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tention. By most writers it was rather stated than combated. After the middle of the second century, it was evidently considered an insignificant factor.
As respects the content of the Catholic theology, only the most general statement will be appropriate here, the full treatment of the subject being properly relegated to a special branch; namely, to the history of Christian doctrine. In such a formative era we should not expect to find very thorough dogmatic construction, or great definiteness in belief. Still, in every department of theology there were ideals, more or less clearly defined, which commanded the allegiance of the great body of Christians. As respects the subject of the Trinity, the Catholic Church - by which is meant the great body of Christians of that age who were in communion with each other 1 - acknowedged Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, understanding under these terms pre-temporal, personal, and permanent distinctions in the Godhead. Much less attention was given to the doctrine of the Spirit than to that of the Son. In the attempt to formulate the latter, some theologians were guilty of defects, judging them by later standards of the Church. The image, nevertheless, of Christ which was before the minds of Catholic Christians was that of a being of divine essence and dignity. As respects Christology, the Church acknowleged in general terms the co-existence of the divine and the human in Christ. On the subject of anthropology, it held substantially the teachings which have remained current in the Greek Church, – teachings less radical, as concerns the results of the fall and the natural depravity of men, than those which were afterwards adopted in the Latin Church through the influence of Augustine. The subject of soteriology, or redemption, was not very thoroughly developed; still, the germs of subsequent theories were supplied by various writers. As respects eschatology, millenarian views were more widely prevalent than has been the case at any subsequent era in the history of the Church.
i We observe here, once for all, that in this work we never use the word “Catholic" as the equivalent of “Roman Catholic.”
CHURCH CONSTITUTION AND DISCIPLINE.
I - THE CLERICAL HIERARCHY. 1. EMPHASIZING THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN CLERGY
LAITY.— While the Church had its special officers from the outset, these were not at first, with the exception of the apostles, widely distinguished from the general body of believers. A priesthood in the more emphatic sense was not congenial to the thought of the first generations of Christians. The ministry were not set up as the sole dispensers of grace, over against whom all other Christians must take the place of children still in their minority and incapable of any independent agency.
“ The distinction,” says Ritschl, " between the active and the passive members of the congregation, - in other words, the Catholic conception of priesthood, - is foreign to the first two centuries." i The fact that a majority of ecclesiastical officers continued, after their election, to pursue their worldly callings, was adverse to very wide distinctions in the Church. Still more adverse was the high conception taken of the common privilege of believers. All were regarded as partakers of the Spirit. Post-apostolic writers evince something of the same consciousness of the high privi
1 Albrecht Ritsch), Die Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche.
lege pertaining to the ordinary Christian standing as appears in the writings of Peter, John, and Paul. The Apostolic Constitutions, notwithstanding their hierarchical tone, use this language: “Though a man be a layman, if skilful in the word and grave in his manners, let him teach.”] That this principle was sometimes acted upon, we know from the Palestinian bishops who employed Origen to interpret the Scriptures before their congregations, and defended themselves against the objections of the Bishop of Alexandria by affirming that they were guilty of no innovation, that “wheresoever there are found those qualified to benefit the brethren, these are exhorted by the holy bishops to address the people.”Tertullian declares, in very plain and emphatic terms, that all Christians are priests by inherent right; though, for the sake of order and convenience, certain ones are, under ordinary circumstances, to be set apart for the administration of ordinances and for directing in government and discipline. He asks, “Are not even we laics priests?” “Where three are,” he says, “a church is, albeit they
" be laics. For each individual lives by his own faith, nor is there exception of persons with God.”3 While he protests, in the name of the peace and unity of the Church, against a layman's assuming to baptize in a case where a clergyman is accessible, he says with equal positiveness, “Even laymen have the right; for
• what is equally received can be equally given. Unless bishops or priests or deacons be on the spot, disciples are called. The word of the Lord ought not to be hidden by any; in like manner, too, baptism, which is
1 viii. 32.
Hist. Eccl., vi. 19.
8 De Exhort. Cast., vii.
equally God's property, can be administered by all.” 1 Irenæus says in one place, “ All the righteous possess the sacerdotal rank." .The same representation appears with Origen.3 “All Christians," as he teaches, “are priests, not merely or pre-eminently the officebearers, but all according to the measure of their knowledge and their services in the kingdom of the Lord.” 4 In practice, also, the right and power of the laity were recognized. It was the general custom that the selection of the bishops should be submitted to their approval. Even Cyprian, the vigorous champion of order and authority, did not think it fitting to exclude the laity from a share in the management of the Church. He speaks of himself as having made up his mind from the commencement of his episcopacy to take no important step without asking the consent of the people as well as the advice of his clergy.6 There is abundant evidence, therefore, that the more radical idea of priesthood did not dominate the Church in the first stages of its history.
Still, from the apostolic age onwards, there was an increasing tendency to widen the distance between clergy and laity. It was felt necessary to guard against the growing dangers of heresy and schism by emphasizing the dignity of the standing officers and leaders of the Church. As numbers and wealth increased, there was both more occasion and more opportunity for the ministry to abandon secular callings, and to give them
1 De Bapt., xvii. See also De Monog., vii., xii. 2 Cont. Hær., iv. 8. 3. 3 Hom. in Lev., ix. 1. 9; Tom. in Joan., i. 3. 4 Redepenning, Origenes, ii. 436, 437. s Cons. Apost., viii. 4. 6 Epist., v. 4, in Ante-Nicene Lib., in Oxford ed., epist. xiv.