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§ 47. Cyprianic Episcopacy.


The old catholic episcopalianism reached its maturity in the middle of the third century in the teaching and example of Cyprian, bishop and martyr of the church in North Africa. He represents the claims of episcopacy in close connection with the idea of a special priesthood and sacrifice.206206    "As Cyprian crowned the edifice of episcopal power, so also was he the first to put forward without relief or disguise the sacerdotal assumptions; and so uncompromising was the tone in which he asserted them, that nothing was left to his successors but to enforce his principles and reiterate his language." Lightfoot l. c. p. 257. "If with Ignatius the bishop is the centre of Christian unity, if with Irenaeus he is the depository of apostolic tradition, with Cyprian he is the absolute viceregerent of Christ in thing spiritual."Ibid. p. 238.05 He is the typical high-churchman of the ante-Nicene age. He vigorously put into practice what he honestly believed. He had a good opportunity to assert his authority in the controversy about the lapsed during the Decian persecution, in the schism of Felicissimus, and in the controversy on heretical baptism.

Cyprian considers the bishops as the bearers of the Holy Spirit, who passed from Christ to the apostles, from them by ordination to the bishops, propagates himself in an unbroken line of succession, and gives efficacy to all religious exercises. Hence they are also the pillars of the unity of the church; nay, in a certain sense they are the church itself. "The bishop," says he, "is in the church, and the church in the bishop, and if any one is not with the bishop he is not in the church."207207    Epist. lxvi. 3. Comp. Ep. lv. 20: Christianus non est, qui in Christi ecclesia non est06 And this is the same with him as to say, he is no Christian. Cyprian is thoroughly imbued with the idea of the solidary unity of the episcopate,—the many bishops exercising only one office in solidum, each within his diocese, and each at the same time representing in himself the whole office.208208    De Unit. Eccl. c. 5:Episcopatus unus est, cujus a singulis in solidum pars tenetur. Comp.Ep. lv. 20: Quum sit a Christo una ecclesia per totum mundum in multa membra divisa, item episcopatus unus episcoporum multorum concordi numerositate diffusus.07

But with all this, the bishop still appears in Cyprian in the closest connexion with the presbyters. He undertook no important matter without their advice. The fourth general council, at Carthage, a.d. 398, even declared the sentence of a bishop, without the concurrence of the lower clergy, void, and decreed that in the ordination of a presbyter, all the presbyters, with the bishop, should lay their hands on the candidate.209209    Can. 3:Presbyter quum ordinatur, episcopo eum benedicente et manum super caput ejus tenente, etiam omnes presbyteri, qui praesentes sunt, manus suas juxta manum episcopi super caput illius teneant.08

The ordination of a bishop was performed by the neighboring bishops, requiring at least three in number. In Egypt, however, so long as there was but one bishop there, presbyters must have performed the consecration, which Eutychius210210    Eutychii Patriarchae Alexandr. Annal. interpr. Pocockio (Oxon. 1658, I. p. 331). See the passage quoted, p. 141.09 and Hilary the Deacon211211    Or Ambrosiaster, Ad Eph. iv. 11.10 expressly assert was the case.



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