“ To what purpose,

were in the temple, let bishops, priests, and deacons, claim to themselves in the church of Christ (e);” where it is to be observed, that he calls the orders of bishops, priests, and deacons, an apostolical tradition. says Optatus, “ should I mention deacons, who are in the third, or presbyters, in the second degree of priesthood, when the very heads and princes of all, even certain of the bishops themselves, were content to redeem life with the loss of heaven (f)?” In the tenth canon of the Council of Sardis, which was held a. D. 347, we find the following passage:

Every degree of holy orders requires a considerable length of time, wherein the faith of the ordained person, his morals, his firmness, and his moderation, may be known; for it is not proper, nor is it consistent with the necessary knowledge and good conversation, that a person should be rashly and lightly appointed a bishop, or priest, or deacon." To these positive authorities we may add, that episcopal power was not once called in question in the first three centuries. At the end of the fourth century, Aerius, an Arian, upon being disappointed in his hope of being advanced to a bishopric, wrote against episcopacy, and maintained that there ought to be no order in the

church (e) Epist. ad Evag: of Lib. 1.

church superior to that of presbyters. We find no advocate for his opinion in the centuries immediately following, and even Aerius allowed that there had been bishops in the Christian church from the earliest period.

It seems therefore as clear as written testimony can make it, that bishops were appointed by the Apostles; that there were three distinct orders of ministers, namely, bishops, priests, and deacons, in the primitive church; and that there has been a regular succession of bishops from the apostolic age to the present time; and we may safely challenge the enemies of episcopacy to produce evidence of the existence of a single antient independent church, which was not governed by a bishop; I mean after it was fairly established; for we are to consider not so much what the Apostles did in the beginning of their ministry, as what they did after they had preached for some time, and the Gospel had made some progress. The want of attending to this distinction, has, I suspect, been a principal cause of the difference of opinion which has prevailed upon this subject. . The Apostles,” says Epiphanius, “ could not establish every thing rightly at once; nothing fi complete at its beginning : but in process so time things are brought to a perfect settlement(g).” While the Apostles themselves were alive, the churches were subject to their authority and direction; and we are not to expect the establishment of a permanent government till theirministry was drawing towards a conclusion; and this accounts for the little which is said in the Acts and the Epistles concerning the distinction and power of ministers, since they were all written, except perhaps the General Epistles of $t. John, which have no connection with these points, within about thirty years after the ascension of our Saviour, and while most of the Apostles were yet alive; and the Epistles of St. Paul, which give the most information relative to ministers, are those which he wrote in the latter part of his life, after he had delegated to Timothy and Titus that power in the churches of Ephesus and Crete, which he himself had been accustomed to exercise; and this is whatCyprian means when he says, “ Episcopos apostolis vicariâ ordinatione successisse (h)."


CC 2

The mode of proceeding, as far as it can be collected from antient writers, appears to have been of this nature: The Apostles, before they left any city in which they had preached and

made (g) Hær. 75. (h) Ep. Firm inter Ep. Cyp: 75. p. 225.

made converts, selected a certain number of fit persons from their congregations, whom they ordained deacons and presbyters. The forms of ordination, and the powers which they communicated were different. The deacons were inferior to the presbyters; and their office consisted in taking care of such things as belonged to the public service. They also assisted the presbyters in the administration of the eucharist (i), but they were not allowed to consecrate the elements; they were permitted to baptize, and it was their peculiar duty to attend to every thing which related to the poor. To the presbyters was intrusted the performance of the different parts of public worship; they were authorized to instruct and to govern in all spiritual matters those who were already converted to the Gospel, and to be active and diligent in the conversion of others. The presbyters were equal to each other in rank and authority; and while their office was confined within narrow limits, and the Christians were but few, no inconvenience arose from that equality; and more especially as the Apostles occasionally visited the churches which they had planted, and furnished them from time to time with such advice and instruction as circumstances required. But when the Gospel


(i) Just. Mart. Apol. 2da. ad finem.

supreme autho

was spread into more distant parts, and the Christians of every city became more numerous, the visits of the Apostles were necessarily less frequent, and the concerns of every church more enlarged. The Apostles then found it expedient, for the better government of the affairs of the Christians, and to put a stop to those schisms and contentions which began to make their appearance both among the presbyters and their congregations, to place the rity in one person, who from the superintending care which he was to exercise, was called ErixoTOs, or bishop; and this word, which was per. haps at first applied indiscriminately to all who had any spiritual office in the church, was now confined to him who was its chief governor. The bishops were at first appointed by the Apostles, and afterwards chosen by the presbyters and the congregations at large; in both cases they were generally taken from the presbyters of the respective churches, except in those instances in which they were the immediate companions of the Apostles. The following remarkable passage from Jerome will be considered as a strong confirmation of this statement : “ Till through instinct of the devil there grew in the church factions, and among the people it began to be professed, I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, and

I of

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