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præferimus, qui virtutum conscientiam magis quam jactantiam novimus, qui non loquimur magna, sed vivimus?.”]
This great work, accordingly, of the Christian clergy, by which they are placed in most decided contrast to the priesthoods which had preceded them, and in which they so constantly and so zealously fulfilled the commands of their Divine Master, will be the first to occupy our attention.
i The full force of this distinction did not fail, at a subsequent period, to occur to the mind of Julian, who in one of his pastoral letters [Ep. 49. and Fragm. pp. 296—304. ed. Spanh.] thus expresses himself as to the reforms he was desirous to effect in the system of the pagan priesthood.
“ If they are guilty of any scandalous offence, they should be censured or degraded by the superior pontiff; but, as long as they retain their rank, they are entitled to the respect of the magistrates and people.... The exercise of their sacred functions requires an immaculate purity, both of mind and body; and even when they are dismissed from the temple to the occupations of common life, it is incumbent on them to excel in decency and virtue the rest of their fellow-citizens. The priest of the gods should never be seen in theatres or taverns. His conversation should be chaste, his diet temperate, his friends of honourable reputation; and if he sometimes visits the forum or the palace, he should appear only as the advocate of those who have vainly solicited either justice or mercy. His studies should be suited to the sanctity of his profession. Licentious tales, or comedies, or satires, must be banished from his library, which ought solely to consist of historical and philosophical writings; of history, which is founded in truth, and of philosophy, which is connected with religion.” (Quoted by Gibbon, c. xxiii.) This remarkable passage, coming from one of the avowed adversaries and imitators of Christianity, presents to us, as few others could have done, the secret views of enlightened heathens as to the ecclesiastical system, which they thus at length found themselves compelled to copy.
The minuteness of parental sway and guidance entrusted by St Paul to the first bishop in Crete, when he enjoined him to “speak, exhort, and rebuke, with all authority*," was carried out to the full amid the primitive simplicity, and the yet limited congregations of his successors, as we may gather from the advice of Ignatius in his epistle to Polycarp; “Let the assemblies be continual ; require every man by his namel."
Such, while the number of the faithful was small, and the clerical functions comparatively undefined, was the superintendence exercised over the Church by the. immediate successors of the Apostles. Advancing years, as they widened the circle of pastoral action, weakened its intensity, and during the succeeding centuries, we look in vain for any similar strictness of ecclesiastical discipline.
* Titus ii. 15.
1 c. 4: Πυκνότερον συναγωγαί γινέσθωσαν. 'Εξ ονόματος πάντας Suítel.
2 Yet we must admire the minuteness of the directions contained in a passage of the Apostolical Constitutions quoted by Lord Lindsay, Christian Art. 1. p. 19: “But do thou, the bishop, be holy, blameless, no striker, not irascible, not harsh, but an edifier of the truth, a converter to righteousness, a giver of instruction, patient in enduring evil, mild in disposition, gentle, long-suffering, apt in exhortation, apt in comforting, like a man of God. And when thou gatherest together the Church of God, regulate the assembly with all discernment, like the pilot of a great ship, commanding the deacons, as the sailors, to arrange places for their brethren, as the passengers, with all care and decency. And first, let the house (church) be oblong, turned towards the East,... as it is to resemblé a ship, and let the throne of the bishop be in the
But while the exactitude of moral supervision, so characteristic of an early age, became necessarily impossible during the inevitable changes of the Church polity, yet the provision for the temporal wants of the people, early entrusted to the hands of the clergy, and fruitful of results on the temper and customs of so many succeeding generations, appears, from the very earliest period of their history down to our own times, to claim no small share of our attention. Among the many practical results midst, with the presbytery sitting on either side of it, and the deacons standing by, clad in light but seemly raiment, for they are likened to sailors and oarsmen. And, by the provision of the deacons, let the laity seat themselves at the other end of the church, with all stillness and order, the women separately, and let them too be seated, keeping silence..... Let the presbyters exhort the people, one after the other, but not all, and the bishop last, as he who resembles the pilot.... And if any one shall be found sitting out of his place, let him be chidden by the deacon, as by the pilot's mate, and led over to the seat befitting him. For not only is the church likened to a ship, but also to a fold. .... Similarly, let the deacon keep watch over the people, that no one whisper or fall asleep, or laugh or beckon to another.”—Apost. Const. 11. 57.
The idea of the bishop as the pilot of a great ship, seems to be borrowed from the epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, c. 2, where, according to the Syriac version published by Cureton, the phrase occurs, 'O kaipòs átaimel oe, ws kußepvistos vaūv, kai ws Xeluaróuevos leuéva, els tò Ocoû emituxeiv. But see Cureton's note on the passage, Corp. Ign. p. 269, where a passage is cited from the [spurious] epistle of Clement to James, in which Christ is likened to the kußepuntys, and the bishop to the apwpeús. "Eoikev yap olov το πράγμα της εκκλησίας νηί μεγάλη, δια σφοδρού χειμώνος άνδρας φερούση εκ πολλών τόπων όντας, και μίαν τινα αγαθής βασιλείας πόλιν οικείν θέλοντας. "Έστω μεν ούν υμίν ο ταύτης δεσπότης θεός, και παρεικάσθω ο μέν κυβερνήτης Χριστω, ο πρωρεύς επισκόπω, οι ναύται Trpeoßutépous, oi torxepxou dlakóvous. K.T... [c. 14.]
of the elevated gospel morality there was none which stood more prominently forward among the heathen nations than the frequent works of charity and love. The sacerdotal orders of Greece and Rome, wholly bent on mere ceremonial observances, were utter strangers to that paternal care of their flocks which formed so striking a characteristic of the Christian clergy; indeed, the ideas which we attach to the words 'alms, charity,' and maintenance of the poor,' unknown to heathendom, rose with Christianity, and acquired strength by its extension.
[Humana ante oculos fæde quum vita jaceret
Si certam finem esse viderent
LUCRET. I. 56–59, and 101–105.
It is true that at a subsequent period, Julian the Apostate,
in fruitless imitation of the institutions he affected to despise, endeavoured to connect with the system of his resuscitated Pagan priesthood establishments previously exclusively Christian ; but, as has been forcibly remarked by a historian certainly not hostile to the philosophic emperor, “if these imaginary plans of reformation had been realized, the forced and imperfect copy would have been less beneficial to Paganism than honourable to Christianity?.”] The insulated position of the Church during three centuries of persecution, necessarily fostering a desire after a more complete unity, ever tended to confirm the feelings which combined in one bond of true charity the rich and the poor, the influential and the lowly, among the brethren ; and attached the whole body more closely to those pastors to whom the Lord had entrusted the care of his fold: “[while the pastors themselves, when their day of suffering came, found an ever ready temporal relief in the speedy contributions of their people 2.]” Hence arose,
1 Gibbon, Vol. 11. p. 300 (Ed. Milman).
% Thus Cyprian, Epist. 5: “Quantum ad sumtus suggerendos sive iis, qui gloriosa voce Dominum confessi in carcere sunt constituti, sive iis, qui pauperes et indigentes laborant et tamen in Domino perseverant; peto nihil desit, cum summula omnis, quæ redacta est, illic sit apud clericos distributa propter ejusmodi casus, ut haberent plures, unde ad necessitates et pressuras singulorum operari possint.” Again, in Epist. 7, he offers his private means to supply the wants of the Church : “ Viduarum et infirmorum et omnium pauperum curam peto diligenter habeatis. Sed et peregrinis, si qui indigentes fuerint, sumtus suggeratis de quantitate mea propria, quam apud Rogatianum compresbyterum nostrum dimisi.” So we have the converse custom in Tertullian's treatise