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known the officers that had received their sanction from them, with their relative importance in the community; and who assuredly will not be accused of an intention to lower them in the esteem of their flock.
Beginning with the church of Rome :-to what a state of advancement in divine knowledge and experience had they attained, when the apostle thought them worthy of an epistle, in which the whole of the Christian faith, though declared by authority to be from heaven, is yet proved by argument, and the whole of its principles shown to be founded on the nature and attributes of God and man! Their faith was spoken of throughout the world, (c. i. 8.) and he hopes himself to be benefited by them-io impart to them some spiritual gift, while he received from them an equal blessing. No church could possibly flourish, nor even endure, in the manner they had done, without officers; and that they possessed such is apparent from c. xvi. 7-12, (My kinsmen, who are of note among the apostles-who labour—which laboured much in the Lord,) as well as from the fact that in his purposes for their good when he should come among them, he does not include an intended ordination of bishops and deacons: and yet in the midst of these considerations the epistle is addressed to the common body of believers, whilst the ministers receive nothing as a separate class, nor even individually, but a casual and valedictory salutation.
That this acknowledgment of the society or church as not inferior to, but including the officers, was intentional on the part of the apostle, appears still more decidedly from the epistles to the Corinthians; in which not only is the address to the community, without mention of the officers, but even in reference to such decided faults as divisions and schisms, it is to the community the appeal is made ; and when the incestuous person is to be excluded from the assembly, expelled, excommunicated, it is not the spiritual courtthe collective pastorate or district meeting-still less the superintendent bishop, but it is the whole society that is to perform the act : “ When ye are called together to deliver such an one to Satan," I Cor. v. 4, 5. In the second epistle also, directed to all the saints, (c. i. 1.) we find that the restoration of the repentant individual was to be the act of the whole body; so that (c. ii. 6.) the punishment which was inflicted “of many," (in the same sense as many, Rom. v. 15, 19—many be dead-many were made sinners-many be made righteous, c. xii. 5. “So we being many, are one body in Christ,” the word seeming also to imply a judgment by majority,) might in like manner be removed.
The Thessalonians also, whose epistles are not addressed to any officers, but as in the case of the foregoing, to the body of believers in general, are individually and collectively commanded to shun the company of a sinful brother--the milder exclusion or expulsion-the greater being, as in the instance of the Corinthian, delivery to the power of Satan : the latter, be it observed, though sometimes done by the apostle himself, (1 Tim. i. 20) yet in others, (1 Cor. v. 4, &c.) no less by the body; and both together comprizing the only ways in which according to the Scriptures, the church is authorized to punish offenders ; temporal pains and penalties being as much out of their will as their power. “Let him,” said the Lord, “ be to thee as a heathen man, and a publican,” Matt. xviii, 17.
The epistle to the Galatians recognizes the people; as does that to the Ephesians also, though at that time there were at the least twelve persons who had been marked out by the visible tokens of the descent of the Holy Spirit on their heads, Acts xix. 2–6. Among the Colossians, the saints and brethren are addressed ; and in the first epistle to the Thessalonians, when those who labour among them and who are over them (c. v. 12.) are mentioned, the actual address is to the people ; and the latter at least as well as the former, are to warn the unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, and support the weak, ver. 14.
Nor was this spirit confined to St. Paul; for we find St. James also addressing his letter to the twelve tribes scattered abroad; and St. Peter writing to the “strangers,” “to them who have obtained faith.” St. John also writes his first epistle to the collected body, and assigns to them the office (c. iv. 1.) of trying the spirits and deciding on their claims. When to this we add the salutation of Jude, “to the sanctified,” without the particular mention of a single officer; we may venture to add by way of conclusion, that all the inspired writers of the sacred volume are unanimous in considering and treating the entire body of believers, as forming the church of Christ.
And the import and reason for appeal to the people at large in apostolic times, is particularly specified in 1 Pet. v. 3, they are termed God's heritage, kinpwv, allotment or portion : the very word from which the term clergy is confessedly derived, and which, in subsequent times, assumption has fixed on officers or ministers, exclusive of the people.* It was for the edification of the church, which is “the body of Christ,” that apostles and other officers
* It may be objected to this, that the Jewish nation, which is especially denominated the Lord's heritage or portion, had yet an order of priesthood especially appointed to minister in holy things; and therefore, that this denomination applied to Christians, by no means implies such a claim as is here advanced. But it is to be observed that the term ecclesiastics, ανδρες εκκλησιασικοι was used at an early date to express all Christians :-it is supposed to distinguish them from men of the temple or heathens, and men of the synagogue or Jews. But in this light it would seem superfluous, the term Christian seeming sufficient for this purpose. It is probable at least, that it was still more intended to convey the impression that the members of the Christian church were more highly sacred in their ministrations than Jews or heathens were in theirs; for though the latter might be priests while following secular employments, as Julius Cæsar, who was high priest-yet only a few could possess this sacred character: and in like manner, though the Jews as a nation were priests to God in comparison with other nations-yet all could not minister in holy things, this being confined to the tribe of Levi :-among Christians none were forbidden to officiate, though some, by peculiar talents or by spe
some, by peculiar talents or by special call, might more frequently practise it, or be wholly devoted to “this very thing.” On this account Christians were called Sacerdotes : Nonne et Laici Sacredotes Sumus, (Tertullian, in Bingham, v. 1. p. 42) words of little meaning, if in this they did not differ from Jews.
Selden says, the distinction between laity and clergy arose about the third century: an opinion which Bingham opposes with all his efforts, contending that this was known from the beginning. Undoubtedly, and as Selden well knew, there were from the beginning those who were solely devoted to sacred ministrations ; but the chief question is, whether these ministrations were not occasionally performed by men not exclusively devoted to them; which we have already shown, even on Bingham's own authority. A few further instances may here be adduced, in addition to what is contained in the former paper. In the primitive ages, the power of expelling dæmons from those possessed by them, was a gift of the Spirit; but it was practised as much by private members of the church, as by its officers, as appears from the instances alledged by Bingham, v. 2. p. 18; and yet in after ages, this was among the exclusive claims of the official ministers. The duty of reading the Scriptures in the congregation, is one of the most important there practised; and yet it was not regularly appropriated to specific officers until the third century, (Bingham, v. 2, p. 27). Several of these readers had not even been baptized; of which, the instance of Julian has been already mentioned, and more might be added. In regard to the preaching of laymen, we have a conspicuous instance in the case of Origen, “who, going from Alexandria to Palestine, by the desire of the bishops of that country, publicly preached in the church, and expounded the Holy Scriptures, although he was not yet in holy orders. At which action, Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, being offended, Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, and Theoctistus, of Cæsarea, wrote to him in defence of it as follows: "Whereas you write in your letter, that it was never before seen or done, that laymen should preach in the presence of bishops, therein you wander from the truth ; for wheresoever any are found that are fit to profit the brethren, the holy bishops, of their own accord, ask them to preach unto the people. So Evelpis was desired by Neon, bishop of Laranda, and Paulinus by Celsus, of Iconium, and Theodorus by Atticus, of Synnada, our most blessed brethren; and it is credible, that this is likewise done in other places, though we know it not.'!! King's Primitive Church, c. 1.
were given of God, (Eph. iv. 11.) and not that they might become lords over God's heritage.
When, as we have already seen, the Lord Jesus Christ had finished his mission on earth, and the apostles in the course of their ministry, had been eminently successful in converting people to the faith, the apostles began to discover that they had more on their hands than they were able to perform, in teaching the principles of religion to men who had been brought up in heathenism, or who knew only so much of the worship of God, as was to be found in external rites; and at the same time ordering such temporal or worldly circumstances-(such as receiving the collections for their own support, and that of the poor and needy; together with the decent regulation of the affairs of the church and the times of assembly: the latter peculiarly important to be concealed from spies of the enemy,) as in every community will arise to require regard. A deficiency of attention, the result of multiplicity of occupation, was the result; and deep as was the veneration with which the apostolical character was regarded, the people did not hesitate to complain, nor did the apostles condemn them for so doing. “ Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, it is not reason that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. And the saying pleased the whole multitude, and they chose (Acts vi.) deacons, (servants of the church, overseers of the poor) to wait on this very thing ;” and so by division of employment, ensured the better fulfilment of the duty.
Here it may be well to stop and contemplate the conduct of the apostles, and view the important example it affords us, in the art of removing difficulties and obviating discontent. They knew themselves entitled to the privilege of living “ of the Gospel" they preached; they might have pleaded that the collections had been obtained by apostolic exhortation and labour, and were contributed on the faith, that men of such high standing and acknowledged probity as themselves would have the distribution of them: and moreover, that the accounts of their proceedings were open to all who would inspect them; and that from their better knowledge of the people, they must be the best judges of the right way of proceeding. But on the other hand they remembered that they were but men; had been in a low condition of life; were commanded to watch against even the appearance of evil, and might be permitted to fear for themselves, as one of their small number had
sold his Master for gain. It was necessary also to show a good example to * those who should come after them, of not being tenacious of unessential rights, and that when they should exhort bishops not to be greedy of filthy lucre, they might be able to point to themselves as examples in this particular ; well knowing that it is possible for those who have the means, to give way to self-indulgence, without the least chance of an imputation on their honesty. Above all, it was necessary to stop the mouths of gainsayers without the camp, who might ascribe to them mercenary motives, even in their most disinterested and painful labours; and thus considerably hinder their usefulness. From all these considerations they refused even to choose the men to whom the charge was to be committed; their only share in the transaction being, to add the sanction of their authority, and through prayer and the laying on of their hands to set them apart for their work.
But our principal concern at present is with the manner of the choice, and the persons who by authority were called upon to exercise it; which in the instance of the appointment of deacons is beyond question solely with the body of believers ; and we shall now proceed to show that in the higher and more spiritual offices, of bishops and presbyters, the same order prevailed.
In the choice of a bishop, two or three different methods of election have
been noticed ; but as all except one are regarded as extraordinary, we shall leave the consideration of them until an opportunity is afforded of reviewing the nature and duties of the officers of the church. For the present we will confine our attention more especially to that which is allowed to have been the ordinary method of proceeding.
This was by suffrage and election of the church; (Bingham, Antiquities, V. 2. p. 88) “the method of which in general was so accurate and highly approved, that one of the Roman emperors, though an heathen, thought fit to give a great character and encomium of it, and propose it to himself as an example proper to be imitated in the designation and choice of civil officers for the service of the empire. For so Lampridius represents the practice of Alexander Severus : when he was about to constitute any governors of provinces, or receivers of the public revenues, he first proposed their names, desiring the people to make evidence against them, if any one could prove them guilty of any crime; but if they accused them falsely, it should be at the peril of their own lives: saying that it was unreasonable that when the Christians and Jews did this in propounding those whom they ordained their priests and ministers, the same should not be done in the appointment of governors of provinces, in whose hands the lives and fortunes of men were intrusted." "Mr. Mason, (Bingham, v. 2, p. 91) in answer to Pamelius, who had advanced something of this notion,” (that the consent of the people was only a testimony to character) rejects this as a deluding distinction, and asserts that the people had properly a voice or suffrage of election, and he quotes Bishop Andrews for the same opinion.—“I conceive (p. 93) the observation made by de Marca thus far to be very true, that whatever power the inferior clergy enjoyed in the election of their bishop, the same was generally allowed to the people or whole body of the church, under the regulation and conduct of the metropolitan and synod of provincial bishops. For their power, whatever it was, is spoken of in the very same terms, and expressed in the very same words. Some call it consent, others suffrage or voice, others election or choice ; but all agree in this, that it was equally the consent, suffrage, voice, election and choice, both of clergy and people. Thus Cyprian observes of Cornelius, that he was made bishop by the testimony of the clergy and suffrage of the people. Where it is evident the words testimony and suffrage, are equally ascribed both to clergy and people. Socrates, speaking of the election of Chrysostom, says he was chosen by the common vote of all, both clergy and people. And Theodoret describes the election of Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, after the same manner, when he tells us he was compelled to take the bishoprick by the common vote of the bishops and clergy and all the people. Siricius 'styles this the election of the clergy and people ; Celestin, the consent and desire of the clergy and people; and Leo, both the consent, and election, and suffrage or votes of the people : who adds also, that in case the parties were divided in their votes, then the decision should be referred to the judgment of the metropolitan, who should choose him who had most votes and greatest merit to recommend him. From all which, and many other passages that might be alleged to the same purpose, it is very evident, that the power of the clergy and people was equal in this matter, and that nothing was challenged by the une that was not allowed to the other also.” “Sometimes (p. 96) the bishops in synod proposed a person and the people accepted him; sometimes again the people proposed and the bishops consented; and where they were unanimous in a worthy choice, we scarce ever find they were rejected. If they were divided, it was the metropolitan's care to unite and fix them in their choice, but not to obtrude upon them an unchosen person. This we learn from one of Leo's epistles, where he gives us at once both the church's rule and practice, and the reasons of it. In the choice of a bishop, says he, let him be preferred, whom the clergy and people do unanimously agree upon and require : if they
be divided in their choice, then let the metropolitan give preference to him who has most votes and most merits : always provided, that no one be ordained against the will and desire of the people, lest they contemn or bate their bishop, and become irreligious and disrespectful, when they cannot have him whom they desired. The transgression of this rule was objected as a great crime to Hilarius Arelatensis, by the emperor Valentinian the 3rd, that he ordained bishops in several places against the will and consent of the people, whom when they would not admit of, because they had not chosen them, he used armed force to settle them in their sees, introducing the preachers of peace by the violence of war. Leo objects the same thing to him, saying, that he ought to bave proceeded by another rule, and first to have required the votes of the citizens, the testimonies of the people, the will of the gentry, and the election of the clergy; for he that was to preside over all, was to be chosen by all.” “ Another argument (p. 97) is, that in many cases the voices of the people prevailed against the bishops themselves, when they happened to be divided in their first proposals.” 16 Another evidence of the people's power (p. 98) in elections, is the manner of their voting, or the way of giving their assent or dissent to the ordination of any person : which was threefold: for either first they were unanimous in their vote for or against a man, and then their way was to express their mind by a general acclamation, crying out with one voice, A&loc, or Avaßloc, or when the Latin tongue was used, Dignus, or Indignus, he is worthy,—or unworthy. Or else secondly, they were divided in their choice, and then they expressed their dissent in particular accusations of the parties proposed, and sidings, and sometimes outrageous tumults. There was also a third way of expressing their consent, which was by subscribing the decree of election for greater security, that no party might pretend that they had not given assent to it.” I observe (p. 103) but one thing more relating to this matter, which was the compliment that some bishops passed upon their people upon this account, styling them fathers, in regard to the share and influence ihey had in their designation and election. “St. Ambrose himself,” (who had been elected bishop before his baptism, as were many others at different periods) “speaking to his people, addresses himself to them in this style: Ye are my fathers, who chose me to be bishop : ye I say, are both my children and fathers; children in particular, fathers all together.”
What is here said of bishops, is not the less applicable to the office of a presbyter. “St. Jerom (p. 104) says expressly, that presbyters and the other clergy,” (meaning inferior persons about the church, when every thing concerning it was deemed sacred,) “were as much chosen by the people as the bishops were. And Possidius notes this to have been both the custom of the church and St. Austin's practice, in the ordinations of priests and clerks, to have regard to the majority or general consent of Christian people. And Siricius, who speaks the sense and practice of the Roman church, says, that when a deacon was to be ordained presbyter or bishop, he was first to be chosen by the clergy and people.” When thus we obtain evidence that from the time of the apostles, - when St. Clement in his epistle to the Corinthians writes, “Wherefore we cannot think that those may be justly thrown out of their ministry, who were either appointed by them, (the apostles) or afterwards chosen by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church," (Lardner's Credibility, v. 3, p. 52) until long after the worldly establishment of the church, the people possessed and exercised the right of electing their ministers, we have another and definitive proof of the supremacy of the body of believers.
To those who, from observing the assumption which has distinguished those who claim by way of eminency, to be of “the church of the fathers," have concluded that there is some ground for their lofty bearing, the remarks advanced in this and the foregoing paper, will seem new and strange; but