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ritory, and delegated their rural suffragans to execute the subordinate duties of the pastoral office.” A Christian diocese might be spread over a province or reduced to a village ; but all the bishops possessed an equal and indelible character: they all derived the same powers and privileges from the apostles. from the people, and from the laws. While the civil and military professions were separated by the policy of Constantine, a new and perpetual order of ecclesiastical ministers, always respectable, sometimes dangerous, was established in the church and state. The important review of their station and attributes may be distributed under the following heads: I. Popular
election. II. Ordination of the clergy. III. Property. IV. Civil
jurisdiction. V. Spiritual censures. VI. Exercise of public oratory. VII. Privilege of legislative assemblies. I. The freedom of elections subsisted long after the legal establishment of Christianity; * and the subjects of Rome enjoyed in the church the privilege which they had lost in the republic, of choosing the magistrates whom they were bound to obey. As soon as a bishop had closed his eyes, the metropolitan issued a commission to one of his suffragans to administer the vacant see, and prepare, within a limited time, the future election. The right of voting was vested in the inferior clergy, who were best qualified to judge of the merit of the candidates; in the senators or nobles of the city, all those who were distinguished by their rank or property; and finally in the whole body of the people, who, on the appointed day, flocked in multitudes from the most remote parts of the diocese,” and sometimes silenced, by their tumultuous acclamations, the voice of reason and the laws of discipline. These acclamations might accidentally fix on the head of the most deserving competitor; of some ancient presbyter, some holy monk, or some layman,
I election of bishops
87 On the subject of the rural bishops, or Chorepiscopi, who voted in synods, and conferred the minor orders, see Thomassin, Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. p. 447, &c. and Chardon, Hist. des Sacremens, tom. v. p. 395, &c. They do not appear till the fourth century; and this equivocal character, which had excited the jealousy of the prelates, was abolished before the end of the tenth both in the East and the West.
* Thomassin \Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. ii. l. ii. c. i.-8, p. 673-721) has copiously treated of the election of bishops during the five first centuries, both in the East and in the West; but he shews a very partial bias in favour of the episcopal aristocracy. Bingham (l. iv. c. 2) is moderate; and Chardon (Hist, des Sacremens, tom. v. p. 108-128) is very clear and concise.
* Incredibilis multitudo, non solum ex eo oppido (Tours), sed etiam ex vicinis urbibus ad suffragia ferenda convenerat, &c. Sulpicius Severus, in Vit. Martin. c. 7. The council of Laodicea (canon xiii.) prohibits mobs and tumults; and Justinian confines the right of election to the nobility. Novell. cxxiii. 1.
conspicuous for his zeal and piety. But the episcopal chair was solicited, especially in the great and opulent cities of the empire, as a temporal rather than as a spiritual dignity. The interested views, the selfish and angry passions, the arts of perfidy and dissimulation, the secret corruption, the open and even bloody violence, which had formerly disgraced the freedom of election in the commonwealths of Greece and Rome, too often influenced the choice of the successors of the apostles. While one of the candidates boasted the honours of his family, a second allured his judges by the delicacies of a plentiful table, and a third, more guilty than his rivals, offered to share the plunder of the church among the accomplices of his sacrilegious hopes.” The civil as well as ecclesiastical laws attempted to exclude the populace from this solemn and important transaction. The canons of ancient discipline, by requiring several episcopal qualifications of age, station, &c., restrained in some measure the indiscriminate caprice of the electors. The authority of the provincial bishops, who were assembled in the vacant church to consecrate the choice of the people, was interposed to moderate their passions and to correct their mistakes. The bishops could refuse to ordain an unworthy candidate, and the rage of contending factions sometimes accepted their impartial mediation. The submission, or the resistance, of the clergy and people, on various occasions, afforded different precedents, which were insensibly converted into positive laws and provincial customs: * but it was everywhere admitted, as a fundamental maxim of religious policy, that no bishop could be imposed on an orthodox church without the consent of its members. The emperors, as the guardians of the public peace, and as the first citizens of Rome and Constantinople, might effectually declare their wishes in the choice of a primate: but those absolute monarchs respected the freedom of ecclesiastical elections; and, while they distributed and resumed the honours of the state and army, they allowed eighteen hundred perpetual magistrates to receive their important offices from the free suffrages of the people.” It was agreeable to the dictates of justice, that these magistrates should not desert an honourable station from which they could not be removed ; but the wisdom of councils endeavoured, without much success, to enforce the residence, and to prevent the translation, of bishops. The discipline of the West was indeed less relaxed than that of the East; but the same passions which made those regulations necessary rendered them ineffectual. The reproaches which angry prelates have so vehemently urged against each other serve only to expose their common guilt and their mutual indiscretion. nordination II. The bishops alone possessed the faculty of spiritual of the clergy - - - - - generation; and this extraordinary privilege might compensate, in some degree, for the painful celibacy” which was imposed as a virtue, as a duty, and at length as a positive obligation. The religions of antiquity, which established a separate order of priests, dedicated a holy race, a tribe or family, to the perpetual service of the Gods.” Such institutions were founded for possession rather than conquest. The children of the priests enjoyed, with proud and indolent security, their sacred inheritance; and the fiery spirit of enthusiasm was abated by the cares, the pleasures, and the endearments of domestic life. But the Christian sanctuary was open to every ambitious candidate who aspired to its heavenly promises or temporal possessions. The office of priests, like that of soldiers or magistrates, was strenuously exercised by those men whose temper and abilities had prompted them to embrace the ecclesiastical profession, or who had been selected by a discerning bishop as the best qualified to promote the glory and interest of the church. The bishops* (till the abuse was restrained by the prudence of the laws) might constrain the reluctant, and protect the distressed ; and the imposition of hands for ever bestowed some of the most valuable privileges of civil society. The whole body of the Catholic clergy, more numerous perhaps than the legions, was exempted by the emperors from all service, private or public, all municipal offices, and all personal taxes and contributions which pressed on their fellow-citizens with intolerable weight; and the duties of their holy profession were accepted as a full discharge of their obligations to the republic.” Each bishop acquired an absolute and indefeasible right to the perpetual obedience of the clerk whom he ordained: the clergy of each episcopal church, with its dependent parishes, formed a regular and permanent society; and the cathedrals of Constantinople” and Carthage” maintained their peculiar establishment of five hundred ecclesiastical ministers. Their ranks" and numbers were insensibly multiplied by the superstition of the times, which introduced into the church the splendid ceremonies of a Jewish or Pagan temple; and a long train of priests, deacons, sub-deacons, acolytes, exorcists, readers, singers, and door-keepers, contributed, in their respective stations, to swell the pomp and harmony of religious worship. The clerical name and privilege were extended to many pious fraternities, who devoutly supported the ecclesiastical throne.”
90 The epistles of Sidonius Apollinaris (iv. 25, vii. 5, 9) exhibit some of the scandals of the Gallican church; and Gaul was less polished and less corrupt than the East.
9. A compromise was sometimes introduced by law or by consent: either the bishops or the people chose one of the three candidates who had been named by the other party.
* All the examples quoted by Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. ii. l. ii. c. 6, p. 704-714) appear to be extraordinary acts of power, and even of oppression. The confirmation of the bishop of Alexandria is mentioned by Philostorgius as a more regular proceeding (Hist. Eccles. l. ii. 11).
* The celibacy of the clergy during the first five or six centuries is a subject of discipline, and indeed of controversy, which has been very diligently examined. See in particular Thomassin, Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. l. ii. c. lx. lxi. p. 886–902, and Bingham's Antiquities, l. iv. c. 5. By each of these learned but partial critics, one half of the truth is produced, and the other is concealed.
94 Diodorus Siculus attests and approves the hereditary succession of the priesthood among the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and the Indians (l. i. p. 84 [c. 73], l. ii. p. 142, 153 [29, 40 and 41 ad fin.], edit. Wesseling). The magi are described by Ammianus as a very numerous family: “Per saecula multa ad praesens una eådemdue prosapiá multitudo creata, Deorum cultibus dedicata”, (xxiii. 6). Ausonius celebrates the Stirps Druidarum (De Professorib. Burdigal. iv.); but we may infer from the remark of Caesar (vi. 13), that, in the Celtic hierarchy, some room was left for choice and emulation.
* The subject of the vocation, ordination, obedience, &c, of the clergy, is
laboriously discussed by Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. ii. p. 1-83) and Bingham (in the fourth book of his Antiquities, more especially the fourth, sixth, and seventh chapters). When the brother of St. Jerom was ordained in Cyprus, the deacons forcibly stopped his mouth, lest he should make a solemn protestation which might invalidate the holy rites.
Six hundred parabolani, or adventurers, visited the sick at snapaflaxa Alexandria; eleven hundred copiata, or gravediggers, buried “
the dead at Constantinople ; and the swarms of monks, who arose from the Nile, overspread and darkened the face of the Christian world.
* The charter of immunities which the clergy obtained from the Christian emperors is contained in the sixteenth book of the Theodosian code; and is illustrated with tolerable candour by the learned Godefroy, whose mind was balanced by the opposite prejudices of a civilian and a protestant. * Justinian. Novell. ciii. Sixty presbyters or priests, one hundred deacons, forty deaconesses, ninety sub-deacons, one hundred and ten readers, twenty-five chanters, and one hundred door-keepers; in all, five hundred and twenty-five. This moderate number was fixed by the emperor, to relieve the distress of the church, which had been involved in debt and usury by the expense of a much higher establishment. * Universus clerus ecclesiae Carthaginiensis. . . fere quinginti vel amplius; inter quos quamplurimi erant lectores infantuli. Victor Vitensis, de Persecut. Wandal, v. 9, p. 78, edit. Ruinart. This remnant of a more prosperous state subsisted under the oppression of the Vandals. 99 The number of seven orders has been fixed in the Latin church, exclusive ot the episcopal character. But the four inferior ranks, the minor orders, are now reduced to empty and useless titles. * See Cod. Theodos. 1. xvi. tit. 2, leg. 42, 43. Godefroy's Commentary, and the Ecclesiastical History of Alexandria, shew the danger of these pious institutions, which often disturbed the peace of that turbulent capital. 2
III. The edict of Milan secured the revenue as well as the peace of the church.” The Christians not only recovered the lands and houses of which they had been stripped by the persecuting laws of Diocletian, but they acquired a perfect title to all the possessions which they had hitherto enjoyed by the connivance of the magistrate. As soon as Christianity became the religion of the emperor and the empire, the national clergy might claim a decent and honourable maintenance: and the payment of an annual tax might have delivered the people from the more oppressive tribute which superstition imposes on her votaries. But, as the wants and expenses of the church increased with her prosperity, the ecclesiastical order was still supported and enriched by the voluntary oblations of the faithful. Eight years after the edict of Milan, Constantine granted to all his subjects the free and universal permission of bequeathing their fortunes to the holy Catholic church; 192 and their devout liberality, which during their lives was checked by luxury or avarice, flowed with a profuse stream at the hour of their death. The wealthy Christians were encouraged by the example of their sovereign. An absolute monarch, who is rich without patrimony, may be charitable without merit; and Constantine too easily believed that he should purchase the favour of Heaven, if he maintained the idle at the expense of the industrious, and distributed among the saints the wealth of the republic. The same messenger who carried over to Africa the head of Maxentius might be entrusted with an epistle to Caecilian, bishop of Carthage. The emperor acquaints him that the treasurers of the province are directed to pay into his hands the sum of three thousand folles, or eighteen thousand pounds sterling, and to obey his farther requisitions for the relief of the churches of Africa, Numidia, and Mauritania.19% The liberality of Constantine increased in a just proportion to his faith, and to his vices. He assigned in each city a regular
10. The edict of Milan (de M. P. c. 48) acknowledges, by reciting, that there existed a species of landed property, adjus corporiseorum, id est, ecclesiarum non hominum singulorum pertinentia. Such a solemn declaration of the supreme magistrate must have been received in all the tribunals as a maxim civil law. [Cp. above, p. 292, n. 15.]
* Habeat unusquisque licentiam sanctissimo Catholicae (ecclesiae) venerabilique concilio, decedens bonorum quod optavit relinquere. Cod. Theodos. 1. xvi. tit. ii. leg. 4. This law was published at Rome, A.D. 321, at a time when Constantine might foresce the probability of a rupture with the emperor of the East.
* Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. 1.x. 6; in Vit. Constant.I. iv. c. 28. He repeatedly expatiates on the liberality of the Christian hero, which the bishop himself had an opportunity of knowing and even of tasting.