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4. Of certain unusual Forms of Election

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER V. Of appointment to ecclesiastical offices

4. Of certain unusual Forms of Election

The examples on record of this description, relate only to the appointment of bishops. The appointment by lot, as above described, may with propriety be classed among the unusual forms of election in question. To this may be added,

  1. Elections by divine authority, and providential manifestations. To this class belong the appointments which the apostles made by the divine authority with which they were invested. Tradition informs us that many churches were planted by them, besides those which are mentioned in their writings. John, the apostle, after his return from Patmos, is said by Clemens Alexandrinus to have taken charge of the churches of Asia in the neighborhood of Ephesus; "in one place appointing bishops, in another, taking upon himself the regulation of whole churches, and in another, choosing by lot one from such as had been designated by the Spirit. Then follows a list of young men whom he committed to the instruction of the bishop whom he had ordained, together with an account of the wonderful conversion of these youths.

    Ancient history abounds with similar examples of divine interposition in such appointments.  Various providential circumstances were regarded as divine designations, such as remarkable tokens of divine approbation, visions, the lighting of a dove on the head of the candidate, and the unexpected concurrence of a discordant people in a candidate, as in the case of Martin, bishop of Tours, and Ambrose, bishop of Milan, whose elections were carried by the sudden and unanimous acclamation of the multitude. Vox populi, vox Dei!

  2. It was at times submitted to some one who was universally respected, to settle a contested election by his own nomination of a bishop. Alexander, bishop of Comana, was elected thus by Gregory Thaumaturgus, who is said to have been directed by special revelation. Bishops were also appointed by nomination, for distant provinces and unorganized districts. 
  3. Whenever a bishop resigned his office, or was removed to another diocese, he very frequently nominated his successor; but in all such cases on record, the concurrence of the people was either presupposed, or expressly obtained. The council of Antioch, A. D. 441, c. 23, forbade such nominations; still they were sometimes made, and a divine intimation plead in justification. The church at Rome, on the contrary, in the year 503, conceded to the bishops the right of nominating their successors before their decease. This was however a recommendation of the candidate, rather than an election, but it was as influential as the direct presentation of a candidate on the part of a patron. It laid the foundation in part, of ecclesiastical benefices, that crafty expedient by which so many canonized rights have been usurped.

Horn. Quis dives saivus, in Euseb. lib. iii. c. 23.

Euseb. h. e. lib. vi. c. 11, 29: Sozomen h. e. lib. ii. c. 17: Sulphic. Sev. Vit. S. Martini c. 7: Cyprian ep. 34. (al. 39), 33. (al. 38), 35. (al. 40.)

S. Gregor. Nyssen. Vit. Gregor. Thaumat: Opp. torn. iii. p. 561-2.

Socrat. h.e. lib. i. c. 19. Theodor. 1. c. 23: Rufin. h. e. lib. 1. c. 9.

Sozomen h. e. lib. ii. c. 17. c. 20–28. c. 2: Theodoret 4. c. 26. Socrat. 7. c. 46: August, ep. 110. Possid. Vit. Aug. c. 8: Gratian. in. c. 12. c. 7. qu. I.

Sozomen h. e. lib. ii. c. 17.


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