest to the apostolical age, some of whom were the immediate successors of the apostles. It was wholly unauthorized by the apostles themselves. On the contrary, they assign to bishops and presbyters the same specific duties. They require in both the same qualifications. They address them by the same names and titles interchangeably and indiscriminately. Are bishops and presbyters, not then, one and the same?- the same in office, in honor, in power, in all the prerogatives, rights and privileges of those pastors and teachers, to whom the apostles, at their decease, resigned the churches, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ? Or must we believe that the presbyter after all is a mere subaltern of the bishop; ordained of God to perform only the humbler offices of the ministry, and to supply the bishop's lack of service? Must we believe, moreover, that the bishop, this honored and most important dignitary of the church, in whom all clerical grace centres, and through whose hands alone, all that authority and power has been transmitted, which is essential to the perpetuity of the ministry and the just administration of the ordinances, that this important functionary is but a nameless nondescript, known by no title, represented by no person or class of persons in the apostolical churches, and having no distinct, specific duties prescribed in the New Testament? All this may be asserted and re-affirmed, as a thousand times it has been; but it can never be proved. It must
be received, if received at all, with blind credulity; not on reasonable evidence. Verily this vaunting of high-church Episcopacy is an insult to reason;-a quiet complacent assumption, which makes "implicit faith the highest demonstration." If any such assertor of these absurd pretensions finds himself disquieted, at any time, by the renewed remonstrances of Scripture, truth and reason, to repel these impertinent intruders, and restore the equilibrium of his mind, he has only to "shake his head and tell them how superior after all is faith to logic!"
The foregoing chapters give us an outline of that ecclesiastical organization which the churches received from the hands of the apostles, and which was continued in the primitive church for some time succeeding the apostolic age. The government is altogether popular. The sovereign authority is vested in the people. From them all the laws originate; through them they are administered. The government guarantees to all its members the enjoyment of equal rights and privileges, secures to them the right of private judgment, and admits of their intervention. in all its public affairs. It extends to all the right of suffrage. Each community is an independent sovereignty, subject to no other ecclesiastical jurisdiction contrary to their own free-will. Their confessions, formularies and terms of communion are formed according to their own interpretation of the laws of God; and if the deportment of any one is subject to impeachment, the case is decided by the impartial verdict of his brethren. Their officers are few; and their ministers, equal in rank and in power, are the servants, not the lords, of the people. The entire polity of the apostolical and primitive churches was framed on the principles, not of a monarchical hierarchy, but of a popular and elective government. In one word, it was a republican government administered with republican simplicity.
This exhibition of the first organization of the Christian church suggests a variety of reflections, some of which. we must be permitted, before closing this view of the apostolical and primitive church, to suggest to the consideration of the reader.
1. The primitive church was organized, purely a religious society.
It had for its object only the great interests of morality and religion. It interfered not with the secular or private pursuits of its members, except so far as they relate to the great end for which the church was formed,—the promotion of pure and undefiled religion. Whenever the Christian church has let itself down to mingle or interfere with the secular pursuits of men, the only result has been her own disgrace and the dishonor of the great cause which she was set to defend.
2. It employed only moral means for the accomplishment of religious ends.
The apostles sought by kind and tender entreaty to reclaim the wandering. They taught the church to do the same; and to separate the unworthy from their communion. But they gave no countenance to the exercise of arbitrary authority over the conduct or the consciences of men. They neither allowed themselves, nor the church, to exercise any other authority than that of the word of God and of Christ, enforced by instruction, by counsel, and by admonition. They had ever before them the beautiful image of a religious fraternity, united together in the bonds of faith and mutual affection, and striving together in purity and in love for the promotion of godliness becoming Christian men.
3. This church was at first free from all entanglement with the state.