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I of Cephas, churches were governed by the common advice of presbyters; but when every one began to reckon those whom himself had baptized his own, and not Christ's, it was decreed in the whole world, that one chosen out of the presbyters should be placed over the rest, to whom all care of the church should belong, and so the seeds of schism be removed (j).” And it is certain that Jerome is here speaking of the apostolical times, for in another part of the same work he tells us that James was made bishop of Jerusalem by the Apostles; Timothy bishop of Ephesus, and Titus bishop of Crete, by St. Paul; and Polycarp bishop of Smyrna, by St. John. St. Paul, when he was at Miletus, in the year 58, sent for the elders of the church from Ephesus, but no mention is made of the bishop; and in his address to them he calls them
bishops or overseers of the flock;" and thence I infer that the word bishop was not then the appropriate name of the person who held the first office in the church, or rather, that there was as yet no such person in the church at Ephesus. But in the year 64, St. Paul found it necessary to place Timothy in that situation, with power to prevent the preaching of any unsound doctrine, and to ordain, and exercise authority
over, (j) De Eccles. Script.
over, presbyters( k), that is, with episcopal power; and in his epistle, written to him in that year, he speaks expressly of the “ office of a bishop (1)," and gives a detailed account of the qualifications of a bishop. We have also a similar account in the Epistle to Titus, which was written in the same year; and he was invested with the further power of rejecting heretics from the churches over which he presided (m). I conclude therefore that in the year 64 there was such an office as that of bishop. St. Paul addresses his Epistle to the Philippians, “ to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons ;” and as the word bishops is in the plural number, and presbyters are not mentioned, it is thought, by Chrysostom, Theodoret, Jerome, and indeed by almost all commentators, that by bishops we are here to understand
presbyters, and hence we may presume, as in the case of Ephesus, that there was then no bishop, in the strict sense of the word, at Philippi. This epistle was written at the end of St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, in the year 62; and therefore, from a comparison of these different passages, I am inclined to think that Paul began to establish episcopacy immediately after his release from his first confinement at Rome. I do not however mean that at that early period there was a bishop in every church. The Gospel was preached in some cities later than in others, and its progress was not equally rapid in all: so likewise the progress of the ministerial office would be sometimes quicker, sometimes slower; but it
release Ck) 1 Tim. c. 1. V. 3. C. 5. v. 1. 19 & 22. (l) 1 Tim. c. 3. v. 1. (m) Tit. c. 3. v. 10.
appears that in all cases, after this period, a bishop was appointed whenever a considerable part of the inhabitants of a city had embraced the Gospel.
But whateverdifficulty there may be in settling these points with chronological precision, it is sufficiently clear from St. Paul's Epistles, that gave
the ministers of the churches which he founded a certain power over their respective congregations; and as St. Paul and the twelve Apostles acted equally under the influence of the Holy Ghost, we may conclude that their conduct was uniform, and that they all invested those whom they appointed to preach the Gospel, with a similar degree of power; and consequently Church Authority is derived from the inspired Apostles themselves. And this power, thus originally given, was not limited to the primitive ages; it was transmitted to those “ faithful men who shall be able to teach others also (n),” and it
(n) 2 Tim. c. 2. v. 2. i
is to remain in the church, under different modifications, as essentially necessary “ for the fecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (0)."
The Christians were at first the inhabitants of cities only, and consequently the jurisdiction of a bishop was confined to the walls of his own city. The Gospel afterwards made its way into towns and villages, and the concerns of the Christians of these towns and villages would naturally fall under the cognizance and direction of the bishops of the neighbouring cities. Thus dioceses (p) would be gradually formed, comprehending certain districts of country, but of different extent.
It is reasonable to suppose that the public affairs of the church would, in process of time, reqnire the consultation and co-operation of different bishops; but“ where many governors must of necessity concur for the ordering of the same
(0) Eph. c. 4. v. 13 & 14.
(p) Dioceses were originally called flapooxban, or parishes; and the word Avoixnors, or diocese, seems not to have been used in its present sense till the fourth century.
affairs, of what nature soever they be, it is most requisite that one should have some kind of sway or stroke more than all the residue (9);" and, therefore, as before, one of the presbyters of a city was raised to be a bishop, and to have authority over other presbyters, so one of the bishops of a province was selected and invested with certain authority over other bishops, and he was called an archbishop; and in the appointment of archbishops, the civil importance of the city seems to have been regarded, for we find the metropolitan bishops were generally archbishops, and hence archbishops were called metropolitans. Archbishops were first appointed in the second century; they had power to assemble the bishops within their respective provinces, to regulate the election of bishops (r), to consecrate them, to hear appeals from their decisions, and to take cognizance of their general conduct.
And again, to four of these archbishops was given a pre-eminent rank over all other archbishops, namely, to the archbishops of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople, and
(9) Hooker's Eccl. Pol.
(r) The intrigues and animosities which frequently created disputes and disturbances among the presbyters, appear to have made some regulation necessary in the election of bishops.