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1 Tim. iii. 4, 5, 6, together with 12th verse." It behoveth, therefore,
a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behaviour, chaste, given to hospitality, a teacher, not given to wine, no striker, but modest, not litigious, not covetous, but one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all chastity. But if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, who rule well their children, and their own houses.” (Doway Version.)
These words, brethren, which I have set down precisely as they stand in the Roman Catholic version of the Scriptures, commonly called the Doway Bible, are invested with peculiar interest, on account of the extraordinary fact, that the Church of Rome has set up a doctrine directly contrary. For, as you must be aware, she does not suffer her bishops, priests, and deacons, to have wives or children at all; so that on this point, the Word of God and the word of that Church stand in the most manifest opposition. “Let the bishop be the husband of one wife," saith the Scripture. Nay, saith the Church of Rome, the bishop shall not marry. “Let the bishop rule his own house well,” saith the Scripture, “ having his children in subjection.” Nay, saith the Church of Rome, he shall have no children. "If a man know not how to rule his own house,” saith the Scripture, “how shall he take care of the Church of God?" An idle argument, saith the Church of Rome, for the
government of a man's own house and the care of the Church of God, should not be united in the same hands. “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife," continues the Word of God, “who rule well their children and their own houses.” By no means, replies the Church of Rome, the deacons must be like the bishops, having no wides, no children, no houses to rule. You perceive, therefore, brethren, that the denial of the rule of Scripture could not be more positive—the contradiction to it could not be more glaring: so that the mind, accustomed to the simple authority of the Bible, is amazed at the boldness of this flagrant opposition, and wonders how it can admit of palliation or excuse.
Let us, then, examine the argument by which this strange and most unscriptural regulation is maintained, and connect with it the kindred topics of monastic life and sanctity, as professed in the Church of Rome. The principle of voluntary mortification is the common basis of this part of their system, and it assumes the utmost importance when it is considered as resulting in the worship of the saints, and the doctrine of works of supererogation.
The argument in favour of celibacy has been set forth by St. Jerome with more zeal than any other of the ancient fa. thers, and nothing has been added since his day to the logic of the matter, although a great deal has been added to its vows and compulsory restrictions. I shall state his views, therefore, in order to yield to the other side all the weight which belongs to his distinguished name, and to the comparatively early period at which he flourished, viz: the latter part of the fourth, and the beginning of the fifth century.
His first argument is derived from St. Paul's epistle to the Corinthians, in which the apostle plainly gives the preference to celibacy over marriage; and in estimating its comparative excellence, Jerome considers marriage as silver, and celibacy as gold. (Jer. adv. Jovin. op. om. Tom. 2, p. 16, 17.)
2d. He next argues, that on the authority of the same apostle, matrimony prevents, by its unavoidable cares, the entire devotion of the soul to the service of God. (Ib. 21.)
3d. He adduces the examples of Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, John, the beloved disciple, and Christ himself, as being all in favour of a single life; and urges that this must needs be the superior state, because, in heaven, they neither marry nor are given in marriage.
4th. He insists on one passage in the epistle of St. Jude, and another in the Book of Revelations, strongly inferring the superiority of celibacy. (Ib. 34.)
5th. He derives an argument of expediency from the high respect in which celibacy was held by the heathen. (Ib. 35.)
6th. And lastly, he cites from Theophrastus, a long and amusing list of the risks, the disappointments, the troubles, and the inevitable trials of the marriage state.
In answer to all this it is sufficient for us to say, that the controversy is not about the comparative merits or privileges of the two states of life. Doubtless, each has its advantages. The question, however, turns upon the rule laid down for the ministry by the Word of God, and upon the right of the Church of Rome to destroy that rule, by confining the priesthood to those who abjure matrimony; thus opposing the authority of the Holy Spirit, and putting a yoke upon the clergy, which the almighty Lawgiver had decreed they should not bear.
We have already shown the total contrariety of this yoke, to the positive directions of St. Paul to Timothy. Those directions he gives, as the commandments of Christ himself; whereas, in the other passages, he expressly declares that he does not speak in his usual strain of authority, because he had received no commandment upon the subject of celibacy, and therefore that what he was about to say was only his own private judgment. Besides which, he evidently intends his advice, not so much for a permanent, as for a temporary pur. pose, because he recommends it as being “good for the present distress,” that those who were unmarried should remain 80. The meaning of this language is well understood on all sides, since it was a time of grievous persecution, when Christians did not know at what moment they might be called to abandon home, property, nay, lise itself, in order that they should be faithful to the Gospel. And in addition to this, it should be considered conclusive, that when St. Paul recommends celibacy in preference to matrimony, he is not refer. ring to the clergy at all, but speaks generally about what seemed to him expedient, at that time, for all Christians, without the slightest allusion to bishops, priests, or deacons. Whereas, when he writes by inspiration to Timothy upon the very subject of the ministry, he specifies bishops and deacons ; and plainly.lays down the general rule for them, that they should be the husbands of one wise, ruling their own children and households well. In the application of Jerome's argument, therefore, to the clergy, the Church of Rome has committed three fatal mistakes. First, they strain St. Paul's advice, intended for the time of persecution, into a standing law. Next, they apply to a particular order what the apostle meant for all. And lastly, they deprive that order of the very rule which the apostle laid down for them.
I shall now proceed to show, that in obedience to this apostolic authority, the primitive Church for many centuries left the ministry their Scriptural liberty in the matter; so that the restriction established subsequently by the influence of Rome, was an innovation, not only upon the Word of God, but also upon the practice of Christian antiquity. And this we shall demonstrate by the acts of Councils, and the testimony of the fathers, including Jerome himself. Of course, brethren, you understand, that we do not refer to the evidence of the primitive Church, either for the purpose of weakening or superseding, in any respect, the supreme and only infallible law of Scripture; but we do it on the principle explained in a former lecture, that the sense of antiquity is the best rule in the construction of Scripture; and in all questions belonging to the Roman Catholic controversy, we do it with the greater care, for the sake of those whose errors we are discussing, because tradition is, in their judgment, equally binding with the written Word of God.
To begin, then, with Tertullian, whose testimony comes within one hundred years of the apostle John,- we find him expressly giving his interpretation of St. Paul's language in these words: “The apostle,” saith he, "although he prefers the virtue of continence, yet permits marriage to be contracted and used; and argues in favour of retaining rather than of separating from a wise. And it is plain, that while Moses allows divorces, Christ forbids them.” (Ter. adv. Mar. lib. v. P. 469.)
Again he saith: “It was lawful for the apostles to marry, and to lead their wives about with them. And it was lawful for them to live or be supported by the Gospel. But he who did not use this right, provokes us to imitate his example on the ground, that the license furnishes an opportunity to show the trial of our abstinence.” (Ib. de Exhort. Cast. p. 522.)
Again, saith Tertullian, “Christ fully and precisely declares that those who enter into the episcopal office should be the husbands of one wise.—And we shall err greatly if we think that what is not lawful for the priests, is lawful for the people.” (Ib. 522, A.)
And again: “We never read of marriage being forbidden,” saith he, "for it is good. But we learn from the apostle what is better than good, permitting to marry, but preferring to abstain; the first on account of temptation, the second on account of the affliction of the times."
Let us next listen to Clement of Alexandria, on the subject