By occasion of a murmur in the Church (whose number now is so growen that it can not be
numbred) Seuen of them being ordered by the Apostles in the holy order of Deacons; 8. one of
them, Steuen, worketh great miracles: and is by such as he confounded in disputation, falsely
accused in the Councel of blasphemie against the Temple and rites thereof.
1. AND in those daies the number of Disciples increasing, there arose a Murmuring.
Murmuring & emulation.
It commeth of humane infirmitie, that in euery Society of men (be it neuer so holy) there is some cause giuen or taken by the weake, or murmur & difference, which must euer be prouided for & staied in the beginning, lest it grow to further schisme or sedition. And to al such defects, the more the Church increaseth in number and diuersitie of men and Prouinces, the more it is subiect. In al which things the spiritual Magistrates, by the Apostles example and Authoritie, must take order, as time and occasion shal require. murmuring of the Greekes against Hebrewes, for that their widowes are dispised in the daily ministerie.
2. And the Twelue calling together the multitude of the Disciples, said: it is not reason, that we leaue the word of God, and serue tables.
3. Consider therfore Brethren, Seuen men.
The 7. Deacons.
We may not thinke that these seuen (here made Deacons) were only chosen to serue profane tables, or dispose of the Churches mere temporals, though be that occasion only they may seeme to some now elected, no expresse mention being made of any other function. For, diuers circumstances of this same place giue euidence, and so doth al antiquitie, that their Office stood not principally about profane things, but about the holy Altar. The persons to be elected, must be ful of the Holy Ghost and wisedom, they must after publike praier be ordered and consecrated by the Apostles imposition of hands, as Bishops and Priests were afterward ordered. ep. ad Tim. Where S. Paul also requireth in a manner the same conditions in them as in Bishops. Al which would not haue been prescribed for any secular stewardship. Yea straight vpon their Ordering here (no doubt by commission of the Apostles, which they had not before their election) they preached, baptized, disputed, and as it may appeare by the wordes spoken of S. Steuen, that he was ful of grace and fortitude, they receiued great increase of grace by their Deaconship.
The office of Deacons.
But S. Ignatius ep. 2 ad Tral. can best witnes of their office and the Apostles manner and meaning in such things, who writeth that: It behoueth also to please by al meanes the Deacons, which are for the ministrie of IESVS-CHRIST. For they are not seruitors of meate and drinke, but Ministers of the Church of God. For what are Deacons but imitatours or followers of Christ, ministering to the Bishops, as Christ to his Father, & working vnto him a cleane and immaculate worke, euen as S. Steuen to S. Iames &c. S. Polycarpe hath the like in his epistle ad Philippenses. And S. Denys writeth that their office was about the Altar, and putting the holy bread and chalice vpon the same. S. Clement also (Apost. Const. li. 2. c. 61.) that their Office among other things, is to assist the Bishops and read the Ghospel in the Seruice &c. S. Cyprian in diuers places (ep. 65. & 49. ad Cornel.) calleth Deacons, the Churches and the Apostles Ministers, and their office, administrationem sacram, an holy administration. S. Hierom affirmeth, in caput 7. Michæe. and in episto. 85. ad Euagrium tom. 2, where he checketh some of them for preferring themselues before Priests, and putteth them in remembrance of their first calling, that they be as the Leuites were in respect of the Priests of the Old Law. Finally by S. Ambrose li. 1. Offic. c. 41. and Prudentius in Hymno de S. Laurent, speaking of S. Laurence the Deacon, we may see their Office was most holy. See S. Augustine also of the dignitie of Deacons ep. 148. ad Valerium Conc. Carthag. 4. can. 37. 38. 39. 41.
*1. Tim. 3. & 4.
***Li. Eccl. Hier. c. 3. part. 2. seuen men of you of good testimonie, ful of the holy Ghost and wisedom, whom we may appoint ouer this busines.
4. But we wil be instant in prayer and the ministerie of the word.
5. The election of the 7. first Deacons. And the saying was liked before al the multitude. And they chose Steuen a man ful of faith and of the holy Ghost and Philippe, and Prochórus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Pármenas, and Nicolas a προσήλυτον. stranger of Antioch:
6. These they did set in the presence of the Apostles: and praying Order of Deacons giuen by imposition of handes. See Annot. Act. 13,3. they imposed handes vpon them.
7. And the word of God increased, and the number of the Disciples was multiplied in Hierusalem exceedingly: a great multitude also of the Now also the Priests and they of greater knowledge and estimnation began to beleeue. Priests obeied the faith.
8. The Epistle vpon S. Steuens day in Christmas.
And his Inuention Aug. 3. And Steuen ful of grace and fortitude did great wonders & signes among the people.
9. And there arose certaine of that which is called the Synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Steuen:
10. and they could not resist the wisedom and the Spirit that spake.
11. Then they suborned men, to say they had heard him speake wordes of blasphemie against Moyses and God.
12. They therfore stirred vp the people, and the Ancients, and the Scribes: and running together they tooke him, and brought him into the Councel,
13. and they set false witnesses that said: This man ceaseth not to speake wordes against the holy place & the Law.
14. For we haue heard him say, that this same Iesvs of Nazareth shal destroy this place, and shal change the traditions, which Moyses deliuered vnto vs.
15. And al that sate in the Councel beholding him, saw his face as it were Such is the face of al constant & chereful Martyrs, to their persecutours & iudges. the face of an Angel.