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Art. I.-1. Charge delivered by the Lord Bishop of Gloucester
and Bristol, at his Triennial Visitation, held in August, 1844.
London: Rivington. 2. Horo Decanice Rurales. By WILLIAM DANSEY, M. A.
Prebendary of Salisbury, Rural Dean. London: Rivington.
1844. Second Edition. 3. Rural Synods. By the Vicar of Morwenstou, Cornwall.
London : Edwards and Hughes; Burns. 1844. A REVIVAL of discipline is now actively going on within the Church of England. The clergy and laity are no longer contented with the performance of divine service in their churches, and the legal regularity of ecclesiastical duties; they are not satisfied with the laborious ingenuity of those who think that by the intricate and uncouth verbiage of Acts of Parliament the Church will be adapted to the exigencies of the times, and rendered capable of withstanding her enemies, and satisfying all the wants of her flock. The insufficiency of modern legislation, and the mere administration of property for the attainment of those great ends, has now become an undeniable proposition in the eyes of all but pedants or superficial reasoners. Instead of confining themselves to these things, Churchnien now inquire into the origin and nature of institutions which have long been neglected as antiquated rubbish, or at least as no longer required in these enlightened times. They look back to ancient experience, instead of relying on their own inventive powers. They no longer suppose that to the present generation was reserved the faculty of intuitively knowing all the arcana of ecclesiastical policy and government; and they see the danger of wounding, by experiments and new inventions, principles which have their roots deep in the Divine institutions of the Church.
We look upon Mr. Dansey's book with peculiar interest, as an indication of this improved state of public opinion and feeling in ecclesiastical affairs. A few years ago such a book would have been considered a mere matter of antiquarian curiosity. Sylvanus Urban would have made honourable mention of it, and it would have lain on the table of the Society of Antiquaries beside a broken pot or a pair of rusty spurs, while the active men, carrying on the real business of the Church, would have turned away to an Act of Parliament, the report of a society, or papers printed by order of the House of Commons. But there is now no danger of its being neglected by practical men. It will be read and studied with a view to the revival of the institution of rural deaneries in all its completeness, and not as a mere record of what that institution was in former times. It will be read, not as a mere history of the past, but as affording practical knowledge for the future; and in that practical light we propose to bring before our readers the leading points of Mr. Dansey's book, and the chief principles and features of the institution and government of rural deaneries.
We must, however, begin by taking a somewhat wider range than the author of the Hora Decanicæ Rurales, in order to enable the reader to form a distinct idea of the place which that institution occupies in the economy of the Church.
The office of the parochial clergy is held by the canonists to be of divine institution;* for, as the bishops represent the apostles, so the parochial clergy represent the seventy disciples. It is, however, clear, that during the first two centuries there were no separate titles or benefices, and no distinct parishes.
The whole diocese of each bishop was governed and administered by the bishop as one parish, with the assistance of the body of his clergy who resided with him at his episcopal see. Thus the clergy formed an ecclesiastical senate, over which the bishop presided. They performed their functions under his direction, either in the town where he resided, or in the churches to which, from time to time, they were sent. Thus the bishop alone held a permanent office or benefice; and the revenues of the Church, which consisted in the alms and offerings of the faithful, were received by him, and he distributed them amongst priests, deacons, and inferior clergy, and the poor. Moreover, he did nothing of importance without the advice of his clergy. He was the president and supreme head of the assembly of the clergy. Thus the Fourth Council of Carthage says, “Ut Episcopus in Ecclesia et consessus Presbyterorum sublimior sedeat;" + and St. Ignatius says, “Omnes episcopum sequimini ut Christus
* Van Espen, Jus Eccles. Univ. par, i, tit. iii, cap. 1, passim. † Decret, Dist. 95. Can. 10.
Patrem, et Presbyterorum Collegiuin ut Apostolos.” “ Et Diaconos revereamini ut ex Dei præcepto administrantes.” “Sine Episcopo nemo quidquam faciat eorum quæ ad Ecclesiam spectant." But the same St. Ignatius calls the body of the clergy consistorium sacrum, conciliarios et assessores Episcopi ; * and in the passage cited above he speaks of them as the College of Apostles; and St. Jerome says,
“ Et nos habemus in Ecclesia senatum nostrum, cætum Presbyterorum.”+
We dwell upon these passages because they refer to very important principles of ecclesiastical polity, which have a direct bearing on our subject. They show the character of the authority exercised by the bishops in the early Church. That authority was essentially different from the authority exercised by temporal sovereigns and civil rulers; and this distinctive character is clearly referred to in the Scriptures as essential to the government of the Church instituted by divine authority. We mean a character of moderation and deliberative prudence totally different from tyranny, or even mere despotism,-a combination of monarchical authority with humility and gentleness, which leads the ruler to distrust his own judgment and seek the advice of others, and to avoid the display of power. It is from analogous principles that the laws of the Church have ever been called not laws, nor edicts—but canons, or rules.
The chief persons in the assembly, or ecclesiastical senate, after the bishop, were the archpresbyter or archpriest, and the archdeacon. They were the heads of the two orders of priests and deacons, and usually held their offices by right of seniority of ordination. I The archpriest officiated in the absence of the bishop, and acted as his representative, while the archdeacon was entrusted with the chief management of the funds of the Church. Such are the leading features of the constitution of the Church in the first three centuries.
In the fourth century the increase of the Church, which spread from the cities into the provinces and rural districts, rendered a change necessary. The bishop and his clergy could no longer satisfy the wants of their growing flock. We accordingly find that particular priests were appointed to perform spiritual duties in specified districts away from the bishop's see, and thus only a part of the clergy remained with the bishop, the remainder being scattered about in different parts of the diocese.
* Συνέδριον του επισκόπου.-Philadel. viii. Των πρεσβυτέρων είς τόπον συνεδρίου TWY &rootówv.-Magn. vi. † Van Esp. eod. tit. viii. cap. i. § 1, p. 119.
Fleury, Inst. au Droit Eccles. tom. i. c. xviii. p. 160. Van Esp. par. i. tit. vii, cap. i. p. 167.