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5. Of church Patronage

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

5. Of church Patronage. 

The prevalent opinion is, that the origin of the right of patronage ought to be referred back to the fifth century. And it is true that the subject of church and state rights began to be publicly asserted and discussed as early as the year 441. but the right in question, was both asserted and exercised at a date still earlier. The council of Orange gave permission to any bishop to build a church in another's diocese, reserving the right of consecration to him in whose diocese it was erected, and instructing him to ordain any one to the clerical office whom the founder might nominate to officiate in the church, and requiring of him a quiet acquiescence in the nomination, if the person presented had already been ordained. But at the same time, it was provided that the entire government of the church should be submitted to him in whose territory the church was built. 

It appears from Chrysostom that what is called secular patronage prevailed in the church at a date still earlier. He speaks of naming the founders of churches in the prayers of the congregation. In Justinian's Novels, 123. c. 18, the right of lay patronage is confirmed and perpetuated by inheritance. The bishop is required to ordain the person nominated, unless disqualified by virtue of the canons. From the fifth century the name of patron becomes familiar in public documents, indicating the relation of landlord to his dependents, [in consequence of his having settled a parsonage and glebe upon churches which he had built;] but the whole system of church patronage in conferring benefices, etc., was not established until about the eighth or ninth century. Thomassin takes notice of several distinct stages in the progress of this system.

  1. The right of patronage and presentation, extending through five centuries.
  2. Ecclesiastical and lay-patronage from Clovis, A. D. 496, to Charlemagne, A. D. 800.
  3. Through the dynasty of Charles and his descendents.
  4. From the year 1000. The whole he sums up in the following remark. "It appears therefore that ecclesiastical patronage was first introduced in the Western church, and lay-patronage, at least so far as related to the conferring of benefices, began first in the Eastern church; and that the limited exercise of lay-patronage in the first centuries after its introduction, was abundantly compensated by the controlling influence which the laity had in the election and ordination of bishops, and other incumbents."

In most of the Lutheran, and some of the Reformed churches, the members of the church possess a negative vote concerning the presentation of a minister, but nothing more.

Lud. Thomassini de discipl. eccl. part ii. lib. i. c. 29 – 32. Edit. Mogunt. torn. iv. p. 150 sqq: J. H. Boehmer jus eccl. Protest, torn. iii. p. 462 sqq: Chr. W. Kindleben Ueber den Ursprung, Nutzen und die Missbrauche des Kirchen-Patronats. Berlin, 1775. 8: Geschichte des Patronatrechtes in den K. Teutschland. 1806. 8.

Concil. Araus. 1. c. 10. Concil. Arelat. II. c. 36. Jusliniani Nov. 123. c. 18, A. D. 541. Nov. 57. c. 2. A. D. 555.

Compare Paulin. Epist. 32. carm. 12. 24.

Chrysost. Hom. 18. in Act. Apost. opp. tom ix. p. 174. ed. Franc.

Comp. Boehmer tom. iii. p. 475: Stillingfleet, Unreasonableness of Separation.
(No tag #5 appears in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)


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