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Clergy

church, peculiar and distinction

CLERGY (Gr. cleros, a lot, an inheritance), a term very generally applied to the min isters of the Christian religion, in contradistinction to the (q.v.). This use of the term is very ancient, and appears to have gradually become prevalent, as the ministers of religion more and more exclusively. instead of the members of the Christian church equally, began to he regarded as God's " heritage " and " priesthood" (1 Pet. ii. 9, and v: 3), consecrated to him, and peculiarly his. The distinction between the C. and the laity became more marked through the multiplication of offices and titles among the C., the ascription to them of a place in the Christian church similar to that of the priests and Levites in the Jewish church, with peculiar rights and privileges, their assumption of a peculiar dress and of official insignia, the growth of monastic institutions, and the introduction of celibacy. In harmony with the notions on which this distinction is founded, is that of an indelible or almost indelible character derived from ordination, so that a renunciation of the clerical office is either viewed as an impossibility, or a sort of apostasy, These notions in their highest degree belong to the church of Rome.

hi the Protestant churches, the distinction between C. and laity is much less wide; and although the same terms are often used, it is rather conventionally than in their full signification. The employment of official robes by the C. preceded their assumption of is peculiar ordinary dress, and is not so intimately connected with any peculiar pre tensions. Among the privileges accorded to the C. by the Roman emperors, and in the middle ages, ,was exemption from civil offices; among the rights asserted by them, and which caused much dispute, was exemption from lay jurisdiction, even in cases of felony. The C. were distinguished into the higher a and the lower C., the latter including janitors, acolytes. lectors, exorcists, etc. The term secular C. is the desig nation of priests of the church of Rome who are not of any religious order, but have the care of parishes. Monks who are in holy orders are designated regular clergy. See BENEFIT OF CLERGY.