committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

SECTION XIII.

THE MISSIONARY SPIRIT AND LABORS OF THE ELDERS AND
PERFECTI.—THE ENTIRE ABSENCE OF ANY HIERARCHY.

THE spirit of propagandism—or, as it would be both more true and more kindly to call it, the missionary spirit—was very active in them. It is to Bulgarian rather than Bosnian missionaries that the earlier forms of dissent from the Church of Rome are due. The Albigenses—so called from the province where they first appeared in considerable numbers—and the Patarenes—probably from the name of a suburb of Milan in which they were very numerous—were the spiritual descendants of the Bulgarian Bogomils and the first-fruits of their missionary zeal. Their other missionary work was mostly performed in Croatia, Wallachia, Moldavia, and the provinces which now form the southern portion of Russia in Europe. In many cases the congregations established by them affiliated at a later day, and with a more enlightened faith, with those established by the Bosnian Bogomils. They had no organized hierarchy. When their numbers became large the elder most highly esteemed in a province or country. appointed or called to the work twelve apostles, or messengers, who went forth two and two to their work, but with equal powers, rights, and privileges with the elder himself; and if he found it necessary, he called forth "other seventy also." These were all from the ranks of the Perfecti, but among the believers, there were often those who, prompted by religious zeal, devoted themselves to Christian work. In the end most of these received the imposition of hands, which initiated them into the official body.[18]

This simple organization was very probably drawn from the civil organization of the Sclavonic tribes. Among these the patriarch, who was the father and ruler of a numerous household, became, as his influence widened, by the voluntary selection of his equals, the zupan, or elder, of a commune, and one of these zupans, by the choice of his fellow-zupans, became the grand zupan, or elder, of his tribe or province, with the chance of being called to the still higher station of ban (prince), or czar (chief ruler or king). But in the Bogomil eldership there was nothing analogous to the Latin archbishop or pope, or the Greek archimandrite, patriarch, or metropolitan. In the thirteenth century, when there were in Western Europe thirteen provinces of believers all tracing their origin to the Bogomils of Bosnia and Bulgaria and numbering some millions of believers, all affiliated with their brethren of those countries, though the Bosnian chief elder might be regarded as the wisest councillor in their ranks, he possessed no more ecclesiastical authority than the youngest elder of the most distant and feeblest province.[19]

 
 
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