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other members of the clerical body in disposing of the ecclesiastical revenues in support of their bereaved and poverty-stricken brethren.
To cite from the writings of the earlier Fathers their exhortations to this, the most practical of Christian virtues, would be an endless task; and their biographers sufficiently testify that they did not themselves neglect what they so earnestly enjoined upon others. Cyprian* accounts the omission of the customary tribute to the poor a sure sign of the grievous falling away from the purity of the faith; and in a lettert addressed to the bishops of Numidia, breathing the true spirit of Christian charity, he forwards to them a large sum contributed by the pious zeal of the Carthaginian Church to the ransom of the captive brethren among the barbarian tribes of the North of Africa1. The same church-father is presented to us by his contemporary biographer as engaged in a yet nobler task, as busied, during the period when a desolating plague ravaged his episcopal city, in ministering the means of temporal and spiritual support to his people
institution, especially in the Papal States, is traced down to the mediseval period: "Erant enim Diaconi isti, ut verbis utar Cujacii, Ad Nov. 3.' ministri, id est, mensarum, quse apponebantur egenis, viduis, orphanis, quse convivia agitabantur domi, non in templo, adhibitis precibus divinis.' Erant autem ejusmodi hospitales domus Romse in regionibus omnibus, quarum usu prsecipuo exolescente, ipsisque dirutis sedibus, diaconic e nomen ipsis sacellis et oratoriis mansit; a quibus earum prsefecti Diaconi Cardinalex Urbis Roma postea dicti sunt."
• He Lapsis, c. 6, 12. t Ep. 62.
1 See also Epp. 5,12,14.
and to his persecutors alike*. [In like manner, when, during the reign of Gallienus, the plague, that so fruitful source of Christian heroism, was desolating Alexandria, we have a forcible picture of the contrast between the zeal of the clergy and the indifference of the heathen population, as drawn by the hand of Dionysius the bishop (Euseb. H. E. in. 22).
"Most of the brethren, through the excess of their love and fraternal affection, not sparing themselves and clinging closely to each other, bestowing all their care on the sick, regardless of themselves, but serving them most zealously for Christ's sake, with all joy exchanged places with them, infecting themselves with the malady which they derived from others, and discharging upon themselves the sufferings from which they relieved their neighbours. And not a few, after tending others and saving their lives, brought death upon themselves, transferring it from their patients; and so we lost many of the most useful of our brethren, and certain of the presbyters and deacons and of those held in high esteem by the people; so that such a death, being the result of much piety and earnest faith, seemed hardly to fall short of martyrdom. And many, who with upturned hands grasped and pressed to their bosoms the corpses of the saints, who cleansed their eyes, closed their lips, bore them on their shoulders, and laid them out for burial, clinging to them, twining their arms round them, and
"Vita Cypriani, (c. 9) by Pontius Diaconus.
bestowing upon them due ablutions and obsequies, soon themselves underwent a similar lot.
"But with the heathens everything was quite different; they drove from them all those who were but beginning to fall sick, they shunned their dearest friends, and even cast them half dead into the streets, shrinking with horror from the unburied dead, turning away from that transmission and community of death, which with all their contrivances they found it no easy matter to avoid1."]
We may form some idea of the unwearied energy and zeal, with which the clergy supplied the increasing wants of their destitute flock during the social disorganization of the decline of the empire, from the fact, that Cornelius, bishop of Rome in the middle of the third century, assigns to a church containing, from the bishop to the ostiarii, scarcely more than 150 clerical members the maintenance of 1500 widows and orphans alone*; so energetic was
1 See too Neander, Ch. History, i. p. 358. Most striking, at a later period, was the very title bestowed upon the clerical successors of these men, parabolani, dir& Tod irapapdWetrBai Tilv Jw'ilv, men reckless of their lives, whose solemn chant and measured tread are to this day so well known to every one who has crossed the gate of an Italian town. It may be made a question how far the sudden and utter extinction of this and similar church-orders may not have been one of the principal contributing causes to the rapid spread of the plague through the countries of the Levant. But such inquiries belong more strictly to a later period of our investigations.
* See Cornelius, Ep. ad. Fab. [c. 3] ap. Routh, Reliq. Sac. m. [pp. 23, 24].
still the operation of that mutual love which the parting commands of the Great Shepherd of the fold had enjoined upon his disciples. What a contrast must not even the most bigoted of pagan eye-witnesses have drawn between the priests of the ancient superstition, anxious only to increase their own revenues by the credulity of their people, and the yet untainted ministers of Christ, supporting, even amid the uncertainties of external persecution, their still more suffering brethren! But a fuller display of the results of these clerical virtues was reserved by Providence for a more necessitous age; and we shall find the charity thus first practised in the early Church accomplishing in succeeding centuries the yet nobler task of relieving, so far as human instrumentality could relieve, the disasters of the expiring empire of Rome.
But while we see the clergy of the early ages occupied in laying, amid the fires of persecution, the good foundation of charity and pure works, which was to exalt them so far above many of their degenerate successors, and while we admire the influence they thus exerted on the world without, we must not omit to trace more particularly the consequences of the same principles within the precincts of the Church itself: and it must be observed generally that, in estimating truly the standard of morality in the Church at any period, we must so far make allowance for the promptitude of mankind to learn lessons of evil, as to compare the ecclesiastical discipline of the age, not only with the pure doctrines and perfect