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a consequence, in some degree, of the geographical or civil divisions of the empire. Thus the churches of one province, such as Achaia, Egypt, Cappadocia, &c., formed a kind of union, and the bishop of the capital, particularly if his see happened to be of apostolic foundation, acquired a precedence in rank and dignity over the rest. This superiority was often increased by the bishop of the capital (who was called, in later times, the metropolitan) having actually planted the church in smaller and more distant places; so that the mother-church, as it might literally be termed, continued to feel a natural and parental regard for the churches planted by itself. These churches, however, were wholly independent in matters of internal jurisdiction; though it was likely that there would be a resemblance, in points even of slight importance, between churches of the same province."
Riddle's account of this subject is as follows: "The apostles or their representatives exercised a general superintendence over the churches by divine authority, attested by miraculous gifts. The subordinate government of each particular church was vested in itself; that is to say, the whole body elected its ministers and officers, and was consulted concerning all matters of importance. All churches were independent of each other, but were united by the bonds of holy charity, sympathy and friendship."9
Similar views are also expressed by Archbishop Whately. "Though there was one Lord, one faith, one baptism, for all of these, yet they were each a distinct, independent community on earth, united by the common principles on which they were founded by their mutual agreement, affection and respect; but not having any one recognized head on earth, or acknowledging any sovereignty of one of those societies over others. Each
9 Chronology, Beginning of Second Century.
bishop originally presided over one entire church." 10 Now what, according to these Episcopal concessions, was the bishop at first, but the pastor of a single church, a parochial bishop, exercising only the jurisdiction, and enjoying the rights of an independent Congregational minister? But more of this hereafter.
Several of the ancient churches firmly asserted and maintained their original religious liberty, by refusing to acknowledge the authority of the ancient councils, for a long time after the greater part of the churches had subjected themselves to the authority of these confederacies. The church in Africa, for example, and some of the Eastern churches, although they adopted the custom of holding councils, and were in correspondence with these churches, declined entering into any grand Christian confederation with them; and, for a long time, remained inflexibly tenacious of their own just liberty and independence. This their example is an effectual argument in refutation of those who pretend that these councils were divinely appointed and had, jure divino, authority over the churches. Who can suppose that these churches would have asserted their independence so sternly, against an institution appointed by our Lord or his apostles? 11.
The independence of the churches, then, is conceded even by Episcopalians themselves. It has both the sanction of apostolical precedent, and the concurring authority of ecclesiastical writers, ancient and modern. This of itself is a point strongly illustrative of the religious freedom
10 Kingdom of Christ. N. Y., 1842; p. 110, 136.
11Even the council of Nice, in treating of the authority of the metropolitan bishops of Rome, Antioch and Alexandria, rest the dignity and authority of these prelates, not on any divine right, but solely on ancient usage. Τὰ ἀρχᾶια ἔθη κρατείτω, &c., ἐπειδὴ καὶ τῷ ἐν τῇ Ρώμῃ ἐπισxóпų σúvηles, έotiv, Can. 6. Comp. Du. Pin, Antiq. Eccel. Disciplina. Diss. 1., § 7. Mosheim, De Rebus Christ. Saec., II., § 23, Note.
which was the basis of their original polity. This independence of particular churches is the great central principle, the original element, of their popular constitution and government. It vests the authority and power of each church in its own members collectively. It guards their rights. It guarantees to them the elective franchise, and gives them the enjoyment of religious liberty, under a government administered by the voice of the majority, or delegated at pleasure to their representatives. The constitution of the churches, and their mutual relations, may not have been precisely Congregational or Presbyterian, but they involved the principles of the religious freedom and the popular rights which both are designed to protect.
ELECTIONS BY THE CHURCH.
THE right of suffrage was, from the beginning, enjoyed in the Christian church. The first public act of this body was a formal recognition and a legitimate exercise of this right. First in importance among their popular rights, they maintained it with greater constancy than any other against the usurpations of prelatical power, and resigned it last of all into the hands of their spiritual oppressors. The subject of the following chapter leads us to consider,
I. The evidence that the right of suffrage was enjoyed by the primitive church.
II. The time and means of the extinction of this right.
I. The members of the primitive church enjoyed the right of electing, by a popular vote, their own officers and teachers. The evidence in support of this position is derived from the writings of the apostles and of the early fathers. In the former, we have on record instances of the election of an apostle, and of deacons, delegates and presbyters of the church, each by a popular vote of that body. From the latter, we learn that the church continued for several centuries subsequent to the age of the apostles, in the enjoyment of the elective franchise.
1. The scriptural argument from the writings of the apostles.
(a) The election of an apostle.
The first public act of the church, after our Lord's ascension, was the choice of a substitute in the place of the apostle Judas. This election was made, not by the apostles themselves, but by the joint action of the whole body of believers. If, in any instance, the apostles had the right, by their own independent authority, to invest another with the ministerial office, we might expect them to exercise that prerogative in supplying this vacancy in their own body. That right, however, they virtually disclaim, by submitting the election to the arbitration of the assembled body of believers. If they exercised any leading influence in the election, it was in nominating the two candidates for office, Joseph and Matthias, Acts 1: 23. Nothing, however, appears from the context to decide whether the nomination, even, proceeded from them, or from the church collectively. But however that may be, the election was the act of the assembly; and was made, either by casting lots, or by an elective vote. Mosheim understands the phrase, edwnɛv κλῆρους αὐτῶν, to express the casting of a popular vote by the Christians. To express the casting of lots, according to this author, the verb should have been ẞalov, as in Math. 27: 35. Luke 23: 34. John 19: 24. Mark 15: 24. Compare Septuagint, Ps. 22: 19. Joel 3: 3. Nah. 3: 10; which also accords with the usage of Homer in similar cases.1 But the phrase ἔδωκεν κλήρους, according to this author, expresses the casting of a popular vote; the term, κλήρους, being used in the sense of ψῆφος, a suffrage, or vote, so that what the evangelist meant to say was simply this," and those who were present gave their votes.”2
1 Iliad, 23, 352. Odyss., 14, 209.
2 De Rebus Christ. Saec., I, § 14, Note,