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transiliant. Castrorum coelestium excubent portis, sed armati modestia, qua intelligant se desertores fuisse. Resumant precum suarum tubam, sed qua non bellicum clangant"." These military metaphors are not without their full signification ; for the real with which these jeaders of the faithful marshalled their followers under the banner of the Cross, the scrupulous attention with which they bound them by the solemn “sacramentum” to the great Captain of their salvation, and the care with which they secured their union into one compact mass, can be compared to nothing so aptly as to the indispensable precautions with which an experienced chief leads forth his army, confident of victory, while not unmindful of the means to secure it.
But the barrier of reiterated exhortations and denunciations, with which the Church encompassed the laity, was as nothing to that with which she secured the unstained purity of her ministers. Errors, venial in the former, excluded the latter for ever from that communion of the saints on earth, wherein consisted at once their privilege and their responsibility. Indeed it was in full accordance with the general scope of ecclesiastical doctrine and practice, that, as the great body of believers, who had been admitted by Divine grace to a knowledge of the truths of the Gospel, were bound by more stringent laws than those of the world without, so the more favoured band, who were honoured by yet closer
i For other examples of moderation in the treatment of the lapsed by Cyprian and others, see his Epistles, 8, 23, and 25.
communion with heaven, and to whom were committed the deeper mysteries of the Faith, should live among the people of God as the latter did among the unbelievers. It was reasonable, they argued, that men who were as angels upon earth, and whose ministry exalted them, while yet among their flocks, to the mansions of the heavenly places, should ever live as in the more immediate presence of the invisible world*. Accordingly the pardon gradually vouchsafed to such laymen as fell away in the day of trial was sternly refused to erring presbyters ; they were indeed readmitted into the Church, but all approach to the altar was denied them. They were for ever deprived of their holy functions, and reduced to the condition of layment.
Pursuits? and amusements from which the devout people were not excluded, were looked upon as pernicious to the scrupulous sanctity of the priestly character. Was the Christian layman required to exhibit every outward token of inward purity of thought? They more. Were the believers forbidden to commit such acts as might
* See Chrysostom, de Sacerdot. iii. c. 4, quoted by Bingham, B. VI. c. 2. [S 1.3
+ See Cyprian, Ep. 67, where he cites the opinion of Bp. Cornelius regarding lapsed clergymen.
i Geminius Victor having named Geminius Faustinus, a presbyter, trustee to his will, Cyprian (Ep. 1), in accordance with a decree of a late council, reproved the practice of thus drawing priests from the service of the altar, and desired his clergy to deprive Geminius Victor, as the council had decreed, of the usual services for the dead.
even bring them into suspicion with the world! They more. Was a Christian layman urged to forego pleasures which united him to earth, and drew his thoughts away from heaven? The clergy were compelled to a yet severer self-discipline. Each labourer in the vineyard of the Lord, as he entered on his holy functions, was made to feel that he was enlisting in a band no less distinguished from the world without by the excellency of its moral than of its ceremonial observances. He was kept in perpetual remembrance of the Apostolic charges by the strictness of subsequent enactments; he knew that, as to him much was given, of him should much be required and that if from each individual convert were expected all the duties of a brave soldier of Christ, he was to be at once a teacher, an example, and a conqueror.
We have already found evidence of the integrity of the early clergy as spiritual teachers and rulers; another not less convincing proof of the excellence of their practice as well as of their principles may be seen in the power they exercised over the temporal concerns of their people. The general tendency to avoid any unnecessary intercourse with pagan authorities, as well as the doubtful interpretation of an expression of St. Paul*, induced Christian litigants in many cases to submit their disputes to the award of their bishop t; and while every secular official, from the occupant of the curule chair to the meanest of his lictors, was involved in the most polluting corruption, while the provincial tribunals dispensed anything rather justice to their victims, the verdict of an ecclesiastical functionary was looked upon as a decision from which appeal was fruitless. Amid knavery and violence compared to which that of Verres was tolerable, he manifested a precise morality which even the great accuser of Verres would have held to be fastidious.
* 1 Corinthians vi. 4. + See Bingham, Orig. Eccles. B. 11. c. 7. §§ 1, 2.
We have thus far considered more particularly the moral influences of the doctrine, discipline, and example of the Christian clergy. Taking a more general view of the period before us, it at once strikes us as a remarkable fact, that the onward progress of the faith, which no one who compares the first with the fourth century can doubt, was owing not so much to the propagating activity of its teachers as to the silent influence excited by the energy and regularity of the ecclesiastical organization. We look in vain for any of the earnest missionary zeal which might have found its model in St. Paul, and which succeeding generations learnt to admire in Boniface. The first three centuries of the Church's history were so emphatically ages of internal stablishing and moral discipline, that even the terrors of reiterated persecution, originally instrumental in scattering the truth from Judea throughout every civilized land, failed of removing the ancient Churches from their existing seats. The exertions of the clergy were spent in consolidating and perfecting what already stood, not in laying the foundations of new edifices; and it was well that it should be so; since it accorded admirably with
the whole Providential scheme, as we can now discern it, for the onward progress of the faith, that the powers of a devoted ministry should be employed in forming, amid the comparative repose of the empire of Rome, a system destined to be productive of so many blessings in the succeeding centuries of turmoil and convulsions.
It is true that in too many of the institutions and customs to which we have alluded, are plainly to be discerned the first germs of overwhelming and pernicious abuses ; but we can scarcely be justified in attributing to the primitive clergy of the second and third centuries consequences whose true origin is to be found in the social corruptions of the middle ages; we ought, on the contrary, to rejoice that so intellectual and so practical a body of men should have been engaged in founding a system so well calculated to further the kingdom of God in their own days and in those of their children. A more minute inspection will often convince us that in the early progress of what to us, looking at them as we do through the prejudices of so many centuries, may appear to be unmitigated abuses, the guiding hand and watchful omniscience of the Great Head of the Church may be discerned, preparing it for the emergencies of its coming destiny.
But before we turn away from the consideration of the beneficial influence of the clergy on the members of the Church, we may notice another less direct, but still important mean by which their authority was heightened, and the effect of the purity of their example in some