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Basil speaks of the TPOEOTWTES or rulers of Christ's flock.*8 Gregory, of Nyssa, calls bishops the spiritual POEOTWTES or rulers.*Both Theodoret and Theophylact explain the term as referring to those who preach, and administer the sacraments, and preside over spiritual affairs.ft Chrysostom is of the same opinion.t Isidore, of Pelusium, in the fifth century, uses the words προεστως, επισκοπος, ιερευς, promiscuously, for the same office. Augustine testifies to the same thing; "for what is a bishop," says he, “but a primus presbyter, that is, a high priest, (who was in order only a priest,) and he (that is, the apostle) calls them no otherwise than his co-presbyters and co-priests.” In like manner does he employ the term sacerdos, priest, as synonymous with episcopus, bishop, occasionally prefixing the epithet summus, or chief, and thus regarding the bishop as no more than the primus, presiding or ruling presbyter.** Cyprian is strong in confirmation of the same position. While he employs “the office of a priesthood," and "the degree of a bishop," as synonymous,tt his great argument, upon which he frequently dwells for the superior honor of bishops, is founded upon the pre-eminence of Peter over the other apostles. But he himself teaches, and the fathers generally taught, that Peter was only primus inter pares, and that all the apostles were one in order, and equal in power. And, therefore, he must have believed that bishops were greater in honor than other presbyters, only because elevated to the situation of presidency. If He thought Peter was ordinarily præses, or moderator, in the apostolic presbytery, and that bishops stood in the same relation to their presbyters. Cyprian, in fact, was nothing more nor less than moderator of his eight presbyters, without whom he could do nothing.88 Such was also the case with Cornelius bishop of Rome.*Sozomen, the ecclesiastical historian, is also found using the terms ETT LOKOTTOS, προεστως, ηγουμενος, and προστατης, as convertible terms, and thus preserving the original idea of the bishop, as the presiding presbyter.* Hilary, under the names of Ambrose and others, calls the bishop primus presbyter.t Optatus calls him primicerius, which, as a learned civilian defines it, means TPWTOV Ts Taxews, the first of his order,I and consequently, still a presbyter. The presbyter is thus described by Gregory Nazianzen, as the second bishop, ev dEUTEPOLS Opovous. Just as the præter Urbanus was called maximus, while yet he had no more power than the others, but only a greater dignity; and as the chief archon at Athens was only one among many, pares potestate, so presbyters and bishops had idem ministerium, as Jerome attests, and eadem ordinatio, as Hilary declares; that is, the same ministry, orders, ordination, and power, although the bishop had the first place in official dignity.
* In Ps. 28. In Suiceri Thes. in voce.
***In Ibid. *IIn Ps. 28. In Suiceri Thes. in voce, and p. 194. ttOn 1 Tim. 5: 17, and Dr. Wilson's Prim. Gov't, p. 158. See Dr. Wilson's Prim. Ch. p. 160. STom. iv. 780, in Dr. Wilson, p. 182. **Ibid. tt Jameson's Cyp. Isot. pp. 395, 362, and c. 393.
1 See this position abundantly proved by Prof. Jameson, in his Cyprianus Isotimus, pp. 374, 375, 377, 380, 390, 391.
88See Epistles, 8, 9, 20, 30, 35, 36, 48, 59, and Jameson, p. 448.
**In Epistle 49, ibid. Tó this agrees the testimony of Usher, in bis Reduction of Episc., who thus interpreted them. That there were many officers in the same church, see Jameson, pp. 462-464.
See quoted in tom. iv. in Dr. Wilson, p. 191. tin 1 Tim. Autor. Quest. in V. et N. T. in Baxter's Diocesan Ch. p. 112. Gothofrid in Code, in ibid. ŚCaranz. Summ. Concil. Can. § 5. In Jameson's Cyp. p. 441. **Tom. ii. lib. xiv. c. 14, N. 12, in ibid. p. 442. tt Benson's Essay on the Relig. Worship of the Christians, ch. vii. $ 6.
To these testimonies may be added that of the fourth council of Carthage. “Let the bishop, when he is in the church, and sitting in the presbytery, be placed in a higher seat; but when he is in the manse, or house, let him acknowledge that he is but their colleague;" that is, says Chamier, “in the same charge and office.
It was doubtless in reference to this primitive custom of presidency, that the ancients speak of Peter as bishop of Antioch and Rome; James, of Jerusalem; Timothy, of Ephesus; Titus, of Crete; and Mark, of Alexandria; because they were much at those places, and frequently presided in the churches there. And hence, too, the doctrine of apostolical succession, which was nothing more than a list of those who presided over different churches.tt
Prelates were originally nothing more than the presiding presbyters of the churches. Hence, we have found among the ancients generally, that while in Greek they were denominated
POLO Tapevoi, in Latin they were called praepositi (hence provost) ;* and while in Greek they were called upoedpoi, that is, entitled to the first seat, in Latin they were called proesides and proesidentes, presidents ;ť and hence, too, in order to distinguish them from the other presbyters, who were still called bishops, they were, as Theodoret says, denominated apostles.*t The original parity of the ministry, the identity of presbyters and bishops, and the derivation of prelates from this original order of presiding presbyters, or moderators, are thus found to be deeply imbedded in the whole nomenclature of the prelacy itself, in every age of the church.
From what has been said, therefore, we conclude that the passage in 1 Tim. 5: 17, does not refer to a double order of elders, but to the peculiar duties to which in the apostolic and primitive churches, presbyters, the same order, were assigned the term ruling referring to the duty assigned to those who were set over the local church, and who presided over the meetings of the presbytery; and the word especially referring to the peculiarly self-denying and laborious duties to which THEY were called who performed the work of evangelists in the surrounding country. Or, if this interpretation seems too conjectural, there is still another which is easy and natural, and accordant to the facts in the case. It will be shown from Cyprian that the distinction so generally recognized by the reformers and in our own mother church, between pastors and doctors, was acted upon in the primitive church. Both were presbyters, but while the one discharged fully all the functions of the pastor, the other labored in preparing the catechumens for admission into the church, in giving instruction also to candidates for the ministry, and to all others also when schools were established by the apostles, as is asserted, and by the earliest Christians, as is undoubted. And of this distinction there are clear proofs remaining. The double reference, therefore, in this passage, may be to this double class of duties, the presidency of a congregation where other ministers were associated, being an office more of honor than of toilsome labor, and for which a man of advanced years, who was not adapted to the active duties of the latter sphere, might be competent.
*See authorities in Riddle's Ch. Antiq. p 161. Coleman's ibid. p. 98. Bingham, vol. i. p. 53, &c.
tŘiddle's Ant. p. 162. Bingham, &c. *+Riddle, ibid. p. 162.
Either interpretation will meet the difficulties of the case; and if the word rendered "honor” mean, as is supposed, compensation, it will still more effectually exclude the ruling elder, whose office has never been salaried.*
There is, then, no warrant in Scripture, or in the constitution of the apostolic or of the early churches, for interpreting the term presbyter in the New Testament as having reference to the representatives of the people, that is, to our present ruling elders. It must, therefore, be regarded as appropriated to the bishops of teachers of the churches. And just as we have now presidents or moderators of our presbyteries, chosen from among the presbyters, so were there in the apostolic churches presidents, who were distinguished from the others by being called "presiding presbyters." And as these were originally chosen for life, they gradually came, by way of abbreviation, to be called "THE BISHOPS," to distinguish them, until, in process of time, this title was appropriated exclusively to them, while that of presbyters alone was given to the others. This text, then, and it is the only one which gives any ground for two kinds of presbyters, I cannot, to use the words of Dr. Wilson,* establish such distinction, because it can be literally understood of the various duties of the same order. Presbyters advanced in life, grave in deportment, and of distinguished prudence, were fitted to preside; others, if of more ready utterance, and of competent knowledge, were best qualified to teach. The passage shows that some presided,
*See this view ably sustained by Vitringa, p. 490, &c.
. that others labored in word, and that the honor, or rather reward was to be proportioned to their efforts, and not according to grades and orders never mentioned in the Scriptures. Presbyter, as an officer of a church, means, in
passage in the New Testament, a bishop, in the ancient sense of the term; and there is no reason to infer from this text, a new sort, never heard of till the Reformation. If there is any priority, it is a precedence over the presbyters themselves; for the POEotws was he who presided amongst the Ephori, among whom was parity; or who governed a kingdom, and, accordingly, Chrysostom thought him both rounvand didackalos, a pastor and teacher. So far is the word ruling (TT POEOTWTEN) from signifying a subordinate class of presbyters, that Justin Martyr, within half a century of John, makes use of that identical word repeatedly, to mark out that presbyter, who gave thanks and dispensed the elements at the sacramental supper to the deacons, to be carried to the communicants. The presbyters, who presided (TPOEOTWTES) on the most solemn occasions, blessing the elements, deserved double reward; but
tOn the importance of this view in explaining the origin of Prelacy, and other difficulties, see Presbytery and Prelacy, p. 162, &c., and p. 295, &c.
Should any allege in proof of the passage in 1 Tim.4: 14, we would reply in the words of Mr. Lazarus Seaman, in his Vindication of the Ordination of the Reformers, p. 92, “Though the power of ordaining or confirming pastors (say they) belong to the whole presbytery, yet of old the presbytery did execute that in the rite of laying on of hands, not so much by ruling elders as by pastors, who did especially attend on prophecy or explication of the scripture, and application of it to the use of the faithful. Unde Prophetia cum Manuum impositione per quam olim fiebat Ordinatio Pastorum ab Apostolo conjunctur. 1 Tim. 4: 14. By this it appears they have a singular opinion of the word prophecy, not of the word presbytery; for they plainly supposed the presbytery consisted of two sorts of elders, and yet that preaching elders only laid on hands. And well they might suppose that, (as doth your author so often cited, p. 171,) because much of prayer and teaching is to accompany the act of imposition, before and after. None affirm that the word presbytery, as it is used in 1 Tim. 4: 14, does necessarily imply a company of ruling elders, as well as others. But upon the supposition that there are two sorts of elders, proved by other places, they may be included under that one word, because it is comprehensive of them both."
*On the Government of the Churches, pp. 283, 284. We might quote at great length in further confirmation, Vitringa de Syn. Vet. See pp. 479-484, 490, 879, 883.
especially those (uadcota ol) who performed the chief labor in preaching. “All the saints salute you, (ualcota de 01,) but chiefly they that are of Cæsar's household.” (Phil. 4: 22.) Who would imagine that the saints of Cæsar's household were of a different kind from others? Their labors might be different, but thcy were equally saints; the word especially only expresses that their salutations were either more earnest, or presented to peculiar notice.*
*See also Coleman's Primitive Church, p. 127.