תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

3

“ revenues were extremely small, since the church “ had no certain income, but depended on the gifts or “ oblations of the multitude, which were, no doubt, “ inconsiderable, and were, moreover, to be divided “ between the bishop, presbyters, deacons, and poor.

The power and jurisdiction of the bishops were “ not long confined to these narrow limits, but soon “ extended themselves, and that by the following

means. The bishops, who lived in the cities, had, “ either by their own ministry, or that of their pres“ byters, erected new churches in the neighbouring “ towns and villages. These churches, continuing “ under the inspection and ministry of the bishops,

by whose labors and counsels they had been engaged to embrace the Gospel, grew impercep“ tibly into ecclesiastical provinces, which the Greeks « afterwards called dioceses. But, as the bishop of " the city could not extend his labors and inspection * to all those churches in the country and in the vil" lages, so he appointed certain suffragans or deputies “ to govern and to instruct these new societies; and “ they were distinguished by the title of Chorepiscopi, “i. e. country bishops. This order held the middle "rank between bishops and presbyters, being inferior “ to the former and superior to the latter i."

Such, according to our author, was the constitution of the Christian church during the first century and part of the second; for he affirms, that the jurisdiction of a bishop extended not over more than one Christian assembly, and that the authority of the people continued supreme, until the middle of the second century, when the ancient privileges

of the people were considerably diminished, and the power and authority of the bishops greatly augmented, by councils, of which, he says, we find not the smallest trace before that period. It was not, he adds", till some time after the reign of Adrian, that

i Cent. I. part ii. chap. ii. sections 8, 9, 11, 12, 13.
k Cent. II. part ii, chap. ii. sect. 1, 2, 3.

Sect. 4.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the Christian doctors had the good fortune to persuade the people, that the ministers of the Christian church succeeded to the character, rights, and privileges of the Jewish priesthood. Then, indeed, the bishops began to consider themselves as invested with a rank and character similar to those of the highpriest among the Jews, while the presbyters represented the priests, and the deacons the Levites. · In support of this detail, the author appeals not to one ancient writer; and the consequence is, that the greater part of it is in direct opposition to the unanimous testimony of all antiquity. He refers, indeed, to several texts in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles of St. Paul, as proofs of what, we believe, has never been controverted—that the titles of bishop and presbyter are in the New Testament indifferently applied to the same order of men. He seems however to mistake when he supposes that the order, to which these titles were commonly applied, consisted of the rulers of the church; for, though the apostles sometimes call themselves elders, the order to which that title as well as the title of bishop more properly belonged, was evidently subordinate to the apostles, as well as to the church rulers, whom he admits to have been known by the appellation of angels.

That the bishops or elders of the New Testament were subordinate to the apostles, has never been controverted; and that they were likewise subordinate to the angels of the churches, appears indisputable from the charges given by “him who hath the “ sharp sword with two edges, who hath his eyes “ like unto á flame of fire,and his feet like fine brass," to the angels of the churches of Pergamos and Thyatiram. These angels are described as eminent for their “ good works, charity, service, stedfastness “ in the faith, and patience ;” and yet they are both severely blamed, and the former threatened for suffering in their respective churches false teachers,

m Rev. chap. ii. 12-21.

whom, if they were themselves nothing more than such presidents of congregational presbyteries as Dr. Mosheim describes, it is obvious that they could not remove from their churches. According to him, these presidents, afterwards called bishops, were chosen by the joint suffrages of the other presbyters and of the lay-members of the congregation to which they respectively belonged; when thus chosen, they acted in their respective congregations, not with the authority of masters, but with the zeal and diligence of faithful servants; they had not the power to decide or enact any thing without the consent of the presbyters and the people, who were in every church the first in authority; and therefore the censure and threatening, for suffering false teachers in the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira, were on his principles due, not to the angels of those churches, but to the presbyters and people! That the principles are erroneous which infer injustice in the Son of God, Dr. Mosheim would have been as ready as any man to confess; and therefore we have not a doubt that, if, instead of paying undue deference to the opinions of some of his less candid countrymen, he had duly weighed in his own mind the import of what the Spirit said to the seven churches, he would have perceived that the angels must have been of an order superior to the presbysters properly so called ; and that they must have derived their superiority from some other source than the mere choice of the presbyters and people.

To the truth of this inference it is no objection, that, in the New Testament, all officers in the church above the order of deacons are indiscriminately called sometimes bishops and sometimes presbyters. In the Old Testament, the individuals of every order of priesthood, with the exception of the mere Levites, are generally styled priests without any distinction; though every Jew and every Christian know, that the high-priest was of an order superior to the rest, and authorised to perform at least one

[ocr errors]

ministration to which none of his inferiors were competent.

Dr. Mosheim, indeed, seems to think, that there is no resemblance, and hardly any analogy, between the Jewish priesthood and the Christian ministry ; but this is a mistake so palpable, that a man of learn. ing and integrity could not have fallen into it, but through the influence of some deep-rooted prejudice. In the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews there is an evident analogy pointed out between the Jewish and Christian churches, and, of course, between their respective ministers; and the first epistle of St. Clement of Rome furnishes incontrovertible evidence, that long before the reign of Adrian—and even in the first century,—the bishops, presbyters, and deacons, were considered as invested with rank and characters similar to those of the high-priest, priests and Levites among the Jews. That apostolical father, whose name, we are assured by St. Paul, was in the book of life, expostulating with the Corinthians, then in a state of schism among themselves, and of sedition against the governors of their church, thus reasons with them.

“ Let us consider those who fight under our

earthly governors; how orderly, how readily, and " with what exact obedience they perform those

things which are commanded them. All are not generals, nor commanders of thousands, nor cen“ turions, nor captains of fifties, and so on; but “ every one doeth those things which are enjoined " him by the king, and by those officers who have “ the command over him. They who are great, “ cannot yet subsist without those that are little ; “ nor the little without the great. There is a cer"tain mixture in all things, and in these there is “ fitness, xeñois. Let us take our own body: the " head is nothing without the feet; so neither are “ the feet of use without the head : even the smallest “ members of our body are necessary and useful to “ the whole body: all conspire together, and are

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

adapted by one subordination to the preservation “ of the whole. Let therefore our whole body be “ saved in Christ Jesus; and let every one be sub“ject to his neighbour according to the order in “which he is placed by the grace given him. Let “ not the powerful despise the weak, and let the weak “ reverence the powerful.

“ Seeing then that these things are manifest unto “us, even looking into the depths of the divine “ knowlege, we ought to do, in order, all things of which the Lord hath commanded us to do; at “ stated times to perform our offerings and public o services; for he hath commanded them to be done .66 not rashly and disorderly, but at predetermined “ times and hours. He hath determined also by his

own supreme will, where and by whom he would “ have them to be celebrated; that so all things “ being piously done, unto all well-pleasing, they

may be acceptable to his will. They therefore who “ make their offerings at the appointed seasons, are " accepted and happy; for, following the instituted “ laws (vouspois) of the Lord, they do not go astray. “For to the chief priest his proper services (nevtoveyici)

are committed ; and to the priests their proper

place is ordained ; and on the Levites their proper “ ministries (Saxovoot) are imposed; and the layman “ is confined by the laws ordained for laymeno

It is impossible for an unprejudiced man to read these extracts with attention, and to entertain a doubt that St. Clement considered the bishops, priests, and Levites in the Christian church, as succeeding to the high-priest, priests and Levites in the Jewish. Indeed, if he understood, as he appears to have done, the great scheme of human redemption; if he believed, as our church believes, that, in the Old as well as in the New Testament, “ everlasting “ life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« הקודםהמשך »