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194 I'KOUKESS OK EPISCOPAL AUTHORITY. CuiP. XV.
troversy of faith and discipline; and it was natural to believe that n liberal effusion of the Holy Spirit would be poured on the united assembly of the delegates of the Christian people. The institution of synods was so well suited to private ambition and to public interest, that in the space of a few years it was received throughout union of the the whole empire. A regular correspondence was estachurch. blished between the provincial councils, which mutually communicated and approved their respective proceedings; and the catholic church soon assumed the form, and acquired the strength, of a great federative republic.1"
As the legislative authority of the particular churches was insensibly
superseded by the use of councils, the bishops obtained by episcopal their alliance a much larger share ot executive and arbitrary
power; and as soon as they were connected by a sense of their common interest, they were enabled to attack, with united vigour, the original rights of their clergy and people. The prelates of the third century imperceptibly changed the language of exhortation into that of command, scattered the seeds of future usurpations, and supplied, by Scripture allegories and declamatory rhetoric, their deficiency of force and of reason. They exalted the unity and power of the church, as it was represented in the Episcopal Office, of which every bishop enjoyed an equal and undivided portion.117 Princes and magistrates, it was often repeated, might boast an earthly claim to a transitory dominion: it was the episcopal authority alone which was derived from the Deity, and extended itself over this and over another world. The bishops were the vicegerents of Christ, the successors of the apostles, and the mystic substitutes of the high priest of the Mosaic law. Their exclusive privilege of conferring the sacerdotal character invaded the freedom both of clerical and of popular elections: and if, in the administration of the church, they still consulted the judgment of the presbyters or the inclination of the people, they most carefully inculcated the merit of such a voluntary condescension. The bishops acknowledged the supreme authority which resided in the assembly of their brethren; but in the government of his peculiar diocese each of them exacted from his flock the same implicit obedience as if that favourite metaphor had been literally just, and as if the shepherd had been of a more exalted nature than that of his sheep.118 This obedience, however, was not
J" Aguntur pnrterea per Grsecias Mas, certis in locis concilia, &c. Tertullian de Jejuniis, c. 13. The African mentions it as a recent and foreign institution. The coalition of the Christian churches in very ably explained by Mosheim, p. 164-170.
1,7 Cyprian, in his admired treatise De Unitate Ecclesiie, p. 75-8H [p. 108, ed. Oxon.].
"" We may appeal to the whole tenor of Cyprian's conduct, of his doctrine, and of his epistles. Le Clere, iiwi short Life of Cyprian (Bibliotheque Universelle,. torn. xii. p. 207-378), has laid him open with great freedom and accuracy.
Chap. XV. HJE-EMINEXCE OF METROPOLITAN CHURCHES. 195
imposed without some efforts on one side, and some resistance on the other. The democratical part of the constitution was, in many places, very warmly supported by the zealous or interested opposition of the inferior clergy. But their patriotism received the ignominious epithets of faction and schism, and the episcopal cause was indebted for its rapid progress to the labours of many active prelates, who, like Cyprian of Carthage, could reconcile the arts of the most ambitious statesman with the Christian virtues which 3eem adapted to the character of a saint and martyr.119
The same causes which at first had destroyed the equality of the presbyters introduced among the bishops a pre-eminence Preeminence of rank, and from thence a superiority of jurisdiction. As metropolitan often as in the spring and autumn they met in provincial churdlC8synod, the difference of personal merit and reputation was very sensibly felt among the members of the assembly, and the multitude was governed by the wisdom and eloquence of the few. But the order of public proceedings required a more regular and less invidious distinction; the office of perpetual presidents in the councils of each province was conferred on the bishops of the principal city; and these aspiring prelates, who soon acquired the lofty titles of Metropolitans and Primates, secretly prepared themselves to usurp over their episcopal brethren the same authority which the bishops had so lately assumed above the college of presbyters.121 Nor was it long before an emulation of pre-eminence and power prevailed among the Metropolitans themselves, each of them affecting to display, in the most pompous terms, the temporal honours and advantages of the city over which he presided; the numbers and opulence of the Christians who were subject to their pastoral care; the saints and martyrs who had arisen among them; and the purity with which they preserved the tradition of the faith as it had been transmitted through a series of orthodox bishops from the apostle or the apostolic disciple to whom the foundation of their church was ascribed.121 From every cause, either of a civil or of an ecclesiastical nature, it was easy to foresee that Rome must enjoy the respect, and would soon claim the obedience, of the provinces. The society of the faithful Ambition of bore a just proportion to the capital of the empire; and the pontiff"""1
119 If Novatus; Feliciasimus, 4c, whom the bishop of Carthage expelled from his church, and from Africa, were not the most detestable monsters of wickedness, the steal of Cyprian must occasionally have prevailed over his veracity. For a very just account of these obscure quarrels, see Mosheim, p. +97-512.
'" Mosheim, p. 269, 574. Dupin, Antiquse Eccles. Disciplin. p. 19, 20.
121 Tertullian, in a distinct treatise, has pleaded against the heretics the right of prescription, as it was held by the apostolic churches.
190 AMBITION OF THE ROMAN PONTIFF. ClIAP. XV.
Roman church was the greatest, the most numerous, and, in regard to the West, the most ancient of all the Christian establishments, many of which had received their religion from the pious labours of her missionaries. Instead of one apostolic founder, the utmost boast of Antioch, of Ephesus, or of Corinth, the banks of the Tiber were supposed to have been honoured with the preaching and martyrdom of the two most eminent among the apostles ;122 and the bishops of Rome very prudently claimed the inheritance of whatsoever prerogatives were attributed either to the person or to the office ef St. Peter.12S The bishops of Italy and of the provinces were disposed to allow them a primacy of order and association (such was their very accurate expression) in the Christian aristocracy.124 But the power of a monarch was rejected with abhorrence, and the aspiring genius of Rome experienced from the nations of Asia and Africa a more vigorous resistance to her spiritual than she had formerly done to her temporal dominion. The patriotic Cyprian, who ruled with the most absolute sway the church of Carthage and the provincial synods, opposed with resolution and success the ambition of the Roman pontiff, artfully connected his own cause with that of the eastern bishops, and, like Hannibal, sought out new allies in the heart of Asia.125 If this Punic war was carried on without any effusion of blood, it was owing much less to the moderation than to the weakness of the contending prelates. Invectives and excommunications were tJteir only weapons; and these, during the progress of the whole controversy, they hurled against each other with equal fury and devotion. The hard necessity of censuring either a pope or a saint and martyr distresses the modem Catholics whenever they are obliged to relate the particulars of a
'" The journey of St. Peter to Rome is mentioned by most of the ancients (see Eusebius, ii. 25), maintained by all the Catholics, allowed by some Protestants (see Pearson and Dodwell de Success. Episcop. Roman.), but has been vigorously attacked by Spanheim (Miscellanea Sacra, iii. 3). According to fatherHardouin, the monks of the thirteenth century, who composed the ^Eneid, represented St. Peter under the allegorical character of the Trojan hero."
TM It is in French only that the famous allusion to St. Peter's name is exact. Tu es Picne, et sur cette pierre.—The same is imperfect in Greek, Latin, Italian, &c, and totally unintelligible in our Teutonic languages.
'** Iremrus adv. Hirreses, iii. 3; Tertullian de Prescription, c. 38; and Cyprian Epistol. 27, 55, 71, 75. Le Olerc (Hist. Eccles. p. 764) aud Mosheim (p. 258, 57») labour in the interpretation of these passages. But the loose and rhetorical style of the fathers often appears favourable to the pretensions of Rome.
,B See the sharp epistle from Firmilianus, bishop of Caesarea, to Stephen, bishop of Rome, ap. Cyprian. Epistol. 75.
* It is quite clear that, strictly speaking, writers have given up the impracticable
the church of Rome was not founded by task of reconciling with chronology any
either of these apostles. St. Paul's Epistle visit of St. Peter to Rome before the end
to the Romans proves undeniably the flou- of the reign of Claudius, or the beginning
risliing state of the church before his visit of that of Nero.—M. to the city; and many Roman Catholic
C'UAP. XV. DISTINCTION OF LAITY AND CLERGY. 197
dispute in which the champions of religion indulged such passions as seem much more adapted to the senate or to the camp.126
The progress of the ecclesiastical authority gave birth to the memorable distinction of the laity and of the clergy, which Lalty — had been unknown to the Greeks and Romans.127 The cl"gyformer of these appellations comprehended the body of the Christian people; the latter, according to the signification of the word, was appropriated to the chosen portion that had been set apart for the service of religion; a celebrated order of men which has furnished the most important, though not always the most edifying, subjects for modern history. Their mutual hostilities sometimes disturbed the peace of the infant church, but their zeal and activity were united in the common cause, and the love of power, which (under the most artful disguises) could insinuate itself into the breasts of bishops and martyrs, animated them to increase the number of their subjects, and to enlarge the limits of the Christian empire. They were destitute of any temporal force, and they were for a long time discouraged and oppressed, rather than assisted, by the civil magistrate; but they had acquired, and they employed within their own society, the two most efficacious instruments of government, rewards and punishments; the former derived from the pious liberality, the latter from the devout apprehensions, of the faithful.
I. The community of goods, which had so agreeably amused the imagination of Plato,128 and which subsisted in some degree
i ', , _ . „. . f - Oblations
among the austere sect of the Lssemans, 9 was adopted tor ami revenue a short time in the primitive church. The fervour of the first proselytes prompted them to sell those worldly possessions which they despised, to lay the price of them at the feet of the apostles, and to content themselves with receiving an equal share out of the general distribution.130 The progress of the Christian religion
188 Concerning this dispute of the re-baptism of heretics, see the epistles of Cyprian, and the seventh book of Eusebius.
177 For the origin of these words, see Mosheim, p. 141. Spanheim, Hist. Ecclesiast. p. 633. The distinction of Clerus and Laictts was established before the time of Tertullian.
'w The community instituted by Plato is more perfect than that which Sir Thomas More had imagined for his Utopia. The community of women, and that of temporal goods, may be considered as inseparable parts of the same system.
"* Joseph. Antiquitat. xviii. 2 [c. 1, § 5, ed. Oxon. 1720]. Philo, de Vit. Conteinplativ.
130 See the Acts of the Apostles, c. 2, 4, 5, with Grotius's Commentary. Mosheim, in a particular dissertation, attacks the common opinion with very inconclusive arguments."
■ This is not the general judgment on many distinct proofs of the contrary. All
Mosheim's learned dissertation. There is exhortations to almsgiving would have
no trace in the latter part of the New Tes- been unmeaning if property had been in
tament of this community of goods, and common.—M.
193 OBLATIONS AND REVENUE ClIAP. XV.
relaxed, and gradually abolished, this generous institution, which, in hands less pure than those of the apostles, would too soon have been corrupted and abused by the returning selfishness of human nature; and the converts who embraced the new religion were permitted to retain the possession of their patrimony, to receive legacies and inheritances, and to increase their separate property by all the lawful means of trade and industry. Instead of an absolute sacrifice, a moderate proportion was accepted by the ministers of the Gospel; and in their weekly or monthly assemblies every believer, according to the exigency of the occasion, and the measure of his wealth and piety, presented his voluntary offering for the use of the common fund.131 Nothing, however inconsiderable, was refused; but it was diligently inculcated that, in the article of tithes, the Mosaic Law was still of divine obligation; and that, since the Jews, under a less perfect discipline, had been commanded to pay a tenth part of all that they possessed, it would become the disciples of Christ to distinguish themselves by a superior degree of liberality,132 and to acquire some merit by resigning a superfluous treasure, which must so soon be annihilated with the world itself.133 It is almost unnecessary to observe that the revenue of each particular church, which was of so uncertain and fluctuating a nature, must have varied with the poverty or the opulence of the faithful, as they were dispersed in obscure villages, or collected in the great cities of the empire. In the time of the emperor Decius it was the opinion of the magistrates that the Christians of Rome were possessed of very considerable wealth, that vessels of gold and silver were used in their religious worship, and that many among their proselytes had sold their lands and houses to increase the public riches of the sect, at the expense, indeed, of their unfortunate children, who found themselves beggars because their parents had been saints.134 We should listen
131 Justin Martyr, Apolog. Major, c. 89. Tertullian, Apolog. c. 39.
"* Irenscua ad Htereg. 1. iv. c. 26,34. Origen in Num. Horn. 11. Cyprian de Unitat. Ecclea. Constitut. Apostol. 1. ii. c. 34, 35, with the notes of Cotelerius. The Constitutioua introduce this divine precept, by declaring that priests are as much above kings as the soul is above the body. A mong the tithabie articles, they enumerate corn, wine, oil, and wool. On thia interesting subject, consult Prideaux's History of Tithes, and Fra Paolo delle Materie Beneficiarie; two writers of a very different character.
133 The same opinion, which prevailed about the year one thousand, was productive of the same effects. Most of the donations express their motive, "appropinquantemundi fine." See Mosheim's General History of the Church, vol. i. p. 457.
134 Turn summa cura est fratribus