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order that the episcopal dignity may not suffer ; but the bishops of the
province shall only api>oint one for those places where there have been
bishops before. If, however, a town is so populous as to appear worthy
of a bishop, it shall obtain one** (Hefele, II. 135). See also the tenth
Canon of the Synod of Antioch (a.d. 341). Council of Laodicea (a.d.
343-381, the exact date is unknown. Can. 67 : *' In villages and in the
country no bishops may be appointed but visitors (xepiodevral) ; and those
who are already appointed shall do nothing without the consent of the
bishop of the town, as also the priests may do nothing without the con-
sent of the bishop** (Hefele, II. 321).

In the time of Leo the Great, the middle of the fifth century, the process
of restricting the episcopate in the interest of its dignity still continued :

" Let not bishops be consecrated in any place nor in any hamlet, nor
where they have not been consecrated before ; for where the flocks are
small and the congregations small the care of the presbyters may suffice,
whereas the episcopal authority ought to preside only over larger flocks
and more crowded cities lest ... the position of honor, to which only
the more important charges should be given, be held cheap from the very
number of those that hold it*' (Leonis, Epia. xii. 10).


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which acknowledged no responsibility to the state. It may
be no accidental occurrence that in the later years of Cyp-
rian, there came, under the Emperor Decius, the first great
organized persecution, in which a systematic effort was
ordered in every part of the Empire for the suppression of
the Catholic church. Such a movement on the part of
the state followed inevitably the effort to constitute the
church an imperium in imperio. That Cyprian's attitude
toward the state implied not only independence of the
church from any subjection to the secular power, but even
fostered in the church the tendency toward defiance of the
civil authority, may be inferred from his glowing eulogy
of Cornelius, the Bishop of Rome, who died about the time
of the Decian persecution : " He, intrepid, sat at Rome in
the sacerdotal chair at that time when a tyrant, odious to
God's priests, was threatening things that can and cannot
be spoken, insomuch as he would much more patiently
and tolerantly hear that a rival prince was raised up
against himself, than that a priest of God was established
at Rome. "1

The conflict between the church and the Empire may
have been from the fii-st unavoidable, but the motive in
the Decian persecution may be clearly discerned as an
apprehension on the part of the state that a foe had arisen
which was undermining its power, and was more danger-
ous to its existence than incursions of the barbarians.
The absolute subjection of Christian people to the bishop,
to whom he was to stand as the law of every action and
the arbitrator and judge in all their differences, whose
weapons for defending his authority were superior to those
of the state because they involved eternal penalties, —
this was a force within the state which disintegrated its
integrity, and if it could not be overcome would involve
the state in bankruptcy. Cyprian, indeed, did not design
his policy with this end in view, but none the less its
tendency was towards an usurpation of the functions of
the state until the latter had become its subordinate instru-
ment for the execution of its decrees. The growth of

^ Epis, IL Cf. Hamack, Dogmengesch. I., p. 380.


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Christian morality, the desire for some higher ideal, the
inadequacy of the state for the true functions of govern-
ment, — all these motives were combining to create
imperceptibly another organization which should rise
upon the ruins of the discredited and bankrupt Empire.
From this point of view, the transformation of the Chris-
tian ministry into a priesthood by Cyprian is profoundly
significant. For priesthoods come when they are needed;
they are in waiting for a society which has lost its savor or
is no longer capable of exercising or appreciating its free-
dom. They begin their work beneath the surface with
the very fundamentals of discipline, training people to
the observance of order and law, to subjection to authority.
Such was the lesson which the Empire needed. But it
could not let go its authority and prestige without a
struggle. How clearly the Roman state saw the issue,
was manifested in the method which it pursued for accom-
plishing the destruction of its rival. Under Valerian
(263-260 A.D.), it directed its attention to the bishops as
its most dangerous enemies, as well as the mainspring of
the church's growth. In the first persecution under
Decius, C3rprian had withdrawn from the danger which
threatened his life as the head of the community at Car-
thage. But when the persecution broke out anew, he
manfully stood at his post and met his martyrdom like a
Christian soldier. Sixtus, also, the Bishop of Rome, like-
wise became a martyr for that cause of the episcopate, of
which, no less than Cyprian, he was a most prominent

There followed another great general persecution,
the Diocletian, inspired by the same dread and hatred
which had animated the persecutions in Cyprian's time,
and again it was demonstrated that the Catholic church
was too strong to be suppressed by physical force. But
for what followed, in the age of Constantino, one is hardly
prepared who has taken Cyprian as the ideal and standard
of catholicity. Both state and church reversed their atti-
tude : the Empire accepted Christianity as the state reli-
gion, and the bishops bent before the emperor, submitting


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to the state as the check upon their authority, which
Christian people as such in the congregation could no
longer exercise. The significance of this change is so
momentous for the fortunes and history of the episcopate
that it deserves especial consideration.

Among the qualifications for the office of a bishop, as
they were fii'st set forth in the Pastoral Epistles, is the
requisition that "he must have a good report among them
that are without." This injunction is repeated in the
first of the Apostolic Ordinances, with even deeper empha-
sis. When a small church, which does not have so many
as twelve men among its members, is about to provide
itself with a bishop, and the neighboring churches have
sent three men to assist them in their task, these delegates
from the other churches are to examine carefully in the
first place whether the candidate " is worthy, that is, if he
has a good report among the heathen." As one dwells
upon the significance of this requirement, it is seen to
involve the question of the relation of the church to the
heathen world, to the world of ordinary life and of secular
affairs. No such demand could have been made as a suit-
able or indispensable preparation for the prophetic office
or the successful fufilment of the work of the teacher.
Indeed, it might have been required as the qualification
for the performance of these high spiritual functions, that
a man must be expected to incur unpopularity, and even
scorn and persecution, as the condition on which he should
undertake his office. Otherwise he could not be free to
proclaim the divine Word which calls for the condemnation
of evil practices, or the enunciation of unwelcome truth
in any form, or the proclamation of the doctrine which
should seem as foolishness to the heathen mind.

The office, then, of bishop or pastor, in its earliest form,
differed from the ordinary pastorate of the modern churches
in its conciliatory character and purpose, so that the bishop
shall recommend the church and the new religion, to those
without as well as within, by the graces and beauties of
the spiritual life, which even the heathen must admire.
Even if he be not apt to teach by word of mouth, or


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be incompetent to expound the Scripture, none the less
he will appeal to the world of ordinary men, who have
no interest in doctrines or religious controversies, but who
judge a religion by its fruits. St. Paul was a teacher and
a prophet who threatened to turn the world upside down
with the revolutionary doctrines which he proclaimed,
and we must admit that for such men, also, the world has
need. The truth must be spoken whether men, be they
heathen or otherwise, will hear or whether they will for-
bear. But there is also another way, and of this way the
bishop or pastor was to be the representative. The church
must adjust itself to the world as it is, before it can suc-
ceed in overcoming the world. Accommodation, adapta-
tion, assimilation — these are words which stand for another
method of accomplishing some higher result for the king-
dom of God. For if the bishop would retain the honor
and confidence of those without, he must deal prudently
and with moderation in his relation to things which can-
not at once be changed ; he must be willing to adopt that
which is in itself harmless or indifferent in heathen
usage; he must not allow himself to become the doc-
trinaire advocate of some theory, one-sided or radical,
which, however powerfully it might recommend itself to
a few, would be a stumbling-block to the many. He
must make the church grow, recommending it to the
unbeliever by holy actions and beneficent fruits, rather
than fly in the face of the world and keep the church
small. He was not only to be honest and above suspicion
as a business man, for he was entrusted with the care of
the finances, but he must seek to recommend the cultus
over which he presided in ways that the heathen could
appreciate. He must adjust himself to the learning of
the schools, tolerating the appropriation of heathen wis-
dom and its fusion with Christian teaching when it con-
tained nothing at variance with the law of Christ. He
must adjust the relation of this world to another in no
one-sided fashion, but so that the world that now is should
be consecrated by a Christian spirit, and not anathema-
tized as an evil order to be done away. And, most impor-


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tant of all, he must cultivate some attitude toward the
state, some modus vivendh which would make it possible
for the church to live and grow in the world, even under
secular rulers who did not understand or appreciate its
mission. As a man of affairs, he would necessarily have
an interest in the well-being of the state, seeking to pro-
mote its welfare, upon which also the prosperity of the
church depended.

But all this was, as we know, most obnoxious to those
in the church, who had inherited and cultivated another
attitude, who believed that the destiny of the church was
to be forever at war with the existing order, that every-
thing of heathen origin was in its nature evil, that only
by keeping the church small could it be kept pure, that
heathen learning, science, and art were antagonistic to
the cultivation of piety and the spirit of other-worldli-
ness. To those who held this attitude, and who were
known in the second century as Montanists, it seemed as
though the church had embarked on a dangerous and
perilous enterprise, when it removed the prophet and put
the catholic bishop in his stead. The secularization of the
church was what the Montanist dreaded, and this was the
danger involved in the catholic oflRce of the episcopate.

When we compare the spirit of Cyprian with the more
genial tone of the catholic episcopate in his own or later
ages, it is evident that he was at heart more in sympathy
with the Montanists, who disowned the world, than
with the catholic spirit, which sought to appropriate
whatever might contribute to the growth and extension
of the church. Cyprian was the forerunner of that
type of the later Protestantism which separates sharply
between the state and the church, which advocates some
theory in doctrinaire manner of that which ought to be,
and refuses to adjust the church to the life of the state.
To a certain extent he inspired the Western church with
his spirit, and might have been more successful, if he had
not been resisted by the bishops of Rome. His attitude in
the controversies of his age, in which he contended for
strict dealing with those who had lapsed in the perse-


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cutions, or the necessity of re-baptism where baptism had
been performed by a heretic, or in defective form, indi-
cates that, like a true Montanist, he would keep the
church small if he could keep his ideal of its purity. His
effort to mingle Montanism and catholicity, retaining the
exclusive and more obnoxious features of each position,
resulted, in a compound which was as impracticable as it
was intolerable. He placed the church in an attitude of
defiance toward the state ; he sought to emancipate the
bishops from all control or check upon their procedure.
But he could not destroy or wholly neutralize that ten-
dency in the episcopate which made the oflRce a mediating
influence between the church and the world. When Con-
stantine held out his hand to the church, the bishops as a
body welcomed his advances, they lent him their counte-
nance and aid and sympathy, they easily became officers of
the state as well as of the church, and for the most part sub-
mitted without reluctance to imperial control. The result
of this attitude of the episcopate in the Eastern church
was the building up of a great nationality, whose centre
was Constantinople, which endured for a thousand years
in the midst of such trials and dangers as hardly any
other nation was ever content to undergo. But in the
Western or Latin church, when the Roman Empire fell in
476, and the bishops lacked the protection of the state,
when there was no higher authority to which they were
amenable, they fell into bondage to a power with which
they had no natural sympathy, but against which they
were not competent to struggle, — the absolute authority
of the bishops of Rome.^

1 Art. Cyprianus in Diet. Chris. Biog, by E. C. Benson, late Arch-
bishop of Canterbury; Lightfoot, in Essay on the Christian Ministry;
Articles on Ordination and Priest, by Hatch in Diet. Chris. Antiq. ; also
in his Bampton Lectures, 1880 ; lectures v., vi.; Art. Priester, in Herzog,
R. E. Pearson, Annales Cypnanici; Dodwell, Dissertationes Cyprianae ;
Poole, Life and Times of Cyprian; Sage, Principles of the CypHanU
Age, and Vindication of Principles, etc. ; Jameson, C. Isotimus in reply
to Sage ; Gervaise, La Vie de St. Cyprien ; Kayser, CypHen ou Vautontmis
de y Episcopate in Rev. de Theol. xv.; Huther, Cyprian's Lehre von der
Kirehe, Harnack, in Dogmengeseh. I.; Rettburg, Thaseius CdcQius.
Cyprianus; and other monographs by O. Ritschl, Reinkens, Feohtnip.


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Among the institutions to which Christianity has given
birth there is none more important for its vast influence and
far-reaching consequences than monasticism. Catholicism,
as represented in the episcopate, had reached its full de-
velopment and was at the height of its power when monas-
ticism arose. It was as if the ocean of spiritual life had
been moved to its depths ; for the agitation did not at once
subside, but wave after wave of monastic influence con-
tinued to roll over the church, carrying this peculiar type
of Christianity forward into new fields of exertion, ana not
subsiding until it had accomplished its hidden purpose in
the age of the Reformation, after a thousand years had
passed away.

As Catholicism had developed in the cities of the Empire,
so monasticism was a return to the country. Not only had
Christianity found its earliest and largest opportunity in

1 Literature. Hamack, Das Monchthum^ seine Ideate und seine Gs'
schichte, 3d ed., 1886 ; M5hler, Qeschichte des Monchthums, 1836 ; Monta-
lembert, Les Moines d^ Occident depuis St. Benoit jusqu^h St. Bernard,
1860 ; H61yot, Histoire des Ordres Monastiques, Beliyieux et Militaires,
Paris, 1714 ; H^nrion, Histoire des Ordres JReligieux, 1885. Articles on
Monasticism in Herzog, B. E.y by Weingarten, and by Venables in Smith
and Cheetham, Diet. Chris. Antiq. Also Isaac Taylor's Ancient Chris-
tianity, Vol. I. ; Lecky, History of European Morals, Vol. II. ; Newman
on the Benedictine Order, in Historical Essays ; the general Church His-
tories of Neander, Hase, Moeller, SchafT, Fleury, TUlemont, etc. Among
the more important Sources, Athanasil, VUa Antonii; the Greek his-
torians Socrates, Sozomen, Evagrius ; Theodoret, Histoiia Beligiosa ;
Jerome, Vita Pauli, and of other anchorets ; Rufinus, Historia Eremitica,
Snlpicius Severus, Dial. IlL ; Ca&sianus, Instil, and Collat.



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towns and cities, but in the city also had the later diocesan
episcopacy been developed as the necessary correspondent
of the political solidarity for which the civic community
stood. But the monks fled from the city as the first condi-
tion of attaining their ideal. Solitude was their aim, and
the country remote from human society or civilization
remained to the last their favorite resort. When civiliza-
tion threatened to approach them as in their later history
in Western Christendom, they emigrated anew in search of
some deeper recess in the wilderness. St. Jerome was no
ascetic of the stricter sort, as to food, oi» raiment, or disci-
pline. What he sought for was loneliness, where a man
could abide with himself. "Others," he writes, "may
think what they like, but to me the town is a prison, and
solitude is paradise." In a letter to a young man proposing
to become a monk, he says :

** Since you ask me as a brother in what path you should walk, I
will be open with you. If you wish to take duty as a pi-esbyter, and
are attracted by the work or dignity which falls to the lot of a bishop,
live in cities and walled towns, and by so doing turn the salvation of
others into the profit of your own soul. But if you desire to-be in
deed' what you are iu name, a monk, that is, one who lives alone,
what have you to do with cities which are the homes not of solitaries
but of cr<^wds? Every mode of life has its own exponents. To
come to oiir own case, let bishops and presbyters t-ake for their exam-
ples the Apostles or their companions, and, as they hold the rank
which thefie once held, let them endeavor to exhibit the same excel-
lence. And last of all, let us monks take as the patterns which we
are to follow the lives of Paul, of Anthony, of Julian, of Hilarion, of
the Macai'ii. And to go back to the authority of scripture, we have
our masters in Elijah and Elisha, and our leaders in the sons of the
prophets ; who lived in fields and solitary places and made themselves
tents by ihe waters of Jordan. . . . After the freedom of their lonely
life they found confinement in a city as bad as imprisonment." ^

We shall not err, if, in endeavoring to fix the character-
istic features of monasticism, we revert to the appearance
it presented in the hour of its birth before changes and
compromises had modified its external aspect, without,
however, overcoming its essential purpose. In the fourth
century, the age of Athanasius and Constantine, when
^ Epis. ad PauHnuniy Iviii. 6.


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monasticism came to the birth, it seemed like a veritable
stampede from the Catholic church, as though that great
creation of Christian energy were no better than the evil
world from which escape was sought. For the thousands of
men and women also who were then taking their flight from
the world practically left the church behind them, carrying
with them no bishops, making no provision for ritual or
sacrament. To these things they were indifferent, if not
aver se. Jer ome, the most distinguished as well as the
most typicalrepr65tillUltlve of early monasticism, the most
learned man also of his age, and the most finished scholar,
was finally ordained a presbyter ; but the ordination was
against his will, and he never, it is believed, officiated in
the sacraments or rites of the church.^ He was wilUng
that others associated with him should do so ; for hii. .oelf,
he was called to different and, as he felt, higher duties.
In a letter to Augustine, he contrasts his own work with
that of a bishop, whose function was administmtion of
ecclesiastical affairs, for which he had no aptitude and, it
must also be said, no admiration.^

We get the keynote of monasticism on its ecclesiastical
side in the famous utterance of St. Jerome which was
never afterwards forgotten ; to the effect that the names
* Inshop ' and ' prjBsbyter ' were used interchangeably in the
New Testament, "that in the beginning of Christianity the
presbyter was the equal of the bishop, and that the bishop
was placed above the presbyter because the arrangement
was demanded by the exigencies of an evil time. He goes
on to remind -the bishops that this arrangement was of
human origin and not divine, — a circumstance of which
the bishops should be aware as well as the presbyters.^

1 Cf. Art. Hieronymus, in Smith and Wace, Diet. Chins. Biog. His
ordination (a.d. 370) was ** against his will, and he never consecrated the
sacrament or officiated as a presbyter" (III.» p. 32).

* £pis. (112) ad Augustin. For a vivid picture of Jerome in his rela-
tion to his time, vide Thierry, A., Saint- Jerome^ la society Chritienne d
Borne et V Emigration Bomaine en Terre Sainte, 1867. Among Jerome's
letters which give his ideal of Monasticism, are : Epis. (14) ad Heliod.,
Epis. (22) odEuBtoch,, Epis, (46) ad Mar cell, y Epis. (125) ad Bustic.

» **Sicut ergo presbyteri sciunt, se ex ecclesiae consuetudine ei, qui
sibi praepositus fuerit, esse subjectos, ita episcopi noveript, se magis con-


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Whether Jerome was right in this contention is not here
the question. The meaning and force of his attitude is not
overcome by the detection of any inaccuracy in his asser-
tion regarding the origin of the ministry. That the terms
'presbyter' and 'bishop' were used as synonyms in the
New Testament may be disputed without affecting the nat-
ure of his statement. He is employing an argument when
he seems to be witnessing to historical facts. There is a
latent reasoning in his words to the effect that in the nor-
mal spiritual order the presbyter in his monastic cell is
the equal of the bishop in the great city. He does not
antagonize the existing arrangement, but accepts the law
of the church which has placed the bishop above the pres-
byter. He is courteous and reverent to those whom the
Catholic church designates as his ecclesiastical superiors.
But for himself, he holds his own position to be in the
nature of the case the higher one, and only asks that there
shall be no interference with his work. He reproves those
bishops who seek for popularity or make themselves so ob-
noxious as to be hated.^ He reminds them that they are
not to regard themselves as lords over God's heritage.^
But his strongest indignation was called forth by the
effort to put the deacons on a footing of equality ^^ith
the presbyters. This attempt to depreciate the spiritual
authority of the presbyter was the occasion of his famous
letter to Evangelus,^ in which he asserted and reiterated
and illustrated his position that the presbyters were equal
to the bishops ; that they were charged by the Apostles with
the duty of episcopal supervision ; that even the Apostles
claimed it as an honor to belong to the presby terate ; and
that traces of this original equality were shown at Alex-
andria, where the presbyters consecrated the bishops, so

suetudine quam dispositionis Dominicae veritatis presbyteris esse majores
et in commune debere ecclesiam regere" (Comm. ad Tit.^ i. 7).

** Apud veteres iidem episcopi et presby teri fuerunt, quia illud nomen
dignitatis est hoc aetatis'* (Epis. ad Oceanum^ IxiK. 3).

*' Idem est ergo presbyter qui episcopus, et antequam diaboli in-
stinctu studia in religione fierent. . . . Communi presbyterorum con-
silio ecclesiae gubernabantur'' {Comm. ad Tit., i. 7).

1 Epis. ad Oceannm, Ixix. 9.

* Epis. ad Theoph., Ixxxii. 11. • Epis. cxlvL


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late as the time of Heraclas (a.d. 233-249) and Dionysius

Online LibraryAlexander Viets Griswold AllenChristian institutions → online text (page 15 of 58)