Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. IV.: The Deduction of the Chirothesia from Monarchical or Aristocratical Government, and of the second Way of Ordination from the Chirothesia. In which is contain'd the Commonwealth of the Jews as it stood after the captivity. - The Oceana and Other Works
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CHAP. IV.: The Deduction of the Chirothesia from Monarchical or Aristocratical Government, and of the second Way of Ordination from the Chirothesia. In which is contain’d the Commonwealth of the Jews as it stood after the captivity. - James Harrington, The Oceana and Other Works 
The Oceana and Other Works of James Harrington, with an Account of His Life by John Toland (London: Becket and Cadell, 1771).
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The Deduction of the Chirothesia from Monarchical or Aristocratical Government, and of the second Way of Ordination from the Chirothesia. In which is contain’d the Commonwealth of the Jews as it stood after the captivity.
WHAT pleases the prince, says Justinian,has the force of a law, seeing the people in his creation have devolv’d their whole power upon his person; which is with the most. But when popular government is chang’d into monarchical, either the whole power of the people, or a great part of it must of necessity accrue to the king.1 Sam. 8. 12. Hence says Samuel,he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fiftys: in which words perhaps is intimated the judges of the inferior courts, or Jethronian prefectures; so that hereby Samuel tells the people they shall no more have the election of their rulers, but the king will have it; who, it may be, chang’d the nature of som of these magistracys, or added others:2 Sam. 8. 15. for when David came to reign over all Israel, Joabwas over the host (his strategus or general) Jehoshaphatwas recorder,ZadokandAbimelecwere the priests,Seraiahwas the scribe, andBenaiahwas over the Pelethits, and the Cherethits; that is, was captain of his regiments of guard, call’d perhaps by these names, as those of Romulus were call’d Celeres. But it should seem that few or none of these officers were elected by the chirotonia, that is by the people, but by the prince, which kind of election, as will be shewn anon, may be call’d chirothesia. For the deduction of this kind of ordination, or election, we shall do well to hearken first to Dr. Hammond;§ 10. who in his query, or discourse concerning ordination by the imposition of hands, puts it thus:Exod. 17. 11.To lift up the hands was a ceremony in prayer, and accordingly to lay hands on any (differing no otherwise from lifting up, than by the determining that action to a peculiar object, the person that was pray’d for) was generally among the Jews a ceremony of benediction us’d first by the father to the children, in bestowing he blessing upon them (and with that a succession to som part of his estate or inheritance) as appears inJacob’s blessing the children ofJoseph:Gen. 48. 14. he stretch’d out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, and his left hand on Manasses, and so he bless’d, &c. From thence it was accommodated among them to the communicating of any part of power to others as assistants, or to the deriving of any successive office from one to another. Thus whenMoseshad from heaven receiv’d, and long us’d his commission to be under God the ruler of the people, the seventy elders were by God’s appointment assum’d to assist him:Numb. 11. 17.it being certain from the Jewish writings, tho the sacred Scripture has no occasion to mention it, that the succession of the seventy elders under the name of sanhedrim or council was continu’d thro all ages by their creating others in the place of those that dy’d, by this ceremony of imposition of hands.Tit. Sanhed. c. 4.To this purpose are the clear words ofMaimonides: Moses our master created the seventy elders by imposition of hands, and the divine majesty rested on them; and those elders impos’d hands on others, and others on others, &c. So a little before the departure ofMosesout of this life, when a successor was to be provided for him, God commands him to take Joshua, and lay his hands upon him.Numb. 27. 18, 23. And Moses laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses:that is, deriv’d to him by this ceremony the authority which himself had, and constituted him his successor in that government.Deut. 34 9.And so it is repeated,Joshua was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him.
This is the doctor’s deduction of the chirothesia, or ordination by the laying on of hands, from the commonwealth of Israel: and, says he, from the three uses of this ceremony there, that is, first in praying for another; secondly, in paternal benediction; thirdly, in creating successors in power, either in whole, or in part, derive three sorts of things in the New Testament, to which this ceremony of laying on of hands is accommodated. That of prayer simply taken was of two sorts, either for the cure of diseases, or pardoning of sins.Mar. 16. 18.For diseases: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.1 Tim. 5. 22.For sins they were don away also by this ceremony in the absolution of penitents, to which belongs that exhortation ofPaultoTimothy, Lay hands suddenly on no man, that is, not without due examination and proof of his penitence, lest thou be partaker of other men’s sins. From the second, that of paternal benediction, was borrow’d, first that of blessing infants with the ceremony of imposition of hands, as it differ’d from baptism.Mar. 10. 16.And secondly, that of confirming those of fuller age, that had bin formerly baptiz’d.Acts 6. 6.Lastly, to the creating successors in any power, or communicating any part of power to others, as to assistants, is answerable that imposition of hands in ordination so often mention’d in the New Testament, somtimes in the lower degree, as in the ordaining of deacons, elsewhere in the highest degree, setting governors over particular churches, as generally when by that laying on of hands it is said, they receiv’d the Holy Ghost; wheras the Holy Ghost contains all the χαϱίσματα requir’d to the pastoral function, and so signifys power from on high:L ke 24. 49.the authority and function itself, so it be given by imposition of hands, makes the parallel exact between this of Christian ordination, and that observ’d in the creating successors in the Jewish sanhedrim. So far the doctor.
Now say I, if the Scripture be silent as to the ordination of the elders in Israel, what means that place; Take ye wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you?Deut. 1. once in their lives let them give us the sense of it, or of that other, where Eldad and Medadwere of those that were written, and yet went not up to the tabernacle:Numb. 11. otherwise that we hear no more of these, is from the silence of divines, and not of the Scripture. But if the Scripture be not silent in this point, is there not a great deal of fancy in going on to cure the sick, to pardon sins, to bless infants, confirm the baptiz’d, ordain ministers,nay, give the Holy Ghost, and all the graces belonging to the pastoral function, from a place that has no such thing in it? for if the sanhedrim according to Scripture were not ordain’d by the chirothesia, there is no such thing to be deriv’d by the chirothesia from the sanhedrim. The first chirotonia indeed of the sanhedrim was accompany’d with miraculous indowments; wherfore if they will derive these gifts and graces from the sanhedrim, why are they sworn enemies to the chirotonia? again, the sanhedrim was a civil court or senat; wherfore then by this title should not these gifts and graces be rathe pretended to by the civil magistrat, than by divines? what becoms of the priest Aaron and his lots? is he left to the civil magistrat, while divines derive themselves from general Joshua and his chirothesia? but if the sanhedrim and inferior judicatorys were otherwise ordain’d originally; then no magistrat in Israel was originally ordain’d by the chirothesia, but only Joshua. It is admirable that divines should look upon God, as if in the institution of a commonwealth he had no regard at all to human prudence, but was altogether fix’d upon their vain advantages. Who made human prudence; or to what end was it made? any man that understands the politics, and considers that God was now proceding according to this art (as in his constitution of the senat, and of the people or congregation, is most obvious) must needs see that this power he indulg’d to Moses of making his own choice of one man; could not possibly be intended as a permanent constitution; for wheras he intended popular government, nothing is plainer than that a people not electing their own magistrats can have no popular government. How absurd is it to conceive that God having already made an express law, that the people, if at any time they came under monarchy, should yet have the election of their king, would now make a law that the people being under a commonwealth, should no longer have the election of their magistrats? for who sees not that to introduce the chirothesia as a standing ordinance, had bin to bar the people of this power? Israel at this time, tho design’d for a commonwealth, had no land, no foundation to balance her self upon, but was an army in a wilderness, incompass’d about with enemys. To permit to the people in this case, the choice of all their civil magistrats, was nevertheless safe enough, nay, best of all: for at the election of wise men, and understanding, and known among their tribes, so far as was needful to civil administration, their skill must needs have bin at any time sufficient; but the commonwealth was yet in absolute necessity of a protector, and of dictatorian power. Now to know who was fittest in this case to succede Moses, requir’d the wisdom of God, or of Moses; and therfore was not yet safe to be ventur’d upon a people so new in their government. For these reasons, I say, Moses us’d the chirothesia for once, and no more; or let them shew me among all the dictators, judges, or kings, that succeded Joshua, any one that was chosen by the chirothesia, and be all dictators. It is now above three thousand years since the institution of the sanhedrim, from which time the ambitious elders first, then the Talmudists, and of latter ages divines have bin perpetually striving for, or possessing themselves of this same oligarchical invention of the chirothesia pretended to be deriv’d from Moses; tho there be neither any such precept of God or Christ in the Old or New Testament, nor any unanimous result upon the point, either by the Talmudists or divines themselves. And for the clear words quoted by the doctor out of Maimonides, they are such to which I shall in due time shew Maimonides to be elsewhere of a clear contrary opinion. But in this controversy, without som clearer deduction of the chirothesia, we shall make no happy progress; in this therfore I shall follow Selden the ablest Talmudist of our age, or of any.
The commonwealth of Lacedemon (if I could stand to shew it) has strange resemblances to that of Israel, not only in the agrarian, which is nothing to the present purpose, but in the senat, which to prevent catching another time, I do not say was a judicatory only, but not only a senat, but a judicatory also. For Lycurgus of all other legislators was in this the likest to God, or to Moses, that his work was so exquisitly perfected at once, and his laws so comprehensive, that if the senat had had no other function than to make or propose new laws, there being little or nothing of that wanting, they would have had little or nothing to do. Now it being thus, and much more than thus in Israel, the sanhedrim was not only the senat, but the supreme judicatory. And because one court in a territory of any extent is no where sufficient to this end; therfore the sanhedrim had divers branches distended not only to the citys of Judea, but even to the villages; these were call’d the lesser sanbedrim, or the Jethronian prefectures.
Selden deSyn.The great sanhedrim consisting, as has bin shewn, of 70 elders, sat first in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the court of the temple.
TheJethronian prefectures consisted som of three and twenty elders, and others but of three. Of the former kind there were two in the gates of the temple, and one sitting in the gates or every city; of the latter there was one almost in every village.
The power of the Jethronian court, consisting of twenty-three elders, was in matter of judicature equal with that of the great sanhedrim, only in cases of difficulty they observ’d this precept.Vid. Grot. adIf there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment between blood and blood,Deut. 17. 8.between plea and plea, between stroke and stroke, being matter of controversy within thy gates; then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the Lord thy God shall chuse (in the future, for the commonwealth was yet but design’d, not planted) and thou shalt com to the priests and the Levits, and to the judg that shall be in those days, and inquire, and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment: that is, thou shalt consult the sanhedrim, or if there be no sanhedrim, the suffes or judg of Israel. The reason why the sanhedrim in this text is mention’d under the name of the priests and Levits is, that these about the beginning of this commonwealth having (as were also the Egyptian priests at the same time) bin the learnedst men, whether for lawyers, or physicians, there were scarce any other chosen into the sanhedrim, tho towards the latter end it happen’d to be far otherwise. For wheras sacrificing was feasting, the priests injoying a fat idleness, became in latter times so heavy, that as to the election of the sanhedrim not only the Levits of inferior rank were upon the matter wholly laid by, but the high-priest himself sometimes omitted, the rest of the tribes far excelling this in learning.
The power of the triumvirats, or three judges in the villages, extended no farther than to inflict stripes to a certain number, and pecuniary mulcts to a certain sum. These possibly had the same recourse upon occasion of difficulty to the judges in the gates, as the judges in the gates had to the sanhedrim: but their power is not so much to the present purpose, which regards only their manner of election. This having bin institutively exercis’d, as has bin shewn by the chirotonia, or ballot of the people, came sooner or later (I find no man that can resolve upon the certain time) to the cbirothesia. For tho when a judg in the gates was dead, that court elected his successor out of their disciples (each court in the gates had 99 disciples that were their constant auditors) or out of the triumvirats; and when an elder of the sanhedrim dy’d, the sanhedrim elected his successor out of the courts in the gates, more particularly those in the gates of the temple by suffrages; yet no man was capable of being elected into any of these courts that was not a presbyter, nor was any man a presbyter that had not receiv’d the chirothesia:Mikotzi Misna Gemara. nor could any man confer the chirothesia that had not first receiv’d it, or bin so ordain’d a presbyter himself: nor tho he were so ordain’d, could he confer the like ordination, but in the presence of two others, whether ordain’d or not ordain’d: and no ordination could be confer’d but either this way, or by som one of the judicatorys.Abr. Zacuth. The manner how this ordination was confer’d, if the party were present, was either by laying on of hands, or by saying a verse or charm; or if he were absent, by a letter, or patent.Maimonide.
Rab. Jonah.An elder thus ordain’d was call’d rabbi, might have disciples, teach, practise, or expound the law, declare what was therby free or forbidden (which with them was call’d binding and loosing) ordain others with the assistance mention’d, or beRab. Nathan. capable of election into som one, or any court of justice, according to the nature of his ordination, the conditions mention’d at the conferring of the same, or the gift that was in him by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery: which in som extended no farther than to shew how meat should be kill’d and dress’d, how uncleanness should be purify’d, what were vices of the body, what might be eaten or drunk, and what not; in others it extended to som one or more, or all the facultys express’d; but I am inclining to believe that a plenary ordination us’d not to be confer’d but by the great sanhedrim, or at least som one of the Jethronian courts.
They us’d also to confer this ordination som time occasionally, and for a season in this manner.Maimon. Tit.Receive the gift of judiciary ordination, or the right of binding and loosing, till such time as you return to us in the city.San. cap. 4. Where the Christian Jews still following their former customs in higher matters, as the observation of the Sabbath, and of circumcision, even to such a degree, that Paul not to displease them tookTimothyand circumcis’d him, seem to me to have follow’d this custom, who when the Prophets at Antioch had inform’d them that Paul and Barnabas were to be separated to an extraordinary work, laid their hands upon them, and sent them away:Acts 13. 3. for otherwise as to ordination Paul and Barnabas had that before; at least Paul by Ananias, and for any such precept in the Christian religion there was none.Acts 9. 17.
JOSEPHUS,Philo, and other authors that tell us the commonwealth of Israel was an aristocracy, look no farther than the introduction of the chirothesia by the Presbyterian party, which must have taken date som time after the captivity, or the restitution of the commonwealth by Ezra, there being not one syllable for it in Scripture, but enough to the contrary, seeing God introduc’d the chirotonia. By which it is demonstrable that a Presbyterian party may bring a popular government to oligarchy, and deface even the work of God himself, so that it shall not be known to after-ages; as also that ecclesiastical writers (for such are the Talmudists) may pretend that for many hundred years together, as divines also have don, to be in Scripture, which neither is, nor ever was there. But have I yet said enough to shew that ordination, especially as in this example, not of a clergy, but of a magistracy, whether by the chirotonia, or chirothesia, is a political institution? or must I rack my brains for arguments to prove that an order or a law having such influence upon the commonwealth, that being introduc’d or repeal’d, it quite alters the whole frame of the government, must needs be of a political nature, and therfore not appertain to divines, or to a clergy, but to the magistrat, unless their traditions may be of force to alter the government as they please? All is one, they can abate nothing of it, let what will com of the government, the chirothesia they must and will have. Then let them have monarchy too, or tyranny; for one of these, according as the balance happens to stand with or against their chirothesia, is the certain consequence; either tyranny as in Israel, or monarchy as in the papacy; and, from that or the like principle, in all Gothic empires: which examples, to begin with Israel, well deserve the pains to be somwhat more diligently unfolded.
All elections in Israel, save those of the priests who were eligible by the lot, being thus usurp’d by the presbyterian party, and the people by that means divested of their chirotonia; som three hundred years before Christ, Hillel senior high priest, and archon or prince of the sanhedrim, found means to draw this power of ordination, in shew somwhat otherwise, but in effect to himself, and his chirothesia:Maimon. Tit. for by his influence upon the sanhedrim it was brought to pass, that wheras formerly any man ordain’d might, in the manner shewn,Sam. cap. 4. have ordain’d his disciples; it was now agreed that no man should be ordain’d without the licence of the prince, and that this power should not be in the prince, but in the presence of the father of the sanhedrim, or speaker of the house. Thus the aristocracy of Israel becoming first oligarchical, took (according to the nature of all such governments) long steps towards monarchy, which succeding in the Asmonean family, commonly call’d the Maccabees, was for their great merit, in vindicating the Jews from the tyranny of Antiochus, confirm’d to them by the universal consent and chirotonia of the people. Nevertheless to him that understands the orders of a commonwealth, or has read the Athenian, Lacedemonian, or Roman story, it will be plain enough that but for their aristocracy they needed not to have bin so much beholden to, or to have stood so much in need of one family. It is true, both the merit of these princes, and the manner of their free election by the people, seem to forbid the name of tyranny to this institution: but so it is, that let there be never so much merit in a man, or inclination of the people to the prince, or the government that is not founded upon the due balance, the prince, in that case must either govern in the nature of a commonwealth, as did those of this family, reforming the policy after the Lacedemonian model, or turn tyrant, as from their time, who liv’d in the age of the Grecian monarchy, did all their successors, till under the Romans this nation became a province: from which time such indeavors and insurrections they us’d for the recovery of their antient policy, that under the emperor Adrian (who perceiv’d at what their ordination, being not of priests, but of magistrats, and of a senat pretending to soverain judicature and authority, seem’d to aim) there came, says the Talmud, against the Israelits an edict out of the kingdom of the wicked (meaning the Roman empire) wherby whosoever should ordain, or be ordain’d, was to be put to death, and the school or city in which such an act should be done, to be destroy’d: wherupon rabbiJehuda Ben Baba (lest ordination should fail in Israel) went forth, and standing between two great mountains, and two great citys, and between two Sabbathdays journys from Osa and Sephara, ordain’d five presbyters. For this feat the rabbi is remember’d by the Talmudists under the name of Ordinator; but the same, as it follows, being discover’d by the Roman guards, they shot his body through with so many darts, as made it like a sieve: yet staid not the business here, but so obstinat continu’d the Jews in the superstition to which this kind of ordination was now grown, that wheras by the same it was unlawful for them to ordain in a foren land, and at home they could not be brought to abstain, the emperor banish’d them all out of their own country; whence happen’d their total dispersion. That of a thing which at the first was a mere delusion, such religion should com in time, and with education to be made that not only they who had receiv’d advantage could suffer martyrdom, but they that had lost by it, would be utterly lost for it, were admirable in the case of this people, if it were not common in the case of most in the world at this day: custom may bring that to be receiv’d as an ordinance of God, for which there is no color in Scripture. For to consult Maimonides a little better upon this point:Halac. Sam. C. 4. S. 11.Wheras, says he, they grant, in case it should happen that in all the holy land there remain’d but one presbyter, that presbyter, assisted by two other Israelits, might ordain the seventy, or great sanhedrim, and the sanhedrim so constituted might constitute and ordain the lesser courts, I am of opinion that were there no presbyter in the land, yet if all the wise men of Israel should agree to constitute or ordain judges, they might do it lawfully enough. But if so, then how coms it to pass that our ancestors have bin so solicitous, lest judicature should fail in Israel? Surely for no other cause than that from the time of the captivity the Israelits were so dispers’d that they could not upon like occasions be brought together Now I appeal whether the clear words of Maimonides, where he says, that our masterMosesordain’d the sanhedrim by the chirothesia, be not more clearly and strongly contradicted in this place, than affirm’d in the other; since acknowleging that if the people could assemble, they might ordain the sanhedrim, he gives it for granted, that when they did assemble, they had power to ordain it; and that Moses did assemble them upon this occasion, is plain in Scripture. Again, if the power of ordination falls ultimatly to the people, there is not a stronger argument in nature that it is thence primarily deriv’d. To conclude, the chirothesia of the presbyterian party in Israel is thus confess’d by the author no otherwise necessary, than thro the defect of the chirotonia of the people: which ingenuity of the Talmudist, for any thing that has yet past, might be worthy the imitation of divines.
In tracking the Jews from the restitution of their commonwealth after the captivity to their dispersion, it seems that the later monarchy in Israel was occasion’d by the oligarchy, the oligarchy by the aristocracy, and the aristocracy by the chirothesia; but that this monarchy, tho erected by magnanimous and popular princes, could be no less than tyranny deriv’d from another principle, that is, the insufficiency of the balance: for tho from the time of the captivity, the jubile was no more in use, yet the Virgin Mary as an heiress, is affirm’d by som to have bin marry’d to Joseph by virtue of this law:Numb. 27. [Editor: illegible character]Every daughter that possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife to one of the family of the tribe of her fathers, &c. By which the popular agrarian may be more than suspected to have bin of greater vigor than would admit of a well balanc’d monarchy.
The second presbytery, which is now attain’d to a well-balanc d empire in the papacy, has infinitly excell’d the pattern, the lands of Italy being most of them in the church. This, if I had leisure, might be track’d by the very same steps: at first it consisted of the seventy parish priests, or presbyters of Rome; now seventy cardinals creating to themselves a high priest, or prince of their sanhedrim, the pope, but for the superstition wherto he has brought religion, and continues by his chirothesia to hold it, a great and a reverend monarch, establish’d upon a solid foundation, and governing by an exquisit policy, not only well-balanc’d at home, but deeply rooted in the greatest monarchys of Christendom, where the clergy by virtue of their lands are one of the three states.
The maxims of Rome are profound; for there is no making use of princes without being necessary to them, nor have they any regard to that religion which dos not regard empire. All monarchys of the Gothic model, that is to say, where the clergy by virtue of their lands are a third estate, subsist by the pope, whose religion creating a reverence in the people, and bearing an aw upon the prince, preserves the clergy, that else being unarm’d, becom a certain prey to the king or the people; and where this happens (as in Henry the Eighth) down gos the throne; for so much as the clergy loses, falls out of the monarchical into the popular scale. Where a clergy is a third estate, popular government wants earth, and can never grow: but where they dy at the root, a prince may sit a while, but is not safe: nor is it in nature (except he has a nobility or gentry able without a clergy to give balance to the people) that he should subsist long or peaceably: for wherever a government is founded on an army, as in the kings of Israel or emperors of Rome, there the saddest tragedys under heaven are either on the stage, or in the tiringhouse. These things consider’d, the chirothesia being originally nothing else but a way of policy excluding the people, where it attains not to a balance that is sufficient for this purpose, brings forth oligarchy or tyranny, as among the Jews: and where it attains to a balance sufficient to this end, produces monarchy, as in the papacy, and in all Gothic kingdoms.
The priests of Egypt, where, (as it is describ’d by Siculus) their revenue came to the third part of the realm, would no question have bin exactly well fitted with the chirothesia pretended to by modern divines. Suppose the apostles had planted the Christian religion in those parts, and the priests had been all converted, I do not think that divines will say, that having alter’d their religion they needed to have deserted their being a third estate, their overbalance to the people, their lands, their preeminence in the government, or any part of their policy for that: and I am as far from saying so as themselves.
On the other side, as Paul was a citizen of Rome, let us suppose him to have bin a citizen of Athens, and about (ϰαθιϛάναι) to constitute the Christian religion in this commonwealth, where any citizen might speak to the people: imagin then he should have said thus: Men of Athens, that which you ignorantly seek I bring to you, the true religion; but to receive this, you must not alter your former belief only, but your antient customs. Your political assemblys have bin hitherto call’d ecclesiæ; this word must lose the antient sense, and be no more understood but of spiritual consistorys; and so wheras it has bin of a popular, it must henceforth be of an aristocratical, or presbyterian signification. For your chirotonia, that also must follow the same rule; insomuch as on whomsoever one or more of the aristocracy or presbytery shall lay their hands, the same is understood by virtue of that action to be chirotoniz’d. How well would this have sounded in Egypt, and how ill in Athens? Certainly the policy of the church of Christ admits of more prudence and temperament in these things: tho the apostles being Jews themselves, satisfy’d the converted Jews that were us’d to aristocracy, by retaining somewhat of their constitutions, as the chirothesia; yet when Paul and Barnabas com to constitute in popular commonwealths, they are (χειϱοτονήσαντες ἀυτοις ϖϱεσβυτέϱȣς ϰατ’ ἐϰϰλησίαν) chirotonizing them elders in every congregation.