Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

the custom for the presbyters to propose one to supply any vacancy which occurred; but it remained for the church to ratify or to reject the nomination.” 35

Tertullian in his Apology for Christians, against the heathen, A. D. 198 or 205, says that the elders came into their office by the testimony of the people, that is, by the suffrage or election of the people. 36 Their free and independent suffrages were the highest testimony which the

people could give of their approbation of their elders.

The epistles of Ignatius, whether genuine or spurious, belong to the period of which we are now treating. This prelatical writer, as we have seen above, accords to the church the right of electing their own delegates.

Origen, in his last book against Celsus, about A. D. 240, speaks of the elders and rulers of the churches as èxλɛróuɛvoi, chosen to their office. In his sixth homily on Leviticus, he asserts that the presence of the people is required in the ordination of a priest; and the reason assigned for their intervention is to secure an impartial election, and the appointment to this office of one who might possess the highest qualifications for it. The whole passage implies the active co-operation of the people in the appointment of their ministers. 37

Cyprian, A. D. 258, most fully accords to the people the right of suffrage in the appointment of their spiritual teachers, declaring that they have the fullest authority to choose those who are worthy of this office, and to refuse such as may be unworthy. This, according to this father,

35 Neander, Allgemein. Gesch., 1, p. 323, 2d ed.

36 Praesident probati quique seniores honorem istum non pretio, sed testimonio, adepti.-Apol., c. 39.

37 Requiritur enim in ordinando sacerdote et praesentia populi ut siant omnes, et certe sint, quia qui praestantior est ex omni populo, qui doctior, qui sanctior, qui in omni virtuti eminentior-ille eligitur ad sacerdotium, et hoc adstante populo, ne qua postmodum, retractatio cuiquam, ne quis scrupulus resideret.

was an apostolic usage, preserved by a divine authority in his day, and observed throughout the churches of Africa (apud nos), that a pastor, sacerdos, should be chosen publicly, in the presence of the people; and that by their decision thus publicly expressed, the candidate should be adjudged worthy to fill the vacant office, whether of deacon, presbyter or bishop. In accordance with these views, it was his custom, on all such occasions, to consult his clergy and the people before proceeding to ordain any one to the office of the ministry.38

So universal was the right of suffrage, and so reasonable, that it attracted the notice of the emperor, Alexander Severus, who reigned from A. D. 222 to 235. In imitation of the custom of the Christians and Jews, in the appointment of their priests, as he says, he gave the people the right of rejecting the appointment of any procurator, or chief president of the provinces whom he might nominate to such a office.39 Their votes, however, in these cases, were not merely testimonial, but really judicial and elective.

The authorities above cited indicate that the suffrages of the church were directed by a previous nomination of the clergy. But there are on record instances in which the people, of their own accord, and by acclamation, elected individuals to the office of bishop or presbyter, without any previous nomination. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, was

38 Plebs obsequens praeceptis dominicis et Deum metuens, a peccatore praeposito separare se debet nec se ad sacrilegi sacerdotis sacrificia miscere, quando ipsa maxime habeat potestatem vel eligendi dignos sacerdotes, ut indignos recusandi. Quod et ipsum, videmus de divina auctoritate descendere ut sacerdos, plebe presente, sub omnium occulis deligatur, et dignus atque idoneus publico judicio ac testimonio comprobetur,- Diligentur, de traditione divina et apostolica observatione servandum est et tenendum quod apud nos quoque; et fere per provincias universas tenetur, ut ad ordinationes rite celebrandas ad eam plebem cui praepositus ordinatur, episicopi ejusdem provinciae proximi quique conveniant et episcopus deligatur plebe praesente. — Ep. 68.

39 Lampridius, in vit. Alexandri Severi, c. 45.


elected in this manner, A. D. 374.40 Martin, of Tours, A. D. 375, was appointed in the same manner." So also were Eustathius at Antioch, A. D. 310,42 Chrysostom at Constantinople, A. D. 398,43 Eraclius at Hippo,44 and Miletius at Antioch.45 It is also observable that these examples belong to a later age, the fourth century. They are therefore important as evidence, that people continued even at this late period to retain their rights in these popular elections.


It has been asserted, that the people were denied the right of suffrage by the 4th canon of the council of Nice. But Bingham has clearly shown that the people were not excluded from their ancient privilege in this respect.40 And both Riddle, 47 and bishop Pearson, as quoted by him, concur with Bingham in opinion on this subject. Indeed the assertion is sufficiently refuted, by the fact, that Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, and others, were elected by popular vote immediately after the session of that council.

Daillé sums up the evidence on this subject in the following terms: "It is clear that in the primitive times they [popular elections and ordinations] depended partly on the people, and not wholly on the clergy; but every company of the faithful either chose their own pastors, or else had leave to consider and to approve of those that were proposed to them for that purpose. Pontius, a deacon of the church of Carthage, says that St. Cyprian, being yet a neophyte, was elected to the charge of pastor, and the degree of bishop by the judgment of God, and the favor of the people. '48 St. Cyprian also tells us the same in several

40 Paulin., vit. Ambros; Rufin., Hist. Eccl., Lib. 2, c. 11; Theodoret, Hist. Eccl., Lib. 4, c. 6, p. 666; Sozomen, Hist. Eccl., Lib. 6, c. 24.

41 Sulpic. Sev., Vit. e. Martini, c. 7. 42 Theodoret, Hist.,Eccl.,Lib.1, c. 6. 43 Socrat., Hist. Eccl., Lib. 6, c. 2. 44 Augustin., 4, Ep. 110, al. 213.

45 Theodoret, Hist. Eccl., Lib. 2, c. 27. 46 Book 4, chap. 2, § 11.

47 Christ. Antiq., p. 286.

48 Judicio Dei, et plebis favore, ad officium sacerdotii, et episcopatus gradum adhuc neophytus, ut putabatur, novellus electus est.-Pont. Diac. in vita Cypr.

places. In his 52nd epistle, speaking of Cornelius, he says, That he was made bishop of Rome by the judgment of God, and of his Christ, by the testimony of the greatest part of the clergy, by the suffrage of the people who were there present, and by the college of pastors, or ancient bishops, all good and pious men.'49

"It appears clear enough, both out of St. Hierome,50 and by the acts of the council of Constantinople,51 and of Chalcedon,52 and also by the Pontificale Romanum,53 and several other productions, that this custom continued a long time in the church."

This right in question is clearly admitted even in the Roman pontifical, in which the bishop, at the ordination of a priest, is made to say, "It was not without good reason that the fathers had ordained that the advice of the people should be taken in the election of those persons who were to serve at the altar; to the end that having given their assent to their ordination they might the more readily yield obedience to those who were so ordained.” 54 This passage is cited by Daillé, who remarks, that an honest canon of Valencia very gravely proposed to the council of Trent, that this, and all such authorities should be blotted out; so that no trace or footstep of them should remain in future

49 Factus est autem Cornelius episcopus, de Dei et Christi ejus judicio, de clericorum penè omnium testimonio, de plebis, quæ tunc affluit suffragio, et de sacerdotum antiquorum, et bonorum virorum collegio. - Cyprian, Ep. 52, p. 97.

50 Hieron., Com. 10, in Ezech., c. 33, Tom. III., p. 935, et. Com. in Agg., p. 512, t. 5. et Com. 1, in Ep. ad Gal., p. 271, t. 6.

51 Conc. Const., 1, in Ep. ad Damas., p. 94 et 95, t. 1, Conc. Gener. 52 Conc. Chalced., act 11, p. 375, t. 2. Conc. Gen., et act. 16, p. 430, &c. 53 Pontific. Rom. in Ordinat. Presbyter., fol. 38, vide supr. 1. 1, c. 4. 54 Neque enim frustra à patribus institutum, ut de electione illorum qui ad regimen altaris adhibendi sunt, consulatur consulatur etiam populus; quia de vita et conversatione praesentandi, quod nonnunquam ignoratur à pluribus, scitur à paucis; et necesse est, et facilius ei quis obedientiam exhibeat ordinatio cui assensum praebuerit ordinando. Pontif. Rom. De Ordinat. Pres., fol. 38.

for heretics to bring against them for having taken away this right!

Bingham,55 and Chancellor King,56 and multitudes of the most respectable writers in the communion of the Episcopal church, fully sustain the foregoing representations of the right of suffrage as enjoyed by the primitive churches. They are clearly supported by the late Dr. Burton,57 and by Riddle, both of Oxford University, and by the best authorities both ancient and modern. "The mode of appointing bishops and presbyters," says Riddle, "has been repeatedly changed. Election by the people, for instance, has been discontinued. This is indeed, in the estimation of Episcopalians, a great improvement, but still, as they must allow, it is a change." 58

For what term of time the several churches continued in the full enjoyment of the right of suffrage, we are not distinctly informed. We can only say with Mosheim, "This power of appointing their elders continued to be exercised by the members of the church at large as long as primitive manners were retained entire; and those who ruled over the churches did not conceive themselves at liberty to introduce any deviation from the apostolic model.” 59 The reader will find an able discussion of this whole subject, also, and an extended collection of authorities in Blondell's treatise, De Plebis in Electionibus jure.60

II. Abridgement and final extinction of the right of suffrage.

Various causes began, as early as the third century, to invade the sovereign rights of the people, and to embarrass their free elective franchise. The final result of these changes was a total disfranchisement of the laity, and the

55 Book 4, c. 6.

57 Church History, c. 12.

59 De Rebus, Christ. Saec., 1, § 39.

56 Part I, c. 3-c. 6.

58 Christ. Antiq., Preface, p. 76.

60 Apologia pro. St. Hieron., pp. 379-549.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »