Project Canterbury


Ordination Problems

By John Wordsworth, D.D.

Bishop of Salisbury.


London: SPCK, 1909.


On Ordination “Per Saltum” and Home Reunion


Introduction. Connexion of this question with Home Reunion, especially with Presbyterians. Report of the Lambeth Conference Committee and Resolution 75 of the Conference.


THE problems which encompass any plans for Home Reunion will be manifest to any one who will think of the subject steadily for a very brief space of time. Yet there can be no doubt that the desire of attaining it is happily growing, and that men are not only more conscious than they were of the evils of schism, but are increasingly capable of perceiving the glory and the strength which might be found in ecclesiastical union. We have learnt to see that one of the best motives for the prosecution of foreign missions is a desire to enrich the Christian character, by adding to it the gifts which new races have to give. In like manner we are also learning to see that the Church has much to gain by the establishment of closer fellowship and communion between bodies of Christians, who represent different experiences of the Christian life.

There is probably no other of the separate Churches of our own lands in regard to which this prospect of gain is so clear as it is in regard to the historic Presbyterian Church of Scotland. I need not take time in explaining why this is so. Suffice it to say that that Church represents many features of the religious mind of one of the strongest, ablest, most persevering and most prudent, and not the least enthusiastic, of the nations of the world. For while it is unfortunately a divided Church—having two main branches—there is a great unity of type in the Church of Scotland proper, and the United Free Church, which in Scotland dissents from it. So much so is this the case that in the British colonies (if I am rightly informed), the division between the two hardly exists.

Now, so far as this great Presbyterian Church clings to its old principles, which distinguish it from Churches framed on a congregational basis, it agrees with our own and with the Catholic Church of primitive times, as to the matter, form and intention of holy orders. It recognizes laying on of hands, with suitable prayer for the Holy Spirit as the solemn rite by which chosen men are set apart for the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments, and it holds that such a ministry was established by our Lord first in the Apostolate, and that to the ministry appointed by Him the existing ministry has succeeded. The only point in which it seriously differs from our own Church is in regard to the necessity of having a superior order or degree in the ministry, generally called that of Bishops, both for purposes of jurisdiction and government, and for purposes of carrying on the ministerial succession. At one time, the idea of “Presbyteral parity” had a very strong hold, both of the conscience and of the imagination, of our brethren north of the Tweed. But experience has taught very many of them that superintendency of some sort is a source of strength, unity, and efficiency, and has nothing in it contrary to the Gospel. We also, on our side, have learnt to look on the episcopate as one with the presbyterate in regard to its chief ministerial powers (those of the “sacerdotium” or priesthood), while many are content to regard it as a separate degree, rather than a separate order, and a degree which was not immediately and distinctly realized as separate in all parts of the primitive Church at once, but one that, in some regions, was developed more quickly than in others.

The way, therefore, seems much more likely to be open for reunion between Presbyterians and ourselves than it is, at present, in any other direction. The question, however, of the validity of Presbyterian orders stops the way. The more closely a body agrees with us in regard to the matter, form, and intention of ordination, the more it will naturally value its orders, and the more unwilling it will be to allow any slur to be cast upon them.

Under these circumstances, the large and influential Committee of the recent Lambeth Conference of 1908 On Reunion and Intercommunion, wrote as follows in its Report[1] (pp. 183-4):—

Many circumstances have led your Committee to pay special attention to the relations between the Presbyterian Churches and the Churches of the Anglican Communion. To many Presbyterians we owe a deep debt of gratitude for their contributions to sacred learning. We are equally indebted to them for many examples of holiness of life. With regard to their Churches, although their characteristics appear to vary in different countries, they have in many ways a special affinity with our own Communion. Where-ever they have held closely to their traditions and professed standards of faith and government, as formulated at Westminster, they satisfy the first three of the four conditions of an approach to reunion laid down by the Lambeth Conference of 1888.[2] Even as regards the fourth, though they have not retained “the historic episcopate,” it belongs to their principles to insist upon definite ordination as necessary for admission into their ministry. Their standards provide that “the work of ordination” should be “performed with due care, wisdom, gravity, and solemnity” “by imposition of hands and prayer, with fasting,” by the presbytery; they regard and treat ordination as conferred by those who have themselves been ordained and are authorized to ordain others. Many leading Presbyterian divines maintain the transmission of Orders by a regular succession through the presbyterate. Facts such as these seemed to point to the Presbyterian Churches as those among the non-episcopal bodies with whom it would be most natural and hopeful at the present time for our own Church to enter into closer relations. Indeed, your Committee have been informed that in Australia conferences have been already held between committees of the General Synod of our own Communion and of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church with a view to possible reunion.

Your Committee fully recognize that a condition precedent to any project of reunion would be the attainment of a general agreement in doctrine and practice which would violate no essential principle of the Churches of our Communion. They admit that they are not satisfied that, except possibly in Australia, there is as yet evidence of a strong desire on the part of any of the Presbyterian Churches for a closer union with the Anglican Churches. The question of the recognition of Presbyterian orders seems to these Churches to present an insuperable obstacle. But the Committee feel that, before another Lambeth Conference can meet, the course of events may change the situation. In view of the possibilities of the future, they think that it would be a help to the cause of union to state that in their opinion it might be possible to make an approach to reunion on the basis of consecrations to the episcopate on lines suggested by such precedents as those of A.D. 1610.[3] Further arrangements would be necessary for the period of transition between the present condition of separation and full union on the basis of episcopal ordination. The Committee believe that such arrangements might be framed as would respect the convictions of those who had long and faithfully fulfilled their ministry in Presbyterian orders, without any surrender on our part of the essential principle, laid down in the Preface to our Ordinal, that those who are to minister the Word and Sacraments in the Churches of the Anglican Communion must have been episcopally ordained. In process of time the two streams of Christian life would mingle in the one Church, strengthened by the benefits which each of these contributory streams would be able to bring to the other.

The general principles contained in these paragraphs, with some of their language, were accepted, I think unanimously, by the 242 Bishops who formed this Conference in their seventy-fifth Resolution. It is right to quote this also in full (p. 65):—

75. The Conference receives with thankfulness and hope the Report of its Committee on Reunion and Intercommunion, and is of opinion that, in the welcome event of any project of reunion between any Church of the Anglican Communion and any Presbyterian or other non-episcopal Church, which, while preserving the Faith in its integrity and purity, has also exhibited care as to the form and intention of ordination to the ministry, reaching the stage of responsible official negotiation, it might be possible to make an approach to reunion on the basis of consecrations to the episcopate on lines suggested by such precedents as those of 1610. Further, in the opinion of the Conference, it might be possible to authorize arrangements (for the period of transition towards full union on the basis of episcopal ordination) which would respect the convictions of those who had not received episcopal Orders, without involving any surrender on our part of the principle of Church order laid down in the Preface to the Ordinal attached to the Book of Common Prayer.

The references in these two important documents to the precedents of 1610, that is, to the consecration of three Scottish ministers to the episcopate in England and of others by them in Scotland, and that to “consecration to the episcopate, per saltum,” that is, without passing through the inferior degree or degrees, made in the note to the Report, make it practically important to examine the conditions of promotion in the Church as far as they have been held to involve a passage through different degrees of order before advancement to the episcopate. The matter is of interest in itself, and I think may be made interesting to any student of Church history, apart from the practical question. I have tried to treat it without any bias or arrière-pensée, and I shall be glad to have both my statements and conclusions subjected to the most rigorous criticism.


Chapter I. Freedom of Election and Promotion from the Apostolic Age to the Close of the Fourth Century, Especially in ihe East (Sections 1-5).


1. General prepossession that ordination must invoke promotion by degrees of order. Object of this essay to test the question. Mr. Firminger’s help. “Saltus” in the fifth century means rapid promotion through degrees. From the ninth century onwards it means the emission of a step.

A prepossession, based on long usage, accustoms us to treat the sacred offices of Deacon, Presbyter, and Bishop as regular steps in promotion, and to think it necessary, or at least a matter of course, that a man who arrives at the episcopate should have previously held office in the two inferior ranks. We are accustomed also, in reading ancient and mediaeval Church history, to suppose that a Deacon, who is mentioned in it, had passed in some way or another through the minor orders or at least one or more of them. If we are aware that there are exceptions to these general rules, we are apt to describe them as promotions per saltum, that is, by a leap, over one or more of the intervening degrees, as from the subdiaconate to the presbyterate, or from the diaconate to the episcopate, and to think of such promotions as more or less rare and grave irregularities.

The object of this essay is to test the value of this prepossession and this description, by a candid examination of historical facts, to investigate the early literature which deals with the qualifications for holy orders, and to analyse a sufficient number of the cases in which the promotion of historical persons is recorded. Many scholars have touched upon the subject as a department of a general inquiry as to ordination, but no one, I think, has devoted a treatise to it. I have for some time felt the practical need of such a treatise, which should sift and co-ordinate the material collected by the diligence of older scholars, such as Antonio de Dominis, †1624, Jean Morin, †1659, L. Thomassin, †1695, Lenain Tillemont, †1698, Jean Mabillon, †1707, Joseph Bingham, †1723, Edmund Martene, †1739, and Mathias Chardon, † 1771, not to speak of writers of the last and present centuries, and should add something to it, both in the way of material and still more of logical method. At the close of my review of a learned book by the Abbé L. Saltet of Toulouse on the kindred subject of Reordination (Guardian, December 2, 1908), I expressed the hope that such an essay might be written by a competent scholar, either on the continent or among ourselves. But, as I had no response at first to this challenge, and had the encouragement of two old friends, whose names I may perhaps mention—Bishop W. C. Doane of Albany, and Bishop Dowden of Edinburgh—I set to work to do the best I could to meet the want in my own way. After making considerable progress in this task, I received a valuable essay on the subject, written some time back (1902), from the Rev. W. K. Firminger of Kidderpore Vicarage, Calcutta, which he generously allowed me to treat as contributory material. It differed very considerably in method and extent, as well as in point of view, from my own plan—though the facts were gathered largely from the same sources. But I heartily thank him for additions to my knowledge, and I have been glad to quote several sentences from his essay, where his statement of facts seemed to be forcibly and conveniently expressed.

The origin of the phrase per saltum is, I think, nowhere discussed in the books to which I have had access. Its currency is, however, clearly due to its use by Aquinas in a passage which will be quoted in the next section, and to the title of the letter of Innocent III to the Bishop of Bologna, De clerico per saltum promoto (Decretal, V. 29). It is, of course, also used by the Council of Trent (Sess. XXIII, de Ref. C. 14). But this is not the original use of the word saltus in regard to clerical promotions. It is employed, perhaps for the first time, with a cognate but different meaning, to describe the rapid promotion through the degrees of order, in the important letter of Pope Zosimus, A.D. 418 (Ep. 9, ad Hesychium §2, Coustant, p. 969), which will be discussed below.[4]

The first passage in which I have observed the use of the word saltus in the modern canonical sense of leaping over, or omitting, a degree is in a document connected with the case of Hincmar and Ebbo, where a certain Halduin, whose ordination as deacon by Ebbo was annulled, is spoken of as “qui saltu sine gradu diaconi ad sacerdotiam prosilierat”, at the Council of Soissons, A. D. 853 (Labbe, Conc. 8, p. 90, ex actione VI).

The next is in the treatise of Aeneas, Bishop of Paris, describing the promotion of Bishops at Rome “quodam saltu non praecepta presbyteriali benedictione” in 862 (P. I. 121, 760). The word quodam implies that the term had not yet become technical in this sense.

I shall, of course, be glad to learn if other students come across earlier instances.


2. Promotion to office in the primitive Church involved (1) the call: charismatic or elective; (2) its confirmation by the Apostles or their representatives. Ordination is specially concerned with the elected ministry. Scriptural evidence as to election: the Apostles, Matthias, the Seven, Barnabas and Saul, Timothy. Necessity of confirmation ty the existing ministry. St. Paul’s only rule was not to ordain neophytes but persons of experience. Aquinas acknowledges primitive freedom in the matter.

Any enquiry into the conditions of promotion to ministerial office in the primitive Church must start with a recollection that such promotion from the first included two things—the call and its confirmation. The call in its early ages differed considerably from that with which we are familiar in our modern Church life in this country. It had at first two forms. In some cases it was constituted by a gift of the Holy Ghost—a gift of prophecy, it may be, or exorcism, or healing; a gift of courage to bear persecution, in other words, martyrdom or confessorship; a gift of ascetic patience, joined with insight and wisdom, to which the name confessorship was transferred when outward persecution ceased. In other and more ordinary cases, the call still came from the Holy Ghost, but through the voices of men; either through prophetic utterances directing the choice, as in the cases of Barnabas and Saul and Timothy, or through some enthusiastic popular impulse, or through more deliberate counsel in the way of election as in the case of the seven (Deacons), and I presume the elders at Ephesus (Acts xx. 28).

But this call needed confirmation, even when spiritual gifts were present. Our Lord Himself had warned His disciples against false prophets; and spiritual gifts might either be falsely assumed or used selfishly. It is not my purpose to enter upon the question of the charismatic ministry in the early Church, on which something has been already written, while much still remains to be said. The treatment of spiritual gifts as a title to minister without ordination, or as a title to immediate ordination, will be touched upon incidentally, and particularly in the 10th section of this essay dealing with Church Orders. Our main concern, however, is with the elective call, which was regularly confirmed, after scrutiny, by ordination of a candidate found to be worthy and otherwise fulfilling the required conditions, the rite used being suitable prayer with laying on of hands.

A few words will be in place in order to justify the statement that from the first the members of the ordinary ministry, Deacons, Presbyters and Bishops, were summoned to their office by an elective call.

There is a trace of this even in our Lord’s own choice of the Twelve Apostles. It was, of course, a matter of enormous moment to the Church and to themselves, that they should be, above all other men, convinced that they had the support of an immediate call and mission from Christ. So only could they face their astonishing task. But even in this matter our Lord laid the foundation of the elective call. He summoned round Him the body of His disciples, those whom He had gathered from among His countrymen, the “little flock” of the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” which He afterwards specially committed to the pastoral care of St. Peter. Thus we read in St. Luke: “And it came to pass in those days that he went out into the mountain to pray; and he continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called to himself his disciples; and he chose from them twelve, whom also he named Apostles” (St. Luke vi. 12,13). Our Lord, therefore, chose the Twelve in the presence of those to whom they were to minister, and whom they were to represent: and He chose them out of that little flock, not outsiders. Its members were not then themselves fit to be electors of their ministers, but the electoral assembly was foreshadowed, and the principle suggested (for which the Church has often struggled) that a congregation has a right to expect that its ministers should be chosen from among its members, or at least with proper reference to its character and wants.

We are not, therefore, surprised that when a new Apostle had to be chosen, between Ascension Day and Pentecost, the Jerusalem congregation of this little flock, numbering 120, and perhaps actually summoned by name from a congregational or baptismal roll, was gathered together for the purpose. “And in these days (writes the same Church historian St. Luke) Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (and there was a multitude of names in the assembly about one hundred and twenty),” and spoke about the death of Judas and the necessity of some one taking his place and becoming a witness of the resurrection with himself and the other apostles. “And they put forward two,” Barsabas and Matthias, between whom the lot was drawn (Acts i. 15-26). Who were the “they” who chose the two? Judging by the later account of the choice and ordination of the seven, I think that the “putting forward” was the work of the whole body of brethren. For on that second occasion “the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them,” and, having explained the need, said: “Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among yourselves seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (ib. vi. 2, 3). The Spirit-bearing body is now fit to make a definite choice; but ordination rests with the Apostles, for they go on to say, “whom we may appoint over this business.”

It is not necessary to add later evidence as to the custom of election and subsequent ordination, as the general usage of the Church. The case of Barnabas and Saul at Antioch was obviously a peculiar one, and yet it illustrates general usage. They were possessed of the gift of prophecy and had already had recognition from the Apostles at Jerusalem in that capacity. They were called by the Holy Spirit, speaking through some prophet or prophets in the assembly—a call, no doubt, taken up with enthusiasm by that assembly. Hands were then laid on them by the other prophets and teachers. Their apostolate was afterwards recognized by the Apostles and elders and the whole Church of Jerusalem at the Council held at the close of their first missionary journey. Their case lies somewhere between the recognition of a charismatic ministry and an ordinary case of choice and confirmation by ordination. It has features which belong to both.

The case of Timothy, the companion of St. Paul, is only known to us by the indirect references to it in the Epistles addressed to him. He appears to have been called by the voice of prophecy, as Barnabas and Saul had been, and to have received ordination at the hands of St. Paul accompanied by the presbytery.

Such calls in obedience to some inspiration or sign are frequent enough in Church history, as that of Fabianus of Rome by a dove lighting on him, and of Ambrose by the voice of a child. We must, I think, rank with these the many cases where popular constraint was employed to overcome the nolo episcopari, so that at certain periods it was felt to be a sort of necessity for a man to profess reluctance to be elected, the idea being that the constraint employed to overcome his reluctance was an evidence that the Holy Spirit had directed the popular choice.

The first instance of this constraint which occurs to me is that of Cornelius of Rome in 252, as described by Cyprian (Ep. 55. 6). He says that Cornelius “suffered violence so as to receive the Episcopate by compulsion,” and tells us that “he was made Bishop by the judgment of God and His Christ, by the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the suffrages of the people who were then present, and by the college of ancient priests (sacerdotum, i.e. Bishops) and good men.” This remarkable phrase “by the judgment of God”, and others like it, which he uses of Cornelius and of Bishops in general, inclines me to suppose that there was something in the way in which his name was suddenly proposed, perhaps by a confessor, or by a prophet or other person to whom a revelation was held to be vouchsafed, which brought his election, and perhaps many others in that period, into line with the choice of Barnabas and Saul. Although Cyprian, I think, does not speak of Christian prophets as an order then existing, he was expectant from time to time of revelations to be made to himself and others.

That the election, in whatever way it was conducted, afterwards needed confirmation by ordination is clear from the instances quoted. The ordination of St. Paul—like his baptism—is evidence of the regularity of custom in this matter, even when a man was most distinctly known to be chosen by God. It is not necessary or in place here to discuss the question as to which or what combination of ministers of the Church were the ministers of ordination. What is important is the principle that our Lord intended the confirmation of an election to be in the hands of the existing ministry, the living representatives of the Apostolate. This is a principle, of course, with all Episcopalians, and with all those Presbyterians who are true to the teaching of their fathers as worked out in the contest with Independency in the seventeenth century. The continuance of the Apostolate, in some sort, to the end of time, seems to be prophesied by our Lord in the address to the Eleven on the mountain in Galilee recorded by St. Matthew, xxviii. 16-20. It was taken for granted in subapostolic as in apostolic times that ordination was not in the hands of the people who elected, but of the ministers into whose ranks new members were elected. There is, I think, no fact to disprove this in the whole of early Church history. In no other way that we can imagine could the sense of an immediate mission from Christ be so kept up generation after generation. In no other way could the hazard incident to popular choice and spiritual enthusiasm be so readily guarded against. In no other way could a continuous tradition as to order and doctrine be so well preserved.

This Essay is concerned with one of the checks which the ordaining body has, now in one way, now in another, thought fit to impose upon the freedom of popular choice, and to lay down as a direction to its own members. It is an answer to the question, what amount of official experience in a man has been thought necessary by the Church before the election of a Bishop, Presbyter or Deacon has been confirmed by ordination? I shall try and answer this question by stating the rules which prevailed at different periods, first generally, then in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, and then in the west, reserving, however, the evidence of Church Orders and Sacramentaries for a separate section.

First, then, as to the evidence of the Apostolic age. St. Paul, in his first Epistle to Timothy, lays down the rule which, without irreverence, we may call the rule of common sense: that those who are newly converted and baptized should not be promoted to authority in the Church. He first directs that a “Bishop” (or “Presbyter”) should be without reproach, tried in various relations of life, as husband and father; and, in particular, “not a neophyte” or “novice,” “lest being puffed up (by his sudden promotion) he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. iii. 6). Later on, in the same chapter, he directs that “Deacons also” should “first be proved; then let them serve as Deacons if they be blameless,” adding: “For they that have served well as Deacons gain to themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (ib. 10 and 13). Many commentators on this last verse, following Jerome and Ambrosiaster, see in this “good standing” (Latin gradum bonum and A.V. “a good degree”) a title or claim to promotion to higher office. This explanation is, I think, probable in itself, and the idea was a likely one to occur to any citizen of the Roman Empire who was familiar with the system of promotion to offices of state, the decursus honorum in regard to which the word gradus or “degree” was frequently used.[5] But the hope, if such it be, held out to the Deacon was quite a different thing from laying down a rule that the diaconate must be a necessary step to the presbyterate. Had St. Paul meant this he would have directed that one of the qualifications necessary for a “Bishop” was that he should have served as a Deacon and been proved for some time in that office. On the whole the teaching of St. Paul, and the customary rule, as far as we know it, of the ante-Nicene Church, went no further than the general precept given to Timothy towards the close of the letter already quoted: “Lay hands hastily on no man” (ib. v. 22).

As regards passage from one degree to another, there is no evidence in the New Testament that any of the persons whose ordination is described—the seven (deacons), Barnabas and Saul at Antioch, the elders ordained by them at Antioch in Pisidia, &c. (Acts xiv. 23), Timothy, or any others—received more than one laying on of hands. This is so clear that Aquinas acknowledged that “in the primitive Church some were ordained presbyters who had not first received inferior orders; and yet they had all the powers which the inferior orders possess, because the inferior power is comprehended in the superior excellence (virtute), as feeling in intelligence, and dukedom in royalty. But afterwards, by enactment of the Church, it was determined that no one should take upon him a greater power who has not first humbled himself in lesser duties. Hence it follows that those who are ordained per saltum according to the canons, as quoted above, are not reordained, but what had been omitted of the preceding orders is conferred on them” (Suppl. Summae, sxxvi. 5).[6]


3. A gradual ascent to the episcopate was considered laudable, at least in the West, in the middle of the third century. Connexion of this conception with the development of the minor orders. The case of Cornelius at Rome, A.D. 252, was, however, rather exceptional. Instances of freedom of promotion in the ante-Nicene period.

In the ante-Nicene period there was, I think, no further attempt to check popular freedom of election. But the custom of passing through different degrees of service, before ascent to the episcopate, had, it would seem, come to be considered as laudable, at least in the West, by the middle of the third century. The case which establishes this fact is that of Cornelius, already referred to, ordained Bishop of Rome in A.D. 252, whose appointment Cyprian contrasts perhaps with that of Fabianus (236), and certainly with that of Novatian (whose baptism was irregular), as if the idea of gradual ascent, which was natural to a citizen of the Roman Empire, had now come to be applied to the course of Church promotion. “He was not one (writes Cyprian) who came to the episcopate hastily, but being promoted through all ecclesiastical offices and having often earned the favour of the Lord in divine ministrations, he ascended by all the steps of religion to the lofty summit of the Priesthood” (sacerdotii = episcopatus, Ep. 55, 8). This language of the Christian father is very Ciceronian in phrase, and is closely akin to that of the great orator in describing the steps of secular promotion in the Commonwealth. For instance he writes on behalf of Muraena, § 55 “Dum ex honoribus continuis familiae maiorumque suorum unum ascendere gradum dignitatis conatus est, venit in periculum,” &c., a passage which may have suggested Cyprian’s “cunctis religionis gradibus ascendit.”

But the idea can hardly be much earlier than A.D. 250, because the establishment of the minor orders had only recently come into being, and “all” implies the existence of at least three steps before the episcopate. Now the first mention in Western literature of any of these orders is in a passage of Tertullian De Praeseriptione Haereticorum 41, c. A.D. 199, where he speaks about the ordinations of heretics as “temerariae, leves, inconstantes.” His language implies that it is a step downwards for a Deacon to become a Header, but otherwise there is no hint of gradation. “Now (he says) they put neophytes in office, now men tied to the world, now apostates from the Church, so as to bind them by vainglory because they cannot attach them by truth . . . To-day one man is Bishop, to-morrow another; to-day a man is a Deacon, who to-morrow is a Reader; to-day he is a Presbyter, who to-morrow is a layman; for they prescribe priestly offices even to laymen.” Between this date and the middle of the third century we know that the diaconate developed downwards and delegated some of its duties to Subdeacons and some to Acolytes, and some to Doorkeepers, and that into this diaconal system were introduced the two charismatic offices of Reader and Exorcist, of which one (that of Header) had been at one time and in some regions on a much higher level. The detailed history of this development is not a matter of great importance in this place. What is to be remembered is that it belongs to a period, generally speaking, after AD 200. When it was established it would do much to facilitate the progress of the idea of graded ascent, especially in the Roman Church, with its love of orderliness and its tendency to adopt secular forms, wherever they were not clearly inconsistent with the Christian spirit.

The emphasis laid on this case of Cornelius seems also to imply that it was somewhat exceptional. It has often been thought that Cyprian himself was promoted first to the presbyterate and then to the episcopate without any experience as a Deacon, and this, at first sight, seems to be the statement of his Deacon Pontius in his Life of Cyprian. But the acumen of Bishop Pearson has seen in the same chapter a reference to his diaconate which had apparently escaped the notice of earlier readers. I believe, then, that Cyprian was praising Cornelius with a fairly safe conscience, although he was promoted himself very shortly after his baptism. It is, however, I think, agreed that Fabianus, a layman, pointed out by the sign of a dove settling on his head, was ordained Bishop of Home in A.D. 236, and that Stephen I, Pope next but one to Cornelius (254-7), was Archdeacon or Chief Deacon of his predecessor Lucius (Lib. Pontif. s. v. Lucius).[7] Origen was apparently still a layman when he was ordained Presbyter during his visit to Caesarea (c. 326-230) by the Bishops there (Eus. H. E, vi. 8. 4, cp. vi. 19. 16). The strange history of the telepathic ordination of Gregory Thaumaturgus as Bishop of Neocaesarea (c. A.D. 240), by a single Bishop, Phaedimus of Amasea, in a sort of trance, suggests that he was still a layman. He and his brother and fellow-pupil Athenodorus were certainly ordained to the episcopate when they were still young (Eus. H. K vi. 30). Further, Caecilian, who was ordained Bishop of Carthage in 311, was at that time only Chief Deacon. So frequent, as we shall see, was the promotion of Deacons that Bingham says (Bk. II, ch. x, § 5): “I must observe that it was not always necessarily required that a man should be ordained presbyter first in order to be made a bishop: for deacons were as commonly made bishops as any other.” This also is the judgement of Tillemont, who says that in antiquity “we find few persons who passed from the diaconate to the priesthood” (Mémoires t. ix, p. 293, ed. 1732).


4. Canons of Councils tearing on promotion. Aries c. 20 (314) requires at least three Bishops to ordain a Bishop. Neocaesarea 11 (314-25) fixes age of thirty for Presbyter. Nicaea 2 (825), a neophyte not to be a Bishop: connexion of this with c. 4. Sardica 10 or 13 (34S) first orders ascent “per gradus”; its canons at .first not generally known or recognised. 3 Carthage 4 (397?) fixes age of twenty-five for Deacons. The “Apostolic canon” 79 or 80 (c. 890-400) is vague like the Nicene, and recognises exceptional cases of “divine grace”.

The conversion of the Emperor Constantine and his subsequent edict of toleration issued in 313, both increased the danger of hasty promotions from the ranks of the ill-instructed yet influential converts who followed his example, and gave new liberty to the Church to exercise its authority in restraining such promotions. The first attempt at restriction was made by the important Western Council of Aries (314), which in its 20th canon desired that seven Bishops should be summoned to assist another in ordaining a Bishop, or at least three if seven could not be procured. This was clearly a step towards the clearer Nicene rule. The next came from a very different quarter of the Church—the Council of Neocaesarea in Pontus, which laid down the rule that a Presbyter was not to be ordained before the age of thirty, even if the man be very worthy, but be kept in reserve: for that was our Lord’s age at His baptism and when He began to teach (Canon 11). This Council was probably a little later than those of Aries and Ancyra, but before 325.

The Council of Nicaea (325), with more experience, dealt with this matter in two canons. In its second canon it spoke in strong but quite general language on the danger of promoting recent converts from heathenism to the episcopate, making no reference to age or to degrees of ministry.

Inasmuch as oftentimes under pressure of necessity or, without it, under some personal influence, it has come to pass that (Bishops), contravening the ecclesiastical rule, bring at once to the spiritual laver persons but lately come over to the faith from a heathen life, -who have been but a short time under catechetical training, and promote them immediately after baptism to the office of Bishop or Presbyter, it seemed good to us that for the future nothing of the sort should take place. For both the catechumen needs time to prepare for baptism, and considerable probation is needed after it. For the apostolic writing is clear which says: “Not a novice lest being puffed up he fall into condemnation and the snare of the devil.” But if, in process of time, some mortal sin be found in the person and he be convicted by two or three witnesses, let such a one forfeit his clerical position. And he who acts otherwise, will himself endanger his clerical position as one who audaciously contravenes the orders of the great Synod.

This Council, though it required no condition except the Pauline one, indirectly checked the freedom of promotion in another way, by directing that Bishops-elect should be confirmed by the Metropolitan and, as far as possible, by all the Bishops of the province. This was laid down in its very important 4th canon, which is the foundation of the system of “confirmation,” too little observed among us. It followed the precedent of Aries in requiring at least three Bishops to ordain another.

It is generally acknowledged that the first canonical rule on the subject of promotion by degrees of order is that of the 10th (Latin 13th) canon of Sardica held in the year 343-4. The language of the canon proves, I think, that it was the first attempt of the kind, for there is no appeal to precedent in it but the conclusion is worked out by argument. Hosius, who presided at Nicaea, also presided on this occasion, and, as a Spanish Bishop, probably proposed his canon in the Latin form. The Greek, I imagine, is due to later editing.

10. Hosius the Bishop said: “This point also I think must be enquired into with all accuracy and diligence so that if any rich man or pleader from the forum [Latin adds: or an officer of State] be demanded to be made a Bishop, he should not be appointed to the office unless he had first fulfilled the ministry of a Header and a Deacon and a Presbyter [the Latin has: unless he has fulfilled the duty of a Header and the office of a Deacon or a Presbyter] in order that his worth being tested at every step (bathmos) he might be able to ascend, if he be thought worthy, to the summit of the episcopate according to his progress [Latin et ita per singulos gradus si dignus fuerit ascendat ad culmen episcopatus]. And the step of each order shall take, clearly, something more than a minimum of time, by which means his faith, and the excellence of his manners, and his firmness, and his gentleness shall have opportunity of being known.”

The canon proceeds to argue against hasty ordinations, much more wordily in the Greek than in the Latin, but both refer to the Apostle’s words “not a neophyte”. It ends in the Greek by a strong assertion “that one must not overturn these rules,” as if the assembly were conscious of the great difficulty which would be before its members when they met in their provinces, according to the 4th canon of Nicaea, to confirm an election, and desired to curtail the freedom of popular choice.

The canons of Sardica were for some reason or other little known or acted upon, and this attempt of Hosius’ in particular had little effect until it was taken up in a different form by the Illyrican Council, and afterwards by Pope Siricius, in the last quarter of the fourth century. I do not wish to enter once again upon the question of their genuineness which was raised by Professor Friedrich of Munich about seven years ago, and discussed at that time both by myself and Mr. C. H. Turner.[8] The latter has dispelled some, though not all, of the suspicion under which they rest. But, with the exception of a passing reference made to one of them by Gratus, Bishop of Carthage, in A.D. 345 or 348 (1 Carthage 5), there was no clear mention of them in the Western Church until the time of Pope Zosimus, and then as canons of Nicaea (418). They were not recognized at Constantinople until much later (A. D. 562), and more formally by the Trullan Council of 692. Yet, long after that, in 861, Photius, patriarch of Constantinople, declared that they were not known and received by his Church—I suppose in the form quoted by Nicolas. See below.

These canons of Sardica appear certainly to have been unknown to St. Augustine and the African Church of his day, which, as we shall see, acted with great freedom in this matter of promotion. The only rule of that Church known to us in the fourth century is that of the third Council of Carthage, at which Augustine was present, A.D. 397 (?) c. 4:— “Ut ante xxv annos aetatis nee diaconi ordinentur, nee virgines consecrentur, et ut lectores populum non salutent.” This canon, I imagine, implies acceptance of the age of thirty for Presbyters as laid down at Neocaesarea.

At Antioch, and in “the East” more properly so called, there must have been still less acceptance of rule if we judge not only by the historical cases, presently to be recorded, but by the “Apostolic canon” 79 or 80 (c. 390-400) which represents apparently the rule of that Church at the close of the century. It runs: “It is not just that one who has joined the Church and been baptized from a gentile life or a mean occupation should all at once be put forward as a Bishop: for it is unjust that one who has not even given proof of previous experience should become a teacher of others, unless indeed such a thing happens by divine grace.” The Nicene canon may rightly be considered as the source of this rule; but the reference to “divine grace” is important as showing the value attached to the sudden calls of Christian enthusiasm, of which the cases of Philogonius at Antioch and Ambrose at Milan were probably in view, but which were frequent elsewhere under the system of popular election then in vogue.


5. Freedom of promotion at Alexandria. Athanasius, Sideriua, Synesius, &n. Greater in Asia Minor. The Gregories. Eusebius of Caesarea, Capp. Basil. Freedom at Antioch. Philogonios, Jerome. Case of Paulinian. Case of Nectarius at Constantinople. Chrysostom exceptionally regular. Ambrose of Milan. Thalassius. Later cases.

We may now record some historical cases which bear out the impression made by the canons that the checks imposed by the ordaining body of Bishops on freedom of election were very slight in practice in the fourth century and even later.

To begin with Alexandria and Egypt. It was, we are told, the custom at Alexandria for the first 250 years after Christ for the Presbyters of that Church to choose one out of their own number as Bishop (Hieron., Ep. 146, ad Evangelum), But this rule seems to have fallen into desuetude, as is proved by the case of Athanasius, who was chief Deacon of his predecessor Alexander, and less, it would seem, than thirty years old when he was promoted to that see in 326. The case of Siderius, Bishop of Palaebisca, towards the close of his long episcopate (c. 370), is often quoted in Church history as an instance of consecration by a single Bishop, instead of by three in accord with the Nicene canon. He is spoken of also as a young man. But on the whole in the fourth century promotion in the patriarchate of Alexandria seems to have been carried out in the spirit of the Nicene canon. An exceptional case early in the fifth is the choice of Synesius in 410 as Bishop of Ptolemais—a philosopher and a country gentleman with very little Christian training. After some consideration he was ordained by Theophilus. Later in the century we find Peter Mongus, an Archdeacon, ordained Bishop of Alexandria by the Monophysites, in 477. Johannes Talaia, made Bishop by the Catholics in 482, is described by Liberatus as “ex Oeconomo Presbyter” by which I understand that he was never a Deacon. Esaias, who tried to succeed Mongus a little later, was a Deacon. His ordination was challenged, but not on this account, but because it was said that the hands of a dead man were laid on his head.

There was probably far greater freedom in Asia Minor. We have seen that Gregory Thaumaturgus of Neocaesarea was probably a layman. The Council of this place, as we have also seen, did something to check hasty promotion to the presbyterate. It is, perhaps, to be noted that it did not specify any age for a Bishop. Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus, father of the more famous Gregory, was probably a layman, and still young when he was raised to the episcopate. He was converted from heresy, and then married to an orthodox lady, Nonna, shortly before his elevation in 329. Eusebius, who was made Bishop of the metropolitan see of Caesarea in the same province in 362, was certainly unbaptized at the time of his election—so little observance was there even of the Nicene canon. His successor in 370, Basil the Great, was a Presbyter, and we know from his friend Gregory that he had previously been a Reader. It is extremely doubtful whether he ever was a Deacon. The historian Socrates states that he was made a Deacon by Meletius of Antioch (H. H. iv. 26), but Tillemont reasonably considers that this statement is due to a confusion (Mémoires, t. ix, S. Basile, note 20: cp. on the other side Thomassinus, De Benef. I. ii.36.13). Basil’s brother Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, was at one time a “Reader,” then a professor of rhetoric, but apparently held no other office before the episcopate. Their friend, the younger Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Sasima and afterwards of Constantinople, was, like Basil, a Presbyter, and was forced into that office, but there is no evidence that he had been a Deacon.

There was similar freedom in the patriarchate of Antioch, and in the closely allied Church of Constantinople. Philogonius, Bishop of Antioch in 319, was a successful pleader and judge, raised from the Bar and the Bench to the Bishop’s throne. His was probably one of the cases referred to by the Council of Sardica, which uses very much the language as to hypothetical cases which is used by Chrysostom in his panegyric of the actual case of Philogonius (Hom. contra Anomaeos, vi. 2). The curious cases of ordination of ascetics, which will be mentioned below, are also from “the East.” One stands out in Church history, that of St. Jerome, who in 379, when on a visit to Antioch, was ordained Presbyter by Paulinus. He refused, however, to officiate, and, it is said, never consecrated the Eucharist even in his own monastery at Bethlehem. It was to supply this house with an officiating Priest that Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, intrusively and forcibly ordained Jerome’s brother Paulinian in opposition to John, Bishop of Jerusalem (Epiphanius, Ad Iohannem Hierosol. in Jerome’s works, Ep. 51, cp. Ep. 82. 8). In this case, Paulinian was ordained Deacon and Presbyter in the course of the same service.

At Constantinople itself, when Gregory Nazianzen proved too feeble for the post, Theodosius the Great chose a high officer of State, and governor of the city, still unbaptized, named Nectarius (381-97), to fill his place, and the choice was accepted by the Bishops. He sat for sixteen years with a high reputation, and his name heads the list of signatories of the second General Council.

His successor, John Chrysostom, was perhaps the only one of the great fourth-century fathers who approached the episcopate in what seems to us a thoroughly regular manner. He was first five years a Deacon (381-6), and then ten a Presbyter (386-97).

The case of Nectarius was objected to in the West, but not on account of any irregularity in his antecedents, but because the Westerns favoured the pretensions of Maximus, who preceded Gregory Nazianzen (Hefele, § 101). It was indeed a sort of copy of an even more famous promotion in this age, that of Ambrose of Milan (374), who came down as a high officer of state, still unbaptized, to keep order at the election of a successor to the Arian Auxentius. There was a great difficulty in the choice, and a child in the crowd cried out, “Ambrose for Bishop.” The cry was taken up with enthusiasm. He resisted by all means in his power, but at last yielded. His biographer, Paulinus, says “he is reported to have filled all ecclesiastical offices” in the few days which elapsed between his baptism and his ordination, but the fertur shows that the matter is uncertain (Vita a Paulino, c. 9). Ambrose certainly did not object to the irregular promotion of Nectarius, but rather referred to it with satisfaction as a justification of his own: “Tamen ordinationem meam occidentales episcopi iudicio, orientales etiam exemplo probaverunt” (Epist. 63, § 65, Vercelensi Ecclesiae). His rapid passage in a formal way through a number of steps did not, of course, make any difference to the quality of the promotion as judged by the canon of Nicaea and the rule of St. Paul.

Quite as striking a case as any of these is that of Thalassius, recorded by the historian Socrates in the last chapter of his history. Proclus of Constantinople was asked about the year 439 by the people of Caesarea in Cappadocia to choose them a Bishop, and was looking about to find one. The Senators of the city came in to pay him a visit of ceremony, and amongst them was Thalassius, who had been praetorian prefect of Illyricum, that is viceroy of one of the four quarters of the Empire, and who was expecting promotion to the same office in “the East.” “Proclus laid his hand upon him and made him Bishop of Caesarea instead of prefect, contrary to the intention of the Emperor” (H. E. vii. 48), though we must suppose that the latter afterwards gave his assent.

The cases of Nectarius and Thalassius served as precedents for three others in the eighth and ninth centuries, viz. those of Tarasius, Nicephorus, and Photius, all patriarchs of Constantinople. Tarasius was promoted in 784 from being chief secretary to the Emperor. Nicephorus was a layman promoted in 806 by his imperial namesake. Photius, a great-nephew of Tarasius, was a soldier and high officer of state, promoted by the Emperor Michael on the banishment of Ignatius in 857. It is known that Photius went formally through the inferior grades of office, and this, I imagine, had been the custom in such promotions for some time previously in the Eastern Church.


Chapter II. Historical Sketch of the Limitations on Promotion in the western Church from A.D. 375 to the end of the Ninth Century.


6. Roman attempts to introduce slow ascent “per gradus”. The lUyrican Council of the age of Damasus (375?). Attitude of Siricius (885) probably coloured by opposition to the Roman Deacons and to monasticism. His idealism. Zosimus (418) somewhat lightens the scheme of Siricius. Leo (445) allows promotion of Deacons to the episcopate. Gelasius (494) relaxes the “interstate” in time of need. Gregory the Great and Oportunatus of Aprutium.


It is a well-known fact of history that the Papacy took a new lease of power in the comparatively long pontificate of Damasus (366-84), and apparently acquired an imperial recognition of its patriarchal authority over the Western Provinces, towards its close.[9]

It was natural that the orderly mind of the leaders of the Church of Rome should be disturbed by such hasty promotions as those of Ambrose and Nectarius, and that they should see the value of a ministry trained, if possible from infancy, in the service of the Church, and proceeding to the episcopate by slow degrees of probation, and by practical experience in its different offices, including both the diaconate and the presbyterate. I shall proceed to give the evidence which bears out this expectation.

The first document, of later date than the Council of Sardica, bearing on the subject of promotion, is the letter of an Illyrican Council, probably of the year 375, and possibly held at Sirmium, addressed to the Churches of Asia and Phrygia.[10] This Council was in close communication with one which had been held at Rome about the same time, and it used as its messenger a Roman Presbyter, Elpidius, who had brought news of the doings of the Roman Council. It was accompanied by an imperial letter of Valentinian, Valens, and Gratian, bearing on its main subject, the consubstantiality of the persons of the Blessed Trinity. Into this discussion the Council introduces a commendation of Elpidius, and mentions that a suggestion has been made to it to add some advice on the promotion of Bishops. It seems natural to suppose that this suggestion came from Rome, though there is also a flavour of the Sardican canon about the advice given.

The first clause of the advice about the choice of Bishops is very obscure—perhaps owing to the letter being an awkward translation from Latin into Greek—but its intention seems to be to prefer men who are already Bishops, if they are sound in the faith, who may have been ejected, no doubt under Arian or semi-Arian influence.[11] What concerns us is, however, clear: “If such are not to be found, then Bishops are to be chosen from the Presbytery itself. In like manner Presbyters and Deacons also should be chosen out of the clerical order that they may be without reproach from any side, and not chosen from the Senate (i. e. City Council or Curia) or military command.”

The movement of which this letter is an indication may, as I have suggested, have been stimulated by the quite recent rapid promotion of St. Ambrose (374). The equally rapid promotion of Nectarius at Constantinople in 381 must have deepened the impression of the danger of such elevations of official personages becoming frequent. We find the movement towards a requirement of the presbyterate as well as the diaconate proclaiming itself much more definitely in the persons of Siricius, the successor of Damasus (385) and in that of Zosimus (418), whose ideal schemes of promotion mark an epoch in this history.

The first of these was himself a Roman Presbyter in charge of the Church called that of the “Pastor,” by which that of St. Pudentiana is meant. We may presume from his after-pronouncement that Siricius had also once been a Deacon. We have little accurate and detailed knowledge of his history, but we may reasonably infer two things, first that, like his rival Jerome (who desired to be made Pope on the death of Damasus, but failed in his ambition), he disliked the pride of the Roman Deacons, and secondly, that he equally disliked the pride of the ascetic or monastic life of which Jerome was an example. This latter feeling comes out in his later relations with Paulinus of Nola, of whose popularity at Rome he seems to have been jealous, and whose marriage and unconventional ordination to the priesthood may have offended his precise attitude of mind. I imagine then that Siricius was, like Cardinal Manning in later days in England, jealous for the order of the “secular” clergy, as against the “religious” or “ascetic,” and that he wished to make them as much as possible the equals of the latter in discipline of life, especially in continence, and superior to them in honour. For it is from Siricius that the rule of continence imposed on the Western clergy received its strongest impetus, and by him that a system of promotion per gradus was first formulated in detail.

It is in this way that I would in some sort explain the rather sudden appearance of a full-blown ideal of clerical training and promotion in his letter to Himerius of Tarragona (Ep. 1, cc. 9,10). In this he pictures the ascent of a man vowed to the service of the Church from his infancy. He is to remain a Reader up to the “accessus adolescentiae”, a rather doubtful period, which may extend from the age of fourteen to twenty years.[12] After that up to thirty years he may be Acolyte and Subdeacon, if married. Apparently he is to go no further unless he professes continence, in which case he may be a Deacon for five years and a Presbyter for ten, after which, seemingly at the age of forty-five, he is eligible for the episcopate. If, however, he is baptized in mature age (grandaevus) he must at once join the ranks of Readers or Exorcists for two years, then for five more he must be Acolyte and Subdeacon, then after intervals (accessu temporum) he may be Deacon, Presbyter, and Bishop—the intervals being, I suppose, the five and ten years above mentioned.[13]

This letter is the foundation of the ancient system of interstitia or spaces between the degrees of order.

Pope Zosimus in the year 418 (Ep. 9, c. 3), writing to Hesychius, Bishop of Salona in Dalmatia, has a similar but slightly less exacting scheme. A man baptized in infancy may be either Reader or Exorcist up to twenty, or for five years if baptized as grandaevus. For four years (instead of Siricius’ ten) he may be Acolyte or Subdeacon. For five years he may be a Deacon, when he may be promoted “to the priesthood (sacerdotium) of the presbyterate,” seemingly at the age of twenty-nine. After that, if he improves in character, he may hope for the episcopate (summum pontificatum). This scheme was afterwards adopted into many Western sacramentaries.

I do not find that Pope Leo (440-61) lays down any clear rules as to the interstitia. If the curiously uncertain text of the 12th Letter to the Bishops of Mauritania can be trusted, he generally accepted the schemes of his predecessors. But he evidently did not agree with them in thinking the presbyterate a necessary step to the episcopate. In writing to his Vicar, Anastasius of Thessalonica, he lays it down that at an election to the episcopate “the best of the Presbyters of the same Church or of the Deacons is to be chosen” (Ep. 14, c. 5, circa A.D. 446). This remained generally the rule of the Roman Church up to the ninth century, stress being laid on the choice of clergy of the locality.

Before the end of the fifth century, however, Pope Gelasius (492-6) reduced the severity of the rules laid down by his predecessors in a very marked manner as regards promotion to the presbyterate in a time of need (Ep. 14, c. 1, A. D. 494). A man who has been educated in monastic discipline may become at once Lector or Notarius or Defensor. Three months later he may be Acolyte, especially if he is of sufficient age (I suppose twenty). In the sixth month he may receive the name of Sub-deacon, and, if he be a man of modest conversation and honest will, in the ninth month he may be a Deacon, and at the end of a year a Presbyter. A layman must take eighteen months to reach the same point. This concession was made to meet the necessities of the times and the hardships of war; after which the old form of the canons was to be observed (c. 24). It is obvious, however, that here we have the beginning of the modern laxity in the matter and of treating the gradation as chiefly formal.

Gregory the Great frequently insists on the duty of promoting only men of clerical position to the higher offices, but he does not seem to have adopted the full scheme of Zosimus. He dealt with considerable freedom with the case of Oportunatus of Aprutium (Teramo), a man whom he had at one time occasion sharply to reprove. On hearing of his sorrow he wrote to Passivus, Bishop of Firmum, that, if he were really living a good life, Passivus might advise him to become a monk or a subdeacon, and afterwards commit Aprutium, which had long been without a pastor, to his charge (Epp. x. 68 and xii. 12). It is sometimes supposed that the bishopric of Aprutium is meant, and this may conceivably be so. But it is, I think, uncertain whether Aprutium was a Bishop’s see at so early a date. In any case, the advice seems to have meant to ordain to the presbyterate or the episcopate from the subdiaconate.


7. Influence of the ideals of Siricius and Zosimus and other papal letters. Freedom of promotion in Spain, Gaul, and Africa in the fourth and following centuries. Gradual change marked by canons of Councils, 1 and 2 Toledo, Orleans, Braga, Barcelona, 4 Toledo. Freedom of promotion in Gaul generally ceases in the seventh century.

The explicit directions of Siricius and Zosimus, and the more general warnings and reproofs of other Popes of the period on the subject of hasty promotions, were not without influence. It seems to have been due to the movement of which I have spoken that St. Jerome, writing in 396 of the death of his friend Nepotianus, speaks of him as promoted through the ordinary degrees: “Quid multa? Fit clericus et per solitos gradus Presbyter ordinatur” (Ep. 60, ad Heliodorum, § 10). As Nepotianus was nephew of the Bishop of Altinum, near Padua, this case may be taken to represent the practice of North Italy. It was probably in advance of the more distant provinces of the West, Africa, Spain, and Gaul, which were the subject of special rebukes from the Popes in question, as may be seen particularly in the letters of Pope Celestine (422-32). It may be convenient to refer to some of the cases of freedom of promotion in these regions which are recorded in history.

St. Augustine himself was but a layman when he was pointed out to the aged Bishop Valerius as a person fit to be ordained, and he was then and there ordained Presbyter in 391 (Possidius, Vita, c. 4). He “himself when he erected his new bishopric at Fussala (writes Bingham, ii. 10, 5), being disappointed of the person whom he intended to have had consecrated Bishop, offered one Antonius, a Header, to the Primate to be ordained Bishop in his room, and the Primate without any scruple immediately ordained him (Ep. 261 [now 209], ad Caelestinum).” The fact may be so, but the letter seems to me apocryphal. Paulinus of Nola (A.D. 393) was ordained Presbyter, without a title, at Barcelona, and without passing through the inferior grades (Epp. 1, 10; 2, 2; 3, 4).

Germanus of Auxerre, one of the Dukes of Gaul, and a man of very sporting tastes and character, was forcibly made a cleric by the Bishop of that see, and, on his death, succeeded him in it, apparently without intermediate ordination, in the year of Pope Zosimus’ letter, A.D. 418.

Eucherius of Lyons was only a monk, that is a layman, when ordained Bishop A.D. 434.

When Sidonius Apollinaris, a man of noble family and high position, was chosen Bishop of Clermont in 471, he was not in holy orders.

This practice of the Western Churches is reproved as a very common one by Popes Zosimus and Celestine, but it clearly continued after their time.

The process of change in time becomes visible in this region, though it cannot be traced very closely, in canons of Western Councils. The papal letter to Himerius of Tarragona would naturally attract attention in Spain and Gaul, and so would that of Celestine to the Bishops of Vienne and Narbonne. The first canon that I can find implying ascent by degrees is 1 Toledo, A. D. 397 or 400, c. 1. It enacts that if Deacons do not live continently with their wives they are not to receive promotion to the presbyterate (“presbyterii honore non cumulentur”), and if any Presbyter has children born to him he is not to be admitted from the presbyterate to the episcopate. I do not find any fifth-century canons in this quarter. The second Council of Toledo (A.D. 527 or 531) has, however, a canon of something of the same tendency.

The third of Orleans (A.D. 538), c. 6, is more explicit. It requires a layman to wait a year after his “conversion”, by which I understand a profession of intention to lead a “religious” life, before ordination. He may become a Deacon at twenty-five and a Presbyter at thirty. Similarly the 1st of Braga (A.D. 561), c. 20, lays down that a layman must pass a year in the office of Lector or Subdeacon and so being disciplined in one degree after another he should come to the Priesthood. The 2nd of Barcelona (A. D. 599), c. 3, refers to “the ancient canons or epistles of Synodal Prelates,” and orders that “no layman henceforth should be promoted to Church orders without observance of the times fixed by the canons,” and a man is both by conduct and experience to ascend the degrees to the episcopate (“ad summum sacerdotium”). Similarly the important 4th of Toledo (A. D. 633), canon 9, forbids Bishops to be made “qui neophyti vel laici sunt . . . qui per gradus ecclesiasticos non accesserunt” (or “ascenderunt”).

After the seventh century it would seem that the general rule was accepted in the Gallican West that promotions ought not to be hasty, and that some experience in one or two of the minor orders was desirable and that in any case a man must hold the office of Deacon and Presbyter before he became a Bishop. One of the latest cases of freedom of promotion to the episcopate in Gaul is that of Austregesilus, Archbishop of Bourges, in whose case the diaconate was omitted in A. D. 612 (Vita, ap. Surium, 20 May). The omission of the subdiaconate, however, lasted much longer, e. g. at Coutances, that is to say, until the eleventh century.


8. Freedom of promotion lasts longer at Rome, especially in regard to omission of the presbyterate in promotions to the Papacy. Detailed evidence of this up to the dose of the ninth century.

I have spoken of Siricius and Zosimus as idealists in the cause of regularity of promotion through the different offices and at long intervals. Their feeling was a very natural one as regards the Deacons of the Roman Church. There were, and long continued to be, only seven Deacons in the City, while there was a much greater number of Presbyters. The Deacons had a wealthier office than that of the Presbyters nominally their superiors. They had more influence with the laity, to whom they stood nearer. They were in closer and more familiar relations with the Bishops. They were therefore in a better position in almost every respect to acquire that popularity which was very essential to promotion to an elective office in which the people had a large share of power. I cannot doubt that Siricius, being a Roman Presbyter, shared St. Jerome’s feeling against the pride and self-assertion of the Roman Deacons (Hieron., Epist. 146, ad Evangelum) and desired to check it. We have not evidence to decide how many of the early Popes had been Deacons to their predecessors. We have, however, already seen that Stephen I in the middle of the third century held the office of Chief Deacon to his predecessor, and there are many later examples of such a succession, in all cases apparently without ordination to the presbyterate. Among them was a remarkable case, with which Siricius must have been personally well acquainted, and which may have tended to intensify his feeling in the matter, that of Felix II, Archdeacon of Rome, who in 355 was consecrated Pope during the exile of Liberius.[14] Whatever line Siricius may have taken in regard to Felix, his relations with Damasus, who had been closely concerned in the case, must have made it very familiar to him.

But if Damasus, Siricius and Zosimus had, as I suppose, an ideal of reform on this point, the tradition of the Roman Church was too deep-rooted, and the position of the Roman Deacons too well established, to be altered except as the result of many other forces than they could employ against them. It is said, I believe truly, that the first Roman Deacon who was chosen Bishop of that see, and then was ordained Presbyter, was the famous Hildebrand when he became Gregory VII. Yet the cases of this promotion were frequent till about the end of the ninth century, and they are interspersed with others still more remarkable.

It is impossible to ascertain the status and antecedents of all the Bishops of Rome from the end of the fifth century onwards, but the following facts bear upon the question in hand. Anastasius (399) who succeeded Siricius, seems to have taken the side of the Roman Deacons in their long-standing quarrel with the Presbyters, by making the Priests of the Church stand bowed at the Gospel in the Liturgy, as the Deacons were obliged to do. We have no other hint as to his status. He was succeeded by his son Innocentius I, A. D. 401, if Jerome’s statement (Ep. 8) about him is to be taken literally, but his status and that of his successor Zosimus is unknown. Bonifatius (418) is thought to have been a Presbyter. Celestine (422) is known to have been Deacon to Innocent, and is not known to have been a Presbyter. Xystus III (432) is known to have been a Presbyter. Leo the Great (440) is only known to have been a Deacon. Hilarus (461) was certainly a Deacon. The status of Simplicius (468) and of his successor, Felix III (483), are unknown. The latter is simply described as son of a Presbyter. The status of Gelasius I (492) is also uncertain. He is known to have acted as secretary to Felix, and may probably have been his Deacon. His name does not appear in a rather long list of Presbyters of Rome in the year 487-8 (Thiel, tip. Pont., p. 260). The antecedents of Anastasius II (496) are unknown. Symmachus, who succeeded in 494, was a Deacon (Langen, R. K, 2, 219); so was Hormisdas, his successor in 514 (ib. 250). John I (523) was a Roman Presbyter (D. C. B. s. v.). Felix IV (526), who was nominated by Theoderic, may have been a layman, for King Athalarie, using the pen of Cassiodorus, simply calls him “virum et divina gratia probabiliter institutum et regali examinatione laudatum” (Varia, 8, 15). John II (532) was a Presbyter. Agapetus (535) was Archdeacon. His successor, Silverius (536), son of Pope Hormisdas, was only a subdeacon (Liberatus, Breviarium, 22). Vigilius (537) was Deacon of Agapetus. Pelagius I (556) was Archdeacon and Apokrisiarius, that is, papal representative, at Constantinople. Owing to his unpopularity, he was consecrated by two Bishops only and a Presbyter of the diocese of Ostia (Anastasius, Lib. Pontif.). Of John III very little is known. Of Benedict I (575), we know nothing as to his previous status, and the same is true of Pelagius II (579). The last of the sixth-century Popes, Gregory the Great (590), was, like Pelagius I, a Deacon, and Apokrisiarius at Constantinople, and remained a Deacon till the time of his consecration (Vita, I, cc. 40-2).

From these instances I think it is clear that in the most eminent see in Christendom it was quite a common occurrence for a Deacon to be chosen and consecrated Bishop without being a Presbyter. Besides uncertain or probable cases, we have the cases of Leo, Hilarus, Symmachus, Hormisdas, Agapetus, Vigilius, Pelagius I, and Gregory the Great, besides Silverius, who was only a subdeacon, and Felix IV, who was probably a layman.

Of the Popes of the seventh century, three are known to have been Deacons (Boniface III, 607, John IV, 640, and John V, 685); two were monks (Adeodatus, 672, and Agatho, 678), and therefore probably laymen or Subdeacons; three are known to have been Presbyters (Boniface IV, 608, Benedict II, 684, and Sergius, 687). The antecedents of the others are not apparently known, and it is not unlikely that some of them were only in minor orders or possibly laymen.

The great period of Deacon Popes was, however, apparently the eighth and first half of the ninth centuries from the time of Sergius, who died in 701, to that of Nicolas I, who became Pope in 858. In this period (writes Mr. W. K. Firminger of Calcutta), “eight of the Popes had been at the time of their election Deacons, ten Priests, while the order of three cannot now be traced.” One of the cases, that of Constantine II in 767, is a famous one. He was tumultuously elected as a layman and a soldier, without the consent of the Roman clergy and people, and promoted to the different orders up to the diaconate inclusively without the regular intervals, and then consecrated Pope, all these ordinations being extra tempora. His ordinations were declared invalid by his successor Stephen III at a large Council held in 769, not because of the omission of the presbyterate, but because of these other irregularities. This point comes out clearly in the decision of the Roman Council that those whom Constantine had ordained Bishops were to be reduced to their former rank of Presbyter or Deacon in the clergy (“si quidem prius Presbyteri fuerunt aut Diaconi in eodem pristine honore revertantur”), and then be eligible for consecration by the new Pope.

This unhappy business was almost coincident, and clearly closely connected in its origin, with a remarkable change in the position of the Papacy, which made it, more than ever before, an object of worldly ambition. This was the extinction of the duchy of Rome, and the consequent opening for the Popes to assume temporal power without any check from a resident officer of the imperial government. For the case of Constantine II, the reader will do well to consult the valuable book of the Abbé L. Saltet, Les Réordinations, pp. 101-6, Paris, 1907.

Nearly a century elapsed between the Roman Council of 769 and the great dispute between East and West as to the promotion of Photius as patriarch of Constantinople, which began in the time of Pope Nicolas I. Photius, a high officer of state, was intruded by the Emperor Michael into the place of the Patriarch Ignatius in 857. Like Constantine II, he went through various grades of office in a few days, but, unlike Constantine, including the presbyterate. Nicolas I, one of the Deacon Popes, to whom Ignatius appealed for help, in criticizing the promotion to the Emperor (Ep. 4, P.L. 119, 774, A. D. 860) cites the thirteenth canon of Sardica in its Latin form (“officio diaconii aut presbyterii fuerit perfunctus”) and the decrees of his predecessors Celestine, Leo, and Gelasius against promotions of laymen—but naturally enough not those of Siricius and Zosimus, which required the presbyterate. I may mention that Nicolas as a Deacon helped to carry the body of his predecessor Benedict in the funeral procession (Vita, ib. 754). A letter of Photius in reply to Nicolas declares that the canons referred to were not known and received at Constantinople. It cites the cases of his predecessors Tarasius and Nicephorus, and the earlier cases of Nectarius (of Constantinople), Ambrose (of Milan), Gregory, father of Gregory Nazianzen, and Thalassius of Caesarea, all of whom had been promoted as laymen. Further, in an interesting passage, he quotes some differences of custom in different parts of the Church. At Rome (he writes) Presbyters are not allowed to be married; we promote married men, who have been content with one wife. We condemn any one as a great offender who promotes a Deacon to the episcopate, passing over the presbyterate. “Some persons” think it quite indifferent whether a man to be made Bishop is a Presbyter or a Deacon, and pass over the middle order. Nevertheless, what a difference there is between the two orders (Presbyter and Deacon) in regard to duties, ceremonies, prayers, times, &c.! (The original is in P.G. 102, 605, and it may be found in Latin in Baronius, Annals, s.a. 861, Nos. 34-54: the passage about Deacon Bishops is in No. 44.)

Nicolas replied skilfully and forcibly to this letter, but made no reference whatever to the personal thrust about promotion of Deacons who had not passed through the presbyterate. He had taken great pains to prepare his reply. “Having received this answer (writes Mr. Firminger) the Pope submitted it to the Western bishops, and in so doing asked each to give a reply. At the bidding of the Bishops, Ratramn (or Bertram), the famous monk of Corbey, wrote his four books Contra Graecorum opposita in which, with considerable indignation, he denied the existence of any such practice as that alluded to by Photius. The German Bishops in an assembly at Worms, produced a reply, Contra Graecorum haeresim, and denied that any such practice existed among them. Aeneas, Bishop of Paris, however, produced a Liber adversus Graecos and distinctly admitted the fact that at Rome Deacons were, as Photius had said, ordained to the episcopate, ‘quodam saltu non praecepta presbyteriali benedictione.’ It is most significant that Nicolas in his various letters to Photius never alludes to the point which the latter had raised: the reason for his silence is not hard to conjecture.”[15]

The public attention which was thus drawn throughout Christendom to what appeared to many persons, even in the West, in the ninth century to be an irregularity of procedure in the see of Rome, though perfectly defensible on primitive principles, naturally operated as a check on the practice. “For a long time after the episode of Photius (to quote Mr. Firminger once more) we meet with only one case of the election to the papacy of a cardinal Deacon, John VIII in 872. The old rule [of the Roman Church] forbidding the promotion of Bishops to the pontificate is with increasing frequency broken through, until at last we come to the troubled period of the intrusion of the imperial power and the nomination by the Emperors of their own protégés. One is almost tempted to think that the Roman Church at last took to heart the lesson which Photius had suggested—the charge to which Nicolas I could make no reply. Archdeacon Hildebrand, elected April 22, 1073, was ordained priest on the Eve of Pentecost, May 22, and consecrated on the Feast of St. Paul, June 30. Gelasius II received the priesthood and the episcopate on March 9 and 10 respectively (in 1118). The XIII Ordo Romanus of Gregory X (1271-6) . . . provides for the ordination of the Pope-elect, if a deacon, to the priesthood.”


Chapter III. Other Evidence and Practical Conclusion


9. General cessation of the practice of Ordination “per saltum” at Rome in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Case of Gregory VII and others. How such Ordinations are treated by Roman canonists.

The controversy between Nicolas and Photius, which has been referred to at some length in the latter part of the last chapter, raised the question of the regularity of Ordination per saltum from, the diaconate to the episcopate in a manner which it was impossible to ignore. Martene has collected a certain number of cases showing a change of feeling in this matter, or at any rate a greater attention to regularity, from the latter part of the ninth century onwards. It is clear from the answer of Aeneas of Paris to Pope Nicolas that a feeling of the irregularity of the Roman practice existed at that time even in France. We are therefore not surprised that the Emperor Charles the Bald should himself write to Nicolas about A. D. 866 to ask that Wulfhad, a Deacon and Abbot, might be promoted to the Archbishopric of Bourges, being first ordained Presbyter (Martene, De sacr. eccl. rit. 2, p. 24). Martene also cites cases of Bishops consecrated by Pope Leo IX (1049-54) and Stephen IX (i. e. X, 1057-8) who were first ordained Presbyters. The custom, then, of ordaining Deacons to the episcopate may be said to have practically died out by the end of the ninth century, even at Rome. But it was never formally forbidden, as far as I am aware, though a contrary practice of course was ordered by Papal rescripts and in the books of canon law. In the eleventh century Alexander II, writing to the Bishop of Coutances, ordered the subdiaconate which was omitted to be supplied, but the presbyterate not to be iterated. Similarly, Innocent III, in 1205, ordered a Subdeacon, who had been made Presbyter without the diaconate, to undergo a penance and then to receive the diaconate, and then to minister as a Priest (De clerico per saltum promoto, Decretal. V, 29). It would seem, then, that Roman canon law is wholly against the iteration of orders otherwise validly conferred, although some degree has been omitted.

These cases only touch the presbyterate, but it seems from the evidence before us that Roman canonists are even more bound to respect ordinations per saltum to the episcopate, and to treat them as valid though irregular. I confess I do not understand on what grounds of reason Gasparri (in 1898) made a distinction between the presbyterate and the episcopate in this matter (De sacra ord. §495-6, Paris, 1893). It seems to be that, having only partially examined the evidence, he thought it safest to defer to authorities who were less well-informed than himself (see §22 foll.). For the presbyterate he has the precedents of Alexander II and Innocent III, and the Council of Trent, seas, XXIII, cap. 14, de ref., which gives to a Bishop power of dispensation in such cases: “Cum promotis per saltum si non ministraverint episcopus ex legitima causa possit dispensare.” As regards the primitive use of the terms “Bishop” and “Presbyter” of the same person, and the mention of “Bishops and Deacons” only at Philippi, Gasparri adopts the opinion of Petavius and others, that these men held both the episcopate and presbyterate at once, and that there was in many places an episcopal College. But Gasparri adds to this the supposition that they had had a double ordination—which is not, I think, Petavius’ meaning, nor likely in itself.[16]


10. Survey of parallel evidence of Church Orders and Sacramentaries. No hint of promotion “per gradus” in the earlier Church Orders, nor even in the Dionysian writings and the Gallican Statutes. Prayers for a Deacon’s promotion from c. 390 onwards. The earliest general reference to gradation is found in the Gelasian Sacramentary as used in Gaul. The Ordines Romani.

We must now turn back from this extended and detailed review of historical cases and the directions of canons and papal letters, which has brought us down practically to the period of the Council of Trent, and take up another branch of the evidence, that of ritual and liturgical books, in other words, of early Church Orders and Sacramentaries. This evidence is less precise in date, and is often matter of inference rather than direct statement, but it is valuable in illustrating the conclusions already indicated. I have endeavoured to give a concise yet accurate account of this literature in the Introduction to my Ministry of Grace, to which I venture to refer for explanation of titles of books, &c.

The earliest of the extant Church Orders, the Didache (c. A. D. 100?), bids those to whom it is addressed elect for themselves, or appoint for themselves, Bishops and Deacons, for the purpose, as the context shows, of offering the Christian sacrifice. It makes no suggestion that one office is to lead to the other. The only other evidence that it gives bearing on our subject is in its full recognition of the charismatic ministry of Apostles and Prophets. Of the prophets, we are told in connexion with the Eucharist (c. 9), after the form of thanksgiving has been set down: “Suffer the prophets to give thanks as much as they will.” Of the prophets, again, we read that they are to receive first-fruits, “for they are your high priests” (c. 13); and of the Bishops and Deacons elected as above-mentioned, not that the prophets are equal to them, as if the ordained ministers were the standard, but that “they minister unto you the ministry of prophets and teachers. Therefore despise them not, for these are they that are honoured of you with the prophets and teachers” (c. 15). How far this admission of the superiority of a charismatic ministry was common, say in the second century, is of course very problematical, but it is clear, from the comparatively wide recognition of the book, that it represented an ideal not alien to Christian feeling in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. The importance of this fact, from the point of view of this Essay, is that it goes far to explain the high position accorded to Confessors in the second and third centuries, as persons called by the grace of God to an extraordinary ministry, first apparently without ordination, and then with it under special rules and easy conditions.

The original form of what I judge to be the next oldest of the Church Orders has been lost, and it is only represented by the so-called Canons of Hippolytus (the main part of which may be about A. D. 200), part of the Verona Latin Fragments, and later compilations, of which the most interesting, often called The Statutes of the Apostles, are preserved in Ethiopic, Arabic, and Saidic. A study of these books reveals to us two points:

(1) that the form of ordination to the presbyterate and episcopate was, in some Churches, exactly the same, only with a difference of name. One of these Churches probably was Home, a Church with which Hippolytus was closely connected, and in which the tradition that the episcopate and presbyterate were one order with two degrees long lingered, and may be said still to find a home. Indeed there is much to be said for it as offering the best explanation of the historical facts concerning the development of the episcopate in the west.

(2) That Confessors, who had had grace actually to suffer in persecution, were to be admitted as charismatic persons to minister either without any further ordination or on very easy terms and without complying with ordinary rules.[17]



It is natural to suppose that as the name Confessor came to be extended to ascetics, as men specially endowed with grace, so their privileges as regards ordination were assimilated, and that this feeling led to the very curious ordinations of hermits and solitaries of which we read in Eastern Church history. Such was the case of Macedonius Critophagus, whom Flavianus of Antioch enticed from his mountain retreat by a falsehood, and ordained Presbyter, without his knowing it, during the Liturgy, thereby incurring his great indignation when he understood what had happened. Such was that of Salamanes, a solitary, living walled up, on the Euphrates, whom his Bishop one day ordained Priest, pulling down first and then rebuilding the wall while Salamanes remained quite passive, as Theodoret graphically describes them in his Historia Religiosa, cc. 13 and 19. Of another walled-up ascetic, Acepsimas, we read that the Bishop offered and gave him the priesthood on his death-bed (ib. 15). The same feeling also may explain some of what seem to us the irregular ordinations of better-known men like St. Jerome, who had sojourned for a time in the desert, and St. Paulinus (of Nola) at Barcelona in 393, after he had renounced the world.

There is another case of the claim of a person possessed of a spiritual gift—that of healing—to ordination, without farther conditions (C. B., 53, &c.); but in this case ipso facto ordination is not contemplated.

In all these cases immediate ordination to the office conferred seems to be thought of, and some of the cases seem to exclude the thought of any other action.

As regards ordinary cases, the earliest ordination prayer for Deacons makes no mention of their prospective progress to higher ministries. I refer to the prayer in the Canons of Hippolytus, §§39-42. That in the Verona Latin Fragments is unfortunately imperfect at the end. But in the later Ethiopic Statutes (24, p. 145, ed. Horner) there is such a reference: “Grant spirit and grace and diligence unto this thy servant . . . that without blame in pure life having served the degrees of ordination he may obtain the exalted priesthood and thy honour, &c.”

The prayer for the diaconate in the Apostolic Constitutions, now generally dated c. A. D. 390, is similar in this respect to that in the Ethiopic, since it requests for the Deacon “that he may be found worthy of a higher degree” (A.C. viii. 7).

There is, however, as far as I have observed, no hint of this prospect of promotion in any forms of the Apostolic Church Order which is contained in a number of these compilations. Its final form dates apparently from about A. D. 300. Nor is the idea of diaconal promotion contained in the prayer for the diaconate in the Sacramentary of Sarapion, which dates from about the middle of the fourth century. We may therefore reasonably assign this clause in the prayer for the diaconate to the latter part of that century, in which, as we have seen, there is other evidence of a movement to establish gradation of offices in the Church—say between A. D. 375-400.

Probably the movement affected Egypt before it touched Antioch, and we may suppose that the simplicity of the Apostolic canon already referred to was the codification of an older and simpler rule which was just beginning to be made more complex, when the influence of men like St. Chrysostom was being felt there and at Constantinople.

The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy of Dionysius in its fifth chapter treats, of course, of the three orders as steps in an ascending scale of virtue. The Deacon expiates, the Priest illuminates, the Bishop consummates: and the higher order contains the virtues and powers of the lower. The ordinations also exhibit an ascending scale of dignity. The Deacon kneels on one knee, the Priest on two; the Bishop has the Gospels held over his head. All this is entirely congruous with the idea of an ascent by degrees from one office to another. It is therefore very remarkable that the thought, which seems to lie so near, is not expressed. It surely would have been expressed if it had been felt to be a matter of any importance. This book is now generally dated about A. D. 470-500, and it comes perhaps from Edessa or the school of Edessa.

The Gallican Statutes, as we may call them (otherwise Statuta Ecclesiae Antiqua), from the province of Arles, of a little later date than the Dionysian writings, had great influence upon the practice of ordination in the Western Church, and extracts from them often appear in later and mediaeval service-books. The first section, as to the examination of a Bishop, is long and full, but there is no word in it as to his previous training in ecclesiastical office. Prudence and moral character, sufficiency of learning, orthodoxy in doctrine—which is discussed at length—readiness to conform to general rules in the treatment of certain ecclesiastical questions, the method of his election, his motives, and lastly, requisite age, are mentioned. The last point is defined in these terms: “in cuius ordinatione etiam aetas requiratur, quam sancti patres in praeeligendis episcopis constituerunt.” By the “sancti patres” I do not understand Popes Siricius and Zosimus, but possibly the Council of Neocaesarea, A. D. 314, which fixed thirty as the age for a Presbyter, and more certainly the recent and nearer Council of Agatha or Agde, A. D. 506, canon 17, which fixed the same age for a Presbyter or Bishop.[18]

It seems to me certain that if the compiler of these Statutes had attached any importance to the gradation of offices he could hardly have failed to mention the fact in such a connexion.

The first Latin Sacramentary that has come down to us, the so-called Leonine, which is to be probably dated somewhere about A.D. 550,[19] agrees with the Ethiopic Statutes of the Apostles and the Apostolic Constitutions in praying for Deacons that they may be found worthy of promotion, in the words “dignisque successibus de inferiori gradu per gratiam tuam potiora capere mereantur” (p. 122, ed. Feltoe). The Gelasian Sacramentary, which gives Roman rites used in Gaul circa 650-700 A. D., not only has this prayer, but it also introduced, as a preface to some of the Ordination forms, an extract from the letter of Pope Zosimus beginning “Haec autem singulis gradibus observanda sunt tempera,” and ending “si meruerint esse in ordine clericatus,” followed by a passage from the Statuta Ecclesiae Antiqua (p, 144, ed. Wilson). This indirect evidence generally agrees with what we have already gathered in section 5 as to the establishment in Gaul some time in the seventh century of the general rule of promotion by degrees.

But as regards Home itself the case is different. The eighth and ninth of the Ordines Romani, first published by Mabillon in the second volume of his Museum Italicum, 1689, describe ordinations first of Deacons and Presbyters, which took place in the same service, and then of Bishops. A Presbyter was advanced to both offices in the same service, as it is expressly provided (Ordo VIII, §4, l.c., p. 86). But the case is very different in the ordination of a Bishop-elect. The Ordo directs the Pope first to ask the clergy and people who present him, “What is the object of your journey, brethren?” They answer, “That thou, my lord, wouldest give us a patron.” Q. “Have you your man?” A. “We have.” Q. “What office does he hold?” A. “Deacon, Presbyter,” or whatever he is. Q. “How many years has he been Deacon or Presbyter?” They answer the number.

Similarly, the elect himself is asked, “What is the object of thy journey, brother?” A. “These my fellow servants have brought me to receive a gift of which I am not worthy.” Q. “What office dost thou hold?” A. “Deacon, or Presbyter or whatever it is. Q. “How many years hast thou been Deacon or Presbyter?” He answers the number. After the examination is over he is told that he is to fast for the day, and to be consecrated, if God wills, on the morrow. On the Sunday, during the gradual, i.e. between the Epistle and Gospel, he is brought in, and the Pope says, “The clergy and people of such a city, with its adjacent parishes, have elected such a Deacon or Presbyter to be consecrated their Bishop, let us therefore pray for him that our God and Lord Jesus Christ may give him the Bishop’s chair for the ruling his Church and all his people.” Then follow the litany and the prayer of consecration or benediction (1. c. p. 88).

The fact that when a man was ordained Presbyter according to this Ordo his contemporaneous ordination as Deacon is mentioned, and that when a Deacon is ordained Bishop his ordination as Presbyter is not mentioned, but rather seems in terms to be excluded, is conclusive as to the practice of the Roman Church in the ninth century.

The ninth Ordo of Mabillon of a rather later date describes just the same process. Deacons and Presbyters are ordained together in the same service, the Presbyters receiving in it the benediction of Deacons as a mere act of transition to the presbyterate. The passage runs: “Surgentes autena ab oratione, Pontifex stat in sede sua, singillatim imponens manus capitibus eorum, et benedicit eos (i.e. as deacons). Accedens autem archidiaconus tollit orarios (stoles) de confessione (i. e. the tomb of St. Peter) qui de hesterna die repositi sunt ibi; imponit super eos; et Pontif ex induit eos planetis et stant induti. Diaconilia indumenta tollunt qui diacones esse debent de medio eorum, et complentur benedictiones eorum qui presbyteri ordinantur: et tunc descendant in presbyterium: et statim unus ex novitiis diaconibus legit evangelium,” &c. (ib., P-90).

The ordination of a Bishop, which is next described, says nothing of his antecedents. Of a Pope (Summus Pontifex) we are told that he must be one of the Cardinals, a Presbyter or Deacon ordained by a previous Pope, and not a Bishop. There is no hint whatever as to his different treatment if he is a Deacon.

There seems to be no further evidence in these ordines till we come to the thirteenth, the Caeremoniale Romanum editum iussu Gregorii X (1271-6), when for the first time we find the rule: “Idem autem electus, in quocumque ordine constitutus, promovebitur ad maiores ordines secundum formam qua alii ordinantur,” and then follow minute directions. It is clear that a Subdeacon might be elected Pope according to this Ordo, but it does not seem to exclude a man in any of the minor orders (ib., p. 223).


11. General conclusion. Infringement of the ideal of probation “per gradus.” Modern Roman practice. The Anglican diaconate.

This evidence seems all to point to the conclusion that the only essential thing to aim at in ordination to the diaconate, presbyterate, or episcopate, is fitness for the office. This need to ascertain fitness is expressed by St. Paul in various ways, but he clearly laid down nothing more than a general rule. The various ecclesiastical rules which have since gradually been formulated are nothing more than rules of discipline, which generally tend to ensure fitness, but which are in no sense conditions requisite to ensure the validity of the sacramental act of ordination, in the sense that the four requisites of matter, form, minister, and intention are necessary. The ideal and to some extent the general practice of passing slowly through the degrees, at any rate the superior degrees, so as to gain experience in each, has great advantages from a practical point of view, but it has constantly been infringed. In early Church history it was infringed in accordance with a consciousness of the reality of the divine call, sometimes in the way of popular enthusiasm, sometimes of personal nomination, which from time to time overrode ecclesiastical usages and prescriptions, as in the cases of Fabianus of Rome, Cyprian of Carthage, Philogonius of Antioch, Athanasius of Alexandria, Ambrose of Milan, Nectarius of Constantinople, Eucherius of Lyons, and Thalassius of Caesarea—to name only one from each of the greater sees; and this principle is acknowledged in the Apostolic canon, which expresses the judgement of the Orthodox East, I suppose, to the present day. It was acknowledged also in the treatment of persons supposed to have spiritual gifts as prophets, exorcists, confessors, and ascetics. It was acknowledged (as by Gelasius I) that God’s voice in times of trial calls us to suspend ecclesiastical rules. That in some of these cases the “saltus” was an immediate leap to the episcopate (as apparently in those of Fabianus, Philogonius, Nectarius, Eucherius, and Thalassius) from the position of laymen, that in one, that of Athanasius, it was from the diaconate, and that in two, those of Cyprian and (probably) Ambrose, it was a hurried passage through the lower degrees, makes really little difference to the violation of Church order. The object being experience and probation, and the fundamental rule being not to ordain a neophyte, the going through certain stages in a formal manner was of no avail towards the attainment of the object, and no real observance of the rule. In two cases, those of Cyprian and Athanasius, some experience was no doubt gained, slight in the first case, but very considerable in the second.

What is to be said as to the modern practice of the Church of Rome in which the “interstitia” are commonly reduced by episcopal dispensation to very small spaces of time, is not very easy for one who is not a minister of that Church to judge. It is doubtless in some degree to be excused by the long period of probation which is passed in the seminaries, and it is tempered in various ways, as by the delay in giving full powers as to hearing confessions. But it certainly does not carry out the ideals of Siricius and Zosimus. It is what they strongly objected to and Zosimus called a “saltus.”

As regards our own Church, we have preserved the diaconate in their sense, and as I think in the sense of St. Paul, as a natural and ordinary sphere of preparation for the priesthood. I think that it would probably be wise to lower the age of the diaconate to twenty-two, so as to have regularly two years of probation before promotion to the latter office. Whether the attempt should be made to treat the diaconate as a career in itself, as was apparently done in many regions of the Church in the earlier centuries, is a matter which may well be discussed. Personally I am not inclined to think it expedient.

As regards the promotion to the episcopate of certain ministers of non-episcopal churches, without raising the question of the validity of their existing ministerial character, under the special circumstances contemplated by recent resolutions of the Lambeth Conference of 1908, I am of opinion that it would be the right course to pursue if the conditions were otherwise satisfactory. I think also that the matter is of such moment that it should be treated in a separate chapter.

The subject has already been ably handled in two well-informed articles recently published in the Church Quarterly Review for January and April 1909—but they cover rather different ground from my own study of the question. The first, entitled Presbyterianism and Reunion (vol. 67, pp. 299-325) is unsigned. The second, The Problem of Reunion in Scotland, is by the Rev. James Cooper, D.D., Professor of Church History in the University of Glasgow, to whose friendship, sympathy and learning I am personally much indebted.


Chapter IV. The Precedents of 1610 and Home Reunion.


12. The precedents of 1610 as events in Scottish history. Continuance of episcopal titles and civil rights. Convention of Leith, 1572. Gradual success of James’s policy from 1597. It triumphs at Glasgow Assembly of 1610, which however makes no mention of consecration. The act far too much coloured by the King’s wish. Points in which the precedents of 1610 may be followed or may be treated as warnings of what to avoid.

As regards the value of the “precedents of 1610,” referred to in the Introduction to this Essay, pp. 38-41, and the question how far they involve “consecration per saltum,” it is first necessary to ascertain more exactly what these precedents were, and what they were understood to mean. I shall first consider them as events in the Church history of Scotland, and then in that of England.

It is to be remembered that, owing to various causes, with the exception of about twelve years, the titles and the civil rights of Bishops remained in Scotland through the latter part of the sixteenth century, notwithstanding the frequent jealousy and opposition of the General Assembly. Under the influence of Erskine of Dun, and John Craig, author of the national Catechism, and with the formal consent of John Knox, the foundation of a new system of a reformed episcopate, with spiritual powers, was laid at the Convention of Leith in 1572. This system made provision both for their capitular election and subsequent consecration (see G. Grub, E.H.S. ii. 178). Even twenty years later, when the Scottish Parliament yielded very largely to the wishes of the General Assembly, in 1592, the triumph of Melville’s party was still incomplete (ib. 261). The civil rights of the Bishops continued, and the King and his Ministers of State were always on the watch for an opportunity to restore their spiritual position. His policy began to prevail at the Synod of Perth in 1597 and the General Assembly of Dundee in 1598. In the former year what seemed a limitation of the royal power really gave an opening for the restoration of the position which he desired. It was enacted that only “Ministers” should be promoted by him to bishoprics. This ensured that their office should be to some extent spiritual. Under this Act he filled up certain vacant sees in 1602. On July 12, 1603, he nominated John Spottiswood, Minister of Calder, to the see of Glasgow, and Spottiswood henceforth became his chief ecclesiastical adviser (ib. 282-3). In 1604 George Gladstanes was moved from Caithness to St. Andrews. In 1605 Gavin Hamilton, Minister at Bothwell, was appointed Bishop of Galloway, and in 1607 Andrew Lamb, Minister at the Chapel Royal, succeeded to Brechin. Thus all the Ministers consecrated Bishops in 1610 had the title of Bishop long before that date. In 1606 Parliament restored “the estate of Bishops ... as the same was in the Reformed Kirk,” i.e. as in 1572 (see Scots Acts, James VI, 18, c. 2), and their spiritual position as “perpetual moderators” of Synods was established, with the consent of the General Assembly, in 1607. In 1608 a touching scene took place at the General Assembly held at Linlithgow, which manifested the general desire for peace. A committee was appointed to investigate the subject of existing differences as to Church polity, and its Report had great influence with the Assembly of 1610. (See The Book of the Universal Kirk of Scotland, ed. D. Laing, iii. pp. 1060-3.) In 1609 Parliament conferred on Bishops such full spiritual and ecclesiastical jurisdiction as their predecessors had enjoyed before the Reformation (Cunningham, C. H. S. i. 474). In June 1610 the General Assembly held at Glasgow gave them a much more definite and detailed authority, very much the same as that of the English Bishops, carrying into effect the plan laid down at the Convention of Leith in 1572. Their authority in regard to Synods, excommunications, presentations and ordination to benefices, suspension and deprivation of Ministers, oaths of obedience, and visitations was allowed, and thus they were put outwardly very much in the position of the English Bishops. Almost the only great point of difference was their subjection in all matters regarding their life, conversation, office and benefice, to the censure of the General Assembly (Grub, 1. c. ii. 293-4). The articles on these points were carried without a dissenting voice, and thus the cause which the King had at heart for the moment achieved a great triumph, though it is said one secured partly by corrupt practices. There is no doubt that, notwithstanding the just resentment felt against the King for his harshness towards the “high Presbyterians” of the Aberdeen Assembly which began in 1604, he was personally much more popular than he had been, and that there was a common and genuine wish for peace in the Church. (See W. L. Mathieson, Politics and Religion, i. pp. 312-13, Glasgow, 1902.)

Nothing, it is true, was said in 1610 as to the consecration of Bishops. The Act of 1606 had, however, implied that the settlement of 1572 was to be carried out, and one of the provisions of that settlement was, as we have seen, that the Bishops should be consecrated. But, naturally, there was no suggestion anywhere of English consecrators. The King may have thought that the union of the two Crowns, long subsequent to the Convention of Leith, made a difference in this matter, and that he had a right to the help of English Bishops, when there were none remaining of the Roman succession in Scotland. It was, however, most unfortunate for the success of efforts which, with some glaring exceptions, had been carried on with prudence and moderation, that the King had no authority to allege but his own great desire for the consecration which he requested and required Abbot and the other English Bishops to perform for him, the persons being John Spottiswood as Archbishop of Glasgow, Gavin Hamilton as Bishop of Galloway, and Andrew Lamb as Bishop of Brechin. He asserted in his patent dated October 15, 1610, that these three sees were vacant and had long been vacant, and that they appertained to his nomination, presentation, and dispensation, solely and entirely by right of his crown of Scotland. In so doing, indeed, he warned the English Bishops to whom it was addressed, “that in this business of consecration you proceed so cautiously and prudently that no prejudice be engendered from it to the detriment of the Church in our realm of Scotland and to its privileges and immunities.” The English Bishops did their best as regards the oaths which they required the three Scotsmen to take, but the language of the patent was open to very grave objections. The King ought to have remembered that he himself was ignoring facts which were notorious, viz. that these men were by Scottish law already in as full possession of their sees as that law could mate them; but if they were not, and the sees were really vacant, he ought to have proceeded by way of a capitular election, as in England, as was provided both by the Convention of Leith (Grub, E.H.S. ii. 178) and by his own instructions to the Court of High Commission established early in the same year, 1610 (Collier, Ch.H. ii. 703).

The chief point in favour of the royal policy was that the King took care (as he explained to Spottiswood and his colleagues) to avoid any possibility of the loss of national independence by addressing his patent to the Bishop of London and not to either of the English Archbishops. There was also only one consecration in England, that on Sunday, October 21, 1610, which took place in the chapel of the palace of the Bishop of London—then situated to the west of Old St. Paul’s—in the presence of many witnesses, amongst whom were the Scottish Chancellor, Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline, and the Treasurer, George Home, Earl of Dunbar, the King’s chief agents in such business, and the great scholar Isaac Casaubon, who recorded in his diary his delight at what had taken place.

A second consecration, that of George Gladstones to St. Andrews, took place in that city (according to the best authority, a paper in the Wodrow MSS., as I learn from the present Bishop of Edinburgh), on Sunday, December 30, 1610. Two other consecrations at least were held in Scotland on Sundays, January 13, and February 24, 1611, and thus the thirteen ancient sees were again filled with Bishops whose consecration was held valid at least by the sister Church of England. No steps seem to have been taken, however, by this new succession of Bishops to give episcopal ordination to their existing Presbyters, though of course in time those newly ordained by them succeeded to the place of those then in office. I may remark that the same thing is generally true of the Bishops of the second succession of 1661 and those consecrated by them (Grub, E.H.S. iii. 218).

As regards the conduct of the King in this business, we may credit him with an honest desire to serve both of the countries committed to his care, and to ensure their future co-operation both in Church and State. But it is matter for deep regret that he did not wait until he had obtained authority either from the General Assembly or from the dioceses to address himself to the English Bishops. The point was not unobserved at the time. David Calderwood (well known afterwards as author of the Altare Damascenum, a sharp criticism of the polity of the Church of England) naturally seized upon this point. He maintains in his History of the Kirk of Scotland that this consecration was null and void because there was no mention of consecration of Bishops in the Glasgow Assembly of June, 1610: “For howbeit the unhappy pack there convened tied presbyteries and Synods unto them in the cases expressed, yet meant they not to determine that there was a distinct office of a Bishop in the word differing from the office of a Minister” (p. 644).

Of course this objection of Calderwood’s is expressed in an exaggerated manner, but it is impossible not to feel that there was ground for serious complaint on the part of those who were jealous for purity of Church government. This side of the “precedents of 1610” was not for a moment approved by the Bishops of the Lambeth Conference of 1908. It is hardly necessary to state it, but since something of the kind has, it seems, actually been suggested,[20] it is wise to say that, in my opinion, not one of our body ever contemplated anything except a purely spiritual movement both in Scotland and England.

Therefore as regards Scottish feeling the precedents of 1610 may teach us both what to follow and what to avoid. They suggest that care should be taken so far as is possible, not to raise any question of ministerial status and to keep clear of any entanglement with Anglican jurisdiction. On the other hand they suggest a most careful and steady preparation of the ground step by step, it may be by the revival first of some form of superintendency, and the gradual working out of an episcopal polity suitable to the genius and experience of the nation, rather than an attempt to transplant the English system. Above all they suggest the avoidance of any complication of an Erastian character, and a perfectly open consultation of the Church at every step. The exercise of Royal prerogative which was an element in the proceedings of 1610, and which was exercised in a most arbitrary fashion on later occasions, culminating in the blunder of 1637, was fatal to the success of what really did good work in Scotland for a time, and might have been a great blessing to both countries. Indeed if the Church had been left alone to develop a national form of episcopacy, much of the misery and bloodshed of the seventeenth century in the civil wars and persecutions that followed might have been prevented, and there might have been the fullest intercommunion between the two national Churches at the present moment.


13. The precedents of 1610 as events in English Church history. Question raised by Bishop Andrewes. Two solutions proposed. Question raised again in December 1661. Attitude of the Church of England towards other reformed orders. Uncertain import of the Act of 1571. Doubt removed in 1661-2 by Preface to Ordinal and Act of Uniformity.

The “Act of Consecration”, which is here printed for the first time, gives us little information on the subject of the light in which the proceedings were regarded in England. Spottiswood, Hamilton, and Lamb are described as “viri venerabiles et subditi regni sui Scotie” and each as “Magister” (so and so) “Minister et Concionator.” They are clearly not regarded as laymen, but there is no other phrase describing the quality of their ministerial character in any of the four documents. When, however, we look into the older histories of the period, Spottiswood, Heylyn, Bumet and Collier, we find that the question of ministerial character was raised, and all agree that it was raised by the most prominent Churchman and the best theologian of the Church of England at that day, Bishop Andrewes, then of Ely. He at first wished that the Ministers should be ordained Presbyters as they had never received episcopal ordination. To this Archbishop Bancroft replied (according to Spottiswood) that there was no necessity for this, because, where Bishops were not to be had, ordination given by Presbyters must be esteemed valid, otherwise it might be doubted whether there was any lawful vocation in most of the reformed Churches (Hist. iii. 208-9). Spottiswood is good authority on such a point, not only as a contemporary, but as one of the chief actors in the business. It would also seem from Burnet’s account of what occurred in Sharp’s case in 1661 that both parties then supposed the English Bishops of 1610 to have acted on this opinion. Heylyn, however (1600-62), whose History of Presbyterianism appeared in 1670, after his death, tells us that the Bishop of Ely’s scruple was removed by Archbishop Bancroft’s telling him “that there was no such necessity of receiving the order of Priesthood, but that episcopal consecration might be given without it.” Heylyn then goes on to quote confirmatory cases apparently from his own reading (I.e. xi. 24, p. 387). Burnet (Own Time, i. 139) attributes the first opinion to King James, and does not mention the second. Jeremy Collier (Ch.H. ii. 702) gives both Spottiswood’s and Heylyn’s accounts. For his own part he objects to the first solution as a matter of principle, and adds material (some of it very apposite) to Heylyn’s argument. Dr. Grub (E.H.S. ii. 296) combines both solutions and ascribes them, both to Bancroft, a quite possible supposition. Dr. John Cunningham (C.H.S, i. 479) without any hesitation ascribes the first solution only to Bancroft and the second to Abbot. But I imagine he has no better authority than Neal (History of the Puritans, i. p. 449, ed. 1837) for introducing the name of Abbot. We are therefore in doubt as to what exactly passed, though I suppose that both solutions were really discussed in Andrewes’ presence. It would be interesting to know which of them overcame his scruples. What is certain is that he joined in the consecration.

The same question was raised again before the second consecration of Bishops for Scotland, which took place at Westminster Abbey December 15, 1661, being entrusted to Gilbert Sheldon, then Bishop of London, and others. Two of the Scotsmen, Fairfoul and Hamilton, had already received episcopal ordination, but Sharp and Leighton had not. Sheldon and his colleagues wished these two to be first ordained Presbyters according to the English form. Leighton acquiesced, thinking, says Grub, “that a person ordained in one Church might lawfully accept a second ordination in another, merely in compliance with its rules, although the first was perfectly valid. Sharp was unwilling to admit the invalidity of his orders, and appealed in defence of his scruples to what had taken place at the consecration of 1610. Sheldon, however, and the other English Bishops held higher views regarding Episcopacy than most of their predecessors in the time of Bancroft. They also maintained that, whatever might have been allowable then, when Scotland received canonical Bishops for the first time since the Reformation, it was very different now, when it had wilfully rejected Episcopacy, and when no plea of necessity for irregular orders could be adduced. Sharp reluctantly assented, and he and Leighton were privately ordained deacons and priests.”[21]

The official attitude of the Church of England towards the orders of other reformed but non-episcopal Churches has often been discussed, and varying conclusions have been drawn from the facts. Great tenderness was certainly felt towards those national churches which under “the exigence of necessity” (to use Hooker’s words, E.P. vii. 14, § 11) had abandoned the historic ministry in order to preserve purity of faith and life. It is possible also that individual Bishops may have admitted some, perhaps many, men in Genevan or other like orders to exercise their ministry in the Church of England on their own authority. But as regards corporate action the tendency seems to have been the other way. The Act of 1571 (13 Eliz. c. 12) has sometimes been quoted as tacitly recognizing Presbyterian ordination. It enacted that “every person under the degree of a Bishop who doth or shall pretend to be a Priest or Minister of God’s holy word and sacraments by means of any form of institution or ordering” other than those of our English ordinal “shall declare his assent and subscribe to all the articles of religion which only concern the confession of the true faith and the doctrine of the sacraments comprised in a book imprinted entitled articles,” &c. This of course refers to the Thirty-nine Articles of 1563 which were imposed on the clergy, in the slightly revised form now in use, and in English, in the year 1571. The import of this statute was disputed at the time, as is evident from Travers’ Supplication to the Council usually printed in Hooker’s works. It cannot certainly be said to settle the question by itself, as it does not profess to deal with the whole matter. It clearly included those in Roman orders who might wish to join the Church of England—such men as, I imagine, Adrian Saravia was. From them it required subscription to the Articles. It also required it from men who, like Whittingham, were in Genevan orders. It did not add to this a requirement that they should be episcopally ordained, but on the other hand it did not dispense with such ordination if the Church and the Bishops or any existing law already required it. It was simply silent on the point. The Statute added a new and to many men very disagreeable condition precedent to their employment, but it did not abrogate any old conditions. The real question is, “Was there any rule requiring episcopal ordination previous to 1571?” This question would probably have been legally decided in the action of Archbishop Sandys against Whittingham, Dean of Durham, had not Whittingham died in 1579 pendente lite. There is also another case, that of one Thwaites, who was deprived of the benefice of Crosby Ravensworth in the diocese of Carlisle in 1576, which bears on this point. The matter has been largely discussed, but too much with the intention of proving a foregone conclusion one way or the other. It may well be discussed again as a matter simply of historical fact,[22] but it is not necessary to enter upon it here.

For as regards ourselves there is no room to question that the Anglican Communion of the present day cannot admit any to minister who have not received “episcopal ordination.” This is the language of the Preface to the Ordinal, which was revised and enlarged in 1662 so as to leave no doubt on the point. Men may hold different opinions as to the wisdom or correctness of such a rule, but it is clear that no complete union or full intercommunion—under which e.g. Presbyterian clergy could celebrate in our Churches—can be carried out except on the basis of episcopal ordination. This is a matter settled for us, and we should be most unwise, having regard to our position generally in Christendom, to attempt to unsettle it. What we have to do is to make the way as easy as we can in dealing with those who agree with us so nearly as the Presbyterian Churches do (according to their own standards) on the matter, form and intention of ordination, and on the duty of its administration by ministers having authority to represent the Church in this function.

It is on this ground, I feel sure, that the Committee of the Lambeth Conference of 1908 turned to the precedents of ordination per saltum, as helpful in the weighty business before it of proposing a modus by which full brotherhood might be extended to the leaders of a Presbyterian or other non-episcopal Church, which agreed with us on fundamentals, without raising any question as to their orders. It must be remembered that the American and the Irish Church, and I suppose the Scottish Episcopal Church, are as much bound by the Preface to the Ordinal as ourselves. It is a rule of the Anglican Communion.

There is also another and stricter rule, which is an expansion of the amended Preface by which the present Church of England in England is bound, the Act of Uniformity of Charles II of 1662 (14 C. II. c. 4, § 10), which runs:—

“No person whatsoever shall thenceforth be capable to bee admitted to any parsonage vicarage benefice or other ecclesiastical promotion or dignity whatsoever nor shall presume to consecrate and administer the holy sacrament of the Lord’s Supper before such time as he shall be ordained priest according to the forme and manner in and by the said booke prescribed unlesse he have formerly beene made priest by episcopall ordination upon pain to forfeit for every offence the sum of one hundred pounds . . . and to be disabled from taking or being admitted into the order of priest by the space of one whole yeare then next following.” The section which follows gives an exemption on behalf of certain foreigners or aliens of the foreign reformed Churches, allowed by the King, which I believe refers to a few exceptional bodies such as that which still worships in Canterbury Cathedral.

It may be questioned what line our English lawyers would take in reference to this Act, as to the admission of a Presbyterian Minister ordained Bishop per saltum, to celebrate in one of our Churches. I should myself hold that a Bishop was ipso facto ordained a Priest, since the greater includes the less. A Bishop is ordained to the “sacerdotium” and to the highest kind of “sacerdotium.” But in such a case it might be wise and right to add words to the Ordinal so as to include the commission to dispense and minister the Word and Sacraments, and to exercise the ministry of reconciliation, which according to our rite express the powers of the sacerdotium very much as they are expressed in the Sacramentary of Sarapion: see above.

I have purposely abstained in this paper from commenting on the second half of the seventy-fifth Resolution, which deals with the period of transition. That is a matter on which it would be easy to make suggestions, but I think it premature to do so.


14. Reasons for the course now proposed. (1) The resolution of 1908 is practically a dispensation, (2) the Gelasian principle—grave necessity; (3) the Apostolic canon—call of divine grace; (4) it would avoid raising the question of existing status.

I may now, very shortly, summarize the arguments of the preceding Essay in favour of the course here suggested.

(1) The Anglican Communion is competent to dispense with any rules of discipline which do not touch the essentials of ordination as to matter, form, intention and minister. It has so dispensed, according to one explanation, as far as it took corporate action in the consecration of October 21, 1610. It has more distinctly affirmed its willingness to dispense with its rules of gradual ascent to the Episcopate in the seventy-fifth resolution of the Lambeth Conference of 1908.

(2) The Gelasian principle of the suspension of ecclesiastical rules in times of necessity is also in its favour. The great need of reunion in the face of the attack made upon the fundamental truths of Christianity, and the weakness in the aggressive work at home and in the mission-field which arises from separation, are a sufficient cause for the application of new methods. Church history has examples of something of the same sort in regard to the healing of schisms.

(3) The principle of the Apostolic canon, exemplified in the freedom of ordination not only of laymen when pointed out by a vox Dei, but of persons endowed with spiritual gifts, without any previous probation, is even more pertinent. For the highest Churchmen must recognize in many leading Presbyterian and Nonconformist Ministers a remarkable exhibition of the grace of God and a ministry blessed by Him.

(4) The course proposed would avoid casting any imputation on the ordination already received, and no doubt exceedingly valued, by the Ministers so consecrated Bishops. Their status would be accepted as practical evidence of their fitness, while its theoretical validity would not be discussed. All that it would be further necessary to ascertain would be that they were personally sound in faith and unblameable in character, and had been duly elected to the sees for which they were chosen.

Under the circumstances contemplated, the choice of the persons to be consecrated Bishops would certainly be made after most earnest prayer for the Holy Spirit and after the most searching inquiry and with the full concurrence of the people. It would be an act of the Spirit-bearing Church, conscious of its deep responsibilities, and I believe it might look for the full approval of the great Shepherd of the flock, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.


Easter, 1909.


Appendix. The Documents of 1610.


The records of the consecration of the three Scottish Bishops in England are preserved most fully, as was to be expected, in the Bishop of London’s Registry, in St. Paul’s Cathedral, in the volume called the Grindal Register, fols. 414-15. The documents there recorded are four in number:—(1) The Act of Consecration, which is only in the London Register; (2) King James’s “Patent,” which is also printed by Rymer, Foedera, s. a. 1610, xvi, p. 706, ed. 1715, from the Patent Rolls, 8 Jac. I, p. 48, n. 2, and by Wilkins, Concilia, iv, p. 443, from Archbishop Bancroft’s Register, fol. 175 a; (3) Bancroft’s “Licence,” printed by Wilkins from the same volume; (4) Robert Kemp’s “Notarial Act,” which is only in the Grindal Register. I inspected the latter book, March 4, 1909, and copied No. 1, having already received a copy of No. 4 by the kindness of the Registrar, Mr. Harry W. Lee. As these two documents have apparently never been printed, I give the full text, expanding the numerous contractions, only putting the final letters in round brackets where there could be any doubt, but otherwise preserving the spelling. I have ventured also to punctuate the text.


(1) The Act of Consecration, Grindal Register, fol. 414. In the margin: Comissio et literae patentes pro consecratione archiepiscopi Gla-scuensis, episcopi Gallovidiensis et episcopi Brechinensis, in Scotia.


Cum serenissimus in Christo princeps et dominus dominus noster Jacobus, dei gratia Anglie Scotie ffrancie et Hibernie rex, fidei defensor fee., ex certis iustis legitimis et rationabilibus causis animura suum in ea parte moventibus, magnopere cupiverit ut Archiepiscopatus et Episcopatus quidam in regno suo Scotie restaurentur et in pristinum statum restitnantur, [et] literas. suas patentes regias magno sigillo Anglie sigillatas, ge-rentes datum vicesimo (sic: lege decimo) quinto die Octobris Anno regni sui Anglie ffrancie et Hibernie octavo et Scotie quadragesimo quarto, ad reverendos in Christo patres dominum Georgium episcopum Londonensem, Lancellotum episcopum Eliensem, Richardum episcopum Roffensem, et Henricum episcopum Wigorniensem inscribi et dirigi fecerit et mandaverit, pro consecracione venerabilium virorum et subditorum regni sui Scotie, videlicet magistri Johannis Spottiswood ministri et concionatoris ad sedem Archiepiscopalem Glascuensem, magistri Gawini Hamilton ministri ct concionatoris ad sedem episcopalem Gallovidiensern, et magistri Andree Lambe ministri et concionatoris ad sedem episcopalem Brechinensem in regno suo Scotie tune vacantes, et ad nominacionem et disposicionem suam de iure corone regni sui Scotie spectantes et pertinentes, Dicti reverendi patres Georgius episcopus Londonensis, Lancellotus episcopus Eliensis, Ricbardus episcopus Roffensis, et Henricus episcopus Wigorniensis, vicesimo primo die mensis Octobris anno domini millesimo sexcentesimo decimo, Ad perimplendum mandatum et beneplacitum serenissimi principis et domini nostri domini Jacobi dei gratia Anglie Scotie ffrancie et Hibernie regis, fidei defensoris &c., in oratorium sive Capellam dicti Reverendi patris domini episcopi Londonensis, infra palatium episcopale Londonense situm et situatum, intrarunt et sese congregarunt; Quibus in superiore parte Capelle sive Oratorii predicti collocatis et in diversis cathedris sedentibus, precibusque deo optimo maximo per Capellanos Reverendi patris episcopi Londonensis antedicti pie et devote factis, et Concione deinceps erudita per quendam magistrum Johannem Wicars babita, et publice perlectis litteris predictis regiis patentibus, ad consecrandum venerabiles viros, primo magistros (sic: lege magistrum) Jobannem Spottiswood in Archiepiscopum Glascuensenij secundo magistrum Gawinum Hamilton in episcopum Gallovidiensem et tertio magistrum Andream Lambe in episcopum Brecbinensem, processere, eosdemque in Archiepiscopum et episcopos respective, iuxta formam consecracionis episcoporum in libro consecracionis epscoporum presbiterorum et diaconorum in hoc regno Anglie recept(am) et usitat(am) et publica auctoritate comunit(am), consecrarunt et confirmaverunt. Sed, antequam ad huiusmodi consecracionem dicti Reverendi patres sese accommodarum venerabiles viri Johannes Spottiswood Gawinus Hamilton et Andreas Lambe separatim et singuli, suis viribus et in personis suis, iuramenta de agnoscendo regiam supremam potestatem in causis ecclesiasticis et temporalibus et de recusando et refutando omni et omnimode iurisdictioni potestati auctoritati et superioritati foraneis et extraneis, iuxta vim et formam statuti parliament! huius incliti regni Anglie in ea parte editi et provisi &c., prestabant; hocque iuramento per dictos venerabiles viros prestito, predictus venerabilis vir Gawinus Hamilton iuramentum prestitit ad reverentiam et obedientiam debitam domino Archiepiscopo Glascuensi in regno Scotie et successoribus suis, quod iuramentum de reverentiam et obedientiam prestando et solvendo domino Archiepiscopo Sancti Andree inregno Scotie, cum Archiepiscopus aliquis ibidem deinceps consecratus fuerit, et eius successoribus, venerabilis vir Andreas Lambe in persona sua similiter prestitit. Cumque hec consecracio peragenda sit in Capella sive oratorio Reverendi patris domini episcopi Londonensis sitque infra provinciam Cantuariensem, Reverendissimus in christo pater Richardus providentia divina Cantuariensis Archiepiscopus, totius Anglie primas et metropolitanus, cupiens regio predicto beneplacito prout debuit satisfacere, Licenciam suam ad consecracionem illam perficiendum et celebrandum sub sigillo quo in hac parte utitur concessit, datam in manerio suo de Lambehithe decimo nono die mensis Octobris anno domini millesimo sexcentesimo decimo et trans (lacionis) sue anno sexto. Quae quidem Licencia presentata fuit predictis Reverendis patribus domino Georgio episcopo Londonensi, domino Lancelloto episcopo Eliensi, domino Richardo episcopo Roffensi et domino Henrico episcopo Wigorniensi ante inchoatam consecracionem et per eosdem [inc. fol. 415] ea qua decuit reverentia acceptata. Tenor vero literarum patentium predictarum et licencie Reverendissimi patris predicti sequuntur in hec verba videlicet Jacobus dei gracia e. q. s.


(2) Then follow the “Patent” of King James, dated October 15, and


(3) Archbishop Bancroft’s “Licence,” dated October 19.


(4) After them comes the “Notarial Act’ follows:—


Et Ego Robertas Kemp Londonensis Diocesis, publicus aucthoritate sufficient! notarius, ac, in absentia discreti viri Magistri Johannis Gough notarii publici, dicti Reverendi patris domini episcopi Londonensis Registrarii principalis, in premissis Scriba in hac parte specialiter assumptus, Quia consecration! Archiepiscopi et episcoporum predictorum, videlicet prefati Reverendissimi patris Johannis Spottiswood in Archiepiscopum Glascuensem ac prefatorum Reverendorum patrum. Gawini Hamilton in episcopum Gallovidiensem et Andrese Lambe in episcopum Breehinensem, Regia aucthoritate facte, ceterisque premissis dum sic ut premittitur sub anno Domini menseque die et loco predictis agebantur et fiebant, unacum testibus quam plurimis ad premissa vidend(um) specialiter congregatis, presens personaliter interfui, eaque omnia et singula modo et forma prout supra specificantur fieri vidi scivi audivi in notas sumpsi et inactitavi. Ideo premissa omnia et singula manu aliena (me interim aliis necessariis occupato negotiis) fideliter scripta in perpetuam rei memoriam registrari feci et in hanc publicam et authen-ticam formam redacta quantum ad me attinet publicavi. Signoque nomine cognomine et subscriptione meis solitis et consuetis signavi et eisdem eubscripsi in fidem et testimonium omnium et singulorum premissorum ad hoc specialiter rogatus et requisitus


[Locus Signi]

per me ROBERTUM KEMP Notarium publicum.

[1] The reader is advised to obtain the shilling volume, Conference of Bishops of the Anglican Communion holden at Lambeth Palace, July 6 to August 5, 1908, published by the S.P.C.K. The appendix to the Report in question contains important material illustrating the Presbyterian doctrine of ordination.

[2] 2 [The so-called “Lambeth Quadrilateral,” viz.:—

“(A) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.

“(B) The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.

“(C) The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself—Baptism and the Supper of the Lord—ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.

“(D) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its ministration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.”]

[3] In so far as these precedents involve consecration to the Episcopate per saltum, the conditions of such consecration would require careful investigation and statement.

[4] The same use is found in the earlier and parallel letter of Siricius ad Himerium, § 17, but only as a various reading for statim. In both cases it is used in connexion with a passage through the prescribed periods of service in the different degrees, not of a leap over any of the degrees.

[5] On this gradation and sequence of offices in the Roman Republic, see Th. Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht, i, pp. 440-63. He dates the beginning of legal regulations from the law of L. Villius passed A.U.C. 574. But it took a long time to develop the system as it is known in imperial times, and a leap over one or more offices, though rare under the Republic, was not uncommon under the Empire: see pp. 460-1. The word bathmos is one which seems worthy of fuller treatment than it receives in Liddell and Scott and elsewhere.

[6] The reference is, I think, to the letter of Alexander II (1061-73) to Grimaldus, Bishop of Coutances, advising him that a man who had been ordained deacon and priest, but not previously subdeacon, should be suspended from priestly duties until he had been ordained subdeacon at the next Embertide (Decretum, Dist. 52 “sollicitudo dilectionis tuae”). See more in Martene, de ant. eccl. rit. 2, p. 25, Antwerp, 1736.

[7] An earlier second-century Bishop of Rome, Eleutherus, was deacon of Anicetus, but he did not succeed to him immediately, Soter coming between.

[8] See my article in the Guardian for Feb. 26, 1902, “Are the Canons of Sardica genuine?” and Mr. Turner in Journal of Theol. Studies for April, 1902, vol. iii, pp. 870-97.

[9] See the petition of the Roman Synod under Damasus in A.D. 880 or 382 in Constant, Ep. Pont. 523-9, and the rescript of Gratian, ib. 580-4, and in Epist. Avellana collectio, No. 13, d. Guenther, Vienna, 1895.

[10] These documents are only given by Theodoret, H. E. iv. 7 (imperial letter) and 8 (synodal letter). The year 875 is the latest possible, as Valentinian. I died in that year. It is that adopted by Hefele, §90. The place (Sirmium) is my conjecture. It was then the capital of the large prefecture of the Empire called “Illyricum” since the time of Constantine the Great, which contained the provinces from the Adriatic to the Black Sea, including Greece. When this prefecture was divided in 379 Thessalonica became the capital of the Eastern portion.

[11] Other conjectures are that the advice is (1) to appoint sons of previous Bishops, (2) men who have been good magistrates. But Noesselt’s, which is followed in the text, seems far the most probable; but the Greek is queer. See Sohulze’s Theodoret, tom. iii, pp. 961-2, Halae 1771.

[12] I have dealt with this point in connexion with the subject of boy-servers in a letter to the Clergy of the Diocese of Salisbury headed “The Bishop’s Directions” in the Dio. Gazette for January, 1905, p. 9.

[13] There are also certain Canones ad Gallos emanating from Rome of corrupt text and uncertain date which Coustant ascribes to Siricius, and Hefele, J 114, to Innocent I (402). One of them (numbered 12) is on the theme “ut semper clerici fiant episcopi.” It is difficult to ascribe this simple statement to a Pope like Siricius, who had a much more detailed ideal, or to suppose that Innocent so quickly threw over his predecessor, and had nothing more to say on the subject. The matter is particularly puzzling, because Innocent in his 37th letter (to Felix, Bishop of Nuceria, c. 3) seems to recognize the rules of Siricius. A layman of good character may be promoted “Ita sane ut in eos tempora a maioribus constituta serventur. Nec cito quilibet lector, cito acolythas, cito diaconus, cito sacerdos fiat,” &c.

[14] See the Libellus precum of Faustinus and Marcellinus, P.L. 13, 181.

[15] Ratramnus treats the statement of the promotion of Deacons as a lie (Contra Graec. opposita, iv. 8, P. L. 121, 334); so do the Bishops of Worms (Contra Graecorum haeresim, P. L. 119, 1212). They quote the canon of Sardica, but in the printed text the passage which represents the Latin practice has a lacuna. Aeneas, being better informed, confesses that he does not know how to explain the custom, which he does not deny, but suggests some possible reasons for it (Lib. adv. Graecos, c. 210, P.L. 121, 760 foll.), especially Jerome’s idea as to the identity of the two degrees of sacerdotal order.

[16] See Gasparri, § 25, p. 15, note 1, Petavius, diss. eccl. I. c. 1 and de eccl. hier. I. c. 4, Mamachius, orig. et ant. christ. t. IV. p. 887, Perrone, tract. de ordine, c. 3, § 104.

[17] Canons of Hippolytus: §43. “When a man is worthy to stand before the judgment seat on behalf of the faith, and is condemned to suffer for Christ, but afterwards is pardoned and set free, such an one earns the presbyterate in the sight of God, not after the manner in which ordination is given by a Bishop. Nay, rather his confession is his ordination. 44. But if he is made a Bishop let him be ordained. 45. If a man, having uttered his confession, has not been hurt by tortures, he is worthy of the presbyterate, but he should be ordained by the Bishop. 46. If such a one, being the slave of some one, has suffered torments for Christ, he likewise is a Presbyter to the flock. 47. For although he has not received the form of the presbyterate, yet he has obtained the Spirit of the presbyterate. Let the Bishop therefore omit that part of the prayer which concerns the Holy Spirit.”

The Arabic and Saidic Statutes (Horner, 246, 308) agree with the Canons of Hippolytus, as does the Testament of our Lord, i. 39. But the Ethiopic Statutes (c. 24, ib. 145-6) order that a confessor who has been in chains shall not be ordained Deacon but Presbyter with laying on of hand.

[18] “Presbyterum vero vel episcopum ante triginta annos, id est antequam ad viri perfecti aetatem veniat nullus metropolitanorum ordinare praesumat, ne per aetatem, quod aliquoties evenit, aliquo errore culpentur.”

[19] i. e. probably between A. D. 537-8 (the siege of Rome by the Goths under Vitiges) and the pontificate of Gregory the Great (A.D. 590-604).

[20] See the reference to the Scottish press in the valuable article, “Presbyterianism and Reunion,” in the C.Q.R. for January, 1909, vol. 67, pp. 317-18.

[21] G. Grub, E.H.S. iii. 195-6, from Burnet, Own Time, i. pp. 139-40. Burnet adds a reference to the “late Act of Uniformity.” This is technically a blunder, because the Act did not receive the Royal assent until May 19, 1662. But the Preface to the Ordinal had doubtless been agreed to; the whole Prayer-book being finished December 20, 1661.

[22] See Mr. Keble’s Preface to Hooker, § 41, and The English Church and the Ministry of the Reformed Churches, by Edward Denny, C.H.S. Tract 57, S.P.C.K. 1900, The latter discusses many of the alleged cases. Clarendon comments on the Act of Uniformity, Life, ii. pp. 180-2, ed. 1827. He seems to favour conditional ordination, a course which Bramhall followed in Ireland (Works, i. p. xxxvii, A.C.L. 1842).