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O that the prayer of faith might now return!
O’erflow'd with love, a paradise restored,
ON THE EQUALITY OF PRESBYTERS AND BISHOPS.
Vol. II.- PAGE 422.
The following facts and documents prove that Mr. Wesley's ordinations were no novelties in the Christian church. St. Jerome, whose letter to Evagrius is placed first in order, and who declares that, from the earliest times, the Bishops of Alexandria were ordained by the Presbyters, was one of the most eminent of the Latin Fathers, and flourished in the fourth century.
Legimus in Esaiá : “ Fatuus fatua loquetur.” Audio quendam in tantam erupisse vecordiam, ut diaconos presbyteris, id est, episcopis, anteferret. Nam cùm apostolus perspicuè doceat, eosdem esse presbyteros quos episcopos ; quid patitur mensarum et viduarum minister, ut supra eos se tumidus efferat, ad quorum preces Christi corpus sanguisque conficitur ? Quæris autoritatem ? Audi testimonium : “ Paulus et Timotheus, servi Christi Jesu, omnibus sanctis in Christo Jesu, qui sunt Philippis, cum episcopis et diaconis.” (Philip. i. 1.) Vis et aliud exemplum ? In Actibus Apostolorum, ad unius ecclesiæ sacerdotes ita Paulus loquitur : “ Attendite vobis, et cuncto gregi in quo vos Spiritus Sanclus posuit episcopos, ut regeretis ecclesiam Domini, quam acquisivit sanguine suo." (Act. xx. 28.) Ac ne quis contentiosè in una ecclesiâ plures episcopos fuisse contendat, audi et aliud testimonium, in quo manifestissimè comprobatur eundem esse episcopum atque presbyterum : “ Propter hoc reliqui te in Cretâ, ut quæ deerant corrigeres, et constitueres presbyteros per civitates, sicut
tibi mandavi. Si quis est sinè crimine, unius uxoris rir, filios habens fideles, non in accusatione luxuriæ, aut non subditos. Oportet enim episcopum sine crimine esse, quasi Dei dispensatorem.” (Titus i. 5–7.) Et ad Timotheum: “ Noli negligere gratiam quæ in te est, quæ tibi data est prophetiæ, per impositionem manuum presbyterii.” (1 Timo. iv. 14.) Sed et Petrus in prima Epistolâ : “ Presbyteros,” inquit, “ in vobis precor compresbyter, et testis passionum Christi, et futuræ gloriæ quæ revelanda est particeps, regere gregem Christi, et inspicere non ex necessitate, sed voluntariè juxta Deum.” (1 Pet. v. 1, 2.) Quod quidem Græcè significantius dicitur, ÉTIOXOTOŪVTES, id est, superintendentes, undè et nomen episcopi tractum est. Parva tibi videntur tantorum virorum testimonia? Clangat tuba evangelica "filius tonitrui," (Marc. iii. 17,) quem Jesus amavit plurimùm, (Johan. xix. 26; xxi. 7, 20, 24,) qui de pectore Salvatoris doctrinarum fluenta polavit : (xiii. 25:) “ Presbyter, electæ dominæ et filiis ejus, quos ego diligo in veritate.” (2 Johan. 1.) Et in aliâ epistolâ : “ Presbyter, Caio charissimo, quem ego diligo in veritate.” (3 Johan. 1.)
Quòd autem postea unus electus est, qui cæteris præponeretur, in schismatis remedium factum est; ne unusquisque ad se trahens Christi ecclesiam rumperet. Nam et Alexandriæ, a Marco evangelistâ usque ad Heracleam et Dionysium episcopos, presbyteri semper unum ex se electum, in excelsiori gradu collocatum, episcopum nominabant : quomodo si exercitus imperatorem faciat; aut diaconi eligant de se, quem industrium noverint, et archidiaconum vocent. Quid enim facit, exceptâ ordinatione, episcopus, quod presbyter non faciat ?
Nec altera Romanæ urbis ecclesia, altera totius orbis, existimanda est. Et Galliæ, et Britanniæ, et Africa, et Persis, et Oriens, et India, et omnes barbaræ nationes, unum Christum adorant, unam observant regulam veritatis. Si autoritas quæritur, orbis major est urbe. Ubicunque fuerit episcopus, sive Romæ sive El sive Constantinopoli sive Rhegii, sive Alexandriæ sive Tanis, ejusdem meriti, ejusdem est et sacerdotii. Potentia divitiarum, et paupertatis humilitas, vel sublimiorem vel inferiorem episcopum non facit. Cæterùm omnes apostolorum successores sunt.
Sed dicis, quomodo Romæ ad testimonium diaconi presbyter ordinatur ? Quid mihi profers unius urbis consuetudinem ? Quid paucitatem, de quâ ortum est supercilium in leges ecclesiæ, vindicas ?
Omne quod rarum est, plus appetitur. Pulegium apud Indos pipere preciosius est. Diaconos paucitas honorabiles, presbyteros turba contemptibiles facit. Cæterùm etiam in ecclesia Romæ, presbyteri sedent, et stant diaconi; licet, paulatim incre
brescentibus vitiis, inter presbyteros, absente episcopo, sedere diaconum viderim, et, in domesticis conviviis, benedictiones presbyteris dare. Discant qui hoc faciunt non se rectè facere, et audiant apostolos : “Non est dignum, ut, relinquentes verbum Dei, ministremus mensis.” (Act. Apost. vi. 2.) Sciant quare diaconi constituti sint. Legant Actus Apostolorum, recordentur conditionis
Presbyter et EPISCOPUs, aliud ætatis, aliud dignitatis est nomen.
Unde et ad Titum et ad Timotheum de ordinatione episcopi et diaconi dicitur. (Tit. i. 5-7; 1 Tim. iii. 1-13.) De presbyteris omninò reticetur, quia in episcopo et presbyter continetur. Qui provehitur, de minori ad majus provehitur. Aut igitur ex presbytero ordinetur diaconus, ut presbyter minor diacono comprobetur, in quem crescit ex parvo : aut si ex diacono ordinatur presbyter, noverit se lucris minorem, sacerdotio esse majorem. Et ut sciamus traditiones apostolicas sumptas de Veteri Testamento, quòd Aaron, et filii ejus, atque Levitæ, in templo fuerunt, hoc sibi episcopi, et presbyteri, et diaconi vendiceni in ecclesiâ.—Divi Eusebii Hieronymi Stridonensis Opera omnia. Accessit his in Epistolarum tomos nova Scholiorum, per Erasmum Roterodamum, Instauratio. Parisiis apud Claudium Chevallonium. 1534. Tom. ii., pp. 117, 118.
Erasmus divides the Works of St. Jerome into different classes : first, those which are his undoubted productions; then, those concerning which some doubts may be indulged; those of an intermixed description, &c. This Epistle to Evagrius he places in the first class, among those which are genuine. The reader will find the following to be a free translation :
ST. JEROME'S EPISTLE TO EVAGRIUS. We read in the Prophet Isaiah: “The vile person will speak villany.” (Isaiah xxxii. 6.) I am informed, that a certain man among you has exhibited such a specimen of his folly as to give precedence to Deacons before Presbyters, that is, before Bishops. For, since the Apostle teaches, with much perspicuity, that Presbyters are the same as Bishops, what has possessed this server of tables and curator of widows, (Acts vi. 1, 2,) that he should thus, with tumid arrogance, elevate himself above those holy men to whose prayers are committed * the body and blood of Christ ? Do you request to know my authority for this declaration ? Listen then to this testimony: “ Paul and Timotheus the servants of
• Conficitur in this passage possesses a large ecclesiastical signification, nearly tantamount to—“are entrusted for the purpose of rendering them effectual to devout recipients in the sacrament of the Lord's supper,"
TIXOTM Durchased with his owndly contend, that their hearken to
Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the Bishops and Deacons.” (Phil. i. 1.) Do you desire to have another example? In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul thus addresses tous apeo Butépous, the Presbyters or Elders of one church (that of Ephesus] : “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you ÉTICXÓTOUS, Bishops or Overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts xx. 17, 28.) And lest some one should pertinaciously contend, that there must then have been many Bishops in one church, let him hearken to another testimony, which contains a most manifest proof that a Bishop and a Presbyter are the same : “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things which are wanting, and ordain PRESBYTERS or Elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly. For a Bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God," &c. (Titus i. 5–7.) To Timothy also he says : “ Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the PRESBYTERY.” (1 Tim. iv. 14.) But Peter likewise declares in his first Epistle: “ The Elders [Presbyteros] which are among you I exhort, who am also an Elder, [Compresbyter, “a fellow-Presbyter,"] and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed : Feed the flock of Christ which is among you, taking the oversight thereof,* not by constraint, but willingly,” according to godliness. (1 Peter v. 1, 2.) The signification of taking the oversight thereof is still more strongly marked in the Greek word here employed, &TIOXOFOŪVTES, “ acting as Superintendents," from which the word Episcopus, “a Bishop,” has its derivation.
• All biblical critics are aware, that St. Jerome quoted from a Latin version of the Scriptures of a much earlier date than that which received its divine sanction from the Council of Trent. In several passages the difference of rendering is very remarkable. In this clause St. Jerome's version reads : “Rule the flock of Christ, and inspect it,” &c. The critical scholium of Erasmus upon it is worthy of transcription :
“St. Jerome's reading seems to have been somewhat different from that which is found in the Greek copies which we possess, in which it is written : Tovudvate TLOKOTOŪVTES• that is, 'Taking the oversight of the flock, feed it.' But neither of these Greek words could be adequately rendered into Latin. For neither is the signification of woqjgivelv, simply to feed or to rule, but to feed a flock ; nor is the meaning of ¿TLOKOTEî merely to inspect for the purpose of becoming well acquainted with anything, a signification which the word bears in Latin, but rather, diligently to watch and care, in order to provide for the Rock such things as are necessary."
Does the testimony of such famous men as these appear to you to be of little importance? Then let “ the son of thunder," (Mark ü. 17,) let him whom Jesus greatly loved, (John xiï. 25; xix. 26; xxi. 7, 20, 24,) who drank of the streams of divine doctrine as they issued from the breast of the Saviour, let him with his evangelical trumpet sound a clangour in your ear : “ The Presbyter, or Elder, to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth.” (2 John 1.) And in his other Epistle : “ The Presbyter, or Elder, unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth." (3 John 1.)
But the election of one from among themselves to be placed above the rest, was a practice which they subsequently adopted, to operate as a remedy against schism ; lest each Presbyter, attracting unto himself a portion of the church of Christ, should break the existing unity. For, even at Alexandria, from the age of Mark the Evangelist, down to that of the Bishops Heracleas and Dionysius, one chosen from among themselves, and placed by them in a higher degree, was dignified by the Presbyters with the title of BISHOP; much after the same manner as that in which an army chooses its Commander ;* or as the Deacons elect one from their own body, of whose diligence they have had experience, and style him their Archdeacon. For, if we except the Bishop's act of ordination, what is there which he does, and which a Presbyter may not do ?
Nor ought we to form an estimate of the Church at Rome, as if it were different from the whole church throughout the world. The converted inhabitants of the Gallic provinces, of the British isles, and of Africa, those of Persia, of the East, and of India, indeed all the barbarous nations, adore one and the same Christ, and observe one and the only rule of truth. If we institute an inquiry into the [relative] authority of each, that of the whole world is in this respect greater than the authority of a single city. Of whatsoever place a man may be Bishop,--whether of Rome or of Gubio, of Constantinople or of Region,t of Alexandria or of Zoan,-in personal merit he is equal to the rest of his brethren, and he forms one of the same sacerdotal order. The power consequent
• St. Jerome lived in those days when the Roman armies chose their own imperatorem, “ general,” who commonly by their aid became the ruler of the whole empire ; and hence “ emperor" is as correct a translation of the word as « commander.”
+ “ Rhegium, or Region, a village in Thrace, in the vicinity of the city of Constantinople.”_De La Martiniere's Grand Dictionnaire.
* The remark of Erasmus on this passage is very good :
“ The names of the places which occur in this sentence are situated in parts widely distant. Gubio is in Italy ; Constantinople, in Macedonia, not far from the confines of Thrace; Region, in Greece ; and Alexandria and Zoan, in Eygpt.