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The organization of the early Christian churches : eight lectures delivered before the University of Oxford, in the year 1880 online

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in receipt of church-funds— that of ' canonici - 8 .' In

posed letter of Clement of Rome (Epist. Clement, quinta, ap. Hinscliius, Decretales
pseudo-Isid. p. 65).

37 2 Cone. Tolet. a.d. 531, c. 1, 4 Cone. Tolet. a.d. 633, c. t\: 2 Cone. Vasens.
a.d. 529 requires all parish presbyters to receive into their houses and to train the
younger clerks.

2t The word canon was used in the late Latin for the fixed contribution of corn
or other produce paid by a province to Rome, e.g. 'Canon Aegypti,' Vopisc. V It-
Firm, c. 5, and hence for the total amount of such contributions which was avail-
able for distribution in fixed rations among the Roman populace, e. g. Cod. Theodos.
14. 15, 2, 6, Lamprid. Vit. Elagab. c. 27 ; Spart. Vit. Sever, c. 8. It was conse-
quently used to denote the list of persons who were entitled to fixed allowances
from the church funds : this list, which was sometimes also called ' matricula' (e.g.
Cone. Agath. A.D. 506, c. 2 ; 4 Cone. Aurel. A.D. 541, c. 13 ; Cone. Autissiod. A.D. 578,
c. 3.) comprehended not only the clergy but also other church officers (e. g. the
steward and the ' paramonarius,' Cone. Chalc. c. 2) and the virgins (Socrat. H. E.
I. 7, p. 47) : probably also the poor, for, although there is no early evidence, the
terms 'in matricula positi,' ' matricularii ' (which Chrodegang, Segal. Canon, c. 34
uses as a synonym for ' canonici'), are used by a late writer for pensioners who re-
ceived regular allowances (peeudo-Testamentum S. Remig. Rem. ap. Flodoard, Hist.
Eccles. Rem. 1. 18). The derivative ' canonicus' is only found in use of clerks, but
it is used of all orders, e.g. of singers, Cone. Laod. c. 15 ; of readers, 2 Cone. Turon.
A.D. 567, c. 19 ; and of the clergy collectively, 3 Cone. Aurel. a.d. 538, c. 11 : and
there may be a relic of an earlier use in the fact that laymen were sometimes tx
officio canons, e.g. the Roman Emperor was a canon of St. John Lateran and of
Aix-la-Chapelle, and the Count of Anjou was a canon of St. Martin at Tsurs. At

2o8 The Parish and the Cathedral. [lect.

course of time sums of money were left for the support
of the common table : the ' canonici ' came to have
funds apart from the allowances which, in accordance
with primitive practice, the bishop made from the
general funds of the church 29 : they thus came to be
more or less independent of the bishop, and to act for
certain purposes without regard to him 30 . In the
eighth century the influence of monasticism introduced
a new element into the corporate life of the ' canonici.'

Orleans our Lord Himself was enrolled as 'primus canonicus,' and the ' duplex
honor distributionis ' which was assigned to Him was given to the poor (Sausseye,
Annates Eccles. Aurelian. lib. i. c. 13, Paris, 161 5).

29 Those who lived together received ' praebendas,' ' portiones,' which were not
sums of money but specified quantities of victuals, from the church offerings. That
this continued to be the ordinary rule in the ninth century is shown by the direc-
tion of the pseudo-Isidorian decretals (Epist. Urbani prima, c. 3, 6, ed. Hinschius,
pp. 144, 145). But in the meantime there had grown up in some dioceses the prac-
tice of leaving funds for the support of a common table (Greg. Turon. H. F. 10.
31, of Bishop Baldwin of Tours, 'hie instituit mensam canonicorum : ' id. Vit. Patr.
c. 9 ' ad convivium mensae canonicae ') : and these funds were administered by the
canons themselves (Flodoard, Hist. Eccles. Bern. 2. 11, of St. Rigobert, 'canonicam
clericis religionern restituit ac sufficientia victualia constituit et praedia quaedam
illis contulit, necnon aerarium commune usibus eorum instituit : ' the earliest au-
thentic document is probably the confirmation by Lothair II of the rights which
Archbishop Gunthar had granted to the canons of Cologne, quoted from Eunen u.
Eckertz, Quellen zwr Geschichte d. Stadt Koln, Bd. i. 447 by Hinschius, Das Kir-
chenrecht, Bd. ii. p. 55). It was of course an integral part of the idea of a ' vita
communis' that such funds should be held in common, and this was at first the
case, the revenues being divided equally and the number of canons sometimes
varying with their amount (see Diirr, De Capit. Claus. c. n, in Schmidt, TJics. Jur.
Heel. iii. 14). But in time there grew up the practice of regarding a particular estate
as furnishing the ' praebendam ' or ' victum ' for a particular canonry, and of assign-
ing the income and management of the estate to the holder of the canonry, ' non
ratione dominii, cum non sint capaces, sed solum ratione administrationis ' (Bar-
bosa, Be Canonitis, ed. Lugdun. 1634, p. 8) : the earliest instance is probably that
of the canons of Cologne whose rights in this respect were confirmed by the Synod
which was held there in a. D. 873, Mansi, vol. xvii. p. 275 ; Hinschius, Das Kir-
chenrecht, Bd. ii. p. 55.

30 Eg they had the right of making statutes (see Hinschius, Bd. ii. p. 131), of
exercising a certain limited jurisdiction {ibid. p. 145), and in certain cases of coopting
members into their own body (see the confirmation of the rights of the canons by
the Synod referred to in the preceding note, quoted ibid. p. 55).


The Parish and the Cathedral. 209

Side by side with those who thus lived in the bishop's
house, controlled only by the general rules of the
Church, were the monks and clergy who lived in
monasteries under the stern rule of St. Benedict. The
contrast was often so strong that a pious French bishop
framed a rule for the ' canonici ' which was almost as
strict as the rule for monks 31 . Henceforth, in most
Churches of the West, the 'canonici' of the bishop's
house became ' regulares/ i. e. canons living under a
rule 32 : and about the same time they were divided into

" The 'regula canonicorum ' was drawn up by Chrodegang of Metz about a.d.
760 (Paul. Diacon. Gesta Episc. Metens. ap. Pertz, M. H. G. Script, vol. ii. p. 26S),
chiefly on the model of the rule of St. Benedict (see Rettberg, Kirchengesch. Devtsch-
lands, Bd. i. 496) for the clergy of his own church (it will be found in its original
form in Mansi, Concilia, vol. xiv. p. 313; Walter, Fonles Jur. Eccles. p. 20: a
much longer rule which, though attributed to Chrodegang, is evidently of later
date, will be found in Mansi, vol. xiv. p. 332 ; D'Achery, Spicilegium, vol. i. p.
565; Harzheim, Concil. Germ. vol. i. p. 96). But the rule which was most widely
adopted was not the rule of Chrodegang, but one based upon it which is commonly
ascribed to Amalarius, and which was authorized by the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle
in A. D. 816 (it will be found in Mansi, vol. xiv. pp. 153 sqq. ; Harzheim, Concil.
German, vol. i. p. 430).

32 There was an attempt in the Frankish domain to make the 'regular' life com-
pulsory. Pippin, Capit. Eccles. a. d. 789, c. 72 ' similiter qui ad clericatum acce-
dunt quod nos nominamus canonicam vitam, volumus ut illi canonice secundum
suam regidam omnimodis vivant et episcopus eorum regat vitam, sicut abbas cano-
nicorum.' There is a series of similar enactments in the following century, Karoli
M. Capit. a.d. 802, c. 22, Pertz, vol. i. p. 94 ; Cone. Mogunt. a. d. 813, c. 9, Mansi,
vol. xiv. p. 67; Cone. Rem. a.d. 813, c. 8, ibid. p. 78 ; 6 Cone. Arelat. a.d. 813.
c. 6, ibid. p. 60; 3 Cone. Turon. a.d. 813, c. 23, ibid. p. 86 ; Hludowic, Capit. Aquis-
gran. A. D. 817, c. 3, Pertz, vol. i. p. 206 ; Hludowic et Hlothar, Capit. Aquingran.
A. D. 828, ibid. p. 327; Cone. Meld. a. d. 845, c. 53, Mansi, vol. xiv. p. 831 ; Karoli
II, Convent. Ticin. II, a. D. 876, c. 8, Pertz, vol. i. p. 531. In some of these cases
only life in community was enjoined without the mention of a rule : what this meant
is clear from e.g. 3 Cone. Turon. a.d. 813, c. 23 'canonici et clerici civitatum qui in
episcopiis conversantur consideravimus ut in claustris habitantes,simul omnes in uno
dormitorio dormiant, simulque in uno reficiantur refectorio quo facilius posaint ad
horas canonicas celebrandas occurrere et de vita et conversar.ione sua admoneri et
doceri : victum et vestimentum juxta facultatem episcopi accipiant ne paupertatis
occasione compulsi per diversa vagari ac turpibus se implicare negotiis cogantur.'


210 The Parish and the Cathedral. [lectt.

two classes, of whom ultimately the senior class, i.e.
the presbyters and deacons, alone retained the name 33 .
But before two centuries had passed the name was
almost all they did retain of the ancient ' vita com-
munis/ Living not together but in separate houses,
administering each for himself the revenues of his
estate, discharging their duties by the agency of ' vicars,'
and no longer giving their superfluity to the poor, the
canons of the middle ages were legitimate objects of
satire and of lament 34 .

The clergy of country parishes and dependent towns
were still, in theory, members of the bishop's council:
once at least in every year that council had to be
gathered together and they were bound to be present
at it 35 . But for the most part they were permanently

33 The distinction between canonici seniotes and canonici juniora, i.e. between
those who were in major and those who were in minor orders, is found in the Bule
of Chrodegang, e.g. c. 23, 29. The former came in time to be called canonici majoret,
ordinarii, cathedrales, or capitulates : the latter were domicelli, domicellares, who
were subdivided into emancipati and non cmancipati, according as they had or had
not passed through the prescribed course of education.

34 E.g. Bishop Yves of Chartres says, 'communis vita in omnibus ecclesiis paene
defecit' (D.Ivon.Carnot. Epist. 213, ap. Migne, Patrol. Lat. vol.clxii.p. 217): Urban
II says, 'prima [sc. vita canonicorum] decalescentefervorefidelium jam paene omnino
defluxit ' (B. Urban II. Epist. ad Clericos quosdam Regulares, ap. Mansi, Concilia, vol.
xx. p. 713). Peter Damiani {Contra Clericos Begulares proprietarios, vol. iii. p. 483
ed. Caiet.; Be Communi Vita Canonicorum, ibid. p. 514) and others (e.g. Gerhoh
von Peichersberg, Liber de Corrupto Ecclesiae Statu, ap. Baluze, Miscell. vol. ii. p.
197) threw the blame on the laxity of the rule itself: and a stricter rule was intro-
duced which was drawn from the works of St. Augustine. But, although there was
a revival of the asceticism of the older canonical life, it was partial and temporary:
there were indeed many societies of Augustinian, or, as they now came to be ex-
clusively called, ' regular' canons, but the canons of most cathedral chapters were
' secular,' administering their own estates and living not in community but in the
world (for instances of the adoption of the Augustinian rule in cathedrals see
Hinschius, Das Kirchenrccht, Bd. ii. p. 58).

35 Pippin, Capit. Vern. dupl. ad. 755, c. 8, Pertz, M. H. G. Le.gam, vol. i. p.

Viii.] The Parish and the Cathedral. 2 1 1

detached : they had no longer any ordinary place in the
bishop's church : and they administered their own
revenues, reserving for the bishop only a small and
specified portion 36 . The ordinary functions of ecclesi-
astical administration were discharged by the bishop
and the canons of his church : in place of the earlier
phrase ' the bishop and presbyters/ we find the phrase
' the bishop and canons :' and it was not the general
council of a diocese but the canons of the cathedra]
church — collectively known by the monastic title ' capi-
tulum,' or ' chapter ' — who administered the affairs of
a diocese during a vacancy in the see and elected a new
bishop 37 .

The difference between parochial and cathedral clergy
was still further widened when the former were grouped
into districts, and when each district came to have its

25 'omnes presbyteri ad consilium episcopi conveniant.' In the Modus tenendi
Xynodos per Angliam, Wilkins, Concilia, vol. iv. append, p. 784, a year's suspension
is the penalty for non-attendance.

s6 In early times the bishop had the same control over the revenues of detached
churches which he had over his own. In the sixth century a Spanish Council first
enacted that the bishop's share in the offerings, i.e. one-third, should be devoted
in parish churches to repairs and lights (2 Cone. Brae. a.d. 572, c. 2 : so in the
following century, Cone. Emerit. a.d. 665, c. 4 ; 16 Cone. Tolet. a.d. 693, c. 5) :
and this seems to have become the general rule. But though there is no doubt
that the control of church lands and of tithes also passed from the hands of the
bishops to that of the incumbents of parishes, the question when it did so belongs
to the obscure history of ecclesiastical benefices (see above, note 21), and the (acts
which bear upon it are too intricate to be given here.

w For these and other facts in relation to the early history of cathedral chapters
reference may be made to Fermosini, De Potestate capiluli stde vacante necnon sede
plena et quid possint Episcopi per se aut debeanl cum capitulo exequi, Lugdun. 1C66 ;
Barbosa, De Canonicis et Dignitatibns aliisque benejiciariis eorutnque Officiis in choro
et capitulo, Lugdun. 1634; Muratori, De Canonicis in his Antiquitate* Italuae, vol.
v. pp. 183 sqq. The best modern account is that of Hinschius, Das Kirchenrecht,
Bd. ii. pp. 59, 124, 228, 601; see also Richter, Lehrbuch des iatholischen it. evuiv-
gdischen Kirch enrechts, ed. Dove, 1880, pp. 440 sqq.

P 2

212 The Parish and the Cathedral. [lect.

own organization. Just as the cathedral had its
archpresbyter and its archdeacon, so in the districts
into which a diocese came to be divided there was
a rural archpresbyter and a rural archdeacon 38 . The
latter, who had in the meantime ceased to be a
deacon, but who, preserving the ancient close con-
nexion between the bishop and the deacons, was in
a special sense the bishop's deputy, had precedence
over the rural archpresbyter, and a jurisdiction, at
first delegated and temporary, afterwards ordinary and
permanent, over a district in which several archpres-
byteries or ' rural deaneries ' were comprised 39 .

58 The division into decaniae (later also archipresbyteratus, oapitula ruralia) dates
from the middle of the ninth century and was the subject of formal enactments, viz.
Karoli II. Synod.ap. Tolos. a.d. 844, c. 3, Pertz, vol. i. 378 ; Hludowic, Convent. Ticin.
a.d. 850, c. 13, Pertz, vol. i. p. 399. Like the dioceses themselves, the deaneries
seem, at least in the Frankish domain, to have followed the political subdivisions :
see Sohm, Die altdeutsche Jteichs-und Gerichts-verfassung, Wiemar, 187 1, Bd. i. p.
203. The division into archidiaconatus commenced in the tenth century but was
not completed until the twelfth (the documents in which Hadrian I is made to
confirm the subdivision of the diocese of Strasbur^ into archdeaconries in A.D. 774
are forgeries, Rettberg, Kirchengesch. Deutschlands, Bd. ii. pp. 69, 611). Hinschius,
Bd. ii. p. 189, refers to Landau, Die Territorien in Bezug aufihre Bildung u. Ent-
wickelwng, Gotha, 1854, pp. 387 sqq., for evidence that the archdeaconries, like the
other ecclesiastical divisions, followed political lines.

39 The archdeacon sometimes took precedence of the archpresbyter in a cathe-
dral as well as in a diocese : e.g. at Brescia, Ughelli, Italia Sacra, vol. iv. p. 521.
The capitular officers of provost and dean were held sometimes by the one and
sometimes by the other : e. g. the archdeacon was provost in the later version of
the Rule of Chiodegang (D'Achery, Spicil. vol. i. p. 567), and at Liege, Treves,
Mayence, Ratisbon, and elsewhere: he was sometimes dean at Cologne (Ennen
11. Eckertz, i. 558, 598), and at Bayeux (Ordericus Vit. iii. 12): an archpresbyter
was provost at Passau (Hansiz, Germania Sacra, vol. i. Coroll. vii), but usually,
and at last always, dean (according to the canonists the jurisdiction of the modern
dean is wholly due to the fact that he is ex officio archpresbyter, Barbosa, De
Canonicis, c. 4. 32, p. 43). The independent jurisdiction of the rural archdeacons
probably dates from the end of the twelfth century : in the course of the following
century their position had become so obnoxious to the bishops, upon whose juris-
diction they trespassed, as to lead to the appointment of other officers, officials

viii.] The Parish and the Cathedral. 513

In this way it is that the organization which existed
in the Middle Ages, and which in its essential features
has remained to the present day in our own and other
Churches, is linked by direct historical continuity with
the organization of primitive times. The differences
between the two extremes of the series are great : but
they were the growth of a thousand years — the thousand
years of change and storm which elapsed between the
sixth century and the sixteenth.

And here the examination which I proposed at
starting comes to an end.

The main propositions in which the results of that
examination may be summed up are two —

(1) That the development of the organization of the
Christian Churches was gradual :

(2) That the elements of which that organization
were composed were already existing in human society.

These propositions are not new: they are so old as
to have been, in greater or less degree, accepted by all
ecclesiastical historians. For it is admitted by all such
historians that at least some of the features of the
complete organization did not exist in primitive times,
but have been since added. It is also admitted that
at least some of the elements of the organization are
found outside it, in previously existing institutions.

But in dealing with them I have arrived at and set
forth the view, in regard to the first of them, that the

principales, vicarii yenerales, to fill the place, which was once specially that of the
archdeacons, of the bishop's agents and intermediaries (see Hiuschius, Bd. ii. pp.
195, sqq. ; Richter, ed. Dove, p. 453).

214 The Parish and the Cathedral. [lect.

development was slower than has sometimes been sup-
posed, and, in regard to the second, that not only some
but all the elements of the organization can be traced
to external sources. The difference between this view
and the common view is one of degree and not of kind.
The one no less than the other assumes the organ-
ization of the Church to be divine : but while the one
accounts for certain phenomena of ecclesiastical history
by a special and extraordinary action of the Holy Spirit,
the other is rather in harmony with the belief that God
acts in the realm of grace, as He acts in the realm of
nature, by the mediation of general and far-reaching
laws. It appears necessary to point out the existence
of this relation between the two views of which I have
spoken, because there is a confusion in the minds of
some persons between the fact of divine operation and
the mode of that operation, and a complete identification
of the fact with some particular mode, which causes
them to regard the questioning of that mode as equi-
valent to a questioning of the fact itself. But although
it appears necessary to point this out, there is the less
reason for enlarging upon it, because few of those who
are here will have forgotten the subtle force with which
the great living Father of modern Oxford theology,
speaking in this place through the mouth of its great-
est preacher, exposed the similar confusion of thought
which exists in many minds in regard to the history
of the Creation 40 . What the theologian says to the man

40 The reference is to a sermon which was written by Dr. Pusey, but preached,
on account of Dr. Pusey's indisposition, by Dr. Liddon, before the University of
Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1878; published under the title 'Un-science, not
Science, adverse to Faith,' Parker, Oxford, 1878.

viii.] The Parish and the Cathedral. 215

of science in regard to that Creation is, 'Nothing that
you have proved, or can prove, about the mode in which
God made the world, interferes with the truth that He
did make it:' and what the theologian says also to the
historian is, ' Nothing that you have shown, or can
show, about the mode in which the organization of the
Church was developed interferes with the truth that
God did organize it.' On the other hand, just as the
man of science may say in reply, ' I am ready to
allow that God made the world, but I claim the
right to show, if I can, from the records which the
world contains, how and in what order He made
it : ' so the historian may say, ' I am ready to allow
that the Church is of divine institution : but I claim
the right to show, if I can, from the facts of history,
how and in what order God instituted it.' In the one
case as in the other the appeal lies not to the opinions
of eminent persons, but to ascertained and ascertainable
facts. The divine plan must be inferred not a 'priori,
from a conception of what He was likely to do, but
a posteriori, from the investigation of what He has
actually done. And if the timid souls who tremble at
every fresh discovery of science, or at every newly-
ascertained fact of history, could rise to the larger faith
of earlier days, they would see in the close analogy
between the development of the Christian societies and
the development of the natural world, a corroboration of
the belief that the Author of the one is also the Author
of the other, and that the one no less than the other
belongs not to those things which are rapidly formed
and swiftly pass, but to that loftier sphere in

2i 6 The Parish and the Cathedral. [lect.

which, though the development is slow, the result is

But as, on the one hand, the view that the frame-
work of the Christian societies was slowly developed
out of existing elements, so far from being inconsistent
with, is rather confirmatory of, the belief in its divine
origin : so, on the other hand, it tends to diminish the
importance of some of the controversies which have
existed respecting it, and which have separated one
community of Christians from another.

On the hypothesis that the constitution of the
Christian societies was settled by the Apostles in their
lifetime, and that what was so settled was intended to
be the form of all Christian societies for all time to come,
different groups of Christians have at various times
separated themselves from the main body, and claimed,
in some cases not without reason, to be recurring to
a more prinr'ive type. And those who have opposed
them, for the most part accepting the same major pre-
miss, have endeavoured to show, by arguments which
have sometimes been marked by more of enthusiasm
than of either logical force or historical probability,
that this or that institution is not new but old.

But if the ultimate verdict of those who are com-
petent to judge be in favour of the general view which
has been advanced in these Lectures, the contentions on
the one side and on the other, in regard to the minor
premisses of the argument, will be beside the point :
nothing will be really gained by showing that this or
that element of Church government is more primitive
than another : nothing will be really lost by the admis-

viii.] The Parish and the Cathedral. 217

sion that this or that element in the great aggregate
of historical developments is later than another.
That for the preservation of which we have to con-
tend is not so much ancient form as historical con-

For in reality the preservation of ancient form is
impossible. We have received from our fathers the
splendid inheritance of a vast and complex civilization
— a mighty aggregate of beliefs and practices and insti-
tutions, which have grown with the world's growth, and
shaped themselves to the varying needs of successive
generations. It is given to each generation to revise
and reform the present : but it is not given to it to
bring back the past. The web of history is being
woven in the loom of time. The shuttles of incident
fly quick, and each of them is irrevocable. We are not,
and we cannot be, what our fathers were. We differ
from them in ten thousand modes of thought, in ten
thousand features of social circumstance. The attempt
artificially to restore an ancient institution is futile
from the nature of the case, because even if restored
it stands alone, out of the relations which once gave
it a meaning and a power. In that great product of
the laws of God which we call human society, as in
that other great product of the laws of God which we
call the animal world, the succession of existence is not
the succession of identical organisms, but a continuity
of species, a unity of type. The type remains, but it
embodies itself in changing shapes : and herein the
history of the Christian Churches has been in harmony

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