Vol.IV No.VIII Pg.6
September 1967

Must History Repeat?

Robert F. Turner

From MOSHEIM'S ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, Vol. 1, P.76-78, (Ed. of 1826) we copy this look at the past.


"Such was the constitution of the Christian church in its infancy, when its assemblies were neither numerous nor splendid. Three or four presbyters, men of remarkable piety and wisdom, ruled these small congregations in perfect harmony, nor did they stand in need of any president or superior to maintain concord and order where no dissensions were known. But the number of the presbyters and deacons increasing with that of the churches, and the sacred work of the ministry growing more painful and weighty, by a number of additional duties, these new circumstances required new regulations. It was then judged necessary, that one man of distinguished gravity and wisdom should preside in the council of presbyters, in order to distribute among his colleagues their several tasks, and to be a centre of union to the whole society. ... ...

The power and jurisdiction of the bishops were not long confined to these narrow limits, but soon extended themselves, and that by the following means. The bishops, who lived in the cities, had, either by their own ministry, or that of their presbyters, erected new churches in the neighboring towns and villages. These churches, continuing under the inspection and ministry of the bishops, by whose labors and counsels they had been engaged to embrace the gospel, grew imperceptibly into ecclesiastical provinces, which the Greeks afterwards called dioceses.

But as the bishop of the city could not extend his labors and inspection to all these churches in the country and in the villages, so he appointed certain suffragans or deputies to govern and to instruct these new societies; and they were distinguished by the title of chorepiscopi, i.e., country bishops. This order held the middle rank between bishops and presbyters, being inferior to the former, and superior to the latter.

The churches, in those early times, were entirely independent; none of them subject to any foreign jurisdiction, but each one governed by its own rulers and its own laws. For, though the churches founded by the apostles had this particular difference shown them, that they were consulted in difficult and doubtful cases; yet they had no juridical authority, no sort of supremacy over the others, nor the least right to enact laws for them. Nothing, on the contrary, is more evident than the perfect equality that reigned among the primitive churches; nor does there even appear in this first century, the smallest trace of that association of provincial churches, from which councils and metropolitans derive their origin. It was only in the second century that the custom of holding councils commenced in Greece, from whence it soon spread through the over provinces."


First, a misconception of "office" for elders, then "rank," then "association" of churches, AND AWAY WE GO!!