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The episcopal care of James unquestionably extended over many assemblies. By the preaching of St. Peter on the day of Pentecost, after the miraculous effusion of the Holy Ghost, we are assured P, that to the number of the disciples “there were added “about three thousand souls.” It is indeed probable, that of these many were strangers, who, after the celebration of the feast, which had brought them to Jerusalem, departed from that city, and returned to their respective countries. It appears, however, that, soon afterwards, the number of believers resident in Jerusalem amounted to five thousand; and, by the time that St. Paul returned to give an account to James and the elders, of what things God had done by his ministry among the Gentiles, even that number had greatly increased". But ten or even five thousand men could not meet for public worship, for the breaking of bread and for prayers, in any private house, or any ten private houses, belonging to the Christians in Jerusalem; and, therefore, as James appears to have had the episcopal care of them all, that care must have extended over many assemblies. That such was the nature of episcopal jurisdiction even in that age appears still more evident, if possible, from St. John's epistle, in the Apocalypse, to the seven churches in Asia. That epistle is addressed, not into: izzantizi; røy iy r; 'Ariz, aS it probably would have been, had it been intended for seven of a greater number of churches in Asia Minor, but rai; irro, #xxxnría; two; (ixxxngizio) sy th 'Aria, to the seven churches, the churches in Asia. Those seven, therefore, must have been the only societies in Asia Minor so organised as to be entitled to the appellation of churches, at the time when St.
John wrote the Apocalypse. But is it conceivable that, in an age when “so mightily grew the word “ of God, and prevailed,” the number of believers, in a country so extensive, which had been visited by different apostles and apostolical men, should, in the year 96, have been so very small as to constitute only seven Christian congregations? Even if this could be conceived, the Christians in Asia Minor were too much scattered over the face of the country, to repair, every one, for the purpose of public worship, to one or other of the small oratories of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardes, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. From the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles of St. Paul, we know that, long before the writing of the Apocalypse, there were believers in various provinces and towns of Asia Minor, and even regular churches in the province of Galatia and the city of Colosse; but it seems evident, from the manner in which St. John expresses himself, that, before the year 96, “the “candlesticks of Galatia and Colosse,” to use the apostle's language, “ had been removed out of their “ places.” This indeed can excite no wonder, when we reflect that every where the churches were in that age beset by persecution without, and by heresies within; that the churches of the Galatians appear to have been exceedingly corrupt, even when St. Paul wrote his Epistle to them; and that the city of Colosse was destroyed by an earthquake during the reign of Nero, and, if ever rebuilt, certainly not when the Apocalypse was written. It is not however to be supposed that there were then no Christians in Galatia or the neighbourhood of Colosse, or that those Christians did not meet regularly in different congregations for “ the breaking of bread and for pray“ers.” The only inferences that can be drawn, are,
that those assemblies did not constitute what St.
John called churches, and that they, with their presbyters and deacons, were under the temporary inspection either of the apostle himself, or of some of the angels of the seven churches, of which he speaks as the only churches then in Asia. That the jurisdiction of Timothy and Titus extended over more than one Christian assembly at Ephesus and in Crete; that by the apostle they were invested with authority over the presbyters as well as people of those assemblies; and that to them an exclusive right was given to ordain elders or presbyters in every city under their jurisdiction; are facts which no man has ventured to deny, and which no man can deny, who has read St. Paul's epistles to Timothy and Titus, and at the same time possesses common sense and honesty. Attempts have indeed been made to get rid of the inference from these facts, by representing the extensive authority with which Timothy and Titus were entrusted, as the authority, not of fixed governors of the churches over which they were to preside, but of Evangelists / This, however, cannot be admitted. We are not aware of a single instance in the New Testament, where an evangelist, as such, is represented as ordaining elders or even deacons; and it is certain that Timothy and Titus neither acted nor could act as evangelists at Ephesus or in Crete, except in a sense which, under that denomination, includes elders. The word evangelist is unquestionably derived from the verb ivayyixić, which, according to an able critic" not prejudiced in behalf of a hierarchy, “relates to the first intimation that is given to a “person or people, that is, when the subject may “be properly called good news. Thus, in the Acts “of the Apostles, it is frequently used for the first “publication of the Gospel in a city or village, or “amongst a particular people.” But if this be essential to the radical import of the verb, of which indeed there can be no doubt, then it follows that an evangelist, considered as a distinct character, could only be one, whether apostle, elder, deacon, or layman, who first carried the glad tidings of the Gospel to an individual or a people. Hence it is, that of the seven deacons not one is called an evangelist but Philip, because, though Stephen preached the Gospel as well and as ably as he, Philip is the only one of the number mentioned by St. Luke as having carried the glad tidings of the Gospel beyond the limits of Judea, within which these tidings were first told by Christ and his apostles. Hence too it follows, that those, whom St. Paul says that Christ, after his ascension, “gave as evangelists for the “work of the ministry,” must have been men miraculously inspired with the knowlege of the Gospel, which cannot be said of Timothy or of Titus, and impelled by the same heavenly influence to communicate that knowlege to those to whom it was new. But in this sense Timothy and Titus could not be evangelists to the churches of Ephesus and Crete, because St. Paul himself had preached the Gospel in those churches before them, and had even ordained presbyters in the church of Ephesus. It has indeed been said that stayyexíčouz is occa, sionally used in the same sense with 3.3%rxw. If we grant this for the sake of argument, though we are not aware of a single instance in which one of these verbs could be properly substituted for the other, still we must observe that the character of an evangelist, in this sense of the word, could give to Timothy no superiority over the elders of Ephesus, who were teachers as well as he, and enjoined by the apostle to “feed the church of God, which he had pur“ chased with his own blood.” Timothy was indeed exhorted by St. Paul to “do the work of an evan“gelist” at Ephesus; but the elders were in duty bound, as well as he, to do the work of evangelists; for in Ephesus there were then many people who had not heard of the Gospel, which every minister of VOL. VI, F
Christ is bound, as he has opportunity, to propagate among the heathens as well as to preach among Christians. Timothy was likewise exhorted, in the very same verse, to “accomplish his deaconship"— row dizzowszy row Tangopépnroy; but it would surely be absurd to infer from such an exhortation that the overseer of the presbyters and people of Ephesus was himself nothing more than a deacon. If it be thus evident that the bishops known in the first century by the titles of apostles or angels of the churches presided each over more than one Christian assembly, we need not pursue the argument through the second and third centuries, since it is on all hands agreed, that the powers of the bishops were not diminished as the boundaries of the church were enlarged. This would have been extremely absurd; though we see no evidence that, during the second and third centuries, the bishops in general either claimed or had the smallest inducement to claim any power or pre-eminence which they possessed not in the first. What the hierarchy was in the beginning of the second century is apparent from the epistles of Ignatius, and from the fragments of other primitive writers preserved by Eusebius, whilst the canons commonly called apostolical, with the writings of St. Cyprian and other fathers of the church, define the powers and privileges of each of the three orders in the third century in terms which cannot be mistaken. From these canons and writings it appears evident, that no bishop in that century, with the exception perhaps of Victor and Stephen, bishops of Rome, arrogated to himself any authority which was not committed to the angels of the Asiatic churches, and which Timothy and Titus were not enjoined to exercise in the churches of Ephesus and Crete. The only thing else, in Dr. Mosheim's view of the constitution of the primitive church, which calls for animadversion, is the account which he gives of the