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Later Montanism And The Conseque





In the West Montanism rapidly discarded the extravagant chiliasm of
Montanus and his immediate followers; it laid nearly all the stress upon
the continued work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the need of a
stricter moral discipline among Christians. This rigoristic discipline or
morality was not acceptable to the bulk of Christians, and along with the
Montanists was driven out of the Church, except in the case of the clergy,
to whom a stricter morality was regarded as applicable. In this way a
distinctive morality and mode of life came to be assigned to the clergy,
and the separation between clergy and laity, or ordo and plebs, which
was becoming established about the time of Tertullian, at least in the
West, was permanently fixed. (See 42, d.)


Tertullian, De Exhortatione Castitatis, 7. (MSL, 2:971.)


As a Montanist, Tertullian rejected second marriage, and in this
treatise, addressed to a friend who had recently lost his wife, he
treated it as the foulest adultery. This work belongs to the later
years of Tertullian's life and incidentally reveals that a sharp
distinction between clergy and laity was becoming fixed in the
main body of the Church.


We should be foolish if we thought that what is unlawful for priests(63)
is lawful for laics. Are not even we laics priests? It is written: "He has
made us kings also, and priests to God and his Father." The authority of
the Church has made the difference between order [ordinem] and the laity
[plebem], and the honor has been sanctified by the bestowal of the
order. Therefore, where there has been no bestowal of ecclesiastical
order, you both offer and baptize and are a priest to yourself alone. But
where there are three, there is the Church, though they are laics.
Therefore, if, when there is necessity, you have the right of a priest in
yourself, you ought also to have the discipline of a priest where there is
necessity that you have the right of a priest. As a digamist,(64) do you
baptize? As a digamist, do you offer? How much more capital a crime it is
for a digamist laic to act as a priest, when the priest, if he turn
digamist, is deprived of the power of acting as a priest? God wills that
at all times we be so conditioned as to be fitted at all times and in all
places to undertake His sacraments. There is one God, one faith, one
discipline as well. So truly is this the case that unless the laics well
observe the rules which are to guide the choice of presbyters, how will
there be presbyters at all who are chosen from among the laics?





Next: The Penitential Discipline

Previous: The Monarchian Controversies



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