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THE MINISTRY IN THE SECOND CENTURY
During the first century we can see the local churches creating their ministry. The same independence marks their action in the second century. They can be seen changing the ministry they have inherited. The beginnings of the change date from the early decades of the second century; by the end of the century it was almost complete. The change was two-fold, and concerned both the prophetic and the local ministry. Stated in the briefest manner it may be described thus: the “prophetic” ministry passed away, its functions being appropriated by the permanent office-bearers of the local churches; and every local church came to supplement its organization by placing one man at the head of the community, making him the president of the college of elders. The one part of the change which came about in the second century, that which gave the senate of the congregation its president, was simple, natural and salutary; it came about gradually and at different times in the various portions of the Empire; it was effected peacefully, and we hear of no disturbances in consequence.416416Ritschl’s idea that the dissensions in the Church in Rome witnessed to in the Pastor of Hermas arose from the attempt to force on this change finds little acceptance. Compare Ritschl, Die Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche (1857), pp. 403, 535. The other change, which meant the overthrow of the “prophetic” ministry of the apostolic and immediately subsequent period, was a revolution, provoked a widespread revolt and rent the Church in twain.170
To understand the change in the ministry of the local churches it is to be kept in mind that at the close of the first century every local church had at its head a college or senate or session of rulers, who were called by the technical name of elders, and were also known by names which indicated the kind of work they had to do—pastors, overseers (ἐπίσκοποι). This was the ministry of oversight. To each congregation there was also attached a body of men who rendered “subordinate service,” and who were called deacons—but whether they formed part of the college of elders, or were formed into a separate college of their own, it is not easy to say. The change made consisted in placing at the head of this college of rulers one man, who was commonly called either the pastor or the bishop, the latter name being the more usual, and apparently the technical designation. The ministry of each congregation or local church instead of being, as it had been, two-fold—of elders and deacons—became three-fold—of pastor or bishop, elders and deacons. This was the introduction of what is called the three-fold ministry. It is commonly called the beginning of episcopacy; but that idea is based on the erroneous conception that a three-fold ministry and episcopacy are identical.417417The Presbyterian or Conciliar system of Church government is as much a three-fold ministry as episcopacy.
In order to show what the change was and what it meant, three relics of the oldest Christian literature may be taken, the Didache or the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, certain fragments which are sources of the Apostolic Canons, and the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch. Authorities differ about the dates of these documents, but it may be taken as well ascertained that they all belonged to the years between 100 and 180 A.D.418418My own opinion inclines to the following dates: The Epistles of Ignatius, about 116 A.D.; the Didache, not earlier than 135 A.D.; the Sources of the Apostolic Canons, between 140-180 A.D. Compare note on next page.
In the first mentioned we find the Christian society ruled by a college of office-bearers who are called “overseers and 171deacons”; in the second we see one bishop or pastor (the terms are synonymous in the document), a session of elders and a body of deacons, but the elders rule over the bishop as they rule the congregation, and the bishop is not their president; in the third we have the three-fold ministry of bishop, elders and deacons constituting a governing body419419In the Ignatian Epistles the bishop, elders and deacons are named together twelve times: Magn. ii. vi., xiii.; Trall. vii.; Philad. pref., iv., vii.; Smyrn. viii., xii.; Polyc. vi.; Trall. ii.; Philad. x.; and, in the first ten at least, the three classes of office-bearers form an inseparable unity. at the head of the congregation or local church.
The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles420420The manuscript of the Didache was discovered in 1873 in the library of the monastery of the Holy Sepulchre in the Phanar or Greek quarter of Constantinople by Philotheus Bryennios, Patriarch of Nicomedia. It was published by him in 1883. It is now known by numerous editions. Of these by far the best comes from the pen of Professor Harnack of Berlin, and it is to that edition that the references in the notes here are made. It is difficult to say what country gave birth to this manual. The external evidence is all in favour of Egypt; and Harnack and Lightfoot conclude that it came from that land. The only evidence worth mentioning which seems to invalidate this conclusion is the sentence in the eucharistic prayer:—“Just as this broken bread was scattered over the hills and having been gathered together became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom”—words which cannot refer to Egypt but which might appropriately describe the corn of the Lebanon or the regions beyond the Jordan. But there is no reason why the eucharistic prayer might not come from Palestine and be received into the Churches of Egypt. The external evidence proves the use and the knowledge of the manual in Egypt, and the internal, with the exception of the sentence quoted, confirms the idea. A few Anglican scholars have done their best to minimise the value of the book and its evidence. A good example of this depreciation is to be found in Bishop Gore’s The Ministry of the Christian Church (1893), 3rd ed., App. L. p. 410. It is very difficult to determine the date. The Didache quotes the Epistle of Barnabas and is quoted by Clement of Alexandria, and the date assigned is practically determined by the date fixed for the Epistle of Barnabas. The probable date of this epistle depends on whether the events referred to in the sixteenth section describe the condition of things in the time of Domitian or of Hadrian. Personally I am inclined to think that the references in the Epistle of Barnabas are to the later period. If this be the case it is scarcely possible to place the Didache earlier than 135 A.D., i.e. later than the Ignatian letters. The majority of scholars place it very much earlier. The commonest date is about 100 A.D.—Wordsworth, Hitchcock and Brown, Spence, Bonwetsch, Massebieau; a few place it earlier—Funk and Loening, between 80 and 100 A.D.. Zahn dates it 80-120 and more exactly about 110 A.D.; Bryennios, its first editor, gives 120-130, and Harnack 130-160 A.D. as the probable date. Hilgenfeld, who finds traces of Montanism in the writing, places it later than 160. For our purposes an exact determination of date is unnecessary; all that we have to deal with is that the Didache describes the condition of a Christian organization some time between the Epistles of S. Paul and the third century. is a short 172Christian manual, of composite character, containing rules for the conduct of individual men and women, and regulations for the guidance of small Christian communities, hundreds of which must have been scattered over the wide face of the Roman Empire in the second century. The sixteen paragraphs of this little manual are well-arranged when compared with most manuals of the same kind. The first six contain simple directions for living the Christian life, based upon the Beatitudes of our Lord and the Ten Commandments. They seem to have formed the instruction administered to catechumens before baptism. Then follow directions about baptism, fasting and prayer and the Eucharist. Three sections are devoted to injunctions which concern the “prophetic ministry.” Then follow instructions about the Lord’s Day services, and the selection of office-bearers. The whole concludes with a warning about the last days.
Tertullian has said: “We Christians are one body knit together by a common religious profession, by a unity of discipline and by the bond of a common hope.”421421Apology 39; elsewhere (De Praescrip. 20) he speaks of the contesseratio hospitalitatis which linked all Christians together. This little manual reads like a commentary on the saying. Every wayfaring stranger seeking food and lodging was to be received and fed if he came with a profession of the Christian faith. The letter of commendation which was in use among the Jews and to which St. Paul refers, was not required to ensure a hospitable 173reception422422Compare 2 Cor. iii. 1. These commendatory letters became the rule at a later period in the Christian Church. Compare Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, I. 407. for one night at least. It was better to be imposed upon sometimes than to miss the chance of entertaining a brother Christian. But this hospitality was not to be without discrimination. “Let every one coming in the name of the Lord be received, but afterwards ye shall test him and know the true from the false; for ye shall have insight. If he cometh as a traveller, help him as much as you can; but he shall not remain with you unless for two or three days if it be necessary. If he will take up his abode with you and is an artizan, let him work and so eat; but if he has no trade provide employment for him, that no idler live with you as a Christian. But if he will not act according to this he is a Christ-trafficker; beware of such.”423423Chapter xii. The brotherly love of these early Christians was a real and practical thing which no experience of imposition seems to have damped. Their simple rules are witness to the fact that they were sometimes imposed upon, and Lucian’s account of the impostor Peregrinus, shows how a heathen could see that their charity was often abused.424424Peregrinus Proteus, 13.
One does not naturally expect to find an elaborate ecclesiastical organization among these simple folk, and there are no traces of it. The Didache reveals a state of matters not unlike what we see in the Epistles of St. Paul. The control in all things evidently rested with the community met in congregational meeting. It is to the community as a whole that all the directions are addressed. It receives, tests, finds work for or sends away the travelling strangers who ask assistance or hospitality. It discharges all these duties of Christian benevolence which we find elsewhere laid upon the president.425425In Justin Martyr’s Apology it is the president (προεστὼς) who succours strangers and travellers: Apology, i. 67. It is the community, in congregational meeting, which tests and receives or rejects the members of the “prophetic ministry” when 174they appear. The injunctions about baptism, fasting, prayers, are all given to the whole community,426426“Now concerning baptism, thus baptize ye : having first uttered all these things (i.e. the instructions given in cc. i.-vi.), baptize into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost in living (running) water. But if thou hast not living, baptize in other water: and if thou canst not in cold then in warm. But if thou hast neither, pour water thrice upon the head unto the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. But before the baptism let the baptizer and the baptized fast and whatever others can; but the baptized thou shalt command to fast for one or two days before,” c. vii. and not to the office-bearers; and yet office-bearers did exist among them whom the community are required to elect and to honour.
The manual bears evidence to the value of the “prophetic ministry.” Its members are to be honoured in a very special fashion. If a prophet is present he is to preside at the Lord’s Table, and his prayers are to follow his heart’s promptings;427427“But permit the prophets to give thanks as much as they will,” x. 7. if no prophet was present, one of the office-bearers presided; but he had to use a fixed form of prayer. The duty of obeying the members of the “prophetic ministry” who speak the Word of the Lord is laid down in the most solemn manner. Prophets and teachers who happen to be residing within the community are to be supported by the members; the first fruits are to be set aside for them; and in this respect they are like the high priests of the Old Testament.428428“Every first fruit . . . thou shalt take and give to the prophets; for they are your high-priests,” xiii. 3.
The figures of these prophets, true and false, which are somewhat shadowy in the New Testament, take definite shape in this ancient church directory. We see the stir in the community when the prophet arrives. The women hasten to set apart the first baking of bread, the first cup of the newly opened wine-skin or jar of oil, the first yard or two of the newly spun cloth429429“Every first fruit then of the produce of the wine-press and of the threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, thou shalt take and give to the prophets. . . . If thou bakest a baking of bread, take the first of it and give according to the commandment. In like manner when thou openest a jar of wine or oil, take the first of it and give to the prophets; and of money and clothing and every possession take the first, as may seem good unto thee, and give according to the commandment,” xiii. 3-7. for the use of these men, gifted with magnetic speech, 175who have come to edify the little society and instruct them in the ways of the Lord.
Not that every one who comes among them saying that he is a prophet is to be received as such. If he asks for money, if he does not practise more than he preaches, if he has not the ways of the Lord—then he is a false prophet and is to be sent away.430430xi. For the Christian communities felt that they had the presence of their Lord with them according to His promise, and had the gift, however rudely it might be shown and exercised, of testing even “prophets” and “apostles.” When the members of this prophetic ministry were received they were the only persons permitted to abide within the community without earning their living by artisan or other labour. Their labour was the instruction and edification of the members of the society.431431“But every true prophet who will settle among you is worthy of his support. Likewise a true teacher, he also is worthy, like the workman, of his support”; xiii. 1, 2.
Although the community was honoured with the presence of these gifted men, and although the congregational meeting was, as in the Churches of Corinth and Thessalonica, the centre and seat of rule, the brethren were directed to elect office-bearers. The context gives the reason. “But on the Lord’s Day do ye assemble and break bread and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions, in order that your sacrifice may be pure. But every one that hath controversy with his friend, let him not come together with you until they be reconciled. . . . Therefore appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek and not avaricious, upright and proved, for they too render you the service of the prophets and teachers.”432432xiv. 1-2; xv. 1, 2.
The office-bearers are needed to act as judges in quarrels within 176the community, and to act as the “wise men” whom St. Paul asked the Corinthians to appoint.4334331 Cor. vi. 5. They are also, whether in turn or otherwise we do not know, to preside at the Holy Supper and to edify the community, for they are to serve as “prophets and teachers.”434434“They render you the service of the prophets and teachers. Therefore neglect them not; for they are your honoured ones along with the prophets and the teachers”: xv. 1, 2. This passage is rightly regarded by Harnack, and in this Sanday follows him, as of the utmost importance to enable us to trace the development of the Christian ministry in the primitive Church. It must be referred to later. It is sufficient to say here that we see the change taking place whereby the ministry of the local Church secured the place at an earlier period possessed by the prophetic ministry. Compare Harnack’s edition of the Didache in Texte und Untersuchungen, II. i. 58 note; ii. 140 ff.; Sanday, Expositor (1887), Jan.-June, p. 14 ff. The word τιμη was specially used to denote the respect due to spiritual guides (compare Harnack’s note for references); it is a question whether the “honoured ones” are also those who “receive an honorarium” (for the Greek word has the double reference); the prophets and teachers received the firstfruits in preference to the poor. Did the bishops and deacons who are placed among the honoured spiritual guides partake of these first fruits also? The Didache does not answer the question. There is no division of labour indicated between the bishops (presbyters) and the deacons; and the same qualities of meekness, uprightness, proved Christian character and the absence of avarice are demanded of both.
What went on in the smaller took place in the larger Christian communities; the outlines of the picture sketched for us in the Didache appear also in the Epistle of Clement435435In the Epistle of Clement we find that the congregation is the supreme authority; the letter is addressed to the whole Church:—“To the Church which sojourneth in Corinth” (preface); the evil-doers are urged to do “what is ordered by the people” (liv. 2). The office-bearers are a number of presbyter-bishops and deacons (compare above pp. 159 ff.). The epistle says little or nothing about a “prophetic ministry” but that is not to be wondered at as it was written for a definite purpose which had nothing to do with the question. In Hermas we have the same organization and the distinct traces of prophets and their ministry. and in the quaint Pastor of Hermas. At the head of the community, as regular office-bearers, were a number of men presbyter-bishops 177with deacons as their assistants, but the congregation is seen to be the supreme judge in the last resort. The people rule and form a little democracy; they choose their office-bearers who lead their devotions and act as arbiters in all disputes. They are a self-governing community. They can even reject the services of men who assert that they are members of the prophetic ministry. They can do this in God’s name. They are a theocracy as well as a democracy. The “gifts” of the Spirit are present in their midst and are manifest in the power of judging.
Our second document is what Harnack calls the Original Sources of the Apostolic Canons.436436A summary of the critical history of the Apostolic Canons (to be distinguished from the Apostolic Constitutions) will be found in Harnack’s edition of the Didache (Texte und Untersuchungen, II. ii. p. 193-209) followed by Harnack’s critical reconstruction based on the discovery of the Didache (pp. 209-25), and lastly the full text of the canons (pp. 225-37), tables and summary (pp. 237-41). According to generally accepted critical opinions the compiler of the Canons used four sources, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache (or more probably an abridgement of the Didache), and two fragments from an old ecclesiastical law-book. It is with these fragments that we have now to do, or rather with the first of them. Harnack dates it at some time between 140 and 180 A.D. These fragments, with commentary and excursus, have been published by Harnack in the Texte und Untersuchungen, II. v. Professor Sanday appears to agree with Professor Harnack about these fragments: Expositor (1887), Jan.-June, pp. 20, 21, 106. Harnack’s edition of the Sources has been translated into English by L. A. Wheatley under the title Sources of the Apostolic Canons (1895). These sources are but fragments, preserved because they have been incorporated in a much later law-book of the Christian Church. We do not know from what land they came nor how wide or narrow was the sphere of their authority. They show us, however, what a small Christian community was in the last decades of the second century, and they describe the way in which it was created out of a number of Christian families. We can see the birth and growth of a Church with its complete organization. In many respects the process described can be seen now in any mission field, especially among peoples of ancient civilization. Perhaps 178the most interesting thing about it is that every body of Christians however small is ordered to form itself into a congregation, and the implied thought that the Christian life must be lived within an orderly Christian society before the full benefits which accompany it can be enjoyed.
The document takes us back to a time when a few Christian families found themselves the only believers in the midst of a surrounding paganism. Few or many, they are commanded to organize themselves as a church.437437“If there are few men, and not twelve persons who are competent to vote at the election of a bishop, the neighbouring Churches should be written to, where any of them is a settled one, in order that three selected men may come thence and examine carefully if he is worthy.” Sources of the Apostolic Canons, pp. 7, 8. (Here and elsewhere I quote from the English translation of Harnack’s edition in the Texte und Untersuchungen, II. v.) If the families number less than twelve, or rather if they include fewer than twelve persons entitled to vote in the election, it is supposed that they need aid in the first important step in the organization, which is the selection of some one to be their pastor or bishop—the names are synonymous in the document.438438The word ἐπίσκοπος occurs in i. 4, 22; ii. 15, 19; and ποιμὴν in ii. 18. In this case they are to apply to a neighbouring Christian community which has been established for some time, and ask them to appoint three men to assist them to select their pastor.439439The phrase is ἐκλεκτοὶ τρεῖς ἄνδρες. Various parallels may be found to the employment of three chosen men to conduct together work requiring tact and experience. The most obvious is the mission of the three men Claudius Ephebus, Valerius Bito and Fortunatus to Corinth from Rome (1 Clem. lxiii. 1). Harnack finds in the three men selected to assist the small congregation in the selection of a bishop the anticipation of the much later rule that the consecration of a bishop required the presence and co-operation of the three neighbouring bishops. He finds a middle point in the fact evidenced by the letter of Cornelius of Rome to Fabius of Antioch (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. VI., xliii. 8, 9) that by the middle of the third century it was the custom that bishops were consecrated by three neighbouring bishops (Sources of the Apostolic Canons (1895), pp. 36 ff.). This afterwards became the law and is found in canons of many councils (the Council of Arles in its twentieth canon being the first). Hence comes the saying “All Christendom becomes presbyterian on a consecration day.” It is evident from the continual repetition of the law that the Churches found it somewhat difficult to enforce their regulation. Along with these three, 179presumably experienced Christians, but not necessarily office-bearers, they are to select some one (whether from their own number or from the outside is not said) to be their bishop. A list of qualifications is given them to direct their choice, from which it appears that character and Christian experience are the things really needful for the office.440440The qualifications are divided into two classes those indispensable and those desirable. “That is if he has a good report among the heathen, if he is faultless, if a friend of the poor, if honourable—no drunkard no adulterer, not covetous nor a slanderer, nor partial or such like” (i. 10-15). These are the necessary qualifications. Then follow the desirable: “It is good if he is unmarried; if not then a man of one wife; educated, in a position to expound the scriptures; but if he is unlearned, then he must be gentle and filled with love to all, so that a bishop should never be as one accused of anything by the multitude “ (i. 10-23); Sources of the Apostolic Canons, pp. 8-10. A pastor or bishop is to be one whose character stands so high that no one may be expected to bring any charge of misconduct against him. He is not to be given to drinking, nor to covetousness nor to foul living. He must not be a respecter of persons. It is better that he should be unmarried, but if he has a wife he must be a faithful husband. It is advisable that he should be an educated man and able to expound the Scriptures, but that is not indispensable. If he is unlearned he must at least be gentle and full of love towards all persons. He has to represent the community to the outside world, and must therefore be a man whom the heathen respect. He is to be the leader in public worship, and the elders are to support him, seated on his right hand and on his left. He must be a valiant fighter against sin, and the elders are to aid him in this duty also. He is, under the control of the elders, to administer the property of the Church, which in these early days consisted of the gifts brought by the faithful to the meeting for thanksgiving. 180They were handed over to him, and distributed under the watchful supervision of the elders.
Besides the pastor the congregation is required to appoint at least two elders or presbyters.441441“Hence the presbyters must be already advanced in life, abstaining becomingly from communication with women, willingly sharing with the brotherhood, not having regard to the person, companions in consecration with the bishop (συμμύστας τοῦ ἐπισκόπου), and fighting on his side, collecting the congregation together, kindly disposed towards the pastor. The elders on the right should look after the bishops at the altar, in order that they may distribute the gifts and themselves receive the necessary contributions (ὅπως τιμήσωσι καὶ ἐντιμηθῶσιν, εἰς ὃ ἂν δέῃ). The elders on the left shall look after the congregation in order that it may be at rest and without disturbance, after that it has been first proved in all submission. But if one who is admonished should answer rudely; those at the altar should unite and condemn such an one to the punishment deserved by a general resolution, so that the others may be in awe, in order that they (the elders) look not at the person of any one, and that it may not spread as a cancer and be taken up by every one “ (ii.). They are to be men advanced in years and presumably unmarried (the meaning of the phrase is somewhat doubtful).442442The phrase is τρόπῳ τινὶ ἀπεχομένους τῆς πρὸς γυναῖκας συνελεύσεως. They must not be respecters of persons. They are to be ready to assist the pastor at all times in the conduct of public worship and in dealing with sinners. They are the rulers in the strict sense of the word. They are responsible for summoning the people to public worship, and it is their place to preserve order during Divine Service. The women who visit the sick are to report to them and not to the bishop. They are to see that the bishop distributes in a proper manner the offerings of the faithful. They have charge of the discipline of the congregation including the pastor.443443The relation of the elders to the bishops is expressed by the word προνοήσονται; this has been translated in the English version “shall assist,” which cannot be right, for the same word is used to express the relation of the elders to the people, and it is evident that the power of discipline is meant (ii. 19, 23).
Every church must have at least three deacons, who are to be the ministers of the people in their private and home life. They are to report on any unseemly conduct which may call 181for discipline at the hands of the elders. They are to be men well esteemed in the congregation, faithful husbands, with well-behaved families.444444“They shall be approved in every service, with a good testimony from the congregation, husbands of one wife, educating their children, honourable, gentle, quiet, not murmuring, not double-tongued, not quickly angry, not looking on the person of the rich, also not oppressing the poor, also not given to much wine, intelligent, encouraging well to secret works, while they compel those among the brethren who have much to open their hands, also themselves generous, communicative, honoured with all honour and esteem and fear by the congregation, carefully giving heed to those who walk disorderly, warning the one, exhorting the other, threatening a third, but leaving the scoffers completely to themselves” (iv.). Sources of the Apostolic Canons, pp. 17-19. It is their duty to move among the people, “and carefully give heed to those who walk disorderly, warning one, exhorting another, threatening a third, but leaving scoffers entirely to themselves.” They were to be men of generous disposition, for part of their duty was to insist that the wealthier members of the Brotherhood, as the congregation is called, “open their hands” to support the poor and for other ecclesiastical needs, and example is better than precept. In short their duties, as laid down in these ancient canons, are almost identical with those of the deacons in presbyterian churches now, both in what they do and in what they are to refrain from doing.
Every church was also to have a ministry of women. Three were to be appointed. They are called widows, and a curious division of duties is enjoined.445445“Three widows shall be appointed, two to persevere in prayer for all those who are in temptation, and for the reception of revelations where such are necessary; but one to assist the women visited with sickness. She must be ready for service, discreet, communicating what is necessary to the elders, not avaricious, not given to much love of wine, so that she may be sober and capable of performing the night services and other loving services if she will; for these are the chief good treasures of the. Lord” (v.), Sources of the Apostolic Canons, pp. 19-21. One of them is to act as a combination of nurse and Bible-woman. She is to assist the sick women of the congregation. To this end she “ must be ready for the service, discreet and not avaricious, nor given to much love of 182wine, so that she may be sober and capable of performing the night services and other loving ministry if she will.” The duty of the other two was to “persevere in prayer for all who are in temptation”; and they were also to pray for the reception of revelations where these were necessary. They took the place in the congregation of the old prophetic ministry, and were among the number of the New Testament prophetesses.
There was another official. The congregation is told to appoint a Reader. He is to be an experienced Christian. His duty is to read the Scriptures during Divine Service, and it is required that he should have a good voice and a clear delivery. He is told to come early to the church on the Lord’s Day. He is to be able to expound the Scripture that he has read. He is to remember that “he fills the place of an evangelist.” The Reader in these ancient times did what the pastor or bishop was expected to do in later times. There was the more need for the office when we remember that the bishop might be an unlearned man, and by unlearned was frequently meant one who did not know the alphabet.
Such is a picture of a small Christian Church in the last decades of the second century. It may be taken as the type of hundreds. It is independent and self-governing, but it is not isolated. It is a brotherhood (ἀδελφότης), consisting of brethren organized under office-bearers chosen by themselves, but it has relations with, and a knowledge of, a wider brotherhood of which it is a minute part. When need comes it can appeal for and get help in the selection of its pastor. Its ministry need not be learned; Christian character, saintly behaviour, the power to exhort and teach which comes from deep Christian experience, are more highly valued than ability to read. The Brotherhood has the Wise Men whom St. Paul desired to see in the Corinthian Church in its elders or presbyters who share the responsibilities of the pastor’s work, and in this respect are his assistants, but whose superintendence and rule extends over the pastor himself in other respects. We see the deacons going out and in among 183the members of the society, encouraging, warning, rebuking, if need be, and endeavouring to excite to Christian liberality by precept and example. We descry through the mists of seventeen hundred years the homely and simple ministry of women; on the one hand an active motherly woman, able to nurse her sick sisters, strong enough to endure, as women only can, long periods of night-watching, giving wholesome motherly advice to the women and girls of the community; and on the other two solitary women, in the weakness and loneliness of their sex and of their widowhood, powerful to wrestle with God in prayer, and to assist with their supplications the whole congregation and the strong men who are tempted and tried in the daily battle of life. The strong supporting the weak; and the weak, powerful in prayer, helping the strong; the picture is one which only a Christian community could show, and there it often appeared. Early Christian literature abounds in references to the prayers of the widows of the congregation. They are expected to bear the whole burden of the brethren upon their hearts, and to entreat the Lord in prayer. The prayers of believers are the sacrifice of primitive Christianity, and because the widows abound in prayer they are the altar of sacrifice.446446Compare Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, 4; in the Canons of Hippolytus (ix. 59) widows are to be highly honoured because of their copiosas orationes et infirmorum curam. In Apostolic Constitutions, iii. 12, 13, it is said: “For it becomes widows when they see that one of their fellow widows is clothed by any one or receives money or meat or drink or shoes, at the sight of the refreshment of their sister to say: Thou art blessed O God, who hast refreshed my fellow widow. Bless O Lord, and glorify him that has bestowed these things upon her, and let his good work ascend in truth unto Thee and remember him for good in the day of his visitation.” Compare Apost. Constit. iii. 5, 7.
These ancient fragments of old ecclesiastical canons are, however, specially interesting, because they represent the transition stage between the organization of the churches, shown
in the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians or in the Didache, and the three-fold ministry of the third century. They do this in 184two ways; The prophetic ministry has departed, but its memories linger in the prayers of the widows for revelations and in the exhortation to the Reader that he holds the place of an evangelist. For our immediate purpose, however, it is most interesting to have in the fragments an organization lying between that of a church or congregation, ruled by a college of presbyter-bishops as in the Didache, and one where the bishop or pastor is the president of a compact circle of elders and deacons, and where these office-bearers have their fixed places under their head. In these fragments the bishop or pastor has neither the power nor the position he afterwards came to occupy almost universally in the third century.
But there is this advance on the older organization. There is now one man who has a distinct position which he occupies by himself. He is the recognized leader of the congregation or church in several definite ways. He represents the congregation to those outside, else why should it be a necessary qualification for office that he is respected by the heathen? He leads the congregational worship in the meeting for thanksgiving at any rate, and if he is learned and can expound the Scriptures, probably at the meeting for edification also. The gifts of the congregation are given into his hands for distribution, and he is the almoner. He stands alone and separate from the other office-bearers in all this. In these respects also he stands forth as the representative of the unity of the congregation or church.
On the other hand, he has not yet been placed in the position which the bishop or pastor afterwards held. In the Apostolic Constitutions it is the bishop who calls the congregation together for worship; here that duty belongs to the elders, who also watch over the behaviour of the people while in Church.447447Apostolic Constitutions, ii. 57; cf. Sources of the Apostolic Canons, ii. 15: the same word συναθροίζειν being used in both as the technical term to summon to Church. In later ecclesiastical manuals the deacons and deaconesses report tai the bishop; there they, or at least the deaconesses, report to 185the elders, who have the responsibilities for the sick and infirm of the congregation, which in later days belonged to the bishop.448448Apostolic Constitutions. iii. 19 orders the deacons and deaconesses: “Tell your Bishop of all those that are in affliction; for you ought to be like his soul and senses.” Sources of the Apostolic Canons, v. 8, 9, directs the Widows to “communicate what is necessary to the presbyters or elders.” In the Canons of Hippolytus, c. 5, the deacons are ordered to report to the bishop. Of. Riedel, Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchate Alexandrien (1900), p. 203. All these things show that the discipline of the congregation is in the hands of the elders exclusively, and that the bishop is not the president of their court. If any doubt remained on this head it must vanish when we consider the unique regulation that the bishop himself is under the supervision of the elders in one of the most important of his functions.449449Apostolic Constitutions, ii. 25, 35, make it plain that the bishop was accountable to no one but God in his duty as almoner. The bishop is thus addressed: “Let him use those tenths and first fruits, which are given according to the command of God, as a man of God; as also let him dispense in a right manner the free-will offerings which are brought on account of the poor, to the orphans . . . as having that God for the examiner of his accounts who has committed the disposition to him” (ii. 25). And in the thirty-fifth section the people are enjoined: “Thou shalt not call the bishop to account nor watch his administration, how he does it, when or to whom, or where, or whether he does it well or ill or indifferently; for he has One who will call him to account, the Lord God.” When he acts as almoner they are to see that he acts rightly, and, what is of the highest importance for understanding the situation, the word used to express the control of the elders over the bishop is the same word (προνοεῖσθαι), which describes their power of discipline over the congregation. The bishop has emerged from the circle of presbyters, but he is not their president; and while he is the leader of the congregation in many respects he is, in one respect at least, like the members of the congregation, amenable to the discipline of the elders.
Probably had we other relics of ecclesiastical manuals belonging to this transition period we should find other instances of organizations on the road towards the three-fold ministry, 186but travelling by different paths. We know that the three-fold ministry grew more rapidly in some places than in others, and the organization probably passed through several transition stages, of which this is one, before it attained to maturity.
Our third group of writings consists of the famous Letters of Ignatius of Antioch—a
series of documents which have provoked an immense amount of criticism which
cannot be said to be ended. Without entering into the controversy we may accept
the results of the scholarly criticism of the late Dr. Lightfoot in this country,
and of Dr. Zahn in Germany, according to which the Seven Epistles in the shorter recension
are genuine documents. These letters came from the head of the Christian community
in Antioch in Syria. Ignatius had been seized in an outburst of persecution
and was being dragged across Asia Minor, a prisoner in charge of a band of Roman
soldiers. He wrote to the Christians of Ephesus that he was on his way from
Syria, in bonds for the sake of the common Name and hope, and was expecting
to succeed in fighting with wild beasts at Rome, that by so succeeding he might
have power to become a disciple.450450To the Ephesians, 1. The journey was an apprenticeship in suffering;
for the ten soldiers, who guarded him, treated him as ten leopards might have
done, and only waxed worse when they were kindly entreated.451451To the Romans, 5. The churches of
Asia Minor had sent him comforting messages by special delegates. The letters
are his answers.452452 The letters of Ignatius were
generally known during the later Middle Ages in the form of seventeen epistles,
of which fifteen were believed to come from the pen of Ignatius while two (one
from the Virgin and another from a Mary of Cassobola) were addressed to Ignatius.
Renascence criticism disposed of the claims of four of these letters. There
remained thirteen, twelve from the pen of Ignatius and one (from Mary of Cassobola)
addressed to him. This collection is now known as the Long Recension, and it
was this collection which was the subject of fierce controversy in the end of
the sixteenth and during the seventeenth century. At the basis of these attacks
made on the genuineness of these letters lay two facts: that Eusebius knew of
seven letters only and that these thirteen contained passages evidently
unknown to Eusebius or to any of the ancients. The learned Englishman,
Ussher, afterwards archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, observed
that the quotations made from Ignatius by some English writers from the thirteenth
century onwards corresponded with those found in Eusebius, Theodoret, etc.,
and concluded that there must exist in England a manuscript which would represent
the Ignatius known to the ancients. After a prolonged search two such manuscripts
were brought to light, both of them in Latin. They contained seven letters
but in a form shorter than the generally received letters. Ussher accepted six
of these shorter letters as the genuine epistles of Ignatius (he refused to
accept the letter to Polycarp). His book was published in 1644. Soon afterwards
(1646) Isaac Voss published six letters from a Greek MS.—his MS. did not give
the Epistle to the Romans; and in 1689 the full Greek text of the seven letters
was published by Ruinart. It was generally admitted that, if any genuine letters
of Ignatius had descended to the present time, they were these seven in the
shorter form; but many critics still refuse to admit the genuineness of any
of the letters.
The controversy was raised again in 1845 by the publication of Cureton’s Ancient Syriac Version of the Epistles of S. Ignatius to S. Polycarp, the Ephesians and the Romans. The author had found two Syriac MSS. in the library of the British Museum containing the three epistles mentioned in his title and in a still shorter form than those published by Ussher. He maintained that these three short letters were the genuine remains of Ignatius. He defended his position in a second work, Vindiciae Ignatianae (1846), and in his most complete treatise, Corpus Ignatianum (1849). His views at once attracted attention and were very largely adopted, though many distinguished scholars still defended the seven letters, while others refused to accept even Cureton’s three in the brief form. This controversy was almost ended by Zahn, who, in his Ignatius von Antioch (1873), showed very successfully that Cureton’s three Syriac letters were epitomes of the three in what were called the Short Recension. This opinion was supported by the late Dr. Lightfoot’s elaborate work, Apostolic Fathers, part II., S. Ignatius, S. Polycarp (1885). The result of these two works has been that in Germany, France and England the seven letters, in the shorter form published by Ruinart in 1689, are generally accepted as the genuine remains of Ignatius. Many critics still refuse to accept the letters in any form as genuine, but their criticism is mainly of the subjective and unconvincing kind. The only writer whose book deserves serious consideration and who dissents from the conclusions of Zahn and Lightfoot is Bruston, who, in his Ignace d’Antioche (1897), refuses to admit the genuineness of the Epistle to the Romans and combines his critical opinions with the theory that Ignatius was not the Bishop of Antioch but a deacon in the Church there.
Many scholars are of the opinion that the letters of Ignatius were known to Lucian and that he used his knowledge in writing his story De Morte Peregrini. They think that the imprisonment of Peregrinus, the visits paid to him by delegates from the Churches of Asia Minor, and the letters written by him to the Churches which were received with reverence, were all incidents suggested by the letters of Ignatius. The idea seems to me somewhat far-fetched; the points which Lucian seizes and makes use of may easily have been suggested by a general observation of usages common to early Christianity and need not be attached to any particular person however famous; but compare Lightfoot, S. Ignatius, S. Polycarp, i. pp. 331 ff.
They exhale the fragrance of a saintly and impassioned Christian
life. They dwell on the need that the sin-sick children
188of men have for the One great Physician of souls.453453To the Ephesians, 7. The Christian
preacher of the second century lives in them still, embalmed
there and treasured up for a life beyond life. We find in them
bursts of poetic fancy: the Lord was a Star which shone forth
in the heaven above all stars; and its light was unutterable;
and its strangeness caused astonishment; and all the rest of the constellations,
with the sun and the moon, formed themselves into a chorus about the star; but the Star itself
far out-shone them all.454454Ibid. 19. They abound in simple but striking metaphors,
such as the lyre and its strings, the athlete and his training;
the chorus with its keynote; the wheat ground in the hand-mill.455455To the Ephesians, 4; To the Philadelphians, 1; To Polycarp, 1, 2; To the Romans, 4.
We find quaint emblems: “Ye are stones of a temple,
which were prepared beforehand for a building of God, being
hoisted up to the heights through the engine of Jesus Christ,
which is the Cross, and using for a rope the Holy Spirit; while
your faith is your windlass, and love is the way that leadeth
up to God.”456456To the Ephesians, 9. They show deep knowledge of the human heart:
“No man professing faith sinneth, and no man possessing love
hateth”457457Ibid. 14.—a sentence which might have
come from Thomas à Kempis. Sometimes the words seem insensibly to take the
form of a prophetic chant, and have a rhythmic cadence all
189their own.458458 Compare especially the Epistle to the Philadelphians, 7:—
Χωρὶς τοῦ ἐπισκόπου μηδὲν ποιεῖτε·
Τὴν σάρκα ὑμῶν ὡς ναὸν Θεοῦ τηρεῖτε·
Τὴν ἕνωσιν ἀγαπᾶτε·
Τοὺς μερισμοὺς φεύγετε·
Μιμηταὶ γίνεσθε Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ·
Ὡς καὶ αὐτὸς τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ.
Ignatius had evidently visited Philadelphia and had addressed the brethren there, and in his address he had felt the prophetic afflatus, had interrupted himself with a loud cry, and these sentences were part of what he had said. They are an example of the prophetic utterances. Throughout there is that taste of Oriental extravagance which makes them so natural.459459As where he says:—“These men ye ought to shun as wild beasts for they are mad dogs, biting by stealth,” To the Ephesians, 7.
The letters breathe the storm and strain of a time of persecution. The rallying cry which rolls from the first to the last is union! Keep united! Close the ranks! Intimate union with Christ; that is the main thing, and that which comes first. This is how he puts it. “For being counted worthy to bear a most godly name, in these bonds, which I carry about, I sing the praise of the churches; and I pray that there may be in them union of the flesh and of the Spirit which are Jesus Christ’s, our never-failing life—an union of faith and of love which is preferred before all things, and—what is more than all—an union with Jesus and with the Father, in whom, if we patiently endure all the despite of the prince of this world and escape therefrom, we shall attain unto God.”460460To the Magnesians, 1.
Varying pictures of the Christian Churches rise in his imagination. Now they are ships driven and tossed in the storm of persecution; there must be a strong man at the helm and discipline in the crew; they need a favouring wind and a sheltering haven.461461To Polycarp, 2. Or they are so many households of God: the office-bearers are the upper servants set there by the Master to rule, and the other members obey the Master Himself when they are submissive to those whom He has set over them.462462To the Ephesians, 6. 190Or they are disciple companies, cherishing an imitation of Christ, not in the solitary fashion of Thomas à Kempis, but in companionship. The pastor represents Jesus, the elders are His apostles,463463To the Magnesians, 6; To the Trallians, 2, 3; To the Smyrnaeans, 8. and the deacons and the faithful those who followed Him in Galilee—and all, pastor and elders and people, look for the footprints the Master has left, and try to set their steps where He trod. Perhaps this picture of a disciple company is his favourite one. It has been a thought tenderly cherished through the centuries, and has often been set forth with a certain quaint realism. Columba and twelve companions came from Ireland to Iona. Columbanus with twelve companions appeared among the Franks and the Burgundians to preach the Gospel. Bernard and twelve companions left Citeaux to found his new dwelling at Clairvaux. In each case the chronicler lovingly adds: “a disciple company.”
We miss the main thought in Ignatius if we neglect to see that the unity which is his passion is primarily and fundamentally something spiritual and mystical. The Person of Christ is the centre round which the Church crystallizes. By His death on the Cross and by His Resurrection our Lord has elevated a standard round which His troops of believers can rally and form a disciplined army.464464To the Smyrnaeans, 1:—“Truly nailed up in the flesh for our sakes under Pontius Pilate and Herod the Tetrarch . . . that He might set up a standard unto all ages through His resurrection, for His saints, whether among Jews or among Gentiles, in one body of His Church.” This sacred mystical attraction is the inward essence and source of that union which he has always in view. So strong is it that all believers may be said to have one mind, a godly concord and one spirit of perseverance.465465To the Magnesians, 7, 15:—“But let there be one prayer in common, one supplication, one mind (νοῦς), one hope, in love and in joy unblamable which is in Jesus Christ. . . . Fare ye well in godly concord, and possess ye a stedfast spirit which is in Jesus Christ.” The unity which he insists upon is first of all a union with Christ Jesus, and then, and arising from that, a common religious 191belief and a common affection diffused throughout all believers who ought to live in a harmony of love. The unity Ignatius yearns after is first of all a unity of faith and love.466466“Run in harmony with the mind of God” (Ephesians, 3); “In your concord and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung; do ye, each and all of you, form yourselves into a chorus, that being harmonious in concord and taking the key-note of God ye may in union sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to our Father” (Ephesians, 4); cf. To the Magnesians, 1.
But this unseen mystical unity ought to make itself manifest according to the ordinances of Jesus and of His apostles. It can make itself seen in the best way in the attachment of believers to the visible local church which is the assembly of believers for prayer, exhortation, and for the celebration of the Holy Supper and for baptism. Those who are truly the Lord’s, and who share in the invisible mystical union, cannot fail to assemble together with one heart and mind, nor to unite in one common prayer. Ignatius addresses himself more than once to men who seem to think that the Christian life can be lived apart from the Christian visible fellowship;467467To the Ephesians, 5, 13, 20; To the Magnesians, 7. and he declares that apart from the office-bearers there is not even the name of a Church.468468To the Trallians, 3. Christians ought to manifest this inward unity which they have in an external unity, which can best show itself in the manifestation of mutual respect for each other, in reverencing each other and in loving one another in Jesus Christ.469469“Therefore do ye all study conformity to God, and pay reverence one to another” (Magnesians, 6). “Attempt not to think anything right for yourselves apart from others” (Magnesians, 7). “Be obedient to the bishop and to one another” (Magnesians, 13).
This submission which is due by all believers to each other is specially due to those who have been placed at the head of the Christian communities, and who are there to be examples to their flocks.470470“Let there be nothing among you which shall have power to divide you, but be ye united with the bishop and with them that preside over you as an example and a lesson of incorruptibility” (Magnesians, 6). The office bearers in this sentence are called προκαθήμενοι, which may be compared with the προϊστάμενοι of the Epistle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians. Submission to one another and to the office- 192bearers—a submission founded on love—is the outward manifestation of the inward mystical union which all true believers have with Christ, who is the true centre of the union. For Ignatius never loses sight of the mystical union fed by faith and love.471471He calls a church τὸ πολυεύτακτον τῆς κατὰ Θεὸν ἀγάπης (Magnesians, 1).
The real centre of this unity is God and Christ Who is God; the real oversight lies with Him. In his fervent Oriental way which expresses abstract thoughts in defective, though picturesque, material and external representations, Ignatius sees this Divine and invisible unity manifest in the bishop (or in whatever may be the visible centre of the ecclesiastical rule).472472“Give place to him (the bishop) as to one prudent in God; yet not to him, but to the Father of Jesus Christ, even to the Bishop of all. . . . For a man doth not so much deceive this bishop who is seen, as cheat the other Who is invisible” (Magnesians, 3). For it must not be forgotten in attempting to interpret the thoughts of Ignatius that he belonged to what has been called the “enthusiastic” age of the Church, and that he shared in an exalted degree in the spirit of his times. He claimed to be a prophet and to possess the prophetic gift. “I am in bonds,” he says, “and can comprehend heavenly things and the arrays of angels and the musterings of principalities, things visible and invisible.”473473To the Trallians, 5. He describes how, when he was preaching at Philadelphia, the prophetic afflatus suddenly possessed him, and he felt compelled to cry out “with a loud voice, with God’s own voice, Give ye heed to the bishop and the session and the deacons.” His hearers thought that this had been a studied reference to persons accused of causing division in the Church, but Ignatius assured them that was not so. The Divine afflatus had possession of him, and it made him cry out: 193“Do nothing without the bishop; keep your flesh as a temple of God; cherish union; shun divisions; be imitators of Jesus Christ, as He Himself also was of His Father.”474474To the Philiadelphians, 7. With the prophetic eye he saw the invisible and mystical unity which lay hidden within the actual visible Christian community, and every little local church was a symbol of what existed in the Heavenly Places where God was the centre and source of unity. It is from this mystical standpoint that we must view the impassioned exhortations to obey the office-bearers,475475“The bishops established in the furthest parts of the world are in the counsels of Jesus Christ” (Ephesians, 3). “Every one whom the Master of the House sendeth to govern His own household we ought to receive, as Him that sent him. Clearly therefore we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself” (Ephesians, 6). Those who “obey the bishop as Jesus Christ” live a life after Christ” (Trallians, 2). “It is good to know God and the bishop; he that honoureth the bishop is honoured of God; he that doeth anything without the knowledge of the bishop serveth the devil” (Smyrneans, 9). To obey the bishop is to obey “not him, but the Father of Jesus Christ, even the Bishop of all,” while to practise hypocrisy towards the bishop is “not to deceive the visibly one, so much as to cheat the One who is invisible” (Magnesians, 3). “As many as are of God and of Jesus Christ, are with the bishop” (Philadelphians, 3). Compare Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, S. Ignatius, S. Polycarp, i. 375 f.; Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians (1881), 6th ed. pp. 236, 237), for a complete list of passages. Almost equally strong language about obedience to elders or presbyters and deacons will be found on the same pages. remembering also that obedience to the rulers in the Church is only the superlative of the submission of love which all Christians owe to one another.
When due allowance is made for the exaltation of the writer, and for the Oriental extravagance of language natural to a Syrian, the exhortations of Ignatius do not differ so widely from the calm injunctions issued in the measured language of Rome to the church of Corinth which we find in the Epistle of Clement: “Let us mark the soldiers that are enlisted under our rulers, how exactly, how readily, how submissively, they execute the orders given them. All are not prefects, nor commanders 194of thousands, nor of hundreds, nor of fifties, and so forth; but each man in his own rank executeth the orders given by the prince and the government.”476476Clement, 1 Epistle xxxvii.
It is also to be remembered that Ignatius is writing to churches in Asia Minor, exposed to the temptations to division caused by the presence of men teaching the separative doctrines of a Judaising Christianity and of Doketism. The epistles themselves afford abundant evidence that these sources of division existed and had proved strong temptations in the communities to which he was writing.477477“But I have learned that certain persons passed through you from yonder, bringing evil doctrine” (Ephesians, 9); “It is better to keep silence and to be, than to talk and be not” (Ephesians, 15). “It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practise Judaism. . . . I would have you be on guard betimes, that ye fall not into the snares of vain doctrines” (Magnesians, 10-11); compare the Epistle to the Trallians, 6-11, where the brethren are warned against Doketism; the Epistle to the Philadelphians, 6, where the warning is against Judaism; and the Epistle to the Smyrneans, 5-7, where the error is Doketism. His passionate anxiety was that each local church should present an unbroken front and manifest a complete unity. The simple means which he believed would effect this was that all Christians should rally round the office-bearers who were at the head of the little Christian societies. Most, though not all, of the churches he addressed had the three-fold ministry in some form or other, and he enforced obedience to that form of ecclesiastical rule. “There is no indication that he is upholding the episcopal against any other form of Church government, as for instance the presbyteral (i.e. the government by a college of presbyters without a president). The alternative which he contemplates is lawless isolation and self-will. No definite theory is propounded as to the principle on which the episcopate claims allegiance. It is as the recognized authority of the churches which the writer addresses, that he maintains it. Almost simultaneously with Ignatius, Polycarp addresses the Philippian Church, which appears not yet to have had a bishop, requiring its submission 195‘to the presbyters and deacons.’478478Compare Réville, Les Origines de l’Episcopat (1894), p. 497 f. If Ignatius had been writing to this church, he would doubtless have done the same. As it is, he is dealing with communities where episcopacy (the three-fold ministry) had been already matured, and therefore he demands obedience to their bishop.”479479Lightfoot, S. Ignatius, S. Polycarp, i. 382. He makes no attempt certainly when writing to the Roman Church, which was still under the government of a college of presbyter-bishops without a president, to insist that the three-fold ministry is an essential thing to the well-being of a Christian community.480480The three-fold ministry developed much more slowly in Rome than in Asia Minor. Compare Lightfoot. Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians (1881), 6th ed. p. 217 ff.; Réville, Les Origins de l’Episcopat (1894), p. 420 ff. What is more, he evidently regards union with the college of elders as the same thing as union with the bishop; for he invites the malcontents at Philadelphia, who had repented, to return “to the unity of God and of the council of the bishop.”481481Epistle to the Philadelphians, 8.
We can scarcely look for a calm statement about the organization of the Christian churches in letters of this kind. They were the impassioned outpourings of a man on his way to death; full of fears, not for himself, but for the brethren he was leaving behind in a persecuting world. It is pathetic to see the fiery, impassioned words of the martyr used as missiles by some reckless preacher of episcopal supremacy, or subjected to the scalpel of a cold-blooded critic, neither of whom seem to recognize the Oriental extravagance of language which makes them so natural. Yet the letters do give us a good deal of information about our subject.
Ignatius insists that the unity of the society has for its centre and source of strength the supremacy of the pastor, who is always called the bishop. His writings are a proof that the three-fold ministry in some form or other did exist, early in the second century, in some parts of the Church though not in others. 196But they are not to be taken as proof that the Ignatian conception of what the three-fold ministry ought to be existed in any part of the Church whatever.482482In some form or other or in some stage of its growth. Lightfoot has drawn a distinction between chief over the presbyters and chief of the presbyters, and the second phrase, he says, suits very well the beginning of the Epistle of Polycarp:—“Polycarp and the presbyters that are with him.” Then there is the form given in the Sources of the Apostolic Canons, cf. above pp. 183 f.
According to the conception of Ignatius, every Christian community ought to have at its head a bishop, a presbyterium or session of elders, and a body of deacons. These constitute its office-bearers to whom, jointly and severally, obedience is due. Ignatius regards these three elements as going together to form one whole. He mentions the three classes of officials together twelve times in his seven epistles, and in ten out of the twelve they form an inseparable unity—presumably they do so also in the remaining two, but that is not evident from the passages themselves.483483To the Magnesians, 2, 6, 13; To the Trallians, 7; To the Philadelphians, preface, 4, 7; To the Smyrnaeans, 8, 12; To Polycarp, 6; To the Trallians, 2; To the Philadelphians, 10. Compare Réville, Les Origines de 1’Episcopat (1894), p. 496:—L’exaltation du pouvoir épiscopal qui se donne libre tours à travers les Épîtres d’Ignace fait trop souvent perdre de vue aux commenteurs cette intime association de 1’autorité presbytérale et de 1’autorité épiscopale, qu’un examen plus attentif dégage très clairement.” There is not a trace of sacerdotalism in the sense that the Christian ministry is a special priesthood set apart to offer a special sacrifice; there is a great deal about the sacredness of order, but not a word about the sanctity of orders. Ignatius only once refers to priests and high priests, and he does so in the thoroughly evangelical fashion of contrasting the imperfect Old Testament priesthood with the perfect priesthood of the Redeemer.484484To the Philadelphians, 8, 9. Compare Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers, S. Ignatius, S. Polycarp (1885), i. 381, 382; ii. 274, 275. Zahn, Ignatii et Polycarpi Epistulae (1876), p. 79. The bishop is not an autocrat. There is a “council of the bishop,” which includes 197the bishop himself.485485To the Philadelphians, 8. Compare Lightfoot, S. Ignatius, i. 380; ii. 269. The people are told to obey all the office-bearers, bishops, elders and deacons.486486Obey the bishop:—Ephesians, 6; Trallians, 2; Smyrnaeans, 8, 9; Magnesians, 3, 4; Polycarp. 4, 6; Philadelphians, 7. Obey the elders:—Ephesians, 2, 20; Magnesians, 2, 7; Trallians, 13. Obey the deacons: Polycarp, 6,; Magnesians, 6; Trallians, 3; Philadelphians, 7; Smyrnaeans, 8. The ruling body is a court in which the bishop sits as chairman surrounded by his council or session of elders; and the one is helpless without the other, for if the bishop is the lyre the elders are the chords, and both are needed to produce melody.487487To the Ephesians, 4. There is no apostolic succession in any form whatsoever; even in the poetic conception of the disciple company it is the elders who represent the apostles.488488“It is worthy of notice that though the form of government in these Asian Churches is in some sense monarchical, yet it is very far from being autocratic. We have already seen that in one passage the writer in the term ‘council of the bishop’ includes the bishop himself as well as his presbyters. This expression tells its own tale. Elsewhere submission is required to the presbyters as well as to the bishop. Nay sometimes the writer enjoins obedience to the deacons as well as to the bishop and to the presbyters. The ‘presbytery’ is a ‘worthy spiritual coronal’ (ἀξιοπλόκου πνευματικοῦ στεφάνου) round the bishop (Magn. 13). It is the duty of every one, but especially of the presbyters ‘to refresh the bishop unto the honour of the Father and of Jesus Christ and of the apostles’ (Trall. 12). They stand in the same relation to him ‘as the chords to the lyre’ (Ephes. 4). If obedience is due to the bishop as to the grace of God, it is due to the presbytery as to the law of Jesus Christ (Magn. 2). If the bishop ocupies the place of God or of Jesus Christ, the presbyters are as the Apostles, as the council of God (Magn. 6; Trall. 2, 3; Smyr. 8). This last comparison alone would show how widely the idea of the episcopate differed from the later conception, when it had been formulated in the doctrine of the Apostolic succession. The presbyters, not the bishops, are here the successors of the apostles.” Lightfoot, S. Ignatius, i. pp. 382, 383. Lastly, there is no trace of diocesan rule. We undoubtedly find the phrase τὸν ἐπίσκοπον Συρίας; but as Lightfoot and Zahn, to say nothing of others, have pointed out, it must be translated “the bishop from Syria.” A bishop of Syria would have been an anachronism in the fourth century, and is 198much more so in the second.489489Lightfoot, S. Ignatius, i. 383; ii. 201, 202; Zahn, Ignatii Epistulae, p. 59 n.; and his Ignatius von Antioch, p. 308. It is unquestionable that the bishop is made the centre of everything in the Church or congregation. “It is not permitted without the bishop either to baptize or to hold a love feast,”490490To the Smyrnaeans, 8. and the love feast must include the Holy Supper. It is even declared that when men and women marry they should unite themselves with the consent of the bishop, that the marriage should be after the Lord and not after concupiscence.491491To Polycarp, 5. But this only means that in such a solemn action as matrimony the blessing of the Church should be joined to the civil contract.
But if there be no sacerdotalism, no apostolic succession, no one-man rule, and no diocese; if every Christian community is to be organized under a leader, who is called a bishop and some-times a pastor, who presides over a court of elders,492492The πρεσβυτέριον or court of elders, i.e. kirk-session, is mentioned frequently by Ignatius:—To the Ephesians, 2, 4, 20; To the Magnesians, 2, 13; To the Trallians, 2, 7, 13; To the Philadelphians, 4, 7; To the Smyrnaeans, 8, 12. It is called the “council of God” in the Epistle to the Trallians, 3 (συνεδριον θεοῦ). and has under him a body of deacons; further, if, as the Sources of the Apostolic Canons inform us, every small Christian community, even when consisting of fewer than twelve families, is to have its bishop, its elders and its deacons; if nothing is to be done without the consent of the pastor or bishop, neither sacrament nor love-feast, nor anything congregational—then while the resemblance to modern episcopacy, with its diocesan system, is but small, there is a very great amount of resemblance to that form of ecclesiastical organization which re-emerged at the Reformation and which is commonly called the presbyterian, though it might be more appropriately named the conciliar system of Church government.
A more minute examination of the letters reveals some details 199of the organization of the churches which were familiar to Ignatius.
For one thing, it seems clear that whatever the authority of the bishop may have been, it did not extend beyond his own church or congregation. The corporate unity of the Churches of Christ was still a sentiment, strongly felt no doubt, but not yet expressed in any kind of polity. Ignatius did not write as a bishop of the Catholic Church; he says expressly that he was no apostle.493493“I did not think myself competent for this (writing more sharply), that being a convict I should order you as though I were an apostle” (To the Trallians, 3). Throughout the letters there are constant references to his impending martyrdom. He wrote as a confessor of Christ to brethren who might soon be required to confess Christ in the same way of threatened martyrdom. Nor does Polycarp claim to write as a superior to the Philippians. He wrote because he had been asked for advice.494494Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, 3. The various churches were still independent units in fraternal intercourse with each other, but without any signs of inter-congregational jurisdiction.
The Epistle to Polycarp show what Ignatius believed to be the duties of a bishop within his own community. He was the administrator of the finances of the Church; to him the widows and the poor of the congregation had to look for their support, and the funds to buy the manumission of slaves were in his hands;495495To Polycarp, 4. he had the moral oversight of the whole congregation, and was therefore the president of the court of discipline;496496To Polycarp, 3, 5. he had the right to call, and presumably to preside over, the congregational meetings;497497To Polycarp, 4; Ignatius evidently thought that Polycarp did not hold congregational meetings often enough:—“Let the meetings be held more frequently.” It is interesting to notice that all the duties which Ignatius supposes to belong to the bishops in the Church at Smyrna are supposed by Polycarp to belong to the elders in the Church at Philippi; with the exception of presiding at public worship, which is not mentioned; Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians. 6-12 he had the sole regulation of the sacraments of 200Baptism and of the Holy Supper and of everything congregational.498498To the Smyrnaeans, 3, for the bishop's duties with regard to the eucharist, baptism, and the love-feasts; To Polycarp, 5, with regard to marriage. Yet the advice to meet more frequently for the eucharistic service is given to the Ephesian community (Ephesians, 13). But large as were the bishop’s powers, he had to exercise them under serious limitations. There is not a hint that the bishop can by himself, or even in conjunction with his session or elders, excommunicate an offender. The power which Ignatius urges Polycarp to use is only that of moral suasion.499499To Polycarp, 2, 3, 5. It is more than probable that the final power in all cases of discipline lay with the congregational meeting, as was the case in Corinth in the time of St. Paul. It is the congregation who are warned against false teachers and evil-minded persons, and they are directed to act in certain ways with regard to them.500500To the Ephesians, 7; To the Magnesians, 11; To the Philadelphians, 6; To the Smyrnaeans, 4. The passages, however, do not warrant us in drawing any distinct conclusion. On the other hand, it is clear that the congregational meetings had powers. It was they who appointed delegates and messengers. The Christians at Smyrna are asked directly to send a delegate into Syria, whereas the bishop is only asked to convene a meeting of the congregation in order that the messenger may be appointed; and elsewhere it is made plain that this power belonged to the whole Church, who could order on a mission their bishops as well as their elders or their deacons.501501To the Smyrnaeans, 11; To Polycarp, 7; To the Philadelphians, 10; To the Ephesians, 1, 2; To the Magnesians, 2, 6; To the Trallians, 1.
Readers who know something about the work of Church extension at home and on the mission field, may wonder how it was possible in these early centuries that the smallest bodies of Christians could have had, and were commanded to have, such a complete ecclesiastical organization as these Epistles of Ignatius and the Sources of the Apostolic Canons require, 201and how they could be at the same time so independent and self-supporting. A large part of the problem of ecclesiastical extension in our own days, at home and on the mission field, has to do with money. Churches and other buildings have to be erected, and a salaried ministry has to be supported. But it must be remembered that in those early days the ministry was not paid as we understand payment, and that money for buildings was not needed. Church buildings did not exist until the second century was drawing to a close, and then only in large and populous centres. The only property which the Church had besides its copies of the Scriptures, its congregational records and perhaps a place of burial, were the offerings, mostly in kind, which the faithful presented during the meeting for thanksgiving, and which were almost immediately distributed. Justin Martyr gives the earliest description in his Apology. “On the day called Sunday, all who live in town or country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or of the prophets are read as long as time permits; then when the reader has ceased the president verbally instructs, and exhorts us to the imitation of these good things. Then we all stand together and pray, and, when prayer is ended, bread and wine are brought and the president offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen. Then there is a distribution to each of that over which thanks has been given, and a portion is sent by the deacons to those who are absent. Then they who are well to do and are willing, give what each thinks fit; and it is collected and deposited with the president, who succours orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, those who are in bondage and the strangers sojourning among us—in a word all who are in need.”502502Justin, Apology, i. 67.
The gifts so bestowed and distributed were the property of the early Church—all that it had. Both Justin and Tertullian insist on the fact that these offerings were of free-will, 202contrasting them, it is probable, with the monthly compulsory payments made by the members of confraternities; but this did not hinder indications being given about these offerings. We find a continuous series of recommendations that the first fruits of all the necessaries of life ought to be given. All the oldest ecclesiastical manuals, from the Didache downwards, contain injunctions to the people about these first fruits. In the Didache these offerings went to support the prophets, and failing them the poor of the community; and the Pastoral Epistles503503Didache, xiii. 1; 1 Tim. v. 9. The Pastoral Epistles perhaps teach us that the ministry have a share; cf. 1 Tim. v. 17, 18; 2 Tim. i. 4-7, but the seventh verse of the latter passage suggests that the share is not by way of stipend. mention a church roll of members who ought to share because of their poverty. In the quotation just made from Justin Martyr these first fruits are distributed among the widows, orphans, poor strangers and so on; Tertullian describes a similar mode of distribution; so do the Canons of Hippolytus, which expressly prohibit any claim on the part of the ministry to share.504504Tertullian, Apology, 39. Canons of Hippolytus, Canon xxxii. (Riedel) Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien, p. 221. In the ancient Sources of the Apostolic Canons the elders superintend the bishop, while he makes the distribution,505505Texte und Untersuchungen, II. v. 13-15, or Sources of the Apostolic Canons, p. 13. but in Justin and in the Canons of Hippolytus the full control of this distribution lies with the president or bishop. It is probable that the members of the ministry from the beginning had some share in these offerings, but not in the way of stipend, and only if they could be classed among the poor. The ancient Sources of the Apostolic Canons teach us that the pastor may share if need be, but not by way of stipend. Dr. Hatch has only summed up what the history of the whole period teaches when he says: “The funds of the primitive communities consisted entirely of voluntary offerings. Of these offerings those office-bearers whose circumstances required it were entitled to a share. They received 203such a share only on account of their poverty. They were, so far, in the position of the widows and orphans and helpless poor.”506506The Organization of the Early Churches (1881), p. 147.
The idea that when men are once set apart for the function of office-bearers in the Christian Church it becomes the duty of the Church to provide them with the necessaries of life does not belong to the times of primitive Christianity. The office-bearers of the early Church were clergy in virtue of their call, election, and setting apart by special prayer for sacred office; but they worked at trades, carried on mercantile pursuits, and were not separate from the laity in their every-day life. We find bishops who were shepherds, weavers, lawyers, shipbuilders,507507A shepherd, Socrates, Eccles. Hist. i. 12; a weaver, Sozomen, Eccles. Hist. vii. 28; a shipbuilder, S. Gregorii Magni, Epistolae, xiii. 26; a lawyer, S. Gregorii Magni, Epistolae, x. 10. Compare Cyprian De Lapsis 6. Basil, Epistolae, 198. Compare Hatch, The Organization of the Early Christian Churches (1881), p. 148, who, besides giving the well-known individual instances quotes regulations from the Theodosian Code and from the Statuta Ecclesiae Antigua proving the general practice. The eighty-seventh of the Canons of Basil says that “none of the clergy are to engage in merchandise but that they are to learn a handicraft and live of the labour of their hands.” Riedel, Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien (1900), p. 270. and so on, and the elders and deacons were almost invariably men who were not supported by the churches to which they belonged. An interesting series of inscriptions was found on the gravestones of the cemetery of the little town of Corycus, in Cilicia Tracheia, records of the Christian community there. They can scarcely be older than the fifth, and not later than the sixth century. One of them marks the burial place of a master potter and another that of a goldsmith, both of whom were elders or presbyters of the Church there.508508Bull. de Corr. Hell. vii. 230 ff. The power of the laity in the early Church did not depend simply on the fact that they chose the office-bearers and had some indefinite influence over councils, as some modern writers put it,509509As for example the Rev. R. B. Rackham in Essays on Church Reform (1898), p. 30 ff. but on the 204fact that in the earliest times none of the office-bearers, and for many centuries few of them, depended upon the Church as a whole to provide them with the necessaries of life. They were clergy, as has been said, in virtue of their selection for office and of their solemn setting apart to perform clerical functions; but they had daily association with the laity in the workshop, on the farm, in the warehouse, in the law-courts, and in the market-place. They held what must seem to be a very anomalous position to mediaeval and modern episcopalians. When the ancient practice is revived, as it was by the Reformed Church at the Reformation, episcopalians speak disdainfully of lay-elders and lay-deacons, as if an ecclesiastical stipend and not consecration by prayer and the laying on or giving of hands were the true and essential mark of ordination. But the practice had its value in the early centuries and has its importance now. It knit clergy and laity together in a very simple and thorough fashion, and brought men, whose life and callings made them feel as laymen do, within the circle of the hierarchy which ruled, and so prevented the hierarchy degenerating into a clerical caste.
During the last decades of the second and throughout the third century the conception of Ignatius, to him perhaps only a devout dream,510510Compare Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 370-1, where he says that Ignatius is not an historian describing facts but a preacher giving advice; and adds that he does not find in Ignatius proof that bishops were regarded as ex-officio supreme, that his language is quite consistent with the view that the respect actually paid to the bishop in each community depended on his individual character, and that his reiteration of the principle of the authority of the bishop, which came to him as a revelation, makes it evident that he did not find his ideal in actual existence. Compare also Sanday in the Expositor (1888, July-Dec.), p. 326. dominated the whole Church, or at least a great part of it. Every Christian community had at its head a single president who is almost always called the bishop. He presided over the session of elders, over the body of deacons, and over the congregation. The whole Christian activity of 205the community found its centre in him, as it does in presbyterian congregations in the present day. He presided over the public worship in all its parts; had chief charge of the sick and of the sinful; he was over the discipline and over the administration of the property of the community whatever that happened to be. This was his position as a matter of fact. On the other hand, his position theoretically was by no means so unique. There is many a trace in the ancient canons, as we shall afterwards see, that the bishop was only primus inter pares in the session of elders, and that he was distinguished from them by two things only—a special seat in the church and the power to ordain elders and deacons. The practice made him the centre of the whole congregational life and the ruler; the theory recalled the earlier days when every congregation was governed by a council of elders who had no president. We find the theory in such law-books as the Canons of Hippolytus;511511Compare below, p. 248. it was repeated by Jerome; it never lacked supporters during the Middle Ages, of whom Thomas Aquinas was one; it re-emerged at the Reformation when the Reformed Church revived the ecclesiastical organization of the early centuries; and the same difference between theory and practice exists among the Reformed Churches in the present day.
The great change in the ministry which we have seen evolving itself in the three documents selected, and which belonged to the second and third centuries, was that the ruling body in every congregation changed from being a session of elders without a president and became a session with a president. The president, sometimes called the pastor, but usually the bishop, became gradually the centre of all the ecclesiastical life of the local Christian church and the one potent office-bearer. We have now to ask how this came about. In answer one thing only can be asserted with confidence. The change came gradually. It provoked no great opposition. It was everywhere, or almost everywhere, accepted. But when we seek for the causes that 206produced the change, or ask what were the paths along which the change manifested itself—then we can only give conjectural answers.
Probably the main impulse came from the pressure of temptation—intellectual and moral—and persecution, and the feeling that resistance to both would be strengthened by a more thorough unity than could be attained under the leadership of a number of men who had no individual head. One man can take a firmer grip of things. Divided responsibility continually means varying counsels. What is the business of many is often the work of none. A divided leadership continually brings with it fickle and impotent action. The need for an undivided front in time of danger was what inspired Ignatius, when, with the eye of a statesman and the fire of a prophet, he pleaded for the union of the congregation under one leader. The circumstances of the times and the voices of those who led in the movement, all suggest that the supreme need of the moment was unity; and that unity could be best won and maintained by the change which was made.
The paths along which the change progressed probably differed in various places. It is quite unnecessary to suppose that the process was everywhere the same. It is much more natural that there should have been several at work simultaneously. Differences in racial temperament and in experience in the art of governing; greater or less exposure to the disruptive influences of strange teaching; more or less capacity to endure temptations; differences in local environment and in inherited political usages, might easily produce different modes in the evolution of the ecclesiastical organization. Dr. Lightfoot has shown, with his usual careful minuteness, how the three-fold ministry came into being much sooner in some parts of the Empire than others, and that it appeared first in Asia Minor,512512Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians (1881), 6th ed. p. 206 ff. which differed in the fact that it was more exposed to the divisive influences of strange teachings, and that the people had been 207long accustomed to the rule of one man in secular affairs. It well may be imagined that the different social surroundings which belonged to Rome, to the cities of Greece, and to Asia Minor, bred different ecclesiastical conditions, which led to the selection of differing paths in the development of the ecclesiastical organizations.
Professor Ramsay has suggested, ingeniously, one way in which the change may have come. His idea is that any member of the session of presbyters or elders became an episcopus or overseer when he was given the oversight of any special duty by his brethren. The episcopus who did his work well would naturally continue to do it, and the tendency was for his function to become permanent. One of the most important duties which fell to the college of elders was correspondence with other Christian churches and the reception and entertainment of the delegates who came from other churches to visit them. The elder who had the oversight of, or was the episcopus for this work, naturally became a very important man. He was the representative of his own church to all Christians outside it. He might easily come to represent the unity of the Church to those who also were inside it, more especially as he was the official who would naturally be selected to hold the property of the congregation when it became possessed of a place of burial. Thus he came to stand forth from among the other elders as the episcopus par excellence. Thus gradually one of the presbyters or elders became the episcopus for everything within the community, and the session of elders received its permanent head.513513The Church in the Roman Empire (1893), p. 367 ff. There is a great deal to be said for this conjecture. For one thing, there is evidence that the appointment of one of the elders to look after the communications with other churches was actually a custom;514514In the Pastor of Hermas, the old lady who represents the Church and who has given Hermas a revelation orders him to make two books and give one to Clement and the other to Grapte, “and Clement will send his to the foreign countries, for commission has been given him to do so, and Grapte will admonish the widows and the orphans; but you (Hermas, who was a presbyter) will read the words in this city along with the elders who preside over the Church,” Visiones, ii. 4. for another it gives a reasonable explanation of 208those lists of bishops in various churches dating back to times when all the evidence shows that there was no real permanent president in existence. They are the lists of the men who, being the foreign correspondents, represented the unity of their respective churches to all Christians outside, and were therefore regarded as the most prominent members.
It is also probable that the celebration of the Holy Supper suggested one permanent president. It is easy to conceive how the meeting for “exhortation” could be conducted by a session of elders, but it is very difficult to imagine a collegiate superintendence of the meeting for “thanksgiving.” Did the members of the session of presbyter-bishops or elders take it in turn to preside, or in what way was it done? We do not know. But we do know that in the second century there was one official who presided at the Lord’s Supper, and that he, the προεστὼς or president of Justin Martyr,515515Apology, i. 67. is clearly the anticipation of the later bishop. There was evidently some close connexion in thought between the one bishop and the unity of the congregation or church at the Holy Supper. One bishop, one place of celebration (θυσιαστήριον) and one Eucharist are almost equivalent terms in Ignatius. This thought would lead us to imagine that the episcopus was the presbyter or elder selected by his brethren to preside at the Eucharist, and that he was bishop while he was so presiding.516516Tertullian in his De Praescriptione Haereticorum, 41, speaking of the condition of the Gnostic or Marcionite Churches, says:—“itaque alius hodie episcopus, cras alius.” Sohm (Kirchenrecht, i. 119 n.) takes this as a proof of the condition of things in the most primitive days. He infers that in the earlier times when there were several bishops in each community the one who presided at the Eucharist was the bishop for that day, and gave place to another on another day who thus became the bishop in his turn. It is doubtful whether we can infer anything about primitive usages from these references in Tertullian. The presbyter 209who had a special gift for this sacred work would naturally be frequently called to undertake it, and the duty might easily become a permanent one. In the Sources of the Apostolic Canons it is the bishop or pastor who presides at the Holy Communion, although he is under the disciplinary authority of the elders.
It may also be said that the need for one authority in doctrinal matters led to the selection of one man, and to placing on him the responsibility of seeing that the members of the congregation were not tempted away from the true faith by irresponsible teachers, who offered themselves to instruct the community. This conception, as we shall see later, was developed in a special way with reference to the office-bearer by Irenaeus, and some critics see it foreshadowed in the letters of Ignatius.
No one way needs to be selected as the only path by which the organization advanced, and the college of elders received a president who was the permanent head of the community, and the living and personal representative of its unity. They might all have their effect and that simultaneously.
It must always be remembered that the duty of presiding at the Holy Supper, which is invariably seen to belong to the bishop as soon as he emerges from the college of presbyters or elders, brought with it the control over the gifts of the faithful which were presented after the Eucharistic service, and formed for long the only property of the congregation. If we add to this that the presbyter or elder chosen for this highest portion of the worship was frequently a man possessed of the prophetic gift as Ignatius was, additional reverence and obedience would not fail to be bestowed upon him; and we can see how the old reverence for the “prophetic ministry” could easily be transferred to the new authority.
Whatever paths led to the change in the ministry whereby the rule was transferred from a college of elders without a president to a college with a president, when once the change was made the power of the episcopus grew rapidly; and one source 210of this increase of authority lay in the fact that he was always the administrator of the property of the local church.
Without any apostolic sanction, in virtue of the power lying within the community and given to it by the Master, the Church of the second century effected a change in its ministry quite as radical, if not more so, as that made by the Reformed Church in the sixteenth century, when it swept away mediaeval excrescences, restored the bishops to their ancient position of pastors of congregations, and vested the power of oversight in councils of greater and lesser spheres of authority. What was within the power of the Christian people of the second century belongs to it always when providential circumstances seem to demand a change in the organization, for the ministry depends on the Church and not the Church on the ministry.
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