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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Call (2)

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to the ministry is more a matter of Christian ethics than of Church canons, and yet the early Church was not without its rules upon this subject. The tem-per that ought to animate those who are to be ordained was held to be, on the one hand, a sincere and pure desire to serve God in some special way, but on the other, also, a shrinking from the fearful responsibility of the ministry; accompanied, however, with obedience to the call of superiors. Under this view, it naturally came to be, and so was the common rule, that the bishops or rightful electors should choose, at least to the higher orders; "and in such case the canons enacted that any one already in orders in any degree could not refuse to accept. A like rule would apply in a less degree to the first entry into the ministry; the supply in both cases' being supplemented by voluntary candidates, from the necessity of the case, but it being held the best that the call should come from others, who had authority. On the other hand, the call need not originate with the bishop. It was open, and it was considered a pious act for parents to devote their children to the ministry, not compelling, but exhorting and encouraging them so to devote themselves.

The second Council of Toledo, in 531, regulates the education of those " whom the will of 'parents, from the earliest years of infancy, had devoted to the clerical office." Pope Siricius (Ep. i, c. 9, 10) had, before that (385-398), regulated the several periods of years during which such should remain successively in each order of clergy. And Conc. Enerit., in 666, bids the "parochial presbyters" choose promising young people for the purpose of making them clergymen. Nor was this restricted to young people with their parents' consent; but older men were permitted to offer themselves for the ministry; yet under certain conditions, in order to insure purity of motive. Two centuries later, Gregory the Great required, in a certain case, a probation in a monastery. The Council of Constantinople, in 869 (Song of Solomon 5), prohibited only those who sought to be tonsured from ambitious or worldly motives. The call to the ministry, then, in the earliest Church, meant, in general, the invitation, approaching to a command, of the bishop; which might, however, be anticipated, under certain circumstances, by :the voluntary offering of himself by the candidate.


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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Call (2)'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/c/call-2.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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