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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

IT was deemed requisite at this time to abolish the office of those presbyters in the churches who superintended the confessional: this was done on the following account. When the Novatians separated themselves from the church because they would not communicate with those who had lapsed during the persecution under Decius, the bishops added to the ecclesiastical canon a presbyter whose duty it should be to receive the confession of penitents who had sinned after baptism. And this mode of discipline is still maintained among other heretical institutions by all the rest of the sects; the Homoousians only, together with the Novatians who hold the same doctrinal views, having rejected it. The latter indeed would never admit of its establishment: and the Homoousians who are now in possession of the churches, after retaining this function for a considerable period, abrogated it in the time of Nectarius, in consequence of what occurred in the Constantinopolitan church. A woman of noble family coming to the penitentiary, made a general confession of those sins she had committed since her baptism: and the presbyter enjoined fasting and prayer continually, that together with the acknowledgment of error, she might have to show works also meet for repentance. Some time after this, the same lady again presented herself, and confessed that she had been guilty of another crime, a deacon of that church having lain with her. On this information the deacon was ejected from the church: but the people were very indignant, being not only offended at what had taken place, but also because the exposure of the fact had brought scandal and degradation upon the church. “When in consequence of this, ecclesiastics were subjected to taunting and reproach, Eudæmon a presbyter of that church, by birth an Alexandrian, persuaded Nectarius the bishop to abolish the office of penitentiary presbyter, and to leave every one to his own conscience with regard to the participation of the sacred mysteries: for thus only, in his judgment, could the church be preserved from obloquy. I have not hesitated to insert this in my history, since I myself heard the explanation of the matter from Eudæmon: for as I have often remarked, I have spared no pains to procure an authentic account of affairs from those who were best acquainted with them, and to scrutinize every report, lest I should advance what might be untrue. My observation to Eudæmon, when he first related the circumstance, was this: “Whether, O presbyter, your counsel has been profitable for the church or otherwise, God knows; but I see that it takes away the means of rebuking one another’s faults, and prevents our acting upon that precept of the apostle, Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”








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