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been influenced by similar motives at a period when such offices led not to opulence or honor, but to certain death, in its most hideous forms; if an historian reason thus from the observations which he has made on the force and violence of human passions, and set his conclusions in opposition to facts recorded by ancient authors, who were witnesses of what they relate; it is obvious that his confidence in the knowlege which he has acquired of human nature by mixing in society, may lead him into the greatest errors; by inducing him either to neglect entirely, or to inspect carelessly, those writings from which alone he can derive any authentic information concerning the events of which he is writing.
That Dr. Mosheim was not entirely free from some bias of this kind, seems evident, as, without appealing to any ancient authority whatever, he represents the government of the primitive church as democratical-a form of government unknown in the religious societies of that age, as well heathen as Jewish.
He had witnessed the tyranny of the Romish clergy, and had traced the steps and discovered the causes by which the bishops of Rome had gradually reached the summit of ecclesiastical usurpation; and not adverting perhaps to the fact that, before the conversion of Constantine, ecclesiastical preferment could be no object of worldly ambition or avarice, he appears to have hastily concluded that this progress had commenced from the very beginning.
Accordingly, as if the matter were self-evident, he affirms, in the introduction to his work, “that, -66 when we look back to the commencement of the “ Christian church, we find its government admini*6 stered jointly by the pastors and the people. But, -“ in process of time, the scene changes, and we see “ these pastors affecting an air of pre-eminence and "** superiority, trampling upon the rights and privi
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“ leges of the community, and assuming to them. “selves a supreme authority, both in civil and reli
Of this joint administration of the government of the original church by the pastors and the people, he thinks it not necessary here to offer any evidence whatever ; but, when he enters on the subject as an historian, and observes that the form of government, which the primitive churches borrowed from that of Jerusalem established by the apostles themselves, must be esteemed as of divine institution, he gives the following account of that form, which he endeavours to support by the authority of Scripture.
“ In those early times, every Christian church consisted of the people, their leaders, and the ministers, or deacons; and these indeed belong es
sentially to every religious society. The people. “ were, undoubtedly, the first in authority; for the “ apostles shewed by their own example, that nothing o of moment was to be carried on or determined “ without the consent of the assembly; and such a “ method of proceeding was both prudent and ne
cessary in those critical times. It was, therefore, “ the assembly of the people, which chose their own “ rulers and teachers, or received them by a free and “ authoritative consent, when recommended by “ others. The same people rejected or confirmed, “ by their suffrages, the laws that were proposed by “ their rulers to the assembly; excommunicated pro
flig and unworthy members of the church; re“ stored the penitent to their forfeited privileges ; “ passed judgement upon the different subjects of “ controversy and dissension, that arose in the com“munity ; examined and decided the disputes which
happened between the elders and deacons; and, in
a word, exercised all that authority which belongs “ to such as are invested with the sovereign power“.
Such, according to our author, was the govern
a Cent. I. part ii. chap. ii. & 5, &c.
ment of the Christian church during the greater part of the first century; and he infers this supreme authority of the people from the Acts of the Apostles, chap. i. v. 15. vi. 3. xv. 4. xxi. 22; but it is difficult to conceive by what mode of interpretation these texts can be made to countenance the supreme authority of the people in the church.
At the time of the transaction mentioned in the fifteenth and following verses of the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we know, from the testimony of St. Paul, that the number of believers in Jerusalem and its neighbourhood amounted at least to five hundred; but St. Luke assures us that the number of names met together at the appointment of Matthias to the apostleship, did not exceed one hundred and twenty. If the authority of the people was at that period supreme, and if it belonged to them to elect by their own suffrages éven a successor in the apostleship to Judas, how came so very large a majority to be deprived of their right at the election of Mátthias? On this question Dr. Lightfoot says ", “ Quum Matthias et Joses coram apostolis, ut par “ candidatorum, sisterentur, haud constat universum « fidelium coetum, sive individuum quemvis in eorum “ electione suo nomine suffragia tulisse, quin in
presbyterio potius, sive in collegio virorum 108, “ inter se coacto, jus et potestatem eligendi resedisse.” And though in ordinary cases it belonged to the apostles to ordain, by imposition of hands, such as were chosen to fill any office in the church by those to whom they had deputed the right of election, yet in the present case, they left the determination between the candidates wholly to the giving-forth of lots, after solemnly praying that the divine head of the church would shew which of them he had chosen to take part of the ministry and apostleship from which Judas had fallen; and all this was done, as the
e 1 Cor. xv. 6.
Oper. Omn. tom. ïi. p. 758, edit. Roterodami.
same learned writer observes, “ utpote qui gradus “ apostolicos immediatâ quasi Christi manuductione " adierint."
The second text quoted by our author in support of the power of the people, appears to us to teach the very opposite doctrine in terms which cannot be mistaken. When the murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews arosé on account of the neglect, real or supposed, of their widows in the daily ministration, the sovereign people did not take the treasure of the church into their own hands, and by their supreme authority appoint officers to distribute it to the poor with greater equity. They seem not indeed to have imagined that they had a right to take any step whatever in the matter, till “ the twelve called “ them together, and said-Look ye out among you “ seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost • and wisdom, whom we (not ye) may appoint over “ this business;" thus giving the people authority to elect, specifying the number and qualifications of the persons to be elected, and still reserving to themselves the authoritative appointment of those persons to the work for which they were to be chosen.
In the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we are told, that a deputation was sent from Antioch to Jerusalem to consult-not the people--but the apostles and elders about the necessity of circumcision; that, when the deputies had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and by the apostles and elders; that these distinguished persons came together to consider of the matter referred to their decision; that, after much disputing among the apostles and elders, the question was decided against the necessity of circumcision; and that then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with their synodical decree. In all this there is not the slightest countenance given to the authority of the multitude. The people were not called together on the arrival of the deputies from Antioch ; and indeed their number
was so great long before that period, that the tenth part of them could not have been contained in any house at the command of the apostles within the city of Jerusalem ; nor would such a multitude have been allowed by the civil power to assemble quietly in the street or in the field. As many of them as could find admission were doubtless present at the deliberations of the apostles and elders on a question of such great and general importance; but the multitude is mentioned but once, and then as keeping profound silence. The synodical epistle to the Gentiles at Antioch and in Syria and Cilicia, is indeed written in the name of the apostles and elders and brethren; but this was, in those days, the common style of such epistles. Thus St. Paul's epistle to the Galatians is written, not in his own name only, but also in the names of all the brethren who were with him; and the first epistle of St. Clement his fellow-laborer (which is undoubtedly genuine) is in the name of “ the church of God which dwelleth or sojourneth at “ Rome, to the church of God which sojourneth at “ Corinth;” though it is certain that all the brethren who were with St. Paul had no authority over the Galatians, nor the lay members of the church in Rome any right to expostulate with the church in Corinth. The synodical decree issued at Jerusalem may indeed, with the greatest propriety, be called the decree of the church, because it was enacted by the undoubted governors of the church; just as the acts of the British parliament are called the laws of Great Britain, though the people at large were not consulted in the framing of one of them. a
The last text appealed to by Dr. Mosheim as a proof of the supreme authority of the people in the church, not only proves no such thing, but, if it be at all applicable to the question at issue, is of itself a complete proof that they had then no such authority, and indeed that they were wholly unfit to be entrusted with such authority.
The case was this. St. Paul, after an absence of