« AnteriorContinuar »
Expediency no justification for ordinations not prescribed by divine authoriy.
-The work of Minucius Felex shows that Christians had no temples, altars, nor images, when he wrote, and that their worship was concealed.— The Sta: tue of Hippolytus in the Vatican, is later than A.D. 600.-His tract against Nætus, proves that a presbytery in a church had the power to cite and depose a heretic.—Origen calls the angels of the seven churches in the Apocalypse iposo 700765.—The Philocalia were collected long after his death; a passage in them has been misunderstood. His censures of the ambition and ignorance of bishops and presbyters, and his interpretations of the Scriptures evince, that the church was still in the state of parochial episcopacy.
If a mode of government can be elicited from the New Testament, the maxim, "whatever is best administered is best,” is more objectionable in ecclesiastical, than civil politics. Ambition has often perverted both; yet the essentials of the church of Christ exist in many denominations unto this day. Nevertheless, to affirm that expediency can vindicate ordinations not found in the word, is to assert, that the end can justify unlawful means. Pious breathings of heart are religion, yet zeal should associate attainable knowledge, correct motives, and other circumstances; and never substitute “for doctrines the commandments of
Minucius, Hippolytus, and Origen will now prove, that during the intermissions of the sufferings inflicted by Severus, Maximinus, and Decius, in the third century the scriptural ordinary officers ruled, and served the churches.
The Octavius of Marcus Minucius Felix appears to have been written, after the apology of Tertullian, and to contain passages transcribed by Cyprian. It is a vindication of Christianity perfectly in character for a Roman orator, as was the writer.
Cecilius presents the arguments of the day against, and Octavius defends, the "mad superstition;" Marcus is intrusted by the former to be umpire, and by him also saved from the trouble of a sentence. This pleasant little fiction offers to our subject nothing relevant, except an unbiassed representation, at its period, of the humble condition of the Christian church in the capital of the world. Cecilius, in his ardor asks;
Why have they,” the Christians, "neither altars, nor temples, nor any images, at least which are known? Why do they not speak, but in private holes, and corners, whither they repair by stealth, if this their religion be not infamous and criminal?" Octavius, who answers the objections of his opponent in succession, asks, “To what purpose should we make any form or representation of God, whose living image, man himself is? Or what temple should we raise to him, since the world, which he has formed, is not able to contain him? Were it not much better to dedicate our mind for his abode, and consecrate our heart for his altar? Nor ought we to be accused of prating in corners, if you be either ashamed or afraid to hear us in public." Cecilius had also said, “Their nocturnal ceremonies and concealed devotions sufficiently prove the things charged against them. And they who tell us, that they worship a man, who was crucified, and that the wood of a cross constitutes a great part of their devotion, do worthily attribute to them altars suitable to their crimes, adoring what they deserve." To these things Octavius replied; "We neither worship crosses, nor wish to be nailed to them. You yourselves are more likely to adore them, who worship wooden gods, that are made of the same matter. Cecilius had with acrimony asked; “shall we suffer men of an unlawful, infamous and desperate faction, without fear of punishment, to attempt against the gods-a confe. deracy, or rather a conspiracy, into which they are not initiated by any holy rites, but by impious crimes, practised in their night conventicles, solemn fasts, and horrid and inhuman feasts! These are the people that skulk in the dark, and flee the light, who are mute in public, and full of chat in their private assemblies. They slight the dignities of the priesthood, and contemn the sacred purple, &c.” Octavius answered; “As for our feasts, they are chaste and sober. With respect to honors, it doth not follow, that because we decline your purple and dignities, that we are the dregs of the people; nor are we to be accounted factious, if aspiring after the same happiness, we all meet together in peace, and retirement."
Such was the humiliating condition of the churches in Italy, at the period mentioned. Instead of power and dignity, liberty of conscience had no public protection, and the true worshippers met, only, under the clouds of the night, in sequestered corners.
Hippolytus, probably an inhabitant of Arabia, was contemporary with Minucius Felix; but if a resident of Portus, the mouths of the Tiber only divided him from the scene of the Octavius. Some fragments only are his, in the volume which bears his name.
The “Chronicon” was the work of another Hippoly, tus. The tract “De Consummatione Mundi,” which treats of Antichrist, is the production of a later age. The confidence and ignorance, which it displays, agree not with the character given by Photius and others, of this father. “The commentary on the story of Susannah” is equally unworthy. “The accounts of the Apostles and Disciples," if his, have been interpolated with fictions of later times. The nameless monumental statue, now in the Vatican, rescued from the ground in 1551, bearing an engraving of the Cycle attributed to Hippolytus, is supposed to have been of him; but four-fifths of the titles of the works, appearing on the engraved representation of it, are not those ascribed to him by Eusebius, Jerom, Photius, and the rest; and no one of them is certain. The forms of some of the Greek letters are later and so must the statue be, than the sixth century. “The apostolic tradition" which is now published in his name, rests upon no other evidence than this stone. Being indeed a modification from the eighth book of the apostolical constitutions, it merits equal contempt, and carries its obvious grounds of condemnation on its face. Yet was it written when bishops were parochial, commissioned without imposition of hands, when a presbytery was in every church, when the presbyters were all preachers, and the deacons served. “The demonstration against the Jews," seems to be a commentary on the 69th Psalm. Neither in it, nor in any of the fragments of his commentaries, has any thing been found relative to the government of the church.
The tract “ Against the heresy of a certain Nætus," the patripassian, contains much good sense and has claims of genuineness. In the first paragraph Nætus is said to have affirmed, that Christ was the Father, and that the Father himself suffered; that Nætus was Moses; and his brother, Aaron; and that “the presbyters having heard these things, and cited him, atesoBulegou agosxane cauêyou, they examined him before the church.” He denied, but afterwards, defended openly his opinions. “The presbyters summoned him a second time, condemned”-and “cast him out of the church.” If this be a part of the writings of Hippolytus against heretics, mentioned by Eusebius, Jerom, and Photius, and quoted without name by Epiphanius, it accords with all antecedent evidence, and evinces, that the presbytery in a church, then, had the power of citing, trying, and excommunicating heretics. The presbyters in this case acted unquestionably as a presbytery, which must have had its president, or in the language of some in that day, bishop. The whole
proceedings are described as they should have been, upon the supposition, that this had all the officers heretofore found in any regularly constituted church. The trial and sentence against a heretic, here had by presbyters, well accords with their clerical ordination. Hippolytus_says, Nætus was of Smyrna. Epiphanius makes Ephesus, the birth place of this heresy, but he is a Joose writer, and was born more than a century after.
Origen, who was honoured with the name Adamantius, was born some time before the end of the second and lived unto the middle of the third century. Having taught successfully a philosophic and catechetic school in Alexandria, he was at length irregularly ordained in Palestine, a presbyter. His expositions of the Scriptures are often refined and visionary; and his doctrines on some points unsound. But as his powers of discrimination have justly demanded high respect, so his piety was of the purest water. Speaking of the angels in the Apocalypse, he says; “That certain ruling presbyters in the churches were called angels, by John in the Apocalypse.”b The same term, agoEo7ws, was used by Paul;c and continually by Justin Martyr, for that presbyter, who presided in worship, and blessed the sacramental elements. This head of the elders must have been, for there was no higher ordinary officer in any Christian church, the angel in each of the churches in the Apocalypse. Here is the learned Origen, a cotemporary for many years with Irenæus, Clemens Al. and Tertullian, another decisive witness, that the ruling, was not a lay, presbyter. He observes also, - With us, reasonings are mild towards those, who receive instruction; but it becomes him, who has been promoted to the work of teaching, προισταμενον του λογου, to be able to convince such as oppose the Gospel." . The word asocolauevov here used for any person, who has been elevated to the office of a teacher, is used in the same sense, in 1 Thess. v. 12. where, following, without the article, it is another characteristic of those, who had been described as “labouring in the word.” If it be the duty of a açouolquevos president to be
• Erasmus in his life of Origen, and others, have given too much credit to the elations of Eusebius: he was partial to
gen, and opposed Porphyry by stories instead of proofs.
6 Προεστίας τινας των εκκλησιών αγγελους λεγεσθαι παρα τη Leanney Tņamoradufu." De Orat. 8. 34.
c 1 Tim. v. 17.