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for the other, in the passage in 1 Tim. 5: 14. Presbyters, according to him, occupy the chief seat on earth, and shall sit down among the four and twenty thrones in heaven. He repeatedly enumerates only presbyters and deacons, as the ministering officers of the church. The presbyter, with Clement
. Alexandrinus, was the highest order of the ministry, and occupied the chief seat, being clothed with the chief dignity in the church, and was therefore the true and proper successor of the apostles." I
Tertullian describes the presbyters as presiding among the churches, administering the communion and baptizing. His presidents or presbyters, therefore, cannot possibly refer to ruling elders, who never have been so called, or supposed to be capable of any of those functions. Preachers, therefore, must be the presidents of Tertullian, that is, the presiding presbyters of the apostles, who received this office, says Tertullian, "not by money, but by the suffrages of their brethren."
Origen says, “we of the clerical order, who preside over you ;" and in speaking of the angels in the Apocalypse, he says, "that certain ruling presbyters in the churches were called angels." Bishops and presbyters, with Origen, were the same order; they RULED the church, in common, the PRESBYTERS PRESIDING, with the BISHOP, he having a higher chair, and being distinguished by the name of bishop.* Origen does unquestionably allude to a class of officers similar to our ruling elders, but not under the title of presbyters. “There are,” he says, f "some rulers appointed, whose duty it is to inquire concerning the manners and conversation of those who are admitted, that they may debar from the congregation such as commit filthiness.”
Cyprian unquestionably employs the term presbyter to designate those who were appointed to preach, administer the sacraments, and with the bishop or president to govern the church. He appears to have had no officer corresponding to the ruling elder in his church, but to have referred all matters to the judgment of the people at large, as may be seen from several passages in his epistles. Such is the opinion of Professor Jameson, in his very able work on the Cyprianic polity of the church. He here abandons the position he had taken in his former works respecting the ruling elder, and gives it as his
See Presbytery and Prelacy, p. 374. "In his tract entitled, Quis dives salvetur,' says the Bishop of Lincoln in his account of his writings, "the titles bishop and presbyter are indifferently applied to the same person.
The bishop was, therefore, in truth, the chief presbyter." Lond. 1835, p. 464. *See Presbytery and Prelacy, p. 378. See Contra Colsum, lib. iii. p. 142, in Dr. Miller on the Eldership.
See Ep. 6th, and Presbytery and Prelacy, p. 380, &c., and Jameson's Cyprianus Isotinus.
ultimate opinion that "those elders are the representatives of the sacred Plebs, or of the church, as she is opposed unto, or distinguished from church officers, properly so called, bishops or pastors, and deacons; therefore that they are not, in a strict sense, church officers. For I am so well assured of this truth, that only bishops, or presbyters and deacons, are, in a proper and strict sense, church officers, that if any thing I ever said can be proved to contradict this, I willingly revoke and retract it."
Again, he says, “I cannot, indeed, during the first three centuries, find express mention of these seniors or ruling elders: for I freely pass from some words of Tertullian and Origen, which I elsewhere overly mentioned, as containing them; as also from what I said of the Ignatian presbyters, their being ruling or non-preaching elders, and that without giving of much advantage to the Diocesanists, since in or about the Cyprianic age, in which time, as I judge, the author or interpolator wrote, there were belonging to the same church, parish, or congregation, divers presbyters, who preached little, if any; and yet had power to dispense the word and sacraments. There is a passage indeed adduced by Dr. Miller, which seems to favor the distinct application of the term presbyter to those that did not preach. It is in his twenty-ninth Epistle, in which as he translates the words, Cyprian speaks of teaching presbyters."* The words in the original are "cum presbyteris doctoribus." Now were doctoribus an adjective, qualifying presbyteris, persons authorized to teach, the word would have been docentibus, and not doctoribus. That there were then a class of teaching presbyters called doctors, is evident from the same epistle, where it is said that Optatus was appointed doctorem audientium, that is, a teacher of the catechumens, who were in a state of preparation for admission to the church. The words, therefore, are to be rendered, "with the presbyters and doctors,”ť or, "with those presbyters who are doctors.” Our reformers generally recognized this distinction, which was practically carried out in Scotland, and adopted in its standards, and in the Form of Government adopted by the Westminster Assembly. The Doctors, as distinct from the other presbyters or teachers, appear to have continued longer in the African than in the other churches, and are spoken of by Origen.
The testimony of Firmilian is very much to our purpose, and in the teeth of those who claim for ruling elders the power of
*Such is the rendering of Marshall. See his Works of Cyprian, p. 69. So it is rendered in the recent Translation issued at Oxford in 1844,
See the First and Second Books of Discipline, and the Form referred to, as it is still in force in the Church of Scotland.
See this view of the passage confirmed with great learning by Vitringa de Synag. pp. 494-497, which I read subsequently.
ordination. He says, "All power and grace are placed in the church, where presbyters presided, in whom is vested the power of baptizing, and imposition of hands, and ordination."**
In the Gesta Purgationis, commonly referred to the fourth century, we meet with the following enumeration of church officers: "Presbyteri, diaconi et seniores," that is first, and as the highest order, the presbyters; next, the deacons, and then, the seniors, or representatives of the people; who are thus carefully distinguished from the presbyters; and also, in the following words, from the clergy generally: “Call the fellowclergymen, AND the seniors of the people (seniores plebis), ecclesiastical men.” In the assembly of which they give an account, several letters were read, addressed "to the clergy AND the seniors.* These ecclesiastical officers are also alluded to by Optatus, under the same title of "seniors." +
Hilary identifies bishops and presbyters, and thus clearly proves that he regarded presbyters as ordained preachers and pastors.
He at the same time alludes to a class of officers called seniors, and whom he distinguishes from the teachers or presbyters. “For indeed,” says he, “among all nations, old age is honorable. Hence it is that the synagogue, and afterwards the church, had elders, without whose counsel nothing was done in the church; which by what negligence it grew into disuse I know not; unless perhaps by the sloth, or rather by the pride of the teachers, while they alone wished to appear something." He testifies also, that "in Egypt, even to this day, the presbyters ordain in the bishop's absence," and that "the ordination of bishop and presbyter is the same, for both are priests.”
Damasus, bishop of Rome, (A. D. 366,) says, "the primitive church only had these two sacred orders of presbyters and deacons."S
Aerius, in A. D. 368, also identifies the presbyter and the bishop as the pastor and administrator of sacraments, and the minister also of ordination.pt
Basil, in A. D. 370, in his Commentary on Isaiah 3: 2, says, on the word presbyter, "Among the things that are threatened, is also the removal of the presbyter, seeing that the advantage of his presence is not small. A presbyter is he who is dignified with the first seat, and enrolled in the presbytery, bearing the character of a presbyter; especially, indeed, if he be an unmarried man, or if even, according to the law of the Lord, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, etc.; this is the presbyter whom the Lord will take away from a sinful people."*
**Presbytery and Prelacy, p. 383. *See in Dr. Miller on the Eldership, p. 68. English edition. See do. do. p. 70. See Prelacy and Presbytery, p. 213, and Dr. Miller on the Eldership, $See do. do. p. 391. tt See Presbytery and Prelacy, p. 391, and for all the authorities.
Gregory Nazianzen, (A. D. 370,) in a description of the church at Byzantium, observes, “Behold the bench of presbyters, dignified by age and understanding; the regularity of the deacons, not far from the same spirit; the decency of the readers; the attention of the people, as well in the men as in the women, equal in virtue.” Here are only presbyters, deacons, readers, and people, and yet, this church cannot be presumed to have been defective of any class of officers existing in other churches. Again, “As the presbyter is a minister, he is to preach; as he is a ruler, he is to make rules (or canons) for bishops and presbyters. And further, he ascends from being governed to be a governor; again, he is to feed the souls of men; to lead and conduct others in the way of truth; to act the joint priest with Christ; to build and rear up the world that is above; nay, and to be a head of the fulness of Christ."
Gregory Nyssene (A. D. 371) is equally explicit in appropriating the term presbyter to the pastor or minister. “Seeing to you," he says, “and to such as you, adorned with hoary wisdom from above, who are presbyters indeed. and justly styled the fathers of the church, the word of God conducts us to learn the doctrines of salvation, saying, (Deut. 32: 7,) 'Ask thy Father, and he will show thee: thy presbyters, and they will tell thee.'
Ambrose, of Milan, (A. D. 374,) tells us we are to understand by the word "angels" in the Apocalypse, the rectors or presidents, the POEOTWTES, (or presiding presbyters,) because angel means messenger, and they who announce the word of God to the people are not improperly called angels.
Epiphanius says, “They say that he, (Aerius,) a Lybian by descent, having become a presbyter in Alexandria, presided (προιστατο) (a powotato) over a church called Baucalis. For as many churches as are of the catholic church, at Alexandria, are under one archbishop; and over these, individually, presbyters are placed, to administer to the ecclesiastical exigencies of the neighboring inhabitants."
Augustine is very careful to distinguish the presbyters from the representatives of the people. Writing to his charge, he directs his epistle, Dilectissimis fratribus, clero senioribus et universæ plebi Ecclesiaæ Hipponensis: where first there is the general compellation fratribus, "brethren," then there is a distribution of these brethren into the clergy, the elders, and the whole people; so that there were in that church seniors, distinguished both from the clergy and the rest of the people.
*See in Sancti Basilii Opera. Paris. 1839. Tom. i. p. 636. The whole passage is in point.
So again, Contra cresconium Grammaticum: Omnes vos Episcopi, Presbyteri, Diaconi, et seniores scitis: "All you bishops, elders, deacons, and seniors, do know.” And again, cap. 56, Peregrinus Presbyter, et seniores Ecclesiae Musticanae Regiones tale desiderium prosequentur; where again we read of presbyter and seniors in one church.
These seniors had power to reprove offenders, otherwise why should Augustine say, "when they were by the seniors reproved for their errors, and drunkenness is laid to a man's charge, etc. So that it was proper to the seniors to have the cognizance of delinquents and to reprove them.”
The same Augustine, in Psalm 36, says, “Being requested by letters from the seniors of that church, it was needful for me to hear the cause of Primian," etc.
The letter of Purpurius to Silvanus saith, Adhibite conclericos, et seniores plebis, Ecclesiasticos Viros, et inquirant quoe sunt istae Dissensiones: ut ea quoe sunt secundum fidei Proecepta fiant—where we see the joint power of these seniors with the clergy in ordering ecclesiastical affairs; that by theit wisdom and care peace might be settled in the church; for which cause these seniors are called ecclesiastical men; and yet they are distinguished from clergymen.
They are mentioned again afterwards by Maximus, saying, Loquor nomine seniorum populi Christiani. Greg. Mag. distinguisheth them also from the clergy: Tabellarium cum consensu seniorum et cleri memineris ordinandum.
So again Optatus, who mentioning a persecution that did for a while scatter the church, saith, Erant ecclesiae ex auro et argento quam plurima ornamenta, quae nec defodere terrae nec secum porlare poterat, quare fidelibus senioribus commendavit. Allaspineus, that learned antiquary, on this place acknowledges, that besides the clergy there were certain of the elders of the people, men of approved life, that did tend the affairs of the church, of whom this place is to be understood.*
But it is enough. The same uniform testimony will be found to be given by all the Fathers who write on this subject at all, as may be seen in my examination of their testimony, in another place, t and in the numerous proofs there given of the facts that ordination and imposition of hands were regarded in the early church, and by many later fathers, as the functions of presbyters who were identified with bishops, as the pastors and preachers of the church.f Any one who will consult Binius,
*See these passages in Smectymnuus, p. 74. t Presbytery and Prelacy, pp. 397-408.
See Presbytery and Prelacy, B. i. ch. x. pp. 212-234. Various additional authorities may be found in Martene de Antig. Eccl. Ritibus. See Index, order presbyter, and the various volumes referred to.