Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XXV.

OF THE CLERGY.

The people, whether aliens, denizens, or natural-born subjects, are divided into two classes,—the clergy, and the laity. The clergy, comprehending all persons in holy orders and in ecclesiastical offices, will be the subject of the following chapter; and it will be most convenient to consider them, first, merely with reference to the orders into which, by the constitution of the catholic church, they are divided, and then as the clergy of that branch of the catholic church which is established by law in England, and with regard to the several benefices or dignities which they hold therein.

The most general division of the clergy, with reference to their orders, is into priests and ministers; the priesthood belonging both to bishops and priests, and the ministry to deacons and (in some branches of the church) the other inferior orders.1 The distinction between these two orders consists in this: that to the priesthood belongs the administration of all the sacraments; but the ministry, strictly so called, is confined to assisting and attending upon the sacerdotal order, and performing certain other functions by the permission of the church.* And this distinction is of very great importance; for many persons, from ignorance of it, have been led into the error of arguing upon certain passages in Scripture and the writ

1 Fleury, Inst, au Droit Eccles. tom. i. c. iii. p. 49.
1 Palmer, Tr. of the Church, vol. ii. p. 375.

ings of the fathers, in which two orders only, namely, priests and deacons, are mentioned, that there is no distinct episcopal order. The fallacy contained in that argument is, however, not difficult to be perceived; since, though it cannot be denied that bishops and priests are one order, in so far as both are priests, it does not follow that bishops are not a distinct order from priests. Bishops are a distinct order, because they are alone invested with the plenitude of the sacerdotal office. Thus the council of Trent includes bishops and priests under one order; and yet it would be manifestly absurd to argue from thence that the church of Rome does not recognise the episcopal order as a distinct order jure divino, for the same synod denounces anathema against those who deny that there is a hierarchy divinely instituted, consisting of bishops, priests, and ministers.1 And this is a fitting opportunity to warn the reader against a common fallacy of those who deny certain points of catholic doctrine and discipline. They begin by forming or stating an erroneous notion or description of the point in dispute; and then, as they find nothing in the Scriptures, in the writings of the fathers, and in ecclesiastical antiquity, to support that imaginary position which they have attributed to the church, they conclude that the doctrine or practice misrepresented must be erroneous: whereas these unsound arguers have demolished, not the doctrine or practice which they profess to combat, but their own error, and the creature of their own ignorance.

The most ordinary division of persons in holy orders is tripartite, into bishops, priests, and deacons; and these degrees or orders of the sacred ministry are established jure divino, and from the apostles' time have ever been in

1 Synod. Trident, sess. xxiii. c. ii.

the church.1 Of each of these orders we will now briefly take a separate view.

I. And first of bishops, of whom something has before been said in treating of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. A bishop is a priest clothed with the plenitude of the sacerdotal power, and uniting in his person the three orders of bishop, priest, and deacon.2 Thus all the sacred functions are within the power of the bishop; and he, moreover, possesses one which is absolutely essential and peculiar to his order, namely, that of ordaining others to the three holy orders. Besides this, to the bishop belong, by the laws of the church, the administration of confirmation, the anointing of kings, and the consecration of churches, and other things devoted to the divine service; and we have already seen that the pontifical order is the fountain of ecclesiastical government and jurisdiction. But bishops differ absolutely and essentially, jure dicino, from priests in the power of ordination alone r* for jurisdiction may be exercised by a priest, though the general constitution of the government of the church by bishops is of divine right.4

II. The order of priests is next in power and dignity to that of bishops. To it belongs the administration of

1 See Preface to the Ordinal.

1 For this reason the dalmatic robe, which belongs properly to deacons, was formerly (and in the church of Rome and eastern churches is still) frequently worn by bishops. It consists in a flowing, loose robe, generally of rich materials, open at the sides, and with full sleeves reaching the elbow, and fringed. See some curious particulars respecting the antiquity of the dalmatic in Card. Bona, de Rebus Liturg. 1 i. c. xxiv. § 18. Bona also mentions, as a distinctive of deacons, apud omnes nationet orientates el Occident alts, the stole, or scarf over the left shoulder.

1 Bingham, Antiq. b. ii. c. iii.

4 Hooker, Eccles. Polity, b. vii. § i.

the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist, the performance of divine services and rites, the office of teaching, and indeed all the sacerdotal functions, except that of ordination. Thus it appears, that the priests are instituted to relieve and assist the bishops, not (as is the case with deacons) in external functions of a temporal nature, but in the most spiritual and essential functions of the priesthood; and we have seen, in considering the subject of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, that in the first centuries of the church, the bishops did nothing of importance without consulting either the clergy of their diocese, or, when the establishment of churches over a great extent of country rendered such assemblies difficult to convoke, the clergy of their episcopal town.1 Of this institution we still see a remnant in the college of cardinals of the Roman church, and the diocesan synods which in some countries are assembled to advise the bishop on important matters. In the fourth century, St . Eusebius, having seen in Egypt a society of anchorets, or monks living under the government of an abbot, and holding all things in common, created a college of priests in his diocese of Vercelli, on the model of those bodies of ascetic laymen. St. Augustine erected a similar college in his see of Hippo; and those two examples were soon imitated by other bishops in Italy, France, and Spain.» These societies, which were

1 Hericourt, Loix Eccles. e. i. p. 186, 187. Van Espen, tom. i. par. i. tit . viii. c . L § 1; where the learned writer cites two passages in the epistles of St. Ignatius, the disciple of St. John the evangelist, in which he clearly refers to the council of presbyters under the names of apostolical senate and sacred consistory, councillors and assessors of the bishop. And St. Jerome says, in his commentary on the third chapter of Isaiah, Et nos habemm in ecclesia senatum nostrum caelum presbyterorum.

9 Van Espen, addit. Silvestri, tom. i. par. i. tit. vii. p. 91. Ibid, tit. viii. c. i. iv.

formed out of the clergy living in the episcopal towns under the eye of their bishop, and received the name of chapters, naturally became, about the twelfth century, the ordinary council of the bishops, though they never were intended to supersede the primitive council of the clergy of the diocese, or of all those in the immediate neighbourhood of the bishop's throne, the comparative inconvenience of whose assemblies greatly facilitated this change in favour of the clergy of the cathedral-churches.1 Such are the high and sacred attributes of the priesthood, though negligence, contempt of ecclesiastical antiquity, and subserviency to modern habits, or peculiar notions of convenience, have caused them in a great measure to decay in divers parts of Christendom.

III. We come now to the order of deacons. Their office is to attend upon and assist the priest or the bishop in the performance of their duties, and to discharge certain subordinate functions in the service of the church; and to them belonged, in primitive times, the especial management of the temporal affairs of the church and the distribution of alms.2 Thus the duties ascribed to deacons in our churches are, first, assisting the priest in divine service, especially in the communion, and distributing the eucharist; secondly, reading Scripture and the homilies of the church; thirdly, catechising; fourthly, baptising in the priest's absence; fifthly, preaching, if he be licensed by the bishop; sixthly, offices of charity towards the poor, &c.3 In the Roman, Greek, and some other churches, there is also an order of subdeacons, whose duty it is to assist the deacon in his functions, and

1 Hericourt, L. Eccles. ibid. Palmer, Tr. of the Church, vol. ii. part vi. c. ii. p. 402. Fleury, Inst, au Dr. Eccles. tom, i. c. xv. p. 361. - Bingham, Antiq. b. ii. c. xx. 3 Ordination of deacons.

« AnteriorContinuar »