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on the richness of his diocess does not render a Bishop [sublimiorem] more eminent in rank; neither does the lowliness of a poor Diocesan make him a whit inferior to his more opulent episcopal brethren: but all of them, whether they be the occupiers of rich or of
poor sees, are successors of the Apostles. But
you ask : “How is it that at Rome a Presbyter is ordained in consequence of testimonials from a Deacon ?" Why do you object against me the usage of a single city? Why do you thus defend that paucity [of Deacons at Rome] from which has arisen such utter contempt for the laws of the church (universal] ? Men desire, with the greater appetency, everything on account of its rarity. Among the inhabitants of the East Indies, our common herb pennyroyal is of far more value than their own pepper. At Rome the paucity of Deacons renders them honourable; while the vast multitude of Presbyters brings their order into disrepute. But, even in the Church of Rome, the Presbyters sit, while the Deacons stand; though, on the gradual increase of corrupt innovations, I have seen a Deacon place himself on the same seat with the Presbyters, during the absence of the Bishop; and, in the convivial intercourse of private life, I have heard a Deacon invoke sacred benedictions on the Presbyters then present. Let the men who are guilty of these improprieties be taught that their conduct is exceedingly unbecoming, and let them listen to this declaration of the Apostles: “It is not reasonable that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.” (Acts vi. 2.) Let them fully understand the reason of the primary constitution of Deacons. Let them peruse the Acts of the Apostles, and then remember their proper condition. Of the two words, PRESBYTER or Elder, and BISHOP, the one is a title accorded to age, the other a title of dignity. Hence, both in the Epistle to Titus, and in that to Timothy, the Apostle mentions only the ordination (or appointment) of Bishops and Deacons. (Titus i. 5–7; 1 Tim. iii. 1-13.) An entire silence is observed concerning Presbyters; because a Presbyter is one who is also included in a Bishop.
He who obtains promotion is elevated from that which is less to something which is greater. Wherefore either let a Deacon be ordained from the order of Presbyters, that we may have proof of a I'resbyter being less than a Deacon, to which elevation he may have been raised from a state of extreme littleness; or else, if a Pres
But St. Jerome appears to have made such a disposition of them as in every clause to conjoin the name of a celebrated city with that of some obscure town or village. From the whole he draws this inference : The dignity of a Bishop must not be estimated by the magnitude of his episcopal rule or jurisdiction, but by his living merit; for in episcopal functions they are all equal."
byter is really ordained out of the order of Deacons, let him rest assured, that, though his perquisites may be less, yet in sacerdotal rank he is greater. And, that we may rightly understand the apostolical traditions as derived from the Old Testament, how Aaron, and his sons, and the Levites officiated together in the Jewish temple, let the Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons of the Christian church claim the benefit of this example in behalf of themselves.
With reference to this letter of Jerome Bishop Stillingfleet makes the following remarks :—“The clearest evidence of this [that Bishops are not superior to Presbyters as to the power of order] is in the church of Alexandria, of which Jerome speaks : Nam Alexandria à Marco Evangelistâ usque ad Heracleam et Dionysium Episcopos, Presbyteri semper unum ex se electum, &c. That learned Doctor who would persuade us that the Presbyters did only make choice of the person, but the ordination was performed by other Bishops, would do well, first, to tell us who and where those Bishops in Egypt were, who did consecrate or ordain the Bishop of Alexandria, after his election by the Presbyters; especially while Egypt remained but one province, under the government of the Præfeclus Augustalis. Secondly, how had this been in the least pertinent to Jerome's purpose, to have made a particular instance in the church of Alexandria for that which was common to all other churches besides ? For the old rule of the canon law for Bishops was, Electio clericorum est, consensus principis, petitio plebis. Thirdly, this election in Jerome must imply the conferring the power and authority whereby the Bishop acted. For, first, the setting up of this power is by Jerome attributed to this choice, as appears by his words, Quod autem postea unus electus est qui cæteris præponeretur, in schismatis remedium factum est, ne unusquisque ad se trahens Christi Ecclesiam rumperet. (Advers. Lucil.) Whereby it is evident Jerome attributes the first original of that exsors potestas, as he calls it elsewhere, in the Bishop above Presbyters, not to any apostolical institution, but to the free choice of the Presbyters themselves : which doth fully explain what he means by consuetudo Ecclesiæ, before spoken of; namely, that which came up by a voluntary act of the governors of churches themselves. Secondly, it appears that by the election he means conferring authority, by the instances he brings to that purpose: as the Roman armies choosing their Emperors, who had then no other power but what they received by the length of the sword; and the Deacons choosing their Archdeacons, who had no other power but what was merely conferred by the choice of the colleges of Deacons. To which we may add what Eutychius, the Patriarch of Alexandria, saith in his Origines Ecclesiæ Alexandrinæ, published in Arabic by our most learned Selden, who expressly affirms that the twelve Presbyters constituted by Mark upon the vacancy of the see, did choose out of their number one to be head over the rest; and the other eleven did lay their hands upon him, and blessed him, and made him Patriarch,' pp. 29, 30. Neither is the authority of Eutychius so much to be slighted in this case, coming so near to Jerome as he doth : who, doubtless, had he told us that Mark and Anianus, &c., did all this without any Presbyters, might have had the good fortune to have been quoted with as much frequency and authority as the anonymous author of the martyrdom of Timothy in Photius, (who there unhappily follows the story of the seven sleepers,) or the author of the Apostolical Constitutions, whose credit is everlastingly blasted by the excellent Mr. Daillè, De Pseudepigraphis Apostolorum : so much doth men's interest tend to the enhancing or abating the esteem and credit both of the dead and the living ! By this we see that where no positive restraints from consent and choice, for the unity and peace of the church, have restrained men's liberty, as to the external exercise of the power of order or jurisdiction, every one being himself advanced into the authority of a churchgovernor, hath an internal power of conferring the same upon persons fit for it.”—Stillingfleet's Irenicum, pp. 273—275. Second edition.
The sentiments contained in the preceding epistle of St. Jerome to Evagrius seem to have made a deep impression on the mind of Luther, and to have exercised a considerable influence in his settlement of the Christian ministry in the Protestant Churches of Germany. This will be rendered apparent in the subjoined extract from Seckendorf's “ History of Lutheranisın : "
Towards the close of this year, 1533, Luther composed his book, “ On the solitary Mass, performed in a Corner, and on the Consecration of Priests.” In this work he says,
“Bishops and Presbyters are but one order : of this fact Jerome was not ignorant. Neither had the Bishops of that early age greater congregations than those which are now to be found at Torgau, Leipsic, Grimm, or Wirtemberg. Hippo was in no respect better than any of these modern cities : yet Augustine, the Bishop of that see, was greater in the church of Christ than any Pope or Cardinal whatsoever ; and he consecrated many Bishops and Pastors."
Ile then proceeds to assert, that the force and efficacy of the ministry do not depend on any opus operatum, [on the mere act of ordination or appointment,] but on the institution of Christ himself; and that such appointments lose not their efficacy, even though they may be conferred by bad men. He adds, that in this book therefore he has commenced anew the work of destruction against the chrism and the antichristian anointing of Priests, and has reclaimed and restored to the church the pure ordination of Ministers according to the primitive method, of which the more powerful Bishops had deprived their weaker episcopal brethren.
An attempt had been made, at the Diet of Augsburgh, to effect a reconciliation between the Papists and the Protestants, to which the former annexed, as a preliminary condition, the continuance or the restoration of Popish episcopal ordination. On refusing that condition, the Protestants abandoned all hope of a sound and equitable adjustment of existing differences. It became necessary therefore that Ministers should be ordained for the churches of Christ in those regions and cities which adhered to the Augsburgh Confession ; not to become massing sacrificers, but Preachers of the word, and dispensers of the sacraments. That no doubt might be indulged concerning the right and the efficacy of this Protestant ordination, Luther showed so much regard for the consciences of his followers, as to make a public exposure of the sacrifice of the mass, and of the Romish priesthood which had been instituted for that express purpose. Moreover, because the Popish Bishops ordained no other than mass-making Priests, and because on this account the Ministers of the Protestant Churches could not seek ordination from them, Luther asserted in behalf of these Churches the right of vocation to the ministerial office. In this manner he established the separation from the Papacy ; because it was impossible for the Romish Church to be reconciled with that of the Protestants,-a vain attempt, as had been proved by its want of success at Augsburgh. But since that corrupt establishment could not be removed by force, its continuance was to be tolerated as an evil; and thus even Bishops were allowed to remain in Germany, among those Princes, and in those cities, that adhered to that system. This is the scope of the passages which have been already cited, in Luther's own expressions. But concerning the right of a Christian church to call and ordain Ministers, the following paragraph is deserving of particular consideration. It occurs in the third page of his treatise.
“ This is a solid rock, and serves as our firmest foundation :Wheresoever the Gospel is correctly and purely taught, there of necessity a Christian church exists. For he who is at all dubious about the truth of this axiom, has his doubts also with regard to the
Gospel and the word of God itself. But in whatever place a Christian church is in existence, having the subjoined adjuncts, which are of prime importance, (namely, the word of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, faith, prayer, baptism, the holy supper, the keys, and the ministry,) the same church likewise possesses those which are only of secondary importance ; such, for instance, as the right of calling to the exercise of the ministry men who may preach the word of God and dispense the sacraments. What signification do we give to these words of Christ ?—'If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' (Matt. xviii. 19, 20.) How great soever may be the right or the power which two or three possess, far greater must that be which is possessed by entire congregations.* How admirable the simplicity with which Paul speaks about ordination !
—The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.' (2 Tim. ii. 2.) Here we find no mention of chrism or of holy butter, but only the command to instruct others in the word of God. He to whom this trust is committed is esteemed by Paul as a Pastor, a Bishop, and a Pontiff; for all sacred functions are comprised in this one command,—to preach the word of God. This is an office which Christ has always held as peculiarly and supremely his own prerogative ; for through his words, not only are the sacraments themselves constituted, but likewise the very form of a sacrament. This is a fact which even the Papists do not deny. Christ must undoubtedly have forgotten the chrism or anointing, when he delivered his final instructions to the Apostles: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost : teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,' &c.; the command therefore was, that they should preach the word and administer the sacraments.”
From these words it is quite apparent, as I have already intimated, that Luther in this matter rested on a true and infallible foundation; and that he was assailed in vain with loud clamours by the Protestants, for not sending the Reformed Churches to Rome, to obtain thence the privilege of calling out and ordaining their own Ministers. For this right follows as a necessary adjunct to the doc
• Seckendorf's side-note to this passage is remarkable :-Ordinatio ex jure divino omnibus cælibus Christianis competens asseritur: “ORDINATION BY DIVINE RIGHT is here asserted to be competent to all Christian congregations."